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Where is the ‘African’ in African Studies?
June 9, 2016 | 0 Comments

We need to put the ‘African’ in African Studies, not as a token gesture, but as an affirmation that Africans have always produced knowledge about their continent.

by *

Outside the University of Cape Town. Credit: Ian Barbour.

Outside the University of Cape Town. Credit: Ian Barbour.

Last week, I was invited by Eritrean masters student Miriam Siun of Leiden University’s African Studies Centre to give one of two keynote lectures on the topic, “Where Is the African in ‘African’ Studies?” I took a long-range view, declaring that Africans have always produced knowledge about Africa, even though their contributions have been “preferably unheard” in some cases and “deliberately silenced” in others.

For those who question what constitutes an ‘African’ in the heyday of multiple citizenships and transnational flows of goods, ideas, and people, an ‘African’ has birthplace or bloodline ties to Africa, in the first instance. More importantly, however, an ‘African’ has a psychological attachment to the continent and is politically committed to its transformation.

For those who might wonder about the purpose of African Studies as a field of scholarly inquiry, it is to constantly interrogate epistemological, methodological, and theoretical approaches to the study of Africa, inserting Africa and its people at the centre of that interrogation as subjects, rather than objects.

Whether or not scholars of Africa have lived up to this mandate is worth examining.

“Knowledge about Africa for purposes other than its exploitation”

It is clear that those who produce knowledge about something wield considerable power over it. In this vein, African Studies remains a colonised space rife with misrepresentation, homogenisation and essentialising about Africa.

While the early writings and teachings about Africa are based on colonial expeditions, missionary exploits and anthropological ethnographies, contemporary scholarship is dominated by some non-Africans who have strategically positioned themselves as theauthoritative voices in a 21st century scramble for influence, as if Africa were a tabula rasa with no intellectuals or knowledge production of its own. This form of erasure is not only problematic, but also dangerous.

Nevertheless, active demands to decolonise African Studies began long before the recent ‘Decolonise the University’ movement or the #RhodesMustFall campaign. As a case in point, in a 1969 meeting of the African Studies Association (ASA) in Montreal, Canada, in which Africa-based scholars were invited in large numbers for the first time, black American Africa scholars seized the platform expressing concerns that African Studies was firmly cemented on a foundation of institutional racism. Furthermore, in a 1972 lecture at the ASA in Seattle, Washington, Oyekan Owomoyela questioned whether or not African Studies had lived up to its ideal of producing and promoting “knowledge about Africa for purposes other than its exploitation”.

More recently, in a 2006 keynote lecture at the 49th annual ASA meeting in San Francisco, California, Nigerian feminist scholar Amina Mama demonstrated that producing knowledge about Africa is an ethical dilemma as much as it is an epistemological consideration, for Africans and non-Africans alike. She asked: “Can we develop the study of Africa so that it is more respectful toward the lives and struggles of African people and to their agendas?”

For Mama, Africanists in America had been complicit in advancing a colonial patriarchal order by dismissing the intellectual agendas of African scholars. She challenges the “externalisation of Africa scholarship” which uncritically relies on externally generated concepts and methods that transform highly complex processes into overly simplistic, homogenous tropes about Africa. She argues that much of the knowledge produced outside traditional academic institutions is grey matter generated by Africans, who are often shut out of the global publishing industry by editorial gate-keepers.

As Mama and others have shown, publishing about Africa is punctuated with structural inequities in which Africans are often dissed and dismissed. This has been corroborated by a recent scholarly article showing a general decline in the number of articles published by Africa-based scholars in top African Studies journals African Affairs (AA) and theJournal of Modern African Studies (JMAS) over a 21-year period (1993-2013). The authors illustrate that while article submissions from Africa-based scholars have increased for the two Europe-based journals, acceptance rates have declined significantly.

The primacy of journals published by non-Africans is being called into question, however, especially with the advent of African-led publications such as Feminist Africa, founded by Mama, the Journal of West African History, founded by Nwando Achebe, as well as the numerous platforms initiated and executed by the Dakar-based Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), which regularly publishes scholarship by African scholars in and outside the continent.

Nevertheless, an increase in alternative platforms for publishing African scholars does not exempt non-African publishers, editors and reviewers from addressing glaring citation and publication gaps in the field.

How to put the African in African Studies

In light of these developments, asking where the ‘African’ is in African Studies is timely and essential. As a Liberian who has studied Africa in North America (Howard University), Africa (University of Ghana; University of Cape Town) and Europe (Oxford University), I have discovered that the extent to which the ‘African’ in African Studies is concealed or revealed depends entirely on the politics of the knowledge producer, the ethos of the institution they represent, the pedagogy and methods they employ, and their level of commitment to the continent and its people.

As an undergraduate in African Studies at Howard University from 2000-2004, I was fed a healthy dose of radical scholarship on Africa, including works by Kenyans John Mbiti and Ali Mazrui as well as the Senegalese Egyptologist Cheikh Anta Diop. We were also exposed to the contributions of diasporic thinkers, such as Guyanese Walter Rodney ofHow Europe Underdeveloped Africa fame; naturalised Liberian Edward Wilmot Blyden; and Martinican revolutionary philosophers Aimé Césaire and Frantz Fanon.

Having established the first ever PhD programme in African Studies and now offering both BA and MA degrees concurrently, Howard gave me a firm foundation in the canon of African and diasporic scholars, and more than two thirds of my professors were African academics from Africa.

During my semester at the University of Ghana-Legon in 2002, I was reminded that knowledge about Africa constitutes more than its history, politics and processes of ‘development’. At Legon’s Institute of African Studies, I learned to appreciate Africa aesthetically, through the study of drama, fiction, visual art, and dance forms, produced and taught by Africans.

In a subsequent semester at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in 2003, I took graduate courses at the Centre for African Studies, where I was instructed by a mostly African faculty whose post-colonial leanings honoured the intellectual contributions of Fanon, Diop, Edward Said and Gayatri Spivak.

Oxford’s masters in African Studies, established in 2005, was more traditional and conservative. While a third of my professors were of African descent, our canon was anthropological in nature, consisting mostly of male European scholars. Yet, as a member of the second cohort of the degree between 2006-2007, I also recognised attempts to foreground the work of some Africans, including Congo’s V.S. Mudimbe; Uganda’s Mahmood Mamdani; and Nigeria’s Oyenronke Oyewumi, whose 1997 book The Invention of Women: Making an African Sense of Western Gender Discourses is a post-colonial feminist critique of Western understandings of the role of women in pre-colonial Nigeria.

My experiences studying Africa on three continents at four very different institutions made it clear to me that the extent to which the ‘African’ in African Studies is revealed or concealed depends largely on the worldview and political commitments of those who produce and transfer knowledge. Foregrounding the discussion about where the ‘African’ is in African Studies as an ethical dilemma raises the stakes, forcing African and non-African scholars alike to remain self-reflexive, humble, and accountable to the continent and its people.

Or, as Owomoyela has suggested, perhaps a more radical approach to “getting ‘Africa’ back into African Studies is to get African Studies back to Africa.”

This can be achieved when:

  • A cannon of scholarly literature produced by Africans is established, which would be mandatory reading for all African studies courses across the globe. This canon must include male and female scholars writing in multiple languages across the social sciences, natural sciences and humanities;
  • Non-African scholars defer to authoritative voices and scholars on the continent, by citing them regularly and actively acknowledging their contributions to the field;
  • Open-access publishing on Africa is the norm rather than the exception, so that Africa-based scholars can access, engage with and critique knowledge produced about the continent;
  • More African scholars (based in Africa and elsewhere) serve on editorial boards of top-rated African Studies journals, as both editors and reviewers, in order to influence the research agendas of these publications;
  • African universities value, support, and validate good quality scholarship about Africa, through the provision of research funding for staff, living wages, sabbatical time to write and publish, and paid subscriptions to relevant journals.

These measures and more will compel us to effectively re-insert the ‘African’ in African Studies, not as a token gesture, but as an affirmation that Africans have always produced knowledge about their continent.

*African Arguments.Robtel Neajai Pailey is a Liberian academic, activist and author of the anti-corruption children’s book, Gbagba. She currently serves as a senior researcher at the University of Oxford’s International Migration Institute (IMI).

 

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Africa Is Now Host To Historic Number Of Refugees
June 8, 2016 | 0 Comments

The continent is housing more than a quarter of the world’s displaced people.

By Eleanor Goldberg*

OBIAS SCHWARZ VIA GETTY IMAGES People from Somalia are silhouetted in sunlight as they leave a makeshift camp for migrants and refugees near the village of Idomeni, not far from the Greek-Macedonian border, on April 30, 2016. Some 54,000 people, many of them fleeing the war in Syria, have been stranded on Greek territory since the closure of the migrant route through the Balkans in February. / AFP / TOBIAS SCHWARZ (Photo credit should read TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images)

People from Somalia are silhouetted in sunlight as they leave a makeshift camp for migrants and refugees near the village of Idomeni, not far from the Greek-Macedonian border, on April 30, 2016.
Some 54,000 people, many of them fleeing the war in Syria, have been stranded on Greek territory since the closure of the migrant route through the Balkans in February. / AFP / TOBIAS SCHWARZ (Photo credit should read TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Images of Syrians losing their lives while taking desperate measures to escape have effectively awakened the world to the refugee crisis.

But the Syrian civil war is just one of a number of conflicts that’s contributing to the highest rates of displaced people on record.

In Africa, more than 18 million people have been forcibly displaced. That’s more than a quarter of the total worldwide and the most the continent has seen in its history, according to the World Bank.

In Africa alone, eight conflicts have erupted or have been reignited since 2010 in such countries as Libya, Mali and South Sudan. As a result, there was a 17 percent spike in displaced people in Sub-Saharan Africa from 2014 to last year, according to UNHCR.

To help prevent future conflicts and foster development in fractured regions, the World Bank and six other multilateral development banks committed to bringing funds and programs to affected regions in Africa.

The World Bank announced the initiative at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul last month. It approved “credits” totaling nearly $250 million this fiscal yearto provide support for refugees, internally displaced people, returnees and their host communities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Great Lakes Region, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Uganda in the Horn of Africa and Zambia.

Together with the six other banks involved, the World Bank is going to work to collect improved data on the issue, devise innovative financing mechanisms and work on country-level engagements.

In Zambia, for example, the project is working to fully integrate former refugees by granting residency and access to lands rights.

In the Horn of Africa, they’ll work to develop “social cohesion” between host communities and the displaced populations by providing opportunities to make joint decisions on development priorities.

TONY KARUMBA VIA GETTY IMAGES Refugees gather to watch the arrival of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres at IFO-2 complex of the sprawling Dadaab refugee camp on May 8, 2015. Dadaab refugee camp currently houses some 350,000 people and for more than 20 years has been home to generations of Somalis who have fled their homeland wracked by conflicts. But Kenya’s government asked the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) to close the camp after an attack on Kenyas Garissa University by Somalia-based Al-Shabaab gunmen in April, whom are suspected to have planned and launched their attack from the camp. AFP PHOTO / TONY KARUMBA

Refugees gather to watch the arrival of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres at IFO-2 complex of the sprawling Dadaab refugee camp on May 8, 2015. Dadaab refugee camp currently houses some 350,000 people and for more than 20 years has been home to generations of Somalis who have fled their homeland wracked by conflicts. But Kenya’s government asked the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) to close the camp after an attack on Kenyas Garissa University by Somalia-based Al-Shabaab gunmen in April, whom are suspected to have planned and launched their attack from the camp. AFP PHOTO / TONY KARUMBA (Photo credit should read TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images)

The World Bank has also called for an alternative to refugee camps, saying they “aren’t the answer in the long term.”

That statement comes at a time when experts remain divided over the closing of all refugee camps in Kenya. 

The country made the announcement last month, a decision which would displace 600,000 people, CNN reported.

The government said the decision was motivated by the “very heavy” economic, security and environmental burdens of the camps.

A number of humanitarian aid groups, including Doctors Without Borders, came out against the decision.

“We see these different examples of people being pushed back into crises,” Jason Cone, executive director of Doctors Without Borders, told HuffPost in May of the decision to close the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. “For us, that’s really tearing at the fabric of the most basic protections that international law, and the conventions, that most states have joined are responsible to uphold.”

Daadab has been home to about 350,000 Somali refugees. 

Cone was speaking to HuffPost about the organization’s decision to pull out of the World Humanitarian Summit due to concerns that the event wouldn’t effectively address pressing human rights issues.

Still, the World Bank remains hopeful about the disposition of people residing in refugee camps and of their prospects for the future.

“Despite the hardships, many long-term camps are buzzing with activity,” Vara Vemuru, World Bank senior social development specialist, said in a statement, “a place where people are concerned about today, yet hopeful about tomorrow.”

*Huffpost

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Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Elected First Female Chair of ECOWAS
June 6, 2016 | 0 Comments

By CHARLES AYITEY*

(Photo: www.ibtimes.co.uk)

(Photo: www.ibtimes.co.uk)

Liberia’s president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has once again broken the gender-ceiling  by making history as the first female elected chairperson of the Economy of West African States (ECOWAS).

During the 49th ECOWAS Heads of State Meeting in Dakar, Senegal on Saturday, Madam Sirleaf  was elected by her fellow presidents and is expected to succeed Senegalese president Macky Sall, whose term in office as head of ECOWAS  2015  draws to a close.

The summit was attended by all heads of state from member countries with the exception of Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh, José Mário Vaz of Guinea Bissau, Muhammadou Buhari of Nigeria, and Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé of Togo. 

The leaders discussed important issues such as the protracted cases of political insecurity, peace and security, pre and post election violence, the border dispute between Gambia and Senegal, and terrorism.

Meanwhile, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has pledged to work towards the achievement of the regional community’s Vision 2020, which among other things includes the achievement of a single currency policy for the sub-region.

The Liberian president takes the mantle following the declaration of her country free from the deadly outbreak of Ebola which ravaged the West African economy in 2014. 

A woman of stature and power, Ellen Sirleaf is revered not just as one of the most powerful women in the world but also the  “Iron Lady” or “Ma Ellen” of Liberia, considering the strides chalked in rebuilding a broken Liberia after 14 years of civil war and also placing value on the country’s falling economy through prudent fiscal policies. 

*Face2Face Africa

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African Development Bank says continent far from debt crisis
May 31, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Matthew Hill*

Buildings and roads sit on the coast in this aerial view of Ikoyi in Lagos island, a residential area in Lagos, Nigeria, on Monday, Nov. 16, 2015. Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer which derives 90 percent of export earnings from the commodity, is struggling to cope with an almost 60 percent plunge in Brent crude prices since June 2014 to below $45 a barrel. Photographer: George Osodi/Bloomberg

Buildings and roads sit on the coast in this aerial view of Ikoyi in Lagos island, a residential area in Lagos, Nigeria, on Monday, Nov. 16, 2015. Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer which derives 90 percent of export earnings from the commodity, is struggling to cope with an almost 60 percent plunge in Brent crude prices since June 2014 to below $45 a barrel. Photographer: George Osodi/Bloomberg

Africa is a long way from facing a debt crisis even as commercial lending to the continent soars and Mozambique became the first regional country to miss a payment on a dollar loan this year, according to a senior official at the African Development Bank.

Debt levels across the continent’s 54 countries average 17 percent to 18 percent of GDP, which is low, Abebe Shimeles, acting director in the AfDB’s development research department, said Thursday in an interview at the lender’s annual meetings in Lusaka, Zambia’s capital.

“In terms of the continent we are not even close, forget about crisis, we are not even close to a debt burden, especially the external debt,” said Shimeles. “It’s not systemic now. It’s not that all African countries are exposed to a debt crisis. The bad news is sometimes heard faster than the good news.”

Costly Repayments

Countries on the continent raised $26 billion in Eurobonds from 2006 to 2014 and a further $12 billion last year, AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina said on May 24 when he officially opened the meetings, warning a debt crisis must be avoided. While foreign-currency debt has soared, currencies on the continent have weakened, making repayments more costly as economic growth slows.

“Some countries have also experienced a spike in their debt levels that may be worrying in particular cases, unless they take measures to contain it,” Shimeles said. “The AfDB and other multilaterals can learn from previous mistakes and really step in with a solution to manage the debt, restructure it and also undertake some necessary reforms before we reach a level of crisis.”

Dollar debt sold by sub-Saharan African nations have returned 6.3 percent this year, compared with the 7.1 percent average return for emerging markets. Average yields have climbed to 7.63 percent, compared with 5.8 percent a year ago, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Economic Expansion

Adesina

Adesina

The bank would consider assisting countries that ask for it, and could work with other lenders including the International Monetary Fund, he said. Nigeria is already in talks with the AfDB for a $1 billion facility.

Growth on the continent will probably exceed the 4.5 percent the AfDB forecast for 2017 in a report published this week, Shimeles said. Domestic demand in Ethiopia, Nigeria and Sudan will lead to “much higher” economic expansion, he said.

“I believe that Nigeria has now taken the right steps in terms of the macro-economy,” he said.

Africa’s biggest economy this month cut fuel subsidies and signaled a more flexible exchange rate policy for the naira, which has been pegged to the dollar for 15 months.

“We are optimistic,” said Shimeles. “Still, this doesn’t mean we deny the headwinds. They are strong but I think the economies are resilient.”

*Source Bloomberg

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Angelle Kwemo Joins Washington Media Group as International Practice Grows
May 25, 2016 | 0 Comments
African "Olivia Pope", Angelle Kwemo is set for another exciting challenge

African “Olivia Pope”, Angelle Kwemo is set for another exciting challenge

Washington Media Group (WMG) has  announced the appointment of Angelle B. Kwemo as Director of the company’s growing Africa practice.

Ms. Kwemo worked for nearly a decade on Capitol Hill for two members of Congress and was the Founder and President of the Congressional African Staff Association. She went on to create Believe in Africa, aimed at empowering women and youth while engaging the private sector; and the AstrategiK Group, providing international trade and advisory services to corporations and government officials across Europe and Africa.

“I’m thrilled to be joining the Washington Media Group team, and to help the firm continue to expand its international client work,” said Ms. Kwemo. “Washington Media Group’s world-class communications and creative services are relied upon by clients across Washington and the country, and the word is getting out around the world as well. I’m excited to be joining the WMG team,” Ms Kwemo said.

WMG, which began more than 10 years ago as a crisis communications firm, has since grown into a full-service communications and creative services firm serving clients around the world.

“This is an exciting time for WMG as we continue to grow at home and abroad by offering proven strategies and services,” said WMG CEO and President Gregory L. Vistica. “With her deep knowledge of Africa, Angell will be a central part of our efforts throughout the continent in representing governments, corporations, non-profits and high-net worth individuals. I’m thrilled that she is joining our growing team.”

Ms. Kwemo began her career in France, at the Bestaux Law Firm. In her native Cameroon, she served as Chief of the Maritime Claims and Disputes Department, and later as General Counsel for Bollore Technology Group and Geodis Overseas. Named one of the “World’s Most Influential Africans in the Diaspora” by Paris-based Africa 24 Magazine, she earned an International Business Transactions and Human Rights Law degree from Washington College of Law at American University, in Washington, D.C.

About WMG

WMG is a full-services communications firm that has saved its clients tens of millions of dollars. With offices in China, Qatar and Africa, we’ve successfully solved high-profile crises, protected and repaired corporate and executive reputations, improved brand value and growth, and enhanced public recognition for our clients in the U.S. and overseas.

 

 

 

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New Book Highlights “The Most Influential Contemporary African Diaspora Leaders”
May 25, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Dr. Roland Holou*

bookMany books have been written about people of African descent, but so far no single volume has highlighted the lives, visions, achievements, policies, and strategies of exceptional contemporary African Diaspora leaders across the globe. To fill the gap, an International Selection Committee composed of some of the top African diaspora Leaders in the Caribbean, Europe, North America, South America, and West Africa was created to nominate and vet recipients of “The Most Influential Contemporary African Diaspora Leaders Honor.” For the first edition of this book, 30 leaders were featured in detail and out of the 50 chapters of this 336 page book, one was devoted to each. Others chapters were devoted to one hundred other nominees whose contribution warranted their inclusion in this book.

The stories of these Leaders showcase the diversity, complexity, and richness of the ongoing global African Diaspora engagement efforts. Their experiences of struggle, failure, growth and success will motivate current and future generations of people of African descent to take initiative, provide guidance to those interested in Africa’s development, and promote interest in the growing field of diaspora engagement. The featured leaders are known for their long-lasting achievements. Their bold actions contributed to important historical movements that significantly shaped and transformed the lives and history of people of African descent and removed major roadblocks preventing the prosperity of Africa and its Diaspora. They have brought about enormous and rare progress that would have been impossible without their leadership, including economic and political development of Africa and its Diaspora. To get your copy of the book, please visit www.AfricanDiasporaLeaders.com/order

Dr. Roland Holou

Dr. Roland Holou

Some of the initiatives featured in the book include the African Union African Diaspora Sixth Region Initiative, Healthcare Reform in Africa, Pan-Africanism, Global Anti-Racism Initiatives, International Decade for People of African Descent, Implementation of the UN Durban Declaration and Programme of Action; the Commission on Reparations, the Hebrew Israelites, the Initiatives of the Central American Black Organization; the World Diaspora Fund For Development; the Projects of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century; the Pan-Afrikan Reparations Coalition in Europe, the Pan-African Holiday Kwanzaa; the Educational Initiatives of Steve Biko Cultural Institute in Brazil, the Initiatives of DiasporaEngager concerning the Map of the Diaspora and their Stakeholders, the Diaspora Directory and the Global Diaspora Social Media Platform; the Initiatives of the African Diaspora in Australia and Asia Pacific; the AU Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus Organization in the USA; the “Taubira Law” Voted by the French Republic to Recognize that the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the Slave Trade in the Indian Ocean are a Crime Against Humanity; The Global Movement for Reparatory Justice; the Ratification of the Article 3q of the AU Constitutive Act which “invites and encourages the full participation of the African Diaspora as an important part of Africa; the Economic Development for Black Empowerment in America and Europe; the African Diaspora Contribution to Democracy and Development in Africa, the Caribbean, Central and South America; the Initiatives of the Brazilian Association of Black Researchers; the Oprah Effect; the Promotion of the Black Population in Brazil; the Palmares Cultural Foundation in Brazil; the Celebrations of Zumbi dos Palmares in Brazil; the Caribbean Community [CARICOM] Commission on Reparation and Social Justice; the Initiatives of famous Prophet Shepherd Bushiri (Major1, the World’s Sharpest Major Prophet), and many initiatives in the USA, etc.

Some of the struggles still faced by the African Diaspora and discussed in the book relate to: Afrophobia, civil rights, denial of justice and devaluation of Black lives, education with curricula full of “lies” regarding history and history of scientific discoveries, healthcare problems, high rates of unemployment and imprisonment, housing problems, institutional racism and slavery, lack of access to good education and justice, media which persistently diffuse open racist stereotypes, multiple forms of discrimination, police violence, political and economic marginalization and stigmatization, poverty, racial discrimination, vulnerability to violence, xenophobia and related intolerance and discrimination. The book also addressed some of the strategical mistakes and divisions among the Continental African Diaspora and the Historical African Diaspora.

 

If you are interested in learning the secrets, agendas, strategies and potential of these modern leaders, then this is the book for you. Since influence can at times have negative effects, this book also addresses the destructive actions of certain leaders that are pulling down both Africa and its people. To learn more about the recipients, please visit www.AfricanDiasporaLeaders.com/recipient. Join the International Diaspora Engagement Social Media Platform today by creating a free account .

About the Author

Dr. Roland Holou is a scientist, businessman, and an international consultant in Agriculture/Agribusiness, Biotechnology, Diaspora Engagement, and Africa Development. He is the Founder and CEO of DiasporaEngager, www.DiasporaEngager.com and the architect of the map of Diaspora and their stakeholders . To learn more about him and contact him www.RolandHolou.com.

 

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The Africa We Want -The Leadership We Want! Where are the eagles?
May 25, 2016 | 0 Comments

We should not allow the chickens to lead the eagles even if the chickens convince themselves that they’re actually eagles!

 Yohannes Mezgebe


Yohannes Mezgebe

From 10 – 18 July 2016, African leaders will be meeting in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda for the 27thOrdinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU). A key highlight of the forthcoming summit will be the election of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC). The winner, he or she, will lead the continental body for the next four years, renewable once.

The AU was founded, as a premier continental institution for the promotion of accelerated socio-economic and political integration of the continent; not just as the level of countries or governments, but also by forging greater bonds amongst citizens of Africa.

To give expression to the above imperatives, the African Union Commission (AUC) of the AU is tasked to serve as the crucial administrative hub for driving and achieving the numerous mandates; including the implementation of Agenda 2063, a strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of the continent over the next 50 years. The Commission is, in particular, envisaged to be the key organ responsible for the day-to-day management of the affairs of the Union. It represents the Union; the yearnings and aspirations of member states, and also defends the continent’s collective interests. Alongside, it is expected to articulate and give concrete expression to the African common position, determine the strategic vision, plan and future horizons of the Union.

Whatever the AU has become today builds on the pioneering efforts of prominent sons and daughters of the continent; from His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Haile Sellasie to Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba, Julius Nyerere, and Seiko Toure, to name a handful. These founding fathers, without an iota of doubts, had a clear vision; they could see far where the continent was heading, almost as if they had the power to look into the future. All of them, without exception, made their mark in the struggle for freedom and liberation. When three years ago, Africans celebrated the 50thAnniversary of the Organization of African Unity/AU, it was a milestone opportunity; both to celebrate but also begin to contemplate how to translate our collective dreams into concrete results to make Africa a better place for the present and future generations. The celebration was the beginning of a new phase in the collective journey, not its end.

Clearly, the AUC has generated considerable amount of momentum around African development and Integration issues. Yet, many of the ‘teething’ challenges the continent faced at inception continue to slow the pace; just as new ones have crept in. Most of today’s problems may be attributed to the slow progress made in the quest for unity and integration. At best, these have remained aspirational despite best of efforts. If 1963 the continent’s leaders were preoccupied with colonial and post-colonial struggles, and the consolidation of independence, nowadays, there are myriad new – no less daunting – realities.

Given the many challenges Africa faces now, the continent needs to have at the helm of the AUC a leaders with proven track records in dealing with Africa’s myriad problems: poverty, resource use, economic development, wealth sharing, peace and security, democracy, human rights, neo-colonialism, environmental protection, climate change and corruption. The list is far from exhaustive. The experience of the new AUC Chair as well as his or her unshakable determination to overcome the challenges – not merely deal with them – would be critical if the continent is to realize the vision of a united, prosperous and peaceful Africa.

 In today’s knowledge-driven world, the clarion call for visionary and committed leadership at the helm of the AUC is far greater than ever. The leader needed must be capable and willing to identify and tap into the pool of amazing talent of African citizens, starting with the team of talented staff of the Union; a growing number of whom risks drudgery and disillusionment with the status quo. The men and women who work at the Commission should be more than satisfied, they should be energized and passionate in what they do not the business-as-usual attitude that is so endemic now. The leader the Commission deserves must be one that leads by example and inspires. The right leader for the AUC must have a clarity of purpose working to achieve results, hand in hand, with broad constituencies of stakeholders: from the civil society to the private sector; from women’s group to youths’ movement.

Because the AU represents the hope of Africa and its peoples, it must care about the caliber of leaders who aspire to head the Commission. So, in Kigali this July 2016, when convening to elect the incoming Chair and leadership of the Commission, all eyes will be on the Heads of States and Governments to do what is right. They must put aside petty politics and permutations to decide what is best for the AUC and the continent. We stand at a crossroads: if Africa fails to make the right decision in electing the right leader the AUC deserves, the continent risks taking several fatal steps backwards.

Because it does not pay to allow chickens to lead the eagles even if the chickens convince themselves that they’re actually eagles, African citizens must demand a move from mediocrity to excellence. The incoming chairperson must not be determined by which region the candidate comes from but rather by his or her strength of character to lead.

Africa has had its faire share of failures over the years since 1960’s. It still carries old scars and new bruises, but it must look into the future with hope. In 50 years, the architects of Agenda 2063 and those currently tasked with its implementation might no longer be around given the mean life expectancy on the continent. This means, there will not be a united, prosperous and peaceful Africa unless the youth – the very people who will still be around in 50 years – is actively engaged in the process. The message of African youth calls for a different mindset, a different way of thinking, a different way of making decisions and acting. The choice before the Kigali conclave in July will be a tall one.

As they elect the right leader, they will have no better loyal partner than African citizens. They must deliver by all means; posterity will remember and not forgive them doing otherwise. As Frantz Fanon puts it perceptibly decades ago: “Each generation discovers its mission. It either achieves it or it betrays it”.

*Founder, Ubuntu Leadership Institute

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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BMCE Bank of Africa closes registration for the 2016 African Entrepreneurship Award and prepares to announce the candidates for its second round
May 18, 2016 | 0 Comments

image001 (10)8800 entrepreneurs from 105 countries registered with 3900 business ideas

The Group BMCE Bank of Africa announces the closing of Round 1 of the second edition of the African Entrepreneurship Award . The AEA is dedicated to inspire talented African entrepreneurs, or originating from Africa, by funding businesses using technologies that transcend borders to create jobs and improve lives.

Round 1 opened in mid-February and closed May 6th 2016, attracting about 8800 entrepreneurs from 105 countries submitting 3900 business ideas, that is an increase of +33% in applications volume compared to the Award’s first edition in 2015. From now until May 31st, 130 Regional African mentors are mentoring each business idea to decide who continues to Round 2 “Most Likely to Succeed Across Africa” in each category: Education, Environment and Uncharted Domains. Entrepreneurs from all 54 African countries plus 51 countries in the diaspora competed in Round 1 for “Most Needed In My Region”.

Round 1 winners will be announced on May 31st for the opening of Round 2, lasting from May 31st to July 31st 2016. During Round 2, entrepreneurs will benefit from the Pan-African mentors’ expertise to improve their business’ ability to meet customer needs and compete effectively across Africa. Following this second round, the best ideas will qualify for the third round of the AEA competition, where Global Mentors from the three continents will mentor African entrepreneurs to improve their businesses and rank “The Most Significant and Sustainable Businesses” for Africa.

Initiated in November 2014 by the Chairman of the Group BMCE Bank of Africa, Mr. Othman Benjelloun, the African Entrepreneurship Award illustrates the commitment of this group to inspire entrepreneurship across all of Africa. Each year, this initiative funds 1 million USD for the best African entrepreneurs, thus supporting their efforts to create jobs and improve lives for every African region. In 2015, the 1 million USD Award was shared among 10 winners from five economic zones across Africa.

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AGAINST ALL ODDS : HOW TO STAY ON TOP OF THE GAME-Angelle Kwemo shares tips in new book
May 17, 2016 | 0 Comments
Angelle Kwemo

Angelle Kwemo

International Business Strategist, Attorney and Author, Angelle B. Kwemo shares her journey while outlining the steps anyone can take to achieve ultimate success in every area of their lives.

 

AGAINST ALL ODDS

HOW TO STAY ON TOP OF THE GAME

By Angelle B. Kwemo

On Sale NOW

 “You Must Act As If It Is Impossible To Fail” ~ Ashanti

 The Oracle Group International is thrilled to announce the publication of AGAINST ALL ODDS: How to Stay On Top of The Game (Paperback; On Sale Now; $14.99; ISBN: 9781483441566) by award winning international business, political consultant and entrepreneur Angelle Kwemo, CEO of Astrategik Group and Founder of Believe in Africa. A lifetime in the making, Angelle provides readers with a clear and practical blueprint for personal and professional success, while sharing her amazing journey from childhood in Cameroon to become a globally respected government policy and international trade strategist.

41-KhhxmuRL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_AGAINST ALL ODDS is the captivating story of one woman’s determination to pursue her passion and aspirations while defying self-limitation and status quo. Angelle Kwemo, who is proud to be an African woman, followed her dreams, ignored the ridicule, and fought aggressively to seize every opportunity that presented itself to her.  Today, Angelle is one of the worlds most sought after government relations and international trade advisory strategists. She advises multi dimensional entities on such matters as how to compete globally and build inroads into the United States, Africa, and other emerging markets. Angelle has lectured at Universities and Conferences around the globe, teaching techniques and strategies on how to successfully navigate into the international marketplace along with the art of remaining competitive.

So what does it take to build the courage to follow your vision, overcome challenges and be relentless in the pursuit of your dreams? Angelle will tell you. Presented here is Angelle Kwemo’s unique blueprint on how to become non-negotiable about your goals and eliminate those toxic behaviors that could potentially impede all efforts towards the attainment of success. To assist in the accomplishment of the aforementioned feat, Angelle utilizes AGAINST ALL ODDS to offer provocative lessons, real-life case studies, and proven strategies of risk and reward that are designed to help pave your own-chartered course of success and live a life of richness.

This story is for all people of race, color, and color, but not for the light of heart, I think its important to share how I shaped my vision, developed endurance, over came the challenges, and became relentless in the pursuit of my dreams”, says Ms. Kwemo, “Life is like a game, having different levels of championship to grow and evolve, this manual will help you stay on top of your game and overcome life’s challenges at every stage of your career”. 

   ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Angelle Kwemo in a file picture with Congressman Bobby Rush, John Kufuor former President of Ghana and Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria

Angelle Kwemo in a file picture with Congressman Bobby Rush, John Kufuor former President of Ghana and Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria

Angelle Kwemo is Founder & Chair of Believe in Africa advocating for empowering the African private sector, women and youth. She is President & CEO of AstrategiKGroup, a firm that provides government relations, international trade advisory and strategic advice to multi-dimensional entities, allowing them to compete globally and build inroads into the United States, Africa and other emerging markets. A native of Cameroon, she started her career in France at Bestaux Law firm.  In Douala, Cameroon, as one of the youngest executives, she served as the Chief of the Maritime Claims and Disputes Department, and later as the General Counsel for Bollore Technology Group and Geodis Overseas, one of the largest French investors in West Africa. She moved to the United States in 2001 where her determination landed her job in U.S. Congress where she worked for 8 years.

AGAINST ALL ODDS BY ANGELLE KWEMO

May 25, 2016; $14.99

Lulu Publishing, Inc.

ISBN #: 9781483441566

eBook ISBN #: 9781483441573

 

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THE RISE OF A PEACEMAKING CAPITAL, IN AFRICA
May 17, 2016 | 0 Comments

BY LAURA SECORUN PALET*

1434e17719d384aa17f81519a45cf84dThe Arusha airport looks like a huge souvenir shop with an airstrip attached. Thousands of tourists pass through here on their way to Tanzania’s famed national parks and Mount Kilimanjaro. But what those sunburned visitors may not know is that where their safari starts is where civil wars end.

This sleepy city in the north of Tanzania has been a diplomatic hub since the signing of the Arusha Accords in 1993 ended the war in Rwanda. But now, with civil conflict brewing or in full swing in neighboring Burundi and South Sudan, this neutral city may be the region’s best broker for peace agreements. Over 345 new cases of torture and abuse by security forces have been reported in Burundi since the start of 2016 and experts warn of the violence taking an even darker turn. “We are not there now,” says Alexandre Lévêque, Canada’s high commissioner and envoy to the East African community, “but everybody remembers Rwanda.”

The role of peacemaker is one that Tanzania’s recently elected president John Magufuli is taking seriously. He has appointed a seasoned diplomat as minister of foreign affairs and at the top of his agenda is addressing the violence in Burundi, where the election of President Pierre Nkurunziza to an unconstitutional third term has thrown the East African nation into turmoil. If the Tanzanian official manages to convince Nkurunziza to come to the table, that table will be in Arusha.

Home to a number of crucial institutions, including the East African Court of Justice, Arusha is also where the Burundi civil war ended in 2005 after 12 years — and some 300,000 dead. It was there that the National Liberation Forces, Burundi’s last rebel group, finally signed a deal to stop the fighting, demobilize and be integrated into the national army. Today, nestled among rolling green hills, Arusha moves slowly; save for an occasional four-wheel-drive vehicle rushing tourists to view zebras, the city gives the impression that nothing bad could happen here.

Tanzania has more moral authority than all countries in the area combined, so they are best placed to make peace happen.

Paul Nantulya, Pentagon adviser

But can Arusha — “the Geneva of Africa,” as Bill Clinton once called it — live up to its past image as peacemaker? Part of that depends on the rest of Tanzania. Paul Nantulya, a Pentagon adviser who was part of a peace-based negotiating team in Arusha in 1998, says having morally respected arbiters — the late South African leader Nelson Mandela and Julius Nyerere, Tanzania’s founding father — are key to any peace agreement. “Those accords only happened because of Mandela and Neyrere,” Nantulya says. “Tanzania has more moral authority than all countries in the area combined, so they are best placed to make peace happen.”

Given Tanzania’s neighbors, there isn’t much of an alternative. Kenya has a recent history of electoral violence, and Ugandan and Rwandan leaders have both forsaken term limits — the same issue fueling violence in Burundi. Meanwhile, Tanzania just had a peaceful change of government, and in 2003, when violence threatened Zanzibar, the country managed to negotiate the creation of a “unity government.”

 

Shutterstock 388127020

Source: Shutterstock

But regional unity is lacking from the Burundi negotiations. During the 2005 Burundi accord, neighboring countries agreed to a severe embargo and to put peacekeeping boots on the ground. Today, Tanzania has to be the one to lead the way to a more coordinated effort. “Tanzania is capable of doing that,” says Hassan B. Jallow, chief prosecutor of the United Nations Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, from his small office in Arusha. Lévêque says it’s urgent for the country to “step up to its reputation.”

There are many obstacles remaining in the way of President Magufuli playing Switzerland’s role in this heated region. For starters, his party has a long-standing relationship with Burundi’s ruling party, so it finds itself torn between its roles as peacekeeper and ally. And Tanzania’s relationship with some of its neighbors is becoming more strained, says Nantulya. Even if it manages to be the peacemaking arbiter it aims to be, there is no guarantee of success — despite Tanzania’s best efforts to help manage violence in South Sudan after the country’s civil war, the peace accord disintegrated only a few months after its signing.

Near the Arusha airport is the almost empty Mount Meru Hotel. Recently, its sad-looking conference rooms and echoing halls were packed with more than 1,000 well-dressed men and women attending an East African summit. At the top of the agenda? Burundi. Welcoming attendees was a massive photo of Nyerere — the man who brokered the Arusha Accords and who warned, more than half a century ago, “We must either unite now or perish.”

*Source ZY

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Ecobank Group Appoints Amin Manekia as Group Exec, Corporate & Investment Banking
May 16, 2016 | 0 Comments

Mr Manekia was most recently with Citigroup, where he spent 25 years of his career

ecobankb (1)Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI) , parent company of the Ecobank Group, today announced the appointment of Mr Amin Manekia as Group Executive of its Corporate & Investment Banking business. Mr Manekia steps into the position vacated in late 2015 by Mr Charles Kié, who moved to become Managing Director of Ecobank Nigeria.

A national of Pakistan, Amin Manekia joins Ecobank with 28 years of international corporate banking experience. It includes an excellent grounding in transaction banking, commercial banking, credit risk and general management. His career spans various business and regional leadership roles across different parts of the world, notably  the United States, Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Mr Manekia was most recently with Citigroup, where he spent 25 years of his career. He joined Citigroup directly from university in the United States in 1988, moving to South Africa earlier this year as Managing Director and Africa Head for Citi Securities & Banking. In this role, he successfully led Citibank’s Institutional Clients business.

Before his move to South Africa, Mr Manekia spent two transit years at the Samba Financial Group in Saudi Arabia. There, he was the executive responsible for rebuilding the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s corporate banking portfolio following the financial crisis. Prior to this, he held various positions with Citibank in different  businesses and regions. These included his Nairobi-based role as Managing Director & Banking Head for East and Southern Africa, with business management responsibilities for corporate banking for that region. In 2007, he was the Commercial Banking Head across Citibank’s Africa platform.

As Citibank Country Head for Bulgaria from 2004 to 2007, Mr Manekia successfully led the execution and development of a transformation strategy, which he achieved by quadrupling the bank’s business revenue base within his three-year tenure. In 1993, he relocated from New York to Pakistan, where he worked on  the origination side of the business. During his six-year tenure in Pakistan, he held a series of corporate banking roles in Karachi and Lahore.

Mr Manekia’s appointment as Group Executive of Ecobank’s Corporate and Investment Banking business takes effect from 4 July 2016. He will report directly to the Ecobank Group CEO and be responsible for the following business lines: Corporate Banking Group; Transaction Service Group; Investment Banking Group; Fixed Income, Currencies & Commodities (Treasury); and Securities, Wealth and Asset Management.

Incorporated in Lomé, Togo, Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (‘ETI’) (www.Ecobank.com) is the parent company of the leading independent pan-African banking group, Ecobank. It currently has a presence in 36 African countries: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo (Brazzaville), Congo (Democratic Republic), Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Group employs over 20,000 people in 40 different countries in over 1,200 branches and offices. Ecobank is a full-service bank providing wholesale, retail, investment and transaction banking services and products to governments, financial institutions, multinationals, international organizations, medium, small and micro businesses and individuals. More information can be found on the Group’s website: ecobank.com or on Twitter: @GroupEcobank

*Ecobank/APO

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NDI’s Chris Fomunyoh to Capitol Hill: Democratic governance is critical to counterterrorism strategy
May 12, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L.

Dr Chris Fomunyoh

Dr Chris Fomunyoh

As African countries battle with the threats of terrorism, the international community should be cautious of giving dictators a free pass just because of their engagement in the fight says Dr Chris Fomunyoh, Senior Associate for Africa at the National Democratic Institute.

On Capitol Hill to discuss Terrorism and Instability in Sub-Saharan Africa, Fomunyoh told a Senate Hearing on May 10, 2016, that democracy and good governance must be a fundamental part of any successful counter terrorism strategy.

“Africans of this generation are jittery and extremely fearful of reliving the experience of the Cold War era during which dictatorships thrived amidst grave human deprivation and gross human rights abuses just because some leaders were allies of the West at the time,” said Fomunyoh, who has used the NDI platform to facilitate the emergence of several democracies in Africa.

“The fight against terrorism should not become a substitute for the Cold War paradigm of this century with regards to sub-Saharan Africa,” Fomunyoh said, as he cautioned the international community against giving autocratic regimes a pass just because there are partners in the fight against terrorism.

In the recommendations made to the U.S Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Fomunyoh said successful counter terrorism strategies must be grounded in the consolidation of democracy and good governance for short term military victories to be sustained in the medium and long term.

“Shrinking political space, frequent and overt violations of citizen rights and freedoms, and the undermining of constitutional rule and meaningful elections breed discontent and disaffection that form the fertile ground for recruiters and perpetrators of violence and extremism,” Fomunyoh told the Committee Chaired by  Sen .Bob Corker (R-Tenn.)

Good partners in countering violent extremism and terrorism should match that with good performances in democratic governance, Fomunyoh said, while recommending that governments need encouragement to invest in rehabilitating communities and creating structures that eliminate conditions that breed the rise of terrorism.

Paying a courtesy call to President Roch Marc Kabore of Burkina Faso, Fomunyoh told the US.Senate that young but fragile democracies must be supported

Paying a courtesy call to President Roch Marc Kabore of Burkina Faso, Fomunyoh told the US.Senate that young but fragile democracies must be supported

“Consolidation of democracy should be approached as a long-term process that requires consistent and continued support with mechanisms to reward or incentivize good behavior and penalize poor performance,” Fomunyoh said in making the case for more assistance towards supporting young democracies with weak political institutions.

Supporting the argument of Nicholas Kristof that education can be more effective in combatting militancy than military intervention, Fomunyoh told the Senate Hearing that more investment was needed in education to give young people more opportunities.

“Friends of Africa must make sure that they do not, willingly or inadvertently, allow themselves to become accomplices in denying Africans their basic rights and freedoms and a secure, prosperous future,” he concluded.

Accompanying Dr Fomunyoh on the second panel of the hearing was Mr. Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, Assistant Administrator and Director, Regional Bureau for Africa United Nations Development Program.

The Senate was the first in a two day Capitol Hill blitz for Fomunyoh, who also appeared before a Congressional Hearing to discuss The U.S Role in Helping Nigeria Confront Boko Haram, and other Threats in Northern Nigeria.

 

 

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