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Disadvantaged Young Africans Find A Lifeline In The MasterCard Foundation
February 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

-$2.1 Billion has been made in total commitments by the Foundation

By Ajong Mbapndah L

 

Kenyan vegetable farmer harvesting spinach with her wheelbarrow.Photo Jennifer Huxta, MasterCard Foundation

Kenyan vegetable farmer harvesting spinach with her wheelbarrow.Photo Jennifer Huxta, MasterCard Foundation

With its financial inclusion, education and learning, and youth Livelihood programs, the MasterCard Foundation is emerging as a leading partner in pushing through a development agenda that favors disadvantaged youth across Africa.

About ten million young people have been engaged by the Foundation through its work in diverse sectors across Africa, said Ann Miles Director of Financial Inclusions at the MasterCard Foundation. Speaking from Canada in a skype interview to discuss the second annual Young Africa Works Summit in Kigali Rwanda, Ann Miles said the Foundation was shifting discussion from how to engage youth in agriculture to how young people can be the drivers of agricultural transformation.

Taking place on February 16 and 17, the second annual Young Africa Works Summit will be a gathering of some 300 thought leaders from the NGO’s, government, funders and the private sector committed to developing sustainable youth employment strategies in Africa. The MasterCard Foundation has had a significant impact in working with youth especially those who are out of school or seeking transition to jobs, Anne Miles said.

Miles disclosed that Of the $2.1 billion in total commitments, circa $ 1 billion has already been disbursed. At the Summit, there will be 34 nationalities represented (total), of which 20 nationalities are African. The summit will have people from Cameroon to Congo, Kenya to Senegal, Zimbabwean to Malagasy, and from other countries like Bangladesh, Paraguay, India, and Poland

some 10 million young people have benefited from programs of the Foundation said Ann Miles.Photo Jennifer Huxta , The MasterCard Foundation

some 10 million young people have benefited from programs of the Foundation said Ann Miles.Photo Jennifer Huxta , The MasterCard Foundation

Working in about 25 countries, the Foundation has had a strong impact on the livelihood of young people through tertiary education, financial opportunity, and scholarship and entrepreneurship opportunities. Those who have studied through scholarships have returned to their home countries to share valuable knowledge and experiences acquired elsewhere, said Miles.

As one of the countries where the activities of the Foundation have taken strong root, Rwanda was not a hard choice to make to host the second annual summit. Agriculture is a very important topic, Miles said, and went on to explain that the Summit will focus on the inter-related themes of agricultural transformation, gender technology and climate smart agriculture.

On how the Foundation keeps track or stays engaged with beneficiaries of its programs, Miles said  evaluations and surveys are usually done ahead of each summit. The Foundation remains committed to its work in Africa in the hope that it will continue to have a positive impact on the lives of young people and the overall development of the continent ,Miles said.

 

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‘Make America Great Again’ in Africa
February 16, 2017 | 0 Comments

BY ROSA WHITAKER*

If President Donald Trump is to “Make America Great Again” he cannot afford to ignore Africa. It is in this region of over one billion people — the world’s second-fastest growing continent — that the rise of China and the relative decline in U.S. power is more stark than in any other. China surpassed the United States as Africa’s largest trading partner in 2009. Since then Britain and France have also passed America by.

Yet as recently as 2008 America’s capacity to inspire and influence this region, both economically and diplomatically, seemed indisputable, with President Obama, a “son of the soil,” offering hope to millions of Africans.  Africa’s adoration, however, was not matched by a corresponding record of accomplishment on the continent. Obama’s Africa achievements do not compare to the unprecedented success of President Bill Clinton’s African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) which created millions of jobs in both the region and the U.S. – or President George W. Bush’s investment of billions of dollars in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Obama’s signature policy – “Power Africa” – aimed at creating more than 30,000 megawatts of electricity for an under-powered continent, today generates just over 4,000MW. To the chagrin of many African leaders and citizens alike, America is now increasingly seen as a paternalistic lecturer promoting her own progressive norms and cultural mores in the continent than a reliable partner.

So how might President Trump “Make America First Again” in Africa?

It starts with the recognition that the recent decline in U.S. influence was not inevitable and is only reversible by prioritizing economic engagement over social policies and aid. To put “America First” in Africa Trump must throw down the gauntlet and super-charge trade by expanding AGOA and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation with incentives for U.S. companies to invest across the continent; such incentives could be limited to sectors that do not undermine American jobs.  Trump’s “America First” Policy in Africa should also include a reinvigorated U.S. Export-Import Bank–to enable the growth of U.S. exports to compete in what McKinsey projects to be a $5.6 trillion African household and business spending market by 2025.

All of Africa’s most pressing capital needs – power, infrastructure, transportation, telecommunications, water and sanitation – are those in which American companies excel. These sectors, backed through “America First” funding support, would provide immediate opportunities for the U.S. to become more competitive in Africa’s emerging and robust markets.

Going further, President Trump might make it a requirement that projects in Africa financed by the U.S. taxpayer – for example through the Millennium Challenge Account – are undertaken only by U.S. contractors using U.S. equipment– this is currently not the case.

Secondly, Trump might administer a sea-change in how America assesses and manages international aid programs, by reforming the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Too much American aid money is directed towards a vast aid-industrial complex, driven by former USAID employees- turned-contractors in Washington, rather than deployed on the ground in Africa where it is needed most.

Development schemes should primarily focus on humanitarian interventions and enterprise solutions to address poverty. A focus on the latter would incentivize American companies to bring jobs, capital, skills and new technologies to the continent while benefiting the U.S. and African economies at the same time. To re-calibrate the former, as well as combat the USAID job-creation machine for Washington beltway insiders, Trump may even consider bolstering the role of faith-based organizations – his key political constituency – in the delivery of disaster and humanitarian aid.

Thirdly, President Trump’s Africa Policy should recognize Africa’s parallel: the poorest and at the same time among the world’s fastest growing regions.  America therefore, have reasons both economic and of principle for strong U.S. engagement.

Finally, through enriched relationships with African countries, President Trump might harness continent-wide support for U.S. goals on the international stage. Increasingly the 54 countries of Africa are wielding influence together: they are proportionately the largest bloc of votes at many multilateral institutions – providing decisive swing votes in international forums from the United Nations to the World Trade Organization.

A substantive U.S.-Africa partnership would inevitably lead to another crucial benefit: the strengthening of America’s security intelligence and cooperation needed to counter the growing threat from radicalized terrorists groups across the continent. Even an America that is Great Again needs friends and allies: and there are many to win – decisively – in Africa.

*The Hill.Whitaker served as Assistant United State Trade Representative for Africa under the administrations of President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush. She is currently the CEO and president of the Whitaker Group, a consultancy aiming at helping their clients to implement their businesses in Africa.

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Corruption Weary Africans Taking Anger To The Polls-TI 2016 CPI Index
February 15, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

John Mahama or Ghana (in suit) and Yahya Jammeh of Gambia both lost elections in 2016

John Mahama or Ghana (in suit) and Yahya Jammeh of Gambia both lost elections in 2016

If affable candidates like former President John Mahama of Ghana lost elections last year, it may in part have been due to corruption.The finding is contained in the recently published 2016 corruption perception index of Transparency International.

“In countries like Ghana, which is the second worst decliner in the 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index in the region, the dissatisfaction of citizens with the government’s corruption record was reflected in their voting at the polls,” Transparency International said in a statement that accompanied the release.

Africa did not fare so well said Samuel Kaninda Regional Advisor for Africa at Transparency International. In a skype interview, Kaninda who was on mission in Accra, said  the recently released perception index found a co-relation between democracy and good governance. Countries with a history of free elections and a stable democracy faired comparatively better as compared those where democracy and the rule of law are still struggling to take root.

On the countries that did well, Cape Verde and Sao Tome and Principe emerged as the most improved in Africa. Both countries held elections, which got rave reviews from observers. For his efforts and management style, Jorge Carlos Fonseca was rewarded with another term of office. In Sao Tome and Principe, there was a smooth transition of power, a feat that still eludes many countries in the continent.

For the democratic advances it has made, corruption in Ghana was described as rampant. Corroborating statements in the TI Release, Samuel Kaninda believed that the outcome of the recent election mirrored the anger and disappointment of Ghanaians who voted out a sitting President.

Despite high profile arrests and pompous amounts recouped from corrupt politicians, Nigeria failed to see any significant improvement in the index. The doctrine of change that brought the Buhari APC led government to power has so far been a mirage. Nigerians are increasingly voicing out their frustrations and should things not change before the 2019 elections, the APC may be in for a rude awakening.

 

Africa should seek the partnership of the international community to fight illicit flows of capital from the continent says Samuel Kaninda

Africa should seek the partnership of the international community to fight illicit flows of capital from the continent says Samuel Kaninda

The situation was similar in South Africa, trailed by sleazy tales of corruption with fingers pointing directly at President Jacob Zuma himself. Though serving his second and last term of offices, there have been growing calls for Zuma to step down. Down and bruised, Zuma has so far weathered the storm, but his battered image is taking a toll on ruling ANC. That it took heavy military Presidents to quell a mutiny from the opposition before Zuma could make a recent state of the Union Address speaks volumes on the situation Mandela’s own country.

With elections due later this year, if corruption were to be a decisive factor, President Uhuru may have some blushes as little progress has been made during his first term.

On the category of countries that equally fared poorly are the regulars like Somalia, South Sudan, Guinea Bissau, Central Africa, Chad, Burundi, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Cameroon, DR, Congo and the Republic of Congo.

Fighting corruption should be task for everybody said Samuel Kaninda in response to solutions for the way forward. Besides the framework that countries need to put place, the civil society has to step up its role.

Transparency International is willing to engage with countries in the continent and the wider international community in the quest for lasting solutions, Kaninda said. With growing attention from the international corporate world, Kaninda said corporations coming to Africa need to be clearly identified .Institutions and clear-cut rules need to be put in place to curb incidence of corruption, he said.

Corruption is not an issue of the South or the North, Kaninda said in response to a question on illicit outflows of money from Africa. Without these massive flows, Africa will not be talking about Aid but Trade,  said Kaninda. African governments should engaged in discussions with the rest of the world especially those that provide safe haven for massive loots from Africa so as to curb this trend which saps Africa of resources needed for its own development ,said Kaninda.

 

 

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Mastercard commits to financially including over 150,000 Kenyan merchants with Masterpass QR
February 15, 2017 | 0 Comments

Simple and secure digital payment solution fosters higher level of inclusion for MSMEs in East Africa

Daniel Monehin, Division President for Sub-Saharan Africa

Daniel Monehin, Division President for Sub-Saharan Africa

Nairobi, Kenya – 14 February 2017 – Mastercard commits to empowering over 150,000 Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) in Kenya within 2017 by giving them access to Masterpass QR. The mobile driven, Person-to-Merchant payment solution will be introduced through various financial institutions and other partners in the market from February onwards.

Delivering efficient, secure and cost effective acceptance solutions to Kenyan MSMEs is an essential step to providing the level of support required to grow and develop their businesses. With at least 80 percent of the country’s most critical jobs are created by MSMs, according to Kenya’s Micro and Small Enterprises Authority, it is vital to introduce solutions that drive operational efficiency in these businesses.

The regional commitment to impact over 150,000 MSMEs in Kenya within 2017 is in support of the Mastercard global goal of connecting 40 million micro and small merchants to its electronic payments network by the end of 2020. This expands on the company’s Universal Financial Access 2020 commitment made in 2015.

Masterpass QR provides a fast, convenient and secure payment solution for consumers and a reliable and instant acceptance offering for merchants. Cash is no longer required, making transacting safer for merchants who will not need to worry about carrying large sums of cash around with them.

MSMEs have traditionally struggled with the cost of installing payment infrastructure such as point-of-sale devices, as well as with issues of security surrounding payment. Masterpass QR combats these challenges in a simple and user-friendly manner helping to stimulate the economy by digitizing a sector previously solely dependent on cash-based transactions.

“Kenyans are entrepreneurial by nature, and there are incredibly exciting business ideas coming from the region. We want to help these business owners to grow and prosper by delivering solutions that meet the needs of these business owners,” said Daniel Monehin, Division President for Sub-Saharan Africa and head of Financial Inclusion for International Markets at Mastercard.

The mobile solution is available via various mobile banking applications in Kenya. Consumers are guaranteed the security of being able to pay for in-store purchases by scanning the QR (Quick Response) code displayed at the checkout on their smartphones, or by entering a merchant identifier into their feature phones. Users are able to use the solution at any location where Masterpass QR is accepted, locally and across the continent.

Mastercard is committed to financially including micro merchants across Africa by working with various partners across a multitude of sectors. Masterpass QR is currently being rolled out in Nigeria, Ghana, Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania and will soon be in a number of countries across the continent. It drives efficiency and transparency for MSMEs, something many business owners in Kenya are not able to achieve currently.

Monehin said, “Kenya is leading the charge in financial inclusion, with the World Bank reporting that 75 percent of its citizens over the age of 15 having a bank account. Masterpass QR has the potential to drive that number up further and more rapidly due to the penetration of mobile devices in the market. Technology is playing an important role to ensuring all citizens have access to solutions that help move them beyond cash.”

Mastercard (NYSE: MA), http://www.Mastercard.com, is a technology company in the global payments industry.  We operate the world’s fastest payments processing network, connecting consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories.  Mastercard products and solutions make everyday commerce activities – such as shopping, traveling, running a business and managing finances – easier, more secure and more efficient for everyone

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New-look Champions League set to begin
February 11, 2017 | 0 Comments
Mamelodi Sundowns won the Champions League in 2016

Mamelodi Sundowns won the Champions League in 2016

Up to 18 players who competed at the Africa Cup of Nations could be involved in the new-look Champions League when it kicks off this weekend.

Among them is Georges Bokwe, one of two unused goalkeepers in the Cameroon squad that defeated Egypt in the final last Sunday in Gabon.

Bokwe was kept out of the starting line-up by the consistent brilliance of Spain-based Fabrice Ondoa, who was included in the team of the tournament.

But Bokwe is the first choice for regular Champions League entrants Coton Sport from northern Cameroon cotton town Garoua.

Coton qualified for the 2008 final, losing to Al Ahly of Egypt, but have fared poorly recently with first round exits in the past two seasons.

Drawn against Atlabara of South Sudan in the two-leg preliminary round this year, the Cameroon outfit are favoured to secure a last-32 place.

While Coton have the experience of 15 previous Champions League campaigns behind them, Atlabara suffered a preliminary-round loss in a lone previous challenge.

Coton and Atlabara are among 46 clubs in action this weekend as an exciting new chapter in the Champions League unfolds.

Total prize money has soared from $5.7m (£4.6m) to $10m, a 119.30% increase.

Significant prize fund

The group phase – where the cash kicks in – has been expanded from eight to 16 clubs with participants guaranteed at least $550,000 (£440,000) each.

For clubs dreaming of going all the way and succeeding where Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa did last year, the “carrot” is a $2.5m (£2m) first prize.

Sundowns are among nine clubs given byes on merit into the round of 32, with record eight-time champions Al Ahly another.

Georges Bokwe was one of two unused goalkeepers in the Cameroon squad that defeated Egypt in the final of the recent African Nations Cup

Georges Bokwe was one of two unused goalkeepers in the Cameroon squad that defeated Egypt in the final of the recent African Nations Cup

Preliminary participants include V Club of the Democratic Republic of Congo, 1973 winners of the African Cup of Champions Clubs, forerunner to the Champions League.

The Kinshasa outfit face Royal Leopard of Swaziland and can call on Joyce Lomalisa Mutambala, a defender with unhappy memories of the 2017 Cup of Nations.

He was the only player sent off in the 32-match tournament, having come off the bench in a win over Morocco and been yellow-carded twice within 17 minutes.

Former title-holders in the second-tier Confederation Cup, Stade Malien of Mali, FUS Rabat of Morocco and AC Leopards of Congo Brazzaville, play this weekend.

Stade face Barrack Young Controllers II of Liberia, FUS meet Johansen of Sierra Leone and Leopards play UMS Loum of Cameroon.

Others in action include three clubs who won the now defunct African Cup Winners Cup, Enugu Rangers of Nigeria, Horoya of Guinea and Al Merrikh of Sudan.

Enugu tackle JS Saoura of Algeria, Horoya confront Goree of Senegal and Merrikh challenge Sony Ela Nguema of Equatorial Guinea.

*BBC

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Trump’s Africa policy: Unclear and uncertain
February 7, 2017 | 0 Comments
 From trade to human rights, what will Trump’s policies towards Africa look like? Obama’s former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs highlights some likely changes.

Africa is not likely to emerge as one of US President Donald Trump’s  foreign policy priorities. But the continent is almost certain to be affected by the fallout from his hardline foreign policy views, his strong anti-Muslim pronouncements, his vow to eliminate Islamic terrorism, and his “America First” economic policies.  And the prospects are probably bleak for any bold new development initiatives targeted at Africa like those rolled by his predecessors Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Over the past two decades, US  Africa policy has enjoyed strong bipartisan congressional support from both Democrats and Republicans working together. But without a strong commitment to Africa in the White House or Executive Branch under Trump, the major programmes that have defined US policy in Africa for the past two decades will probably struggle to sustain the previous funding levels and state support.

Trump has exhibited no interest in Africa.  Nor have any of his closest White House advisors. Except for some campaign comments about Libya and Benghazi, the new president has made very few remarks about the continent. And despite his global network of hotel, golf and tourist holdings, he appears to have no investments or business relationships in sub-Saharan Africa.

The one member of Trump’s inner circle that may have an interest in Africa is Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. He has some experience of Africa because of his many years in the oil industry with ExxonMobil, most of whose successful dealings on the continent were with largely corrupt and authoritarian leaders.

If Tillerson appoints a moderate and experienced Africa expert to run the Africa Bureau – and there are a dozen Republicans who meet that definition – and if he is able to keep policy in the control of the State Department, African issues may not be pushed aside completely.  But irrespective of who manages Trump’s Africa policy, there will be a major change from recent previous administrations.

President Obama pushed a strong democratic agenda and launched half a dozen new development programmes including Power Africa, Feed the Future and the Global Health Initiative. Before him, Bush’s “compassionate” approach led to the establishment of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), two of America’s most widely-praised programmes on the continent.

But Trump’s world view is more myopic. He believes in “America First” and questions the value of the United Nations, NATO and the European Union. He is strongly opposed to nation-building and large overseas assistance programmes. He looks suspiciously at trade agreements. And he has railed against Muslims and other foreigners, while he has publically praised dictators and tyrants.

Under Trump, any focus on Africa will likely be on military and security issues, not democracy, good governance or human rights.  These policies are likely to find greater favour with Africa’s autocrats than civil society or local business leaders.

What can we expect in the different areas of US engagement?

Security and counterterrorism

We should expect an uptick in military and security cooperation with a number of African nations, especially those facing terrorist threats given Trump’s promise to wage an all-out war on Islamist militancy. The US role in the battle against al-Shabaab, Boko Haram and armed groups in the Sahel region will probably be expanded, and African support for US actions may become a new litmus test for closer relations.

Democracy and governance

We should probably expect a sharp drop off in White House support for democracy and governance programmes. Trump has denounced nation-building abroad and said during his inaugural address that he will “not seek to impose” America’s “way of life on anyone”.  His policies will almost certainly result in less spending on the promotion of political reforms, democracy and the conduct of free and fair elections in Africa.

Human rights

The Obama administration routinely spoke out against torture, detention and extrajudicial killings, and pushed for greater gender equality and LGBTI rights. This will not happen under a Trump administration which has praised some authoritarian leaders, asserted the value of torture, and already curbed funding for women’s health programmes. The recent executive order excluding citizens from seven majority Muslim countries, including three in Africa, is an indication that respect for human rights and civil liberties will take a back seat to notions of security.

Business relations

Trump’s “America First” stance will probably lead to the collapse of Obama’s major economic initiatives in Africa. Trade Africa, a regional effort to boost trade among five East African nations; Doing Business in the Africa, designed to encourage American businesses to trade with the continent; and the high-level US-Africa business summits Obama hosted are all in jeopardy. With Trump complaining about American companies moving jobs overseas and touting a new form of economic nationalism, dealing with Africa economically will not be a priority.

Trade

The strongly bipartisan African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) has been the centrepiece of American trade policy in Africa, but its non-reciprocal concessionary treatment runs counter to Trump’s trade doctrine. Trump’s administration has focused on TPP (the Asia free trade deal) and NAFTA (the North American free trade agreement) so far, but at some point AGOA, which was recently renewed until 2025, will inevitably come to the attention of someone in the White House. Despite bipartisan support, the best hope for AGOA is that it will be allowed to remain in place with declining support until it expires. If there is an effort to reframe it, the US will probably demand African nations open their markets to American goods on a reciprocal basis.

Exchange programmes 

One of Obama’s most successful programmes was the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), which brings several hundred young African professionals and entrepreneurs to the US for six weeks each summer. Although it has the potential to be as significant to Africa as the Fulbright Programme was to Europe, YALI could be an early casualty. YALI is not covered by any congressional legislation and is not funded beyond 2017. Previous Republican administrations have cut back exchange programmes and YALI has no natural constituency in the Trump administration.

Climate change

Climate change is a major problem for Africa, but many in the Trump administration have denied or downplayed its importance, threatening to pull out of the 2015 Paris climate change agreement. UN and US studies have shown that Africa will be impacted by climate change more than any other region of the world and that African nations are the least prepared to deal with it. A shift on the global agreement will have damaging ripple effects across the continent.

USAID

Trump has said that rebuilding America’s deteriorating infrastructure would be one of his domestic priorities, and as he sets about this, USAID’s overseas programmes could become an easy target to be cut. Trump has already criticised them as wasteful and corrupt, and his administration might easily align itself with Republicans who fought to reduce development spending and eliminate the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation – two organisations that have supported America’s trade, aid and development projects in Africa and around the world.   

Benign neglect

It is possible that Trump’s term in office will surprise us on Africa. Republican administrations have outperformed on this front before. President Bush certainly did, and his two landmark development  initiatives – PEPFAR and MCC – remain extremely popular.

But given the absence of any serious White House interest in Africa, Secretary Tillerson may become the key American player on Africa. He could put Africa policy on a solid footing by appointing an experienced Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs; supporting key Bush- and Obama-era food, health and power development initiatives; and maintaining the business-focused policies of Obama. He could also throw his support behind USAID, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and EXIM Bank, all of which strengthen US economic and development objectives in Africa.

Congressional leaders could also play an important role by maintaining their strong two-decade-long bipartisan support for Africa and encouraging the administration to prioritise and not to marginalise Africa.

But realistically, perhaps the most the continent can really hope for under Trump is “benign neglect”.

*African Arguments.Johnnie Carson was US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs from 2009 to 2012. He is currently a Senior Advisor at the United States Institute of Peace and a Senior Fellow at the Jackson Institute at Yale University.

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JOSE EDUARDO DOS SANTOS, AFRICA’S SECOND-LONGEST SERVING PRESIDENT TO STEP DOWN IN 2017
February 4, 2017 | 0 Comments

BY *

Eduardo Dos Santos

Eduardo Dos Santos

Angola’s President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, the second-longest serving head of state in Africa, has confirmed that he will not be running in the country’s August elections.

Dos Santos, 74, came to power in the oil-rich country in September 1979 after the death of Agostinho Neto, Angola’s first post-independence leader. His tenure is one month short of Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the continent’s longest-serving president.

The Angolan president said at a party meeting on Friday that the country’s defense minister, Joao Lourenco, would be the presidential candidate of the governing People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) in legislative elections scheduled for August, Reuters reported.

Dos Santos indicated in 2016 that he would not be running for re-election, but has made similar statements before only to go back on them.

He led the MPLA throughout the majority of a civil war that broke out in the 1970s and lasted almost three decades. The MPLA, which was backed by Cuba and other African liberation movements, signed a ceasefire with rebels backed by South Africa and Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) in 2002.

Jose Eduardo dos-Santos

Jose Eduardo dos-Santos

The dos Santos family controls some of Angola’s most powerful institutions. The president designated his daughter Isabel dos Santos —listed by Forbes as Africa’s richest woman with a net worth of $3.2 billion—as head of the state oil firm Sonangol in 2016. Oil production constitutes almost half of Angola’s GDP, according to OPEC.

The president’s son, Jose Filomeno dos Santos, is the chairman of Angola’s sovereign wealth fund.

*Newsweek

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Guinea’s Conde lays down law with tardy lax presidents
February 1, 2017 | 0 Comments
African Heads of State pose for a group photo ahead of the start of the 28th African Union summit in Addis Ababa on January 30, 2017 (AFP Photo/ZACHARIAS ABUBEKER)

African Heads of State pose for a group photo ahead of the start of the 28th African Union summit in Addis Ababa on January 30, 2017 (AFP Photo/ZACHARIAS ABUBEKER)

Addis Ababa (AFP) – African presidents who wander into meetings hours late, or don’t bother showing up at all, received a slap on the wrists Tuesday from new African Union leader, Guinea’s Alpha Conde.

Addressing the closing of a two-day summit in Ethiopia, a combative Conde railed against presidential tardiness, slow internet, and the media.

“From now on we are going to start on time. If we say 10:00am then we must start at 10:00am,” said Conde.

“How can we explain that when we have meetings with outside countries, we are on time, whether it be in China, Japan or India?

“Why can’t we be on time for our meetings? And why when we go to these meetings we stay until the end but when we come from afar to Addis Ababa, we leave right after the opening ceremony?”

Conde’s remarks received loud applause — from lower level representatives who remained behind to hear them as many heads of state had already left the building.

His comments come as part of an AU effort to reform itself from a lumbering, bureaucratic institution to one that is effective and relevant to Africans.

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame earlier in the summit delivered a blistering report slamming the AU’s inability to see things through and over-dependence on donor funding.

An irate Conde did not stop at punctuality.

He said heads of state must attend meetings in person, or send their deputy president, and not ministers or ambassadors.

“If we are convinced that we must strengthen our organisation then heads of state must attend big continental meetings in person,” he said.

On a lighter note, he shared his bemusement after learning that the reason interpretation was so bad and choppy at the gleaming new Chinese-built AU headquarters, was because they were working with microphones “from the sixties”.

“How can you imagine that in an era of new technology we are still working with microphones from the sixties?

“How can we explain that the internet connection in our headquarters is very slow when next door, at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the internet works better?” he asked.

Later, when Conde appeared in front of journalists for the closing press conference, he began by pointing out that the African Union was considering establishing its own media service to give the “correct version of events”, criticising some media for failing to do so.

Conde, 78, took over the rotating presidency of the African Union from Chad’s Idriss Deby.

He won Guinea’s first democratic election in 2010 after long years as an exiled opposition leader. While praised as a talented orator who can fire up a crowd, critics describe him as authoritarian and impulsive.

*AFP/Yahoo

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GRANT T. HARRIS: IT’S TIME FOR U.S. COMPANIES TO SEE AFRICA AS AN INVESTMENT DESTINATION
January 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

Former White House Principal Advisor on Sub-Saharan Africa outlines why American companies should invest in Africa

  By Grant T. Harris*

Grant Harris

Grant Harris

Investment attitudes toward sub-Saharan Africa tend to swing wildly between overly optimistic, excessively negative, and everywhere in between – often based on the latest economic outlook and commodity prices. In truth, there are both sizeable risks and opportunities within the continent’s many different markets. Savvy American investors would be wise to recognize the realities behind the hype and misperceptions.

Underlying the range of investment opportunities in Africa are some undeniable demographic and economic trends that will shape markets for decades to come. Africa’s population is young and expanding quickly: in the next 35 years, 1 out of every 4 people in the world will be African. The region is already witnessing rapid urbanization, and a growing middle class and consumer market. Although Africa’s exciting economic growth has slowed dramatically in the last two years due to falling commodity prices, quite a few non-commodity exporters are projected to grow by over 6 percent in 2017.

Of course, it is equally undeniable that Africa faces real economic challenges. Not only is the region insufficiently connected to global markets, but intra-continental trade is also far too low. Poor infrastructure is a significant hurdle: two out of three people lack access to electricity, while inadequate road, rail, and harbor services increase the cost of cross-border trade within Africa by 30-40 percent. These deficiencies can be extremely costly for businesses, but can also present opportunities for investment.

More to the point, American companies are well placed to use their expertise and comparative advantages to fill unmet needs across a range of sectors, including energy, agriculture, and information technology (IT), to highlight just a few. Africa’s massive energy shortfall provides an opening for a wide range of players in electricity production, delivery, and financing, including to harness Africa’s huge renewable energy potential. In agriculture, Africa continues to experience low yields, even though the region contains 60 percent of the world’s uncultivated arable land, and despite the fact that agriculture is at the core of most countries’ economies and livelihoods. U.S. agribusiness companies could be at the forefront of supplying agricultural inputs while helping to improve food security on the continent.

In IT, Africa’s environment is primed to enable and benefit from disruptive innovations. Having bypassed the landline, cell phone usage is increasing exponentially, paving the way for groundbreaking mobile products and services. Facebook and Google have recognized Africa’s promise and are racing to facilitate Internet connectivity in the region – others in Silicon Valley may well find their own niche.

Moreover, investing in these essential sectors could, in turn, spur additional opportunities. For instance, improved energy access and infrastructure could boost untapped possibilities in manufacturing, where output could nearly double to $930 billion by 2025 if governments create the right enabling conditions.

As is true when investing in any emerging market, the challenges can be immense. Above all, investors must keep in mind that markets and business climates vary dramatically across the continent, as do the timeframes for profitable opportunities.

But as McKinsey puts it, Africa has “robust long-term economic fundamentals.” And those who have already invested in the region know it: according to Ernst and Young, investors present in Africa retain a far more positive outlook on the region’s prospects than those who have never done business there.

American companies would be smart to define how Africa can and should relate to their global strategies and growth plans. Over-simplifying the continent could mean misjudging risks, while opting to “wait and see” could lead to missed chances, just as many overly cautious investors now lament their late entry into China. Plenty of opportunities remain in Africa, but only well-informed investors will reap the benefits.

*IGD.Grant T. Harris is CEO of Harris Africa Partners LLC and was President Obama’s principal advisor on sub-Saharan Africa in the White House from 2011-2015.

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Development experts debate Trump’s likely impact on Africa
January 26, 2017 | 2 Comments

By Christin Roby*

A map of Africa. Photo by: Emma Line / CC BY-NC-ND

A map of Africa. Photo by: Emma Line / CC BY-NC-ND

Development experts at the annual Foresight Africa panel hosted by the Brookings Institution believe development and business opportunities for President Trump’s administration in Africa are vast, ranging from technology and infrastructure to road creation and renewable energy.

But they also said it is too early to know exactly what the Trump administration’s priorities are regarding the continent.

Angelle Kwemo said that domestic priorities for Trump and his team will likely take precedence over international ones. “Today we are all speculating,” said the director of Washington Media Group’s Africa practice.

“He [Trump] has not promised anything to the African constituency because we did not support him, so we can’t hold him accountable for anything because he hasn’t given any signals as to what he will do,” Kwemo continued.

But other experts pointed to one prime area of opportunity being mobile telecommunications and the rapid spread of internet connectivity. With an estimated 1 billion cellphone users in Africa, increasing access to 3G/4G networks and stronger internet services, senior international advisor for Africa at Covington & Burling LLP. Dr. Witney Schneidman called the continent an ideal atmosphere for technology adaptation in major African cities.

“There is a tremendous potential to use technology, not only to capture value for filmmakers, designers and other innovators, but in doing so, Africa gets to tell its own story … gets control of the narrative,” Schneidman said.

According to a 2016 smartphone ownership survey conducted by Pew Research Center, Kenya, Ghana and Senegal ranked among emerging countries with the steepest smartphone ownership growth, with Nigeria leading the continent with a 9 percent increase in smartphone ownership since 2013.

Other resources — such as iROKOtv, a Netflix-like service in Nigeria — provide examples of internet capabilities in parts of Africa, Schneidman said. Entrepreneurs across the continent seem to be catching on and have found ways to monopolize on mobile technology with the appearance of Uber in 14 African cities across Egypt, Kenya, Ghana and South Africa and Uber-like taxi hailing mobile apps such as TaxiJet and Africab in French-speaking Ivory Coast.

“Technology can be used as an economic developer and bring people into the mainstream of African economic progress,” Schneidman suggested.

However, the legacies left in Africa by prior administrations gives some experts hope that Trump will support initiatives that are already in place.

The 2000 passing of the African Growth and Opportunity Act by former U.S. President Bill Clinton — which added 300,000 jobs in Africa — forged a bipartisan consensus that the U.S. has interest in Africa worth investing in, explained Schneidman.

George W. Bush’s 2003 President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief that has helped lower HIV/AIDS rates across sub-Saharan Africa to their lowest levels, and the bipartisan creation and recent extension of the 2004 Millennium Challenge Corporation, which has applied a revised selection process to dispersing foreign aid, are other examples of bilateral U.S. agreements that have demonstrated U.S. support in Africa.

“We don’t see a lot of controversy when it comes to engaging,” Kwemo said. “The question is what he [Trump] will do and how far he [Trump] will go.”

Schneidman said it’s natural to be concerned about the future of Africa-focused programs during administration changes when the new president has the power to cut budgets and funding to programs such as the Young African Leaders Initiative and PEPFAR.

Fears around Trump’s plans in Africa increased drastically with the recent publication in the New York Times of a four-page questionnaire from his transition team to the State Department that posed questions such as, “Is PEPFAR worth the massive investment when there are so many security concerns in Africa? Is PEPFAR becoming a massive, international entitlement program?”

Some of the questions clearly had a critical and abrasive tone, including “With so much corruption in Africa, how much of our money is stolen? Why should we spend these funds on Africa when we are suffering here in the U.S.?” This has left some observers wondering if Trump will radically reduce American engagement with Africa.

But others struck a less alarmist note, speculating that Trump’s involvement in Africa could take time to develop, just as it took President Barack Obama an entire term before making a visit to Africa and launching the Power Africa Initiative, which happened in 2013.

Dr. Ken Opalo, assistant professor in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, suggested that the president’s background in business might be good for Africa.

“Business and jobs are what end poverty,” Opalo said. “And if he [Trump] sticks to a pro-business agenda that might be good, especially to the extent that he brings American companies onto the continent.”

But the overall message emerging from the forum was clear: Don’t get too carried away with asking if Africa is a priority for Trump or not because it’s just too early to know for sure.

Kwemo said that, though a continuity in policy would be ideal, she also urged African leaders to “stop waiting for heaven to come from somewhere else” and instead “take responsibility and think about their own strategies.”

*DEVEX

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Obama’s Legacy to Africa: Electricity
January 21, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Salem Solomon*

FILE - U.S. President Barack Obama bounces a soccer ball with his head at Ubungo Power Plant in Dar es Salaam, July 2, 2013. The ball, called a "soccket ball," has internal electronics that allow it to generate and store electricity that can power small devices.

FILE – U.S. President Barack Obama bounces a soccer ball with his head at Ubungo Power Plant in Dar es Salaam, July 2, 2013. The ball, called a “soccket ball,” has internal electronics that allow it to generate and store electricity that can power small devices.

Recent U.S. presidents have tried to leave a legacy in Africa in the form of a signature policy achievement.

For Bill Clinton it was the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) that opened U.S. markets to certain African exports. For George W. Bush it was the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) that poured billions of dollars into AIDS research and treatment.

Barack Obama decided the thing most holding back African development was access to electricity.

“Access to electricity is fundamental to opportunity in this age,” he said in a speech in Cape Town in 2013. “It’s the light that children study by, the energy that allows an idea to be transformed into a real business. It’s the lifeline for families to meet their most basic needs, and it’s the connection that’s needed to plug Africa into the grid of the global economy.”

Fueled by a $7 billion U.S. investment, the Power Africa initiative aims to add more than 30,000 megawatts of electricity generation capacity and 60 million new electric connections for the continent’s homes and businesses.

The project, which relies heavily on the private sector, is one of several reasons observers believe Obama has helped change the narrative on Africa.

From aid to trade

“His biggest single legacy has been, I think, to move the debate and focus on Africa away from aid to more about trade. That has been particularly his focus during the second term,” said Alex Vines, head of the Africa Program at London-based Chatham House. “Looking at the continent of Africa more as a continent of opportunities rather than of humanitarianism, terrorism and disaster.”

The Obama administration also sought to build relationships with the next generation of African leaders through the Young African Leaders Initiative and with current heads of state by holding the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in 2014, a first of its kind event that drew 50 African leaders to Washington.

The United States continues to far outpace the rest of the world in terms of traditional aid to Africa. It pays nearly $9 billion per year in development aid to the continent. Britain, the next biggest donor, pays just more than $3 billion per year.

FILE - President Barack Obama looks at a solar power exhibit during a tour of the Power Africa Innovation Fair, Saturday, July 25, 2015, in Nairobi, Kenya. In Nigeria, Lumos Global is among the firms rolling out solar power technology.

FILE – President Barack Obama looks at a solar power exhibit during a tour of the Power Africa Innovation Fair, Saturday, July 25, 2015, in Nairobi, Kenya. In Nigeria, Lumos Global is among the firms rolling out solar power technology.

But even in the arena of traditional aid, Obama took an approach that offered a hand up instead of a hand out. For example, the Feed the Future initiative launched in 2010 veers away from traditional food aid by assisting farmers with locally adapted technologies and helping to avoid price shocks.

“This is a really important dynamic and finally it takes the U.S. away from the more traditional donor-recipient relationship that really defined the post-Cold War era to one where the U.S. is seeking mutual benefit with African governments and others on the continent,” said Witney Schneidman, senior international adviser for Africa at Covington & Burling LLP and nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Future under Trump

As with many things, President-elect Donald Trump’s views on aid to Africa are complicated. As a candidate in the Republican primaries, one of Trump’s applause lines was a pledge to “stop sending aid money to countries that hate us.”

But during an April 2016 speech on foreign policy he appeared to embrace the U.S. role as a donor saying, “We are a humanitarian nation.”

Observers have speculated that, because of the isolationist thrust of his worldview, Trump is likely to be less interested in aiding Africa than his predecessors.

But others feel that there will not be a major break with Obama’s policies there.

“Some [programs] will fall away, I suppose, under the new incoming Trump administration when it’s in place, others will continue,” Vines said. “My own reading is I don’t think there would be a massive difference between an Obama administration in how it looks at particularly sub-Saharan Africa and the Trump administration and how it looks at sub-Saharan Africa.”

Finally, don’t rule out a major shift in Trump’s perception of Africa. Schneidman pointed out that presidents Clinton and Bush came to the Oval Office with virtually no experience in Africa, but left positive legacies.

“We just don’t know what a president Trump will do on the continent,” Schneidman said. “I think we have to approach it with an open mind, and I think we have to put forward a number of ideas where he could carve out his own legacy.”

*VOA

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Unpredictable Trump could prove a game changer for Africa
January 20, 2017 | 0 Comments

With his win of the White House, president-elect Trump has made no secret that his electoral college mandate to “make America great again” should apply to US foreign policy as well.

During the campaign and after his victory, Trump has unabashedly and unpredictably turned US policy on its head with a cascade of jaw-dropping statements about Mexico, China, Russia and Putin, ISIS, Muslims, NATO, Israel and more.
There is, however, one area of the world Trump seems to have eschewed altogether, an area where his skittishness could prove a boon.
For the past eight years Africa has been relegated to the back burner of US foreign policy. President Obama, whose father hailed from Kenya, elicited high expectations when he came to office and was seen, initially, as a potential champion for African causes. Yet, aside from his struggling “Power Africa,” a $7-billion presidential initiative launched in 2013 and aimed at doubling Africa’s electrical grid by 2030, Obama has little to show for when it comes to Africa.
Unlike his immediate predecessor, who morphed into a staunch Africa supporter with several African programs to boot (including his Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, PEPFAR), the first black president departed from the White House in January 2017 with a legacy of soaring rhetoric and lofty slogans, but no tangible and successful African signature policies.
Because Trump favors protectionism, the argument goes, he will turn his back on Africa and will happily don Obama’s mantle to continue Washington’s minimalist involvement in African affairs.
Trump, however, might just do the opposite and, just as George W. Bush, surprise many critics by implementing sensible policies vis-à-vis Africa.
One may wonder why. Why would Trump care about Africa? Why should Africa matter to a Trump administration that has pledged to build roads and bridges in North Carolina, not in South Sudan? The answer to these questions is simple: China. If Trump is serious about China, as he has ostensibly touted on the campaign trail and via twitter, if he is determined to flex his muscles against China, he should first challenge the rising power of the Red Dragon in Africa.
That’s because Africa has served as China’s economic launching pad for over two decades. Africa has fueled and will continue to fuel China’s booming industries for several decades to come.
With the US economic presence in Africa receding, China has occupied the void and driven competition out, including many European companies and investors. The Chinese are building infrastructures at a dizzying pace, from Cairo to Cape-town, in exchange for Africa’s rich mineral ores. Buoyed by state subsidies, Chinese companies are outbidding competition with many shoddy, built-on-the-fly construction projects, and take a disproportionate role in Africa’s extractive production and industries.
Thousands of Chinese companies are doing business in 50 African countries, down to some small-scale businesses operating in Africa’s remotest villages. Chinese state-owned companies are buying vast swatches of Africa’s arable land to set up large-scale agricultural projects. Together, they contributed to the estimated $300 billion generated by China-Africa trade in 2015. In addition to trade, China relies on loans to buttress its presence in Africa. In 2015, during the sixth Forum on China-Africa Cooperation held in Johannesburg, Chinese president Xi Jinping pledged a whopping $60 billion loan, aid, and export credit package to Africa.
Then there are America’s national security interests that should also matter as Trump is assembling his team.
Islamic terror groups, including Al-Shabaab and Al Qaeda operate cell groups in Africa’s rogue states. They are after American soft targets and it’s just a matter of time, if the trend is not reversed, until we see the kind of acts that targeted American interests in Nairobi and Benghazi. The Chinese, of course, prefer not to interfere with what they consider to be African states’ internal affairs.
African dictators are leery of a Trump presidency, and for good reason.
A new sheriff is in town, and unlike the one he will replace in January he may not be all talk and no cider. With his penchant for contumely and tit-for-tat escalation, Trump might be the game changer that shakes things up in Africa and disrupts corrupt political regimes that have quietly survived and thrived under Obama’s two terms in office. They have largely ignored Obama’s paper tiger rhetoric, but Trump’s iron fist may well be what will compel them to get in line and relinquish their illegitimate power.
Why? Because dictators and failed states are bad for business. They feed on corruption, serve as breeding ground for terrorism, and have no qualms about letting their nuclear raw materials fall into wrong hands.
Democratically-elected African leaders, on the other hand, may find in President Trump an unlikely ally, a more decisive and unfettered leader to work with to advance an economic and political agenda that could benefit both the US and Africa.
As the global spotlight shines on his presidency, Trump might prove his critics wrong by dealing differently with Africa and restoring America’s clout on a continent that cannot afford to put its eggs in the same basket and should not let China’s monopolistic drive dictate the terms and pace of its development.
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