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2018 African Economic Outlook: African Development Bank makes a compelling case for Africa’s industrialization
January 20, 2018 | 0 Comments
The Bank would organise the Africa Investment Forum on November 7-8, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa, to mobilise funds for infrastructure development, to bridge an estimated funding gap of $130-$170 billion a year
Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank

Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, January 19, 2018/ — The President of the African Development Bank (www.AfDB.org), Akinwumi Adesina, has made a compelling case for accelerating Africa’s industrialization in order to create jobs, reduce poverty and promote inclusive economic growth.

Citing data from the Bank’s 2018 African Economic Outlook (http://APO.af/GHTmei) launched in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, on Wednesday, Adesina said infrastructure projects were among the most profitable investments any society can make as they “significantly contribute to, propel, and sustain a country’s economic growth. Infrastructure, when well managed, provides the financial resources to do everything else.”

Noting that economic diversification is key to resolving many of the continent’s difficulties, he urged African governments to encourage a shift toward labour-intensive industries, especially in rural areas where 70 percent of the continent’s population resides.

“Agriculture must be at the forefront of Africa’s industrialization,” he said, adding that integrated power and adequate transport infrastructure would facilitate economic integration, support agricultural value chain development and economies of scale which drive industrialization.

He reminded the audience of policy-makers and members of the diplomatic corps in Côte d’Ivoire that economic diversification via industrialization with tangible investment in human capital will enable the continent’s rapidly growing youth population to successfully transition to productive technology-based sectors.

Adesina also highlighted the relatively unknown win-win situation that Africa’s industrialization can generate within the developed world, citing data from the report, which notes that “increasing the share of manufacturing in GDP in Africa (and other Less Developing Countries) could boost investment in the G20 by about US $485 billion and household consumption by about US $1.4 trillion.”

The Bank President highlighted various innovative ways in which African countries can generate capital for infrastructure development and what the Bank is doing through its ambitious High 5 (http://APO.af/6D641c) development agenda to address the issues raised in the report.

He announced that the Bank would organise the Africa Investment Forum on November 7-8, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa, to mobilise funds for infrastructure development, to bridge an estimated funding gap of $130-$170 billion a year, up from previous estimates of US $100 billion per year.

New infrastructure financing gap estimates and innovative ways through which African countries can raise funds for infrastructure development are among the highlights of the 2018 edition of the report, which was launched at the Bank’s headquarters for the first time in the publication’s 15-year history.

The African Economic Outlook was first published in 2003 and launched mostly in various African capitals outside the Bank’s headquarters in May each year.

In his remarks, Célestin Monga, the Bank’s Chief Economist and Vice-President for Economic Governance and Knowledge Management, said the African Economic Outlook has become the flagship report for the African Development Bank, providing data and reference material on Africa’s development that are of interest to researchers, investors, civil society organizations, development partners and the media.

This year’s edition focuses on macroeconomic development and structural changes in Africa, and outlines economic prospects for 2018. The report emphasizes the need to develop Africa’s infrastructure, and recommends new strategies and innovative financing instruments for countries to consider, depending on levels of development and specific circumstances.

Abebe Shimeles, Acting Director, Macroeconomic Policy, Forecasting and Research, said the Bank will publish Regional Economic Outlooks for Africa’s five sub-regions. The self-contained, independent reports, to be released at the Bank’s Annual Meetings in May 2018, will focus on priority areas of concern for each sub-region and provide analysis of the economic and social landscape, among other key issues.

Participants at the launch session, moderated by the Bank’s Director of Communications and External Relations, Victor Oladokun, included members of the diplomatic community in Côte d’Ivoire, representatives of international organisations and multilateral development banks, civil society and the media.

The African Economic Outlook is produced annually by the African Development Bank. The full report is available in English, French and Portuguese at www.AfDB.org/aeo. Official hashtag: #2018AEO

*AFDB

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African nations set to approve huge free trade deal
January 20, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Alanna Petroff *

The African continent is on the cusp of something big.

Fifty-five nations are negotiating a free trade deal that will cover more than 1.2 billion people across Africa, from Morocco all the way to South Africa.

 Their leaders are planning to give political backing to the deal in late March, and launch a free trade zone for goods and services before the end of 2018, according to a spokesperson for the African Union, an organization that represents all 55 countries.

The Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) could eventually be extended to create common policies on investment, competition and intellectual property.

It covers economies with a combined GDP of around $3.4 trillion.

The deal is designed to replace a patchwork of smaller trade agreements and bring countries closer together, following the pattern set by the European Union.

Like the EU, African nations hope one day to allow the free movement of people across the continent. An African central bank and single currency could follow within 10 years, said Prudence Sebahizi, the CFTA’s chief technical adviser.

Analysts are still crunching the numbers for what the CFTA means for economic growth and prosperity. The United Nations estimated in 2012 that the CFTA could boost trade within Africa by about 50% over the course of a decade.

Growth is very uneven across the continent and has generally slowed over the past few years, down to 3.5% in 2017 from a recent peak of 7% in 2012, according to the International Monetary Fund. It is forecast to rise in the coming years, but not by much.

“The potential for the agreement to support the continent’s development is huge,” said Danae Kyriakopoulou, chief economist at the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF), a financial think tank in London

Two of the biggest economies — Nigeria and South Africa — support the deal, according to the African Union, which works to promote economic and political integration. Nigeria is chairing the negotiations while South Africa has sent big delegations to each round of talks, it added.

But some experts are cautious about the prospects for success.

John Ashbourne, an Africa economist at Capital Economics, is a self-professed CFTA skeptic. He worries that the free trade zone could be “unworkably large” and may have limited benefits.

“While tariffs are a big problem, there are also very tangible reasons why intra-Africa trade is low. The infrastructure needed to facilitate intra-regional trade is poor, and most countries don’t produce many finished goods that their neighbors want,” he said.

That’s reflected in relatively weak trade ties between African countries.

“In absolute terms, African countries traded almost twice as much with the European Union as they did with each other in 2016,” said the OMFIF’s Kyriakopoulou. “This defies one of the principles of trade economics: that proximity matters.”

In a recent article in the Financial Times, Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou listed several obstacles to boosting continental trade, including “border delays, burdensome customs and inspection procedures.”

But the potential rewards are simply too big to ignore, he added.

“With the continent’s economy expected to grow to $29 trillion by 2050, the CFTA may evolve to cover a market that is larger than NAFTA today,” he wrote, referring to the North American Free Trade Agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

*Source CNN Money

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Nikki Haley voices regret to African UN envoys after Trump slur
January 19, 2018 | 0 Comments
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley meets South Sudanese refugee children at the Nguenyyiel refugee camp in Gambella Region, Ethiopia October 24, 2017. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley meets South Sudanese refugee children at the Nguenyyiel refugee camp in Gambella Region, Ethiopia October 24, 2017. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

United Nations (United States) (AFP) – US Ambassador Nikki Haley expressed regret on Thursday to African ambassadors who were outraged by President Donald Trump’s alleged description of African countries as “shithole” nations, the head of the African Group said.

Haley asked to meet the African ambassadors at the United Nations after they released a joint statement on Friday demanding an apology from Trump for his “outrageous, racist and xenophobic remarks.”

Ambassador Anatolio Ndong Mba of Equatorial Guinea, who chairs the Africa Group, said the US ambassador did not offer an apology during the closed-door meeting, but she did express regret.

Haley told the meeting that “she was not there at the White House, she is not sure what was said, but she regretted all this situation that has been created,” the ambassador said.

The US mission declined to say whether Haley had addressed the furor over Trump’s remarks allegedly made a week ago at a White House meeting with lawmakers on immigration reform.

Ndong Mba said the Africa Group “made a recommendation” to Haley to defuse tensions, which she promised to pass on to Trump.

Diplomats, who declined to be named, said they had suggested that Trump send a friendly message to African leaders at their upcoming summit in Addis Ababa as a gesture of goodwill.

“We appreciate the fact that she came and she talked about all the cooperation between the United States with Africa,” said Ndong Mba, who described the meeting as “very friendly.”

The US mission posted photos of the meeting on Twitter and said: “Thank you to the Africa Group for meeting today.”

“We discussed our long relationship and history of combatting HIV, fighting terrorism, and committing to peace throughout the region,” it said in the post retweeted by Haley.

Trump’s remarks were condemned by the 55-nation African Union while some African governments summoned the US ambassador in their capitals to demand an explanation.

Trump reportedly demanded to know why the United States should accept immigrants from “shithole countries,” after lawmakers raised the issue of protections for immigrants from African nations, Haiti and El Salvador.

However he later tweeted: “this was not the language used.”

Earlier this week, 78 former US ambassadors to Africa wrote a letter to Trump expressing “deep concern” over his comments and urging him to “reassess” his views on Africa.

The United Nations slammed the reported remarks as “shocking and shameful” as well as “racist.”

“You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as ‘shitholes’ whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome,” Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN human rights office, told reporters in Geneva.

*Source AFP

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African Tech Startups Raise $195 Million
January 19, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Mfonobong Nsehe *

Africa’s tech revolution is picking up speed, with 2017 proving the best year on record for the continent’s tech startups as investment topped US$195 million over the course of the year.

New research by entrepreneurship portal Disrupt Africashows that in 2017 the number of African tech startups to raise funding hit 159 – up from 146 companies in 2016. In 2015, only 125 startups managed to attract investment. Investor confidence and willingness to back African tech ventures is clearly accelerating.

The total funding raised by these companies – US$195,060,845 – also marks a 51% rise on the previous year’s figures, taking investment into African startups to an all-time record high.

“The tech entrepreneurship ecosystem is really coming into its own across Africa. There have been years of speculation as to whether the tech-first Africa narrative is real or just hype, but these numbers emerging in our research show undeniably that African startups are impacting all aspects of daily life and service delivery,” says Gabriella Mulligan, co-founder of Disrupt Africa.

While startups are using technology to shake-up everything from healthcare to home cleaning, fintech has been by far the best backed sector since tracking began. In 2017, almost one third of all funding went to fintech companies – this proportion has remained stable over the past three years.

A few other sectors also saw success in 2017. Although e-commerce floundered in 2016 – receiving little support from investors – this trend reversed in 2017. The e-commerce space grew 350% on the previous year to collect over US$16 million in investment over the course of the year.

With nearly one billion people in Africa active as smallholder farmers, it comes as no surprise that entrepreneurs and investors alike are starting to tap into the agri-tech space. This space is charting out a decidedly upward trajectory, with funding into this sector growing 203% in 2017.

“Areas like agri-tech and e-health offer the perfect balancing of motivations for investors. With vast untapped markets in need of innovative new solutions, and the substantial impact element of ventures operating in these areas, these investments offer both sizeable returns and impact,” Mulligan says.

South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya continued to solidify their position as the top three investment destinations in Africa, although 2017 saw other markets begin to emerge as alternative hotspots. Activity in Egypt and Ghana is picking up pace, while countries like Uganda and Morocco also placed themselves on the map this year.

As such, investment in Africa’s tech ecosystem took on a decidedly pan-African flavour in 2017, a trend which will continue to develop as the continent carries on presenting high quality innovations and businesses, tackling Africa’s challenges, but also scalable across the world.

*Courtesy of Forbes .Follow Mfonobong on Twitter @MfonobongNsehe.  mfon.nsehe@gmail.com

 

 

 
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Cedric Bakambu: Villarreal forward set for African record £65m deal
January 18, 2018 | 0 Comments
DR Congo's Cedric Bakambu has scored 14 goals for Villarreal in all competitions so far this season

DR Congo’s Cedric Bakambu has scored 14 goals for Villarreal in all competitions so far this season

Cedric Bakambu is set to become the most expensive African footballer of all time after Beijing Guoan agreed to meet Villarreal’s release clause.

The Spanish club set the clause at 40m euros (£35.3m) for the Chinese Super League-bound DR Congo striker.

But the total fee will be around £65m because of taxation rules that have recently been introduced in China.

That will eclipse the £34m Liverpool have paid for Mo Salah and Saido Mane, and their £48m deal for Naby Keita.

“Villareal informs that the release clause of its player Cedric Bakambu has been activated, meaning he no longer belongs to the squad,” the La Liga side said in a statement (in Spanish) on Wednesday evening.

“The club wants to thank the footballer for his commitment and professionalism, and wishes him the best in his sporting career.”

Bakambu, 26, has had a medical with Beijing Guoan who, like all Chinese Super League clubs, are now subject to a transfer tax for any fee over 5m euros.

The laws were introduced in a bid to encourage clubs to buy China-based players and keep more money inside the country.

The former Sochaux and Bursaspor forward is Villarreal’s top scorer this season, with 14 goals in all competitions for the Spanish side.

Bakambu became the first African player to win La Liga’s Player of the Month award after scoring six of those goals in October.

The previous Chinese record was £60m, which Shanghai SIPG paid to sign Brazil international Oscar from Chelsea last January.

Keita will join Liverpool in July from German club RB Leipzig after the Premier League side agreed a deal for the Guinea international last summer.

 *BBC
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Why some African Americans are moving to Africa
January 18, 2018 | 0 Comments

African-Americans are returning to the lands of their ancestors as life becomes precarious and dangerous in the USA.

By Azad Essa*
Accra, Ghana – They have come from the big cities of San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. Thousands of them. And many refuse to return.
Muhammida el-Muhajir says as an African American in the US, she felt she could 'never win' [Courtesy of Muhammida el-Muhajir]

Muhammida el-Muhajir says as an African American in the US, she felt she could ‘never win’ [Courtesy of Muhammida el-Muhajir]

A new wave of African Americans is escaping the incessant racism and prejudice in the United States. From Senegal and Ghana to The Gambia, communities are emerging in defiance of conventional wisdom that Africa is a continent everyone is trying to leave.

It is estimated that between 3,000 and 5,000 African Americans live in Accra, the Ghanaian capital. They are teachers in small towns in the west or entrepreneurs in the capital and say they that even though living in Ghana is not always easy, they feel free and safe.

Take Muhammida el-Muhajir, a digital marketer from New York City, who left her job to move to Accra.

She says she moved, because despite her education and experience, she was always made to feel like a second-class citizen. Moving was an opportunity to fulfil her potential and avoid being targeted by racial violence.

She told Al Jazeera her story:

On life as a second-class citizen in the US…

“I grew up in Philadelphia and then New York. I went to Howard, which is a historically black university. I tell people that Ghana is like Howard in real life. It felt like a microcosm of the world. At university, they tell us the world isn’t black, but there are places where this is the real world. Howard prepares you for a world where black people are in charge, which is a completely different experience compared to people who  have gone to predominantly white universities.”

I can’t say what’s happening in America today is any worse than what’s been happening at any other time.

Muhammida el-Muhajir

On her first trip to Africa…

“The first country I went to was Kenya. I was 15 and travelled with a group of kids. I was one of two black kids. I saw early that I could fit in and wasn’t an outsider. Suddenly it switched, I came from America where I was an outsider, but in Africa, I no longer felt like that. I did graduate school in Ghana in 2003 and went back to New York and then moved to Ghana in 2014.

“I have no connection to Ghana. Some people in my family did tests, and we found ties to Senegal and The Gambia, but I don’t think you can ever figure it out. No matter where you were sold or left the port, Senegal or Ghana, no one can be certain where you came from.”

No matter where you were sold or left the port, Senegal or Ghana, no one can be certain where you came from.

Muhammida el-Muhajir

On leaving New York for Accra…

“Even when you live in a place like New York as a black person, you’re always an outsider.

“You hear stories about the richest black people, like Oprah Winfrey, getting shut out of a store or Jay-Z not being allowed to buy [an apartment]. Those things happen. It doesn’t matter if you’re a celebrity, you’re a second-class citizen. This was the biggest issue for me.

“In America, you’re always trying to prove yourself; I don’t need to prove myself to anyone else’s standards here. I’m a champion, I ran track and went to university, and I like to win, so I refuse to be in a situation where I will never win.”

You might not have electricity, but you won’t get killed by the police either.

Muhammida el-Muhajir

On moving to Ghana…

“There are amenities that I am used to at home in New York – like parties, open bars and fashion, so when I realised I could do the same things in Africa as I could back in the US, I was sold. There is also a big street art festival here, and that was the difference from when I came [as a student]. I saw the things that I love at home here, so I decided that now is the time.”

On Ghanaian reactions…

Modern architecture in Ghana's capital [Thomas Imo/Photothek via Getty Images]

Modern architecture in Ghana’s capital [Thomas Imo/Photothek via Getty Images]

“When Ghanaians find out that I live here, they’re usually confused about why I chose to live here as an American. There is definitely certain access and privilege being American here, but it’s great to finally cash in on that because it doesn’t mean anything in America.”There are also plenty of privileged Ghanaians; if you take away race there’s a class system.”

On the ‘Blaxit’ documentary…

“In my documentary, I chose five people that I’ve met since I’ve been here and every one of them went to a black college in the US. It’s something that prepares you mentally to realise you aren’t a second-class citizen. Something like that can help you make a transition to live in Africa.

“I made Blaxit because of this wave of African-Americans moving to Africa. This trend started to happen around independence of African countries, but the new wave [comprises] people who come to places like this. This new group has certain access in America and comes here to have that lifestyle in Africa.

“Unbeknown to us, we’re living out the vision that [Ghanaian politician and revolutionary] Kwame Nkrumah set out for us, of this country being the gateway to Africa for the black diaspora.

“I don’t want people to think that Africa is this magic utopia where all your issues will go away. It’s just that some of the things you might face in America as a black person – you won’t have to suffer with those things here.

“You might not have electricity, but you won’t get killed by the police either.

“I want people to understand that they have options and alternatives. Most black people in America don’t know that these options exist; they think they have to suffer because there’s nowhere else to go. But no, there are other places.”

On the prospect of more African-Americans moving…

“I think more will come when they begin to see it as a viable alternative. But it’s not easy and it’s not cheap. I can’t say what’s happening in America today is any worse than what’s been happening at any other time. I think now is the time that people are starting to see they can live somewhere else.”

*Al Jazeera

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“It was a privilege to live in and learn from the diverse and spectacular countries of Africa”-78 Former Amb in Letter to President Trump
January 17, 2018 | 0 Comments
Herman Cohen -Former Ambassador to  Senegal, and  Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in the Reagan and Bush is among the the 78 Ambassadors who signed the letter

Herman Cohen -Former Ambassador to Senegal, and Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in the Reagan and Bush is among the the 78 Ambassadors who signed the letter

In response to the remarks attributed to President Trump talking low about Africa, a group of 78 Ambassadors who served with both Democratic and Republican Administrations , say it was a privilege to live learn from the diverse and spectacular countries of Africa. Expressing concern on the remarks in a letter to President Trump, the former Ambassadors describe Africa as a continent with deep historical ties with the United States.

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

As former U.S. Ambassadors to 48 African countries, we write to express our deep concern regarding reports of your recent remarks about African countries and to attest to the importance of our partnerships with most of the fifty-four African nations. Africa is a continent of great human talent and rich diversity, as well as extraordinary beauty and almost unparalleled natural resources. It is also a continent with deep historical ties with the United States.

As American ambassadors abroad we have seen Africa’s complex and rich cultures, awe-inspiring resilience, and breathtaking generosity and compassion. Even as some nations have faced challenges, we have counted among our contacts dynamic entrepreneurs, gifted artists, committed activists, passionate conservationists, and brilliant educators. We learned of novel solutions to complex problems, helped American companies find partners critical to their success, and counted on African military and intelligence officials who often assumed real risks to help achieve outcomes critical to our shared security.

 We know that respectful engagement with these countries is a vital part of protecting our own national interests. The United States of America is safer, healthier, more prosperous, and better equipped to solve problems that confront all of humanity when we work with, listen to, and learn from our African partners. We also know that the entire world is richer because of the contributions of Africans, including the many Americans of African descent.
Ambassador Robin Sanders and former Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Johnie Carson pictured here here with former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan also signed the letter

Ambassador Robin Sanders and former Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Johnie Carson pictured here here with former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan also signed the letter

It was one of the greatest honors of our lives to represent the United States of America abroad. It was also a privilege to live in and learn from the diverse and spectacular countries of Africa. We hope that you will reassess your views on Africa and its citizens, and recognize the important contributions Africans and African Americans have made and continue to make to our country, our history, and the enduring bonds that will always link Africa and the United States.

Sincerely,

Mark L. Asquino – Equatorial Guinea
Shirley E. Barnes – Madagascar
William (Mark) Bellamy – Kenya
Eric D. Benjaminson – Gabon, Sao Tome and Principe
Michele Thoren Bond – Lesotho
Parker W. Borg – Mali
Aurelia E. Brazeal – Kenya, Ethiopia
Pamela Bridgewater – Benin, Ghana
Reuben E. Brigety II – African Union
Kenneth L. Brown – Ivory Coast, Ghana, Republic of the Congo
1Steven A. Browning – Malawi, Uganda
Edward P. Brynn – Burkina Faso, Ghana
John Campbell – Nigeria
Katherine Canavan – Botswana
Timothy Carney – Sudan
Johnnie Carson – Uganda, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
Phillip Carter – Ivory Coast, Guinea-Conakry
Herman Cohen – Senegal, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
Frances D. Cook – Burundi, Cameroon
Walter L. Cutler – Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tunisia
Jeffrey S. Davidow – Zambia
Ruth A. Davis – Benin, Director General of the Foreign Service
Scott H. DeLisi – Uganda, Eritrea
Christopher Dell – Angola, Zimbabwe, Deputy Ambassador at AFRICOM
Harriet Elam-Thomas – Senegal, Guinea-Bissau
Gregory W. Engle – Togo
James F. Entwistle – Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Robert A. Flaten – Rwanda
Robert S. Ford – Algeria
Patrick Gaspard – South Africa
Michelle D. Gavin – Botswana
Donald H. Gips – South Africa
Gordon Gray – Tunisia
Robert E. Gribben – Central African Republic, Rwanda
Patricia McMahon Hawkins – Togo
Karl Hofmann – Togo
Patricia M. Haslach – Ethiopia
Genta Hawkins Holmes – Namibia
Robert G. Houdek – Uganda, Eritrea
Michael S. Hoza – Cameroon
Vicki J. Huddleston – Madagascar, Mali
Janice L. Jacobs – Senegal
Howard F. Jeter – Botswana, Nigeria
Dennis C. Jett – Mozambique
Jimmy J. Kolker – Burkina Faso, Uganda
Edward Gibson Lanpher – Zimbabwe
Dawn M. Liberi – Burundi
Princeton N. Lyman – Nigeria, South Africa
Jackson McDonald – The Gambia, Guinea
James D. McGee – Swaziland, Madagascar, Comoros, Zimbabwe
Roger A. Meece – Malawi, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Gillian Milovanovic – Mali
Susan D. Page – South Sudan
David Passage – Botswana
Edward J. Perkins – Liberia, South Africa, Director General of the Foreign Service
Robert C. Perry – Central African Republic
Thomas R. Pickering – Nigeria
Jo Ellen Powell – Mauritania
Nancy Powell – Uganda, Ghana
Anthony Quainton – Central African Republic
Elizabeth Raspolic – Gabon, Sao Tome and Principe
Charles A. Ray – Zimbabwe
Fernando E. Rondon – Madagascar, Comoros
Richard A. Roth – Senegal, Guinea-Bissau
Robin Renee Sanders – Republic of the Congo, Nigeria
Mattie R. Sharpless – Central African Republic
David H. Shinn – Burkina Faso, Ethiopia
A. Ellen Shippy – Malawi
George M. Staples – Rwanda, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Director General of the Foreign Service
Linda Thomas-Greenfield – Liberia, Director General of the Foreign Service, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
Jacob Walles – Tunisia
Lannon Walker – Senegal, Nigeria, Ivory Coast
Melissa F. Wells – Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Zaire (Congo-Kinshasa)
Joseph C. Wilson – Gabon, Sao Tome and Principe
Frank G. Wisner – Zambia, Egypt
John M. Yates – Cape Verde, Benin, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Permanent Charge (3 years) Zaire, Special Envoy for Somalia
Mary Carlin Yates – Burundi, Ghana, Sudan
Johnny Young – Sierra Leone, Togo

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Herdsmen/Farmers’ Crisis: Buhari’s Clear Message On Tolerance
January 17, 2018 | 0 Comments
By Philip Agbese *
President Buhari

President Buhari

Something epochal and unique amazed the senses of Nigerians on Monday, January 15, 2018. President Muhammadu Buhari had an exclusive audience with a Benue delegation led by the state Governor, His Excellency, Governor Samuel Ortom to fraternally dialogue and explore ways to resolve the internecine conflict between herders and farmers in our home state.

The Benue delegation to the Presidential villa in Abuja was by no means, a venerated assemblage of state leaders, which never watered its substance by partisan trappings. The team which met with Mr. President comprised political leaders, traditional rulers and elders of the state. The Tiv Paramount Ruler, Tor Tiv V,  HRM Orchivirigh Professor James Ayatse also registered presence personally.
The mutual parley became imperative based on the seed of discord sawn by enemies of the people as reflected in the herders and conflict. The conflict appeared to have exacerbated with the New Year Day bloodbath in Guma and Logo LGAs of Benue State.
 No doubt, the pains and sorrows from the dastardly acts created loopholes and cracks which have been actively exploited by intolerant elements, perpetually committed to the disunity of Nigeria. There have been bitter conversations, misconceptions, inexplicable theories and trenchant calls for the severance of the essential cord that binds and unites the people as Nigerians and, especially, Northerners in this instance.
However, President Buhari’s utterances; his unexpressed feelings and  intentions all pointed to the mindset of a President not just saddened by the unfortunate incidents, but determined to  invoke the  full wrath of the law on the perpetrators of the evil. More pungently, Buhari was unambiguously insistent on the necessity of tolerance in all interactions among Nigerians no matter the bitterness and disappointments.
But decoding this flank of the series of  President Buhari’s messages in specific connotations  to the Benue delegation and by implication, Northern Nigerians, it reminded of the timeless message of the revered modern beacon  of the Northern region, the Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, who once echoed that ;
 “Here in the Northern Nigeria we have people of many different races, tribes and religions who are knit together to common history, common interest and common ideas; the things that unite us are stronger than the things that divide us…”
This message encapsulates twin indispensible ingredients of national cohesion and progress- tolerance and its end-result of unity. It is not just for Northerners in the specific instance alone, but a recipe for peaceful and harmonious co-existence of all Nigerians.  Therefore, the same engrained spirit unconsciously or consciously spurred President Buhari when he met the Benue delegation in the light of the herders/farmers bloody skirmishes by declaring;
“Your Excellency, the governor, and all the leaders here, I am appealing to you to try to restrain your people. I assure you that the Police, the Department of State Security and other security agencies have been directed to ensure that all those behind the mayhem get punished. I ask you in the name of God to accommodate your countrymen. You can also be assured that I am just as worried, and concerned with the situation.’’
The President’s drift must not be lost on the altar of any personalized interpretations. The audience before him was Benue leaders; but indubitably, they assumed his ordained status of leaders, representative of Nigeria. Therefore, he was conveying a message wrapped in a template that is relevant to all segments of Nigeria. Put differently, Buhari was addressing Nigerians through their leaders on the dire necessity of tolerance and hospitality to fellow countrymen and women as worthy virtues to imbibe.
The President’s endearing message on tolerance was quite inspirational and thought-provoking. The unuttered feelings were unmistakably that in all human existence, anywhere around the globe, disagreements are bound to exist and, sometimes, expressed with violence.
It is undeniably the consequences of intolerance, which is a solution-provider and problem-solver in most disputes, ultimately harvesting peace and unity.  Enmity, hate and bloodshed could be averted when tolerance of one another’s excessiveness is accorded its prime position in the hearts and lives of people.
But the import of the Presidential message is open for every community, ethnicity, section or region to ruminate and accord it a special place in existence.  Northern Nigeria particularly with its disparate peoples and cultures, must necessarily accept and consummate a resurrection and refinement of this message of tolerance from Mr. President.
More than a few would agree that the North of yesterday or in the days of Sir Ahmadu Bello appears to have lost track of its communal values and soul, which exuded tolerance, peace and unity. It now radiates with destructive flames all too often. And the unfortunate development is creating avoidable lacunas actively exploited by “emergency friends” of the North.
 In the days of yore, the geographical North was home to all Nigerians irrespective of tribe or religion and what propelled this seamless relationship was tolerance, mutual trust and understanding. But these virtues and values have regrettably eclipsed among Northerners.
Today, there is a damaging resort to inexplicable inclinations and pursuits of the self-interest, as against the collective. Hate and vengeance have replaced fraternity and unity.
The delight to resolve differences through the sword, rather than dialogue has negatively redefined the social architecture of the people.  These proclivities cannot offer any remedy or solace to the affliction or even developmental challenges of the people.  It is time for self-assessment and a conscious reabsorption of the abandoned old positive values.
Benue state particularly, should refresh its cord of brotherhood with dialogue, which a few years back, had Kaduna as the proud epicenter of Northern dialogue, hub of Northern intellectualism, and unity.  This should replace the apparent tilt to the deceptive voices from the South, hell-bent on exploiting the conflict among brothers to their advantage.  The same elements preaching the artificial friendship would desert the people once they succeed in stoking and consolidating the fire in Benue or anywhere else in the North.
No Nigerian is oblivious of the endowments and blessings of Benue as a beautiful bride, courted by virtually all. But it must not lose sight of the reality that not all the suitors are genuine, as many are masquerading vampires and disguised torturers or preys waiting to devour the people at the slightest opportunity.
If Benue people consciously expose themselves to their machinations, it would make them very vulnerable and such posturings have serious setbacks on the entire region, as peace not secured at home, would certainly elude you in foreign lands.
There is therefore, there is the need for a rethink, as no problem among brothers would defy solution with dialogue. And it imposes the necessity to re-embrace the Kaduna tradition with its motely of dialogue vents for peace and unity.  No sacrifice should be considered too much for the peace and unity as canvassed by forefathers.
The most auspicious time, when leaders are expected to deploy wisdom or think with undiluted senses is now, rather than the casual glance at issues, as fired by the tide of “disaster” commentators.
 Benue state Governor Ortom must be alert before he is consciously hoodwinked to throw the proverbial baby together with the bathwater. It is neither love nor affection, if a man who sights your house on fire, but offers you fuel, instead of water to quench it. The same man would disappear from sight when the fire explodes uncontrollably.
The signs are already manifest, as  can be gleaned  in the incident of  the recent conflagration in parts of  Makurdi, as   none of the war canvassers  risked any  assistance to the people of  Benue.  It was the same Benue leaders and people, who resolved to initiate dialogue and applied their capacity for peace building, in conjunction with Nigerian Security agencies that quenched the conflagration.  These are great and enviable lessons in self-worth.
The recent memories of  IPOB’s Nnamdi Kanu  saga is relevant and suitable here. At his time of tribulation, the great warmongers on social media; the activists and the venomous voices of “emergency friends” scurried away, at the sight of the “Python” when he arrived the doorstep to stage a dance. Tolerance and dialogue is the panacea to peace and unity. But war is destructive and irrecoverable. Nigerians should adopt it as a national anthem.
*Agbese writes from the UK. The opinions expressed here are his.
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Ellen Johnson Sirleaf booted out
January 17, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Prince Kurupati

In a surprising turn of events, Liberian outgoing President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was on January 14 expelled from her own party. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who is currently working with President-elect, George Weah in the hand-over take-over process for the nation’s top job is no longer be a card-carrying member for the Unity Party, the springboard party that catapulted her to the top echelons of the Liberian government.

The expulsion came as a surprise to all, President Sirleaf herself, the Liberian nation and Africa as a whole. With just a few days before she hands over power, the party could just have removed her from her position so she becomes an ordinary card carrying member.

Reasons for expulsion

The Unity Party revealed the news via a public statement that came from the office of the party’s spokesperson. The party said Ellen’s actions before the recent Presidential elections grossly violated the party’s constitution and as a result, the party was left with no choice but to expel her from the party.

The first issue cited in the statement was in regards to allegations of meetings conducted by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and some members of the election body. This issue first came to light a couple of months ago and Sirleaf has since then vehemently denied conducting private meetings with election magistrates.

The second issue cited in the public statement says that Ellen Johnson Sirleaf sabotaged her party by working, campaigning and endorsing an opposition candidate while smear campaigning the candidate from her own party, Joseph Boakai. The statement alleges that President Sirleaf was spotted numerous times during George Weah’s nationwide campaigns. At the time of writing, President Sirleaf had not yet issued a response.

What the constitution says

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was expelled from the Unity Party using the party’s constitution. The Unity Party’s constitution explicitly states that all party members are required to support the party’s chosen candidate for elections. By sympathising and attending to some of George Weah’s campaigns, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in fact, did violate the Unity Party’s constitution. Whether the decision to expel her entirely from the party was harsh especially considering she is just a few days from relinquishing power, what is clear is that Ellen played a part in her downfall.

Where did it all start (Ellen Johnson Sirleaf vs Joseph Boakai)

It was not always all doom and gloom between Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Joseph Boakai, in fact, these two worked together for 12 years. Boakai was the running mate for Ellen when she first contested and then there were together for the second term.

Insiders say that the friction between the two started towards the end of Ellen’s second term. It’s alleged that there was a mutual understanding between the two that they would leave government work when Ellen’s term expired. However, Boakai apparently made a U-turn and announced his candidature for the presidency. That is where everything took the turn for the worst. Ellen apparently refused to endorse Boakai and wherever she travelled to campaign for representatives in the country, she did not even once endorse Boakai’s presidential bid.

What next for Ellen

Despite Liberia, still suffering from abject poverty and the country has one of the world’s largest unemployment rates; Ellen’s time in the top office can be termed a success. She managed to stop the civil strife, which was destroying the country, Liberia ended human rights abuses and prosecuted many of those who had been implicated, and the economy stabilised.

By endorsing George Weah, it’s not clear if she is indeed a supporter of the ex-footballer or if she was just doing this to discredit her VP. Ellen’s most move is unknown but it’s highly unlikely she will be seeking another political office soon. If however, she does, then George Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change will be the likely destination.

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AU comes of age: issues stern response to unfortunate Trump statement
January 17, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Prince Kurupati*

In its many years of existence, even before it was rebranded, the African Union was seen by many as a toothless bulldog, which only came to life during the annual summits in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa where African leaders competed against each other for the bragging rights of being the most eloquent orators. Apart from the annual summit, the AU to many was just another body with strongly written principles but zero action.

However, recently the AU took a different turn to the AU many have become accustomed to. Instead of leaving it to member states to respond the ‘threat’ facing the entire continent, the AU for the first time took the first initiative to respond to the unfortunate statement reportedly uttered by the President of the United States, Donald Trump.

A couple of days ago, the Washington Post citing two sources from inside the White House stated that the US President had said, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries coming here.’ The sources claim that the President was referring to Africa, Haiti, and El Salvador. Television network, CNN and other mainstream media channels from the US corroborated the story.

The Washington Post claims that the President did not stop there, but he went further to suggest that the US must be looking at ways to attract more immigrants from Norway, a country that has one of the highest white demographics in the world.

It’s alleged that Trump made the remarks during a meeting with two Congress representatives, Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin and South Carolina GOP Senator, Lindsay Graham who had come to present the plan to cut the visa lottery on behalf of the Congressional Black Caucus. The plan wants the other half of the visa lottery to be shared proportionally between Africa and Haiti.

In its response to the President of the United States, the AU spokesperson, Ebba Kalondo said it was disappointing that Donald Trump had little respect for the continent and he actually publicly stated it. Kalondo said the US was one of the countries that should never forget how crucial immigration is to the development of a country as it is through immigration that the US managed to achieve what it has achieved.

In reference to Trump’s statement saying we should have more immigrants from Norway, many interviewed officials from across Africa said this shows that the President of the US has racist tendencies especially if one factors in some of his earlier utterances in relation to some South American countries. By referencing Norway, one of the ‘whitest’ countries in the world, Trump just showed his true colours to the world.

Barely 24 hours after the news broke out; Trump addressed the media and denied ever saying ‘shithole countries’. He unconvincingly stated that he is not racist and is the “least racist person you will ever meet.”

In condemning Trump’s statement, the AU was joined by several African countries who issued their own responses. Many African nationals living in Africa and beyond also weighed in on social media uploading pictures of their beautiful shithole countries.

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Novartis Foundation and Ghana Health Service announce successful integration and scale-up of telemedicine program
January 17, 2018 | 0 Comments
National coverage of telemedicine services is expected to be possible by 2019
BASEL, Switzerland, January 16, 2018/ — • The Ghana telemedicine program, with the support of the Novartis Foundation (www.NovartisFoundation.org), is now being scaled across the nation by Ghana Health Service (www.GhanaHealthService.org).
• Novartis Foundation and Ghana Health Service highlight the successful integration of the program in national health services as a model for multisector working.
• National coverage of telemedicine services is expected to be possible by 2019.
• Digital health learnings from the program can be used to expand quality healthcare in other areas.Today the Novartis Foundation and Ghana Health Service are announcing the successful integration and scale-up of telemedicine services across Ghana.

The telemedicine service started as a pilot model in the Amansie West District of the Ashanti Region in 2011, covering 30 communities of around 35,000 people. The Novartis Foundation worked with local and international partners to make the pilot a success. Partners included Millennium Promise at Columbia University; the Ghana Ministry of Health, Ministry of Communication, National Health Insurance Agency, and National Ambulance Service; St. Martin’s Hospital; MedGate; Ericsson; and Airtel.

Based on the success of this telemedicine model, the Ghana Health Service selected it for implementation across the nation as part of its national e-health strategy to use information and communications technology (ICT) to improve healthcare delivery. Working with the Novartis Foundation on a roadmap for scale-up, the Ghana Health Service and the Ministry of Health have now set up and staffed six teleconsultation centers across the country. Full national coverage of telemedicine services is expected to be possible by 2019.

The telemedicine service uses mobile technology to connect community health workers with specialist health professionals via 24-hour teleconsultation centers. Doctors, nurses and midwives in the teleconsultation centers coach community health workers and advise on the treatment of their patients, particularly in emergency care.

This not only strengthens healthcare capacity and empowers community health workers, it also improves quality of care, avoiding unnecessary referrals and reducing transport times and costs for patients. In 2016, more than half of all teleconsultations could be resolved directly by phone, including 31% that avoided referrals. This is particularly important in rural populations, where access to specialist care is limited.

Telemedicine demonstrates the power of digital health to reduce costs and improve the quality and coverage of healthcare in Ghana. This model can easily be applied to any healthcare challenge, like improving chronic care for noncommunicable diseases or improving mental health consultations.

Dr. Anthony Nsiah-Asare, Director General of Ghana Health Service, said: “We want to make sure that by 2020, everybody can have access to quality affordable healthcare in Ghana, irrespective of where you are. I see telemedicine as the next step on the path to achieving Universal Health Coverage in Ghana.”

Crucially, the integration of telemedicine services into national health policy marks a step-change for multisector partnerships bringing impactful programs to scale.

“We’re very proud to have been a part of this partnership, all the way from the pilot model to the roadmap for national implementation,” said Dr. Ann Aerts, Head of the Novartis Foundation. “Working with policy makers to integrate initiatives like telemedicine into health systems is the ultimate goal for us – only with sustained government leadership can such initiatives continue to transform healthcare for years to come.”

Working in partnership and leveraging the power of digital health are at the heart of the Novartis Foundation’s work. The Foundation will apply its experience in telemedicine to its other initiatives all over the world.

https://youtu.be/JJ-twbsinfc

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Ghana speeds up EMV migration with PURE payment technology
January 16, 2018 | 0 Comments

Offering secure and independent domestic payment scheme to 41 Ghanaian financial institutions 

 

Nassir Ghrous, Senior Vice President Banking and Payment for the CISMEA region at Gemalto

Nassir Ghrous, Senior Vice President Banking and Payment for the CISMEA region at Gemalto

Gemalto (Euronext NL0000400653 GTO), the world leader in digital security, is providing its PURE white-label payment solution to GhIPSS (Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems), a subsidiary of Ghana’s central bank that manages the country’s interbank payment processing system. Gemalto’s technology and consultancy will help speed up Ghana’s migration to the enhanced security of EMV transactions, and enable GhIPSS to offer its 41 member institutions comprehensive support for the introduction of domestic branded EMV cards.

The PURE technology solution provides GhIPSS full control and independence over the creation and operation of a new domestic chip-based payment eco-system. The PURE EMV white label offer gives private label issuers or domestic schemes the ability to issue payment cards with total independence from other payment card associations. Full interoperability will be established between all of Ghana’s stakeholders, including banks, merchants and end users. Furthermore, Gemalto and GhIPSS have defined together the domestic issuance and acceptance specifications that will greatly simplify the adoption of the new domestic chip card by the Ghanaian banking community. For end users, the PURE-based solution will ensure that all bank cards can be used at ATMs and POS terminals throughout Ghana, backed by the proven fraud protection of global payment standards.

“Gemalto is the preferred company to deliver a one-stop shop framework for our domestic EMV payment eco-system,” said Archie Hesse CEO of GhIPSS. “In addition to reducing fraud, PURE gives us greater flexibility as we strive to modernize Ghana’s banking and payments sector.”

“This project offers Ghanaian banks greater flexibility with their EMV migration strategies,” said Nassir Ghrous, Senior Vice President Banking and Payment for the CISMEA region at Gemalto. “GhIPSS will benefit from the scalability of PURE, which enables the use of contact and contactless cards as well as mobile payments, along with the accumulated experience of close to 60 issuers using PURE payment card worldwide.”

Gemalto (Euronext NL0000400653 GTO) is the global leader in digital security, with 2016 annual revenues of €3.1 billion and customers in over 180 countries. We bring trust to an increasingly connected world.
From secure software to biometrics and encryption, our technologies and services enable businesses and governments to authenticate identities and protect data so they stay safe and enable services in personal devices, connected objects, the cloud and in between.
Gemalto’s solutions are at the heart of modern life, from payment to enterprise security and the internet of things. We authenticate people, transactions and objects, encrypt data and create value for software – enabling our clients to deliver secure digital services for billions of individuals and things.
Our 15,000+ employees operate out of 112 offices, 43 personalization and data centers, and 30 research and software development centers located in 48 countries.

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Ringier Africa signs pan-African content agreement with The New York Times
January 15, 2018 | 0 Comments
Ringier Africa Digital Publishing (RADP) will publish New York Times journalism under its new media brand Pulse in Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria
ZURICH, Switzerland, January 15, 2018/ — Ringier Africa Digital Publishing (RADP) (http://Ringier.com) further expands its news and media portfolio by entering into a digital content license agreement with The New York Times News Service (www.NYTimes.com) and Syndicate, the licensing and syndicate division of The New York Times. RADP will publish New York Times journalism under its new media brand Pulse in Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria. Pulse informs and entertains Africa’s mass and mobile population with a reach of 100 million people every month.

The launch of New York Times journalism on Pulse will bring award-winning reporting and storytelling to Africa’s informed readership. The New York Times is a globally renowned media outlet for news and opinion, which will complement Pulse’s news coverage. Pulse readers will now have access to The New York Times’ top news of the day as well as a selection of other digital articles addressing key social, political and economic issues as well as videos, photos and graphics.

«Publishing content from The New York Times will be setting new standards in the regional media space, offering up-to-date information at any time of the day, directly to Africa’s media consumption tool of choice, the mobile phone, via the Pulse website and our newly launched mobile app» says Tim Kollmann, Managing Director of RADP.

This agreement consolidates Ringier’s position as Africa’s leading news brand. It signals a new strategic direction, expands Pulse’s editorial scope to include more politics, current affairs and international news stories and strengthens the platform’s followership. It also furthers RADP’s plan to build one of the most robust digital ecosystems in Africa by continuing to find new ways and platforms to engage and stay connected with users.

Ringier Africa & Asia CEO, Robin Lingg, adds: «Ringier is constantly reaching out to new opportunities to strengthen its position as an innovative and leading digital publisher. We are excited about this cooperation with The New York Times. We see a lot of great potential in the product and its further growth opportunities on the continent. The inclusion of New York Times journalism comes at an exciting time for our publishing company, as we continue to invest in building out a fast-moving, pioneering, credible and truly pan-African digital publishing network.»

The New York Times is known globally for innovation in its print and digital storytelling. With the Ringier agreement, New York Times journalism will reach a new digital audience. General Manager of News Services and Print Innovation for The New York Times, Michael Greenspon says: «Ringier has a deep understanding of the digital space and is the ideal partner to help us bring The New York Times voice to sub-Saharan Africa. We are delighted that this agreement will expand the reach of our journalism to new readers.»

The New York Times Company (www.NYTimes.com) is a global media organization dedicated to enhancing society by creating, collecting and distributing high-quality news and information. The Company includes The New York Times, NYTimes.com, and related properties. It is known globally for excellence in its journalism, and innovation in its print and digital storytelling and its business model.

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GAINDE 2000 at CES Las Vegas to showcase its research project ORBUS SIGN
January 15, 2018 | 0 Comments
GAINDE 2000 led the Senegalese delegation at the first event dedicated to Africa during the Consumer Electronics Show
LAS VEGAS, United States of America, January 15, 2018/ — Gainde 2000 (www.GAINDE2000.sn) participated, along with the Senegalese delegation in this year’s Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas from January 9-12. GAINDE 2000 was created in 2002 as a public-private partnership (PPP) to develop and run the ORBUS one-stop shop with a view to simplifying the formalities of international trade.

With fifteen (15) years of experience, GAINDE 2000 has become the African leader in the dematerialisation of administrative formalities, digital security and electronic payments with deployed solutions in 5 countries and internationally rendered consulting services.

GAINDE 2000 was at the CES Las Vegas international trade fair until 12 January to showcase its research project ORBUS SIGN, at a very advanced stage in its design at its Research and Development workshops.

ORBUS SIGN is a digital voice signature solution that allows users the option of signing electronically by pronouncing a word or expression. Conceived for signing one or multiple electronic documents by voice recognition (contracts, invoices, etc.), ORBUS SIGN integrates biometric software capable of recording a unique ‘voiceprint’, comparable to a fingerprint or retina pattern, since there are no two identical voices. Once the voiceprint has been recorded, it can be used to verify the identity of a person in the next signature process.

According to Ibrahima Nour Eddine Diagne, General Manager at GAINDE 2000, “ORBUS SIGN eliminates handwritten signatures in a long process generally entailing the printing, distribution and waiting for signed documents to be sent and returned. It is also a solution that brings a simple alternative, particularly in Africa, where illiteracy is nearly 40%.”

Mr. Diagne added that ORBUS SIGN is also useful for people with disabilities who are unable to produce a handwritten signature, though professionals seeking speed and effectiveness could also benefit from the solution regardless of their qualifications.

Daniel Sarr, project manager of ORBUS SIGN, said that participating at CES 2018 “is an opportunity for GAINDE 2000 to showcase its project and test the concept at this international temple of innovation by demonstrating the capabilities of African countries to contribute to emerging technologies.”

GAINDE 2000 (www.GAINDE2000.sn) is a leading edge IT Senegalese company specialized in trade efficiency and paperless public formalities. GAINDE 2000 was established in 2002, as a public-private partnership (PPP) with the mandate to develop and operate the ORBUS Single Window services for facilitating foreign trade formalities.

Gainde 2000’s core business is to design, implement and run state-of-the-art software solutions for Governments, Port Communities and businesses. Its solutions are tailored to businesses’ needs while providing value, efficiency and performance. The company helps countries improve their business environment and meet the challenges of a modern administration of service through reduction of formalities, use of paper, time and cost in public processes.

 

GAINDE 2000 has won the 1st place of the United Nations Public Service Awards (UNPSA) in “Improving Public Services” category, with ORBUS Single Window that led to outstanding changes in trade procedures performance. The company is also an African leader in paperless formalities, digital security and e-payment solutions with platforms implemented in 5 different countries and consulting services delivered at an international level.
Visit www.GAINDE2000.sn

 

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CAN AFRICA’S SKYROCKETING POPULATION AND UNEMPLOYMENT BE TURNED INTO AN ECONOMIC DIVIDEND?
January 15, 2018 | 0 Comments

Moses Hategeka*

 

File Picture.President Barack Obama addresses the Young African Leaders Initiative in Washington, Wednesday, August 3, 2016. President Obama launched YALI in 2010 to support young African leaders in hope of strengthening democratic governance and encouraging peace and security across Africa.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

File Picture,President Barack Obama addresses the Young African Leaders Initiative in Washington, Wednesday, August 3, 2016. President Obama launched YALI in 2010 to support young African leaders in hope of strengthening democratic governance and encouraging peace and security across Africa. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

With transformative and visionary leadership in place, a high population, that is rightly skilled and economically empowered, can be a catalyst, for accelerating, a sustainable economic growth and development, that is all-inclusive and beneficial, for a harnessed, political, economic, and social prosperity of a Nation/Continent. Africa’ population which today stands at 1.2 billion people, and is expected to more than double by 2050, is rising, and so is unemployment, that is forcing, thousands of young people, to trek extremely very dangerous journey, through the Sahara desert, to Libya, and then on insecure boats, in the Mediterranean Sea, with the hope of finding opportunities for a better livelihood in Europe.

According to the international organization for migration, this year alone, 2017, over 8,800 African migrants, have been returned to their home countries. What is leadership in Africa not doing right, that is forcing millions of young people want to leave their continent in search of green pastures elsewhere?

Africa’s young people, who today, totals over 420 million aged between 15 -35 age, and is expected to increase to over 830 million by 2050, is a huge demographic asset, which if given right skills and opportunities, can be turned into an economic dividend driving the continent forward. Skilled young people produces high work rate, and acts as an attraction, for investors seeking to open up new investment prospects. Skilled young people, if also accorded right funding, can be able to produce inventions and innovations, in various sectors that can in the end result into turning Africa’s abundance natural resources, into usable finished products, thus promoting entrepreneurship and industrial development.

Are the African countries giving its young people factual skills and  opportunities to produce ground breaking technologies that can attract mutual industrial research and technological collaborations from developed countries especially in agriculture and agricultural related sectors?

Agriculture, which is, and is expected for the next decade, to continue being  a major employer, employing about 65 percent and source of livelihood for the majority of Africans, can if well consistently structured and profitably transformed, birth agribusiness enterprises and agro-industrialization in Africa, that can make majority of Africans, to secure well-paying jobs, and this would greatly curb migration of young Africans to Europe and mutually save both African and European economies, from spending millions of dollars, which they spend every year, trying to curtail their movement from Africa to Europe.

African countries, must in collaborations with regional and global institutions, such as African Development Bank and World Bank, design and implement policies and build institutions, that are job creation enhancing, and which provides for, creation of new rural micro- enterprises, larger scale agribusinesses, and agro- industrialization to thrive. This will not only contribute to transformation of rural economies and curbing of extreme poverty, but will also, create millions of jobs in agricultural and agricultural fed industrial sector, thus contributing to economic growth and development that is all- inclusive.

One youth from Uganda that I met recently had this to say, “Immediately after completing by Bachelor’s degree, in food science and technology in 2014, I underwent a basic agricultural training in passion fruits growing and juice making, armed with training and with funding from my parents and friends, I went to village and planted 4 acres of passion fruits. Initially I sold them, to fruits, making factories in raw form and earned good profit, which I later used to buy machines and other equipment’ to set up a medium juice making enterprise, which is now employing, 50 full time workers. I am now earning extremely very good profits from selling the juice to various institutions, and I am now working on securing a loan or a grant, to expand my factory and employ many more other people, as demand for my juice is higher than the supply”.

This in essence means that, access to timely funding from financial institutions, can make millions of unemployed African youth, to establish many small and medium enterprises, that has got the potential to turn into large scale industries, contributing to expanding of their countries’ economic and taxable base, but unfortunately lack of funding is their major constraint. To overcome this, African countries, must urgently put in place financial policy interventions, which unlocks the impasse that makes the youth, not to easily get timely funding to turn their entrepreneurship ideas into reality.

To attain this, activities such as establishment of an innovation and information labs that incubate new ideas and entrepreneurship, and scaling up establishment of well designed industrial parks complete with reliable power, access roads, guaranteed security, and other social amenities, which all stimulate private sector investments must be scaled up. These activities are very crucial in stimulating domestic investments and in attracting foreign direct investors, who are eager to come and massively invest in different sectors, to profit from the already existing large market driven by a high and skyrocketing population.

In sum, with abundance natural resources such as precious minerals, that are on high demand globally, and being home, to 60 percent of world’s arable land, coupled with expanding large market, Africa’s potential as destination of choice for investors is unquestionable. Virtually, all African sectors be it in, mining, oil and gas, agriculture, banking, among others, are very highly profitable for investors to invest in, either purely on private undertaking or through public private partnerships and investors must be genuinely and mutually interested in adding value to African products and create sustainable jobs that improves the welfare of Africa people.

*Moses Hetegeka is a Ugandan based Independent Governance Researcher, Public Affairs Analyst, and Writer

Email: moseswiseman2000@gmail.com

 

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It’s about to get easier for almost 700 million Africans to travel by air in Africa
January 12, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Abdi Latif Dahir*

Defined by long delays and cancellations, limited connections, rickety planes, and dilapidated runways, flying across Africa can sometimes be quite inconvenient. The problem is also compounded by the restrictive regulations and protectionism that hinder intra-nation travel, leading African airlines to lose $800 million in 2016, according to the World Bank.

Yet some of those problems are set to become history when the Single African Air Travel Market (SAATM) is launched by the African Union (AU) in late January. As one of the AU’s pan-African Agenda 2063flagship projects, the plan aims to improve air connectivity in Africa and use air transportation as an engine for economic growth, job creation, and integration.

The idea is based on the 1999 Yamoussoukro Decision, when African ministers responsible for civil aviation agreed to deregulate air services, put in place mechanisms for fair competition and dispute settlement, and liberalize frequencies and tariffs. As part of the agreement, countries would also free the exercise of up to fifth freedom rights for passengers and freight air services, allowing a carrier to fly between two countries on a flight originating or ending in its own country.

By setting this up, African nations hope to imitate and build on the single aviation markets in places like Europe and Latin America. The AU also hopes to encourage cross-border investment and innovation, improve business operations and efficiency, increased route competition resulting in lower fares, create more jobs, help airlines grow, and allow for the free mobility of people and goods.

So far, 21 countries that command more than 670 million of the continent’s population have committed to the plan. These include Benin, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone in the West; Kenya, and Rwanda in the East; Zimbabwe and South Africa in the south; and Egypt in the North. The single market is also host to eight of Africa’s top ten busiest airports including Bole International Airport in Ethiopia and O. R. Tambo in Johannesburg, South Africa. Up to 15 carriers, which account for more than 70% of intra-African air travel, have also signed up for the common market including Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways, South African Express, and Egypt Air.

21 countries have-signed to the single african air transport market

21 countries have-signed to the single african air transport market

The move to liberalize air travel coincides with a push from African governments to open more borders and encourage inter-regional trade and tourism. Last year, Africans traveled more easily across the continent, and countries like Kenya, Namibia, and Ghana announced removing visa restrictions or granting visas on arrival. Local tourism in Kenya, Tunisia, and South Africa have also boosted domestic air travel, leading to the growth of budget carriers.

Yet despite the plan’s best intentions, African air travel still has a long way to go. Carriers like Kenya Airways or Nigeria’s Arik Air have struggled to make profit in recent years, plagued by debt or the results of a poorly timed expansion strategy. And unless more countries open up, government restrictions on visas and establishing air routes will continue hindering a potential five million Africans the chance to travel the continent, according to the International Air Transport Association. Air travel in nations like Somalia also have a long way to go before they can become fully integrated with the rest: after 27 years under the control of the United Nations, the country regained control of its airspace in Dec. 2017.

 **Courtesy of Quarz
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Africa startled by Trump’s sudden and vulgar attention
January 12, 2018 | 0 Comments

BY CARA ANNA*

U.S. President Donald Trump (3rd from L) poses with (L-R) Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta, Guinea's President Alpha Conde, African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina, Vice-President of Nigeria Yemi Osinbajo and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn for a photo after an expanded session at the Summit of the Heads of State and of Government of the G7 plus the European Union in Taormina, Sicily, on May 27. JONATHAN ERNST/AFP/GETTY

U.S. President Donald Trump (3rd from L) poses with (L-R) Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, Guinea’s President Alpha Conde, African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina, Vice-President of Nigeria Yemi Osinbajo and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn for a photo after an expanded session at the Summit of the Heads of State and of Government of the G7 plus the European Union in Taormina, Sicily, on May 27.
JONATHAN ERNST/AFP/GETTY

Africans woke up on Friday to find President Donald Trump had finally taken an interest in their continent. It wasn’t what people had hoped for.

Using vulgar language, Trump on Thursday questioned why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from Haiti and “shithole countries” in Africa rather than places like Norway in rejecting a bipartisan immigration deal. On Friday he denied using that language.

The African Union continental body told The Associated Press it was “frankly alarmed” by Trump’s comments.

“Given the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves, this statement flies in the face of all accepted behavior and practice,” AU spokeswoman Ebba Kalondo said. “This is particularly surprising as the United States of America remains a global example of how migration gave birth to a nation built on strong values of diversity and opportunity.”

Some African governments quickly found themselves in an awkward position. As top recipients of U.S. aid, some hesitated to jeopardize it by criticizing Trump, especially as his administration has sought to slash foreign assistance.

“Unless it was specifically said about South Sudan, we have nothing to say,” South Sudan government spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny told The Associated Press.

But Botswana’s government called Trump’s comment “reprehensible and racist,” saying the U.S. ambassador had been summoned to clarify whether the nation is regarded as a “shithole” country after years of cordial relations.

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress called Trump’s comments “extremely offensive,” while opposition leader Mmusi Maimane called them “abhorrent … The hatred of Obama’s roots now extends to an entire continent.” Uganda’s state minister for international relations, Henry Okello Oryem, called the remarks “unfortunate and regrettable” and said he hopes African heads of state will reply at an African Union summit later this month.

African media outlets and the continent’s young, increasingly connected population were not shy, with some tweeting sleek photos of African landscapes and urban areas with the hashtag #shithole.

“Well, that is the perfect definition of racism. That is all I have to say,” Kenyan entrepreneur Wangui Muraguri told the AP in response to Trump.

“Casual Friday at the White House is soon to include hoods and tiki torches at this rate,” South African media outlet Daily Maverick wrote.

Many on the world’s second most populous continent reached for their smartphones, long-practiced in defending the vast and varied region from easy stereotypes. While 40 percent of the world’s poor live in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the International Monetary Fund, the region also has billionaires, reality shows and a growing middle class.

The World Bank on Friday tweeted that sub-Saharan Africa’s economic growth this year is forecast at 3.2 percent. That was the U.S. economy’s annual rate of growth from July through September, according to Commerce Department data late last month.

Some in Africa quickly decided to own Trump’s vulgar language or throw it back in his face.

“Good morning from the greatest most beautiful ‘shithole country’ in the world!!!” South African Broadcasting Corporation anchor Leanne Manas tweeted.

“As someone from South Shithole, Trevor is deeply offended by the president’s remarks,” The Daily Show tweeted of its South African-born host, Trevor Noah.

In Kenya, East Africa’s economic hub, political activist Boniface Mwangi pleaded: “Please don’t confuse the #shithole leaders we Africans elect with our beautiful continent.”

Trump’s comments were “shocking and shameful” and “I’m sorry, but there’s no other word one can use but racist,” said a spokesman for the U.N. human rights office, Rupert Colville.

Trump’s comments highlighted months of concerns about his lack of focus on Africa, including empty ambassadorial posts in key countries like South Africa, Egypt, Congo and Somalia. A list maintained by the Washington-based American Foreign Service Association says eight such posts are vacant.

Trump has expressed negative opinions about the continent in the past. “Every penny of the $7 billion going to Africa as per Obama will be stolen – corruption is rampant!” he tweeted in 2013.

The U.S. president is only hurting himself both at home and abroad, some Africans said.

“He has not only insulted Africans, he has also insulted African-Americans,” said Sylvester Odion Akhaine, associate professor of international relations at the Lagos State University in Nigeria. “Internationally, such language will deepen the isolation of the United States, a country that is already losing its global prestige.”

An opposition lawmaker in Ghana called for a boycott by developing countries against the United States until Trump leaves office. “The sooner he is made aware that America needs the world and the world needs America the better it is for all of us,” Ras Mubarak said.

As outrage spread, the U.S. government’s own Africa Media Hub tried to put out the flames.

Without directly referring to Trump’s statement, it tweeted that “US remains committed to working together w/Africans to realize the promise of a more peaceful, more productive, more prosperous 21st century Africa. US deeply respects the people of #Africa & values its partnerships with them.”

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Africa: Botswana Condemns Remarks Made by President Trump
January 12, 2018 | 0 Comments
Earl R. Miller, U.S. Ambassador to Botswana with President Khama

Earl R. Miller, U.S. Ambassador to Botswana with President Khama

The Ministry of International Affairs & Cooperation wishes to inform the public and the international community that the Government of Botswana, today summoned the US Ambassador to Botswana to express its displeasure at the alleged utterances made by the President of the US, Donald Trump, when he referred to African countries and others as “shithole countries” during a meeting with a bipartisan group of lawmakers at the White House on Thursday 11 January 2018.

The Botswana Government has also enquired from the US Government through the Ambassador, to clarify if Botswana is regarded as a “shithole” country given that there are Botswana nationals residing in the US, and also that some of Batswana may wish to visit the US. The Government of Botswana is wondering why President Trump, must use this descriptor and derogatory word, when talking about countries with whom the US has had cordial and mutually beneficial bilateral relations for so many years.

Botswana has accepted US citizens within her borders over the years and continues to host US guests and senior government officials, including a Congressional delegation that will come to Botswana at the end of this month; that is why we view the utterances by the current American President as highly irresponsible, reprehensible and racist.

Botswana calls on SADC, the AU and all other progressive nations across the world to strongly condemn the remarks made by President Trump.

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Nigerian baby born on migrant rescue ship inspires song for Eurovision contest
January 12, 2018 | 0 Comments
Baby Mercy and mother aboard migrant ship

Baby Mercy and mother aboard migrant ship

AN electro-pop song called “Mercy” by French duet Madame Monsieur is competing to represent France in the 63rd edition of the European song contest Eurovision in May. The piece tells the unique story of a toddler born on a rescue boat in the Mediterranean Sea.

“I am all those children taken by the sea”. There’s a stirring story behind the lyrics (originally in French) of this unreleased new song from Paris-based electro-pop band Madame Monsieur: one of a migrant baby born onboard a rescue ship a few months ago.

“Mercy is a positive song that intends to show that there’s always hope even when it all seems lost, as long as we keep a bit of humanity,” wrote duet’s Emilie Satt and Jean-Karl Lucas on their Facebook page on 1 January. They also proudly announced that the song was entering the competition to represent France in the famous European song contest Eurovision next May in Portugal.

Baby Mercy let out her first cry on 21 March 2017, on board the Aquarius. This humanitarian ship, operated by the two NGOs Doctors Without Borders and SOS Méditerranée, had just rescued 945 migrants and was about to dock at Catania’s port in Italy when the baby girl was welcomed to the world.

“What a memorable moment of emotion for the entire crew”, recalls French journalist Grégory Leclerc who was then reporting alongside the rescue team.

“Taiwo, her Nigerian mum, is doing well”, he said back then, adding that the captain of the Aquarius had signed the birth certificate himself “with great emotion.”

Births are quite unusual onboard rescue ships furrowing the Mediterranean sea. It was only the fourth one on the Aquarius, which started its operations in February 2016.

Mercy’s mother made the journey alone. As for her dad, he was still in a Libyan prison at the time of the birth. “We haven’t got any news since then”, said SOS Mediterranée on a Facebook post.

Madame Monsieur’s song will be fully unveiled late January on French TV. The band will be participating in a show to try to convince a jury and the public that Mercy has what it takes to win the European contest nest May in Portugal.

*African Courier/Real News

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Bell backs Cameroon’s preparations for 2019 Afcon
January 12, 2018 | 0 Comments

By John Bennett*

Bell (left) has backed Cameroon to deliver despite being an outspoken critic in the past

Bell (left) has backed Cameroon to deliver despite being an outspoken critic in the past

Former international Joseph-Antoine Bell says Cameroon will be ready to host the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, ahead of an inspection visit by the Confederation of African Football (Caf).

Caf is set to tour the various host cities from Friday onwards, amidst long-standing concerns about the country’s preparations.

“Being on track is definitely the truth – Cameroon is on track,” Bell told BBC Sport.

Caf president Ahmad has repeatedly said that an alternative host will be found if Cameroon is not ready on time.

In August, the Malagasy said Cameroon would ‘have to work to convince Caf’ of its ability to host the finals, which expanded from 16 to 24 teams in July.

“I’m not convinced Ahmad wants any problem with anybody,” added the former goalkeeper, who has worked on occasions with the Caf president since his election last March.

“He said Cameroon wasn’t ready but this is because Cameroonian people – especially the press – were leaking such bad news.

“But remember Cameroon hosted the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations and they succeeded like nobody before, so why not trust them to do something wonderful.”

Cameroon hosted the Women’s Nations Cup in 2016 to widespread acclaim as vast numbers of spectators turned out for matches in the eight-team tournament.

Cameroon are the reigning African champions, having triumphed in Gabon last year

Cameroon are the reigning African champions, having triumphed in Gabon last year

The inspection visit, which will be carried out by independent business consultancy Roland Berger, will start in Yaounde on 12 January before trips to Garoua, Bafoussam, Douala and either Limbe or Buea.

It will end with a visit to the Caf Centre of Excellence in Mbankomo on 23 January.

“People are behaving like this will be the first and the last inspection,” said Bell, who won two African crowns with Cameroon (in 1984 and 1988).

“This is just the first inspection and it’s coming to see step-by-step how far you are in the preparation of the Nations Cup.

“So it’s not like tomorrow morning they will tell us they will take away the organisation from Cameroon. I know people have talked about this before but it doesn’t work like that.”

“They do not have to be ready now, they have to be ready in at least March 2019. I’m totally convinced Cameroon will be ready.”

The 2019 tournament will take place in June and July after Caf moved the timing of the tournament from January and February.

Morocco, which will host this month’s African Nations Championship, has said it will step in as host should Cameroon be unable to stage Africa’s most prestigious sporting event.

 *BBC
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AFC & Harith Appoints Inaugural CEO of Anergi
January 12, 2018 | 0 Comments
Enos Banda, CEO of Anergi

Enos Banda, CEO of Anergi

LONDON, United Kingdom, 11 January 2018,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/- Enos Banda has been appointed Chief Executive Officer of Anergi, the major African power company established through the joint venture between Africa Finance Corporation (“AFC”) and Harith General Partners (“Harith”).

 
Anergi was established through the merger of the power investments of AFC and Harith, the two pre-eminent institutional investors based in Africa, bringing their experience and expertise together to create a new entity that combines both renewable and non-renewable power assets in Africa.
 
The joint venture has over 1,786 MW of gross operational and under-construction capacity which will supply reliable energy to  over 30 million people in 5 African countries.
 
Anergi comprises AFC’s interests in Cenpower, owner of the Kpone Independent Power Project under construction in Ghana, and Cabeolica, a wind farm that provides 20% of Cape Verde’s energy needs, with those of the Pan Africa Infrastructure Development Fund (PAIDF) which is managed by Harith. The Harith interests include the Azura Edo IPP in Nigeria, the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project in Kenya, Kelvin Power Station in South Africa and the Rabai Thermal project in Kenya. Collectively this portfolio represents some of the largest recent independent power projects in Africa’s energy sector.
 
Enos began his career as a member of the New York Bar, working with White & Case LLP, a prestigious international law firm for which he helped establish a successful presence in South Africa, where he is also an Advocate of the Supreme Court. He is also an investment banker, having served as Sub-Saharan Africa Head for Global Investment & Corporate Banking and Country Head for two leading global investment banks.  He has advised on major infrastructure projects, including a major electricity industry operator listed on the London Stock Exchange in relation to significant IPP bids and capital raising. 
 
Enos’s experience in the electricity sector includes serving as the regulator of the South African electricity industry and, serving as CEO of Eskom Enterprises (Pty), the asset formation and maintenance arm of the Eskom Group, the largest producer of electricity in Africa. Eskom Enterprises is responsible for non-regulated electricity, supply industry activities, electricity supply and served as a generation and transmission utility outside South Africa. This includes project development, construction, operations, maintenance and energy solutions across Sub Saharan Africa including Nigeria, Uganda and Tanzania as well as Libya. He was responsible for a nine-fold net profit turnaround in his first year as CEO. This experience has also accorded him with a track record of operating at key ministerial and government levels across Africa.
 
Andrew Alli, President and CEO of AFC and Chairman of the Board of Directors at Anergi commented on the announcement: “We are thrilled to welcome Enos as CEO of Anergi. In addition to an impressive record in Africa’s infrastructure finance space, Enos has also served as CEO of Africa’s largest producer of electricity.
 
“It is precisely because of this experience that we believe he is best positioned to become the inaugural CEO of our joint venture with Harith. Whilst generation is steadily increasing, access to power remains one of the major barriers to economic prosperity in Africa. This venture will play an important role in closing this gap.”
 
Tshepo Mahloele, CEO of Harith General Partners also commented on the announcement: “The energy deficit Africa faces calls upon all of us to expedite and increase our efforts in closing this gap. Key to doing this is pulling together experienced pairs of hands together with substantial capital and other existing assets.
 
“An experienced pair of hands is precisely what Enos brings to the table. A confident, well established, self-starter, Harith is delighted to have him on board, and look forward supporting him in maximising the potential of Anergi in development power projects across the continent”.
AFC, an investment grade multilateral finance institution, was established in 2007 with an equity capital base of US$1 billion, to be the catalyst for private sector-led infrastructure investment across Africa.  With a current balance sheet size of approximately US$3.5 billion, AFC is the second highest investment grade rated multilateral financial institution in Africa with an A3/P2 (Stable outlook) rating from Moody’s Investors Service. AFC successfully raised US$750 million in 2015 and US$500 million in 2017; out of its Board-approved US$3 Billion Global Medium Term Note (MTN) Programme. Both Eurobond issues were oversubscribed and attracted investors from Asia, Europe and the USA. 
AFC’s investment approach combines specialist industry expertise with a focus on financial and technical advisory, project structuring, project development and risk capital to address Africa’s infrastructure development needs and drive sustainable economic growth.  AFC invests in high-quality infrastructure assets that provide essential services in the core infrastructure sectors of power, natural resources, heavy industry, transport, and telecommunications. To date, the Corporation has invested approximately US$4 billion in projects within 28 countries across North, East, West and Southern Africa.
Follow us on Twitter – @africa_finance
 
About Harith General Partners: www.harith.co.za
Harith General Partners is the leading Pan-African fund manager for infrastructure development across the continent. With offices in Johannesburg and Cote d’Ivoire; Harith manages Africa’s first and only 15-year US$630m infrastructure fund, the Pan African Infrastructure Development Fund (PAIDF) 1 and recently announced the first close of the US$435m PAIDF2.
The funds are invested in a number of major projects in diversified sectors such as energy, transport, information and telecommunications, and water and sanitation. Harith recently added health care as a sector.
PAIDF is supported by African capital raised from state pension funds, development finance institutions, top investment banks and financial institutions.
Harith is also in a partnership with Asset and Resource Management Company Ltd (ARM), a leading Nigerian financial services company which currently manages over US$2.7bn of assets, to form the ARM-Harith Infrastructure Fund (ARMHIF). ARMHIF invests in infrastructure projects in West Africa.
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E Guinea coup ‘planned in France’
January 11, 2018 | 0 Comments
Equatorial Guinea's Teodoro Obiang Nguema is Africa's longest-serving ruler

Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema is Africa’s longest-serving rulers

A failed attempt to overthrow Equatorial Guinea’s government in December was organised in France, the oil-rich West African state’s foreign minister has said, AFP news agency reports.

However, the coup plot did not involve the French government, Agapito Mba Mokuy added, without naming the suspects.

“We will cooperate with France as soon as we have more information,” he was quoted as saying.

Mr Moku also announced that Equatorial Guinea was suspending its participation in a scheme to allow free visa travel among six countries in the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (Cemac) grouping.

The scheme could not be implemented, “given what has happened in Equatorial Guinea” and the absence of “secure” passports, AFP quoted him as saying.

A total of 27 “terrorists or mercenaries” had been arrested after the attempted coup on 24 December, and about 150 others were still being sought near the border with Cameroon, he added.

Equatorial Guinea has been ruled since 1979 by Teodoro Obiang Nguema, Africa’s longest-serving president.

His critics accuse him of being one of Africa’s most repressive rulers.

*BBC

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Kenya Airways starts ticket sales for its non-stop daily flight to New York
January 11, 2018 | 0 Comments
Kenya Airways becomes the first airline to offer a non-stop flight between East Africa and the United States of America
Kenya Airways Group Managing Director and CEO Sebastian Mikosz

Kenya Airways Group Managing Director and CEO Sebastian Mikosz

NAIROBI, Kenya, January 11, 2018/ — Kenya Airways (www.Kenya-Airways.com) today marks a great milestone with the launch of a non-stop flight from Nairobi to New York. The national carrier starts selling today tickets for the inaugural flight which is scheduled for October 28th this year.

Kenya Airways becomes the first airline to offer a non-stop flight between East Africa and the United States of America.

The airline already serves Africa, Europe, Middle-East, Indian sub-continent and Asia. The opening of the US destination completes an essential piece for Kenya Airways’ network, cementing its position as one of the leading African carriers.

“This is an exciting moment for us. It fits within our strategy to attract corporate and high-end tourism traffic from the world to Kenya and Africa. We are honored to contribute to the economic growth of Kenya and East Africa.” said Kenya Airways Group Managing Director and CEO Sebastian Mikosz.

With over 40 American multinationals located in Nairobi and many more across Africa, the launch of daily flights is expected to further spur trade between America and Africa.

Kenya Airways will offer its customers a unique travel experience between two great gateways. It will be the fastest connection from East Africa to New York, with a 15 hours duration eastbound and 14 hours westbound. The ultra-long-haul flight, unique to Kenya Airways network, will require 4 Pilots and 12 Flight attendants as well as 85 tons of fuel each way, making it an exceptional operation.

The airline will operate its state of the art Boeing 787 Dreamliner with a capacity of 234 passengers. The flight will depart every day from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport hub in Nairobi at 23:25 arriving at JFK airport in New York at 06:25 the following day. From New-York it will depart at 12:25 landing at JKIA at 10:55 the following day. Its duration will be 15 hours east bound and 14 hours west bound.

This convenient schedule will allow connections to and from over 40 African destinations through Kenya Airways hub in Nairobi.

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Botswana shuts ‘miracle’ pastor Shepherd Bushiri’s church
January 11, 2018 | 0 Comments
Shepherd Bushiri

Shepherd Bushiri

Botswana has shut down the church of a controversial Malawian self-styled prophet, who claimed to walk on air.

The government confirmed the closure of Shepherd Bushiri’s Enlightened Christian Gathering Church (ECG) in Gaborone, reportedly due to concerns over so-called “miracle money”.

Malawi24 reports that the church has appealed against the decision, taken less than a year after he was in effect banned from entering the country.

He had been due to attend a conference.

However, Botswana minister Edwin Batshu announced in April 2017 that Mr Bushiri – who now lives in South Africa – would need a visa to enter, despite Malawians not usually needing one, according to AllAfrica.com.

 

https://youtu.be/T1JQY8_Uj_0

Who is Shepherd Bushiri?

  • Malawi-born “prophet” who now runs churches from Ghana to South Africa
  • Claims to have cured people of HIV and brought people back from the dead, South Africa’s Mail & Guardian says
  • Predicted the UK would split, “states” would fight and it would descend into “chaos”, the Maravi Post said in a report
  • Appeared to walk on air in a video shared widely on social media
  • Told Zimbabwe politician Kembo Mohadi he would get “the crown” before he was named vice-president, according to New Zimbabwe
Presentational grey line

The government has now announced that the church will be shut for good, with the Botswana Gazette obtaining a letter informing management the “registration” had been cancelled.

The newspaper further reports it was the church’s use of “miracle money” – promises of money appearing as if by magic – which broke the country’s laws.

Mr Bushiri – who has more than 2.3 million likes on Facebook and filled Johannesburg’s FNB Stadium on New Year’s Eve – and his church have yet to respond publicly.

The church leader is known as much for his lavish lifestyle as for his successful ministry, which stretches across Africa.

He came under fire last year after it emerged he was charging between 1,000 and 25,000 rand ($80-2,000; £60-1,500) to attend a gala dinner with him, South Africa’s News24 reported.

*BBC

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Is it time for Africa to regulate Bitcoin?
January 10, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Prince Kurupati

In a continent that has for long been dogged by cash and liquidity challenges, one would think any probable solution would be welcomed and embraced as it emerges but alas in our beloved Africa, we tend to wait until everyone else (and I mean everyone) adopts something before we do.

Bitcoin is a digital currency anonymously founded in 2009 that works in as much the same way as conventional currencies. Since 2009, Bitcoin has been rising in value steadily before astronomically hitting dizzy heights in the second half of 2017. In its first couple of years, many people around the world were sceptical on Bitcoin but as the years passed, many started to embrace and adopt this digital currency.

Despite Bitcoin’s high uptake rate among individuals and corporates globally, only a few namely Canada, Malta and at one stage China regulated and accepted Bitcoin as a legal medium of exchange. However, as countries such as the US, UK and Australia have the highest rates of Bitcoin uptake; we are inclined to forgive the governments of these countries as they have some of the world’s most stable economies and strong currencies. The same however cannot be said of Africa, a continent that has struggling economies at various stages of underdevelopment and a continent that has some of the world’s most highly volatile and inflatable currencies, others like Zimbabwe not even having their own currencies.

Countries in Africa cite different reasons they have not and are currently not considering adopting Bitcoin. However, one of the most cited reasons is that Bitcoin opens up avenues for inter alia the financing of terrorism and money laundering. Notwithstanding the fact that terrorism and money laundering are two evils that need to be weaved out especially the former in North and West Africa, it seems in this case that the positives far outweigh the negatives.

Bitcoin and its underlying technologies’ positives include the potential to facilitate faster transactions, reduce payment costs, reduction in third-party seizures, fully compatible with mobile and allow user anonymity. Juxtaposition the positives and negatives, one would say it’s now time for Africa to start regulating Bitcoin.

A case-by-case study reveals that most African states haven’t yet formulated policies, laws or regulations specifically relating to Bitcoin. Below we look at some selected countries and how their governments view Bitcoin and its underlying Blockchain technology.

South Africa

Just like most states, South Africa has not explicitly restricted or banned Bitcoin but it has shown some disdain by issuing a public notice through the South African Reserve Bank warning the public on the dangers of using Bitcoin. The South African government, however, became a signatory to the Bitcoin Scaling Agreement in August 2017 and many Bitcoin investors saw this as the first step by the government in warming up to Bitcoin.

Kenya

Kenya took the same step taken by South Africa in issuing a public notice warning the public from using Bitcoin. It went a step further by explicitly restricting banks from providing loans to start-ups with interests in Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrencies. Despite all this, Kenya remains the largest volume trader of Bitcoin on the African continent.

Zimbabwe

Officials from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe insist that transacting using Bitcoin in Zimbabwe is illegal though there are no legal provisions to that effect. This has left a gap exploited by many people in this country that has been bedevilled by years of hyperinflation, a weak currency and a limited access to financial access. Zimbabwe’s Bitcoin adoption ranks as one of the highest in Africa.

Swaziland

Bitcoin is unregulated in Swaziland but the government of Swaziland recently made it clear that it will soon be opening up the Swaziland market for Bitcoin. Majozi Sithole, the country’s Central Bank Governor while speaking at the Swaziland Economic Conference in 2017 said that the government is seeking expert opinion relating to Bitcoin and soon the digital currency will be open for everyone to use.

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SOUTH AFRICAN AIRWAYS VACATIONS® ANNOUNCES 10 % OFF ALL PACKAGES TO AFRICA FOR TRAVEL IN 201
January 8, 2018 | 0 Comments

Air-Inclusive Packages on Sale through February 28th*

Fort Lauderdale, FL (January 8, 2018) – South African Airways Vacations® (SAA Vacations®), the leisure division of South African Airways, kicks off the New Year with savings on all of their air-inclusive vacation packages. SAA Vacations® is offering 10% off their array of affordable luxury holidays to a wide variety of destinations throughout Africa. From trendy hotels in cosmopolitan cities to opulent safari lodges, this special discount applies to all SAA Vacations® packages booked by February 28, 2018, for travel in 2018.

“SAA Vacations® is excited to start off the New Year with great savings on our entire product portfolio of air inclusive packages to destinations throughout Africa, “said Terry von Guilleaume, president of SAA Vacations®.

Any package booked by February 28th for travel in 2018 will offer special savings of 10% off. Now is the time to visit one or more of the many exciting destinations Africa has to offer. SAA Vacations® specializes in providing an amazing African experience and travelers can have full confidence that they are getting the best value for their money.”

Travel packages customized by SAA Vacations® are inclusive of round-trip air transportation on award-winning South African Airways, hotel accommodations, ground transportation, sightseeing excursions, wine tours, and wildlife safaris and with extra amenities, such as personalized assistance throughout the journey. With first-hand experience on travel to Africa, no one knows the destination better than SAA Vacations®.

This special discount is available for new reservations made by February 28, 2018, for any air-inclusive package offered by South African Airways Vacations®. To take advantage of the 10% discount or for more information, travelers should contact their professional travel consultant or call 1-855-359-7228. South African Airways Vacations® offers vacation options for all budgets, with African Specialists on hand to ensure clients experience the vacation of their dreams. For a complete overview of vacation packages to Africa, visit www.flysaavacations.com.

A division of South African Airways (SAA), South African Airways Vacations® (SAA Vacations®) is highly regarded for its wide array of affordable luxury packages to Africa and uses SAA’s extensive route network to create packages for travel throughout South Africa,Botswana, Victoria Falls, Namibia, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania, Senegal, Ghana and the Indian Ocean Islands.

Offering more than 80 air-inclusive packages, which range from value to superb luxury. Our specialty-themed programs offer unique experiences, whether you are interested in safaris, culture, cuisine, romance and adventure. The program is managed and fulfilled by DSA Vacations, founded in 2001, and offers an extensive portfolio of tour programs with a variety of hotels, game lodges, and safari companies throughout Southern Africa.

South African Airways (SAA), South Africa’s national flag carrier and the continent’s most awarded airline, serves over 75 destinations worldwide in partnership with SA Express, Airlink and its low cost carrier Mango. In North America, SAA operates daily nonstop flights from New York-JFK and direct flights from Washington D.C.-IAD (via Accra, Ghana and Dakar, Senegal) to Johannesburg. SAA has partnerships with United Airlines, Air Canada and JetBlue Airways, American Airlines, Virgin America and Hawaiian Airlines, which offer convenient connections from more than 100 cities in the U.S. and Canada to SAA’s flights. SAA is a Star Alliance member and the recipient of the Skytrax 4-star rating for 15 consecutive years.

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NEPAD/ACBF sign MOU to support Africa’s transformation and implementation of Agenda 2063
January 6, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

Professor Emmanuel Nnadozie

Professor Emmanuel Nnadozie

The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the African
Capacity Development Foundation (ACDF) have signed a Memorandum of
Understanding (MOU) to build partnerships for supporting the
implementation of Africa’s socio-economic transformation.

According to Professor Emmanuel Nnadozie, Executive Secretary of the
ACBF, the two parties now endeavor to engage more strategically on
areas of common interest based on Africa’s emerging capacity needs. He
also added that that is why the two organisations are now formally
renewing and stepping up their level of engagement.

According to Professor Nnadozie, ACBF’s relationship with NEPAD
dates back to January 2004 when the two parties engaged into an MOU
that sought to establish a partnership between the two organisations
in matters relating to capacity building.

It is reported that a number of activities have been implemented
under the MOU, with ACBF directly investing $2 million, out of which,
NEPAD managed to absorb about $1 869 244.

The MOU will provide a framework of cooperation to facilitate
collaboration between ACBF and NEPAD focusing on the strengthening of
capacity development in Africa for the effective implementation,
monitoring and evaluation of Agenda 2063 and its 10 year plans.

Ibrahim Mayaki

Ibrahim Mayaki

Nnadozie added that priority areas of mutual focus will include
implementation, monitoring and evaluation of capacity development in
the first 10year plan of Agenda 2063 and Agenda 2030, joint
implementation of African Union AU/NEPAD 2015 to 2025 capacity
development plan for Regional Economic Communities on institutional
development for effective implementation of regional development plans
and agenda 2063, joint implementation of findings from ACBFs
assessment of Regional Economic Communities capacity needs,
partnership in the design and implementation of critical technical
skills development programmes at country and regional levels,
cooperation on development and publication of the ACBF flagship Africa
capacity reports and other capacity development knowledge products
such as tools, guides and case studies in Africa’s priority areas of
development.

The other focus will be to jointly mobilise resources for the
implementation of the areas of collaboration.
Asked by the Pan African Visions to reveal the cost of the new MOU,
Professor Nnadozie said that they were in the process of doing the
costing and would come up with the appropriate amount soon.

Dr Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, CEO of the NEPAD agency signed the MOU on
behalf of his organization.

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Africa’s Generational War
January 6, 2018 | 0 Comments

Last year was a good one for the continent’s autocrats. But young Africans have launched a democratic revolution — and they’ve got the numbers on their side.

BY 
 
TOPSHOT - People cheer a passing Zimbabwe Defense Force military vehicle during a demonstration demanding the resignation of Zimbabwe's president on November 18, 2017 in Harare. Zimbabwe was set for more political turmoil November 18 with protests planned as veterans of the independence war, activists and ruling party leaders called publicly for Zimbabwe's President to be forced from office. / AFP PHOTO / Jekesai NJIKIZANA        (Photo credit should read JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP/Getty Images)

TOPSHOT – People cheer a passing Zimbabwe Defense Force military vehicle during a demonstration demanding the resignation of Zimbabwe’s president on November 18, 2017 in Harare.
Zimbabwe was set for more political turmoil November 18 with protests planned as veterans of the independence war, activists and ruling party leaders called publicly for Zimbabwe’s President to be forced from office. / AFP PHOTO / Jekesai NJIKIZANA (Photo credit should read JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI — In Kenya, President Uhuru Kenyatta finally secured a second term on Nov. 28 after two flawed elections, outbreaks of violence, and a series of court battles. Across the continent in Liberia, the former soccer star George Weah won a presidential election after a similar court battle had delayed that country’s first peaceful democratic transfer of power since 1944. And in Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe was finally deposed last year after 37 years in power — only to be replaced by Emmerson Mnangagwa, a ruthless former national security minister responsible for some of the regime’s bloodiest excesses.

It has been a dizzying few months, but two important but contradictory trends have emerged. The first is the deepening of a democratic recession, made evident by the recent assault on presidential term limits in places such as Rwanda and Uganda. This process has been driven by elites’ development of new and subtle forms of political and electoral manipulation — including the use of counterterrorism laws, financial aid from Western nations, and geopolitical arm-wrestling over resources with China — to stymie the political opposition and entrench the power of ruling elites.

The second trend is the continuing resilience of political optimism among African voters, especially the youth, who overwhelmingly support democracy. Young people made up the bulk of demonstrators who battled with police in recent months from Togo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Kenya and Zambia. Their optimism has been buoyed in part by the rise of an aggressively independent media, the maturing of institutions such as the judiciary, and by the explosion of nongovernmental organizations fighting to hold governments accountable despite increasingly restrictive conditions.

Indeed, a massive generational struggle is now underway between entrenched elites and impatient youthful populations across the continent. In several countries, institutions that were once firmly under the thumb of elites are showing glimmers of independence — from the media (including social media) to the church and the judiciary. Never in Africa’s independent history has such a broad alliance stood for democracy against elites with deep financial and security ties to powerful countries in the wider world 

The question now is whether this grassroots democratic consolidation, exemplified by the massive anti-Mugabe protests and the armies of lawyers and human rights campaigners fighting for transparency in Kenya, can check or begin to reverse the tide of authoritarianism being unleashed by elites from above.

In the long term, demographic shifts make democratic change seem inevitable. Africa’s population is the youngest, fastest growing, and, in many places, the most rapidly urbanizing on the planet. The individuals driving this youth bulge are increasingly globalized in their aspirations, more digitally savvy than preceding generations, and far more impatient with the authoritarian leaders their parents long ago learned to tolerate.

But change won’t happen overnight. Political transitions in Africa have always been fraught affairs. It was far worse in the first three decades after most sub-Saharan African countries gained independence in the 1960s, when civil wars raged across much of the continent and coups were all too common. Since then, losing an election or handing over power because of constitutional term or age limits has become less of a novelty, even if the Sudanese telecoms billionaire Mo Ibrahim has found few deserving recipients for his $5 million prize for democratically elected heads of state who step down on time and with a relatively clean slate. (Since the annual Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership was created in 2006, it has been awarded only five times.)

In the 1990s, after the fall of the Berlin Wall heralded the reintroduction of multiparty politics across the continent, 48 new constitutions were promulgated in Africa. Thirty-three of them included term limits for heads of state — most of them two five-year terms. But by 2015, a dramatic reversal was underway. In at least 24 of the 33 countries with term limits, attempts were made to remove them — half of them successful, as was the case in Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi. Elsewhere, authoritarian leaders clung to power through other means — by delaying elections indefinitely, as President Joseph Kabila has done in Congo, or by rigging them cleverly enough to pass the muster of international observers, as Kenyatta has done in Kenya.

Aiding and abetting this trend toward authoritarianism were Western countries worried about the spread of Islamic extremism in Africa. The United States in particular has lavished military and counterterrorism aid on African governments with little regard for their democratic credentials — so long as they were willing to fight jihadis. In many cases, these governments grew more repressive, using anti-terrorism legislation and other legal and extralegal instruments to cow the opposition and silence dissenting voices while U.S. security assistance continued to flow. Niger experienced an erosion of political rights between 2015 and 2017, according to Freedom House, while its government deepened military cooperation with the United States. Other important U.S. allies, such as Ethiopia, Uganda, Cameroon, and Chad, have experienced democratic backsliding or were authoritarian to begin with.

Kenya’s story is particularly disappointing. It has been one of America’s most important counterterrorism partners in the troubled Horn of Africa region and also had the dubious distinction of leading the continent in extrajudicial killings by the police in 2016, according to Amnesty International. Abuses by the security forces marred the most recent election campaign as well, with more than 60 Kenyans killed by the police between the Aug. 8, 2017, election and the court-ordered rerun in October. None of these murders has been successfully investigated, and Kenyatta later praised the police for their actions during the election period.

There have also been attacks on organizations promoting human rights and good governance, many of which sought relief from the courts, which were themselves under attack by Kenyatta. Last September, Chief Justice David Maraga was forced to make a rare statement pleading for the security of his judges after the president threatened to “deal with” the judiciary, and on the eve of the election rerun the bodyguard of the deputy chief justice was shot in broad daylight in an apparent assassination attempt. Kenyatta’s subsequent victory came amid an opposition boycott and 39 percent turnout — the lowest in decades. For the first time in 50 years, Kenyans boycotted the country’s Independence Day celebrations on Dec. 12, forcing the president to address a near-empty stadium.

As leaders have rolled back democratic gains, the attitudes of ordinary Africans toward democracy and its accompanying freedoms remain robust. According to a 2016 Afrobarometer poll, 67 percent of Africans prefer democracy to other forms of government. Meanwhile, the independent media continues to blossom across the continent; whereas in the 1980s there were only a handful of countries with a free press, the media in Botswana, Ghana, South Africa, Cape Verde, Comoros, Burkina Faso, Niger, Lesotho, Kenya, Ivory Coast, and a number of other countries have become an essential part of the democratic infrastructure. Organizations that didn’t exist two decades ago have come to play a similar role in ensuring political accountability.

And although Kenya’s recent elections were deeply flawed, the government didn’t dare choke off the internet or shut down social media, as more authoritarian regimes such as Ethiopia’s and Uganda’s have done in recent years. That’s because Kenya’s oligarch class — unlike in many other countries in the region — comprises businesspeople, not soldiers. The internet and financial technology are essential to the country’s vibrant and increasingly globalized economy.

Across the continent, the trend at the grassroots level is toward more democracy, not less. Authoritarian leaders are still clinging desperately to power, and in the short term they may well succeed in halting or reversing democratic strides. But the younger, more impatient generation now coming of age has corrupt, authoritarian elites squarely in its sights. In Zimbabwe, Mugabe’s resignation is merely the beginning of the next chapter in the country’s democratic journey — one that will pit the pro-democratic youth against the corrupt old guard.

Democracy is messy, and the next phase of this generational contest will be messy, too. But Africa’s youth are redefining the rules of political engagement and will determine the continent’s future.

*Culled from Foreign Policy.John Githongo is the chief executive of Inuka Kenya Trust and a former permanent secretary to the Kenyan government on governance and ethics.

 

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Activity Expands in African Economies on Stability, Demand
January 5, 2018 | 0 Comments
 
  • PMIs show expansion in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Zambia, Uganda
  • South African index remains below neutral level of 50
Nigeria’s December PMI rose to 56.8 from 55.2. Photographer: George Osodi/Bloomberg

Nigeria’s December PMI rose to 56.8 from 55.2. Photographer: George Osodi/Bloomberg

Business activity in some of sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest economies is expanding due to increased demand and the return of political stability.

Purchasing Managers Indexes published on Thursday showed expansion in companies in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Uganda and Zambia in December. In South Africa, the continent’s most-industrialized economy, the index fell and remained below the neutral mark of 50 for the fifth straight month as the fiscal outlook remains challenging and the risk of further sovereign credit-ratings downgrades persists.

“The PMIs indicate that sub-Saharan African economies entered 2018 on a more positive note than at the beginning of last year,” Mark Bohlund, an economist at Bloomberg Economics, said. “The South African PMI reading is in line with our expectation for the strong private consumption growth in the second and third quarters to moderate in the fourth quarter and 2018.”

Activity Expands

South Africa is the only major African economy where the PMI is below 50

While economic growth in the region almost doubled to 2.6 percent last year, according to International Monetary Fund estimates, delays in policy changes is a risk to expansion. Output levels in these economies are often sensitive to changes in commodity prices and the political environment.

Ghana held a peaceful election at the end of 2016, with a new government taking over at the start of last year. Kenya’s August vote and the rerun in October were marred by violence and while the incumbent government retained its position, the opposition disputes the outcome. South Africa and Nigeria, the continent’s two largest economies, will both hold elections next year.

Foreign-Exchange Availability

Nigeria’s December PMI rose to 56.8 from 55.2, with the fastest growth in new business received by private-sector companies since Stanbic IBTC Bank and IHS Markit started the survey in 2014. The nation has relaxed some currency controls implemented after the price of oil, its main export, crashed in 2014. That’s helped revive the economy — which contracted in 2016 — even though there are still dollar shortages and the central bank continues to operate a system of multiple exchange rates.

“The rebound in foreign-exchange availability partly due to improvements in the oil sector helped buoy economic growth in 2017,” Ayomide Mejabi, an economist at Stanbic, said in a note. This year, “we expect the Nigerian economy should continue its rebound, perhaps reaching 2.5 percent driven mainly by further improvements in the oil sector and some structural adjustments.”

Kenya’s December PMI rose above 50 for the first time since April and new business and new-export orders increased for the first time in five months. The index was little changed in Uganda at 54.3 and Ghana at 53.5. Zambia’s PMI dropped to 52.9 from 54.7.

“The PMIs indicate that East Africa will continue to outgrow other sub-regions,” Bohlund said.

*Bloomberg

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More governments should be using digital financial technologies to fight corruption
January 5, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Tidhar Wald*

Economists predict the global economy will grow by nearly four percent in 2018 – the strongest growth rate since 2011. However, if history repeats itself, as it often does, a significant portion of that growth and prosperity could be undermined by the annual cost of corruption – which is estimated to be as high as $ 2.6 trillion, or equivalent 5% of global GDP.

Corruption is not just a matter of ethics, but an issue of vital economic and political significance –being one of the biggest barriers to sustainable economic growth, and development across the globe. It is therefore unsurprising that the fight for greater transparency and to eradicate corruption is gaining momentum globally. The United Nations prioritized it in the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, citing corruption as a major obstacle to economic and social development around the world. Similarly, last July, G20 leaders reiterated their countries’ commitment to fight corruption and create public administrations that are more resilient and transparent.

One sticky impediment to progress is the problem of cash. Every year, hundreds of billions of dollars of government payments and transfers are made in physical cash. Those take the form of government salaries, health payments, pensions or financial support for families in need. However, because they are made in cash, those payments are often difficult to trace, unsecure and inefficient. The anonymity of cash makes those payments vulnerable to skimming off the top and “ghost” recipients who don’t exist.

This is not a minor issue.  In 2016 The McKinsey Global Institute estimated that this causes over $110 billion in losses every single year in emerging economies, including countries across Africa.

Thankfully, growing connectivity and technological innovation allows for a shift from cash to digital payments, ensuring these billions of dollars either go back to state coffers or reach the intended recipient in full.

Tangible examples of governments who are leveraging digital finance technologies, in a responsible manner, illustrate the power of this shift. In India, the government has already saved $5 billion since it began paying fuel subsidies directly into citizens’ bank accounts – thereby eliminating non-existing recipients and reducing transaction costs. In Tanzania, the digitization of entrance fee payments in National Parks reduced leakages by 40 percent, resulting in more income to the government.  In Rwanda, the digitization of bus fares led to a 140 percent increase in revenues due to the reduction in leakages. In Ghana, digitization efforts, including the country’s biometric database for all civil servants, are expected to create savings of over GHS 250 million in 2017 and improve transparency.

But the benefits go beyond being good for governments.  When the shift to digital is done responsibly and responsively to citizen’s needs it can make their lives better. People from Argentina to Kenya have reported they did not have to pay bribes anymore or be asked to pay a percentage of their benefit to a middleman or a corrupt official.  Citizens are freed up of the costs of travel to a cash-collection office, saving valuable time and restoring a sense of dignity in their interaction with government.

What’s more, digital payments, when coupled with creating access to an account can unlock unprecedented economic opportunities, particularly for women who are twice as likely to be excluded from the formal financial system. Having an account can make saving more convenient and secure and lower the costs of accessing services that are critical to financial security and growth, such as insurance and credit products.

To be sure, digital payments are not a silver bullet. However, as economies and governments increasingly look for new ways to modernize, leaders must look beyond cash. The citizens they serve are increasingly adopting digital financial tools in their everyday lives—in Kenya, alone, nearly 70 percent of adults use a mobile money account. Governments cannot afford to continue to pay the cost of cash. By committing to shift their payments from cash to digital, governments can seize the potential of digital technologies to save billions and achieve better government for all.

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