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We Will Champion Case For Stronger US-Africa Business Ties With Trump Administration- Florizelle Liser, President & CEO Corporate Council on Africa
May 6, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

When it comes to business relations and trade between Africa and the USA, there are few people around with depth of knowledge and wealth of experience of Florizelle Liser, President & CEO of the Washington, DC, based Corporate Council of Africa-CCA.

For over ten years, she served with the office of the US Trade Representative including a stint as its representative for Africa prior to departure from Government last year. Appointed by the Bush Administration, she served through the Obama years and even out of government, her professional life continues to circle around issues of Trade with Africa as she serves as the first female President of the CCA.

Though she served in the Asia Pacific Region, and Latin America, in the course of her career, it is not until I moved to the African Region that I thought my true calling had been found, said Florizelle in a recent interview at the CCA headquarters. With a combination of her experience, and the great work done by her Predecessor Steve Hayes, Florizelle Liser is confident that the CCA is on course to write the next great chapter of US-Africa Trade relations.

The start of Florizelle’s leadership of the CCA coincided with the arrival of the Donald Administration whose African policy is still in a state of flux, but if there is one thing she is bent on doing, it is to make sure that the momentum on US-Africa Trade relations is sustained. Citing a litany of programs from the Bush and Obama Administrations that facilitated growing business ties, Florizelle said the CCA will be leading the charge in making the case to the Trump Administration on why corporate ties between the US and Africa should be a priority.

While the corporate background of President Trump may help him see the great opportunities and partnerships that abound in Africa, the broader perceptions Americans have about Africa need to change, Florizelle said.  For a continent with all sorts of negative stereotypes, people will be surprised to know that in South Africa alone, there are over 800 U.S companies, there will be surprised to know that there are African companies doing so well in the continent to the extent that there are also setting up shore in the US as well , said Florizelle.

The Administration and the broader American public needs to get the message that if businesses are going to Africa, it is because of profit, it is because of a more enabling environment, and the growing interest of Africans to partner with US businesses, Florizelle said.

In her new role as CEO of the CCA, one of her first major events will be the 11th biennial US-Africa Business Summit that takes place in Washington, DC, from June 13-16. The Forums alternate between the US and Africa, said Florizelle and Washington is excited to host it again after the 2015 summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This will be a great opportunity for the CCA membership to interact with Trump Administration Officials. We have invited Officials from the most senior levels of the US Administration, Florizelle said, as she expresses optimisms for positive interactions between CCA members, African leaders and those who could be key actors in shaping the Administration’s policies on Africa.

 It has been 5-months now, since your appointment as CEO of the Corporate Council on Africa.  In what shape did you meet the CCA, and what has changed so far under your leadership?

Florie Liser: First of all, I have actually been here 3-months, and I was telling people up until probably this week that I have been here 6-weeks, 10-weeks.  When I got too far, I had to change it to months.  So, now I am saying that I have been here 3-months.  I started on January 23rd and I am delighted that I had the confidence of the full board that unanimously made me the CEO.  I am the first woman CEO of the Corporate Council on Africa, but I do not think that they chose me for that.  I think that one of the things that I bring to the table is my long-standing expertise and experience in terms of US-Africa trade and investment and I think the second thing that I bring to the table is the array of relationships that I have both here in the United States and across the continent.  And I’ve been very, very fortunate; very blessed to have been exposed to many, many stakeholders who have shared the vision that I have, which is that the economic relationship between the US and Africa is an important one, a vital one.  And that in this new job, the Corporate Council on Africa, is going to build on the 17-years that Steve Hayes was here.

I   commend him for the excellent leadership that he had of CCA.  But now, I believe that we want to build on CCA’s strengths.  I think that we are one of the most successful organizations focused on US-Africa business engagement.  We are the only ones in my view that are focused solely on Africa.  Other organizations have Africa as one of the areas that there are focused on, but we are solely focused on Africa.

In addition, we have, I think in terms of our successes, also been able to bring together numerous businesses from across the continent.  We have African members first, and we have not only large members of companies that are mega companies, but over 50% of our members are small and medium-size businesses as well.  And I think that, that sort of breadth of engagement also makes us a bit unique, because we are not solely focused on what is best for US businesses.  And of course, we are strong advocates for US businesses, but I think we are probably well-suited and best situated to promote mutually beneficial relationships between US and African businesses.

We held last year I think you know; a US-Africa business summit where we had more than 1400 participants and over 600 companies that attended.  This was in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  And actually, I was there.   I was there wearing my previous hat.  In addition, last year we had 6-trade missions, we hosted a range of very senior officials from Africa who came here, including the president of Mozambique, high-level trade delegation from Nigeria and so again, I think that we stand on our past and our history, but we also have a vision for the future.

And one of the things that we will be faced with now as I’m coming into leadership here, is how we work with the new US administration to make sure that the issues of US-Africa economic engagement are a priority for them.  We hope that we can make the case for expanding and enhancing the US-Africa business relationship.  And so, the issues will not only be, for example, Peace, Security, Counterterrorism, which are all very important, and in fact security is one of our core issues here.

We have 10-issue areas, as you know, which go from agribusiness, to health, security, trade, infrastructure, finance, energy, and power, etc.  But, one of the things that we will definitely want the new administration to recognize is that US businesses are in Africa because it’s profitable.  Because it is a critical part of their bottom lines as businesses.  And CCA is, and plans to be a very strong voice for US businesses who are engaged in the Continent, and also for African businesses which are expanding regionally and also some of them who are investing in the United States.  You know, it’s not one way and a lot of times people lose sight of or lose track of the fact that there are African businesses that are so successful that they are investing in the United States.    We have our upcoming US-Africa Business Summit in June and it will be our 11th biennial meeting.  We see that upcoming summit as one of the first opportunities for high-level officials from Africa, as well as CEOs, and US CEOs to meet with various people from the Trump administration.  And we have a theme which sort of reflects part of what I was saying.

We will get back to specifics of some the issues you raised as the interview proceeds.  Prior to your appointment, you serve with the office of US assistant trade representative for what?  Over 10-years?

Yeah.

Including a stint as Assistant as Assistant US Trade Representative for Africa?

Right.

How is this background helping you at the CCA?

So, you know; it’s such a natural progression to come from there, because the major role of the Assistant US trade representative for Africa was for us to promote US-Africa trade and investment.  That was my major responsibility and I did it for 13-years actually.  From 2003 until I left the US government at the end of December of 2016. Though I had worked in other regions of the world like the Asia-Pacific region, and Latin America, when I moved to the African region, I thought, wow, this was my dream job. I had studied Africa, when I was in graduate school, and visited Africa, a number of times, even in other positions.  And so, this was really an incredible opportunity for me, on a hands-on basis, to promote US-Africa trade and investment.  So, I worked with African heads of state, and ministers of trade and finance and those in charge of investment promotion on the African side as well as US businesses that will come in to ask questions about where they should go and issues that they had working in different countries.  I worked with members of Congress, and I had the privilege of working under a number of administrations. I was actually put in that position under the Bush administration, and then continued through succeeding administrations.  And I think that job was a perfect platform for me to come now and work here at CCA to continue doing really a lot of things that I’ve been passionate about for so long.

With this unique experience, in the government and now with the CCA, which is a private entity, you are in a good position to offer an assessment of business ties Between the USA and Africa.  At what point are we?  Where are things at the moment?  What is working?  And what is not working and what needs to be done to make things better?

First, I think, the average American citizen would be surprised at the number of US companies that are operating in Africa.  There are thousands and thousands of them there.  I think, in South Africa alone, there are almost 800 US companies that are there.  And so, we are all across the continent.  Our business is all across the continent in a range of sectors.  We are not just in extractive.  Although obviously, we have a huge stake in the extractive industries, we are also in telecommunications, manufacturing, and retail. We could go down the list of CCA members and beyond who are there.

Now, what has changed?  Even though many US companies have been in Africa for some time, the landscape has changed and is changing in Africa.  You know, where there were many conflicts in the past – there are only a small handful of conflicts today.  Where in the past there were governance and leadership issues, today, there are only a small number of countries where we could say that we have concerns about governance.  Where it was difficult to identify where opportunities were maybe more than a decade ago, I think today, many more US companies are aware of the opportunities in Africa.  It has the highest rate of return on investment there and the opportunities for joint ventures are probably endless.

These are economies that are growing more rapidly than most economies in the world, they have a burgeoning middle class, and disposable income is rising rapidly.  They have a youth bulge, which also has implications for the kinds of products and services that are desired on the continent, and there is a strong interest on the part of Africans to actually partner with Americans.  Therefore, a lot has changed.

Now, what is not working?  What is still difficult in many countries, is the doing business atmosphere.  The environment for quickly getting into a country, getting your operating licenses, being able to get access to the right partnerships.  These are things, which again, a number of countries in Africa are working on.  There are some who have done great in terms of the World Bank doing business scores that are rapidly rising.  But, I think anyone who goes to Africa also knows that there are some difficulties in navigating the African market.  Whenever US businesses would come in to talk to me before a trip, and they think, “well, we’re going to go there for a week and we’re going to close X deal!”  And I think, emm… I do not think that is going to happen.  And so, US businesses will still find sometimes that it takes a little bit too long to get things moving and solidify some of these partnerships.

But, because the benefits are so great, because the opportunities are so wide.  I think many of them realize, “okay, it’s going to take more than one trip.”  It may actually take me numerous trips and it might even take up to a year or more, but I am not going to run away, I am not going to lose this opportunity because I am impatient.   So, yes, I think there are ways that things could operate more smoothly, more efficiently, more effectively in Africa, and I think many US businesses would say that.  But again, the opportunities are enormous and so I think businesses are buckling down and trying to find a way forward.  Even if it is a little bit tough sometimes, even if it takes a little longer sometimes than they want.

 As we speak, there is a new administration in the USA, the Administration of President Donald Trump and people do not yet know the direction of its African policy.  From your experience in government, and signals you have seen, what should Africa expect?  Could his business background be a silver lining for business ties between USA and Africa? 

I mean, clearly it could.  Obviously, he is a businessman, he understands the benefits of doing business, not just here in the US, but across the world.  Because he is not just operating in the US.  He has operated in many places.  In fact, I was in Lesotho in November and someone was sharing with me that they thought there was a factory there that was even producing some products for one of the Trump product lines, yeah.  I did not get a chance to visit the factory, so I cannot definitively say it is true, but I had heard that.

So, what could this mean for the US-Africa business relationship – to have a businessman in the White House?  It could mean a lot.  But right now, it appears that those who our new President is looking to are largely in the area of military expertise, and people who when they look through the particular lens that they have-I’m not saying that’s a Bad lens, but, when they look through the lens that they have, they see Africa in a particular way.  And those issues such as security issues, counterterrorism issues, issues of peace, and conflict resolution; because that’s their sort of area of expertise, I think whenever they put on their lenses to look at Africa as well as other parts of the world, they see it through that lens.

I think one of the things that will be very important to do will be to help Trump Administration Officials and the President himself to take that lens off, and to put on the lens that many of our businesses and members of CCA have.  Which as I said earlier, is there are in Africa because Africa is a profitable place to be.  Everybody else in the world is scrambling to be first in Africa and to have access to what that market provides. we hope that with a strong voice from CCA as well as our members, that we can push that point, and hopefully have a Trump Administration which in short order will be talking about progress in pursuing on the business relationship with Africa.  And again, as a businessman, we are hopeful that President Trump and his Administration will do that.

I think some of them may already be leaning in that direction.  I know Secretary Ross of the Department of Commerce, mentioned Africa in his confirmation remarks, I believe, he talked about the fact that you really could not ignore Africa as a continent, and opportunities there. I understand last week, just last week that a number of the Finance Ministers and Energy Ministers that were here met with Secretary of Energy Rick Perry.  So, I was very encouraged by that and we are hoping for a robust US -Africa economic and business relationship.

As you mentioned in your last answer, “there is a growing competition for business opportunities in Africa,” you have the Chinese, you have Japanese, Indians, in addition to the traditional European countries all expressing interest.  How do you make the case for US business in Africa?  Why should African countries prefer or pick US businesses as partners as opposed to all these other partners trying to get in?

I actually do not think they should just choose us.  I think that the Africans are fairly savvy now.  This is not like the olden days where people just moved in and told Africans what to do, and treated them as if they were children.  The Africans are mature, they should not allow countries to just come in, or businesses from different countries just come in and sort of dictate.  I think that there is so much to be done there and so many opportunities that the key I think, will be to manage who can work with them most effectively, in which areas.

Just as an example, it could be that you know, to actually physically build out the hard infrastructure in Africa, perhaps which is something that the Chinese can do best.  But then, if you look at the engineering side of it, maybe that’s something that US businesses actually can provide for or someone was telling me of an example of where in a particular country, they were saying that the locomotives were being provided by the Chinese, but the engines were being provided by the US.

What you’re finding is that Africans are not, I think been forced to choose should I pick the Chinese or the American, should I pick the Americans or the French, should I pick the Indians or you know, I think what they’re doing and I think it’s a wise thing to do, is looking at what are the different partnerships we can have with different countries?

I think, what the US business brings to the table about why Africans really like working with Americans is first, I think many Americans go in with high-quality products and services.  Therefore, the value for dollar is there. You may get something cheaper from someone else that is fine.  And I’m not just speaking of Chinese, but you may get a product cheaper, but what do you get with the US is in terms of the quality of the product.

The second thing is, I think US companies are also valued for the fact that we are working with people on maintenance.  We are not just going to come in initially sell you a product or provide a service and then not build in to that relationship, what it is, what’s required to maintain it, you know.  So, what is the point of a road and three years later, it is falling apart, or getting equipment that would not last? What is the point of having, equipment and you know two years later, it is breaking down.  Maybe you would have been better off buying what would last for longer.  I think we do that.

The other thing is the partnerships.  I think that we; our US companies, we are very interested in transferring skills and technology to our African partners.  That is not to say that others do not do it, but I think we are particularly good at those transfers of skills and technology.   The kind of partnerships we then have with our African partners are a reflection of that.  So, those are some of the reasons actually, we hear back from the Africans about why they like working with us.  We treat them as partners; we do not bring them in at the lowest levels of the business and leave them there.  And to be frank, I visited a lot of factories built and run by others, we won’t say who, where if they left, even though the majority of the workers in the factory were African, the Africans actually would not know what to do to keep the business going.  They were not brought in to understand the entire value chain and what has to happen from point A to point Z to keep the business running.  And I think that, that is something that I think Americans; when we come in, we bring people in and we have them as full partners in knowing all the aspects of the businesses that we partner with.

From June 13-16, the CCA will be hosting the 2017 US-Africa Business Summit; can you shed some light on this?

 CEO Florizelle Liser with PAV's Ajong Mbapndah L at the CCA Office in Washington,DC

CEO Florizelle Liser with PAV’s Ajong Mbapndah L at the CCA Office in Washington,DC

Yes, this will be our 11th Summit.  We have been having these summits both here in the US and in Africa.  In fact, we alternate back and forth.  So, we have them every other year.  They are biennial, the last one was in Ethiopia, we had over 1400 participants over 600 companies, I think over 37 countries represented there from across the continent, and it was quite successful.  This year it is going to be in the US and we wanted it here.  We were glad it was our turn to host.  Because, we thought with the new US Administration coming in, this was going to be an excellent opportunity to bring together all of our stakeholders, our members, and many beyond our members to actually come together and to talk about the US stake in Africa, and the partnerships working with Africa.

Over the years, we have had probably over 40 heads of state.  We hope we will get a few; these are tough times because you know there are a lot of competing interests.  The G-20  is coming up.  I think the Africa program it actually happens almost on the same time frame in Berlin, but you know, we are hoping we will.  However, if we do not, we will have lots of high-level Officials, Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Trade, Energy, Health, Agriculture, and so forth. We will also have some doing business in whatever country as a part of it.  Some sessions will be on doing business in Ghana, doing business in Ethiopia, or wherever as a part of it.

We are also planning to have an event on the Hill.  We have been invited to have an event on the Hill, where we will be having a dialogue with key members of Congress, both from the Senate and the House and from both parties. The hill is so important especially right now.  They have always been important, and will always be important. We hope to have a good turnout of both US and African businesses, and CEOs covering a wide range of issues, core issues, all of CCA’s core issues will be touched on during the summit.  So, we’re inviting, I hope all those who read this article will hear about this summit and will register, and come and be a part of it.  Be that active voice that is needed right now, so that the US Administration can hear from all of us.

You mention the new US administration, and this will be the first summit that is taking place under the new leadership.  First, what level of participation do you expect from them?  Secondly, it was reported in March that there was an African Trade meeting out in California, where there were no Africans because of visa issues.  The Africans who were supposed to turn out were never granted visas to come for the summit.  Is the CCA concerned about this development?

Well, I think first of all, you asked who has been invited; we have invited practically all of the highest-level people from the Administration, who we think have a stake in Africa. So, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of Energy, we’re still waiting though for some other people to come into key positions throughout the Administration.  So, again, at the lower levels, or some of the more prominent folks that we would normally engage with are not even there yet.  But, we expect to have participation from a number of US Agencies.  We are also having a session that will be about engagement with Agencies of the US Government.  And we’re getting all of the highest-level people that are there, from the Department of Commerce, to OPIC, EXIM Bank, the US Trade Representative’s office where I came from; to come and be on a panel that will talk about our programs across those different government agencies and institution.  MCC will be a part of it, people who do work on power Africa will be there as well.  So, we think we’ll have a very good discussion of what the US ship brings to the table under this Administration, as well as others.

In terms of the visa issue, of course, you know we have to be a bit concerned that, that happens.  I don’t know the particulars of why that happened with the California conference, but what we’ve done is, we’ve talked to State Department and we’re going to be working with the State Department to let them know which Africans have been invited and also you know, as people register for the conference from different African countries, we will be sending that information to State Department so that they are aware of these people who will need visas.

And then CCA for our African partners who are coming from the private sector, we will be providing them with visa letters.  So, a letter of invitation, which is often needed for getting your visa. We will do that, and we have kind of broadly let people know that.  And as I said, we’re just going to work with the powers that be here to facilitate getting our African delegations into the summit.  That is the best that we can do, and we are going to hope for the best and hope that it will be positive.

Prior to leaving the USTR, you work with two Presidents one Republican, one Democrat. How have you seen the evolution of US-Africa business relations over the years? Who did more? Was it the republicans or was it the democrats?  

Well you know, that’s a great question and I love that question.  Now, my experience you know is that under President Bush, a lot of really incredible programs were launched. so we can talk about PEPFAR, to work on HIV-AIDS,  we can talk about the Millennium Challenge Corporation, that was set up and provides grants to build infrastructure in Africa, there was a program on malaria and girls’ education and so forth.  Then you get to the Obama administration, and he also launched some really effective programs like Power Africa, Trade Africa, YALI, and so on, but here is what I would say that distinguishes them.  I think that the trend has been more to move from initiatives the US has with Africa that are more, could more be described as aid, and development assistance to initiatives that are really more focused on trade and business engagement.  And so, I very much think that is the trend.  My expectation under the Trump Administration is, it will continue moving in that direction.

Another Program that I did not mention, that was very important under President Obama, was the President’s Advisory Council on doing business in Africa; we call it the PAC – DBIA.  Very focused on the doing business relationship, the economic relationship, and that one had CEOs from different US businesses there. We are looking to see now, whether under the Trump Administration that would continue, one would hope it would.

He gets it, he is a businessperson, and we expect that to continue that way.  But, I think the major sort of trend has been that we recognize that yes, aid is important, development assistance is important, but what is most important, what has probably more of a sustainable impact on Africa is private sector driven partnerships and relationships.  Public-private partnerships pushed by and supported by the private sectors on both sides. Power Africa is a good example of that, Trade Africa is a good example of that.

So, that is my experience and let me just say, that’s not to say that we should not give aid.  We definitely should, we have some countries in Africa right now that are facing famines , we want to make sure that we provide that kind of assistance and relief, but I remember from many years ago, they talked about how if Africa was able to increase its share of world trade by just one percentage point; at the time, they had 2% of world trade  Now, they have about 3%, but the movement of 1% additional trade would actually generate every year, three times the amount that Africa gets in aid from everybody in the world.  Just 1 percentage point of trade.

And I use that example, it is an old one.  It came from the old Blair report that came out, Oh, my gosh!  More than a decade ago.  But, the reason I use that is, because it shows you the power of trade and economic engagement.  That no matter how much aid you have, if you are generating your economic growth through private sector investment, through greater trade, the production of value-added products on the continent, the creation of jobs that come from investment and from trade, you can do way more with that, than you can with the aid – yeah.

Last question Ms. Florie, you have spent a huge part of your career working on Africa, and I believe that you have done a lot of travel, different countries, and different people

I have! I have!

What are some of the changes that you have seen? 

Yeah, well, even when I first started going to Africa, and it wasn’t a surprise to me, but you know, the pictures that you see of Africa here in the United States, the ‘Image’ I should say, of Africa here in the United States, is definitely not what is going on in the continent.

I went to cities that were vibrant, or growing metropolises even a decade, decade and a half ago, but you do not see those pictures on TV.  You see children with big bellies and flies in their eyes and, so Americans typically don’t have the vision of Africa that it is.I’ve been to factories that are producing everything from eyeglasses, and toys, and an apparel and footwear and you know, inputs for automobiles and automobiles themselves that are being produced in Africa.

African countries have the potential to do what China has done says Forizelle Liser

African countries have the potential to do what China has done says Forizelle Liser

When I see those thousands and thousands of workers in factories all across Africa, producing pepper sauces and all sorts of value-added agricultural products.  And I’ve been to cut flower farms, and just you know, it’s incredible places where they’re packing green beans and shipping them to the US and Europe.  The image I get is of an Africa that is a part of the global economy, that plays an important role in global value chains and how that Africa is critical to how everybody else is developing in the world too.  We need Africa to be a manufacturing floor, we need Africa’s labor.  Africa is going to contribute more to the global workforce in the next 20 years than any other region of the world.  And you know, FDI into Africa is increasing rapidly.

As I said earlier, the rate of return on investments is increasing rapidly.  Africa is a place now where people who are institutional investors you know, from the state of California or you know, people with pension plans here in the US, where firefighters and policemen and their money is being invested in Africa to their benefit.  And that’s an Africa that I see today and the potential of an Africa today that even 10 years ago, we did not see.  People were not putting their 401(k)s investments into Africa that kind of way 10 years ago, so the potential of Africa to be a fully integrated partner into the global economy is something that I can actually see it.  And you know, or read about it and so you know when I hear you know different fans talking about.  Oh yes, you know were to be investing these hundreds of millions or we have a call out and you know, the call has been filled in terms of you know, the investment bonds and so forth that are being issued.  You’re like wow!

This is what Africa is about today, I’ve been to stock markets in Ghana, in South Africa, in Botswana, and so I look at Africa and I see an Africa which, and let me end on this note, you know; “they are now where China was maybe 30 years ago,” And, if they continue in this direction, to me they have the potential to, not as one single economy because clearly they’re not, but then you know we have the concept of free trade area that’s been launched and where you know, 10 years from now, for sure, maybe we will be looking at it all as one large African market and economy.

I see them as having the potential in individual countries to do what China has done in terms of manufacturing, in terms of investment, in terms of business partnerships, companies that are present there, South Africa, Boeing just opened up an office in South Africa and Kenya, GE has an office in Kenya.

I mean we are seeing a lot of US business engagement there. There is a reason why they are going there.  They are not just going to Africa and setting up offices and businesses and investing there because they want to do good.  And they do, do a lot of good things, a lot of for corporate social responsibility in Africa, but are actually there to do well.  And so, the opportunity for mutually beneficial relationships between US and African businesses in all sorts of sectors and is a part of the global economy is really kind of the vision that everyone has for Africa now.  It is certainly not my vision, but I can personally attest to it.

Ms. Florie Liser, thank you very much for talking to Pan African visions!

Thank you for having me!

 

 

 

 

 

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Information, Media, and Broadcasting Services Minister Dr Chris Mushohwe

Information, Media, and Broadcasting Services Minister Dr Chris Mushohwe

ENGLISH is a colonial language that was used to undermine the country’s native languages and destroy the culture of Zimbabweans, Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Dr Chris Mushohwe has said.

Dr Mushohwe, who will be officially launching the 16 constitutionally recognised languages bulletins at ZBC in Bulawayo today was in Binga, Matabeleland North yesterday to meet content producers who will participate in the digitalisation programme. He was accompanied by his Deputy Thokozile Mathuthu, Permanent Secretary George Charamba and officials from the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, Transmedia Corporation and Zimbabwe Film and Television School of South Africa.

Dr Mushohwe told Binga artistes that while the country attained independence in 1980, the minds of Zimbabweans were not yet psychologically free from colonial bondage.

“English is a colonial language. Foreign languages were the most useful weapons used to colonise African countries. Right from Algeria to South Africa, they were used in the destruction of native languages. We drank too much colonial poison and we must correct that. We want to clean that contamination in our mindset and have all languages being read in the news,” said Minister Mushohwe.

The minister said unless Zimbabweans restored their culture and languages, they will forever be slaves of colonisers.

“Learning of languages has to be reciprocal. There is no language that is superior than the other. We have to learn to appreciate and respect our own culture. It’s embarrassing that some of our children go overseas and refuse to identify with us when they come back. We all have a job to clean this mess,” said Minister Mushohwe.

The digitalisation project, he added, and the Government’s 75 percent local content policy will help the nation rediscover itself.

“This mobilisation tour is meant to encourage our artistes and make them realise that they have a big role to play in helping the country reclaim its identity. It’s going to be an exciting process where we have different content producers showing us the different cultures we have in Zimbabwe through our own languages,” said Minister Mushohwe.

Minister Mushohwe, who started his tour in Victoria Falls on Thursday before proceeding to Hwange on Friday and Binga yesterday said he was excited about the overwhelming response by content producers.

“The reception is amazing. The content producers are natural artistes and I’m happy about the excitement they are exhibiting about the digitalisation project. I’m certain that it will be followed by action to sustain this project. Traditional leaders have also exhibited maximum support and I appreciate that,” said Minister Mushohwe.

He, however , said he was feeling guilty that Binga was one of the areas that was not receiving Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation signals, making it difficult to disseminate information to them.

“Binga is one of the places that makes me feel guilty on behalf of the Government. I’m the spokesperson for the Government and I can’t say I’ve succeeded in disseminating information when there’s no ZBC television here. I’m actually humbled by the response because people in Binga are not privileged to see our advertisements on television. They associate more with news from Zambia,” said the minister.

Government, he added, would soon remedy the gap so that people in Binga receive signals.

“When I joined the ministry I insisted that digitalisation must start in Binga. That position will not change because we have a debt to pay,” said Minister Mushohwe.

Charamba said Government had installed a tower in Binga, with a batch of transmitters already in the country to cater for the tower.

“The tower still needs to be equipped with transmitters. A batch of transmitters are already in the country and these will cater for the Binga tower. This will be done expeditiously,” said Charamba.

He said Government was also working on establishing public viewing centers in the district as part of the digitalisation project.

Yesterday’s meeting was also attended by veteran artist Cont Mhlanga, who is assisting film producers in the area to improve their skills. The local leadership, Zanu-PF officials, Government officials and were also part of the meeting.

Meanwhile, ZBC general manager News and Current Affairs Mr Tazzen Mandizvidza told the Sunday News that the broadcaster places high value on local languages.

Some of the languages that were already on air before are Tonga, Venda, Nambya and Sotho.

“We are introducing five more languages to make them nine and the Minister of Media and Broadcasting Services Dr Christopher Mushowe will officially launch the whole project of bulletins in vernacular. The languages were on radio before on National FM but we are saying they deserve the same priority as other languages. It is in line with the Constitution but we feel as the national broadcaster we want to be seen giving them the priority that they deserve,” said Mr Mandizvidza.

He added that they have been on the hunt for qualified personnel to air the programmes. “When we introduced these programmes on radio, the first challenge was that we did not have qualified people. Most people who could speak the languages did not have journalism qualifications, some were teachers, and court interpreters while others had various qualifications. The first process was to say let’s introduce them on radio then train the people. We taught them radio broadcasting and now they have the requisite qualifications. We then moved to have the languages on television and we looked to see if we had qualified people to read and write them,” he added.

Mr Mandizvidza said the language bulletins were being done in phases. Mr Mandizvidza said it was a plus that the languages were now on radio and television.

“We want Montrose studios to champion the growth of Zimbabwean culture, when you bring in the language you are incorporating culture and this place will lead in the preservation of culture and language.”

*Sunday Mail

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Earth Day (April 22nd): German Company GROHE shares tips on water saving in Africa
April 23, 2017 | 0 Comments

395 million people are without clean water in Africa

LAGOS, Nigeria, April 22, 2017/ — GROHE (www.grohe.com), a world leading German brand in sanitary fittings is commemorating on April 22nd, World Earth Day  through its commitment to innovative design with a strong focus on sustainability. In keeping with this year’s theme for Earth Day: environmental and climate literacy, GROHE has provided key tips for saving water, especially in Africa.

Statistics published by international development organization WaterAid (www.WaterAid.org) show that 695 million people out of the 1.2 billion total population of Africa are surviving without basic sanitation and 395 million people are without clean water. With Africa’s population projected to be 2.2 billion by 2030, only 32% of Sub-Saharan Africans will have access to sanitation by 2030.

According to WASHwatch (www.WASHwatch.org), the collaborative monitoring platform set up by WaterAid, 57 million people in Nigeria don’t have access to safe water, over 130 million people don’t have access to adequate sanitation which is two third of the population and around 45,000 children under five years old die every year from diarrhea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation.

For GROHE, sustainability is a corporate value with a tradition and a future. GROHE has developed a wide portfolio of advanced product technologies and launched also a series of awareness campaigns and programs to change mindsets and habits.

Since 2009, GROHE has launched the Green Mosque Initiative in many countries, whereby the company partners with local entities to install water-efficient products in the ablution rooms of mosques to help the respective regions achieve sustainable reduction in water consumption. Muslim worshippers’ ritual ablutions consume between 10 and 15 liters of water per day. Every possibility to save water therefore has a great impact on consumption. As mosques play an important role in people’s day-to-day lives.

The initiative has reduced water consumption for the cleansing rituals by roughly 30 percent which is good for the environment and helps cut costs.

“Water saving taps and showers and water saving flush systems are two of the main ways that everyday citizens can contribute to protecting the environment, and sustainability is one of the core values and a top priority in the creation of every GROHE product for bathrooms and from the design to development stages.” says Mohammed Ataya, Vice President of GROHE Egypt, North and West Africa.

Mohammed Ataya adds that “Quality materials, first-class design and advanced engineering all play an important role in saving water. For example, GROHE EcoJoy™ hand showers feature either an integrated flow limiter, or an Eco button or spray dimmer which lets you chooses when to reduce the water flow.”

GROHE agrees strongly with the Earth Day ethos that everyone needs to be empowered with the knowledge and the products to inspire action and protect the environment.

The individual choice to reduce water consumption is only one of the many strategies needed to address the issue of water scarcity but it gives each person a role to play in protecting the planet.

GROHE is the world’s leading provider of sanitary fittings and a global brand, dedicated to providing innovative water products.

For many decades, GROHE has been committed to the brand values of technology, quality, design and sustainability that all illustrate GROHE’s commitment to creating exceptional experiences and to delivering “Pure Freude an Wasser”. With its engineering, innovation and design activities firmly anchored in Germany, GROHE products bear the badge of quality “Made in Germany”, ultimately strengthening the customers’ confidence in the brand. All plants of the GROHE manufacturing network make use of high-precision production engineering to ensure compliance with consistently high GROHE standards. This way GROHE ensures that its products live up to the most uncompromising demands in terms of workmanship and functionality.

Over the past ten years alone, the success of GROHE has been confirmed by more than 240 design and innovation awards as well as several top rankings as one of “Germany’s most sustainable major companies” and the CSR-Award of the German Federal Government 2017. Numerous high-profile projects around the globe are fitted with GROHE products, testifying to architects’, designers’ and developers’ preference for the brand.

GROHE is part of the LIXIL Group Corporation, a publicly listed company on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. LIXIL is the global market leader in the sanitary ware industry, managing a broad portfolio of well-known household brands such as GROHE, American Standard, and INAX. It is also Japan’s leading provider of housing and building materials, products and services.

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World Bank Group Launches New Program to Support Africa’s Top Digital Entrepreneurs
April 22, 2017 | 0 Comments

With support from prominent African investment groups, XL Africa will help the 20 selected start-ups attract early stage capital between $250,000 and $1.5 million

WASHINGTON D.C., United States of America, April 20, 2017/ — The World Bank Group (www.WorldBank.org) launched XL Africa (www.XL-Africa.com), a five-month business acceleration program designed to support the 20 most promising digital start-ups from Sub-Saharan Africa. Start-ups will receive mentoring from global and local experts, learn through a tailor-made curriculum, increase their regional visibility, and get access to potential corporate partners and investors. With support from prominent African investment groups, XL Africa will help the 20 selected start-ups attract early stage capital between $250,000 and $1.5 million.

“Digital start-ups are important drivers of innovation in Africa,” says Makhtar Diop, Vice President for the Africa Region at the World Bank. “To scale and spread new technologies and services beyond borders, they need an integrated ecosystem that provides access to regional markets and global finance; pan-African initiatives like XL Africa play a critical role by linking local start-ups with corporations and investors across the continent.”

The program comes at a time of increasing interest in the African digital sector. According to a recent report by Disrupt Africa, in 2016, the number of tech start-ups that secured funding increased by 16.8% compared to 2015.

“XL Africa aims to put a spotlight on the continent’s growing digital economy by scouting for and supporting the most innovative tech start-ups,” said Klaus Tilmes, Director of the Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice at the World Bank Group. “The success of these ventures will create a demonstration effect that can attract much-needed growth investment in the sector and catalyze scaling of transnational businesses in the region.”

The program’s flagship activity includes a two-week residency in Cape Town, South Africa, where the ventures will have the opportunity to interact with and learn from their mentors, peers, and local partners. The Cape Town residency will conclude with the Venture Showcase, a regional event in which the entrepreneurs will present their business models to a select audience of corporations and investors.

“The program’s unique combination of targeted mentorship and access to investors represents a vital resource for digital ventures ready to grow,” said Lexi Novitske, Principal Investment Officer for Singularity Investments, a venture group based in Lagos, Nigeria. “By connecting innovative business ideas with the knowledge and resources available in the ecosystem, XL Africa will create a pipeline of investment-ready companies, unlocking better investment opportunities for regional and global investors.”

The program will collaborate with prominent African investment groups, including the African Business Angel Network (ABAN), AngelHub Ventures,Goodwell Investments, Knife Capital, Nest Africa, Silvertree Capital, Singularity Investments, South African Business Angel Network (SABAN), TLcom Capital, Zephyr Acorn and 4Di Capital, and corporate partners, such as Orange, .Eco, Ringier, and Thomson Reuters.

Interested companies can apply online on the XL Africa website www.XL-Africa.com by Monday, June 12, 2017.

XL Africa is funded by the governments of Finland, Norway, and Sweden, and administered by the World Bank Group with implementation support from IMC Worldwide, VC4A, and Koltai & Co.

*World Bank

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African Development Bank is delivering for Africa: Adesina
April 22, 2017 | 0 Comments
Adesina

Adesina

Washington, DC,– In an impassioned speech delivered at the Center for Global Development in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, April 19, African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina spoke about Africa’s enormous potential, and the Bank’s ambitious development agenda, which he said was well underway.

The Washington think tank was an apt venue for Adesina to take stock of his first 19 months in office. Two years earlier, on April 16, 2015, the then Nigerian Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development participated in a debate in that same room with other candidates vying for the AfDB Presidency ahead of the Bank’s Presidential elections in May 2015.

“Africa was in the limelight for a very good reason,” Adesina said ahead of a panel discussion on “The Challenge and Logic of Greater Financing for Africa” on the sidelines of the World Bank-IMF Spring Meetings. “The African Development Bank set the leadership tone for all MDBs for the transparency in electing its President through an open and competitive process,” he added, referring to the Bank’s live-tweeting of the election results.

Two years on, Adesina told the packed room that the vision he outlined in his inaugural speech, the five development priorities known as the High 5s, are being rolled out across the continent.

“Our vision for Africa at the Bank is encapsulated in the High 5s: Light up and power Africa; Feed Africa; Industrialize Africa; Integrate Africa; and Improve the quality of life for the people of Africa,” Adesina said, enumerating an impressive list of initiatives the Bank is undertaking.

“We launched the New Deal on Energy for Africa, with a commitment of $12 billion from the Bank over the next five years, with the goal of leveraging $45-50 billion. Our goal is connect 130 million people to the grid, 75 million via off grids and provide some 150 million with clean cooking energy.

“We’ve set up a whole new Vice Presidency just for Power and Energy: the first and only Multilateral Development Bank to do so. Last year, we financed $1.7 billion in the power sector across 19 countries, and will increase this to $2 billion this year, leveraging $5-7 billion. We’ve launched a $500 million Fund for Energy Inclusion with $100 million seed capital, to provide affordable finance for companies investing in renewable energy.

“Just as electricity powers an economy, so does food provide energy for people. Africa’s annual food import bill of $35 billion, estimated to rise to $110 billion by 2025, weakens African economies, decimates its agriculture and exports jobs from the continent,” Adesina said, noting that $35 billion is just about what the continent needs to close its power deficit.

“To rapidly support Africa to diversify its economies, and revive its rural areas, we have prioritized agriculture,” he continued. “The Bank has committed $24 billion towards agriculture in the next 10 years, with a sharp focus on food self-sufficiency and agricultural industrialization. The recent drought and famine facing some countries (South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda) deserve swift action, as 20 million face food insecurity and severe malnutrition. The Bank is taking action and is planning to deploy $1.1 billion, following Board approval, to address the crisis and ensure that drought does not lead to famine.

“We’re taking action to level the playing field for women in Africa. That’s why we launched the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) with the goal of mobilizing $3 billion for women entrepreneurs.

“We’ve taken on the biggest social issue facing Africa today: the high youth unemployment rates. Today, a third of Africa’s 230 million youths (about 20% of the global youth population) are unemployed or discouraged, another 1/3 are in vulnerable employment largely in the informal sector while only 1/6 are in wage employment.”

To tackle that problem, the AfDB has launched the Empowering Novel Agri-Business-Led Employment (ENABLE) Youth initiative for young ‘Agripreneurs’ in several countries, including Nigeria and Sudan. It has also partnered with the European Investment Bank to launch the Boost Africa initiative for young innovative entrepreneurs, and is investing in training for young people in science, technology and math to prepare them for the jobs of the future.

“Our vision for Africa is clear,” said Adesina as he outlining some of the institution’s successes in 2016:

  • 3.3 million Africans benefitted from new electricity connections;
  • 3.7 million Africans benefited from improved access to water and sanitation;
  • 5.7 million Africans benefitted from improvements to agriculture;
  • 9.3 million Africans benefitted from access to better health care services;
  • 7 million Africans benefitted from improved access to transport.

 

“The African Development Bank is delivering for Africa and it has the capacity to deliver more for Africa,” Adesina said. “It now needs substantial financing wind behind its sails. It’s time for speedy financing actions to accelerate Africa’s development.”

Read full Speech here

*AFDB

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Making Africa Great Again: Reducing aid dependency
April 21, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Angelle B. Kwemo*

In the first few months of his presidency, President Donald Trump has aggressively pursued his “America First” agenda. On Monday, March 6, the president outlined his first budget proposal, which largely reflects his bid to “Make America Great Again.” In doing so, he has proposed to increase military spending by around $54 billion while reducing government expenditure in non-defense programs. Although foreign aid only accounts for 1 percent of the federal budget, it will undergo some of the biggest cuts in spending.

As a region, Africa accounts for around 20 percent of U.S. aid, with Egypt, Kenya, and South Sudan being the biggest beneficiaries. Although critics argue that lowered public international spending will adversely affect development projects, this reduction should also be seen as an opportunity for the continent to rise and for the relationship between the U.S. and Africa to evolve.

Africans must identify priorities, define, and implement them—not be reactionary to the politics of the West.

REDUCING FOREIGN ASSISTANCE: A BLESSING OR A CURSE?

 African countries have been recipients of foreign assistance since their independence. It is undeniable that some U.S. development assistance programs, especially the people- and country-centered ones such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the Africa Development Foundation (ADF), have shown lasting results in programs that stimulate local economies and reduce aid dependency (such as sustainable agriculture, youth entrepreneurship, and improved access to power). Despite these successes, many experts argue that the provision of foreign assistance has, at times, developed a culture of dependency in Africa and fostered paternalism—as opposed to partnership—by the U.S. and elsewhere.

Thus, African governments need to take this opportunity to scale up policies that spur democracy, creating the enabling environment to build prosperity in Africa through concrete priorities such as job creation, regional integration, and economic engagement.

PRIORITY NUMBER 1: JOB CREATION

Africa has the youngest population in the world, with 200 million aged between 15 and 24 (doubling by 2045 according to African Development Bank). Given that the continent will have a shortfall of 74 million jobs that need to be created by 2020, governments need to create policies and implementation plans that will allow for a more competitive private sector that favors business growth, job creation, and the stimulation of African economies—such as sound fiscal and monetary policies; good governance, transparency, and strengthened judiciary systems; an improved investment climate, and reduced corruption. In particular, long-term investment in the private sector, the infrastructure and manufacturing industries, and agriculture will address food insecurity and create the necessary employment opportunities for African youth. Boosting incentives to improve the quality of education will also be key to producing a skilled workforce.

PRIORITY NUMBER 2: REGIONAL INTEGRATION

In moving away from a reliance on Western assistance, African governments should seek to improve regional integration initiatives, which are key to sustaining development and encouraging long-term prosperity for the entire region. Increasing intra-African trade will be a key component to accelerating economic growth, as it will increase industry competition, improve productivity, and develop local infrastructure.

Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) will establish free trade among all 54 states on the continent by 2017 (though the region is behind its timeline) and a continental union by 2019. This will be a pivotal moment for development in Africa. The current level of trade between African states is only 12 percent compared to 60 percent for Europe, 40 percent for North America, and 30 percent for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), according to the World Trade Organization (WTO). The CFTA, though, would establish the world’s largest single market and effectively boost trade between African states by 50 percent. When combined with good governance and political stability, intra-Africa trade and deepening market integration will significantly increase economic growth, job creation, employment, poverty reduction, inflow of foreign direct investment, industrial development, and better integration of the continent into the global economy. It will also decrease the continent’s current heavy reliance on the outside world for its growth.

 PRIORITY NUMBER 3: COMMERCIAL ENGAGEMENT AND TRADE 

The future of the African trade regime depends more on what Africa will negotiate and not on what Africa deserves, so leaders must actively seek commercial and trade engagement. The recent Trump administration trade report to Congress clearly reflects that the U.S. will unequivocally protect America first in future trade regimes.

Africa is not a U.S trade competitor, especially when it comes to claims of unfair practices that are costing American jobs. The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) has not stolen American jobs. It has actually created around 120,000 jobs in the U.S., and 350,000 direct and 1 million indirect jobs in Africa. Now, though, some experts speculate that the Trump administration will attempt to make U.S.-Africa trade agreements more reciprocal and envision negotiating bilateral agreements that parallel the Economic Partnership Agreements between African countries and the European Union to give American exports comparative advantages. Morocco already presents an example of a successful free trade agreement with the U.S. According to the International Trade Administration (ITA), average U.S. exports to Morocco have more than tripled since the U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement (FTA): U.S. exports to Morocco increased from $482 million in 2005 to $2.1 billion in 2015. Morocco export goods totaled $977 million in 2013, a 119% increase since 2005.

Angelle Kwemo

Angelle Kwemo

Consequently, Morocco’s ambitious economic reforms positioned the kingdom as a gateway for U.S. companies to African and European markets, becoming the prime destination for foreign direct investment in Africa. Its successful completion the COP22 last year, its return to the African Union, and its massive investment in the continent (the second largest investor after South Africa) will bear even more dividends.

Then again, after U.S. trade negotiations with SACU and Egypt were suspended several years ago, the readiness of African countries to engage in these negotiations remains premature. Nevertheless, it is important that African nations prioritize greater dialogue between members of regional economic communities to implement necessary policies reform and with the U.S. in order to accelerate such reform and increase trade and investment between both continents.

As outgoing Assistant Secretary for Africa Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield emphasized, “The African continent has made enormous democratic and economic progress in recent years and now holds a growing place on the global stage.” African policymakers must work to continue this trend, largely through the promotion of African trade.

THE FUTURE OF U.S.-AFRICA ENGAGEMENT: TRADE, NOT AID?

Though aid to Africa looks like it will get cut, it doesn’t mean that U.S. engagement will too. Trump must continue to engage Africa: The region is of paramount importance because of Western reliance on natural resources, trade, economic opportunities, and long-term security issues. In fact, American engagement in Africa largely serves American interests. For example, creating African jobs is not just important for economic growth; it affects national and global security. In particular, youth unemployment often serves as a powerful recruitment tool for insurgency and terrorist organizations.

Similarly, former President Obama’s Power Africa initiative aiming at addressing the much-needed power poverty in Africa created more jobs in the U.S. because of the opportunities given to U.S. companies. Additionally, the program will save American taxpayers $86 million over five years. The U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), whose budget is also in jeopardy, had increased its energy portfolio for feasibility studies by 800 percent, creating U.S. export avenue for energy companies. Encouraging a mutually beneficial pro-business approach that will create jobs in the U.S. and Africa could be a very successful strategy. Greater private sector engagement will boost local economies and reduce long-term dependency on aid.

Trump continues to pursue policy that he believes would have the greatest return for the American people. In the same way, African leaders should not be dismayed by possible cuts in foreign aid, instead, they should actively seek to create the enabling environment necessary to boost local economies, attract foreign investment, negotiate transfer of technology, encourage private sector growth/competitiveness, and increase regional integration.

Whether the Trump administration slashes the aid budget or not, African governments must come to the realization that the continent’s prosperity is not primarily in the hands of White House officials. Africa holds the keys to its own development. It is our hope that U.S.-African engagement will remain nonpartisan, strong, and continue to make mutually beneficial partnership more palpable. As Mandela said, “It is always impossible until it is done.”

*Source Brookings. Note: This blog reflects the views of the author only and does not reflect the views of the Africa Growth Initiative. Angelle B. Kwemo is managing director for Africa of Washington Media Group, Founder, Believe in Africa, and other author of Against All Odds: How to Stay on Top of the Game.

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AAI Takes Third State of Education Conference To Kenya
April 19, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

AAI CEO Kofi Appenteng

AAI CEO Kofi Appenteng

In furtherance of one of its core missions of building the capacity of Africans through education and training, The Africa-America Institute is hosting the Third State of Education Conference in Nairobi, Kenya. Taking place from May 3-4, the Conference is expected to bring together educators and innovators from around the world to help advance the progress of primary, secondary, tertiary, technical, vocational and post-graduate higher education in Africa.

With a galloping youth population, the AAI seeks through the Conference to elevate and mainstream the conversation on education as a key component of the economic development narrative of Africa. According to information from the AAI website, The State of Education In Africa Conference aims to have a solution-driven conversation with policy-makers, educators, administrators, philanthropists and those interested in capacity building about the challenges and opportunities in education on the African continent

Education is crucial in helping Africa decide its future says Ghanaian-born Kofi Appenteng, who has served as President and CEO of the AAI for the last six months. Interviewed in Washington, DC, recently on his return from a trip to Kenya, Mr. Appenteng said with the rapidly growing youth population, it was important to take regular stock of new approaches to education and training.

Started by his predecessor Aminu Kajunju with the Ford Foundation as leading partner, the conferences have helped to foster greater collaboration between African countries and global partners. Considering the challenging context that African countries find themselves, there are still a number of good stories, said Kofi Appenteng in describing the current state of education of in Africa. While resources may be an issue, Mr. Appenteng sees in the strength and genius of the African youth a reason to be optimistic about the future.

Education is crucial in helping Africa decide its future says Kofi Appenteng

Education is crucial in helping Africa decide its future says Kofi Appenteng

In existence for the last 63 years, makingAAI Alumni are found in virtually every part of Africa, including two sitting Presidents in Hage Geingob of Namibia and Alassane Ouattara of Ivory Coast. The AAI stays in close touch with its Alumni and is proud of their efforts to make an impact on their communities, said Kofi Appenteng.

On the future of U S-African ties under the Trump Administration, Mr Appenteng said it was too early say. There is no expectation that it is any one government policy that will change the fortunes of Africa, he said, citing fresh perspectives from other private sector actors, and NGO’s in creating new opportunities for Africa.

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Merkel’s ‘man in Africa’ downbeat on prospects for Africa-EU summit
April 15, 2017 | 0 Comments

Günther Nooke, speaking at the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung event in Brussels yesterday. [Matthew Tempest]

Günther Nooke, speaking at the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung event in Brussels yesterday. [Matthew Tempest]

Gunther Nooke, Angela Merkel’s representative to Africa, offered a gloomy prognosis of November’s Africa-EU summit in Abidjan on Tuesday (11 April), saying trade between the continents was “almost irrelevant” and that the African Union required major “institutional reform”.

The summit comes against a backdrop of a slew of measures, such as the German Marshall Plan for Africa, the EU’s new Migration Compacts, and Emergency Trust Funds for Africa, the Sustainable Development Goals and the EU’s New Consensus on Development – all seen as kick-starting a fresh dynamic between the world’s poorest continent and Europe.

But Nooke – who is Commissioner for Africa at the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development – painted a much gloomier picture at a Brussels event hosted by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.

His criticisms will be all the more stinging as Germany will this summer host the G20 summit in Hamburg, explicitly devoted to a focus on Africa.

The seminar on the upcoming Africa-EU summit heard that many African governments are ‘ill-performing.’ [Matthew Tempest]

Nooke warned an audience of around 100 aid experts that “every malnourished child [in Africa] is a complaint against an African government”, adding in an implied threat that “those willing to take up this challenge will get support.”

He said that, while he agreed with the German chancellor that “the well-being of Africa is in Europe’s interests”, “that does not mean we carry the whole responsibility.

“We find that many African governments do not perform well.”

He warned that with the African population set to double by 2050 “we need a paradigm shift to deal this.

“African government structure will have to improve dramatically for this to be sustainable.”
Africa’s population set to double by 2050, says new report

Africa’s population will double by 2050, according to a new report from the Population Reference Bureau (PRB) in Washington – posing serious questions about the sustainabililty of the world’s poorest continent.

And he lambasted the current Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) between the EU and African states, saying “they are no success story, neither for Africa nor for Europe”.

Nooke said that he agreed with the general sentiment that the EPAs “are not an agreement, and it’s not a partnership”.

And he said the current state of trade between Africa and the EU was “almost irrelevant”, beyond natural resources such as cocoa and coffee beans, “and some diamond-cutting in Botswana.”

The African economy as a whole was “very, very, very weak”, he warned, and that there was “no energy infrastructure for renewables” in place.

African ‘Union’

Moving on to the political outlook, Nooke said he agreed with Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s recent report on the state of the African Union, which found it “dysfunctional” and “facing another decade of lost opportunity.”

The African Union “needs institutional reform” because the challenges are huge, Nooke warned.

Whilst the African Union, based in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, has a new set of commissioners, welcomed by all the panel, currently, negotiations on a post-Cotonou trade agreement between the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) state and the EU are mired in delays. The Cotonou Agreement is due to run out in 2020.

EU welcomes Morocco rejoining African Union

The European Union has welcomed a decision by African Union to readmit Morocco after 33 years of absence.

But Nooke also had stern words for Brussels, saying that while the EU had “great experience in regional Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and customs unions, it could share that experience [with the African Union] but Directorate General Trade here in Brussels has to change.”

He did not specify what those changes would be.

Cracks appear in EU-ACP unity at Cotonou meeting in Dakar

Dissent was heard at the high-level meeting in Dakar last week of the EU and the 79-member states of the African, Caribbean and Pacific group.

Nooke made it clear that as far as Germany was concerned, for any Africa-EU summit to work, it “needed north Africa on board”, a reference to the ongoing civil war in Libya, and the military dictatorship in Egypt.

Africa is currently struggling with a drought on the brink of famine in South Sudan, Somalia and northern Nigeria, plus troubled or fragile democratic transitions in Gambia, Gabon, DR Congo and the Central African Republic.

The African Union Ambassador to the EU, Ajay Bramdeo, said that while the German Marshall Plan for Africa was “interesting”, it should have been drafted as a plan “with Africa”, rather than “for Africa.”

He was supported by the audience, where the Zimbabwean ambassador to the EU queried whether there had been “any African involvement” in the German Marshall Plan.

*EURACTIV.com

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Africa telecom and finance leaders assess accelerating digital investment opportunities
April 15, 2017 | 0 Comments

Telecom and tech companies are increasing investment across Africa as the rapidly improving digital infrastructure and services, and the take up of smartphones, provide huge opportunities for business and revenue growth.

LONDON, United Kingdom, April 7, 2017/ — Leaders from Africa’s biggest telecom investment companies including MTN, Orange, Helios Towers, American Tower, Eaton Towers, Google, Microsoft, Liquid Telecom and SEACOM are meeting with investment bankers, investors and advisers in London on May 24 to discuss accelerating new investment opportunities in digital communications and infrastructure.

Telecom and tech companies are increasing investment across Africa as the rapidly improving digital infrastructure and services, and the take up of smartphones, provide huge opportunities for business and revenue growth.

“Telecom and tech companies are ramping up their investment plans for digital infrastructure and services across Africa as reach of service and demand is soaring,” commented an investment banker focused on Africa. “On the infrastructure side, operators are investing in spectrum, especially in the 700MHz band, as well as on strengthening their networks by migrating from 3G to 4G LTE-based services. Mobile tower operators are also investing heavily while submarine and terrestrial cable providers have been increasing the available backbone infrastructure.”

“Improving broadband speeds and access is also having a big impact on both business to business and consumer focused opportunities. Datacentre investment appetite is growing and Smartphone take-up is supporting the growth in m-commerce, m-money and m-banking services which presents a massive opportunity for vendors and application providers.”

Over 200 senior telecom, media and tech executives, including many industry CEOs, investment bankers and advisers will meet at TMT Finance Africa 2017  at the Hilton Hotel Tower Bridge in London on May 24 to discuss the new investment and partnership opportunities.

The executive only event, which is in its eight year in London, features over 70 speakers and 25 sessions on telecom, media and tech investment and partnership opportunities for Africa.

Participating companies include: MTN Group, Orange, Liquid Telecom, Eaton Towers, American Tower Corporation, Jumia Food, SEACOM, Savannah Fund, Fibersat, PayStack, Sliide Airtime, Connect Africa, Rack Centre, Citi, Helios Towers Africa, Standard Bank Group, Atlas Mara Ltd, Draper Dark Flow, Google, Microsoft, Ringier Africa, Norton Rose Fullbright, WorldRemit, IFC, Amadeus Capital Partners, WIOCC, Societe Generale Chanzo Capital, Africa Mobile Networks, African Broadcast Network, Intelsat, Digital World Capital, MainOne Cable, M-KOPA Solar, Flexenclosure, Hardiman Telecom and African Capital Alliance.

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Former U.S. president Bush touts signature Africa AIDS program in Botswana
April 5, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Ed Stoddard *

Former US President George W. Bush greets children at a school in Gaborone, Botswana, April 4, 2017.  REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Former US President George W. Bush greets children at a school in Gaborone, Botswana, April 4, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Former U.S. President George W. Bush touted his signature aid project for Africa during a visit to Botswana on Tuesday, saying he hoped Washington would recognize its importance in saving lives threatened by AIDS.

Launched in 2003 during the first Bush administration, PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, is the world’s largest provider of AIDS-fighting medicine and has branched out over the years to include provision of services for cervical cancer, which is linked to HIV infections in women.

U.S. President Donald Trump has proposed steep cuts in the budget for diplomacy and foreign aid but his administration has so far said it will “maintain current commitments and all current patient levels on HIV/AIDS treatment” under PEPFAR.

Bush, visiting a clinic with his wife Laura that provides screening and treatment for cervical cancer, said he hoped such commitments would remain.

Former US President George W. Bush greets children at a school in Gaborone, Botswana, April 4, 2017.  REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Former US President George W. Bush greets children at a school in Gaborone, Botswana, April 4, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

“I hope our government when they analyze what works around the world will understand that PEPFAR has saved over 11 million lives,” he said.

 “And while progress has been made we’ve got to continue to stay in this battle in order to save lives. Every human life matters. And I hope the people of America understand that through their generosity millions now live.”

Bush said cervical cancer was now the leading cause of death among women in Botswana, a sparsely-populated southern African nation where one in five adults is infected with HIV, according to the United Nations.

Former US President George W. Bush poses for a photograph with children at a school in Gaborone, Botswana, April 4, 2017.  REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Former US President George W. Bush poses for a photograph with children at a school in Gaborone, Botswana, April 4, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Bush, a Republican, had historically low popularity ratings – about 33 percent – when he left office.

But the Obama ministration maintained PEPFAR and the program enjoys bipartisan support – a rarity in Washington’s polarized atmosphere.

Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, an initiative of the George W. Bush Institute, works with PEPFAR on programs to reduce mortality rates among women from cervical and breast cancer in developing countries.

*Reuters

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South Africa’s maize output seen rising 84 percent in 2017
March 25, 2017 | 0 Comments
A maize field is seen below electricity pylons in Mpumalanga province, north of Johannesburg, March 1, 2016. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

A maize field is seen below electricity pylons in Mpumalanga province, north of Johannesburg, March 1, 2016. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African farmers are expected to harvest 84 percent more maize this season compared with last season as yields were boosted by increased rains, a Reuters survey of five traders and market analysts showed on Friday.

The government’s Crop Estimates Committee (CEC), which will provide its second production forecast for the 2017 crop on Tuesday, is seen pegging the harvest at 14.35 million tonnes compared with 7.78 million tonnes last year.

The range was 14 million to 15.19 million hectares. The poll is 3 percent higher than the CEC’s last forecast of 13.918 million hectares following improved weather conditions brought by a La Nina weather system that is usually associated with wetter and cooler weather.

“Perfect growing weather in February is the big reason for the increase,” said one trader.

Improved weather conditions, since an El Nino induced drought which saw the driest year on record in 2015 and low maize yields, has lowered prices and helped improve the inflation outlook.

The white maize contract ending in May fell to more than a two and a half year low on Friday after it closed 5.49 percent down to 1,722 rand.

*Reuters

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