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“Do Not Ignore Africa” – President Akufo-Addo Appeals To US Governors
February 26, 2018 | 0 Comments

The President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has urged Governors of the United States of America not to ignore Africa, stating his belief that “this can be Africa’s century”.

According to President Akufo-Addo, growth in Africa, in 2015 was second only to that of Asia, adding that six of the world’s ten fastest growing economies, this year, are in Africa.

“We are rich in natural resources, and in possession of nearly 30 percent of the earth’s remaining mineral resources. We have a vibrant young population, and, though we still have important security challenges, we are more at peace than before,” he said.

The President noted that with the historic decision of the African Union to bring into being, on 21st March, 2018, the Continental Free Trade Area, the agenda of regional integration, which will establish a market of some 2 billion people in 20 years, presents immense opportunities to bring prosperity to Africa with hard work, enterprise and creativity.

“This is the time to look at Africa”, he added.

President Akufo-Addo made this known when he delivered the keynote address at the National Governors Association 2018 Winter Meeting, in Washington DC, United States of America, on Sunday, 25th February, 2018.

Whilst acknowledging the disheartening spectre of African youths crossing the Sahara desert on foot and drown in the Mediterranean Sea, in a desperate bid to reach the mirage of a better life in Europe, President Akufo-Addo explained that the current structure of African economies, which are dependent on the production and export of raw materials, cannot create prosperity.

“These economies cannot produce wealth and prosperity for the masses on the continent. It, therefore, drives the determination to seek a much better standard of living out of Africa, thereby, fuelling the refugee crises and the numerous counts of illegal migrations,” he said.

The large wave of migrations into the United States from Ireland and Italy, in the 19th century, the President added, has completely subsided because the economies of the two countries are working properly.

It is for this reason that President Akufo-Addo stated that “the only way to ensuring prosperity in Africa and jobs for our young populations is through value addition activities, in a transformed and diversified, modern economy, in which we take full advantage of the digital revolution.”

He continued, “In other words, the industrial development of our continent, and we are determined to ensure the realisation of this, so that our young people can stay and devote their great energies to the building of a great Africa.”

The President was confident that it is only Asians who can engineer, in a generation, their transition from poverty to prosperity.

“We are determined to do that in our generation in Ghana, on the continent, and ensure that succeeding generations will be neither victims nor pawns of the global order,” he added.

This, the President indicated, will serve as the impetus for re-shaping the continent and charting a new path of growth and development in freedom, which will lift the long suffering African masses out of poverty into the realms of prosperity and dignified existence.

*Presidency Ghana

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Entrepreneurship is not a choice but a MUST for all Africans-Badou Kane
February 24, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

All Africans have to learn how to become entrepreneurs’ whether you went to school or not says Badou Kane

All Africans have to learn how to become entrepreneurs’ whether you went to school or not says Badou Kane

When dreams for a career in basketball were scuttled by injurious, Badou Kane found a calling in entrepreneurship, mentoring and empowering the next generation of African Youth. From his base in Senegal, Badou Kane  is using a variety of programs, and initiatives to instill positive values, and hope in the African youth on how to turn adversity into opportunity. Pained by the travails of those who risk it all to leave Africa in quest of greener pastures; Badou is taking  on the onerous task of helping young Africans to understand that with their potential, it is possible to make it big in Africa. Entrepreneurship is not a choice, but a must for all Africans, says Badou in an  exclusive interview with PAV to shed light on his vision and projects.

Badou Kane is one of the most inspiring entrepreneurs in Africa, let’s start this interview by paraphrasing a quote we got from a talk you gave at the Cheick Anta Diop University in Senegal in July of 2014, having a positive impact on others is how Africans in all walks of life should measure leadership, in 2018, how much of this are you seeing in the continent? 

I would say not much… numbers don’t lie. The fact that we have over 500 million Africans living under $1.50 a day shows that there isn’t enough sharing among us. Two things are to be shared knowledge and money in order to have a positive impact on others.

You equally said Africa is the richest continent with the poorest with the poorest people, not because not because we are poor but because we are poor in minds, in this age and time, what needs to be done to change this mindset? 

Wow! A good question with many solutions I will quote a few:

Let s start by stopping lies and getting rid of our complexes of inferiority and superiority. As long as you are on the right path do not worry about what people think of you or what you do. Then:

  1. We have to regain the control of our education. Our curriculum should be written by Africans that understand the realities of the continent.
  2. All Africans have to learn how to become entrepreneurs’ whether you went to school or not, whether you went far into your schooling or not. Entrepreneurship is not a choice but a MUST for all Africans.
  3. We have to all learn how to go from nothing to something. At least be able to earn 4 dollars a day.
  4. Every one of us has a hidden treasure but to find it we have to be willing to sweat cry and bleed. Through a strong will, endurance, and perseverance we will find our hidden treasures
  5. We have to all start some type of a business (small, medium. or big). Do not be afraid to start small. If you don t know how to go from nothing contact me I will show you how.
  6. Last but not least once you achieve success NEVER FORGET WHERE YOU COME FROM and share part of the knowledge and money you earned by teaching others your path to success. Find honest hard working people and show them the way to success that you know.

From your entrepreneurship and the mentorship that you have done, what difference have you succeeded in making, what are some of the positive stories that you can share with us? 

Another good question. We have thousands of stories to tell. As a matter of fact we are preparing a book. You will already find lots of the testimonies on my social media pages. We have created multi-millionaires in CFA. We have kept people out of jails. We have saved families that were struggling to eat one decent meal a day today they are eating at least 2 meals a day. We have prevented people from risking their lives and dying at sea or in the desert through illegal migration (a major problem in Africa). I can go on; we have changed or impacted thousands and thousands of lives in Africa.  We have saved relationships between fathers and sons, prevented people from blaming governments and environments in general. Some of the people we trained built houses for their mothers. Let me just say that thanks to the Almighty we have done a lot through our training centers, our conferences in schools and different institutions, our interventions on TV s and radios.

You literally grew up in America; you made it there, what motivated you to move back to Senegal and any regrets? 

You know that old saying: “there is no place like home”. I had a mother and father that gave a lot to Africa their names were Madeleine Sidibe and Bocar Kane. I wanted to follow on their footsteps. I remember one day we were having lunch at the house; a neighbor walked in and said that he did not have something to feed his family and my mom asked us to stop eating. We were all eating in a big bowl; she took it poured more foods in it and gave it to the man to take to his house. Then she told us to eat ” shaï” (bread and butter + hot tea) I always wanted to help develop a larger middle class in Africa. I love the fact that I was given a chance to be able to change lives and I have zero regrets.

At a time when many young people are risking life crossing the Sahara, ending up as slaves in Libya, dying in overloaded boats that sink in the Mediterranean, just to get to Europe, how challenging is it to make  a convincing case to them that in Africa, they can still make it and make it big? 

It’s very challenging but with a very good argument they will stay. They just want better alternatives and concrete solutions. The youth of Africa has lost the last piece of hope that they had left in them. They have been betrayed by their respective country leaders. But today we give them hope again by showing them that yes it is possible to make it here in Africa. Once upon a time the Italians and the Irish were fleeing to America; today they are proud to stay in their countries. I have faith that one day the Almighty will give us the leaders that will finally save the Africans. And our people will stay. It’s always been about Africa but not about the Africans but I can feel in the air that it is about to be about the Africans themselves as they will gain a better hold of their environment.

And on the flipside, when you look at the economic and political realities of the continent, the corruption, the leaders in power for over three decades, do you actually fault them and some may even say oh if Badou Kane did not have the opportunities he had out of Senegal, he may not be as successful as he is ,what is your take on this? 

Of course our leaders are to be blamed for some of it but not all. A bad head of state can’t stop a Badou Kane from washing cars to feed his family for example. We cannot spend the next 5 decades pointing the finger at them as it is a waste of time. Let us focus on ourselves on how we can do it ourselves. It is possible as I am showing the people in Senegal. Senegal gave me a peaceful environment, and people willing to do it themselves but as far as the rest is concerned we snatch what we want through discipline and hard work. We create opportunities NOTHING is handed to us.

Could you shed more ore light on your company LXG International Inc and your other programs that are used in helping to the build the next generation of entrepreneurs in Senegal, a young Senegalese told us that within five years you have turned atleast ten young Senegalese into millionaires, is this true and if so how have you done this? 

The major program is called Risk Innovation Social Entrepreneurship. I started it in Senegal on December 12 2012 to fight unemployment and poverty in Africa. I don t believe in poverty in Africa and we have the solution. Every African should be at least able to cover his basic needs of having a place to live, food to eat, a decent education, and the capability to pay for basic medical bills.

The RISE program is an entrepreneurship and leadership program that teaches any individual how to go from nothing to something. It’s a very tough program and at the end of it the best candidates receive an investment of 4 to 18 thousand dollars. Directly linked to me, 6 have made millions the rest are on the way. Indirectly, meaning those that were trained by us but went on their own, quite a few.

Since 2012 we have trained thousands and thousands of people, hundreds have started their own small businesses and we have invested in at least 15.

Another program is called DSB which stands for ” Demal Suñu Bopp” meaning it lets  do it ourselves. It is an economic movement that I created again to fight unemployment and poverty. It is a continuation of RISE, to help us raise awareness with a broader audience to teach them the same thing: how to go from nothing to something. The motto of the movement is “get richer to serve more”. There are thousands of members throughout Senegal with one thing in common, they are doing it themselves, and all we provide is the coaching through a system that allows them to get it done without the help of the government, or any form of entity.

What criteria are used in selecting those who benefit from your knowledge and resources and how has the government of Senegal viewed or supported these initiatives? 

The criteria are quite simple: discipline, a good heart, a willingness to learn and get better, and a capacity to grasp our teachings. The government has supported me by letting me do what I do without bothering me. I couldn’t t tell you what their views are.

One of the latest initiatives you are floating now is an entrepreneurship competition or program with the concept of people starting and growing a business with $3.50, can you shed more light on this? 

We have 500 Million people living under $1.50 a day. To fight this and the illegal migration that you mentioned earlier we launched this challenge. The candidates have to start a business with $3.50 or less and a month later they will have to show their financial results and immediate social impact. There will be 3 rounds. The winner will take home about 2000 dollars and there will also be a special prize for the best female entrepreneur. The objective is to spread the fact it is possible to start with little or no money, and to help people understand that they can do it themselves.

Is this new initiative going to be limited just to Senegal or there are plans to expand the concept to other parts of the continent? 

It is opened to all Africans. They can participate in Senegal.  And anybody in any given country can run with the concept and we will assist him or her.

Africa has a very strong diaspora, how can this diaspora be turned into a solid force that can participate in a more significant and impactful  way in transforming the continent ? 

Our leaders have to create a healthy secure welcoming environment that will make them want to come back. In the meantime the diaspora cannot wait for our leaders. They have to at least share their experiences with the people that did not have a chance to leave the continent. For example they can try to at least share their knowledge with someone on the continent. Nowadays through social media “everyone far is close”. We need everyone in order to get this ship moving. Remember there are always two things to share knowledge and money.

You are also author of the book Fortress of a Leader, what is the message that you see to convey with the book? 

Some characters that one might need to become a leader. It is more like a handy pocket guide to leadership.

A last question on how you view the future for young Africans and the continent as a whole, what are your hopes and fears? 

Hopes: a new generation of very strong leaders with new foundations are on the RISE.

My fears are that our youth gets consumed by sports music dance or politics thinking that those are the only ways to make it in Africa.

Thanks for granting this interview Badou

Thanks for having me. Stay blessed Ajong.

 

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Africa’s little miracle nation turns fifty
February 23, 2018 | 0 Comments

From apparently hopeless beginnings, Mauritius has become one of Africa’s most celebrated countries. But tough challenges are on the horizon.

BY SEÁN CAREY*

Mauritius. Credit: Miwok.

Mauritius. Credit: Miwok.

The story of how Mauritius defied the gloomy predictions of its fate is well told. A few years before independence in 1968, Nobel-prize-winning economist James Meade wrote the little island in the Indian Ocean off as a basket case. A few years after independence, writer V. S. Naipaul dismissed the nation as an “overcrowded barracoon”.

Yet Mauritius proved them wrong and went on to become one of Africa’s most lauded nations. It regularly tops indices for political freedoms, rule of law and human development on the continent. It has had ten competitive elections and seven peaceful transfers of power. And it is frequently held up as an exemplar of political stability and cohesion, containing within it several ethnic groups – including Hindus, Muslims, Afro-Creoles, and Sino- and Franco-Mauritius – all living together in relative harmony.

In 2011, the island’s various successes even led Joseph Stiglitz to wax lyrical about what he called “The Mauritius Miracle“. The Nobel laureate called on the US and other advanced economies to emulate the country and learn from its approach to free education, healthcare and strong social security net.

As it prepares to turn 50 years old on 12 March, the current government is understandably keen to build on this reputation and legacy. Among other things, the ruling coalition, led by the 56-year-old Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth, has said it wants Mauritius to go from being an upper-middle-income country to a high-income one in the coming years.

As a plucky outsider that has always exceeded expectation, this may seem like a viable goal for the island. However, as it settles into its fifth decade of independence, Mauritius may find that it has to come up with some new ways of thinking if it is to continue to develop – both economically and politically – rather than stumble into a mid-life crisis.

Betting on blue

Economically, Mauritius’ growth over the last five years has been in the range of a modest 3-4%. The Bank of Mauritius has forecast growth of 4.2% for 2018. This would be enviable for many countries, but is a significant slowdown compared to the heady years of 1980s and 1990s when the economy expanded mostly on the back of the sugar industry, tourism, textiles and financial services.

The big hope of the current government is that a similar boost could now come from the ocean economy. The idea is that activities such as fishing, the extraction of hydrocarbons and minerals, marine biotechnology, and the generation of renewable energy will supercharge GDP for years to come.

So far the most significant development on this front has come from fish farming, with some products now being exported to Europe and the US. Overall, however, it is evident that significant financial and technical expertise from overseas will be required if other more capital-intensive businesses are going to take off. As a 2017 World Bank report warned, doubling Mauritius’ ocean economy “is possible and worthwhile, but it will take time”.

In trying to attract foreign direct investment, Mauritius certainly has an advantage in the fact that global institutions have long heaped praise on the island for its stable governance, democratic norms and openness to business. It also has the benefit of having a reputation for having shown vision and flexibility to new economic challenges in the past. As the Bertelsmann Stiftungs’ Transformation Index (BTI) 2018 country report puts it: “Mauritius’ governments have shown their creativity in the past at adapting to new geopolitical and geo-economic circumstances”.

Mauritius’ dynastic politics

Socially, Mauritius has been praised for how its several different ethnic groups co-exist cooperatively. One dynamic contributing to this stability may be the fact that the island has no indigenous population, meaning no single group has any greater claim to the island than any other. Another factor that may add to good relations is the high population density; 1.3 million citizens squeezed onto 2,040 square km enhances the need for cordial interchanges.

However, a third important factor is the unspoken division of political power. For example, Franco- and Sino-Mauritians do not seek political office by and large, leaving the field open to aspiring Hindus, Muslims and Afro-Creoles.

This avoids certain tensions and rivalry, though it has also contributed to the fact that Mauritius’ political system has always been dominated by middle-class men from the Hindu community, a group that makes up just over half the population. In fact, despite having enjoyed seven transfers of power, the very top of Mauritius’ politics has been even more exclusive. For 48 of the past 50 years, the country has been led by either Seewoosagur Ramgoolam or Anerood Jugnauth, or more recently by their respective sons Navin and Pravind.

Although this has occurred against a backdrop of impressive democratic engagement and vibrancy, there are signs the Mauritian people are getting tired after half a century in which the premiership has been almost completely controlled by just two families. In January 2017, Anerood Jugnauth passed power to his son without the say-so of the electorate. Knowing how much this move contributed to its unpopularity and deepened its reputation for corruption and cronyism, the main party in the ruling coalition, the Mouvement Socialiste Militant (MSM), decided to avoid contesting a recent by-election.

The Chagos question

Whatever their political differences, there is one cause that currently unites all mainstream Mauritian politicians: the Chagos islands.

This archipelago had been an integral part of Mauritian territory since 1814. But a few years before Mauritius gained independence from the UK, the islands were carved off to become the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). The UK lent the archipelago’s largest island, Diego Garcia, to the US to use as a strategic military base. In the process, around 1,500 islanders were forcibly removed and abandoned in Port Louis, the Mauritian capital, and, to a lesser extent, the Seychelles.

Without questioning the continued operation of the US base, Mauritian policy in recent years has been to dispute the UK’s claim to BIOT and its appalling treatment of the exiled islanders. A Mauritian resolution at the UN to seek an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the Chagos’ sovereignty was passed in June 2017 by 94 to 15. Interestingly, most European countries – including France, Germany and Italy – as well as China abstained, despite considerable pressure from the UK and US. The Court in The Hague is due to give its verdict later this year or in 2019.

New challenges

As the Chagos issue, together with the country’s economic progress and resilience illustrates, Mauritius has come a long way in establishing its independence. However, the Jugnauth father-to-son transfer of power last year along with the alleged involvement of political elites in corruption and drug scandals casts a shadow on the country’s positive prospects.

Among other things, it clearly shows the increasingly urgent need for Mauritius reconfigure its political leadership. As the forthcoming BTI report 2018 puts it: “New and younger politicians, not strongly affiliated with the ruling elite, can help to further the country’s image as a post-colonial success story, which is highly likely to continue.”

As Mauritius reaches the 50th anniversary of its independence, Meade’s and Naipaul’s predictions have been proved decisively wrong. However, building on this and becoming a high-income country may be more challenging than the current government is prepared to admit.

*Culled from African Arguments.Seán Carey is honorary senior research fellow in the School of Social Sciences, University of Manchester and fellow of the Young Foundation.

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Adesina Urges America to Support African Agriculture as a Business
February 23, 2018 | 0 Comments
I do not seek aid for Africa. I seek investments in Africa – Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank
Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank and Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Agriculture

Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank and Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Agriculture

ARLINGTON, United States of America, February 22, 2018/ — The President of the African Development Bank (www.AfDB.org), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina has made a strong case for increased American and global investments to help unlock Africa’s agriculture potential.

He made the remarks as the Distinguished Guest Speaker, at the USDA’s 94th Agriculture Outlook Forum (www.USDA.gov/oce/forum) in Virginia on Thursday, on the theme The Roots of Prosperity.

According to Adesina, “For too long, Agriculture has been associated with what I call the three Ps – pain, penury, and poverty. The fact though is that agriculture is a huge wealth-creating sector that is primed to unleash new economic opportunities that will lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.”

Participants at the Forum included the Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue; Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Stephen Censky; President of the World Food Prize Foundation, Kenneth Quinn; Chief Economist of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Robert Johansson; Deputy Chief Economist, Warren Preston; and several top level government officials and private sector operators.

Adesina appealed to the US private sector to fundamentally change the way it views African agriculture.

“Think about it, the size of the food and agriculture market in Africa will rise to US $ 1 trillion by 2030. This is the time for US agri-businesses to invest in Africa,” he said. ‘’And for good reason: Think of a continent where McKinsey projects household consumption is expected to reach nearly $2.1 trillion and business-to-business expenditure will reach $3.5 trillion by 2025. Think of a continent brimming with 840 million youth, the youngest population in the world, by 2050.”

The U.S. government was urged to be at the forefront of efforts to encourage fertilizer and seed companies, manufacturers of tractors and equipment, irrigation and ICT farm analytics to ramp up their investments on the continent.

“As the nation that first inspired me and then welcomed me with open arms, permit me to say that I am here to seek a partnership with America: a genuine partnership to help transform agriculture in Africa, and by so doing unlock the full potential of agriculture in Africa, unleash the creation of wealth that will lift millions out of poverty in Africa, while creating wealth and jobs back home right here in America,” the 2017 World Food Prize Laureate  told the Forum.”

Adesina told more than 2,000 delegates that the African Development Bank is spearheading a number of transformative business and agricultural initiatives.

“We are launching the Africa Investment Forum, as a 100% transactional platform, to leverage global pension funds and other institutional investors to invest in Africa in Johannesburg, South Africa from November 7-9.”

The World Bank, International Finance Corporation, the Inter-American Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Islamic Development Bank, are partnering with the African Investment Forum to de-risk private sector investments.

The African Development Bank is also pioneering the establishment of Staple Crop Processing Zones  in 10 African countries, that are expected to transform rural economies into zones of economic prosperity and save African economies billions of dollars in much needed foreign reserves.

“We must now turn the rural areas from zones of economic misery to zones of economic prosperity. This requires a total transformation of the agriculture sector. At the core of this must be rapid agricultural industrialization. We must not just focus on primary production but on the development of agricultural value chains,” Adesina added. “That way, Africa will turn from being at the bottom to the top of global value chains.”

In his keynote address U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, said:

“The U.S. Administration has removed more restrictive regulations to agriculture than any other administration. Our goal is to dismantle restrictions that have eroded agricultural business opportunities.”

“Agriculture feeds prosperity and accounts for 20 cents of every dollar. As global prosperity grows, it in turn fuels the demand for more nutritious food and business opportunities,” he added.

In his concluding remarks, Adesina informed participants about a new $ 1 billion initiative, Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) to unlock Africa’s huge potential in the savannahs.

Expressing strong optimism that the future millionaires and billionaires of Africa will come from agriculture, Adesina said:

“Together, let our roots of prosperity grow downwards and bear fruit upwards. As we do, rural Africa and rural America will brim with new life, much like I witnessed in Indiana, during my time as a graduate student in America. Then, we will have changed the 3 ‘Ps’ to – Prosperity, Prosperity and Prosperity!”

The African Development Bank Group (AfDB) (www.AfDB.org) is Africa’s premier development finance institution. It comprises three distinct entities: the African Development Bank (AfDB), the African Development Fund (ADF) and the Nigeria Trust Fund (NTF). On the ground in 44 African countries with an external office in Japan, the AfDB contributes to the economic development and the social progress of its 54 regional member states.

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ACBF appointed African Union specialised agency for capacity development
February 23, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission with African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) management after ceremony in Harare

Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission with African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) management after ceremony in Harare

The African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) has been appointed as a specialised agency for capacity development by the African Union (AU) at a ceremony endorsed by Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of
the African Union Commission in Harare.

Under the new framework, capacity development activities ACBF is going to undertake under will include enhancing skills required to achieve sustainable development,strengthening the human and institutional capacity of national and regional institutions,promoting economic and social transformation through policy formulation,implementation, monitoring and evaluation focusing on Africa’s developmental agenda and generating and sharing knowledge on capacity development.

It is reported that the African Union Commission shall, subject to its applicable internal procedures facilitate effective collaboration with ACBF Agency through the commission and other relevant organs of the Union, collaborate with the ACBF Agency in joint resource mobilization initiatives for the financing of
capacity building interventions in the continent and facilitate the ACBF Agency role in coordinating capacity building initiatives on the African continent.

The ACBF agency shall also create a consultative forum in which Africans may participate as full partners in the establishment of priorities and the development of policies and programs to promote capacity building in policy analysis and development management, establish processes for coordinating capacity building efforts in
policy formulation and implementation that would lead to greater efficiency and effectiveness of
ongoing donor efforts, coordinate resource mobilization to provide funding and resources for capacity building in Africa, lead, coordinate and champion production of fit-for-purpose, high-quality, and timely capacity development knowledge in support of the implementation of Africa’s development priorities, coordinate
knowledge connection (government, private sector and academia), facilitation and sharing to improve development practices, coordinate capacity development advisory services and training at continental, regional and country levels to translate capacity development knowledge and learning into relevant and innovative methods and
practices, support the emergence of a knowledge-based economy to sustain development results
in Africa, publish and disseminate information related to capacity building and capacity
utilization in Africa, collaborate with national, bilateral or multilateral institutions carrying out specific capacity building and capacity utilization activities in Africa.

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The politics of fear is dying out in Africa
February 23, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Netsanet Belay*

FROM LEFT: President Uhuru Kenyata, former President Jacob Zuma and former Prime Minister Hailemariam

FROM LEFT: President Uhuru Kenyata, former President Jacob Zuma and former Prime Minister Hailemariam

Lenin was once quoted as saying, “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.” This could perfectly describe the past week in Africa. Across the continent, a number of game-changing political developments have followed each other in quick succession in one of the most tumultuous weeks of any decade.

In South Africa, Jacob Zuma resigned after a presidency marked by corruption and impunity. Shortly after, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn stood down following months of intensifying public protest. In the same week, Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe’s long-standing opposition leader, passed away after a lifetime spent challenging human rights violations under former President Robert Mugabe.
The pace of these successive changes has been significant, but the ground has been stirring for some time. Last year Africa bid farewell to its three longest-serving leaders: Yahya Jammeh of Gambia (22 years), José Eduardo dos Santos of Angola (38 years) and Zimbabwe’s Mugabe (37 years) — all leaders of governments known for their brutal repression of dissent.
Given the scale and long history of the repression enacted by these governments, many thought they would not live to see their end. In Gambia, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia, recent developments were unthinkable — until they happened.
Who could have imagined that the gates of Ethiopia’s notorious prisons would open so widely, allowing thousands of prisoners of conscience to walk free? That Eskinder Nega, the courageous journalist who spent seven years behind bars for criticizing the government, would finally be reunited with his family?
Who in Gambia would have believed that Ousainou Darboe and Amadou Sanneh, two former Amnesty International prisoners of conscience who spent years in jail for speaking out against repression, would be ministers in the new government?
Who would have dared to question the reign of dos Santos and see his family lose its grip over Angola’s oil industry and wealth?
The growing resilience of people standing up against repression and demanding respect for human rights is a cause for hope in uncertain times. It suggests the politics of fear may finally be withering away.
Since 2016, mass protests and people’s movements — often articulated and organized through social media — have swept the continent.
#Oromoprotests and #amaharaprotests in Ethiopia, #ThisFlag in Zimbabwe and #FeesMustFall in South Africa were some of the most powerful manifestations of this growing defiance. These protests were often spontaneous, viral and driven by ordinary citizens, in particular young people who bear the triple burden of unemployment, poverty and inequality.
This trend continued in 2017. From Lomé to Freetown, Khartoum to Kampala and Kinshasa to Luanda, people went out to the streets in large numbers, ignoring threats and bans on protests and refusing to back down even in the face of brutal clampdowns.
The triggers for these protests vary. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, it was delays in publishing the electoral calendar that got people out on the streets; in Chad it was an increase in the fees charged to traders at the N’Djamena Millet Market; in Togo it was hikes in oil prices; in Kenya it was frustrations over the electoral process.
But what unites them is the strength in defiance and the demand for change, inclusion and freedom. While some of these protests had violent elements — mostly in reaction to heavy-handed clampdowns — the majority were peaceful and driven by a demand for basic rights and dignity.
And there is every reason to believe that this trend is unstoppable.
Amnesty International’s report on the state of the world’s human rights documents how 2017 saw the arbitrary and brutal suppression of the right to peaceful protest in more than 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including through unlawful bans, excessive use of force, harassment and arbitrary arrests.
But this did little to silence dissent despite the best efforts of those who want to crush and silence dissent. In fact, it is becoming clearer that failing to respect freedoms and fulfill human rights obligations is ultimately self-defeating.
This should serve as a wake-up call to all governments that the solution to lasting peace and stability lies in guaranteeing more freedoms, not less. Political shifts mean nothing if they don’t result in greater respect for human rights. People who care about freedom and equality are ultimately concerned not with which leader is in power, but whether or not they respect human rights.
Only time will tell what these political changes will truly mean for us Africans — especially for the poor, the young, the marginalized, the repressed and silenced.
But what is clear is that people across the continent are not willing to wait decades to find out.
*Culled from CNN.Netsanet Belay is Amnesty International’s director of Africa research and advocacy. The opinions in this article belong to the author.
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Africa needs more scientists and engineers for developments- AU Chair Moussa Faki Mahamat
February 23, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire
The chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) Mr Moussa Faki
Mahamat has said that Africa needs more scientists and engineers to
develop itself and also in-order to minimise its dependence syndrome.
Mr Mahamat made the remarks during his visit to the African Capacity
Building Foundation (ACBF) headquarters in Harare to sign the AUC-ACBF
agreement on the ACBF’s status as specialised agency of the African
Union.
Mr Mahamat said that Africa should now have the capacity to fund
what it needs on its own and also to tell its partners what it needs.
He said that 90% of the human resource capital in Africa is in the
humanities and the arts sector which he said that was not bad, but
called for training of more scientists and engineers for the continent
to boost its development agenda.
Mahamat also expressed concern at the lack of mathematics teachers
in some African countries, a challenge which he said needed to
urgently addressed.
He also urged agencies and partners in Africa to evaluate their
interventions to assess their progress to enhance the continent’s
development. Mahamat also called for more scientific innovation on
the continent adding that the continent needed more researchers.
ACBF Executive Director, Professor Emmanuel Nnadozie, said that Africa was
investing in unemployment due to its major human capacity development
in the humanities, social sciences and the arts.
Nnadozie sid that there was need in transformation of skills and this
is a major issue which the ACBF and other partners was working on
addressing. He said that there was need to mobilise resources to
overhaul the education systems and quality of education on the African
continent.

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Davido’s ‘If’ hits Diamond, ‘Fall’ goes Platinum
February 21, 2018 | 0 Comments

NIGERIAN popstar ‘Davido’ Adeleke‘s 2017 hit songs ‘If’ and ‘Fall’ have gone diamond and platinum respectively.

Davido at the Columbia Records office

Davido at the Columbia Records office

According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), this means ‘If’ has been sold or streamed one million times and ‘Fall’ has reached ten million record sales.

Davido shared a photo of himself with his awards and plagues on Tuesday through his Instagram page @davidooficial, writing:

“‘IF’ is officially Diamond and ‘FALL’ is officially Platinum in sales!!! My trophies finally came in as well! GOD IS REAL! Thank you Guys for making this happen!! Just getting started!!! Bless to my team @efe_one@asaasika@missamadi@sirbanko.”

The singer signed a record distribution deal with Sony RCA in the United States in 2016, a move that has led to his huge record sales.

The Plaques were presented at the Columbia Records UK office and Efe Ogbeni who executed the record deal for Davido with Sony was present.

The Managing Directors and President of Columbia UK Stacey Tang, Manish Arora and Ferdy Unger-Hamilton. Vanessa Amadi (Management) and Michael Ugwu were also present during the presentation of the Plaques.

Davido’s win came in shortly after he sold out his Brixton ‘O2’ Live show in London, on Sunday.

The ‘Fall’ crooner was recently won the Soundcity MVP award including ‘Best African Act’ and ‘Best Worldwide Act’.

The singer, who owns music label Davido Music Worldwide (DMW), recently released a new hit ‘Flora my Flawa’.

(NAN)/Real News

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Only on AP: Migrant recounts forced deportation from Israel
February 21, 2018 | 0 Comments

By RODNEY MUHUMUZA*

Inside the immigration office in Tel Aviv, Yohannes Tesfagabr considered his options. He could not dare return to his native Eritrea, a country he risked his life to flee in 2010. He also hoped to avoid the fate of compatriots who languished in a notorious desert jail for illegally staying in Israel.

So in an emotional confrontation with immigration officials one day last November, the 29-year-old sous chef accepted what Israeli authorities were offering: $3,500 in cash and a one-way ticket to Uganda or Rwanda.

Two weeks later he was on a flight to Uganda, together with five other Eritrean migrants he did not know.

“They told me, ‘If you don’t leave you are going to jail,'” Tesfagabr recalled. “It’s forced. They tell you to say you are going voluntarily, but it is not voluntary. They force you to deport yourself.”

His case highlights the predicament of tens of thousands of Africans in Israel who face jail if they do not accept an offer, allegedly without further assurances of safety, to relocate to an unnamed African country. Both Uganda and Rwanda, widely presumed to be the likely destinations, have denied the existence of any agreement with Israel’s government even though scores of migrants are believed to have already settled in the East African countries.

Tesfagabr said his group of Eritreans was not taken through the official immigration desk when they arrived in Uganda. Instead, they were ushered in via the cargo area, herded by a Ugandan official who stayed quiet most of the time. They were bundled into two taxis and driven to a hotel in the capital, Kampala. Their passports were confiscated by a man who spoke Tigrinya, a language widely spoken in Eritrea, and who Tesfagabr believes had been hired as a translator. Hours later, the undocumented Eritreans were dismissed from the hotel.

The five other men who traveled with Tesfagabr on a Nov. 16 EgyptAir flight to Uganda declined to talk to The Associated Press because of safety concerns. But Tesfagabr, although similarly worried, said he wanted to speak out because he felt he had been harshly treated during Israel’s efforts to remove him from a country he had grown to love.

“My Hebrew is four times better than my English,” he said one recent evening at a Kampala restaurant patronized by Eritreans.

Tesfagabr, a village boy from Eritrea’s highland area of Debarwa who felt hopeless after being forcefully conscripted into the army, arrived in Israel in 2012, the victim of alleged traffickers in Sudan who took him to Egypt and helped him cross a border point in the Sinai after his family was made to pay a $3,900 ransom. He remembered his days in captivity as some of the worst of his life. To force his parents to pay for his freedom, his captors beat him and staged mock executions. At least two of his compatriots were killed in a shootout with Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai, he said.

But after crossing into Israel, Tesfagabr benefited from random acts of kindness, including from an Israeli man who bought him food and new clothes. In Rehovot, the city south of Tel Aviv where he settled, he found a satisfying job as a sous chef in a bistro. He had an apartment and a bank account, but he had to get his visa renewed every two months and sometimes he was required to report back after five days.

When two compatriots with whom he shared an apartment were jailed for overstaying their visas, Tesfagabr knew his days were numbered and seriously began thinking about leaving Israel.

“They take you like a dog, like a donkey,” he said, talking about migrants taken to the Holot detention center in the Negev desert. “They do what they want. They don’t have any law for us … Because I know if I go over there, I can’t be a human being after.”

This month Israeli authorities began distributing deportation notices to some 40,000 African migrants, who have until April 1 to comply. Nearly all are from Eritrea and Sudan, countries with questionable human rights records. Thousands had entered the country until 2014, when Israel completed a massive border fence.

The deportation plan has sparked outrage in Israel, where groups of pilots, doctors, writers, rabbis and Holocaust survivors have appealed to have it halted. They say the deportations are unethical and would damage Israel’s image as a refuge for Jewish migrants.

Israel contends that most of the migrants are job seekers and cites complaints that they have transformed working-class neighborhoods of southern Tel Aviv into unrecognizable slums. Israeli authorities say women, children and families are exempt from the deportation order.

This month thousands of African asylum seekers protested outside the Rwandan Embassy in Israel, calling the deportations racist and urging Rwanda’s government not to cooperate. They claim they have no rights in Uganda and Rwanda and quickly are forced to flee toward Europe through war-torn countries like Libya.

Okello Oryem, Uganda’s deputy minister of international affairs, described reports of a deal to take in migrants from Israel as “fake news,” and in a statement Rwanda’s government insisted it “has never signed any secret deal with Israel regarding the relocation of African migrants.”

Mossi Raz, an Israeli lawmaker who recently traveled to Rwanda and Uganda in a delegation of opposition politicians to investigate the allegations of an official deal with those countries, said his group concluded that the arrangement “does not ensure the safety and well-being of the refugees.”

Raz said the delegation met with two migrants who are believed to be among the few remaining in Rwanda. He said others who were sent from Israel to Rwanda, believed to be in the hundreds or even thousands, were taken to a hotel in the capital, Kigali, for two days and then transferred to Uganda, forced to pay for their travel. He was unsure whether the transfer to Uganda was carried out via official channels.

The two migrants he met, who had been in Rwanda for two and three years respectively, were unable to work and scraped by on the remainder of the money they had received from Israel, he said.

“The refugees will arrive in these countries and will not receive refugee status, their documents will be taken from them and they will be left with nothing,” Raz said. “Rwanda is only participating in this agreement because of the money it will receive from Israel. Senior government officials in Rwanda claimed that such an agreement does not exist and so there is nothing to discuss. We believe such an agreement does exist.”

This month the speaker of Uganda’s national assembly urged the government to explain the alleged deportations. It remains unclear when that will happen. Musa Ecweru, Uganda’s top refugee official, did not respond to a request for comment. The U.N. migration agency’s office in Uganda told the AP it had not been contacted by the government and knew only “bits and pieces” about the alleged deportations from media reports.

Tesfagabr, the Eritrean migrant, is now jobless, without a passport and dependent on his savings to pay the rent. The soft-spoken man said he feels like a prisoner and dreams of relocating to Europe. To relax, he sometimes plays soccer with his friends, fellow Eritreans with a similarly uncertain future.

“I want to start a new life,” he said, fiddling with his phone.

*AP

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John Mahama, Saraki, Yeda, Alakija, Amina J Mohammed to discuss unlocking Africa’s economic potential at Commonwealth Africa Summit 2018
February 21, 2018 | 0 Comments
The event will encourage dialogue on how to strategize and mobilise valuable African resources that are critical to shaping the continent’s emerging economies
LONDON, United Kingdom, February 20, 2018/ — Unlocking Africa’s economic potential by increasing trade, collaboration and philanthropy within the commonwealth will be at the forefront of conversations at next month’s Commonwealth Africa Summit (http://CommonwealthAfrica.com) in London.

The Summit aims to spark new thinking on how to promote collective action, achieve shared prosperity and common good for Africans leveraging on their relationship with the commonwealth family of nations. Through a series of discussions, the event will encourage dialogue on how to strategise and mobilise valuable African resources that are critical to shaping the continent’s emerging economies.

The 5th in its annual series, the 2018 Commonwealth Africa Summit themed Common Good will have as Keynote Speaker H.E. John Dramani Mahama(Former President of Ghana), Amina J Mohammed (UN Deputy Secretary General), H.E. Senator Bukola Saraki (Senate President of Nigeria), Dr. Hassan Ahmed Hilal (Minister of Environment Sudan), Chief Mrs. Folorunso Alakija (Vice Chair – Famfa Oil), Rt. Hon. Mia Amor Mottley MP (Leader of  Opposition and Former Deputy Prime Minister of Barbados), Dr. Babatope Agbeyo (Chairman Cornfield Group) and others to be announced soon.

Past speakers at the CAS Summit have included HRH Prince Andrew The Duke of York, Gen. Yakubu Gowon; Rt. Hon. Baleka Mbete (Speaker of the Parliament of South Africa), Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Baroness Lynda Chalker of Wallasey; Lord Watson of Richmond; Lord Ahmed of Rotherham; Baroness Uddin of Bethnal Green; Simon Walker, Director General of the British Institute of Directors (IOD); Ministers of Government, Ambassadors and many other Global Leaders.

The 2018 summit will also feature as panellist a wide array of senior Cabinet Ministers and Chief Executives of corporations from Africa and across the Commonwealth including Dr. Hassan Ahmed Hilal (Minister of Environment Sudan), Kate Osamor (UK Shadow Secretary for International Development), Ms. Vivienne Yeda (Director General – East African Development Bank), Mark Pursey (CEO BTP Advisers), Henry Sands (SABI Strategy Group), Isha Johansen (President of Sierra Leone Football Association), Muriel Maupoint (CEO Hope for Children), Sally Anne Wilson (CEO Public Media Alliance), Dr. Justina Mutale (Advisory Board Member – World Leaders Forum), Tim Loughton MPJohn Penrose MP (UK Prime Minister’s Anti-Corruption Champion), Mark Stoleson (Chief Executive Officer and Partner at Legatum), Martin Realey (CEO Build Africa), Debbie Ariyo (CEO AFRUCA), Tim Wainwright (CEO Water Aid), Paul Smith Lomas MBE (CEO of Practical Action), Dr. Babatope Agbeyo (CEO Cornfield Group and Botosoft Inc), Parminder Vir OBE (CEO Tony Elumelu Foundation), Lord Alan Watson of Richmond (Former Chair of Coca Cola Europe Advisory Board), Dayo Israel(Africa Regional Director, Commonwealth Africa Initiative), Odein Ajumogobia (Former Minister of Foreign Affairs Nigeria), Lord Hughes of Woodside(Chair of the British Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM)), Paul Kunert (CEO Joule Africa), Dr. V B Narayanamurthy (Professor, India), Sidney Yankson(CEO Ghana Capital Partners Ltd), Dr. Amy Jadesinmi (CEO LADOL Energy), Elikem Nutifafa Kuenyehia (CEO ENS Ghana), Paul Kunert, DJ Cuppy Otedola, Dr. Ken Ikpe, Mark TierneyHelen Tarnoy (Founder, Managing Director Aldwych International Ltd), Mr. Omar Selim (CEO Arabeque), Edward George (Country Head, UK Representative Office – ECOBANK Group), and many others.

Key themes and conversations will include:

  • How can we beat Africa’s Water Crisis?
  • Strong Economic Leadership: An imperative for Common Good
  • From Emerging Markets to Sustainable Market – Creating Sustainable economies across Africa
  • Africa for Africans: A New Era of Africa Philanthropic Giving and its impact on the continent
  • Are there disruptive solutions to solving Africa’s Energy and Infrastructural Challenges?
  • Economic Prosperity, Poverty and Human Trafficking in Africa: Finding lasting solutions
  • Climate Change: Issues, Priorities and Solutions for the Commonwealth Africa
  • Will Brexit Translate to opportunities for African Economy
  • Improving Opportunities for African Women: The role of economy, policy and culture
  • Beyond Philanthropy: How do we drive more access to finance for Africa’s budding entrepreneurs?
  • Investing in Africa: Where are the opportunities? Where are the financing gaps? How to successfully direct invest?
  • Which emerging markets are ripe for next generation of private equity financing?
  • How can Africa profit from its creative industries?

With more than 300 global and African thought leaders in government and business expected to attend over the three days, the stage will be set for discussion on issues ranging from trade and investment, entrepreneurship, job creation, economic development, health, security and counterterrorism, and energy.

To register for the event, visit www.CASevents.org/cas2018 or for more information about CAFI’s global chain of events, visit www.CASevents.org. For exhibition, contact Secretariat@CommonwealthAfrica.com.

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Mapping Africa’s natural resources
February 21, 2018 | 0 Comments

An overview of the continent’s main natural resources.

Africa is a key territory on the global map. Rich in oil and natural resources, the continent holds a strategic position.

Rich in oil and natural resources, Africa is the world’s fastest-growing region for foreign direct investment. It has approximately 30 percent of the earth’s remaining mineral resources.

It’s home to more than 40 different nations and around 2,000 languages. Sub-Saharan Africa has six of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies. North Africa has vast oil and natural gas deposits, the Sahara holds the most strategic nuclear ore, and resources such as coltan, gold, and copper, among many others, are abundant on the continent.

The region is full of promise and untapped riches – from oil and minerals and land to vast amounts of people capital – yet, it has struggled since colonial times to truly realise its potential.

Oil and gas

Africa is home to five of the world’s top oil-producing countries, with an estimated 57 percent of Africa’s export earnings from hydrocarbons.

  • Algeria, Angola, Cameroon, Chad, Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and Mozambique are all rich in oil and gas.
  • Proven oil reserves have grown by almost 150 percent, increasing from 53.4 billion barrels since 1980, to 130.3 billion barrels by the end of 2012.
  • The region is home to five of the top 30 oil-producing countries in the world, and nearly $2tn of investments are expected by 2036.

Other resources

Besides oil and gas, Africa is rich in precious minerals, forests and:

  • Diamonds: Angola, Botswana, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • Gold: Benin, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Mali, South Africa, Tanzania.
  • Nickel and Uranium: Burundi.
  • Pozzolana: Cape Verde.
  • Fish: Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritius, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles.
  • Timber: Liberia.
  • Titanium: Gambia.
  • Graphite: Madagascar. 
  • Tobacco: Malawi.
  • Iron Ore: Mauritania.
  • Phosphates: Western Sahara, Morocco.
  • Aluminium and Gas: Guinea, Mozambique.
  • Cooper: Uganda, Zambia. 
  • *Source Al Jazeera
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Coming to America: Lessons from an African Friend
February 21, 2018 | 0 Comments
 By Fr. Wilfred Emeh*
I grew up at time in Africa when many kids believed that places like Nazareth, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem were in heaven. Among the world’s nations, they perceived the U.S.A. as the closest to heaven, a paradise on Earth. Indeed, the United States is still viewed as the promised land, flowing with milk and honey. Little wonder families undertook, as they still undertake, enormous sacrifices to ensure that their sons or daughters can travel to America.

 

Today, African immigrants in the U.S. see that, although living in an advanced democracy has its advantages, living abroad is neither a goldmine nor a paradise. But African immigrants in the U.S. and Europe often get a chilling response from relatives and friends when they attempt to express the harsh realities of life in our new homeland. They ask questions like, “If it is like you say, what are you doing there?” Or they contradict us with, “See how you have grown fat!”, as if being “fat” were a sign of wealth. Not believing us, first-time visitors, friends, and relatives often come to the U.S. with a warped mindset that confuses facts with fiction and myths with reality.

Precisely because of such unrealistic expectations, visitors may not understand or appreciate the enormous sacrifices their friends and relatives make in order to host them abroad; sometimes hosting a visitor entails sacrificing some hours or days of work, to offer the best to the visitor, yet some visitors are hardly ever satisfied. Some return home and vow never to come back! Others may anxiously establish relationships with American people, leading to strained relationships whenever their friends or relatives  try to caution them against spurious relationships. Some reject the advice pugnaciously, accusing their immigrant friends of being jealous of their relational skills, and wanting to “block” their supposed connections with their newfound friends. But, we ask, how is it possible to hastily establish relationships with Westerners without knowledge of their values, mores, and ways of life?

Consider the story of a Nigerian priest-friend of mine, Thom, and his friend, Paddy (not their real names). Paddy was visiting from Nigeria, and Thom, who honestly dedicated time and resources to make his guest comfortable. Thom had taken time to give Paddy an orientation on the people and their culture. He cautioned him against requesting material things from people and presenting himself as a desperate person from an African jungle. From time to time, Thom would call him to order whenever he struck the wrong chord. Thom was later deeply embarrassed to discover that his friend begrudged him all this advice. When he got back home, Paddy complained that Thom was overly intrusive in his affairs, even going so far as to say that Thom left him alone in the house without garri. As Thom narrated his ordeal to me, I could see the pain in his eyes–yes, ingratitude cuts the heart like a dagger.

It is rightly said that what goes around comes around. Paddy thought his trip was extremely successful because he had found new friends whom he could get along with, Thom aside. He was determined to keep in touch with these people on a regular basis. He was confident that America would become his second home, as long as his American friends invited him back. But it didn’t take long before people started talking about Paddy, and it came to Thom’s knowledge that Paddy had not followed the advice he was given.

One thing Paddy failed to understand was that Americans like speaking about their encounters with people from other cultures, especially visitors from Africa. They try to understand other cultures through the behavior of their visitors. If you call them regularly and ask for any form of assistance, they wonder whether that’s “a cultural thing”. It is within this context that the same people started to question their new African friend’s behavior. As is typical with Americans, they related details of their encounter with Paddy among a close circle of friends. Within a few weeks, Thom discovered how extensive Paddy’s outreach had been. Now, Thom was obliged to answer some hard questions—his friends found Paddy’s requests, which would have been normal in Africa, to be inappropriate and overly dependent. They wondered if all Africans were so desperate.Perhaps readers of “Cameroon Panorama” may offhandedly dismiss Thom’s story as just an awala problem. No, it is not. It is our problem.

Many lessons can be drawn from the true story of my friend. First, visitors should keep in mind and appreciate the enormous sacrifices that their immigrant relatives and friends make to care for them. It is absolutely necessary, not only to understand, but to equally respect people and their cultures, and to avoid imposing one’s cultural traits on others. For example, when Americans say, “Please come again,” it is not necessarily an open invitation, nor a desire to have you back soon. This is just a polite and affirmative expression. Newcomers may mistakenly consider it to be an actual invitation to come again soon. In no way does this diminish the spirit of hospitality and kindness of Americans, but visitors may need a lesson or two in cultural differences in order to understand this.

Another cultural difference: casual greetings like ‘Hello’ and ‘Hi’ are very much ingrained in the American culture. They are a courteous people; on the elevator, on the train, wherever your paths cross, people extend kindly greetings and can even initiate amicable conversations sometimes. It is true that salutation is not love. This is all the more evident in shops and malls, where first-time visitors from Africa may completely misconstrue the warmth of customer service. I was fortunate to have learned about this from a good friend of mine, who lost sleep one night because he thought a salesgirl had fallen in love with him!

Eric had just arrived in America and went shopping for the first time. The girl attended to him at the shop with broad smiles. “Honey,” she said, “how are you? Have you been having a good day so far?” “Did you find everything ok?” And so on. Because of my friend’s foreign accent, the lady was even more courteous. My ebullient friend was completely carried away. He even shopped more than he had planned to. According to my friend, the lady had fallen in love with him. I could not have thought differently had I not learned this lesson from my friend before I ever went shopping for the first time. Yes, even with my collar on, I am addressed as “Honey” or “Sweetheart”!

Independence and privacy are highly valued in American culture.As an African priest, I have observed how this way of life impacts the diocesan clergy. Parishioners can see priests mostly on appointments; rectories are not easily accessible to visitors. Many priests don’t employ cooks, while others have only part-time cooks, like the parish in which I work. Therefore, priests prepare their meals themselves. People cherish their privacy and independence; no one wants to be a burden on another, and everything is scheduled. In no way does this casts doubts on the friendliness of the clergy, it is all a matter of the complex structure of the society and the way of life of the people.

In a way, visitors are like tourists who plan for their trips accordingly. They make great sacrifices; they cherish their exposure and experience rather than any material benefits. Unlike in Africa, where visitors can pop in any time, and sometimes even expect their uncle or father to pay their transport fare back home, this would be absolutely insane in another culture.

Because of all these cultural differences, as a first-time visitor, it is necessary to listen to the counsel of your immigrant relatives and friends without prejudice. It is rightly said that you should listen to your elders’ advice, not because they are always right, but because they have had more experience of being wrong. It is folly to resist advice or read too much into calls to be cautious. What do your relatives and friends have to gain from “blocking” you or standing in your way, as you imagine? They simply don’t want you to repeat their mistakes, and it is all for your good. Like in the case of my Nigerian friend, first time visitors have run into serious trouble by tarnishing their reputations and even the reputations of their entire countries. Rotten apples in a barrel can spoil the good ones. After all, your behavior speaks volumes about your background. When you visit abroad, always go slow, like the proverbial newly arrived chicken that stands on one leg in her new home, otherwise you would fall prey to our lingua franca proverb: “hurry-hurry broke trouser”.

Of course, visiting abroad for the first time ignites much excitement. But, no matter how excited you may be, also be considerate and discreet. Your host cannot always offer you the same kind of reception you got at your very first visit because of the social and economic constraints of life in the Western world. Just as your enthusiasm wanes after your first or second visit, so too with your host. It is not because they don’t value your visit, but it is presumed that you are getting familiar with the way of life and you can manage your own affairs.

In conclusion, hospitality, kindness, and generosity are cultural traits across the U.S. It is here that I have been blessed firsthand to meet some of the nicest people in my life and ministry. I am equally honored by evergreen memories of visits of relatives and friends from home. Nevertheless, stories like those of Thom and Paddy compel me to deeper reflection on life abroad, with all its facets, in a bid to spare people from repeating the same mistakes and as a road map to prospective visitors. In order to make one’s visit profitable, one must understand the cultural dynamics of the people and steer clear from unrealistic expectations.

*Fr  Wilfred E. Emeh is a Roman Catholic priest ,Communications Professional and author of  the book  New Media and the Christian Family: Experiences from the USA and Africa

 

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