By Ajong Mbapndah L
With its buying power combined with expertise and knowledge, the Diaspora is Africa’s could be Africa’s secret weapon says Abou Dieng, Director of EMONECO, a publicly traded financial company on the US-Stock. Dieng, originally from Senegal would rather be referred to as African because to him, the boundaries are artificial and Africans are one people.
Dieng, who is also CEO and President of Global Green International Holdings LLC, Executive Director and Ambassador for Africa of Global Treasury Supreme Trust believes that more needs to be done to extend banking services to the broader African population especially in rural areas.
A member of Arizona’s Who’s Who Top 100 Executives, Mr. Dieng has been invited to the White House to discuss the new Immigration Bill, S-744 and works extensively with The US State Department’s African Desk, and has more than 20 years of experience in Finance and International market development.
Strongly attached to his roots, Mr Dieng was closely linked with the organization of the World Pan-African Congress in Atlanta GA in 2003, the International Summit of Descendants of African Kings and Queens in Atlanta, GA, the First ECOWAS US-Africa Textile Tradeshow in Indiana and many other Africa themed events.
His current projects revolve around opportunities for hundreds of millions of Africans with no access to formal banking images, and rebranding Africa, a media project to showcase the unseen side and unheard side of Africa to the world.
Mr Dieng you are President and CEO of Global Green International Holdings, may we know about your company and what services it offers?
Well first of, I would like to thank you for your time and the great work you are doing in keeping us informed for almost a decade with the PanAfricanVisions News website.
My company Global Green International is a Holding Group is comprised of many companies 100% geared towards the development of the African Continent. I started building this company as a consulting company in 1995, then got into mining, agriculture, and started doing acquisition of other technology companies in 2002. We acquired a Housing System Technology that can produce 150 homes a month using concrete and cement. In 2010, in partnership with Katec Group, we started developing an educational system based on tablets and a proprietary closed circuit telecommunication system. In 2014 we partnered with Phoenix Renewable Technologies to introduce Waste to Energy to Africa. Today we are also involved in Media with our Rebranding Africa Project with East West Communication, Digital Banking with Emoneco, Mining and Petroleum. Over the years, we have developed great relationships with more than 600 banks around the world, and we work with the World Bank, IMF, Millennium Challenge Corporation, United Nations, African Union. We have office presence in 10 countries including US, Switzerland and Africa, we have done business in 29 African countries and have interest in 45.
You are of Senegalese descent and apparently very proud of your African heritage, what did it take for Mr Dieng to get to where he is,we ask the question because there are struggling African immigrants who could learn from your success.
Well, anyone who is successful today will tell you that Success is the end result of Hard work, struggles and sacrifices. I have been there.
In october 1990, I remember having a conversation with someone in the NYC subway and he asked me what country I was from? I said Senegal. He asked where is Senegal? I said West Africa. Is Senegal poor or rich he asked? I said poor. Do you have land he asked? I said Yes. Do you have rain or running water for agriculture? I said Yes. How about Natural Resources, do you have any? I said Yes. Do you have access to the coast for fishing he asked? I said yes. Then he looked at me straight in the eyes and said to me: “My friend it is your fault if you are poor!” I remember this conversation as if it was yesterday, and my world was turned upside down, It seemed like I was just given a knock out punch, and for days I tried to figure out something. For someone who love Africa like me, I took it personal to change that and I started putting together a game plan and “blue print” for the development of Africa. I made a decision to dedicate the rest of my life for the development of Africa. I wanted to be part of the actors of the development and a role model. I dropped everything I was doing and went to school. I started putting together a blue print and a plan to follow. After school I traveled extensively to Africa. I divided the continent in five regions (West, North, East, Central and South), and I divided every region in Industries (Housing, Energy, Finance, Agriculture, Mining, Healthcare….). Then I started putting together a quiet underground network of major players in those industries in those regions. This way I was aware of the problems in every part of the continent.
I went back to the US to start a company and surrounded myself with other companies that could offer solutions to African problems, and I never looked back.
So what you see today is the result of hard work, sacrifices, struggles, failures and starting overs, discipline and dedication. So to all my struggling African peers, my advice is to have a plan and follow it with dedication and discipline… You will be succesful.
We understand you did some mentorship for the Washington Mandela Fellowship also known as Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI Fellows) this year, can you share your experience with us and what impressions the YALI Fellows left on you?
I have known about this program now for a couple of years and I do have many Fellows who I am mentoring in my network. This Year I was invited by Arizona State University to teach a Leadership Class to the Fellows in Phoenix and it was a great experience to share my activities and meet 50 young leaders from different African countries. Everyone of these leaders reminded me of myself when I started my journey. It also gives me hope that what Global Green is building now will be duplicated in many countries, and these Fellows will continue the journey to develop Africa.
Overall, what do you think that particular program, we mean the YALI program could do in changing the fortunes of Africa?
When President Obama started this Initiative, it is designed to empower Young Africans to be more involved in building their communities and give them the leadership training they need to become good leaders. However, after the training is done and the certificates are framed, what each and every Fellow does is what will eventually determine the success of this program. The program by itself is just an initiative. It’s like you buy your kid a brand new car with all the latest techonologies, and they decide to park it on the driveway. Unless your kid decides to put the car on the road and put the metal to the ground, you will not know what impact it will have. Each Fellow needs to understand that they are the hope of their community and when they get back home from the training, they are the light of that community and they need to apply the 3i process: Inspire, Influence and Impact the community. And collectively we can be the light in many parts of Africa.
As the first African American President of the United States, what legacy do you think Mr Obama will leave for Africa, did anything change for Africa in his Presidency?
During his Presidency , President Obama has visited more countries in Africa than any other American President before him. He also started different programs like the US-Africa summit, the Lighting Africa Project, the Washington-Mandela Fellowship… These are all great programs that can contribute to better business relationships between the US and Africa. However, The meaningfull changes that will help develop Africa, will be initiated in Africa, by Africans. So our Presidents in Africa need to be Leaders and Visionaries at the same time, even if it may feel uncomfortable at times.
In a recent interview with AfricanNews, you expressed concerns on the population of Africa that does not have access to Banking, what suggestions is Mr Dieng bringing to the table to improve the situation?
A big part of the African population don’t have access to Banking, yet the economy in africa is projected to reach $29 Trillion by 2030. Banks usually have very complicated process just to open an account. So Emoneco, one of the companies I am involved with as Member of the Board of Director has created a solution that combine the latest technologies in Finance, Banking and Telecom to offer a real time payment solution and can use your cell phone number as your bank account with a triple layer of security and a backup bank card. People like retirees will get their pension payments on their cell phone, Government workers, military, can get pay on their cell phone, students can receive their educational grants on their cell phone. Specialists in this sector have done an indepth eveluation of our system and concluded that we are 7 to 10 years ahead of everyone in this industry. This solution will help millions of Africans to have access to banking in the next 18 to 24 month, governments will save money and increase revenues and GDPs will increase as well.
You are also working on the a concept to rebrand Africa, why is this important and what plans do you have to make these concepts realities?
To this day most investors don’t want to go to Africa and this is the direct result of the negative image the media is showing about Africa. So we decided to change that by starting a Rebranding Africa project. We picked the country that was the poorest country for decades and decided to rebrand it. My friend and partner Thomas who is the CEO of East West Communication travelled to Equatorial Guinea and put together a video showcasing all positive realisations of the government. During my Leadership conference at Arizona State University, I asked the question if anyone was interested to go to Equatorial Guinea, no one wanted to go, I asked the same question 10 minutes later after I played the video, and everyone wanted to go. That’s the reaction we want to create. This rebranding program has many phases. We want to show the best image of every country starting from the Embassy by creating a high quality investment magazine, a dvd investment portfolio, a tourist program, a new website and 3 to 4 investment trips to the country. We will work hand and hand with the governments to bring our expertise and help them create an Emerging Economic Plan for their country. The highlight of the plan is that we are able to guaranty investments to the country that follow our program. You can view this video for Equator Guinea at www.EGVistas.com
On and how and what the diaspora can do to contribute to a more meaningful way to change the fortunes of Africa, any recommendations you have in mind?
The Diaspora constitute the secret weapon of Africa for two reasons:
- The buying power; For example the Senegalese Diaspora sent back to Senegal in 2015 more than $800 million to family and friends. We are working with major financial institutions to setup an Investment fund fully funded by the Diaspora, and we can use that to finance major projects in
- Expertise and knowledge: the majority of people in the Diaspora went to school and have some sort of qualification or experience that can benefit the country of origine. This will eventually be the source of new entreprenorship, job creation….
If there is a way to bring all the Diaspora into a Federated African Diaspora we can have access to funding for our own project.
To those who look around the continent and see the bad infrastructure, the galloping unemployment, the electoral violence with the recent example of Gabon, the corruption and more, how does Abou Dieng sustain the case that Africa has potential and is indeed the continent of the future?
We all know that Africa has billions of tons of natural resources that are still not exploited, and we have many more natural resources that are not even discovered yet. If you take a nation like the Republic of Guinea, this nation alone has enough natural resources that can develop the entire continent. I can say the same thing for other nations like Liberia, Sierra Leone, both Congos, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Angola, Botswana, South Africa, and the list goes on. So the potential from the exploitation of the natural resources alone is very exciting.
Other factors that will make a big difference are the potential in Education, Agriculture and Manufacturing. Africa is at the same level where India was 25 years ago in terms of wanting to increase the education level of the population. Africa is at the same level where China was in the 1980s with the Agriculture needs and investment. Africa is also at the same level where Turkey and Mexico were 15 years ago in terms of Manufacturing increasing investments. So if you combine those 3 levels of readiness, you can conclude that Africa is heading to the same path that led India to its boom because of Education, Africa is heading to the same path that led China to its boom in Agriculture and Industrization , and Africa is heading to the same path that led Mexico and Turkey to their boom in Manufacturing. This is exciting.
But the most exciting factor yet for Africa is its young population. As Walt Disney once said “Our greatest natural resource is the minds of our children”. More than 60% of Africans are between the ages of 15 and 24 years old. The number of young Africans is going to continue to get bigger year after year till 2050. The Middle Class is growing and the urbanisation rate is at 37% just like China and bigger than India. This is why I can say that Africa will be where Turkey and Mexico are today in the next 10 years and where China is today in the next 20 years. Demographie is destiny.
Finally, we can also mentione that we have better quality of Leaderships now, and they are putting the right reforms for economic growth. The debt level is low 10 t0 30% to GDP in most African countries compare to 130% to GDP in China, more than 200% to GDP in US, UK and Spain.
So when you put together all of these factors that I mentione, Economic growth becomes inevitable.
Thank you Mr. Dieng for your sharing your vision with us. Before we conclude, on a personal note, can you talk about the recent attacks regarding your person and your divorce.
Thank you again for this opportunity to talk about my passion that is Africa.
There is a trend I have been noticing for a while, and now I find myself in it. More and more I see succesful African businesmen brought down by ex wife who are going after them for monetary gains. Unfortunately many of them end up losing everything. Success makes you an easy target.
Regarding my divorce, you are right, there are malicious attacks rescently that are very disturbing. This divorce was filed in Arizona by my ex wife back in 2007 to take over 50% of my networth according to Arizona laws. Unsatisfied with the results, my ex wife filed another law suit in a smaller court to claim that I abandoned her and my 3 kids for 32 months and she requested $2000/ month for child support and $1000/ month for alimony. When this law suit was filled I was in Africa and my 3 kids were with me in Senegal. Once the suit is filled the court gives you 30 days to respond, and since I was in Senegal and in fact didn’t know anything about the law suit, I didn’t file a response in time and she was given a judgement by default, and overnight I owe her $96,000 plus fees and penalties. This is unfortunate, but this was done since 2010. And my ex wife and I are in good terms since then for the sake of the kids and I am taking care of my kids who I am very closed with.
Recently a powerful group doing business in Africa approached me to join forces with then, but I refused. I cannot join forces with a group that does not have the best interest of Africans in mind. A week before my leadership conference at Arizona State University, the attacks started and this group is spending a lot of money to try to tarnish my image and to discredit me thus the recent attacks. I am glad to say that in 26 years doing business in the US, I always focus on being my best and the fact that they are out trying to attack me, this only confirms to me that I am on the right path and I will continue to fight for the Emergence of Africa.
One last advice to all my fellow Africans: we need all hands on desk to develop Africa, and “the best way to predict the future is to create it”.