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Africa has a secret weapon in its diaspora-Abou Dieng CEO Global Green International Holdings
September 19, 2016 | 2 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Abou Dieng CEO and President of Global Green International Holdings LLC believes that Africa is the next destination

Abou Dieng CEO and President of Global Green International Holdings LLC believes that Africa is the next destination

With its buying power combined with expertise and knowledge, the Diaspora is Africa’s could be Africa’s secret weapon says Abou Dieng, Director of EMONECO, a publicly traded financial company on the US-Stock. Dieng, originally from Senegal would rather be referred to as African because to him, the boundaries are artificial and Africans are one people.

Dieng, who is also CEO and President of Global Green International Holdings LLC, Executive Director and Ambassador for Africa of Global Treasury Supreme Trust believes that more needs to be done to extend banking services to the broader African population especially in rural areas.

A member of Arizona’s Who’s Who Top 100 Executives, Mr. Dieng has been invited to the White House to discuss the new Immigration Bill, S-744 and works extensively with The US State Department’s African Desk, and has more than 20 years of experience in Finance and International market development.
Strongly attached to his roots, Mr Dieng was closely linked with the organization of the World Pan-African Congress in Atlanta GA in 2003, the International Summit of Descendants of African Kings and Queens in Atlanta, GA, the First ECOWAS US-Africa Textile Tradeshow in Indiana and many other Africa themed events.

His current projects revolve around opportunities for hundreds of millions of Africans with no access to formal banking images, and rebranding Africa, a media project to showcase the unseen side and unheard side of Africa to the world.

 Mr Dieng you are President and CEO of Global Green International Holdings, may we know about your company and what services it offers?

Well first of, I would like to thank you for your time and the great work you are doing in keeping us informed for almost a decade with the PanAfricanVisions News website.

My company Global Green International is a Holding Group is comprised of many companies 100% geared towards the development of the African Continent. I started building this company as a consulting company in 1995, then got into mining, agriculture, and started doing acquisition of other technology companies in 2002. We acquired a Housing System Technology that can produce 150 homes a month using concrete and cement. In 2010, in partnership with Katec Group, we started developing an educational system based on tablets and a proprietary closed circuit telecommunication system. In 2014 we partnered with Phoenix Renewable Technologies to introduce Waste to Energy to Africa. Today we are also involved in Media with our Rebranding Africa Project with East West Communication, Digital Banking with Emoneco, Mining and Petroleum. Over the years, we have developed great relationships with more than 600 banks around the world, and we work with the World Bank, IMF, Millennium Challenge Corporation, United Nations, African Union. We have office presence in 10 countries including US, Switzerland and Africa, we have done business in 29 African countries and have interest in 45.

 You are of Senegalese descent and apparently very proud of your African heritage, what did it take for Mr Dieng to get to where he is,we ask the question because there are struggling African immigrants who could learn from your success.

Well, anyone who is successful today will tell you that Success is the end result of Hard work, struggles and sacrifices. I have been there.

In october 1990, I remember having a conversation with someone in the NYC subway and he asked me what country I was from? I said Senegal. He asked where is Senegal? I said West Africa. Is Senegal poor or rich he asked? I said poor. Do you have land he asked? I said Yes. Do you have rain or running water for agriculture? I said Yes. How about Natural Resources, do you have any? I said Yes. Do you have access to the coast for fishing he asked? I said yes. Then he looked at me straight in the eyes and said to me: “My friend it is your fault if you are poor!” I remember this conversation as if it was yesterday, and my world was turned upside down, It seemed like I was just given a knock out punch, and for days I tried to figure out something. For someone who love Africa like me, I took it personal to change that and I started putting together a game plan and  “blue print” for the development of Africa. I made a decision to dedicate the rest of my life for the development of Africa. I wanted to be part of the actors of the development and a role model. I dropped everything I was doing and went to school. I started putting together a blue print and a plan to follow. After school I traveled extensively to Africa. I divided the continent in five regions (West, North, East, Central and South), and I divided every region in Industries (Housing, Energy, Finance, Agriculture, Mining, Healthcare….). Then I started putting together a quiet underground network of major players in those industries in those regions. This way I was aware of the problems in every part of the continent.

I went back to the US to start a company and surrounded myself with other companies that could offer solutions to African problems, and I never looked back.

 So what you see today is the result of hard work, sacrifices, struggles, failures and starting overs, discipline and dedication. So to all my struggling African peers, my advice is to have a plan and follow it with dedication and discipline… You will be succesful.

We understand you did some mentorship for the Washington Mandela Fellowship also known as Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI Fellows) this year, can you share your experience with us and what impressions the YALI Fellows left on you?

Abou Dieng with Dana Hyde, CEO of MCC

Abou Dieng with Dana Hyde, CEO of MCC

I have known about this program now for a couple of years and I do have many Fellows who I am mentoring in my network. This Year I was invited by Arizona State University to teach a Leadership Class to the Fellows in Phoenix and it was a great experience to share my activities and meet 50 young leaders from different African countries. Everyone of these leaders reminded me of myself when I started my journey. It also gives me hope that what Global Green is building now will be duplicated in many countries, and these Fellows will continue the journey to develop Africa.

Overall, what do you think that particular program, we mean the YALI program could do in changing the fortunes of Africa?

When President Obama started this Initiative, it is designed to empower Young Africans to be more involved in building their communities and give them the leadership training they need to become good leaders. However, after the training is done and the certificates are framed, what each and every Fellow does is what will eventually determine the success of this program. The program by itself is just an initiative. It’s like you buy your kid a brand new car with all the latest techonologies, and they decide to park it on the driveway. Unless your kid decides to put the car on the road and put the metal to the ground, you will not know what impact it will have. Each Fellow needs to understand that they are the hope of their community and when they get back home from the training, they are the light of that community and they need to apply the 3i process: Inspire, Influence and Impact the community. And collectively we can be the light in many parts of Africa.

As the first African American President of the United States, what legacy do you think Mr Obama will leave for Africa, did anything change for Africa in his Presidency?

During his Presidency , President Obama has visited more countries in Africa than any other American President before him. He also started different programs like the US-Africa summit, the Lighting Africa Project, the Washington-Mandela Fellowship… These are all great programs that can contribute to better business relationships between the US and Africa. However, The meaningfull changes that will help develop Africa, will be initiated in Africa, by Africans. So our Presidents in Africa need to be Leaders and Visionaries at the same time, even if it may feel uncomfortable at times.

In a recent interview with AfricanNews, you expressed concerns on the population of Africa that does not have access to Banking, what suggestions is Mr Dieng bringing to the table to improve the situation?

A big part of the African population don’t have access to Banking, yet the economy in africa is projected to reach $29 Trillion by 2030. Banks usually have very complicated process just to open an account. So Emoneco, one of the companies I am involved with as Member of the Board of Director has created a solution that combine the latest technologies in Finance, Banking and Telecom to offer a real time payment solution and can use your cell phone number as your bank account with a triple layer of security and a backup bank card. People like retirees will get their pension payments on their cell phone, Government workers, military, can get pay on their cell phone, students can receive their educational grants on their cell phone. Specialists in this sector have done an indepth eveluation of our system and concluded that we are 7 to 10 years ahead of everyone in this industry. This solution will help millions of Africans to have access to banking in the next 18 to 24 month, governments will save money and increase revenues and GDPs will increase as well.

You are also working on the a concept to rebrand Africa, why is this important and what plans do you have to make these concepts realities?

With Thione Niang at the White House,the diaspora could be Africa's secret weapon says Abou Dieng

With Thione Niang at the White House,the diaspora could be Africa’s secret weapon says Abou Dieng

To this day most investors don’t want to go to Africa and this is the direct result of the negative image the media is showing about Africa. So we decided to change that by starting a Rebranding Africa project. We picked the country that was the poorest country for decades and decided to rebrand it. My friend and partner Thomas who is the CEO of East West Communication travelled to Equatorial Guinea and put together a video showcasing all positive realisations of the government. During my Leadership conference at Arizona State University, I asked the question if anyone was interested to go to Equatorial Guinea, no one wanted to go, I asked the same question 10 minutes later after I played the video, and everyone wanted to go. That’s the reaction we want to create. This rebranding program has many phases. We want to show the best image of every country starting from the Embassy by creating a high quality investment magazine, a dvd investment portfolio, a tourist program, a new website and 3 to 4 investment trips to the country. We will work hand and hand with the governments to bring our expertise and help them create an Emerging Economic Plan for their country. The highlight of the plan is that we are able to guaranty investments to the country that follow our program. You can view this video for Equator Guinea at  www.EGVistas.com

On and how and what the diaspora can do to contribute to a more meaningful way to change the fortunes of Africa, any recommendations you have in mind?

The Diaspora constitute the secret weapon of Africa for two reasons:

  • The buying power; For example the Senegalese Diaspora sent back to Senegal in 2015 more than $800 million to family and friends. We are working with major financial institutions to setup an Investment fund fully funded by the Diaspora, and we can use that to finance major projects in  
  • Expertise and knowledge: the majority of people in the Diaspora went to school and have some sort of qualification or experience that can benefit the country of origine. This will eventually be the source of new entreprenorship, job creation….

If there is a way to bring all the Diaspora into a Federated African Diaspora we can have access to funding for our own project.

 To those who look around the continent and see the bad infrastructure, the galloping unemployment, the electoral violence with the recent example of Gabon, the corruption and more, how does Abou Dieng sustain the case that Africa has potential and is indeed the continent of the future?

We all know that Africa has billions of tons of natural resources that are still not exploited, and we have many more natural resources that are not even discovered yet. If you take a nation like the Republic of Guinea, this nation alone has enough natural resources that can develop the entire continent. I can say the same thing for other nations like Liberia, Sierra Leone, both Congos, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Angola, Botswana, South Africa, and the list goes on. So the potential from the exploitation of the natural resources alone is very exciting.

Other factors that will make a big difference are the potential in Education, Agriculture and Manufacturing. Africa is at the same level where India was 25 years ago in terms of wanting to increase the education level of the population. Africa is at the same level where China was in the 1980s with the Agriculture needs and investment. Africa is also at the same level where Turkey and Mexico were 15 years ago in terms of Manufacturing increasing investments. So if you combine those 3 levels of readiness, you can conclude that Africa is heading to the same path that led India to its boom because of Education, Africa is heading to the same path that led China to its boom in Agriculture and Industrization , and Africa is heading to the same path that led Mexico and Turkey to their boom in Manufacturing. This is exciting.

With Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona

With Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona

But the most exciting factor yet for Africa is its young population. As Walt Disney once said “Our greatest natural resource is the minds of our children”. More than 60% of Africans are between the ages of 15 and 24 years old. The number of young Africans is going to continue to get bigger year after year till 2050. The Middle Class is growing and the urbanisation rate is at 37% just like China and bigger than India. This is why I  can say that Africa will be where Turkey and Mexico are today in the next 10 years and where China is today in the next 20 years. Demographie is destiny.

Finally, we can also mentione that we have better quality of Leaderships now, and they are putting the right reforms for economic growth. The debt level is low 10 t0 30% to GDP in most African countries compare to 130% to GDP in China, more than 200% to GDP in US, UK and Spain.

So when you put together all of these factors that I mentione, Economic growth becomes inevitable.

Thank you Mr. Dieng for your sharing your vision with us. Before we conclude, on a personal note, can you talk about the recent attacks regarding your person and your divorce.

Thank you again for this opportunity to talk about my passion that is Africa.

There is a trend I have been noticing for a while, and now I find myself in it. More and more I see succesful African businesmen brought down by ex wife who are going after them for monetary gains. Unfortunately many of them end up losing everything. Success makes you an easy target.

Regarding my divorce, you are right, there are malicious attacks rescently that are very disturbing. This divorce was filed in Arizona by my ex wife back in 2007 to take over 50% of my networth according to Arizona laws. Unsatisfied with the results, my ex wife filed another law suit in a smaller court to claim that I abandoned her and my 3 kids for 32 months and she requested $2000/ month for child support and $1000/ month for alimony. When this law suit was filled I was in Africa and  my 3 kids were with me in Senegal. Once the suit is filled the court gives you 30 days to respond, and since I was in Senegal and in fact didn’t know anything about the law suit, I didn’t file a response in time and she was given a judgement by default, and overnight I owe her $96,000 plus fees and penalties. This is unfortunate, but this was done since 2010. And my ex wife and I are in good terms since then for the sake of the kids and I am taking care of my kids who I am very closed with.

Recently a powerful group doing business in Africa approached me to join forces with then, but I refused. I cannot join forces with a group that does not have the best interest of Africans in mind. A week before my leadership conference at Arizona State University, the attacks started and this group is spending a lot of money to try to tarnish my image and to discredit me thus the recent attacks. I am glad to say that in 26 years doing business in the US, I always focus on being my best and the fact that they are out trying to attack me, this only confirms to me that I am on the right path and I will continue to fight for the Emergence of Africa.

One last advice to all my fellow Africans: we need all hands on desk to develop Africa, and “the best way to predict the future is to create it”.

GOD BLESS!

 

 

 

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Fuel ‘too dirty’ for Europe sold to Africa
September 16, 2016 | 0 Comments
Sulphur particles in diesel emissions have been linked to a range of health problems

Sulphur particles in diesel emissions have been linked to a range of health problems

Swiss firms have been criticised in a report for their links to the African trade in diesel with toxin levels that are illegal in Europe.

Campaign group Public Eye says retailers are exploiting weak regulatory standards.

Vitol, Trafigura, Addax & Oryx and Lynx Energy have been named because they are shareholders of the fuel retailers.

Trafigura and Vitol say the report is misconceived and retailers work within legal limits enforced in the countries.

Three of the distribution companies mentioned in the report have responded by saying that they meet the regulatory requirements of the market and have no vested interest in keeping sulphur levels higher than they need to be.

Although this is within the limits set by national governments, the sulphur contained in the fumes from the diesel fuel could increase respiratory illnesses like asthma and bronchitis in affected countries, health experts say.


Why are regulations so lax?

The picture is changing but there are still several African countries which allow diesel to have a sulphur content of more than 2,000 parts per million (ppm), with some allowing more than 5,000ppm, whereas the European standard is less than 10ppm.

 

Rob de Jong from the UN Environment Programme (Unep) told the BBC that there was a lack of awareness among some policy makers about the significance of the sulphur content.

map showing legal limits for sulphur levels across africa

For a long time countries relied on colonial-era standards, which have only been revised in recent years.

Another issue is that in the countries where there are refineries, these are unable, for technical reasons, to reduce the sulphur levels to the standard acceptable in Europe. This means that the regulatory standard is kept at the level that the refineries can operate at.

Some governments are also worried that cleaner diesel would be more expensive, therefore pushing up the price of transport.

But Mr De Jong argued that the difference was minimal and oil price fluctuations were much more significant in determining the diesel price.


What’s so bad about sulphur?

The sulphur particles emitted by a diesel engine are considered to be a major contributor to air pollution, which the World Health Organization (WHO) ranks as one of the top global health risks.

It is associated with heart disease, lung cancer and respiratory problems.

Traffic in Nigeria

The WHO says that pollution is particularly bad in low and middle income countries.

Reducing the sulphur content in diesel would go some way to reducing the risk that air pollution poses.


What’s being done about it?

Unep is at the forefront of trying to persuade governments to tighten up the sulphur content regulations and is gradually making progress.

In 2015, the East African Community introduced new regulations for Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania. Diesel cannot now have more than 50ppm in those countries.

It is clear that the situation has improved since 2005.

map showing legal limits for sulphur levels across africa in 2005

Unep’s Jane Akumu is currently working with the West African regional grouping Ecowas and its Southern African counterpart Sadc to try and change the regulations there.

She told the BBC that she was optimistic that governments would bring down the legal sulphur limits as the arguments in favour are compelling.

*BBC

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Uganda to host 2016 forum on internet freedom in Africa
August 30, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

FIFA-e1466142978819-667x340_cThe Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) will on 27 to 29 September 2016 host the 2016 forum on internet freedom in Africa to explore new issues affecting internet freedom in Africa, according to a recent statement released by the organisation.

According to CIPESA, this year they expect to expand on the number of countries they conduct research in on the state of internet freedom as well as broaden the discussions that form the pillar of the forum.

It is also reported that in 2015, the forum brought together 200 human rights defenders, journalists, government officials, bloggers, developers and representatives from academia, the arts community, law enforcement agencies and communication regulations from 18 countries.

The 2014 forum hosted 85 participants from six countries. Some of the countries which have participated in previous forums include Burundi, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Cameroon, DRC, Ethiopia, Germany, Italy, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, UK,USA and Zambia.

Organisers say that as internet use has risen in Africa, so have the abuses and attacks on internet freedom, including a proliferation of laws, legal and extra-legal affronts, as well as limited judicial oversight over surveillance and interception of communications.

It is also reported that the forum is one of a kind in Africa that is committed to advancing an understanding and upholding of internet freedoms and how they impact media freedom, free expression and privacy for a range of civic actors such as journalists, human rights defenders, sexual minorities, women, political actors and bloggers.

“It is one of very few gatherings that assemble an African audience within the continent to discuss matters related to upholding internet freedom. While similar conferences are held elsewhere like in Asis, America and Europe, it is expensive for Africa-based actors to attend and for some of these events only bits of the agenda are relevant to Africa,” CIPESA said.

The forum is also being held at a time when the conversation on the need to promote internet freedom is crucial and the forum will provide a unique opportunity for deliberations and building a network of African actors to promote internet freedom for a range of civic actors.

CIPESA says that presently there is a minimal collaboration between African tools developers and those on the frontlines defending human rights. It is also expected to bring together African technical experts to explore ways in which they can work together in advancing internet freedom, including on testing tools and user interfaces, on digital security training and secure design.

It is expected to empower developers from the region to appreciate internet freedom tools design and to turn them into advocates of secure tools to protect internet freedom.

Another key feature of the forum is the assembly of discussions that take place and how each of these influences the work onwards of many of the participants at the forum.Topics explored to date include discussions around the growing presence of online violence against women, whose magnitude and manifestation is not clearly known, as most cases in Africa go unreported.

Combating hate speech and violations of freedom of expression including during periods of electioneering, empowering media as infomediaries and advocates of digital rights whilst also recognizing them as a vulnerable group, advocating for increased judicial oversight over surveillance and interception of communications and  bridging the gap between techies.

The need to address gaps, policy and legislative in the right to privacy will be explored including continued capacity building and awareness raising among citizens, media, human rights defenders and activists on the appreciation of digital safety tools and practices.

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Kenya to host 6th African Green Revolution forum
August 27, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

C-63-780x439African leaders are set to meet in Nairobi, Kenya at the African Green Revolution (AGRF) forum to be held on September 5 to 9 with an ambition of transforming agriculture into an engine for inclusive socio-economic growth and development.

According to a statement released by Waiganjo Njoroge, AGRA, Global Media Lead, the historic gathering will  include hundreds of influential leaders and CEOs and is also expected to award the newly established Africa Food prize.

Njoroge adds that the sixth African Green Revolution forum or AGRF 2016 is Africa’s largest agricultural event.

“This year’s forum arrives at a time when an unprecedented number of leaders in both African and donor countries are signalling that agriculture development is essential to Africa’s long term economic growth,” Njoroge said.

It is also reported that the emergence of agriculture as the sector that will determine Africa’s future is reflected in the theme of the 2016 forum titled: Seize the moment: Africa rising through agricultural transformation.

Organisers say that the forum will feature a strong slate of influential leaders and CEOs from the public and private sector.

They add that a major highlight of the forum will be the inaugural award of the new Africa Food prize which was created to call attention to individuals and institutions that are inspiring and driving agriculture innovations that can be replicated throughout Africa.

Also the landmark annual African Agriculture Status Report, which this year will chronicle agricultural progress on the continent over the last decade and suggest strategies towards accelerated economic growth and development through agricultural transformation will also be launched.

Over 1000 leaders from politics, business and civil society from across Africa and beyond are expected to grace the event.

Some of the key speakers at the forum will include President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Former President of Nigeria Olusegun Obasanjo, Strive Masiyiwa, Chair and Founder of Econet Wireless who is also Board Chair of the AGRA, just to mention a few.

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Governance, Corruption & Democratic Development Questions will guide Clinton’s African Policy-Snr Policy Advisor Jake Sullivan
July 26, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

File Picture:U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) watches as South Africa's President Jacob Zuma speaks during a photo call after a brief meeting in Durban, August 8, 2009

File Picture:U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) watches as South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma speaks during a photo call after a brief meeting in Durban, August 8, 2009

Hillary Clinton views Africa not just as a place with challenges to address but also opportunities says Jake Sullivan, Senior Policy Advisor for Hillary for America. Speaking at the Foreign Policy Center briefing center at the Democratic Convention, Sullivan said to Hillary Clinton, Africa is not just made up of countries which need development aid and assistance but also partners who can work with the USA in addressing a range of global issues.

Issues of governance, corruption, and democratic development have been central to Secretary Clinton’s policy towards Africa and will continue to be, said Jake Sullivan in response to a question from Ben Bangoura of Allo Conakry.com on what Africa should expect a Clinton Administration.

The policy will be in the mold of the work the democratic flag bearer did as first lady and later Secretary of State, Sullivan said. From her multiple trips to the continent, Hillary Clinton has shown commitment to pillars like fostering economic growth, peace keeping, security, human rights, and democratic development said Sullivan.

“She is fond of reminding us on her team many of the top 10 fastest-growing economies in the world are African economies.  How we think about where the future growth is going to come from in the world is bound up in how we approach our policy towards Africa,”  Sullivan said.

In contrast to the recent Republican Convention in Ohio, the Democratic Convention seems to have more African faces present. Executive Women for Hillary ,a powerful coalition of executive, entrepreneur and professional women backing Mrs. Clinton has two African diaspora leaders Sarian Bouma and Angelle Kwemo of Believe in Africa  as State Co-Chairs for the DMV area.

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FIRST AFRICAN PASSPORTS GO TO PRESIDENTS OF RWANDA AND CHAD
July 18, 2016 | 0 Comments

The African Union wants to roll out the continental passport to millions of Africans.

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GHANA ALLOWS VISA-FREE TRAVEL FOR AFRICANS IN STEP TOWARDS CONTINENTAL PASSPORT
July 5, 2016 | 0 Comments

BY *

Ghanaian President John Mahama

Ghanaian President John Mahama

Ghana has begun offering visas upon arrival to all African nationals, a step towards creating a continent-wide zone of free movement.

The West African country rolled out the policy on Friday, allowing citizens of African Union (AU) member states to get visas for up to 30 days upon arriving in the country. Fifty-four African countries are members of the AU—the only country not in the bloc is Morocco, which resigned its membership in 1984 due to a row over the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

Ghana already allows visa-free travel for citizens of countries belonging to member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)—a regional economic bloc consisting of 15 countries including Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy. ECOWAS citizens will not be affected by the new policy.

It marks a step towards the vision outlined by the AU in its Agenda 2063 policy document, which includes the abolition of visa requirements for all African citizens in all the continent’s countries by 2018. The AU is also introducing an African passport at a summit in the Rwandan capital Kigali in July, which will initially be available only to heads of state, government ministers and permanent representatives of member countries at the AU. The AU eventually wants to roll the passport out among all African citizens.

Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama announced the policy in his state of the nation address in February, saying that the measure would “stimulate air trade, investment and tourism.” The decision was commended by AU Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who said that she was convinced “many other African countries will follow suit, in the interest of achieving an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa.”

But while welcoming the measure as potentially leading to increased air traffic into Ghana, airline operator Gloria Wilkinson warned that the country would have to ensure its security measures were tight to prevent possible abuse of the system. Wilkinson, the country manager of South African Airways, told Ghana’s Citi Business News that she was “confident that [the] government has considered the security aspect of such an initiative.” A leaked memo from Ghana’s Immigration Service suggested that Ghana and Togo were the next targets for militants following attacks in Mali, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast since November 2015.

*Newsweek

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The opposite of Brexit: African Union launches an all-Africa passport
July 1, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Anne Frugé*

AFRICAN_LEADERS_MUST_BE_BORN_AGAIN_0.26188900_1434106807__thumbOn June 13, two weeks before the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, the African Union announced a new “single African passport.” The lead-up discussion was much like the original debate on the European Economic Community, the E.U.’s predecessor. African passport proponents say it will boost the continent’s socioeconomic development because it will reduce trade barriers and allow people, ideas, goods, services and capital to flow more freely across borders.

But now the A.U. faces the challenge of making sure the “e-Passport” lives up to its potential – and doesn’t fulfill detractors’ fears of heightened terrorism, smuggling and illegal immigration.

The African e-Passport is part of a long-term plan for the continent

The e-Passport is an electronic document that permits any A.U. passport holder to enter any of the 54 A.U. member states, without requiring a visa. It will be unveiled this month during the next A.U. Summit in Kigali, Rwanda. Initially, the e-Passport will only be available to A.U. heads of state, foreign ministers and permanent representatives based in the A.U.’s headquarters in Addis Ababa, . The plan is to roll it out to all A.U. citizens by 2018.

The electronic passport initiative grows out of the A.U.’s Agenda 2063, a plan to mobilize Africa’s vast resources to strengthen the region’s self-reliance, global economic power and solidarity.

Why is the single African passport important?

The e-Passport is a step toward eliminating borders on the continent, aiming to enable deeper integration, increased trade and further development. Just as important, the passport is a powerful symbol of unity across Africa – and simultaneously a step toward connecting African countries economically and politically.

An A.U. passport represents the latest effort to create a common market spanning the continent, much like that in the E.U. Such efforts date back to 1963 with the creation of the Organization of African Unity. Pan-Africanistscelebrating the demise of the colonial state and hailing a United States of Africadesigned the O.A.U. to unite Africans and dissolve the borders between them.

Essentially, the O.A.U. sought to raise living standards by supporting leaders of anti-colonial struggles in their roles as heads of new states. In its quest to make the transition to independence as smooth as possible, the organization at times defended national sovereignty to a fault. For example, the decision to respect arbitrary colonial borders had far-reaching consequences, including numerous identity-based conflicts.

Over time, other entities arose to coordinate economic activity across national lines: the East African Community (1967), the Economic Community of West African States (1975), the Lagos Plan of Action for the Economic Development of Africa (1980) and the Southern African Development Community (1992), just to name a few.

In 2002, the A.U. replaced the O.A.U.

Moving away from the O.A.U.’s state-centric approach, the A.U. attempts to balance “the principle of sovereignty with the need to accelerate political rights and socio-economic growth and cooperation,” according to Matebe Chisiza, visiting scholar at the South African Institute of International Affairs. For example, the A.U. suspended 12 member states after “unconstitutional changes in government,” including Libya, Central African Republic, Egypt and Burkina Faso.

None of Africa’s regional organizations have yet been able to create a common market. This vivid dream has endured despite the enormous political and logistical challenges it would entail. Deeper economic integration is seen by many, including the World Bank, as the road to prosperity and stability. In fact, the A.U. is guided by this premise.

What might be the downsides of the e-Passport?

Opponents of the passport are concerned about a range of security risks. Detractors argue that visa-free travel would make it easier for terrorists to move within and between countries. Human traffickers and drug smugglers could take advantage of the new system. Disease and other public health crises could spread more rapidly in a borderless Africa. As has happened in Europe, an e-Passport may intensify competition for jobs and public services, leading to more xenophobic political rhetoric and attacks. Migration is already a contentious issue, as shown by deadly anti-immigrant riots in South Africa and Zambia and heated debates over refugees in Kenya.

Many elites favor the unrestricted movement of persons, goods and services. But if the effort is mishandled, such free travel may simply reproduce social inequalities — helping the well-off become richer and leaving behind the poor. We can see that already in the fact that only certain individuals will have the passport at first, which creates a hierarchy of citizens, only some of whom can travel freely.

Moreover, Bronwen Manby’s report for the Open Society Foundations describes how passports can become tools for repressive regimes to silence their critics. In 2007 alone Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Sudan and Zimbabwe denied or confiscated passports for a variety of opponents, including “from individual trade unionists, human rights activists, opposition politicians, or minority religious groups.” Fortunately, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria and Zambia have taken steps to put into law the principle that every individual has a right to a passport — even if the principle is upheld irregularly in practice.

The African Union can learn from the E.U.’s example

The E.U. offers a model that the A.U. can use to study both the progress and pitfalls of regional integration: managing a common currency, balancing economies of vastly different sizes and structures, and building solidarity within and across culturally diverse nations.

Brexit is a reminder of the challenges inherent in a shared political and economic space. The debates over debt, immigration and national identity that led to Brexit would only be magnified in Africa under the weight of industrializing economies, significant barriers to access in education and health care and ongoing conflicts over resources and identity.

An African passport is an exciting development that can spur growth and improve living standards. To capitalize on this potential, the A.U. needs to plan two steps ahead. Crafting thoughtful regulations will be essential to ensuring the e-Passport’s economic promise is genuinely available to everyone and not subject to abuse.

For example, integration needs to benefit the strong and the weak, the rich and the poor, with both productivity and industrial capacity increasing in tandem. When some countries deindustrialize at the same time that others expand their markets, the stragglers strain the common pool and fall into crisis.

Further, governments need to fight against a race to the bottom in which commerce follows the path of least restrictions. This point is especially important considering that demos-centered Pan-Africanism underpins the A.U.’s mission.

And implementation plans must address practical obstacles that prevent many Africans from obtaining basic identity documentation, such as weak civil registration systems, slow and costly bureaucratic procedures, and corruption. According to the World Bank, 37 percent of people in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have legal identification, a prerequisite for obtaining a passport.

In short, the path forward is to ensure fairness in integration. When the system rewards the few on the backs of the many, solidarity wanes and the unification project suffers.

*Washington Post.Anne Frugé is a PhD candidate in the department of government and politics at the University of Maryland.

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Visa Free by 2018? Africa’s Open Visa Policy
June 30, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Michelle DeFreese*

Giriyondo Border Post South Africa Mozambique

Giriyondo Border Post South Africa Mozambique

African citizens currently face some of the most stringent visa restrictions in the world. According to the Africa Visa Openness Index Report launched by the African Development Bank (AfDB), citizens of African countries require visas to travel to 55% of countries within the continent. Within the next two years, however, the implementation of a proposed common visa policy under the African Union’s (AU) 2063 Agenda, a strategic document outlining the vision for African development, could profoundly impact the continent in terms of intra-regional trade, economic development, and regional integration.

While the AU’s visa-free travel proposal represents both challenges and opportunities for the security and economy of Africa, previous examples by regional communities and individual countries suggest that the benefits will outweigh the risks. As the plan moves from policy to implementation, the African common visa policy has the potential to impart substantial economic incentives through the removal of trade barriers, increased tourism and investment opportunities, and job creation.

The AU’s 2063 Agenda contains plans for a common visa policy with three primary components: visa-on-arrival for all African nationals, mandatory granting of a minimum 30-day visa for African citizens visiting any African country by 2018, and the ambitious goal of a single, continental passport by 2020. Challenges of implementing the plan include associated risks of widespread economic migration, the movement of illegal goods, cross-border terrorism, and the issue of stateless individuals. Nevertheless, significant progress has been made – regionally and nationally – with benefits that demonstrate the effectiveness of the policy in terms of stimulating economic growth.

The importance of regional integration was also discussed during the 2013 AfDB Annual Meeting, during which Professor Mthuli Ncube, AfDB Vice President and Chief Economist, stated, “Africa is one of the regions in the world with the highest visa requirements. Visa restrictions imply missed economic opportunities for intra-regional trade and for the local service economy such as tourism, cross-country medical services or education.”

Thus far, regional communities within Africa have made variable progress towards the goal of a pan-African, visa-free policy with largely positive results and spillover effects: the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) introducedfree movement between member states in 1979; a single visa is in place enabling nationals of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) free movement; a common visa policy unites Zambia and Zimbabwe; and the East African Community (EAC) now has a single tourist visa available for visitors to Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda coupled with an East African passport that allows citizens freedom of movement within the trading bloc. Following the adoption of the EAC common visa policy, both Uganda and Rwanda benefited from increased tourism revenues by 12% and 8% respectively. According to the AfDB’s Africa Tourism Monitoring Report, comparable visa liberalization schemes could increase tourism by 5-25%.

Individual countries, including the Seychelles, Ghana, and Rwanda, have also made significant efforts to ease visa restrictions on travelers. The Seychelles is one of the few visa-free countries that does not require a visa for citizens of any country upon arrival. After adopting the policy, international tourism arrivals to the country increased by an average of 7% per year between 2009 and 2014. Ghana has adopted the 2063 Agenda’s visa-free policy, which will be formally introduced in July 2016. Rwanda in particular has made significant strides to ease visa restrictions for African nationals, and provides an important example of the potential for the adoption of the visa-free policy in other countries. According to the AfDB, Rwanda’s 2013 visa-free policy for African nationals resulted in several positivebenefits in terms of economic development; these include an estimated 24% increase in tourism arrivals from African countries and a 50% increase in intra-African trade. Trade with the Democratic Republic of the Congo alone increased by 73% since the implementation of the policy.

Beyond the implications for the continent, African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs, Dr. Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko, has suggested that visa-free travel within Africa could potentially reduce emigration to other continents. At the same time, reduced visa restrictions will necessitate advances in electronic border management systems and improved interoperability of security architecture to address the increased risks of trafficking and cross-border crime.

Examples of the successful implementation of visa-free policies by regional communities and individual countries – and the benefits that have followed – are compelling arguments for the implementation of the AU’s common visa policy for the continent. For a continent that is home to some of the fastest growing economies in the world and a burgeoning middle class, the dissolution of barriers to trade, increased free movement, and bolstered tourism will foster an unprecedented growth of untapped markets critical for the realization of thecontinued rise of Africa.

*HuffPost.Michelle DeFreese is a consultant with the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy (IMTD) based in Tanzania. She completed her Master’s degree in International Relations at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID) and is an Africa Fellow at Young Professionals in Foreign Policy.

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2017 Investing in African Mining Indaba Introduces Significant Price Reduction for Mining Corporates
June 27, 2016 | 0 Comments

Registration fees are as much as 50% lower than last year for mining corporates

Jonathan Moore, managing director of Mining Indaba

Jonathan Moore, managing director of Mining Indaba

Investing in African Mining Indaba , the world’s largest mining investment event, today announced registration is open. Reacting to the market conditions and unfavorable currency-conversion rates that have resulted in recent lower attendance, Indaba official shave announced a new historic price reduction for mining and exploration companies.

Registration fees are as much as 50% lower than last year for mining corporates, based upon company size and type. Mining Indaba, now in its 23rd year, will take place 6-9 February, 2017, in Cape Town, South Africa.

Jonathan Moore, managing director of Mining Indaba, said the success of the event relies on participation from investors, mining ministers, and mining corporates. “We want to ensure that mining companies meet investors who are eager to learn about their projects,” he said. “Toward that end, we need to attract the mining companies. This new pricing will help make that possible, especially for the junior miners.”

Investors and mining ministers again are invited to attend at no cost.

Mining Indaba delegates speak out

Event officials recently surveyed those who attended the 2016 conferences – and those who attended in 2015 but did not return the following year – with the goal of improving all aspects of Mining Indaba. Mining company attendees reported that market conditions and poor currency conversion rates made it difficult to send all who should participate in the conference. In some cases, companies could not attend at all.

“It’s clear that this had an impact on event equilibrium,” Moore said. The number of investors at the 2016 Mining Indaba more than doubled, and attendance from African and non-African governments was also strong, he reported.

“We believe this change in pricing for mining corporates will make it possible for all miners – from large to nano cap – to be able to attend the 2017 Indaba,” Moore said. “We want all those who seek investment and who wish to meet with government ministers, service providers and their peers to be able to participate, and to conduct productive business in Cape Town.”

New sponsorship opportunities also will make it possible for mining companies of all sizes to have a presence and demonstrate their value. Fred Noce, director of sales for Mining Indaba, said, “It’s my goal to help any mining company looking for visibility to get it this year. I anticipate that the increase in the number of mining companies with a physical presence, along with our deliberate elimination of more than 40 sponsoring service providers and equipment companies will greatly improve connections and commerce on the exhibit hall floor.”

In addition to these price reductions, Mining Indaba will introduce new and unique ways for people to connect and meet. Improvements will include expansion of the commodity-specific, speed-networking program and the networking round tables.

“Those enhancements – along with remarkable speakers, heated panel discussions, mining company presentations, country case studies, and thought-provoking research – will make the 2017 Indaba an invaluable experience for all who are working toward improving the state of mining in Africa,” Jonathan Moore said.

Listen to what mining professionals had to say about the 2016 Mining Indaba

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African Agriculture Can Help Tackle Refugee Crisis
June 27, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Ray Jordan*

2016-06-21-1466539044-1639912-9402394820-thumbFigures released on World Refugee Day this week showed there are currently an estimated 65 million displaced people in the world – more than at any time in history.

As the head of an international agricultural development organisation working in Africa, I am often asked why we don’t work to address the current migrant crisis from Africa that has overwhelmed Europe.

The question directed to me is usually a sincere one, not borne of xenophobia or racism, but rather from a deep frustration that in our advanced and sophisticated 21st century society we should not be witnessing such scenes, night after night on our television screens.

My answer to such questions is a short one. We are.

For it is only by improving the economic circumstances of rural poor people in Africa that we will ultimately provide them with an acceptable alternative to the hugely risky, life-threatening and demeaning choices currently being taken by millions, as they uproot from their communities and take their lives into their own hands in search of ‘a better life’ somewhere else.

Noone who has ever visited a refugee camp, which I have done many times during a 30-years career that included many years in humanitarian relief, would ever describe these places as anything other than a stopgap. As the name itself suggests it is a place of refuge from something terrible that is occurring elsewhere. It is not the ‘better life’ that millions are taking huge risks to seek out.

EU plan, announced this month, sets out a framework that the Union believe can tackle some of the root causes of migration from Africa.

While the ‘carrot and stick’ approach in these proposals – which include a combination of aid and trade incentives – has been criticized by some African countries, and by aid organisations, it should be viewed as a step towards addressing the underlying cause of much of the current crisis, poverty.

Only by boosting growth in economies, creating jobs, and ensuring that countries can provide a future for their populations will the current flood of migration be resolved.

Building walls, Brexit opt-out campaigns or any number of breaches by Euro states of the Schengen freedom of movement charter are reactions, rather than solutions, to a problem that has been with us for generations. 2016-06-21-1466539089-2782849-308662801.png

For too long we have failed to properly solve the problem of extreme poverty that continues to cast an enormous shadow across developing countries of the world. That there are almost 800 million people worldwide living in extreme poverty – that’s one in nine of our global population – is proof enough that we are continuing to fail the poorest, and the most vulnerable.

In the current clamour over immigration to Europe it is often overlooked that such mass movement of people is placing a huge burden on the fabric of society across Africa, as well.

Figures released in 2015 showed that the top six destinations for African refugees and migrants were within the continent of Africa itself. The figures were: Ethiopia (659,524), Kenya (551,352), Chad (452,897), Uganda (385,513), Cameroon (264,126) and South Sudan (248,152), who collectively were accommodating 2,561,564 people of foreign origin in camps within their countries.

Interviews that have been given by refugees themselves – whether in Kenya or in Calais – tell us that if given the choice, the vast majority of those who make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe would not do so, if their futures at home were not so bleak. 2016-06-21-1466539145-4152959-3404324560.png

People aren’t only moving across international borders in search of a better life either. There is also an accelerating pattern of rural to urban migration taking place in sub-Saharan Africa that is placing a huge burden on national services.

Africa will become the most rapidly urbanized region on the planet in the coming 25 years, as the number of people living in its cities is projected to soar to 56% of the population, according to UN estimates. That means that many more shantytowns like Kiberi, an urban slum of one million people outside Nairobi, Kenya, will spring up across Africa in the years to come.

At Self Help Africa our focus is on supporting rural poor communities to support their populations through an innovative mix of agricultural and enterprise development activities.

By supporting rural poor households to grow more, and access profitable markets for their produce, Africa’s small-scale farming families can realise the better future that they desire for themselves and their communities.

There is no quick fix to the problems of extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, just as there is no quick fix to the current migrant crisis in Europe. But there are many steps that can be taken to move us in the right direction.

Self Help Africa believes that by contributing to the creation of an economically vibrant African agricultural sector, we can play our part in tackling this challenge.

And in the same way, the announcement by the European Union of a combination of new aid and trade deals with Africa to support economic growth, has to be regarded as a positive approach to a crisis that has been going on for too long.

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Who should pay for African peacekeeping?
June 26, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Obi Anyadike*

Ugandan AMISOM soldiers of Battle Group 8 leave Kampala for Mogadishu, 2011 - Obi Anyadike/IRIN

Ugandan AMISOM soldiers of Battle Group 8 leave Kampala for Mogadishu, 2011 – Obi Anyadike/IRIN

The problem for African peacekeeping is not so much where to find the boots to put on the ground, but how to pay for them – not to mention the helicopters, intelligence-gathering and technology crucial to conducting modern military operations and dealing with the new security threats on the horizon.

Since 2002, none of the five African Union peace operations have been financed through the AU’s Peace Fund, except for an allocation of $50 million for the African-led International Support Mission to Mali in 2013. The slogan of ‘African solutions for African problems’ falls a little flat when financing mainly comes from the European Union, individual European donors, and the United States.

But an AU summit at the end of July in the Rwandan capital Kigali hopes to change all that. African leaders are going to try to agree on a roadmap of alternative financing for AU-led peace support operations.

The meeting will explore innovative approaches – taxes on hotels, flights, text messaging, even a percentage of import duties – to self-generate 25 percent of peacekeeping costs by 2020: a significant step forward. The AU hopes that level of commitment would persuade the UN to cover the remaining 75 percent.

What happens now?

The AU wants to make funding sustainable and predictable. At the moment it’s neither. More than 90 percent of the AU’s peace and security budget is financed through the EU’s African Peace Facility. Since the APF was established in 2004, the EU has committed more than €1.1 billion.

Somali troops with Ugandan AMISOM forces
Obi Anyadike/IRIN
Somali troops with Ugandan AMISOM forces

But what is given can also be withheld. At the beginning of the year, the EU cut its allocation to the allowances of the 22,000-strong African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) by 20 percent. The reasoning: there were other “competing priorities in Africa and the world in general”, including the need to shift resources into training the Somali National Army.

AMISOM, which has battled the al-Shabab insurgency for nine years, currently absorbs more than 85 percent of APF spending. The UN also provides a non-lethal logistics “life support” package that includes fuel, food, and health services. Nevertheless, AMISOM remains an under-manned, under-equipped and bare-bones operation.

Troop-contributing countries reacted with anger to the EU’s suggestion that they should make up the shortfall on allowances. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta argued that African troops were paying in blood for what is an international peace and security remit. Both Kenya and Uganda have threatened to withdraw their soldiers.

Who pays the piper

The EU’s policy shift exemplifies the problem of the ad hoc nature of the funding. “The challenge is that the financing for these types of missions is not fit for purpose,” said a senior AU official who asked not to be named. “It’s a hodge-podge. We can’t go on like this, passing around the hat.”

The AU has on paper a comprehensive security architecture, but little of its own money to pay for it. The organisation lost its main benefactor with the fall of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and its other major contributors – Nigeria, South Africa, Algeria, and Egypt – are all going through tough times. Dependency on external financing not only determines which conflicts the AU can intervene in, but also dictates when the missions must end.

Ugandan soldier AMISOM
Obi Anyadike/IRIN
Ugandan soldier AMISOM

At the beginning of the year, the AU appointed Donald Kabureka, former president of the African Development Bank, as its high representative for the Peace Fund. His role is to find the resources that will enable African contributions to hit 25 percent of the fund’s budget, and to lobby international partners towards securing UN assessed contributions for the remainder.

It hasn’t been plain sailing. Some members, including Kenya and Egypt, have frettedover the impact a proposed $2 hotel tax or $10 levy on air tickets would have on their tourism industries. Zambia argued that the surrendering of national taxes was a violation of citizens’ rights.

“There are also concerns over the accountability of the Peace Fund, which will be the repository of the funding,” said the senior AU official. “Little has been done on transparency and fiduciary rules.”

Tricky two-step

According to Paul Williams of the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, Kabureka is embarking on a tricky two-step process.

First he needs buy-in from the member states at the Kigali summit. “Once the AU settles on what its Peace Fund will do and how it can be filled with appropriate funds, then the UN and AU must agree on how the UN should help support African peace operations,” Williams told IRIN.

The UN recognises that AMISOM represents something of a model for future peace operations. The UN envisages more regional interventions authorised by the Security Council, and regards the AU in particular as a key partner. The AU has shown itself willing to deploy in situations where there is “no peace to keep”, and which in the case of Somalia involved the bloody slog of house-to-house combat in Mogadishu. Hardly the traditional role for UN blue helmets.

Apart from the AU’s willingness to take on enforcement operations, it also has the advantage of speed. In response to the violence in Central African Republic and Mali, the UN authorised the rapid deployment of AU peace support missions, interventions that were later re-hatted as UN operations. Ten of the UN’s 17 current peace missions are in Africa.

Burden-sharing

The AU sees the way forward as a formalised partnership with the UN under the mandate of Chapter VIII of the UN charter, which authorises collaboration with regional organisations.

Ugandan AMISOM APCs Mogadishu
Obi Anyadike/IRIN
AMISOM staging area, Mogadishu

“Such a partnership should be based on the principles of burden-sharing, comparative advantage and division of labour, to better address the complexities of today’s conflicts,” an AU discussion note said.

Last year, a High-Level Independent Panel on United Nations Peace Operations, established by the UN secretary-general to review peace operations, recommended that the UN should support AU-led missions on a case-by-case basis. That qualification falls short of “African expectations of more open-ended commitments in terms of institutional cooperation and financing”, noted a report by the European Centre for Development Policy management.

In the past year, there has been a series of reviews, framework documents, and common position papers exploring the steps to greater convergence. But there are still institutional and political challenges that could make working together difficult for both organisations – the ECDP paper noted financial and budgetary control mechanisms and compliance with UN peacekeeping principles.

The AU has repeatedly reaffirmed its commitment to combatting sexual violence and protecting human rights in its deployments – key concerns of some UN member states. The (underfunded) pillars of its security architecture also uphold the importance of pursuing conflict prevention and early warning – the mediation and political avenues – before getting to boots on the ground.

It’s not clear where the Western, permanent UN Security Council members – the US, France, and the UK – sit in terms of using UN-assessed contributions to finance AU peace operations. “I would say it’s too soon to attribute definitive positions to any of the key players at this moment in time,” said Williams.

But in a presentation earlier this year on regional approaches to security, he argued: “If Africa cannot find sustainable, predictable, flexible funding, then it raises questions of credibility, local ownership and sustainability.”

Without it, he added: “African states and organisations will never fully be in control; never own the agenda”.

*IRIN NEWS

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