French election: What Emmanuel Macron’s win means for Africa
May 10, 2017 | 0 Comments
Emmanuel Macron’s decisive win in the French presidential election has not only spurred enthusiasm in Europe. Across Africa, where France retains huge influence in its former colonies, his election has been celebrated in the hope that it will usher in a radical change in France’s African policy. The BBC’s Lamine Konkobo looks at what that change might look like.
Africa’s ‘Ode to Joy’ moment
It was a very powerful, if subtle, symbol.
On Sunday evening, as supporters of Emmanuel Macron gathered at the Louvre’s Esplanade in central Paris waiting for their champion to arrive and address them, the podium was turned for about 15 minutes into a gigantic dance floor by one of Ivory Coast’s most famous bands.
Magic System took to the stage, flooding the Parisian night with rhythms and dance moves not often heard and seen in this part of town.
Mr Macron had originally taken to the stage to the European anthem Ode to Joy for his victory speech but for African audiences watching on television, this was their Ode to Joy moment.
It was a nod to Africa; a nod that reflected the positive message of openness and universalism which has underlined Macron’s winning campaign.
It could also be seen as one in the eye for defeated far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who must have felt repulsed by such a cultural invasion.
If the sight of Magic System at the Louvre was refreshing for Africans, that is not why the French presidential contest was closely watched across Africa.
Mr Macron is expected to deliver on issues of far greater importance in respect of the continent.
Fighting Islamist militancy
Mr Macron has said little on his African policy on the campaign trail, because Africa was not a decisive topic that could give him the votes he needed to win.
However, from the little he said about the continent, it appears that fighting Islamist militancy will be prominent on his African agenda.
He was elected while France was under a state of emergency following a series of Islamist attacks in recent years, some of which were carried out by people with African links.
But while on the campaign trail, he made it clear that he realised that France was not the only country affected:
“Africa is struggling more and more with terrorism,” he told Jeune Afrique.
“We saw it in Bamako [Mali], in Ouagadougou [Burkina Faso] and in Grand Bassam [Ivory Cost].”
Islamist militants targeted hotels in all these places last year, killing many people, including foreign tourists.
“Everyone should get involved in the fight against terrorism,” he said.
France has deployed about 4,000 troops in the Sahel region of Africa as part of the anti-terrorism Barkhane operation.
The president-elect has no plan of withdrawing these troops in the foreseeable future.
On the military front, France’s policy in Africa under Mr Macron will be more of the same.
On aid, trade and development
There is a famous saying that nations have no permanent friends but only permanent interests.
Mr Macron has been elected to serve France’s interests and he will do so in his relationship with Africa, political analyst Serge Theophile Balima told the BBC.
“Macron is a neo-liberal who believes in businesses and trade,” Mr Balima says.
“He will do his utmost to open Africa to a maximum of French businesses. That is obvious.”
However, the new president believes that partnership with the continent will be more beneficial if Africa is strong.
As a candidate, he vowed to lobby the G20 at its July summit in Germany to support economic development in African countries.
In more clearer terms he has pledged to channel to Africa most of France’s foreign aid, which he intends to increase to 0.7% of his country’s GDP.
However, Mr Macron comes to power at a time when a growing movement of economists and political leaders have been pushing for a major reform they view as more empowering than aid.
One sign of France’s continued influence over its former colonies is the CFA franc, which is pegged to the euro with the financial backing of the French treasury.
While some see it as a guarantee of financial stability, others attack it as a colonial relic.
Critics say true economic development for the 14 African countries can only be achieved if they shake off the CFA currency.
Some argue that in exchange for the “luxury” of the guarantee provided by the French treasury, the African countries channel more money to France than they receive in aid.
Ms Le Pen said that if elected, she would drop the link. While no previous French president has ever expressed a willingness to let go of the CFA, Mr Macron says the decision to move away from it is for African countries to take.
Breaking from antiquated politics
France’s African policy has come under attack from pro-democracy activists since the 1990 Baule conference, at which former President Francois Mitterand issued a call for African countries to embrace democracy, following the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Critics have consistently railed against what they perceive as a form of hypocrisy.
They say France has repeatedly used anti-democratic means on the continent to further dictatorships or overthrow unfriendly governments if they serve French interests, while openly extolling democratic values.
The system of personal networks which backed these controversial practices is pejoratively referred to as “Francafrique”.
The times are long gone when a French commando unit would fly parachutes in broad daylight into an African capital to restore a deposed head of state.
But Francafrique is not totally dead.
Mr Macron says he will finally kill it off.
He says he will defend and respect fundamental democratic principles everywhere in Africa, working with the African Union and regional organisations.
But how will he deliver where his predecessors failed to meet similar promises?
“I think he is in a position to bring that end,” analyst Mr Balima told the BBC.
“First of all, he is young. He does not belong to the old generation. He has few friends in the Mafiosi circles in Francophone Africa.”
“When meeting African heads of state, some will be embarrassed to speak to this man who could be their son.”
African leaders will no longer benefit from the former era’s complicity, Mr Balima says.
“A head of state in a situation of bad governance… could not count on Macron to mobilise the French army to quash a rebellion in a military barracks.”
If Mr Macron delivers on that promise, he would indeed turn a page that has been a source of much acrimony in French-African relations.
Addressing wounds from the past
And how France should remember its colonial legacy is closely related to the issue of whether it still pursues a neo-colonial policy in Africa.
Right-leaning French political leaders have long maintained that colonisation was not only about forced labour, exploitation and mass graves but that colonised countries also benefited.
In 2005, under President Jacques Chirac, a provision enshrining that patriotic view in law was passed. However, it was repealed a year later as a result of an outcry in France as well as in some of its former colonies and overseas territories.
Nicholas Sarkozy, as a candidate and later on as president, often complained about being tired of endlessly apologising for his country’s past transgressions.
Unlike those politicians on the right, Mr Macron considers that recognising the wrongs France did in its past interaction with African people is crucial in redefining the type of dialogue necessary for the new relationship with the continent.
As a candidate on a visit to Algeria, he stirred a controversy by branding as a crime against humanity France’s colonial war in Algeria.
While that statement was condemned by Ms Le Pen and her supporters, it was well received across the whole of French-speaking Africa.
What was strikingly different between Mr Macron and Ms Le Pen was how the two approached immigration.
Ms Le Pen’s closed-border proposition was that she “has love for the Africans but only if they are at home in Africa”, while Mr Macron has defended a policy of immigration that should be defined by France’s needs.
In other words, under President Macron, there would be no reason to stop an African from coming to France if they have skills that are useful to the country’s economy.
Since the 1970s, waves of migrants from North Africa and then former colonies south of the Sahara have found their way into France, playing a role in various sectors of the country’s economy.
Mr Macron does not say he will make immigration from Africa easier. But nor will he obsess about tightening immigration control to stem a real or supposed flow of migrants from Africa.
“That is part of the dynamics of [his] liberalism,” Mr Balima told the BBC.
The president-elect has said he would encourage foreign students and those with useful skills to move to France.
With Mr Macron’s liberal attitude to immigration, isn’t there a fear that Africa might end up losing its best talents?
Not really, says Mr Balima. “There will always be enough manpower within Africa for the development of Africa.”
We Will Champion Case For Stronger US-Africa Business Ties With Trump Administration- Florizelle Liser, President & CEO Corporate Council on Africa
May 6, 2017 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
When it comes to business relations and trade between Africa and the USA, there are few people around with depth of knowledge and wealth of experience of Florizelle Liser, President & CEO of the Washington, DC, based Corporate Council of Africa-CCA.
For over ten years, she served with the office of the US Trade Representative including a stint as its representative for Africa prior to departure from Government last year. Appointed by the Bush Administration, she served through the Obama years and even out of government, her professional life continues to circle around issues of Trade with Africa as she serves as the first female President of the CCA.
Though she served in the Asia Pacific Region, and Latin America, in the course of her career, it is not until I moved to the African Region that I thought my true calling had been found, said Florizelle in a recent interview at the CCA headquarters. With a combination of her experience, and the great work done by her Predecessor Steve Hayes, Florizelle Liser is confident that the CCA is on course to write the next great chapter of US-Africa Trade relations.
The start of Florizelle’s leadership of the CCA coincided with the arrival of the Donald Administration whose African policy is still in a state of flux, but if there is one thing she is bent on doing, it is to make sure that the momentum on US-Africa Trade relations is sustained. Citing a litany of programs from the Bush and Obama Administrations that facilitated growing business ties, Florizelle said the CCA will be leading the charge in making the case to the Trump Administration on why corporate ties between the US and Africa should be a priority.
While the corporate background of President Trump may help him see the great opportunities and partnerships that abound in Africa, the broader perceptions Americans have about Africa need to change, Florizelle said. For a continent with all sorts of negative stereotypes, people will be surprised to know that in South Africa alone, there are over 800 U.S companies, there will be surprised to know that there are African companies doing so well in the continent to the extent that there are also setting up shore in the US as well , said Florizelle.
The Administration and the broader American public needs to get the message that if businesses are going to Africa, it is because of profit, it is because of a more enabling environment, and the growing interest of Africans to partner with US businesses, Florizelle said.
In her new role as CEO of the CCA, one of her first major events will be the 11th biennial US-Africa Business Summit that takes place in Washington, DC, from June 13-16. The Forums alternate between the US and Africa, said Florizelle and Washington is excited to host it again after the 2015 summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This will be a great opportunity for the CCA membership to interact with Trump Administration Officials. We have invited Officials from the most senior levels of the US Administration, Florizelle said, as she expresses optimisms for positive interactions between CCA members, African leaders and those who could be key actors in shaping the Administration’s policies on Africa.
It has been 5-months now, since your appointment as CEO of the Corporate Council on Africa. In what shape did you meet the CCA, and what has changed so far under your leadership?
Florie Liser: First of all, I have actually been here 3-months, and I was telling people up until probably this week that I have been here 6-weeks, 10-weeks. When I got too far, I had to change it to months. So, now I am saying that I have been here 3-months. I started on January 23rd and I am delighted that I had the confidence of the full board that unanimously made me the CEO. I am the first woman CEO of the Corporate Council on Africa, but I do not think that they chose me for that. I think that one of the things that I bring to the table is my long-standing expertise and experience in terms of US-Africa trade and investment and I think the second thing that I bring to the table is the array of relationships that I have both here in the United States and across the continent. And I’ve been very, very fortunate; very blessed to have been exposed to many, many stakeholders who have shared the vision that I have, which is that the economic relationship between the US and Africa is an important one, a vital one. And that in this new job, the Corporate Council on Africa, is going to build on the 17-years that Steve Hayes was here.
I commend him for the excellent leadership that he had of CCA. But now, I believe that we want to build on CCA’s strengths. I think that we are one of the most successful organizations focused on US-Africa business engagement. We are the only ones in my view that are focused solely on Africa. Other organizations have Africa as one of the areas that there are focused on, but we are solely focused on Africa.
In addition, we have, I think in terms of our successes, also been able to bring together numerous businesses from across the continent. We have African members first, and we have not only large members of companies that are mega companies, but over 50% of our members are small and medium-size businesses as well. And I think that, that sort of breadth of engagement also makes us a bit unique, because we are not solely focused on what is best for US businesses. And of course, we are strong advocates for US businesses, but I think we are probably well-suited and best situated to promote mutually beneficial relationships between US and African businesses.
We held last year I think you know; a US-Africa business summit where we had more than 1400 participants and over 600 companies that attended. This was in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. And actually, I was there. I was there wearing my previous hat. In addition, last year we had 6-trade missions, we hosted a range of very senior officials from Africa who came here, including the president of Mozambique, high-level trade delegation from Nigeria and so again, I think that we stand on our past and our history, but we also have a vision for the future.
And one of the things that we will be faced with now as I’m coming into leadership here, is how we work with the new US administration to make sure that the issues of US-Africa economic engagement are a priority for them. We hope that we can make the case for expanding and enhancing the US-Africa business relationship. And so, the issues will not only be, for example, Peace, Security, Counterterrorism, which are all very important, and in fact security is one of our core issues here.
We have 10-issue areas, as you know, which go from agribusiness, to health, security, trade, infrastructure, finance, energy, and power, etc. But, one of the things that we will definitely want the new administration to recognize is that US businesses are in Africa because it’s profitable. Because it is a critical part of their bottom lines as businesses. And CCA is, and plans to be a very strong voice for US businesses who are engaged in the Continent, and also for African businesses which are expanding regionally and also some of them who are investing in the United States. You know, it’s not one way and a lot of times people lose sight of or lose track of the fact that there are African businesses that are so successful that they are investing in the United States. We have our upcoming US-Africa Business Summit in June and it will be our 11th biennial meeting. We see that upcoming summit as one of the first opportunities for high-level officials from Africa, as well as CEOs, and US CEOs to meet with various people from the Trump administration. And we have a theme which sort of reflects part of what I was saying.
We will get back to specifics of some the issues you raised as the interview proceeds. Prior to your appointment, you serve with the office of US assistant trade representative for what? Over 10-years?
Including a stint as Assistant as Assistant US Trade Representative for Africa?
How is this background helping you at the CCA?
So, you know; it’s such a natural progression to come from there, because the major role of the Assistant US trade representative for Africa was for us to promote US-Africa trade and investment. That was my major responsibility and I did it for 13-years actually. From 2003 until I left the US government at the end of December of 2016. Though I had worked in other regions of the world like the Asia-Pacific region, and Latin America, when I moved to the African region, I thought, wow, this was my dream job. I had studied Africa, when I was in graduate school, and visited Africa, a number of times, even in other positions. And so, this was really an incredible opportunity for me, on a hands-on basis, to promote US-Africa trade and investment. So, I worked with African heads of state, and ministers of trade and finance and those in charge of investment promotion on the African side as well as US businesses that will come in to ask questions about where they should go and issues that they had working in different countries. I worked with members of Congress, and I had the privilege of working under a number of administrations. I was actually put in that position under the Bush administration, and then continued through succeeding administrations. And I think that job was a perfect platform for me to come now and work here at CCA to continue doing really a lot of things that I’ve been passionate about for so long.
With this unique experience, in the government and now with the CCA, which is a private entity, you are in a good position to offer an assessment of business ties Between the USA and Africa. At what point are we? Where are things at the moment? What is working? And what is not working and what needs to be done to make things better?
First, I think, the average American citizen would be surprised at the number of US companies that are operating in Africa. There are thousands and thousands of them there. I think, in South Africa alone, there are almost 800 US companies that are there. And so, we are all across the continent. Our business is all across the continent in a range of sectors. We are not just in extractive. Although obviously, we have a huge stake in the extractive industries, we are also in telecommunications, manufacturing, and retail. We could go down the list of CCA members and beyond who are there.
Now, what has changed? Even though many US companies have been in Africa for some time, the landscape has changed and is changing in Africa. You know, where there were many conflicts in the past – there are only a small handful of conflicts today. Where in the past there were governance and leadership issues, today, there are only a small number of countries where we could say that we have concerns about governance. Where it was difficult to identify where opportunities were maybe more than a decade ago, I think today, many more US companies are aware of the opportunities in Africa. It has the highest rate of return on investment there and the opportunities for joint ventures are probably endless.
These are economies that are growing more rapidly than most economies in the world, they have a burgeoning middle class, and disposable income is rising rapidly. They have a youth bulge, which also has implications for the kinds of products and services that are desired on the continent, and there is a strong interest on the part of Africans to actually partner with Americans. Therefore, a lot has changed.
Now, what is not working? What is still difficult in many countries, is the doing business atmosphere. The environment for quickly getting into a country, getting your operating licenses, being able to get access to the right partnerships. These are things, which again, a number of countries in Africa are working on. There are some who have done great in terms of the World Bank doing business scores that are rapidly rising. But, I think anyone who goes to Africa also knows that there are some difficulties in navigating the African market. Whenever US businesses would come in to talk to me before a trip, and they think, “well, we’re going to go there for a week and we’re going to close X deal!” And I think, emm… I do not think that is going to happen. And so, US businesses will still find sometimes that it takes a little bit too long to get things moving and solidify some of these partnerships.
But, because the benefits are so great, because the opportunities are so wide. I think many of them realize, “okay, it’s going to take more than one trip.” It may actually take me numerous trips and it might even take up to a year or more, but I am not going to run away, I am not going to lose this opportunity because I am impatient. So, yes, I think there are ways that things could operate more smoothly, more efficiently, more effectively in Africa, and I think many US businesses would say that. But again, the opportunities are enormous and so I think businesses are buckling down and trying to find a way forward. Even if it is a little bit tough sometimes, even if it takes a little longer sometimes than they want.
As we speak, there is a new administration in the USA, the Administration of President Donald Trump and people do not yet know the direction of its African policy. From your experience in government, and signals you have seen, what should Africa expect? Could his business background be a silver lining for business ties between USA and Africa?
I mean, clearly it could. Obviously, he is a businessman, he understands the benefits of doing business, not just here in the US, but across the world. Because he is not just operating in the US. He has operated in many places. In fact, I was in Lesotho in November and someone was sharing with me that they thought there was a factory there that was even producing some products for one of the Trump product lines, yeah. I did not get a chance to visit the factory, so I cannot definitively say it is true, but I had heard that.
So, what could this mean for the US-Africa business relationship – to have a businessman in the White House? It could mean a lot. But right now, it appears that those who our new President is looking to are largely in the area of military expertise, and people who when they look through the particular lens that they have-I’m not saying that’s a Bad lens, but, when they look through the lens that they have, they see Africa in a particular way. And those issues such as security issues, counterterrorism issues, issues of peace, and conflict resolution; because that’s their sort of area of expertise, I think whenever they put on their lenses to look at Africa as well as other parts of the world, they see it through that lens.
I think one of the things that will be very important to do will be to help Trump Administration Officials and the President himself to take that lens off, and to put on the lens that many of our businesses and members of CCA have. Which as I said earlier, is there are in Africa because Africa is a profitable place to be. Everybody else in the world is scrambling to be first in Africa and to have access to what that market provides. we hope that with a strong voice from CCA as well as our members, that we can push that point, and hopefully have a Trump Administration which in short order will be talking about progress in pursuing on the business relationship with Africa. And again, as a businessman, we are hopeful that President Trump and his Administration will do that.
I think some of them may already be leaning in that direction. I know Secretary Ross of the Department of Commerce, mentioned Africa in his confirmation remarks, I believe, he talked about the fact that you really could not ignore Africa as a continent, and opportunities there. I understand last week, just last week that a number of the Finance Ministers and Energy Ministers that were here met with Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. So, I was very encouraged by that and we are hoping for a robust US -Africa economic and business relationship.
As you mentioned in your last answer, “there is a growing competition for business opportunities in Africa,” you have the Chinese, you have Japanese, Indians, in addition to the traditional European countries all expressing interest. How do you make the case for US business in Africa? Why should African countries prefer or pick US businesses as partners as opposed to all these other partners trying to get in?
I actually do not think they should just choose us. I think that the Africans are fairly savvy now. This is not like the olden days where people just moved in and told Africans what to do, and treated them as if they were children. The Africans are mature, they should not allow countries to just come in, or businesses from different countries just come in and sort of dictate. I think that there is so much to be done there and so many opportunities that the key I think, will be to manage who can work with them most effectively, in which areas.
Just as an example, it could be that you know, to actually physically build out the hard infrastructure in Africa, perhaps which is something that the Chinese can do best. But then, if you look at the engineering side of it, maybe that’s something that US businesses actually can provide for or someone was telling me of an example of where in a particular country, they were saying that the locomotives were being provided by the Chinese, but the engines were being provided by the US.
What you’re finding is that Africans are not, I think been forced to choose should I pick the Chinese or the American, should I pick the Americans or the French, should I pick the Indians or you know, I think what they’re doing and I think it’s a wise thing to do, is looking at what are the different partnerships we can have with different countries?
I think, what the US business brings to the table about why Africans really like working with Americans is first, I think many Americans go in with high-quality products and services. Therefore, the value for dollar is there. You may get something cheaper from someone else that is fine. And I’m not just speaking of Chinese, but you may get a product cheaper, but what do you get with the US is in terms of the quality of the product.
The second thing is, I think US companies are also valued for the fact that we are working with people on maintenance. We are not just going to come in initially sell you a product or provide a service and then not build in to that relationship, what it is, what’s required to maintain it, you know. So, what is the point of a road and three years later, it is falling apart, or getting equipment that would not last? What is the point of having, equipment and you know two years later, it is breaking down. Maybe you would have been better off buying what would last for longer. I think we do that.
The other thing is the partnerships. I think that we; our US companies, we are very interested in transferring skills and technology to our African partners. That is not to say that others do not do it, but I think we are particularly good at those transfers of skills and technology. The kind of partnerships we then have with our African partners are a reflection of that. So, those are some of the reasons actually, we hear back from the Africans about why they like working with us. We treat them as partners; we do not bring them in at the lowest levels of the business and leave them there. And to be frank, I visited a lot of factories built and run by others, we won’t say who, where if they left, even though the majority of the workers in the factory were African, the Africans actually would not know what to do to keep the business going. They were not brought in to understand the entire value chain and what has to happen from point A to point Z to keep the business running. And I think that, that is something that I think Americans; when we come in, we bring people in and we have them as full partners in knowing all the aspects of the businesses that we partner with.
From June 13-16, the CCA will be hosting the 2017 US-Africa Business Summit; can you shed some light on this?
Yes, this will be our 11th Summit. We have been having these summits both here in the US and in Africa. In fact, we alternate back and forth. So, we have them every other year. They are biennial, the last one was in Ethiopia, we had over 1400 participants over 600 companies, I think over 37 countries represented there from across the continent, and it was quite successful. This year it is going to be in the US and we wanted it here. We were glad it was our turn to host. Because, we thought with the new US Administration coming in, this was going to be an excellent opportunity to bring together all of our stakeholders, our members, and many beyond our members to actually come together and to talk about the US stake in Africa, and the partnerships working with Africa.
Over the years, we have had probably over 40 heads of state. We hope we will get a few; these are tough times because you know there are a lot of competing interests. The G-20 is coming up. I think the Africa program it actually happens almost on the same time frame in Berlin, but you know, we are hoping we will. However, if we do not, we will have lots of high-level Officials, Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Trade, Energy, Health, Agriculture, and so forth. We will also have some doing business in whatever country as a part of it. Some sessions will be on doing business in Ghana, doing business in Ethiopia, or wherever as a part of it.
We are also planning to have an event on the Hill. We have been invited to have an event on the Hill, where we will be having a dialogue with key members of Congress, both from the Senate and the House and from both parties. The hill is so important especially right now. They have always been important, and will always be important. We hope to have a good turnout of both US and African businesses, and CEOs covering a wide range of issues, core issues, all of CCA’s core issues will be touched on during the summit. So, we’re inviting, I hope all those who read this article will hear about this summit and will register, and come and be a part of it. Be that active voice that is needed right now, so that the US Administration can hear from all of us.
You mention the new US administration, and this will be the first summit that is taking place under the new leadership. First, what level of participation do you expect from them? Secondly, it was reported in March that there was an African Trade meeting out in California, where there were no Africans because of visa issues. The Africans who were supposed to turn out were never granted visas to come for the summit. Is the CCA concerned about this development?
Well, I think first of all, you asked who has been invited; we have invited practically all of the highest-level people from the Administration, who we think have a stake in Africa. So, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of Energy, we’re still waiting though for some other people to come into key positions throughout the Administration. So, again, at the lower levels, or some of the more prominent folks that we would normally engage with are not even there yet. But, we expect to have participation from a number of US Agencies. We are also having a session that will be about engagement with Agencies of the US Government. And we’re getting all of the highest-level people that are there, from the Department of Commerce, to OPIC, EXIM Bank, the US Trade Representative’s office where I came from; to come and be on a panel that will talk about our programs across those different government agencies and institution. MCC will be a part of it, people who do work on power Africa will be there as well. So, we think we’ll have a very good discussion of what the US ship brings to the table under this Administration, as well as others.
In terms of the visa issue, of course, you know we have to be a bit concerned that, that happens. I don’t know the particulars of why that happened with the California conference, but what we’ve done is, we’ve talked to State Department and we’re going to be working with the State Department to let them know which Africans have been invited and also you know, as people register for the conference from different African countries, we will be sending that information to State Department so that they are aware of these people who will need visas.
And then CCA for our African partners who are coming from the private sector, we will be providing them with visa letters. So, a letter of invitation, which is often needed for getting your visa. We will do that, and we have kind of broadly let people know that. And as I said, we’re just going to work with the powers that be here to facilitate getting our African delegations into the summit. That is the best that we can do, and we are going to hope for the best and hope that it will be positive.
Prior to leaving the USTR, you work with two Presidents one Republican, one Democrat. How have you seen the evolution of US-Africa business relations over the years? Who did more? Was it the republicans or was it the democrats?
Well you know, that’s a great question and I love that question. Now, my experience you know is that under President Bush, a lot of really incredible programs were launched. so we can talk about PEPFAR, to work on HIV-AIDS, we can talk about the Millennium Challenge Corporation, that was set up and provides grants to build infrastructure in Africa, there was a program on malaria and girls’ education and so forth. Then you get to the Obama administration, and he also launched some really effective programs like Power Africa, Trade Africa, YALI, and so on, but here is what I would say that distinguishes them. I think that the trend has been more to move from initiatives the US has with Africa that are more, could more be described as aid, and development assistance to initiatives that are really more focused on trade and business engagement. And so, I very much think that is the trend. My expectation under the Trump Administration is, it will continue moving in that direction.
Another Program that I did not mention, that was very important under President Obama, was the President’s Advisory Council on doing business in Africa; we call it the PAC – DBIA. Very focused on the doing business relationship, the economic relationship, and that one had CEOs from different US businesses there. We are looking to see now, whether under the Trump Administration that would continue, one would hope it would.
He gets it, he is a businessperson, and we expect that to continue that way. But, I think the major sort of trend has been that we recognize that yes, aid is important, development assistance is important, but what is most important, what has probably more of a sustainable impact on Africa is private sector driven partnerships and relationships. Public-private partnerships pushed by and supported by the private sectors on both sides. Power Africa is a good example of that, Trade Africa is a good example of that.
So, that is my experience and let me just say, that’s not to say that we should not give aid. We definitely should, we have some countries in Africa right now that are facing famines , we want to make sure that we provide that kind of assistance and relief, but I remember from many years ago, they talked about how if Africa was able to increase its share of world trade by just one percentage point; at the time, they had 2% of world trade Now, they have about 3%, but the movement of 1% additional trade would actually generate every year, three times the amount that Africa gets in aid from everybody in the world. Just 1 percentage point of trade.
And I use that example, it is an old one. It came from the old Blair report that came out, Oh, my gosh! More than a decade ago. But, the reason I use that is, because it shows you the power of trade and economic engagement. That no matter how much aid you have, if you are generating your economic growth through private sector investment, through greater trade, the production of value-added products on the continent, the creation of jobs that come from investment and from trade, you can do way more with that, than you can with the aid – yeah.
Last question Ms. Florie, you have spent a huge part of your career working on Africa, and I believe that you have done a lot of travel, different countries, and different people…
I have! I have!
What are some of the changes that you have seen?
Yeah, well, even when I first started going to Africa, and it wasn’t a surprise to me, but you know, the pictures that you see of Africa here in the United States, the ‘Image’ I should say, of Africa here in the United States, is definitely not what is going on in the continent.
I went to cities that were vibrant, or growing metropolises even a decade, decade and a half ago, but you do not see those pictures on TV. You see children with big bellies and flies in their eyes and, so Americans typically don’t have the vision of Africa that it is.I’ve been to factories that are producing everything from eyeglasses, and toys, and an apparel and footwear and you know, inputs for automobiles and automobiles themselves that are being produced in Africa.
When I see those thousands and thousands of workers in factories all across Africa, producing pepper sauces and all sorts of value-added agricultural products. And I’ve been to cut flower farms, and just you know, it’s incredible places where they’re packing green beans and shipping them to the US and Europe. The image I get is of an Africa that is a part of the global economy, that plays an important role in global value chains and how that Africa is critical to how everybody else is developing in the world too. We need Africa to be a manufacturing floor, we need Africa’s labor. Africa is going to contribute more to the global workforce in the next 20 years than any other region of the world. And you know, FDI into Africa is increasing rapidly.
As I said earlier, the rate of return on investments is increasing rapidly. Africa is a place now where people who are institutional investors you know, from the state of California or you know, people with pension plans here in the US, where firefighters and policemen and their money is being invested in Africa to their benefit. And that’s an Africa that I see today and the potential of an Africa today that even 10 years ago, we did not see. People were not putting their 401(k)s investments into Africa that kind of way 10 years ago, so the potential of Africa to be a fully integrated partner into the global economy is something that I can actually see it. And you know, or read about it and so you know when I hear you know different fans talking about. Oh yes, you know were to be investing these hundreds of millions or we have a call out and you know, the call has been filled in terms of you know, the investment bonds and so forth that are being issued. You’re like wow!
This is what Africa is about today, I’ve been to stock markets in Ghana, in South Africa, in Botswana, and so I look at Africa and I see an Africa which, and let me end on this note, you know; “they are now where China was maybe 30 years ago,” And, if they continue in this direction, to me they have the potential to, not as one single economy because clearly they’re not, but then you know we have the concept of free trade area that’s been launched and where you know, 10 years from now, for sure, maybe we will be looking at it all as one large African market and economy.
I see them as having the potential in individual countries to do what China has done in terms of manufacturing, in terms of investment, in terms of business partnerships, companies that are present there, South Africa, Boeing just opened up an office in South Africa and Kenya, GE has an office in Kenya.
I mean we are seeing a lot of US business engagement there. There is a reason why they are going there. They are not just going to Africa and setting up offices and businesses and investing there because they want to do good. And they do, do a lot of good things, a lot of for corporate social responsibility in Africa, but are actually there to do well. And so, the opportunity for mutually beneficial relationships between US and African businesses in all sorts of sectors and is a part of the global economy is really kind of the vision that everyone has for Africa now. It is certainly not my vision, but I can personally attest to it.
Ms. Florie Liser, thank you very much for talking to Pan African visions!
Thank you for having me!
Africa: Presidents Kagame, Deby, Conde and AU Commission Chair Call for Urgent Reforms
April 25, 2017 | 0 Comments
By Collins Mwai*
Presidents Paul Kagame, Alpha Conde of Guinea, and Idriss Deby of Chad, and African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, yesterday, called for urgency in the implementation of the African Union reforms adopted in January this year in readiness for the rapid changes in the global context.
The Heads of State and AU Commission chairperson were meeting in Conakry, Guinea, to discuss the institutional reform of the African Union, at the invitation of President Conde the current Chairperson of the African Union.
President Kagame has been leading the reform process following the mandate given during the African Union Summit held in Kigali last July.
Speaking on the need for implementation, Kagame said the reforms were urgent, especially at a time when the African continent ought to be united in the face of changes on the global level.
“The basis for the urgency of these measures is clear. The global context is changing rapidly. Standing united, with a common vision of our continent’s interests and aspirations, we can bend the trail of history in Africa’s favour,” he said.
In the build-up to the next summit, Kagame said the priorities include implementation of the decision to finance the union with a levy on imports.
While sitting in Kigali in July last year, the African Union summit adopted a new formula to finance the African Union.
How it is planned
Under the formula, countries are to make their contributions through a 0.2 per cent levy on eligible imports, which would raise about $1.2 billion every year.
The levy will be collected by tax collection authorities of member states and channeled through their central banks.
For the continent to walk the talk in the implementation of the reforms, Kagame said it needs to have a common viewpoint when engaging with external partners.
“One example is speaking with one voice when Africa as a whole engages with external partners. Nobody benefits from the confusion inherent in the current method of doing business,” the President said.
Kagame also pointed to a mechanism to ensure that countries comply with decisions adopted by the Union as a key reform that can be implemented without delay.
“Another example is to agree on a binding mechanism to ensure that member states are held accountable for respecting key African Union decisions, such as the ones on financing and institutional reform,” the President said.
He called on nations to capitalise on the mood for change and prioritise the reforms.
“The mood for change is already there and we have a clear roadmap. Let’s capitalise on it, prioritise the next steps, and keep up the good momentum,” he said
Another reform adopted is for the African Union to focus on key priorities with continental scope and to empower Regional Economic Communities to take the lead on regional issues.
Other key reforms emphasised by the President include realigning AU institutions to deliver on its key priorities, connecting the African Union more to citizens for them to have a stake in its work, and managing the business of the AU more efficiently and effectively with particular focus on how summits are conducted and how personnel are selected.
Next month, officials from the AU Commission, led by the Chairperson, as well as Foreign Affairs ministers and permanent representatives of member states are expected to convene in Kigali for an extensive briefing on the reforms implementation.
The Rise of The Front National and Its Impact on Francophone Africa
April 22, 2017 | 0 Comments
Dr. Gary K. Busch*
There is a very important presidential election coming up in France in which one of the main contenders for the presidency is the National Front (FN) led by Marine LePen. The FN is a party of the far right; a strongly nationalist party whose main programme is an anti-immigrant, anti-Islamic and anti- European Union policy aimed at eliminating or reducing France’s role in the globalisation of the world economy. It has gained an increasing share of support among the French electorate.
Marine LePen visited the former French colony of Chad rcently where 3,500 French soldiers are engaged in Operation Barkhane through which the French are seeking to secure the Sahara-Sahel region from terrorist attacks and to protect its source of uranium ore in nearby Niger. While she was there she pledged to break with her country’s decades-old relationship with Africa known as “Françafrique” and abolish the CFA franc currency policy that binds Paris and its former colonies. This was followed by a demand for France to leave the European Union and the Euro currency zone.
These policies were designed for their appeal to the ultra-right nationalists of the French electorate but they will also have a dramatic and disastrous effect on francophone Africa and its neighbours. The most important of these factors is the conflict over the Communuate Financiere de l’Afrique (“CFA’) franc, the common currency in francophone Africa. At its inception, the CFA was pegged at 100 CFA for each French franc but, after France joined the Euro zone at a fixed rate of 6.65957 French francs to one Euro, the CFA rate to the Euro was fixed at CFA 665,957 to each Euro, maintaining the 100 to 1 ratio. It is important to note that it is the responsibility of the French Treasury to guarantee the convertibility of the CFA to the Euro.
The monetary policy governing such a diverse aggregation of countries is uncomplicated for African Central Banks because it is, in fact, operated by the French Treasury, without reference to the central fiscal authorities of any of the African states. Each African state must deposit 65% (now reduced to 50%) of its foreign reserves with the French Treasury plus an additional 20% for administration. This means that since the early 1960s around 85% of the Africans’ foreign reserves have been transferred to France. These are deposited in the “operations accounts” controlled by the French Treasury. The two CFA banks are African in name, but have no monetary policies of their own. The countries themselves do not know, nor are they told, how much of the pool of foreign reserves held by the French Treasury belongs to them as a group or individually. The earnings of the investment of these funds in the French Treasury pool (at a rate of 0.75%) are supposed to be added to the pool but no accounting has ever been given to either the banks or the countries of the details of any such changes. The limited group of high officials in the French Treasury who have knowledge of the amounts in the “operations accounts”, where these funds are invested; whether there is a profit on these investments; are prohibited from disclosing any of this information to the CFA banks or the central banks of the African states. This makes it impossible for African members to regulate their own monetary policies. A recent Bloomberg survey estimates that the French Treasury is holding at least US$20 to $40 billion in African foreign reserves which are held in the name of the French Treasury.
African governments do not have access to these funds held by the Treasury but are allowed to borrow their own money from the French at commercial rates. In addition to the difficulties posed by the French Treasury holding unaccounted African money, France is in financial trouble. France has run out of money. It has massive public and bank debt. The reason it has been able to sustain itself so far is because it has had the cushion of the cash deposited with the French Treasury by the African states since 1960. Much of this is held in both stocks in the name of the French Treasury and in bonds whose values have been offset and used to collateralise a substantial amount of French gilts, including pledges to the ECB.
This has happened before. In 1994, the French Treasury simply devalued the CFA franc by 50%, changing from a parity of one French franc for 50 CFA francs to the pre-Euro 100 CFA francs. This caused havoc in the African economies but the African Heads of State of did not do anything or make provisions for changing the relationship with France over their currencies. In a meeting in Yaounde in November 2016 another devaluation was mooted but was postponed.
Francophone Africa’s current problem is the threat of an electoral victory by the FN whose promise is to abandon Françafrique, the Euro and the European Union. That will mean that the African reserves held by the French Treasury and hypothecated by the French in their sale of French bonds and gilts and pledged as collateral to the ECB will be forfeit and irretrievable as they are in the name of the French Treasury.
Mamadou Koulibaly, the former President of the Ivory Coast National Assembly, has been holding meetings over the last four months trying to promote an awareness of the dangers of this. There are others equally concerned. They point out that even if LePen and the FN do not win, her opponents are also not committed to assist the African states. They, too, have pledged a revision of the terms of Françafrique.
This is a time of grave danger for Africa as a whole as many African economies, including the francophones, are involved in numerous intra-African projects of the AU, the Millennium Challenge and the World Bank-IMF programs. Now is the time to act.
The non-francophone states of the Economic Community of West African States’ (ECOWAS) have already created a mechanism for the introduction of an African Single Currency the ECO. The ECO is the name of the common currency that the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) has agreed to introduce within the framework of ECOWAS in 2020. After its introduction, the goal is to merge the new currency with the West African CFA franc, creating a common currency for much of West Africa. The WAMZ member countries include Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. The purpose of creating the ECO is to produce a common currency for all of West Africa which will reflect the needs and opportunities for trade which link African economies together and to provide a common platform for interaction with non-African currencies. There are further plans to link the ECO with the rest of the CFA zone later as well as with the emerging East African Community (EAC) and the Common Monetary Area (CMA) of Southern Africa.
In order for these plans to become reality it will be the urgent task of the francophone CFA states to get a transparent statement of their tranche of funds being held by the French Treasury. Several West African Heads of State have already requested this. When these balances are disclosed and agreed they can then be transferred, en bloc, to the new ECO and the CFA franc and its infrastructure then dissolved.
World Bank Group Launches New Program to Support Africa’s Top Digital Entrepreneurs
April 22, 2017 | 0 Comments
With support from prominent African investment groups, XL Africa will help the 20 selected start-ups attract early stage capital between $250,000 and $1.5 million
WASHINGTON D.C., United States of America, April 20, 2017/ — The World Bank Group (www.WorldBank.org) launched XL Africa (www.XL-Africa.com), a five-month business acceleration program designed to support the 20 most promising digital start-ups from Sub-Saharan Africa. Start-ups will receive mentoring from global and local experts, learn through a tailor-made curriculum, increase their regional visibility, and get access to potential corporate partners and investors. With support from prominent African investment groups, XL Africa will help the 20 selected start-ups attract early stage capital between $250,000 and $1.5 million.
“Digital start-ups are important drivers of innovation in Africa,” says Makhtar Diop, Vice President for the Africa Region at the World Bank. “To scale and spread new technologies and services beyond borders, they need an integrated ecosystem that provides access to regional markets and global finance; pan-African initiatives like XL Africa play a critical role by linking local start-ups with corporations and investors across the continent.”
The program comes at a time of increasing interest in the African digital sector. According to a recent report by Disrupt Africa, in 2016, the number of tech start-ups that secured funding increased by 16.8% compared to 2015.
“XL Africa aims to put a spotlight on the continent’s growing digital economy by scouting for and supporting the most innovative tech start-ups,” said Klaus Tilmes, Director of the Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice at the World Bank Group. “The success of these ventures will create a demonstration effect that can attract much-needed growth investment in the sector and catalyze scaling of transnational businesses in the region.”
The program’s flagship activity includes a two-week residency in Cape Town, South Africa, where the ventures will have the opportunity to interact with and learn from their mentors, peers, and local partners. The Cape Town residency will conclude with the Venture Showcase, a regional event in which the entrepreneurs will present their business models to a select audience of corporations and investors.
“The program’s unique combination of targeted mentorship and access to investors represents a vital resource for digital ventures ready to grow,” said Lexi Novitske, Principal Investment Officer for Singularity Investments, a venture group based in Lagos, Nigeria. “By connecting innovative business ideas with the knowledge and resources available in the ecosystem, XL Africa will create a pipeline of investment-ready companies, unlocking better investment opportunities for regional and global investors.”
The program will collaborate with prominent African investment groups, including the African Business Angel Network (ABAN), AngelHub Ventures,Goodwell Investments, Knife Capital, Nest Africa, Silvertree Capital, Singularity Investments, South African Business Angel Network (SABAN), TLcom Capital, Zephyr Acorn and 4Di Capital, and corporate partners, such as Orange, .Eco, Ringier, and Thomson Reuters.
Interested companies can apply online on the XL Africa website www.XL-Africa.com by Monday, June 12, 2017.
XL Africa is funded by the governments of Finland, Norway, and Sweden, and administered by the World Bank Group with implementation support from IMC Worldwide, VC4A, and Koltai & Co.
Making Africa Great Again: Reducing aid dependency
April 21, 2017 | 0 Comments
In the first few months of his presidency, President Donald Trump has aggressively pursued his “America First” agenda. On Monday, March 6, the president outlined his first budget proposal, which largely reflects his bid to “Make America Great Again.” In doing so, he has proposed to increase military spending by around $54 billion while reducing government expenditure in non-defense programs. Although foreign aid only accounts for 1 percent of the federal budget, it will undergo some of the biggest cuts in spending.
As a region, Africa accounts for around 20 percent of U.S. aid, with Egypt, Kenya, and South Sudan being the biggest beneficiaries. Although critics argue that lowered public international spending will adversely affect development projects, this reduction should also be seen as an opportunity for the continent to rise and for the relationship between the U.S. and Africa to evolve.
Africans must identify priorities, define, and implement them—not be reactionary to the politics of the West.
REDUCING FOREIGN ASSISTANCE: A BLESSING OR A CURSE?
African countries have been recipients of foreign assistance since their independence. It is undeniable that some U.S. development assistance programs, especially the people- and country-centered ones such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the Africa Development Foundation (ADF), have shown lasting results in programs that stimulate local economies and reduce aid dependency (such as sustainable agriculture, youth entrepreneurship, and improved access to power). Despite these successes, many experts argue that the provision of foreign assistance has, at times, developed a culture of dependency in Africa and fostered paternalism—as opposed to partnership—by the U.S. and elsewhere.
Thus, African governments need to take this opportunity to scale up policies that spur democracy, creating the enabling environment to build prosperity in Africa through concrete priorities such as job creation, regional integration, and economic engagement.
PRIORITY NUMBER 1: JOB CREATION
Africa has the youngest population in the world, with 200 million aged between 15 and 24 (doubling by 2045 according to African Development Bank). Given that the continent will have a shortfall of 74 million jobs that need to be created by 2020, governments need to create policies and implementation plans that will allow for a more competitive private sector that favors business growth, job creation, and the stimulation of African economies—such as sound fiscal and monetary policies; good governance, transparency, and strengthened judiciary systems; an improved investment climate, and reduced corruption. In particular, long-term investment in the private sector, the infrastructure and manufacturing industries, and agriculture will address food insecurity and create the necessary employment opportunities for African youth. Boosting incentives to improve the quality of education will also be key to producing a skilled workforce.
PRIORITY NUMBER 2: REGIONAL INTEGRATION
In moving away from a reliance on Western assistance, African governments should seek to improve regional integration initiatives, which are key to sustaining development and encouraging long-term prosperity for the entire region. Increasing intra-African trade will be a key component to accelerating economic growth, as it will increase industry competition, improve productivity, and develop local infrastructure.
Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) will establish free trade among all 54 states on the continent by 2017 (though the region is behind its timeline) and a continental union by 2019. This will be a pivotal moment for development in Africa. The current level of trade between African states is only 12 percent compared to 60 percent for Europe, 40 percent for North America, and 30 percent for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), according to the World Trade Organization (WTO). The CFTA, though, would establish the world’s largest single market and effectively boost trade between African states by 50 percent. When combined with good governance and political stability, intra-Africa trade and deepening market integration will significantly increase economic growth, job creation, employment, poverty reduction, inflow of foreign direct investment, industrial development, and better integration of the continent into the global economy. It will also decrease the continent’s current heavy reliance on the outside world for its growth.
PRIORITY NUMBER 3: COMMERCIAL ENGAGEMENT AND TRADE
The future of the African trade regime depends more on what Africa will negotiate and not on what Africa deserves, so leaders must actively seek commercial and trade engagement. The recent Trump administration trade report to Congress clearly reflects that the U.S. will unequivocally protect America first in future trade regimes.
Africa is not a U.S trade competitor, especially when it comes to claims of unfair practices that are costing American jobs. The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) has not stolen American jobs. It has actually created around 120,000 jobs in the U.S., and 350,000 direct and 1 million indirect jobs in Africa. Now, though, some experts speculate that the Trump administration will attempt to make U.S.-Africa trade agreements more reciprocal and envision negotiating bilateral agreements that parallel the Economic Partnership Agreements between African countries and the European Union to give American exports comparative advantages. Morocco already presents an example of a successful free trade agreement with the U.S. According to the International Trade Administration (ITA), average U.S. exports to Morocco have more than tripled since the U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement (FTA): U.S. exports to Morocco increased from $482 million in 2005 to $2.1 billion in 2015. Morocco export goods totaled $977 million in 2013, a 119% increase since 2005.
Consequently, Morocco’s ambitious economic reforms positioned the kingdom as a gateway for U.S. companies to African and European markets, becoming the prime destination for foreign direct investment in Africa. Its successful completion the COP22 last year, its return to the African Union, and its massive investment in the continent (the second largest investor after South Africa) will bear even more dividends.
Then again, after U.S. trade negotiations with SACU and Egypt were suspended several years ago, the readiness of African countries to engage in these negotiations remains premature. Nevertheless, it is important that African nations prioritize greater dialogue between members of regional economic communities to implement necessary policies reform and with the U.S. in order to accelerate such reform and increase trade and investment between both continents.
As outgoing Assistant Secretary for Africa Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield emphasized, “The African continent has made enormous democratic and economic progress in recent years and now holds a growing place on the global stage.” African policymakers must work to continue this trend, largely through the promotion of African trade.
THE FUTURE OF U.S.-AFRICA ENGAGEMENT: TRADE, NOT AID?
Though aid to Africa looks like it will get cut, it doesn’t mean that U.S. engagement will too. Trump must continue to engage Africa: The region is of paramount importance because of Western reliance on natural resources, trade, economic opportunities, and long-term security issues. In fact, American engagement in Africa largely serves American interests. For example, creating African jobs is not just important for economic growth; it affects national and global security. In particular, youth unemployment often serves as a powerful recruitment tool for insurgency and terrorist organizations.
Similarly, former President Obama’s Power Africa initiative aiming at addressing the much-needed power poverty in Africa created more jobs in the U.S. because of the opportunities given to U.S. companies. Additionally, the program will save American taxpayers $86 million over five years. The U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), whose budget is also in jeopardy, had increased its energy portfolio for feasibility studies by 800 percent, creating U.S. export avenue for energy companies. Encouraging a mutually beneficial pro-business approach that will create jobs in the U.S. and Africa could be a very successful strategy. Greater private sector engagement will boost local economies and reduce long-term dependency on aid.
Trump continues to pursue policy that he believes would have the greatest return for the American people. In the same way, African leaders should not be dismayed by possible cuts in foreign aid, instead, they should actively seek to create the enabling environment necessary to boost local economies, attract foreign investment, negotiate transfer of technology, encourage private sector growth/competitiveness, and increase regional integration.
Whether the Trump administration slashes the aid budget or not, African governments must come to the realization that the continent’s prosperity is not primarily in the hands of White House officials. Africa holds the keys to its own development. It is our hope that U.S.-African engagement will remain nonpartisan, strong, and continue to make mutually beneficial partnership more palpable. As Mandela said, “It is always impossible until it is done.”
*Source Brookings. Note: This blog reflects the views of the author only and does not reflect the views of the Africa Growth Initiative. Angelle B. Kwemo is managing director for Africa of Washington Media Group, Founder, Believe in Africa, and other author of “Against All Odds: How to Stay on Top of the Game.”
Prepaid payment solutions drive cash out of Africa’s economies
April 20, 2017 | 0 Comments
Mastercard and prepaid processing and payments solutions provider Global Technology Partners (GTP) signed a partnership agreement that will result in the latest prepaid solutions being made available across Africa to government institutions, financial services and corporate sector and consumers.
The partnership will enable the development and implementation of a wide range of solutions across various markets on the continent. These solutions are aimed at supporting government payments, driving innovation in the travel and tourism sector and driving transparency and efficiency for the financial services and corporate sector.
“African economies are in support of driving cash out of the financial system, and the introduction of digital payment solutions is in line with their cashless strategies. Businesses on the continent need smart solutions that will provide efficiency, but also offer convenient ways to track and monitor expenditure,” said Daniel Monehin, Division President, Sub-Saharan Africa.
Providing Mastercard prepaid card solutions will strengthen GTP’s existing offering in Africa, and provide consumers greater access to payment systems, international travel, and online shopping. Prepaid cards also provide employers with an effective payroll solution, introducing a more efficient and transparent way for businesses to monitor expenditure.
“Mastercard prepaid programs give cardholders greater access to the global marketplace, while advancing government efforts to increase financial literacy and inclusion. These programs also give businesses and government agencies a payroll solution that drives cash out of the system and provides essential financial tools to control cash flow. This partnership will also enable GTP to offer new payment solutions such as digital wallets and virtual cards to our customers,” said Rich Bialek, Chief Executive Officer at GTP.
Cardholders are assured that regardless of how they use the prepaid solution their funds will be secured by the Mastercard multi-layered approach to protecting payments. EMV chip and PIN technology is a global payment standard to ensure that funds are protected even if the card is lost or stolen.
Once funds are loaded to the prepaid card, cardholders can use the card to pay for goods and services in store, online, by phone or to withdraw cash from ATMs – anywhere Mastercard is accepted locally or at millions of locations worldwide. The prepaid card ensures flexibility, convenience and security.
“GTP is committed to working with our partners to introduce digital prepaid solutions that meet the needs of consumers and businesses across the continent,” concluded Bialek.
Mastercard , is a technology company in the global payments industry. We operate the world’s fastest payments processing network, connecting consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories. Mastercard products and solutions make everyday commerce activities – such as shopping, traveling, running a business and managing finances – easier, more secure and more efficient for everyone.
Global Technology Partners is headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma USA. The company was founded in 2003 and began processing its first prepaid debit card in Burkina Faso in 2007. Since then, GTP has expanded into over 30 African countries, with more in development. GTP designed its system specifically for prepaid programs, and now offers industry-leading prepaid and mobile processing solutions.
France gives citizenship to 28 African WW2 veterans
April 20, 2017 | 0 Comments
French President Francois Hollande has given citizenship to 28 Africans who fought for France in World War Two and other conflicts.
Mr Hollande said France owed them “a debt of blood”.
The veterans – many from Senegal, and aged between 78 and 90 – received their new certificates of citizenship at the Elysee Palace in Paris.
Campaigners have long been calling for the rights of the veterans, long-term French residents, to be recognised.
“France is proud to welcome you, just as you were proud to carry its flag, the flag of freedom,” said President Hollande.
More naturalisation ceremonies are expected to follow for other veterans in France.
One of those granted citizenship on Saturday, Mohamed Toure, said the gesture will go some way towards healing old wounds.
“President Hollande did what none of his predecessors ever imagined. And that repairs a lot of things,” he said.
The granddaughter of a Senegalese soldier, Aissatou Seck, who is herself deputy mayor of a Parisian suburb, has been a lead campaigner for African veterans’ rights.
Last year, she started a petition that gained tens of thousands of signatures in less than a week.
The veterans have long been struggling for recognition and equality in France.
Until 2010, they received lower pensions than their French counterparts.
Their ambiguous status also meant they lacked access to other benefits and sometimes found it difficult to travel, said the BBC’s Africa editor, Mary Harper.
In 1944, dozens of West Africans were shot dead by French troops when they mutinied over unequal pay and pensions.
A few years ago, Mr Hollande acknowledged that French soldiers had gunned down their African counterparts.
But many war veterans are still demanding a full apology.
Africa-Israel Summit: Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu to attend the Africa-Israel Summit in Lomé, Togo
March 24, 2017 | 1 Comments
|The Africa-Israel Summit is jointly organized by the Togolese and Israeli diplomatic service as well as Africa-Israel Connect|
|TEL AVIV, Israel, March 21, 2017/ — The international news network i24News and the executive committee of the Africa-Israel Summit have signed a partnership agreement, making i24News the official media partner for the summit which will take place in Lomé, Togo, from October 23-27, 2017.
i24news, a channel broadcasted from Tel Aviv, will offer exclusive coverage of the event through its three channels (French, English, Arabic) in partnership with its Washington, Paris and New York offices.
The network will ensure the media promotion of the Africa-Israel Summit in the months leading up to the event and will be the official media partner with exclusive access to the summit.
i24News aims to strike deep and long-term roots in the African continent and expand its coverage beyond the countries where it is already present. Franck Melloul, CEO of the i24 news channel declared: “I am very honored and excited to launch our media partnership between our network and the Africa-Israel Summit. I am convinced that it is a great initiative to promote cooperation between Africa and Israel and that promoting the media coverage of the event is an excellent opportunity for i24. In addition, I believe that the Summit will serve as an ideal framework for our network to strike deep roots in Africa and further i24news’ status as a global news network”.
The Africa-Israel Summit, an event jointly organized by the Togolese and Israeli diplomatic service as well as Africa-Israel Connect, will be held in October 2017 in Lomé, Togo and will host the senior leadership from both Africa and the State of Israel including PM Netanyahu and African heads of state for exclusive talks and discussions focused on political and business matters. Bruno Finel, CEO of the Africa-Israel Connect firm stated: “The Africa-Israel Summit is a unique opportunity to fulfill the formidable potential of heightened cooperation between Jerusalem and the African continent. Moreover, Lomé is an ideal venue to hold the Summit. Indeed, the city regularly hosts high-profile conferences and President Faure Gnassingbe is a historic and faithful friend of the Jewish state. In addition, the President’s proven commitment to proactive and dynamic diplomacy is an invaluable asset to the success of the Summit”.
The theme of the Summit is ‘Innovation for a shared prosperity’.
i24 news, a subsidiary of the Altice Group (SFR, Portugal Telecom, Suddenlink, Cablevision, L’Express, BFM, Liberation, HOT) was launched in July 2013 and employs a staff of 150 people.
Challenges of the WHO Must be Turned to Opportunities-Ethiopia’s Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyus
March 23, 2017 | 1 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
Mounting a strong bid to be the next Director General of the World Health Organization, shortcomings must be turned to lessons and new challenges into opportunity, says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyus of Ethiopia.
Currently serving as Minister, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, and backed by the African Union, Dr Tedros says a fresh view is needed to efficiently tackle the global health challenges of today. The upcoming elections present an opportunity for WHO to be led by someone who has lived and worked through some of the most pressing health challenges facing our world today, said Tedros a Former Minister of Health in his country.
Dr Tedros is no stranger to facing challenges. With a Ph.D. in Community Health, and a Master of Science in Immunology of Infectious Diseases, Tedros is a globally recognized expert and author on health issues. With stints as Chair for the Global Fund to fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria Board, Chair Roll Back Malaria Partnership Board, Co-Chair, Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Board, Dr Tedros is supremely confident of his ability to help the WHO reach its potential and create a healthier world.
A few weeks back, Dr Tedros presented his vision and candidacy to the 34 Member States of the Executive Board of the WHO. In the voting to shortlist candidates, Tedros received the highest number of votes in both rounds. Buoyed with such a strong showing and with growing support and endorsements across the globe, Dr Tedros found time off his hectic schedule to discuss his vision, campaign, and more on the WHO and global health issues. Together we can create a healthier world, and every country has a stake in that vision says Tedros.
DR. TEDROS ADHANOM you are running for the office of Director-General for the World Health Organization (WHO), how are things shaping up with that?
I am honoured by the African Union’s endorsement for my candidacy last year and re-affirmation this year. I am motivated by the enthusiastic encouragement I have received from many other governments and global health leaders around the world. I am humbled by their confidence in me.
Since I launched my campaign over a year ago, I have met with Ministers, Heads of Delegations, and some Heads of States of over 180 of the 194 WHO Member States. These discussions have significantly shaped the priorities that I will pursue if I am elected Director-General. They have enriched my understanding of global health priorities and how these needs manifest themselves differently around the world. I am encouraged by the overwhelming alignment across Member States regarding most of WHO’s priorities, opportunities, and risks. I have also noted some areas of diverse interests and positions.
Several weeks ago, I presented my vision and candidacy to the 34 Member States of the Executive Board of WHO. I was honoured to receive the highest number of votes in both rounds of the short-listing of candidates from six down to three. I am encouraged by this early success and re-energised heading into the final stage of the election.
What is your motivation in seeking the WHO Director-General position and what makes you stand out as the best candidate for the job?
My motivation to become DG boils down to three main themes:
1) My passion for health
2) My belief in the power and potential of WHO; and
3) I have the skills and track record that can help realize WHO’s potential.
My passion for health starts from a personal level, growing up in a poor family in Ethiopia. I saw my own and countless other families in our community suffering because of poor access to health, unsafe drinking water, and food insecurity. My passion is rooted in a refusal to accept that people should live or die because of these things.
I believe in the power of WHO. I have personally seen the impact, WHO can have, as a partner to countries’ health programmes, to support and challenge us so that we can have more impact, on more people’s lives. We must turn WHO’s past shortcomings into lessons, and new challenges into an opportunity to evolve and adapt.
I believe what I have accomplished can help WHO reach its potential and create a healthier world. I have spent 3 decades learning, planning, innovating, building national capacity, coordinating partners, increasing domestic health spending, implementing comprehensive health sector reform, and managing our programs with accountability. I have remained committed and focused, translating reform into results. My vision for the WHO draws on lessons learned throughout my career: the health successes achieved here in Ethiopia, building international partnerships as Foreign Minister, and the intricacies of global health diplomacy and financing that I learned to navigate through international roles. I have chaired the Boards of the major global health institutions, overseeing their strategies and reforms, and helping to rebuild donor confidence.
A fresh view is needed to efficiently tackle today’s global health challenges. The upcoming election presents an opportunity for WHO to be led by someone who has lived and worked through some of the most pressing health challenges facing our world today.
What assessment do you make of the way the WHO has fared in the last few years and its response when the Ebola crisis struck parts of West Africa?
The Ebola crises shocked WHO to its core. However, it also offered an opportunity that
WHO launch serious reforms aimed at improving its ability to respond more rapidly and effectively to public health emergencies. Those reforms must be implemented with a sense of urgency to yield results and rebuild the confidence.
Though there have been challenges, WHO has been working to address them to be better prepared for the global health issues of today and tomorrow.
If elected to serve as DG, a top priority will be strengthening emergency preparedness, particularly in provision of increased support at country level to prevent, detect, and swiftly respond to disease outbreaks. Going back to your question about Ebola, Nigeria and Senegal were able to contain the outbreak rapidly. This was due to better coordination, incident management systems, robust surveillance platforms and community engagement. This is why country capacity is so important. The relay of information from countries to regions and then to the headquarters is very important for an outbreak to not spread globally. But if there is weak capacity and if International Health Regulations are not fully implemented at the country level, then you cannot get the information flow and rapid response needed. That is why we need, as a global community, to work together to build capacity collaboratively – whether it is through South-South partnerships, gaining access to essential vaccines, and committing to fully implement International Health Regulations.
Can you explain the vision you have for the World Health Organisation? What will the WHO under the leadership of Dr. Tedros look like?
If elected, I will focus on five priorities:
My top priority is Universal Health Coverage. All roads lead to Universal Health Coverage, from Sustainable Development Goals to gender equality to emergency preparedness.
My second is to strengthen the capacity of national authorities and local communities to detect, prevent and manage health emergencies, including antimicrobial resistance.
My third is to put women, children, and adolescents at the centre of the global health development agenda, and to position health as a more powerful contributor to the gender equality agenda.
My fourth is to address health effects of climate and environmental change.
Lastly, in order to accomplish these, we will need to create a transformed WHO: one that is strong, effectively managed, adequately resourced, results- focused and responsive.
You can find out more about my vision for WHO at www.DrTedros.com.
May we know the support you have from the AU or the African bloc and in what other parts of the world are you hoping to get the necessary support to boost your chances of victory?
I am honoured to have received the endorsement of the African Union for my candidacy, and I am grateful for the support I have received.
I am campaigning on a vision that together we can create a healthier world, and every country has a stake in that vision. So in this campaign, I want to listen to and speak with people from every nation. To be successful, we all have to do this together, all 194 Member States.
If we are to build a healthier world together, we must recognize the unique challenges that each continent and each country has to face and not shirk or ignore any of them. This is, after all, a global effort.
You were Minister of Health in your native Ethiopia from 2005-2012, what did your leadership achieve for the health sector in Ethiopia?
When I began as Ethiopia’s Minister of Heath, our country faced extraordinary challenges. We took an honest look at the state of our health care system and at what would be required to expand health to reach all our fellow citizens in need.
We made a conscious decision to address the essential building blocks for health system-wide reform – investing in critical health infrastructure, expanding the health workforce, creating new financing mechanisms, improving service delivery, strengthening pharmaceutical supply, integrating information management, and investing in epidemiology/outbreak preparedness.
We worked with communities to identify health challenges and obstacles and, together, came up with workable and culturally acceptable solutions for each unique context.
As a result of working with teams across the country at each level, we were able to expand healthcare to tens of millions more Ethiopians. Through these initiatives, we were able to dramatically expand access to health services and meet ambitious health targets, translating reform into results: reducing child mortality by 67%; reducing maternal mortality by 71%; reducing malaria mortality by 75%;reducing mortality from tuberculosis by 64%; and reducing mortality from HIV by 70%.
If you win the election you will be the first African to head the WHO, what would this mean to you?
It is one thing to tell countries what they should do, but it is an entirely different thing to have lived it and done it oneself, as I have. I have the ability to say that I designed the health reform, implemented it, and saw the results.
As someone who comes from a region hardest hit by many of the world’s biggest health challenges, I would bring WHO a fresh perspective about how much can still be done with limited resources. If elected, that will be recognition by our peers around the world that this type of frontline experience is paramount to successfully addressing health challenges not only here but around the world.
Last May, you were presented with the Award for Perseverance during the Fourth Global Conference of Women Deliver in Copenhagen, Denmark; did you consider this an early endorsement for your bid?
That was a great honor. I would not say it is an endorsement of my candidacy, but I would say it is a recognition of the importance of gender equality to us all. I have long been a champion of empowering women since I have found from experience that inclusiveness and different ways of viewing issues tends to prompt innovative thinking and deliver results.
Leading on gender quality is a core value of mine and among my five leadership priorities for WHO. Investments in girls’ and women’s health and rights are investments in a healthy and more prosperous future. We see over and over again the untapped potential of women, because we disempower them, marginalize them, and undervalue them. When we do this, our societies are poorer today. Likewise, when we neglect the health and development needs of our children, our societies are poorer tomorrow. What a shame to lose both today and tomorrow, by not investing in women and children.
Healthy, empowered girls and women have the potential to build stronger communities, economies, and nations, and ultimately transform entire societies. For example, in Ethiopia, we trained over 38,000 women to be health extension workers, who bring local health services to communities across the country, and we built a Health Development Army, a 3-million strong organized women’s network that communicates directly with families to promote health practices and disease prevention across the country. This led to a major expansion of healthcare access.
I accepted the award on behalf of my colleagues and partners who tirelessly work to improve the lives of the girls and women over the last 30 years, and consider it an acknowledgment that similar efforts need to be replicated on a global scale.
The final elections are in May. What plans do you have to better introduce yourself to the world and reassure skeptics about your abilities to provide leadership for such an important global organization?
In May, all 194 countries that are members of the World Health Organization will each get an equal vote for the next Director-General.
I am speaking to people near and far from all regions of the world. Through these conversations, I am deepening my understanding of the needs and opportunities around the world, as well as demonstrating the successes and the lessons from our experiences in the health sector transformation in Ethiopia and my leadership roles with other international organizations. I am confident and hopeful that I will receive the necessary support to be successful in the final election in May at the World Health Assembly.
World Bank Group Announces Record $57 Billion for Sub-Saharan Africa
March 20, 2017 | 1 Comments
Funds will scale up investments and de-risk private sector participation for accelerated growth and development
BADEN BADEN, Germany, March 19, 2017– Following a meeting with G20 finance ministers and central bank governors, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim today announced a record $57 billion in financing for Sub-Saharan African countries over the next three fiscal years. Kim then left on a trip to Rwanda and Tanzania to emphasize the Bank Group’s support for the entire region.
The bulk of the financing – $45 billion – will come from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries. The financing for Sub-Saharan Africa also will include an estimated $8 billion in private sector investments from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a private sector arm of the Bank Group, and $4 billion in financing from International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, its non-concessional public sector arm.
In December, development partners agreed to a record $75 billion for IDA, a dramatic increase based on an innovative move to blend donor contributions to IDA with World Bank Group internal resources, and with funds raised through capital markets.
Sixty percent of the IDA financing is expected to go to Sub-Saharan Africa, home to more than half of the countries eligible for IDA financing. This funding is available for the period known as IDA18, which runs from July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2020.
“This represents an unprecedented opportunity to change the development trajectory of the countries in the region,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said. “With this commitment, we will work with our clients to substantially expand programs in education, basic health services, clean water and sanitation, agriculture, business climate, infrastructure, and institutional reform.”
The IDA financing for operations in Africa will be critical to addressing roadblocks that prevent the region from reaching its potential. To support countries’ development priorities, scaled-up investments will focus on tackling conflict, fragility, and violence; building resilience to crises including forced displacement, climate change, and pandemics; and reducing gender inequality. Efforts will also promote governance and institution building, as well as jobs and economic transformation.
“This financing will help African countries continue to grow, create opportunities for their citizens, and build resilience to shocks and crises,” Kim said.
While much of the estimated $45 billion in IDA financing will be dedicated to country-specific programs, significant amounts will be available through special “windows” to finance regional initiatives and transformative projects, support refugees and their host communities, and help countries in the aftermath of crises. This will be complemented by a newly established Private Sector Window (PSW)-especially important in Africa, where many sound investments go untapped due to lack of capital and perceived risks. The Private Sector Window will supplement existing instruments of IFC and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) – the Bank Group’s arm that offers political risk insurance and credit enhancement – to spur sound investments through de-risking, blended finance, and local currency lending.
This World Bank Group financing will support transformational projects during the FY18-20 period. IBRD priorities will include health, education, and infrastructure projects such as expanding water distribution and access to power. The priorities for the private sector investment will include infrastructure, financial markets, and agribusiness. IFC also will deepen its engagement in fragile and conflict-affected states and increase climate-related investments.
Expected IDA outcomes include essential health and nutrition services for up to 400 million people, access to improved water sources for up to 45 million, and 5 GW of additional generation capacity for renewable energy.
The scaled-up IDA financing will build on a portfolio of 448 ongoing projects in Africa totaling about $50 billion. Of this, a $1.6 billion financing package is being developed to tackle the impending threat of famine in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa and other regions.
Africa: New Head of AU Commission
March 14, 2017 | 0 Comments
By Cristina Krippahl*
New African Union Commission chief Moussa Faki Mahamat officially takes up his post on Tuesday. But who is Faki and what does he stand for?
A seasoned diplomat and politician, 56-year-old Moussa Faki Mahamat is no stranger to the challenges presented by the top job he was elected to on January 30. He is seen as the architect of Chad’s nomination to the United Nations Security Council as a non-permanent member and also of the country’s presidency of the AU in 2016. He headed the AU Commission on Peace and Security at the Nairobi summit in 2013, which was dedicated to the fight against terrorism. Above all, as a former Chadian prime minister and current foreign minister he has had a decisive say in all the military and strategic operations his country was and is engaged in: Libya, Mali, South Sudan and Central African Republic, the Sahel and the Lake Chad region.
His election as chief executive of the AU thus indicates a very likely reorientation of AU policies towards issues of peace and security on the continent, Liesl Louw-Vaudran of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in Pretoria told DW: “His country, Chad, is well known for seeing itself as a sort of champion of military intervention.”
His predecessor, South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, was severely criticized for neglecting the pressing issues on the crisis-riven continent, preferring to concentrate on longterm plans of prosperity for Africa, not to mention her own political career at home. Moussa Faki, on the other hand, has already left a mark in the fight against terrorism, most notably as chairman of the council of ministers of the G5Sahel, a military anti-terror alliance made up of Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad, of which Ndjamena is the driving force.
His election to the AU Commission is likely to please both Europe and the United States of America, who support Chad in the fight against Boko Haram and other jihadist groups. Chad is also the headquarters of the French counterterrorism operation in the Sahel, Operation Barkhane.
Democracy not a priority
But not everybody welcomed the news. Doki Warou Mahamat, a Chadian who coordinated the campaign against Faki’s election, told DW: “Moussa Faki is on the payroll of a dictatorship. The Chadians are in a state of mourning. You have to clean up your own act before starting somewhere else.”
Moussa Faki is reputed to be very close to President Deby who was reelected in April 2016 for a fifth consecutive term. The outcome was widely criticized because of serious irregularities. Deby has ruled the country with an iron fist since 1990. Both are members of the Zaghawa ethnic group. Analysts note that Deby succeeded in placing a man he trusted at the helm of the AU on the same day that he handed over the rotating presidency of the organization to Guinea, showing the extent of Chad’s influence in the AU and on the continent.
Reforms in the offing
Nevertheless, Faki’s election was not a foregone conclusion. Internal rifts in the AU were highlighted in July 2016 when no candidate won the necessary two-thirds majority at a previous attempt to elect a chairperson, forcing Dlamini-Zuma to stay on for an extra six months. And early this year it took seven rounds of voting before Faki emerged as the winner ahead of Kenya’s Amina Mohamed, long considered the favorite.
While campaigning, Faki, who studied law in Brazzaville and Paris, said that as head of the AU Commission he would want a continent where “the sound of guns will be drowned out by cultural songs and rumbling factories.” While he promised to put development and security at the top of the agenda during his four-year term, he might also want to go ahead with at least some of the reforms deemed necessary to make the organization more effective. “The AU chairperson should be able to make a stand and authorize the sending of AU troops in crisis situations. At the moment, the Commission is sort of beholden to the decision of the 55 member states. Basically, the Commission’s hands are tied,” expert Liesl Louw-Vaudran said. Being a man accustomed to power and who expects to be obeyed, it is likely that Faki will want to change that.