Coming to America: Lessons from an African Friend
February 21, 2018 | 0 Comments
Today, African immigrants in the U.S. see that, although living in an advanced democracy has its advantages, living abroad is neither a goldmine nor a paradise. But African immigrants in the U.S. and Europe often get a chilling response from relatives and friends when they attempt to express the harsh realities of life in our new homeland. They ask questions like, “If it is like you say, what are you doing there?” Or they contradict us with, “See how you have grown fat!”, as if being “fat” were a sign of wealth. Not believing us, first-time visitors, friends, and relatives often come to the U.S. with a warped mindset that confuses facts with fiction and myths with reality.
Precisely because of such unrealistic expectations, visitors may not understand or appreciate the enormous sacrifices their friends and relatives make in order to host them abroad; sometimes hosting a visitor entails sacrificing some hours or days of work, to offer the best to the visitor, yet some visitors are hardly ever satisfied. Some return home and vow never to come back! Others may anxiously establish relationships with American people, leading to strained relationships whenever their friends or relatives try to caution them against spurious relationships. Some reject the advice pugnaciously, accusing their immigrant friends of being jealous of their relational skills, and wanting to “block” their supposed connections with their newfound friends. But, we ask, how is it possible to hastily establish relationships with Westerners without knowledge of their values, mores, and ways of life?
Consider the story of a Nigerian priest-friend of mine, Thom, and his friend, Paddy (not their real names). Paddy was visiting from Nigeria, and Thom, who honestly dedicated time and resources to make his guest comfortable. Thom had taken time to give Paddy an orientation on the people and their culture. He cautioned him against requesting material things from people and presenting himself as a desperate person from an African jungle. From time to time, Thom would call him to order whenever he struck the wrong chord. Thom was later deeply embarrassed to discover that his friend begrudged him all this advice. When he got back home, Paddy complained that Thom was overly intrusive in his affairs, even going so far as to say that Thom left him alone in the house without garri. As Thom narrated his ordeal to me, I could see the pain in his eyes–yes, ingratitude cuts the heart like a dagger.
It is rightly said that what goes around comes around. Paddy thought his trip was extremely successful because he had found new friends whom he could get along with, Thom aside. He was determined to keep in touch with these people on a regular basis. He was confident that America would become his second home, as long as his American friends invited him back. But it didn’t take long before people started talking about Paddy, and it came to Thom’s knowledge that Paddy had not followed the advice he was given.
One thing Paddy failed to understand was that Americans like speaking about their encounters with people from other cultures, especially visitors from Africa. They try to understand other cultures through the behavior of their visitors. If you call them regularly and ask for any form of assistance, they wonder whether that’s “a cultural thing”. It is within this context that the same people started to question their new African friend’s behavior. As is typical with Americans, they related details of their encounter with Paddy among a close circle of friends. Within a few weeks, Thom discovered how extensive Paddy’s outreach had been. Now, Thom was obliged to answer some hard questions—his friends found Paddy’s requests, which would have been normal in Africa, to be inappropriate and overly dependent. They wondered if all Africans were so desperate.Perhaps readers of “Cameroon Panorama” may offhandedly dismiss Thom’s story as just an awala problem. No, it is not. It is our problem.
Many lessons can be drawn from the true story of my friend. First, visitors should keep in mind and appreciate the enormous sacrifices that their immigrant relatives and friends make to care for them. It is absolutely necessary, not only to understand, but to equally respect people and their cultures, and to avoid imposing one’s cultural traits on others. For example, when Americans say, “Please come again,” it is not necessarily an open invitation, nor a desire to have you back soon. This is just a polite and affirmative expression. Newcomers may mistakenly consider it to be an actual invitation to come again soon. In no way does this diminish the spirit of hospitality and kindness of Americans, but visitors may need a lesson or two in cultural differences in order to understand this.
Another cultural difference: casual greetings like ‘Hello’ and ‘Hi’ are very much ingrained in the American culture. They are a courteous people; on the elevator, on the train, wherever your paths cross, people extend kindly greetings and can even initiate amicable conversations sometimes. It is true that salutation is not love. This is all the more evident in shops and malls, where first-time visitors from Africa may completely misconstrue the warmth of customer service. I was fortunate to have learned about this from a good friend of mine, who lost sleep one night because he thought a salesgirl had fallen in love with him!
Eric had just arrived in America and went shopping for the first time. The girl attended to him at the shop with broad smiles. “Honey,” she said, “how are you? Have you been having a good day so far?” “Did you find everything ok?” And so on. Because of my friend’s foreign accent, the lady was even more courteous. My ebullient friend was completely carried away. He even shopped more than he had planned to. According to my friend, the lady had fallen in love with him. I could not have thought differently had I not learned this lesson from my friend before I ever went shopping for the first time. Yes, even with my collar on, I am addressed as “Honey” or “Sweetheart”!
Independence and privacy are highly valued in American culture.As an African priest, I have observed how this way of life impacts the diocesan clergy. Parishioners can see priests mostly on appointments; rectories are not easily accessible to visitors. Many priests don’t employ cooks, while others have only part-time cooks, like the parish in which I work. Therefore, priests prepare their meals themselves. People cherish their privacy and independence; no one wants to be a burden on another, and everything is scheduled. In no way does this casts doubts on the friendliness of the clergy, it is all a matter of the complex structure of the society and the way of life of the people.
In a way, visitors are like tourists who plan for their trips accordingly. They make great sacrifices; they cherish their exposure and experience rather than any material benefits. Unlike in Africa, where visitors can pop in any time, and sometimes even expect their uncle or father to pay their transport fare back home, this would be absolutely insane in another culture.
Because of all these cultural differences, as a first-time visitor, it is necessary to listen to the counsel of your immigrant relatives and friends without prejudice. It is rightly said that you should listen to your elders’ advice, not because they are always right, but because they have had more experience of being wrong. It is folly to resist advice or read too much into calls to be cautious. What do your relatives and friends have to gain from “blocking” you or standing in your way, as you imagine? They simply don’t want you to repeat their mistakes, and it is all for your good. Like in the case of my Nigerian friend, first time visitors have run into serious trouble by tarnishing their reputations and even the reputations of their entire countries. Rotten apples in a barrel can spoil the good ones. After all, your behavior speaks volumes about your background. When you visit abroad, always go slow, like the proverbial newly arrived chicken that stands on one leg in her new home, otherwise you would fall prey to our lingua franca proverb: “hurry-hurry broke trouser”.
Of course, visiting abroad for the first time ignites much excitement. But, no matter how excited you may be, also be considerate and discreet. Your host cannot always offer you the same kind of reception you got at your very first visit because of the social and economic constraints of life in the Western world. Just as your enthusiasm wanes after your first or second visit, so too with your host. It is not because they don’t value your visit, but it is presumed that you are getting familiar with the way of life and you can manage your own affairs.
In conclusion, hospitality, kindness, and generosity are cultural traits across the U.S. It is here that I have been blessed firsthand to meet some of the nicest people in my life and ministry. I am equally honored by evergreen memories of visits of relatives and friends from home. Nevertheless, stories like those of Thom and Paddy compel me to deeper reflection on life abroad, with all its facets, in a bid to spare people from repeating the same mistakes and as a road map to prospective visitors. In order to make one’s visit profitable, one must understand the cultural dynamics of the people and steer clear from unrealistic expectations.
*Fr Wilfred E. Emeh is a Roman Catholic priest ,Communications Professional and author of the book New Media and the Christian Family: Experiences from the USA and Africa
Minority in Ghana’s parliament to boycott Special Prosecutor approval.
February 21, 2018 | 0 Comments
By Papis Demba
The Minority in Ghana’s legislature is likely to boycott the approval of President Akufo Addo’s candidate for Special Prosecutor. This is despite overwhelming approval from their colleagues on the other side of the aisle. A former deputy Attorney General and minority MP for Bolga East, Dominic Ayine is currently at the Supreme court challenging the legitimacy of the President’s nomination. The lawmaker today reminded the Speaker of Parliament about the possible infraction to the law if Martin Amidu was approved by the House as Special Prosecutor.
“Mr. Speaker I am inviting your good self to make a determination humbly on this matter, in respect of this matter which is before the Supreme Court on the qualification or eligibility of the nominee,” Ayine noted, citing his basis from order 93 of the standing orders of Parliament.
However reacting to the intervention, the Majority leader Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu, argued that precedence before the house suggest the nominee could be approved by the House despite the pending case at the court. But the minority has resolved to boycott the debate and subsequent approval of the Special Prosecutor nominee.
If finally cleared by Parliament and sworn in by the President, Martin Amidu will become Ghana’s first Special prosecutor. The Special Prosecutor is a specialized agency tasked to investigate specific cases of corruption involving public officers, politically-exposed persons as well as individuals in the private sector implicated in corrupt practices and to prosecute the offences on the authority of the Attorney-General.
The Office is also expected to help reduce the workload on existing investigative agencies and, thereby, enhance their effectiveness. The establishment of the Office of the Special Prosecutor has become necessary in view of the institutional bottlenecks that impede the fight against corruption.
10yr Cashew development plan Launched By Akufo-Addo in Ghana
February 21, 2018 | 0 Comments
Ghana’s President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has launched a 10-year Cahsew Development Plan, aimed at diversifying Ghanaian agriculture.
Recounting a commitment he made last year, the Ghanaian President bemoaned the over-reliance of Ghana’s agriculture on the production and export of cocoa, in contrast with the situation in neighboring Cote d’Ivoire.
President Akufo-Addo noted that Cote d’Ivoire has succeeded in diversifying its agriculture, which included the production and export of other cash crops, and, as a result, earned that country some $12 billion from the export of agricultural produce in 2015.
“To that end, I reiterated my commitment to assist in diversifying Ghanaian agriculture, and transforming, amongst others, cashew into a major cash crop and foreign exchange earner for Ghana. This morning’s event, ladies and gentlemen, is the beginning of the realization of this vision,” the President said.
Highlighting the success of the first year of the Programme for Planting for Food and Jobs, which led to an increase in the production of staples, as well as the creation of thousands of jobs in the rural economy, President Akufo-Addo noted that this development has encouraged government to increase the scope of the programme.
“The Programme is expanding its focus not only to the production of staples, but also to the development and production of some selected crops such as cashew, oil palm, rubber, shea, cotton and coffee, for good reason,” he said.
The President also noted that two out of the top five cashew producing and exporting countries can be found in West Africa, i.e. Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire, countries that have the same geography and topography as that of Ghana.
As part of the Plan to boost the production of cashew, the Rural Development Department of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, together with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, are spearheading the initial production of seedlings for the cultivation of cashew in the country.
“Under the Planting for Export and Rural Development (PERD) project, all 216 Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives have been given oversight responsibility for the production of not only cashew seedlings, but also for seedlings of oil palm, shea, cotton, rubber and coffee, for distribution to farmers from next year,” the President said.
He continued, “The seedlings, once distributed, and planted by farmers, will ensure that more rural jobs will be created, in addition to an increase in yield. The potential for further job creation down the value chain through agro-processing is enormous.”
Again, towards the improvement of the country’s current yield, the Ghana Export Promotion Authority commissioned a cashew mass spraying exercise, in Wenchi, involving the provision of GH¢1.6 million for the spraying of some 30,000 hectares of cashew plantation. This is expected to increase cashew production for this crop year by some 30%.
These initiatives, the President added, form an integral part of the Cashew Development Plan, with the plan seeking to improve research methods, introduce appropriate production and processing technologies, as well as develop marketing strategies, amongst others, along the value chain.
He, therefore, urged the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the Ghana Export Promotion Authority also to incorporate, in this Plan, policies and interventions that will create additional businesses and job opportunities in the areas of storage, transport, and packaging of cashew, which will ensure that our cashew farmers earn higher incomes.
President Akufo-Addo reiterated the commitment of his government to follow through fully on the implementation of this Plan, in addition to other programmes, to propel the growth of the cashew industry.
“I urge the Ministries, Departments and Agencies, our Members of Parliament, farmers, and the private sector to do everything possible to support the Cashew Development Programme. This, together with the other programmes for other selected export crops, would drive industrialization in rural Ghana, diversify agricultural exports, and provide the needed jobs for the teeming masses of unemployed youth of this country,” President Akufo-Addo added.
NEW STUDY: Grid Electricity and Off-Grid Solutions Alone Are Not Meeting Many Africans’ Energy Demands
February 21, 2018 | 0 Comments
Washington – A new study released today by the Center for Global Development found that neither grid electricity nor off-grid solutions alone are currently adequate to meet many African consumers’ modern energy demands. The survey of consumers in twelve African countries found that on-grid customers still rely heavily on off-grid solutions like generators for their daily lives, and that off-grid customers want access to on-grid electricity.
- Daily outages are a norm almost everywhere. Among those with access to grid electricity, at least half cited electricity outages at least once a day across almost all surveyed countries. Respondents in Mozambique, Ghana, and Zambia reported the highest prevalence of daily outages. The country with the lowest prevalence of frequent outages was Rwanda, where only 18 percent of respondents experienced multiple outages per day. In all countries, the vast majority reported at least one outage per week.
- On-grid customers still rely heavily on generators, especially in Nigeria. Almost half of on-grid respondents in Nigeria relied on a generator during power outages – the highest of any other country.
- Off-grid customers still desire grid electricity. In most countries, off-grid respondents are not completely satisfied by off-grid electricity solutions and retain a high demand for grid electricity.
- Off-grid, non-generator electricity is inadequate for most respondents’ energy needs. A significant proportion of respondents across the surveyed countries reported that their off-grid electricity solution did not fulfill any of their power needs. This includes almost two-thirds (65 percent) of Rwandans with off-grid, non-generator electricity.
- In all countries, the majority desire a grid connection. Demand for the grid was highest in Zambia and Ghana, where over 50 percent said that they wanted an electrical connection very much. In all other countries except Senegal and Benin, demand appears to be high but less passionate. Over two-thirds of respondents without an electric connection indicated that they wanted an electrical connection to the national grid either a little or very much.
- Satisfaction with service from the grid varies widely. Reported satisfaction with grid electricity ran from Mozambique (74 percent satisfied) and Rwanda (71) at the high end to Ghana (19) and Zambia (27).
- Connection costs and distance from the grid are the most common obstacles to grid electricity. When asked about the greatest obstacle to gaining access to the national grid, most respondents cited either the cost of electricity, the cost of connection, or the lack of proximity to the grid.
- Demand is high for energy-intensive appliances, especially TVs. Off-grid households indicate a high demand for energy-intensive appliances, particularly televisions and refrigerators. The survey also asked respondents what appliance they would like to purchase if they gained a grid connection (refrigerator, television, hot plate, radio, or iron). Televisions are the most common aspirational purchase across most surveyed countries.
IGD U.S. Roadshow Tour will show the thriving business side of Africa-Dr. Mima S. Nedelcovych
February 20, 2018 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
The Initiative for Global Development (IGD) is seeking to use a road show tour to re-shape perceptions on doing business in Africa by highlighting trade, and investment opportunities. Discussing the road show with PAV, Dr. Mima S. Nedelcovych President & CEO of IGD says it will show the thriving business side of Africa. Running from April 18 to 28, the road show will have stops in Washington, DC, New York, Des Moines, Iowa, and Houston, Texas.
The Initiative for Global Development (IGD) is embarking a U.S roadshow tour to spur action on increasing U.S. investment in Africa, can put this new initiative in context for us?
The African continent is dynamic and rapidly evolving. We’re seeing some of the fast-growing economies in Africa and a rising influence of homegrown African businesses. Despite the growth and maturation of the African private sector and markets, many U.S. investors still hold negative perceptions about doing business in Africa.
At IGD, we are very excited about launching the U.S. Roadshow Tour to show the thriving business side of Africa and draw attention to its trade and investment potential to business leaders and investors in the United States.
The U.S. roadshow, which will be from April 18 to 28, seeks to re-shape perceptions on doing business in Africa by highlighting trade and investment opportunities in Africa and to build stronger business connections between U.S. and African companies in key growth sectors in four U.S. cities.
With the maturation of Africa’s private sector, U.S. business leaders now have counterparts to do business with in Africa. A decade or so ago, business largely took place between U.S. business leaders and African government officials. That all has changed. Today, there are more than 10,000 African companies with revenues of $10 million to $100 million.
Homegrown African businesses are the drivers of growth on the continent and are creating more than 80 percent of jobs in their countries.
The U.S. roadshow tour aims to build stronger, mutually beneficial business relations between the U.S. and Africa.
Why now and what does the IGD hope to achieve or see as outcome?
Well, the trade data says it all. The U.S. and Sub-Saharan Africa has markedly declined in the last few years. U.S imported goods from Sub-Saharan Africa totaled $18.9 billion in 2015, an almost 30 percent decrease from 2014, and down 63 percent from 2005.
The US Trade Representative reports that U.S. imports from Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for just 0.8% of total goods imports in 2015.
For U.S. exports, U.S. goods exports to Sub-Saharan Africa in 2015 were almost $18 billion, down 30 percent from 2014.
That has to change. The U.S. roadshow tour aims to show U.S. business leaders that there’s a market in African countries with the right enabling environment and they have counterparts on the ground for business partnerships.
The U.S. Roadshow kicks off in Washington on April 18 with a Capitol Hill reception in Washington and then a forum on U.S. financing of SMEs and Private Sector Engagement Forum on the 19th.
The New York City roadshow stop will be on April 23-24, focusing on finance, trade, and banking industries. Then we’ll travel to Des Moines, Iowa on April 25 to 26 to highlight agriculture and agro-industry. And finally, our last roadshow stop will be from April 27 to 28 in Houston, Texas, looking at opportunities in the energy and power sectors.
The USA is made of 50 States and the IGD is roadshow is limited to four states, what criteria was used in picking the four states and is this initiative a onetime thing or something that will continue ?
The U.S. Roadshow Tour is our first-ever effort to organize gather U.S. and African business leaders across the United States. We selected each city based on our strong connections in that growth sector. We wanted to ensure that we have solid partners on the ground a deliver an engaging and impactful roadshow.
In each city, African delegates will tour a local industry and gain exposure to cutting edge technologies
and innovation in that sector. The next day, a half-day forum and speed networking with U.S. and African private sector leaders will highlight opportunities as well as constraints in the sector, and forge business relationships that will hopefully translate into business transactions.
We’ve partnered with the USAID Trade & Investment Hubs on the U.S. Roadshow Tour to help companies to navigate the African marketplace.
How do you make the case for investment in Africa to the U.S Investors?
The best way to make the case is to show the opportunities. We launched the Africa Investment Rising campaign to showcase Africa’s business and investment potential through multimedia storytelling, blogs and strategic traditional and social media outreach. On a weekly basis, the campaign produces new content for U.S. investors that makes a compelling case for trade and investment in Africa.
Its been a year of the Trump Administration, what do you make of his African policy?
The Trump Administration’s U.S.-Africa policy seems to be still evolving. Some of the key African Affairs posts still need to be filled and nominations confirmed at the U.S. Department of State and USAID. The nomination for the Millennium Challenge Corporation needs to be confirmed.
Our Government Affairs office will continue to be out front raising awareness about the trade and economic potential in Africa and in helping to shape the key pieces of legislation related to Africa, including swift passage of The AGOA and MCA Modernization Act in the Senate.
One thing we know for sure is that Donald Trump is a shrewd businessman and will be looking for where he can find the best deals. And Africa’s the place.
To those who are interested in joining the roadshow, how can they get on board?
We hope anyone interested in joining the roadshow will log on to our official event site, www.aircampaign.org, to find out more about each roadshow stop and to register.
What other initiatives and programs will the IGD work on in the course of the year?
IGD continues to convene African companies in targeted agricultural value chains to promote market-led solutions to curbing post-harvest losses through the Rockefeller Foundation’s Yieldwise initiative. IGD will, once again, partner with the African Development Bank on the Leadership4Agriculture Forum in Busan, Korea.
We’ll hold a special session on industrialization on the sidelines of the Afreximbank Annual Meeting in Abuja, Nigeria.
The U.S. Roadshow Tour will culminate at our Frontier 100 Forum, to be held on Nov. 5 and 6 in Johannesburg, South Africa, which will be followed by the African Development Bank’s Africa Investment Forum.
AFRICA IS LOSING BILLIONS OF DOLLARS TO ILLICIT FINANCIAL FLOWS
February 19, 2018 | 0 Comments
By Stephen Yeboah*
Resource-rich African countries are facing significant economic headwinds. Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer, depends on oil for over 90% of its foreign exchange earnings and three-quarters of government revenue. The slump in oil prices has adversely affected Nigeria’s economic prospects, pushing GDP growth into negative territory to -1.5% in 2016 before bouncing back to 1.4% in the 3rd quarter of 2017.
Zambia, the second largest producer of copper in Africa, has also registered an increase in fiscal deficits to about 10% of GDP in 2016 and plans to trim its fiscal deficit to 6.1% of GDP in 2018. This is due to falling prices of copper, which contributed about 73% of total exports in 2015. In both countries, rents from extractive resources have failed to leverage sustainable economic growth and development. In Zambia, for example, the incidence of poverty did not change, at 60%, during 2000–10, despite a doubling of economic output.
But there are more to the challenges that low commodity prices presents to the economies of Nigeria and Zambia.
Trade misinvoicing[i] represents an additional challenge to both economies too. Between 1996 and 2014, underinvoicing of oil exports from Nigeria to the United States was worth $69.7 billion, equivalent to 24.9% of all oil exports to the United States. Also, oil import underinvoicing amounted to $45.6 billion over the 1996−2014 period. In Zambia over the same period a record of $28.9 billion of copper exports to Switzerland, which is more than half of all its copper exports, did not reflect in Switzerland’s import statistics.
Figure 1: Sources of illicit financial flows
The practices of misinvoicing in Nigeria’s oil and Zambia’s copper exports and imports reflect the challenges that illicit financial flows (IFFs)[ii] presents to Africa’s extractive sector. IFFs accounts for a significant share of total capital flight from developing and emerging economies. According to the Global Financial integrity’s latest report this year, sub-Saharan Africa leads all other regions for illicit outflows – estimated at between 7.5% and 11.6% of total trade in 2014. These outflows translate into $36 billion to $69 billion.
Trade misinvoicing, which is a major aspect of illicit financial flows, is a bottleneck on Africa’s growth and opportunity [see Figure 1: forms of illicit financial flows]. It denies African governments billions of dollars in foreign exchange and taxes revenue each year. It also weakens political and economic institutions that are key to state building because the underinvoicing of exports and overinvoicing of imports make it harder for concerned state institutions to impose and collect taxes and levies.
In Africa, the extractive sector, which is a major driver of economic growth and source of revenues, is more prone to illicit flows. The features of the extractive sector – high level of complexity and revenue-generating potential; cross border supply chains; high degree of technological specialization – make it particularly susceptible to the various forms of illicit financial flows. From 2001 to 2014, the extractive industries made up nearly two-thirds of exports from African countries – with oil and gas alone accounting for close to 50% of total exports. The expansion of the of the extractive sector has increased foreign direct investment in Africa from $10 billion to $50 billion between 2000 and 2012. Countries like Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Mozambique, Central African Republic are expected to register improved growth, to be driven by the extractive industry.
What do the numbers on illicit financial flows reveal in terms of missed development opportunities? African governments are denied the finance needed to bridge the continent’s huge infrastructure deficit. Let’s take energy, for example. Today, two-thirds of Africans – over 645 million people – lack access to electricity. The continent’s power outages is costing it some 2-4% of GDP per year. Africa lost up to US$69 billion from illicit financial flows in 2014. This is more than the total annual financing required to meet Africa’s energy and climate adaptation needs of about $66 billion: $55 billion for energy [from 2015-2030] and $11 billion for climate adaptation [up to 2020] (see: Figure 2).
Figure 2: Cost of illicit financial vis-à-vis financial needs for energy and climate adaption. Source: Africa Progress Report 2015 ‘Power, People, Planet’.
The good news is that some international and regional initiatives have picked up in countering illicit financial flows. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in September 2015, have under Goal 16 a target that countries will “by 2030, significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows, strengthen the recovery and return of stolen assets and combat all forms of organized crime”.
The High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa, established in 2012 at the 4th Joint African Union Commission/United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (AUC/ECA) Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, has undertaken some measures to create awareness at country levels and to initiate steps to strengthen institutions to counter these practices. The African Development Bank, in its High 5 Agenda, has committed to the fight against illicit financial flows. The AfDB is currently in the process of developing a Bank-wide policy and strategic framework on the prevention of illicit financial flows in Africa.
Africa needs to come up with integrated regional measures and countries need their own policies too. The region must have a dedicated tax information exchange across countries, importantly with countries that host multinational companies. Countries must coordinate to ensure data accessibility from other jurisdictions, including arrangements for automatic exchanges of information with other countries.
The African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF), launched in 2009 and with 36 member countries, has ramped up its effort to find solutions to curb illicit financial flows. But this is not enough. African countries must sign onto the Addis Tax Initiative to commit to enhance the mobilisation and effective use of domestic revenues. So far 13 African countries have joined the initiative. Several African countries provide for the negotiation of Advance Pricing Agreements (APAs), but in practice this mechanism is not applied. Other state institutions also avoid undertaking tax avoidance work. Governments must act. One way of boosting domestic resources to finance development is curbing illicit financial flows, which is prominent in the Africa’s extractive sector.
The continent should not only plug the holes of illicit financial flows, but make its political and economic systems work in terms of deploying functional state institutions to enhance taxation. This demands a coordinated regional approach between different jurisdictions.
By: Stephen Yeboah, Political Guru at BBN Times & Former Research Consultant, African Natural Resources Center, African Development Bank (AfDB). This article was first published by the African Development Bank. This is exclusively my view and not that of the AfDB nor BBN Times.
[i] Trade misinvoicing involves illicitly shifting tax liabilities across jurisdictions involving deliberately misreporting the value of a commercial transaction.
[ii] According to the Global Financial Integrity, Illicit financial flows represent illegal movements of money or capital from one country to another. GFI classifies this movement as an illicit flow when the funds are illegally earned, transferred, and/or utilized.
*Source BBN Times
Merck Foundation and Uganda Ministry of Health together empower childless women through “Merck More Than a Mother’ community groups
February 19, 2018 | 0 Comments
|Merck Foundation evaluates the economic and social impact of ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ program on infertile women groups in Uganda|
KAMPALA, Uganda, February 19, 2018/ — Merck Foundation (www.Merck-Foundation.com), a non-profit organization and a subsidiary of Merck KGaA Germany (www.Merck.com), and Uganda Ministry of Health (http://Health.go.ug) continue their commitment towards childless women through “Merck More than a Mother’ campaign in the heart of Africa. Merck Foundation evaluated the social and economic impact of ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ on childless women in Uganda and encouraged them to continue leading an independent and happier life.
In 2016, Merck Foundation in partnership with Uganda Ministry of Health had started ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ Campaign in the country with the aim to raise awareness about infertility prevention and management, build fertility care capacity and break the stigma around infertile women. They established various income generating projects to support infertile women across the country with the aim of empowering them socially and economically. The business set by Merck Foundation has benefitted over 800 women across Uganda.
“The childless women groups we created in each village are doing a great job. I remember last year they had no purpose in life, no respect from their community and no source of income. Today they have a bank account and a steady monthly income; now they are much happier and stronger.” Explained Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO Merck Foundation.
“For me, it’s essential to frequently visit ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ heroines across Africa to influence their transformation. The base of change in these villages is remarkable, and with our efforts and passion this change will be sustainable”, she further emphasized.
During the event, Hon. Sarah Opendi, Minister of State of Health, Uganda said, “The journey that Merck Foundation has started is a very special journey that has touched the lives of women who have been forgotten in the communities. It has touched not only women but also the lives of men who have been mistreating their women thinking that infertility is an issue of women, not know that 50% infertility is due to the malefactor. I want to thank Merck Foundation for thinking about these women.”
“I feel grateful and honored to be a part of the joy and happiness of these amazing women, who suffered the infertility stigma all their lives. I am glad that the efforts of ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ paid off. Now, these women are independent and getting the respect and support they deserved from the community.” Dr. Rasha Kelej added.
About ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ campaign; In many Cultures, childless women suffer discrimination, stigma, and ostracism. Their inability to have children results in great isolation, disinheritance, and assaults. “Merck More Than a Mother” empowers such women through the access to information, health, change of mindsets and economic empowerment.
Merck Foundation provided for more than 40 candidates, three months to six months clinical and practical training for fertility specialists and embryologists in more than 15 countries across Africa and Asia.
Merck Foundation is making history in many African countries where they never had fertility specialists or training facilities before ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ intervention, to train the first fertility specialists such as; in Sierra Leone, Liberia, The Gambia, Niger, Chad, and Guinea.
Merck Foundation plan supported the establishment of the first public IVF in Ethiopia through providing the clinical and practical training necessary for their staff. Merck Foundation also plans to support the establishment of the first public IVF in Tanzania soon.
Over 1,200 infertile women in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, CAR, Ethiopia, Liberia, Tanzania, Niger, The Gambia and Cote D’Ivoire who can no longer be treated have been empowered socially and economically to lead independent and happier lives through “Empowering Berna.”
The Merck Foundation (www.Merck-Foundation.com), established in 2017, is a philanthropic organization that aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people and advance their lives through science and technology. Our efforts are primarily focused on improving access to innovative healthcare solutions in underserved communities, building healthcare and scientific research capacity and empowering people in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) with a special focus on women and youth. All Merck Foundation press releases are distributed by e-mail at the same time they become available on the Merck Foundation Website. Please go to www.Merck-Foundation.com to read more and/or register online to interact and exchange experience with our registered members.
Rare Presidential debate for Sierra Leone
February 18, 2018 | 0 Comments
By Prince Kuripati
On Thursday 15 February, citizens of Sierra Leone were treated to a first by the country’s six leading political parties as they participated in a first ever all inclusive Presidential debate. Previously Sierra Leone did conduct Presidential debates but they were shunned by the ruling party.
Sierra Leone’s leading television stations and radios l aired live the debate. The debate was scheduled to end at 11:00pm but spilled over ending at 01:00am the following day (Friday).
The presidential debate was held at a conference centre in the capital, Freetown. Close to 200 people packed the conference centre as they looked forward to hearing the constructive debates from the six presidential candidates.
The debate was moderated by an ace journalist from the BBC. Most of the questions asked by the journalist centred on national cohesion, the economy and human development. The choice of questions were mainly inspired by the dire social and economic situation prevailing in the country exacerbated by the Ebola outbreak whose devastating effects are still being felt to this day.
The first round of the Presidential election in the country is going to be conducted on March 7.
This year’s elections will be the first time that an incumbent in Sierra Leone relinquishes power at the end of his term without trying to extend it unconstitutionally or otherwise. The outgoing President, Ernest Bai Koroma served two terms of 5 years each. His reign was however affected by the deadly Ebola outbreak that reversed the country’s growth rate and left him with an unsurmountable task of trying to build the nation from scratch.
The highlight moment of the debate was when the candidate of the ruling party (APC Party), Samura Kamara distanced himself from Komora’s record on corruption. The President and his inner circle which Kamara is part of have been accused of looting some of the country’s resources. Kamara did try to prove his innocence but that led to many follow-up questions firstly from the moderator and then from the public as the question and answer segment began.
Before Thursday, a number of other parties contested the decision to allow only six parties to the debate. They argued saying exclusion of other political parties was tantamount to discrimination. However, the case was dismissed as Parliament said only a party with at least four members of Parliament was allowed to participate in the debate.
The six candidates who participated in the debate are Samura Kamara from the ruling All People’s Congress (APC), Rtg. Brig Julius Maada Bio from the main opposition party, Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP). Rtg. Brig Julius Maada Bio is a former Sierra Leone military Head of State. Mohammed Kamairamba from the Alliance Democratic Party (ADP), a breakaway party from the ruling APC. Samuel Sam Sumana from the Coalition 4 Change (C4C), another breakaway party from the ruling APC. Samuel Sam Sumana is also a former Vice President of Sierra Leone sacked by the incumbent Koroma. Kandeh Yumkella from the National Grand Coalition, a breakaway party from the main opposition party, SLPP. Musa Tarawally from the Citizens Democratic Party (CDP).
‘Black Panther’: Why the relationship between Africans and black Americans is so messed up
February 18, 2018 | 0 Comments
By Larry Madowo and Karen Attiah*
Finally! “Black Panther” weekend has hit the United States. Marvel’s newest superhero film was one of the most anticipated movies in 2018, and already it is poised to shatter box-office records (the film is expected to rake in about $250 million this weekend) and Hollywood stereotypes about black movies not being marketable. Black audiences in the United States are planning special outfits and parties and raising funds to take children to see the film. But how do Africans feel about this fictional tale of Wakanda, especially when black people in the United States and Africa don’t always seem to understand one another? I decided to talk to Kenyan journalist and broadcaster Larry Madowo to get his thoughts on the film, Wakanda and… those accents. Enjoy! — Karen
Karen Attiah: Okay, so I know we are basically going to be talking about Wakanda, this fictional African country in “Black Panther.” I finally saw it on Tuesday, and I still feel like African Americans and Africans have still been speaking in silos about the movie, and not to one another.
So as a Kenyan, what did you think about the movie? How did you feel about Wakanda?
Larry Madowo: So Wakanda looks like a place I want to be a citizen of, because it looks like such a beautiful, egalitarian society, where the women wear their hair natural and they are powerful warriors. It is beautiful in that sense, as a utopia of sorts. Considering the mess so many African countries are in, it’s an escape to see what we can be: the richest country in the world, everything, vibranium in excess. And if you just think, if you build a model for the perfect African country, Wakanda is that.
Karen: With everything that Kenya is going through right now politically, with the messiness over elections, what did you take away from Wakanda?
Larry: It did make me think about Kenya because many of the problems that we have in Kenya — and in most African countries — are a byproduct of colonialism. … Wakanda was not colonized, so they had a chance to build a society that was free of European influence, whether British or French. We call ourselves Francophone Africa versus Anglophone Africa. We categorize ourselves based on who our oppressor was. I always find that a strange thing. Our identity is so deeply tied to our oppression.
Karen: What were the parts of the film that did bother you as a Kenyan? What did you think of the accents?
Larry: The accents are all over the place! It was jarring and annoying to me! They wanted to base the accents on Xhosa from South Africa, but some of it sounded Nigerian, others sounded more Ugandan. It was very confusing, and I understand perfecting an accent is difficult, but oh, my goodness, it was so messy! I really liked the costumes. They were great. But ultimately, Wakanda, at least in the film, is an approximation of African culture, an outsider’s version of what African culture might be like — the rituals, song and dance, the rites of passage.
Karen: Or even the ancestors thing.
Larry: As an African, I didn’t feel accurately represented in “Black Panther.” There was only one African artist whose song played in the background — her name is Babes Wodumo, she’s South African. I have nothing against Kendrick Lamar, but it would be good to be more representative of African music. It was a missed opportunity to shine a spotlight on African musicians on a huge platform. It would have enriched the story.
Karen: For me, it was visually exciting. It was like, “Try to find your culture somewhere!” It was like I was in African history class. I could hear the Nigerian accent. As a Ghanaian, I was like, “There’s kente cloth,” or, “Look, Shuri is wearing aggrey beads!”
Larry: It was like African bingo of sorts!
Karen: I was excited because I’m not used to seeing African elements on the big screen. Even African Americans here do not know that history or those cultural elements. I can see both sides, as someone who has to explain to white people and African Americans about the beauty of African culture and history. So in a way, “Black Panther” is a one-stop shop, get it all in an hour!
Larry: You know the worst thing? There hasn’t been an African premiere for “Black Panther.”
Karen: Wait, but wasn’t there a screening in Kenya, in Lupita Nyong’o’s home town?
Larry: That was arranged by a local movie distribution company and Lupita’s dad, who is the governor of Kisumu. But there has been no African premiere where the cast and crew came to an African city like Nairobi or Kampala, Johannesburg or Lagos — like they have done for South Korea, like they did in London or like in L.A. So this film that celebrates blackness has not had an African premiere!
Karen: But maybe that could be in the works? Lagos, Johannesburg and Accra? These cities represent the growth that Africa is experiencing, the modernity of Africa, which is represented in “Black Panther.”
Larry: I could see why they might not have an African premiere. There are less movie theaters in all of Africa than in just in the U.S., so you might not make that much in the grand scheme of things. But it would have been a huge symbolic thing for a movie that unashamedly elevates blackness. I have friends who are going in full Masai wear to the theaters! They feel represented, and yet, the promotion efforts kind of snubbed them.
Karen: So on tribalism and politics: When Killmonger ascends the throne and you realize that this man is an existential threat to Wakanda, you realize the other tribes don’t see things the same way. For me, when I went to Ghana for the elections in 2008, I was struck by how much tribalism played into politics, that the Ashantis were tied to one party, other tribes to other parties, etc.
Larry: Even today, African political parties have tribal vehicles. They will have a tribal chief who will have the power to determine elections. It is very rare across the continent to find a party that is national in nature. A lot of the conflicts across Africa are tribal. Look at Somalia, which has not had a functional government — so much about the clans. Killmonger, King T’Challa and the Jabari Tribe and how they all want different things — that is what goes on in Africa.
Karen: What did you make of the white characters in the film, the Americans?
Larry: When I was in the theater in Nairobi, and the scene where Jabari did not allow [CIA operative Everett Ross] to speak, the audience clapped! Africans and other black people are tired of seeing white men in white-savior roles. This time, a white man was the sidekick. He was getting his instructions from a black woman, Shuri (Letitia Wright). The representation was satisfying. Let us see some black saviors for a change!
Karen: The role of America is interesting in “Black Panther.” Killmonger, who was trained in U.S. military tactics knows how to destabilize countries going through tricky political transitions or right after coups. In history, you think of Patrice Lumumba’s assassination, and Kwame Nkrumah’s fall in Ghana, which the CIA had a hand in. It’s interesting that in the movie, it was Ross, the CIA agent — converted — who came to see the light about Wakanda and becomes an ally in their fight.
Larry: It was appropriate. Yes, for all the Americans who are upset about Russia interfering in elections, I’m like, “Really, America? You’ve been meddling in African elections since the beginning of time! And you don’t hear us complaining. It’s payback time!” The American in the movie knew how to destabilize and just meddle, because that is what America does best.
Karen: A big part of this film is the relationship between Africans and African Americans, and it’s probably the most complicated relationship in the film.
Larry: It was very indicative of the current relationship between Africans and African Americans. There’s so much animus or competition that I have never quite understood. Both groups use derogatory names to refer to each other. In Africa, African American culture is very big and influential in terms of how people speak and dress. But in creating “Black Panther,” Africans and African Americans came together to create art that black people around the world are proud of. But in everyday life, there is no such unity. I think it’s a vision for what can be possible when the two groups work together.
Karen: In some twisted ways, I identified with Killmonger. Growing up, part of my exploration into where my parents came from, I felt a sort of anger towards Africa. Like, how did colonization happen to you? And the poverty? How are these leaders not doing more? And being black in America, when we are going through fights with racism, police brutality, we wonder if Africans even care. And I think, “Well, African nations can’t help us. They can’t impose sanctions on America for its treatment of black people.” Which is why Wakanda is so amazing: It has the power to help other countries.
Larry: When it comes to African solutions … African countries gave aid to Haiti during the hurricane, Rwanda is taking in unwanted African migrants from Israel. But yes, there is so much more we can do.
A lot of people here supported Black Lives Matter and don’t think police should be shooting black people in the U.S., but they are perfectly okay with the Kenyan or Zimbabwean police cracking down on protesters violently. You speak out against an injustice half a world away, but when there’s injustice right on your doorstep, you’re okay with it because of the party or politician you endorse.
Karen: At the end, when Killmonger is dying, he says wants to be buried in the water with his ancestors, who would rather jump off slave ships than be in bondage. It seems then he personally identifies with slaves as his ancestors and not the ancestors of Wakanda. That’s how deep the divisions are [between Africans and African Americans].
Larry: It reminded me of Kunta Kinte from “Roots,” who was a warrior that was taken away. There are people who say of slavery, “I would have not allowed myself to be taken.” I see what he was trying to do there — my ancestors were brave. It is a sort of misplaced bravado.
Karen: And gender in the film? How women are depicted?
Larry: Africa is a deeply patriarchal society. In this film, women are equal to the men. They protect the king! They have a mind of their own. Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) doesn’t want to just get married and be a trophy wife. All the women wear natural hair. In the continent, where weaves and wigs are big business, it’s a legacy of colonialism that kinky hair is not seen as professional.It’s not what you get married in or wear to the office.
Karen: Ah, so you are #TeamNatural! And the power of the women doesn’t diminish King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman). Africa has had societies in which women played more equal roles before the British came with their Victorian ideas about gender divisions. It made me think that Wakanda’s strength is how it capitalizes on the strengths of both men and women. In this #MeToo moment, part of the tragedy of sexism is that it denies women opportunities to be participants in society. Conversely to how women are treated in Wakanda, Killmonger, he’s this hypermasculine, destructive force. He kills his girlfriend who helps him on his mission.
Larry: I think he’s the personification of toxic masculinity that is so prevalent in black culture.
Karen: I think there’s a very American flavor to his type of anger, but I think of this especially in the wake of the Florida shooting yesterday, in which a teenager walked into a school and killed 17 people. He abused his ex-girlfriend and stalked another girl, before unleashing his anger and violence on others. But yes, I know sometimes that even Africans have an stereotype that black Americans are gangsters and violent.
Larry: Maybe that’s the one overriding stereotype about African Americans here that’s reinforced by hip-hop and quite a few movies. When Africans say, “I’m gangsta,” they’re always referring to the African American caricature.
Karen: Well, thanks so much. Here in the U.S., we’ve gone through a year of Donald Trump. We’ve seen overt anti-black racism. We’ve seen KKK marching in the streets, the attempts to keep out and/or deport black and brown immigrants. The filmmakers could not have predicted that this would be the political moment we would be in; it has come at a moment where we’ve needed something empowering.
Larry: After the kind of year you all have had in America, no one should take this moment away from you. No one should try to diminish it. From those of us from the outside looking in, finally we have a beautiful celebration of blackness. You all absolutely deserve it!
*Culled from Washington Post
FarEye To Benefit 175 Million Online Shoppers of Africa With Its Parcel Shop Technology – ‘Drop&Pick’
February 17, 2018 | 0 Comments
Discovery Channel Don’t Stop Wondering Award returns for a second year
February 16, 2018 | 0 Comments
Sanders on Africa: Democracy and Governance Key To Sustainable Development
February 13, 2018 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L & Prince Kuripati
As the Trump Administration settles on business, trade, and investments as the cornerstones of its African policy, democracy and governance must be added to the dynamic says Ambassador Robin Sanders of the FEEDS Advocacy Group.
Talking to PAV recently in a phone interview, Sanders who served as Ambassador to Nigeria and Congo, believes that good business, trade, and investment can only thrive better in the right democratic environment, with sound principle of governance that can help sustain development.
To Ambassador Sanders, these two tangibles, democracy and governance are crucial because all facets of development are undermined if there is no security, and if the political environment is not open. Business, trade, and investment promotion cannot thrive in an unstable environment, she said.
In reference to the recent unfortunate remarks by President Trump referencing Africa in derogatory slurs, Ambassador Sanders described them as inaccurate and unfortunate. She went on to say that, the views certainly did not represent the perceptions of Americans. It is for this reason that she joined some 77 other former U.S Ambassadors who served in Africa to put distance between themselves and the American people from the remarks of the President.
“We wanted to show that the perception was not only inaccurate and untrue, but certainly not a representative of how Americans feel about a continent of 1.5 billion people,” Ambassador Sanders said.
Though unfortunate, Ambassador Sanders said the whole debacle actually helped in opening the eyes of the current US administration on the need to build a relationship with Africa, and the planned visit of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Africa in March will be a step in the right direction, she said.
Ambassador Sanders pointed out that while the current U.S administration may have floundered in terms of making official visits, and cementing existing ties with individual countries, it however, knew the strategic importance of Africa as a business, and security partner as evidenced by the US National Security Strategy document that lays out the importance of Africa to the US security.
Conceding that many Americans still have a pre-1990 view of what Africa is as a continent; Ambassador Sander said a lot of efforts are put in by herself, other Diplomats who served in Africa, and a host of other people and groups to dispel these perceptions. Acknowledging that the anger and disappointment may take a while to cool off, Ambassador Sanders said there are many examples that point to the solidity of U.S –African relations. The U.S government still provides the largest amount of development aid to the African region.
Shedding light on the FEEEDS (Food Security, Education, Environment, Energy, Economics, Democracy-development, and Self-help) program that has kept her actively engaged on Africa, Ambassador Sanders said, the focus areas of the advocacy group are vital both for Africa, and the USA.
Discussing her book “The rise of Africa small and medium enterprises: spurring development and growing the middle class,” Sanders said it highlights the importance of SMEs in the growth and development of Africa. To Ambassador Sanders, millennials are beginning to take control of their destiny as they are building robust SMEs that are putting the continent on the world map. The book also exposes the link between economic development and security, highlighting that economic development is crucial if a country wants to safeguard its security.
Despite the regression witnessed from her assessment of the last 18 months, Ambassador Sanders said Nigeria’s democracy and civil society had really matured in recent years. The 2015 election enabled Ambassador Sanders and her team to get a deeper insight into Nigeria’s democracy and according to her, the election showed the country’s political maturity.
On Congo, Ambassador Sanders said though the country had gone through a brutal civil war, she was impressed with the rebuilding of the country in terms of infrastructure when she visited there a few years back.
Mutual respect must be underscored, Ambassador Sanders said in response to a question on the future of U.S –African ties.
“There needs to be a direct understanding that there is an important partnership that America need to have with Africa, and the people of Africa,” Ambassador Sanders said while expressing hope that misperceptions that Americans have about the continent will eventually be erased. Expressing optimism about the upcoming trip of Secretary of State Tillerson to the continent, Ambassador Sanders said the outcome maybe a change of perspective from him and the administration once he sees the realities of the emerging Africa for himself.