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Economic growth stirs hope in Africa
June 13, 2012 | 0 Comments

Over the next five years, the continent will expand faster than any other

By Emily Dugan *

While ministers in Europe try to hold together crumbling economies, a success story has been quietly emerging to the south. Africa is experiencing its longest income boom for 30 years, with gross domestic product growth rates averaging about 5 per cent annually over the past decade. Even this year, as markets elsewhere collapse, the continent’s income is projected to increase by around 4.5 per cent.

Africa will have the world’s fastest-growing economy during the next five years of any continent, according to the International Monetary Fund. Its forecasts also show that seven of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies will be African, with Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Congo, Ghana, Zambia and Nigeria expected to expand by more than 6 per cent a year until 2015.

The world is starting to take notice: trade between Africa and the rest of the globe increased by 200 per cent between 2000 and 2011. As well as the usual exports of oil, natural gas and minerals, the sale of African-manufactured goods is also increasing. Over the past ten years, African manufactured output has doubled.

Zambia is one of the continent’s most promising economies, growing at 7.6 per cent in 2010 and 6.6 per cent in 2011. Thanks to the technology boom, its supply of copper, which now accounts for almost half its exports, is highly sought after. Though it is still among the poorest in the world – it is ranked 164 out of the 187 countries on the UN Human Development Index – there are signs that its economic success is starting to translate into better lives for its citizens. By 2009, the country had full primary school enrolment, up from 80 per cent in 1990, and the latest figures show a decline in the infant mortality rate to 86 per 1,000 live births in 2009 from 88 in 2008.

Marcelo Giugale, the director of the World Bank’s poverty reduction programme for Africa, has been watching how the continent’s economic successes impact on its poorest people and is cautiously optimistic. “Sustained growth is necessary but not sufficient on its own to have an impact on poverty”, he said. “You can have growth for a long time and it will help only a few people. We have been lucky that growth has been accompanied by poverty reduction. Not as much as you’d hope, but still. We don’t have continental numbers, but we do have individual countries that show a reduction in poverty, especially extreme poverty.

“In Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda and Mozambique, infant mortality, health indicators and educational attainment have all improved.”

Mr Giugale believes the mineral-rich continent could see even greater leaps. “If Europe holds together, I think this growth in Africa will continue,” he said. “We are only at the tip of the iceberg in terms of the commodities that Africa has that we know about. I would estimate we still know only about 10 per cent of what’s there. There is so much still to discover.”

Technology has helped speed up growth. In Kenya, for example, mobile phone bank transfers have revolutionised rural access to cash. Just two years after the mobile banking system M-Pesa was introduced in 2007, 40 per cent of Kenya’s adult population had become customers.

There are also early signs of a growth in the continent’s middle class. An African Development Bank report has projected that by 2030 much of the continent will have a middle-class majority and that consumer spending will soar from $680bn in 2008 to $2.2trn.

Joel Kibazo, a consultant working with Oxford’s Centre for the Study of African Economies, says the signs of an emerging middle class are encouraging: “If you look at my country, Uganda: when I was growing up, there was one university, now there are about 30. All these people who are educated are coming out wanting a middle-class lifestyle. They don’t want to go back to villages and mud huts, they want to buy microwaves and laptops.”

But he fears the current European crisis could chip away at the successes. “In 2008, when the rest of the world fell off a cliff, Africa continued moving up”, he said, “but this time, I don’t think it’s going to escape the turmoil in Europe in the same way.”

Emerging economies, such as India and China, do not seem put off, however, and are snatching up opportunities in mineral-rich countries. In 2008, the Democratic Republic of Congo took $6bn of Chinese money for infrastructure – some 2,400 miles of road, 2,000 miles of railway, two universities, 32 hospitals and 145 health stations. In return, China got a slice of the country’s natural resources to feed its own industry – 10 million tons of copper and 400,000 tons of cobalt.

In contrast, Britain has not seized chances on the same scale. Razia Khan, a senior researcher for Standard Chartered Bank, said: “Africa is trading that much more with the emerging powers, so the UK’s share of trade with Africa is not as dominant.”

Over the next 40 years, Africa’s population is set to double, from one billion to two billion, a massive increase in the number of young people of working age. The median age on the continent is currently 20 – half that in Europe, where the economy is faltering.

Yet the continent’s recent swift expansion has largely passed by northern Africa. In Egypt, growth fell by 3.3 percentage points to below 2 per cent in 2011, and in Tunisia a fall of 4.2 percentage points produced contraction of around 1 per cent, according to analysts at the African Economic Outlook. In Libya, the civil war brought oil production to a standstill and GDP shrank by more than 40 per cent. The more mature economy of South Africa also bucked the trend for economic expansion, expanding its output by only 3.1 per cent in 2011.

Despite the economic gains, there are some who find the regimes unpalatable. Tom Cargill, the assistant director of the Africa programme at the foreign policy think tank Chatham House, said: “If you’re interested in states becoming more economically successful, then what is coming out of Africa is good news. But if you are interested in an Africa where human rights are respected and governments take on the attributes of Western democratic countries, including fair elections and freedom of speech, then it isn’t good.

“African states are finding their own ways to economic growth which don’t conform to those liberal human rights criteria. Part of that is because Europe is declining, so European prescriptions of how to behave, in terms of governance, is becoming less attractive to African states.”

Though some may be uncomfortable about how it got there, it seems Africa can no longer be dubbed “the hopeless continent”.

*Culled from



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BBC announces major new focus on Africa*
June 13, 2012 | 0 Comments

The BBC has today announced its first-ever dedicated daily TV news programme in English for African audiences. The new programme, BBC Focus On Africa, brings together the expertise of the BBC World Service’s African Service and BBC World News on television. It is the first in a range of new programming for Africa to be launched by the BBC this summer, including a major expansion of its TV offer.

Africa is now one of the fastest developing news markets in the world - this new investment will expand our services for African audiences."-Solomon Mugera, BBC Africa Editor

Africa is now one of the fastest developing news markets in the world - this new investment will expand our services for African audiences."-Solomon Mugera, BBC Africa Editor

BBC Focus on Africa will be aired by the BBC’s broadcast partners in Africa and will be shown globally on BBC World News. It forms just one part of an expansion of the BBC’s offer on TV, radio and online.

The BBC today named Komla Dumor and Sophie Ikenye as the main presenters of the daily 30-minute news programme.

BBC Focus On Africa will be launched on prime-time TV across the continent from 18 June 2012 at 17.30 GMT. The programme will draw on the pool of BBC African talent on the continent and in London to report on Africa’s rising economies, entrepreneurs, innovators, culture, entertainment and sport.

Focus on Africa will be covering the major news from the continent and asking: is there a way out of the Sudan crisis? What impact will Europe’s economic problems have on Africa’s booming economies? How does Africa deal with its growth in natural resources?

The programme will also challenge African leaders and politicians on tough issues. Focus On Africa will report on the latest developments in business, technology and science and speak to those driving change. It will also look at how Africa is becoming an information technology hotspot. The programme will report, for example, on Kenyan scientists who are at the forefront in discovering cheaper, locally produced medicines to combat malaria.

Focus On Africa reporters across Africa will be giving us a snapshot of the innovation, lifestyle and culture of the country they live in. The programme will feature Africa Beats, looking at the people behind Africa’s varied music scenes. Every step of the way viewers will have their say through social media.

Focus on Africa presenter Komla Dumor says: “After decades of turmoil and uncertainty, a new Africa is emerging. The old stereotypes are being challenged and a new, compelling narrative is being written. I am incredibly excited to be part of a new BBC programme that will provide solid coverage and analysis of Africa’s challenges and prospects.”

Solomon Mugera, the BBC’s Africa Editor, says: “Africa is now one of the fastest developing news markets in the world – this new investment will expand our services for African audiences.

“While radio remains popular in Africa, TV is growing – and our partnerships with leading African broadcasters play a key part in these future plans. Mobile phone ownership is racing towards a billion, internet connectivity is rising and social media is empowering audiences. It’s essential that the kind of independent journalism the BBC does that isn’t slanted to one political or commercial viewpoint remains central to the new media landscape.

“With correspondents in 48 African countries, production centres in Nairobi, Abuja, Johannesburg and Dakar and a weekly audience of 77 million, the BBC already has deep roots in the continent. Our journalists are from the African countries they report on – in English, Swahili, Hausa, Somali, Kinyarwanda/Kirundi and French – living and breathing the big stories and issues facing Africa.”

The BBC also announced that six special episodes from Africa of current affairs interview programme Rendezvous, hosted by Zeinab Badawi, will be broadcast on BBC World News from mid-June with guests including President Kikwete of Tanzania.

The BBC newsgathering resources in Africa are part of a global network of 70 bureaux. The BBC made its first broadcast to Africa more than 80 years ago. The combined audience on radio and television makes the BBC the largest international broadcaster in Africa.

*Courtesy of


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Nigeria celebrates first home-made warship
June 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Will Ross *

After nearly five years in the making, the Nigerian navy ship or NNS Andoni was launched with a colourful event.

At 31m (100ft) long, this is no giant of the seas, but the fact that it was designed and built in Nigeria, by Nigerian engineers, is a great source of pride.

"Proudly Nigerian" does not just apply to the people of this vast land - the West African giant is now building its own warships.

"Proudly Nigerian" does not just apply to the people of this vast land - the West African giant is now building its own warships.

“We are all happy and elated,” said Commodore SI Alade, one of Nigeria’s senior naval officers.

“This is the first time this kind of thing is happening in Nigeria and even in the sub region.”

Moments after stepping on board NNS Andoni, sailor FL Badmus said: “I feel on top of the world.

“I’m proud to have been picked by the naval authorities to serve on this ship.

“We hope this is the beginning of very good things to come and we thank God for it.”

The warship was named after the Andoni people of south-eastern Nigeria – and several chiefs travelled to Lagos to witness the launch – including his Royal Highness NL Ayuwu Iraron Ede-Obolo II, wearing a top hat, a sequin-adorned velvet gown and a brightly coloured necklace.

The ceremony also featured multi-faith prayers, with an imam asking God to “protect and preserve this ship from the dangers of the day and the violence of the enemy”, and a Christian praying: “May she sail with success like the Ark of Noah.”

The event had an interesting twist of symbolism for the guest of honour, Nigeria’s leader, Goodluck Jonathan.

He is from a family of canoe makers – and that he is now the president launching a warship is a sign of how far he has risen.

“This is the beginning of the transformation… and I believe in another 10 to 15 years, we can be thinking about starting a project to take Nigerians into the air,” President Jonathan said.

The NNS Andoni could be key in the fight against militants operating near Nigeria’s oil fields as well as the growing threat of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.

Piracy in Nigerian waters is on the increase and incidents are happening over a wider area, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

There were 10 piracy attacks off the 780km (485 miles) of Nigeria’s coastline during the first quarter this year – the same number reported for the whole of 2011.

“While the number of reported incidents in Nigeria is still less than Somalia… the level of violence against crew is dangerously high,” according to a recent IMB report.

With a speed of up to 25 knots (46km/h), this can quickly go to intercept the pirates ” Commanding Officer Adepegba

With a speed of up to 25 knots (46km/h), this can quickly go to intercept the pirates ” Commanding Officer Adepegba

The NNS Andoni is equipped with an advanced radar system and firepower.

“With a speed of up to 25 knots (46km/h), this can quickly go to intercept the pirates,” said Commanding Officer Adepegba standing on the bridge pointing out the ship’s three machine guns and the automatic grenade launcher.

Foreign orders

The Nigerian navy reportedly wants to acquire 49 more vessels over the next 10 years. But how many will be home built?

Orders are already in – for three from a French shipbuilder, and six from Singapore.

President Jonathan recently approved the acquisition of two large patrol vessels from China Shipbuilding and Offshore International, a mainly state-owned company.

In an effort to boost local industry, one of the Chinese vessels is meant to be 70% built in Nigeria.

NNS Andoni was dwarfed when a 105m-long frigate steamed past during the ceremony – with all the officers cheering on deck.

NNS Thunder, a veteran of the Vietnam War, arrived at the beginning of the year, a gift from the US.

Eyebrows were raised when it was announced that the monthly fuel bill of the 45-year-old ship would be $1m (£650,000).

When this year’s navy’s $450m budget was discussed at the House of Assembly in January, one senator described the donated ships as hand-outs that could become liabilities rather than assets.

There were also calls for corruption to be plugged.

“Corruption has sucked the blood out of our system. So we have to depend on hand-outs,” one senator lamented.

NSS Andoni’s fuel bill will certainly be lower than NNS Thunder.

‘No indigenous touch’

After parading on the deck, the naval officers took photos of each other with mobile phones – clearly delighted with the new ship.

Named after the Andoni, their chiefs were some of the guests of honour at the ship's launch

Named after the Andoni, their chiefs were some of the guests of honour at the ship's launch

“It’s a great day. It’s taken over five years but it’s worth it,” said a smiling Kelechi, one of the engineers.

“We came up with the design, the expertise and about 60% of the materials were locally sourced. The engines, generators and navigation equipment came from outside.”

Nigeria is one of Africa’s biggest oil producers, but this has not so much helped as hampered the development of local industries because the country has relied so heavily on imported goods. As he launched NNS Andoni, President Jonathan lamented the decline of industries that had been strong not long after independence in 1960.

“We had Nigerian Airways, the Nigerian shipping line and a number of investments that were doing well. But because there was no indigenous touch, all these died,” the president said.

“We are told that some countries that were on par with us are now building aircraft, choppers and other things,” he said, adding that Nigeria had for a long time not embraced technology.

The president suggested sending the brightest students of engineering to the best universities in the world.

“Then let them come back and work in Nigeria because we cannot continue to be importing. We have a very large market and even what we consume alone is enough to support an industry.”

“We have this market, we must use it,” President Jonathan said – before laying the keel to mark the start of work on the second “Made in Nigeria” warship.

*Courtesy of BBC Africa




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How some western entrepreneurs are abandoning Silicon Valley for Africa
June 3, 2012 | 0 Comments
Jeremy Gordon says that he finds the opportunities in east Africa more exciting than those in Silicon Valley

Jeremy Gordon says that he finds the opportunities in east Africa more exciting than those in Silicon Valley

By Dinfin Mulupi*

East Africa’s growing opportunities in the technology sector have proved too good to ignore for some entrepreneurs from western countries. While many people in Africa have for a long time viewed the US and Europe as the lands of opportunity, young entrepreneurs from western countries are abandoning Silicon Valley to participate in east Africa’s technology sector.

Jeremy Gordon (27) came to Kenya two years ago to work as a volunteer with a microfinance institution in Nairobi for four months.

“I just wanted to come and see how mobile money was being applied in microfinance. I had read a lot about M-Pesa. I was planning to go back to graduate school, but I decided to stay and explore opportunities here,” says Gordon.

Today Gordon is involved in a number of technology startups. He co-founded Niko Hapa Ventures, a loyalty programme that enables businesses to reward loyal customers, get feedback and generate buzz on social media.

Though he grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area – home of Silicon Valley – Gordon says he finds the ICT opportunities in Kenya more interesting than those in the US.

“It is significantly easier to raise money in Silicon Valley, but both the problems being addressed by ICT and the solutions people are working on [in Silicon Valley] aren’t as exciting to me,” says Gordon.

Michael Benedict moved to Uganda to work for an NGO, but when his contract expired he opted to stay and founded Carbon Keeper, a mobile phone and web based software for collecting customer information on rural energy projects.

“I worked on rural energy for four years in Washington D.C. Moving to east Africa was an opportunity to come out and actually be involved in a project on the ground and work on technology that people in D.C. are promoting. I am able to do it in a better way than I would at my desk in D.C.,” says Benedict.

“East Africa is at the cusp of a technology-driven inflection point. We saw an opportunity to help redefine commerce and be a part of something meaningful,” says Ben Lyon (26), a US expat who co-founded Kopo Kopo, a web based mobile payment gateway that helps businesses process mobile payments in real time.

Having witnessed the internet revolution in Denmark in the early 1990s, Michael Pedersen sees the technology revolution in east Africa as a second chance to grab opportunities missed earlier.

“East Africa is a place I have been following since 2006. I worked with a digital agency in Kenya and later moved back to Denmark. When the fibre optic cables landed I moved back because it presents new and exciting opportunities,” says Pedersen, developer of Uhasibu, a web and mobile cloud based accounting system developed for SMEs.

 Ben Lyon notes that east Africa is at the cusp of a technology revolution

Ben Lyon notes that east Africa is at the cusp of a technology revolution

Sandra Zhao (23) cooked at a restaurant and ran a tech startup on the side in New York. She moved to Kenya and is today working with a technology focused social enterprise; One Degree Solar, a solar energy company that uses a mobile platform for communication with its customers.

“My friend who was here (in Kenya) kept talking about the iHub (a co-working space and business incubator in Nairobi) and all the cool things happening here. The more she talked about it the more I wanted to come. It is a unique place to be,’ says Zhao.

Bas Hoefman (35), a Dutch national, explains that he established Text to Change, an organisation that uses SMS to challenge people on their knowledge of personal health, in Uganda primarily because of the wide penetration of mobile technology in the region.

Hoefman explains that mobile phone technology is the most effective and affordable medium of communication and has and will continue having a huge impact on rural communities in east Africa.

“With the promising growth of cheap Android phones it will also be Africa’s laptop as most people will not need to own one to access communication. The mobile phone landscape in Africa has rapidly evolved over the past decade with 500 million mobile subscribers and 1 million added every week due to liberalisation and increased competition,” says Hoefman.

Opportunity cost

Being in east Africa comes at heavy price as these entrepreneurs have found out. Pedersen reckons that for every month he is in Kenya he losses Ksh. 1 million (US$12,000) that he would have made elsewhere.

“Before I came here I was making more than what I do now. When I think about opportunity cost it is not just about finances. Considering the chance to build interesting, potentially high-impact products and services here in Kenya, I would say the opportunity cost of being in the US is much higher for me,” says Gordon.

Toni Maraviglia has sacrificed a position in one of the world's top business schools to work in Africa

Toni Maraviglia has sacrificed a position in one of the world's top business schools to work in Africa

Toni Maraviglia (28), a teacher from the US, moved to Kenya to work for an education focused NGO in rural Nyanza, Kenya. Maraviglia worked with teachers to create MPrep, an assessment-based system that quizzes students on topics learned in class via SMS. Though she was later admitted to the Haas School of Business in Berkley, one of the top business schools in the world, she opted to stay in Kenya and build MPrep.

“I don’t feel I have given up that much to be here. I don’t see this as a loss. I am in love with this place. It is really hard being away from your family. I have to miss four weddings this year. However, besides that, there is a great opportunity to do something good here,” says Maraviglia.

A different market

Even as foreign entrepreneurs flock to the region, concerns have been raised about how effective they will be in a market that is very different from western countries.

“The most effective way to build products is to build them in markets you are familiar with. Foreign entrepreneurs working in east Africa cannot compare themselves with locals. I am aware that there are certain things that will take a while for me to understand. It is very easy to make false assumptions,” says Jeremy Gordon.

Sandra Zhao reckons that how people in the US interact with technology is very different from how people in east Africa do.

“Working with Kenyan staff and partnering with Kenyans is the way to do it. We have to understand how mobile technology works here. Even though smartphones have done so well in the region, most people still don’t have smartphones,” says Zhao.

What does the future hold?

Although most of these young expatriates are uncertain about whether they will be staying in east Africa permanently, they are optimistic about the region’s future.

“By having worked in east Africa for over five years I have learnt that it has enormous potential. The region has shown a vast economic growth and there is a rapid growing middle class. I believe, despite its challenges, east Africa has enormous business potential and not only in the ICT sector, but also in other industries,” says Bas Hoefman.

Ben Lyon adds: “There is a possibility I could stay here permanently. Kenya has an exciting future ahead of it and I feel obliged to contribute to that future. I am also interested to see how the IT space in South Sudan and Somalia develops in the next five to ten years.”

*Culled From How We Made It In Africa


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Is Africa’s negative image justified? Eleven viewpoints
June 2, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Femi Adewunmi*

The international media is often criticised for only reporting on the negatives of Africa, with stories focusing on poverty, famine, war and corruption. Is the media biased? Or is

A recent cover of the Economist Magazine

A recent cover of the Economist Magazine

the way that Africa is being portrayed a true reflection of what is happening on the ground? During a recent BBC debate, Africa’s global image: Justified or prejudiced?, held in Uganda’s capital Kampala, various government officials, business leaders, journalists and bloggers, shared their thoughts on this matter. Here are eleven of the most thought-provoking opinions that emerged:

1. A journalist and analyst based in Kampala said that in order for African governments to receive foreign aid, the continent needs to be seen as a place of hardship. “Bad governments essentially need a bad image to go begging in the west. And the west essentially promotes that relationship.”

2. Thebe Ikalafeng is managing director of the Brand Leadership Group. “Last year, Jay Naidoo [a former minister in Nelson Mandela’s cabinet] spoke at the Brand Africa Forum. He said: ‘China has got an agenda in Africa. America has got an agenda in Africa. All of Europe has got an agenda in Africa. Only Africa doesn’t have an agenda for Africa.’ The big issue that we are actually facing here is that Africans themselves are not driving their own agenda … What we need to do [is] we need to stop blaming, we need to stop begging, and we need to stop borrowing. We need to be self-resourceful because we’ve got the wealth of the continent in our hands and under our control,” he said.

“You are beginning to see the citizens of Africa becoming very vocal. They are no longer willing to be held ransom, not only by their own governments, but also by nobody else in the world,” Ikalafeng added.

3. One participant said that “the image of Africa as it is, is correct … It is true that there is famine. It is true that there is poverty, there is war. All those are true. But let’s talk about Brazil, for example. Brazil is poor. There is prostitution. There is horror. There are drugs. But what is the image of Brazil in the world? The image of Brazil in the world is the image of a country that is successful, that is progressive, that is exciting … The Brazilians themselves have taken the agenda in their own hands to promote it. In Africa … we have abdicated our responsibility to drive our own image …”

4. “The only way [Africa’s negative image] is going to change is if we bring in a revisionist history … For example, there is Prof Ivan Van Sertima who asserts that Africans went to the south America’s thousands of years before Christopher Columbus … If this kind of information is made available in schools [and] in universities, then it will stop this slave mentality that we were brought up with that we have to go and beg because we are somewhat less, deficient and lacking. And then, once we project that ourselves, then the outside … will actually come to look at us with respect,” said another participant.

5. The presenter asked a foreign journalist how difficult it is to pitch a good news story about Africa to editors and producers in Europe and the US?

“This might surprise people, but my experience so far is that it is not too difficult. The paradox is because a lot people have this image of Africa being ridden by disease, poverty, corruption … when you say, ‘listen there is a story about huge supermarkets, there is a story about M-Pesa, there is a story about Forbes magazine Africa coming out’. They all say, ‘Hey, that is new to us. We didn’t know that, so we are actually interested’,” he responded.

6. “China, India, Malaysia [and] Korea do not see Africa as a basket case. They see it as an investment opportunity,” said a British journalist.

7. Robert Kabushenga, CEO of Uganda’s Vision media group, said “there is an increasing decline of the so-called western media and their influence in Africa. A lot of local media houses are emerging that can tell the narrative of the African situation far more effectively than the international media will ever do … In about five to seven years the international media will become completely irrelevant. And that is why you got that reaction to Kony 2012, because it was in complete contrast to the situation on the ground. And the people who went against it were not even the traditional ones – it wasn’t the army, it wasn’t the government. It was the bloggers who said, ‘This is not correct’. Finally there is a process in the media in Africa that is beginning to reverse these perceptions. Very soon we will have our own infrastructure that tells the story differently.”

8. “We need to ask ourselves, is there anywhere in south-east Asia where they are sitting down debating as to what the western world thinks of them? No, they are busy making money and doing things. So maybe we should just get out of here and go out and work hard and stop talking about ourselves, and our image will improve,” commented David Mpanga, a lawyer for Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye.

9. A Kampala-based advocate noted that “the African elite are the ones misrepresenting the image of Africa … It is only in Africa where you have military dictators teaching democracy. It is only in Africa where you have law enforcers ignorant of the law. It is only in Africa where you have poachers appointed as game rangers … Africa’s problem is the leadership. The leadership question needs to be answered in Africa, and the correct image of Africa will be projected.”

10. [Africa] is changing, but it is not starting from this ground zero that people seem to think. There is this very recurrent theme in the western media of ‘Africa rising’, ‘Africa the new frontier’. That headline seems to recur every year. In a way that marginalises Africa even more, because it is not actually looking at what is happening all the time on the ground … It is always: ‘Africa the new place’ …” noted an Uganda-based investment advisor.

11. “The trend of stereotyping Africa as one homogeneous nation has damaged the reputation of countries that are really doing well,” said a representative of multinational drinks company Diageo.

*Culled From How We Made It In Africa


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The Brain Behind Africa’s version of Netflix
May 22, 2012 | 0 Comments

-Jason Njoku shares the vision behind iROKO TV

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Jason Njoku is one of the most dynamic entrepreneurs in the continent today.As founder and CEO of iROKO’s partners; he has turned the outfit into the largest digital distributors of Nigerian music and movies. According to his profile on Black Entrepreneurs Mr. Njoku’s iROKO Partners, consist of 5 web brands; iROKOtv, iROKING, iROKtv, NollywoodLove and YorubaLove. Mr. Njoku is building a modern digital distribution infrastructure using Amazon Web Services, Ooyala and several video ad networks, to service the second largest movie industry in the world (by volume), Nollywood, or Nigerian cinema. His idea came from the realization that the huge market for the Nigerian content was difficult to access in the West Njoku says. Thanks to his vision, the African diaspora can now have access to the latest Nollywood films at all times. iROKO pays a lot for online licences and this means producers are also reaping huge benefits from iROKO’s presence in the market Njoku says. Last year iROKO had over 152 million views from about 178  countries Njoku tells PAV and estimations are that the figure will hit 25o million this year. Advertisers are scrambling to do business with iROKO which explains why movies are watched free. At some point iROKO will however charge a subscription fee but it will be limited to brand new films Njoku adds. Njoku who  holds a BSc,in Chemistry from The University of Manchester tells PAV that iROKO TV has expanded into three continents and with a $8 million investment from Tiger Global Management, a New York-based venture and private equity fund, there should be much more to expect from iROKO Partners.

PAV: Sir, can you introduce iROKO Partners to us and how the idea was conceived?

Jason Njoku: iROKO all started after my mum asked me to pick up some Nollywood DVDs for her when I was in Nigeria since she couldn’t get them in the UK.  I realized that there was this huge market for Nigerian content that was pretty difficult to access in the West.  Now people from the African diaspora can have access to the latest Nollywood films at all times through iROKOtv.

PAV: Your iROKO TV which screens African movies is a big hit, how does this work out with the movie producers, in other words what do they get from Iroko partners in return for you screening their movies?

Jason Njoku: iROKO pays a lot for the online licences for the films which actually means that the producers are benefitting more from iROKO’s presence in the market.  Through iROKO, producers are able to monetise their content through online channels and invest more in their films so the whole industry benefits, as do our viewers who are always thirsty to get their hands on our amazing content.

PAV: People are able to watch these movies for free, how does iROKO Partners get any profit from this?

Jason Njoku: iROKO mostly makes its money from advertising.  iROKO TV offers Western brands unique access to the African Diaspora; last year we had over 152 million views from over 178 countries.  Our figures suggest that this will reach 250m this year. There has never been anything like iROKO before that has offered Western brands an advertising opportunity like this.

At some stage, we will be introducing a subscription fee but this would be limited to the brand new films. The majority of our content will still be free.

PAV: Internet connection and availability in the continent is still very limited, are you focused solely on the international market or do you have a strategy to tap into the huge African market as well?

Jason Njoku:Our largest markets are currently, the US, UK, Canada, Italy and Germany. However, as Africa comes online and mobile penetration increases across Africa, we expect that our viewership will grow.

With Jason Njoku, the sky is the limit for iROKO Partners

With Jason Njoku, the sky is the limit for iROKO Partners

We’re really excited about the predicted growth figures.

We are still a very young company and have only just started to tap into the African Diaspora.  When we first started no one had heard of us, now we have more than 2.7 million unique visitors a month. Word is spreading, we’re growing fast – super fast. It’s hard work but exciting.

PAV: What would you say has been the impact of Iroko tv on the Nigerian movie industry?

Jason Njoku: I would say that iROKO has taken Nollywood to the global audience.  People like my mum who couldn’t get hold of Nollywood films before, can now watch as many as they like, from wherever they are.

iROKO has also brought Nollywood to the attention of the Wall Street and London business leaders; the Tiger Global investment is a sign that people are sitting up and taking the potential in the African Diaspora seriously.

PAV: May we know some of the major challenges that you faced in moving iROKO Partners forward?

Jason Njoku: I tried to start the business from London. This was the first serious challenge – but I overcame it by getting on a plane and moving to Lagos. This meant I was able to put myself amongst the Nollywood film scene – spending time in Alaba Market in Lagos and working closely with the producers. Everyday presents itself with a new challenge and every day, we get better at addressing each challenge as a team. That’s what makes this job so exciting.

PAV: We also learnt that iROKO Partners  recently got US$8 million investment from Tiger Global Management, a New York-based venture and private equity fund, how was this worked out and in what way will the funds move your activities forward?

Jason Njoku: Tiger Global actually approached us; they led a funding round of $8million, which allowed us to seriously invest in more content and to expand the business rapidly.  So we are now expanding our business development team and opening a New York office – as I speak to you, we have a presence across three continents.  We’ll also be exploring the various other ways in which we can distribute Nollywood content but for right now, we’re super excited.


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Mill Wright Shipping Services To Africa Ranks Amongst The Best
May 12, 2012 | 1 Comments

-Managing Partner Nelson Torna

By Stanley Tabi

It is an open secret that business ties between Africa and the USA are on a surge. American companies are now firmly in the race for the huge market that the continent offers. Shipping is one of the most lucrative businesses and among the leading companies is Mill Wright LLC with operational base in New Jersey. Nelson Torna Managing Partner at Mill Wright says his company has been in the business of shipping cars to Africa since 2004. Services provided by Mill Wright are of the best quality with ample guarantees for custom satisfaction.

PAV: Sir may we know about Mill Wright In and how it started doing business in Africa?

Nelson Torna: We started shipping cars to West Africa in 2004 when we began Mill Wright LLC.  Previously, I just owned and operated Metro T&C Inc., with my partner, John Segledi now in business for over over 15 years. It is a trucking and warehousing company.

PAV: Which are some of the countries that your shipping is done to?

Nelson Torna: Predominately, we ship to Nigeria, Ghana, Gabon, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Senegal, Gambia, Angola, Congo, Cotonou, Togo, Monrovia, Guinea in Africa.

PAV: Does the company plan to expand its operations to other countries or is it going to remain limited to the countries it currently does business in?

Nelson Torna: We have expanded into Europe, South America & China

PAV: Your Company is located in New Jersey, so what if someone in a different part of the USA wants to use your services?

Nelson Torna: Although our office and + 100,000 square foot warehouse is in Linden, NJ, we can pick up cars from anywhere in the continental US and export from almost any port.

PAV: What are some of the guarantees you have that make your services reliable, why should people be eager to trust and do business with Mill Wright?

Nelson Torna: Mill Wright is a licensed NVOCC; therefore we can negotiate directly with the shipping lines and secure more competitive rates.  We have a large, SECURE warehouse where we load and store the vehicles and personal effects.  In addition, we have a fenced in lot for the containers and hundreds of vehicles.  Also, we have an interactive software system where the customer can log in and see pictures of their vehicles and track the status of the shipment.

PAV: How will you describe the experience of Mill Wright in doing business in Africa, what are some of the challenges that companies like yours face?

Nelson Torna: We have a very successful business relationship with our African clients.  This is due to a large part of the type of business men and women that we deal with.  They have a strong work ethic and operate their business overseas with integrity.  Therefore, we can satisfy our clientele on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean without undue worries.  Mostly, our clients own car dealerships and purchase a large volume of vehicles for their customers.   We facilitate with the shipment of the freight by offering a reliable, safe, secure and timely service and they can trust that their vehicles will arrive as intended.  Ultimately, happy consumers in Africa are the ultimate reason that we are both in this type of business.

The challenges are trying to capture new markets.  We have been involved with the shipment of tug boats and barges for our client that has business in the oil market.  We administered this process by using the largest submersible shipping vessel in the world and it came into the New York harbor for the first time.  This was very exciting for us and also, the commuters on the Verranzano Bridge in Brooklyn!  They would take pictures and post comments on the internet as it sat in the NY harbor while being loaded.  This was the first of a few shipments of this scale.  This new frontier of companies we would like to further our service of the “High and Heavy” or the “Heavy Lift” type of shipments.   That means in English, large construction equipment, boats, trucks and even factories, and other types of special projects.   There are many large companies in Africa that need American products on a large scale to be shipped and we invite this challenge.   We love the opportunity to ship special projects and cargo.

PAV: If you had any advice for African countries on what to do to facilitate activities of companies like yours what will that be?

Nelson Torna: That would be to call us and we can discuss the movement of freight from our country to yours.  We understand the wariness of dealing with companies that you are unfamiliar with and have to use your sense of trust and optimism to carry out the service, but we have a strong customer base that can vouch for Mill Wright.  It is very exciting to aid the African countries in better serving their people with the tools they need to prosper and if those products come from the United States, then we will be happy to ship them.  Also, many companies relocate employees from the US to work in Africa and we could handle their autos and containers of personal effects.

PAV: Africa is a huge market that so many American companies still approach with a lot of caution, what message do you have for American companies?

Nelson Torna: We have to not only reassure other businesses, but our banks as well.  Nigeria has an unfortunate reputation and we are scrutinized by our own banks that I personally have to defend.  Every country has its portion of corruption, but 98% of the people are hard working and trying to make a decent living for themselves and their families.  By myself being a “workaholic” and have come through the ranks of starting my business from nothing to a multi-million dollar company, I have so much respect and honor for the African businessmen and women that I serve.  They are humble, hardworking, and honest and have integrity and I am blessed to have them as my clients and my friends.






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How Google is building its brand in Sub-Saharan Africa
February 21, 2012 | 0 Comments

From helping thousands of Kenyan businesses to build their own websites to launching Uganda’s own local version of YouTube, internet search giant Google has ramped up its operations significantly in Sub-Saharan Africa over the past four years.

In a continent where internet penetration is still low, estimated at less than 15%, but rapidly growing, the company seems to be on a mission to get more Africans online and to offer users relevant local content. Google has opened offices in a number of Sub-Saharan African cities, including Nairobi (Kenya), Kampala (Uganda), Dakar (Senegal) and Lagos (Nigeria)

In Kenya, Google’s Getting Kenyan Businesses Online (GKBO) initiative gives small and midsize enterprises (SMEs) the tools to build their own websites for free. Over 11,000 businesses have already created their own websites since the launch of the programme in September this year. “It’s fantastic to see such an enthusiastic response from local businesses that are eager to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the internet. We really believe that the power of the internet will help them to grow their businesses and give them access to the global village,” commented Olga Arara-Kimani, Google Kenya country manager.

Google Trader, a free classifieds service that allows users to buy and sell products and search for jobs, has been launched in Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Ghana. Users without internet access can also post items and search for deals by sending an SMS to a special short code. The launch of Google Trader in Ghana was announced with five flash mobs (a group of people who suddenly assemble in a public space, perform a certain act, and then disperse) across the capital Accra.

In the area of internet search, Google has launched local domains for many African countries, including more remote territories such as Somalia, Madagascar and Central African Republic. “For many, the first things that come to mind when thinking about Somalia are corruption, failed state, pirates, and in some cases, poetry and music. Little is said about the incredible demand for telecommunication services and internet access in Somalia and throughout the diaspora,” said the company in a statement.

Other products and initiatives introduced over past few years include:

  • Google Baraza (which means “taskforce” or “council” in Swahili) allows people in countries across the continent to share knowledge with each other by asking questions and posting answers.
  • The Google Maps service now includes numerous African countries. The maps feature a substantial volume of content developed by Africans themselves using the MapMaker tool, which allows users to create or edit map data by drawing and labeling roads, or adding points of interest such as schools, buildings, local businesses, national parks, and trails and safaris.
  • YouTube is now available in Swahili (spoken in East Africa), Amharic (Ethiopia) as well as Zulu and Afrikaans (both South Africa). For Ethiopian users, Google has even launched a virtual Amharic keyboard to search for and upload videos containing Ethiopic text, eliminating a real barrier to broadcasting themselves. Local YouTube domains have also been developed for Uganda and South Africa.
  • When Nigerians went to the polling booths earlier this year, Google put together a special online election information portal.
  • Google has even produced a paper on ideas for boosting internet capacity in Liberia, a country with one of the lowest volumes of web traffic in the world.
  • It is interesting to note that many of these products are offered free of charge and most of them don’t carry any advertising. Google makes the vast majority of its profits through its AdWords programme, which allows companies and organisations to place advertisements next to search results as well as on independent partner websites. The sister service, AdSense, allows website owners to display these advertisements on their websites, and earn money every time ads are clicked.


In a sign that Google is looking to boost advertising revenues on the continent, the company has announced an arrangement with money transfer company Western Union that enables website owners in a number of African countries to receive AdSense payments directly from a Western Union branch instead of waiting for a cheque.

Matthew Buckland, publisher of emerging markets technology website Memeburn, says Google is taking a long-term view on Africa, and that products such as Trader and Baraza have been developed to build the company’s brand on the continent. “Google sees Africa as a strategic continent for the future. I don’t think Google’s plans are to extract revenues in the short-term. There are much more long-term strategic objectives. The first step is to crack the market and then I think advertising will follow. The objective of Google is to build a business, build a profile [and] test the waters. Africa has got a billion people. I think there is huge potential for the African continent, which is what Google sees . . .” he explains.

Courtesy of How We Made It In Africa



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