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Emerging Technologies: new revenue opportunities for African Telcos
December 14, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Mariam Abdullahi*

 

Mariam Abdullahi

Mariam Abdullahi

Although Africa’s largest telco operators are generally showing growth in their customer bases, it is public knowledge that revenue growth has somewhat stalled to as little as 1% year on year. This means that despite attracting an increased number of customers, the amount each of these customers spend, is decreasing. In the wake of digitally transforming economies, it is safe to assume that the traditional revenue models of voice, SMS and data revenues are eroding and may soon become irrelevant. Thanks to a combination of maturing technology, regulatory interventions, increasing levels of sophistication and discernment among consumers, the disruption brought by free or low-cost public wi-fi and Over The Top (OTT) powerhouses such as WhatsApp, traditional telco revenue streams are under severe threat.

WhatsApp and its more than 900 million active users around the world, leverage Telco infrastructure to send 30 billion messages per day at no cost. Google’s ever-expanding fibre network in the US is enabling an always-online lifestyle, while China’s WeChat not only connects its 600 million subscribers with instant messaging, but has also established itself as a digital platform providing services ranging from real-time traffic updates to mobile payments.

These OTT players have created loyal customer bases as they provide valuable services at low costs, all leveraging the infrastructure that Telcos built. So, with slowing revenue growth, do Telcos invest in their own OTT apps and products to start reclaiming some of the revenue and brand equity claimed by the likes of WhatsApp?

I would argue that a far better route to the continued success and growth of the African telco industry is not to look back at missed opportunities, but to rather look ahead to the emerging technologies that will shape the business and consumer landscape across the African continent. And there’s no bigger or better emerging opportunity than the Internet of Things.

The USD 60 trillion opportunity

With a projected 50 billion things connected by 2020, the Internet of Things is set to become one of the most significant technological innovations in history. General Electric estimates that investment into the Industrial Internet of Things will reach USD 60-trillion over the next 15 years, while McKinsey predicts the IoT market will attain a compound annual growth rate of 32.6% by 2020.

Within the next few decades, sensors will permeate every aspect of our lives. In this hyperconnected age, everything from cars to machines to livestock and crops will have a sensor. In a recent collaboration between Bosch and SAP, IoT was implemented to monitor asparagus farming operations to improve yield, while also providing farmers with key insights based on accurate data that helps make them more profitable.

The possibilities are endless: for example, a refrigerator provided by a cooldrink vendor with the purpose of storing their product can be remotely monitored to ensure it is indeed stocking the intended products and provide the vendor with real-time insights into the most popular products while alerting them automatically when stocks run low. All of this requires connectivity, and at a surface level IoT is a golden revenue opportunity for Telcos. With so many ‘things’ to connect, it makes sense that Telcos provide the baseline connectivity.

However, IoT works on narrowband connectivity, meaning it can operate without using telco infrastructure. It’s not enough for Telcos to simply provide the infrastructure. For the IoT opportunity to benefit Telcos, they need to develop a comprehensive innovation framework to take advantage of emerging opportunities and create new forms of value.

The building blocks of a reimagined telco business model

To meet the demands of a rapidly changing business and technology environment, many Telcos have bolstered their digital capabilities by appointing Chief Digital Officers. There is an inherent risk to this, however: if it is the prerogative of one person or line-of-business to manage and drive innovation, the telco is unlikely to reap the full benefits of an innovation programme. CEOs should encourage a culture of innovation by enabling all employees to contribute to the process, gaining input from all operational and enterprise teams to limit siloed thinking and do away with internal segregation.

Telcos should look specifically at implementing four key components to drive an effective innovation process, namely:
1) An innovation strategy that highlights how the telco wants to take advantage of emerging technologies such as IoT;
2) An understanding of the business models that would best support their customers’ objectives and approach to business;
3) An accurate and central system of records; and
4) A team of experts to ensure all components in the innovation engine work together seamlessly and effectively.

In one example, Zimabwe’s Econet works with trucking companies by leveraging IoT to collect information for insurance companies. A new business model in this context could include a partnership with the Zimbabwean government to feed data related to road conditions to the government to inform them of road issues and ensure adequate infrastructure maintenance is conducted.

The risk of a DIY mindset

Telcos have traditionally excelled at partnering with handset providers and some OTT players. Notwithstanding, there is an undeniable occasional tendency to take a “we-can-do-it-all” approach. In the context of the emerging technologies such as IoT, partnering strategically is essential to success. A Telco need not be a sensor manufacturer to benefit from IoT. Strategic partnerships with giants like Huawei and Samsung would make more sense. There is emerging a niche, nimble set of players that are competing with these established players in the sensor business. The world of IT is now transformed into a Sense-Compute-Actuate phenomenon. In this context Telcos should focus on their biggest asset – data – whilst forging strategic partnerships with hardware and software leaders to increase the pace of innovation.

By analysing customer data effectively, Telcos can help develop new business models that are tailor-made to the needs of the modern business environment. Companies such as GE Healthcare offer a glimpse at the possibilities: for every machine they connect in a rural hospital, GE Healthcare provides hospital management with connectivity and data on bed occupancy, day-to-day usage trends, and more, giving the hospital vital insights into its operations and creating opportunities for greater efficiency.

Telcos should work with software players as well – and this is where SAP offers immense value. Software companies have already made huge investments on practical, proven solutions to collect, analyse and process huge volumes of data. They can be considered as natural co-innovators in opportunities leading to new business models or revenue streams. SAP’s analysis shows that almost 76% of the world’s transactions touch our very own software systems deployed by clients globally. We see the digitization era bringing in a new set of opportunities to bring our vision of making the world run better and simpler a reality.

However, it is critical that Telcos move fast: major global tech firms such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft are all investing in new connectivity solutions for emerging markets. If they work, the Telcos will become even less essential to the success of these companies or the needs of their customers. If Telcos don’t invest in finding innovative ways of supporting these companies, they will simply do it themselves. The opportunity cost could run into trillions of dollars.

While African Telcos have been helped by the slow pace of smartphone adoption on the continent, this is likely to change as low-cost smartphones permeate the market. The availability of exponential technologies, increasing levels of customer sophistication, and the growing availability of broadband and alternative connectivity options are all putting pressure on Telco revenues. After 20 years of relatively manageable business conditions, Telcos are facing a far more competitive and disruptive business environment.

Right now, Telcos have the luxury of investing in innovation and reinventing their business models. The first gold rush is over. But there are more gold seams – from IoT to lifestyle services and more – offering greater revenue opportunities than ever before. It is critical that they heed the warning signs and find new ways of delivering value to businesses and consumers.

*  The author is Telco Industry Lead at SAP Africa

About SAP
As market leader in enterprise application software, SAP (NYSE: SAP) helps companies of all sizes and industries run better. From back office to boardroom, warehouse to storefront, desktop to mobile device – SAP empowers people and organizations to work together more efficiently and use business insight more effectively to stay ahead of the competition. SAP applications and services enable more than 345,000 business and public sector customers to operate profitably, adapt continuously, and grow sustainably.
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AFC & Harith launch power giant: Anergi Holdings Limited
December 14, 2017 | 0 Comments

 Africa Finance Corporation (“AFC“) and Harith General Partners (“Harith“), acting on behalf of its portfolio company Aldwych Holdings Limited, are pleased to announce final close of the merger of their respective electricity generation assets into a new operating company, Anergi Holdings Limited (“Anergi” or the “Company“). Following a transaction initially signed in June 2016, all Conditions Precedent to the implementation of the merger have now been met, and the inaugural board meeting of the Company was held on 5 December, 2017.

Anergi is a holding company owning equity interests in seven (7) generation assets with a total of 1,786MW (gross) and 554MW (net) generation capacity across five (5) African countries. Anergi also holds near-term investment rights from its founding shareholders, to invest or acquire interests in new projects under development with a further 500MW capacity.

As of December 2017, Anergi owns long-term economic interests in a portfolio of assets diversified by geography and fuel type. These are the 350MW Kpone IPP tri-fuel power plant (Ghana), the 310MW Lake Turkana Wind Farm (Kenya), the 26MW Cabeolica Wind Farm (Cape Verde), the 90MW Rabai Heavy Fuel Oil power plant (Kenya), the 200MW Amandi Gas-fired power plant (Ghana), the 450MW Azura Gas-fired power plant (Nigeria) and the 300MW Kelvin IPP (South Africa). The future equity investment rights held by Anergi relate to other projects at advanced stages of development in Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Nigeria and Mozambique.

Anergi’s sponsors intend for it to operate as a consolidated energy business focused on acquiring, owning and managing controlling interests in African electricity sector assets, commencing with the initially merged assets. The Company will also seek to consolidate its ownership interests in these assets, through mutually beneficial transactions with its existing co-shareholders. Anergi will commence work immediately towards securing a stock market listing on an international exchange at the earliest feasible date. From inception, Anergi will be the leading diversified electricity business operating in Africa.

At its inaugural board meeting, Andrew Alli (President and CEO of Africa Finance Corporation) was appointed Chairman of the Board of Directors of Anergi Holdings Limited, which is incorporated and domiciled in Mauritius. Other board members appointed include Tshepo Mahloele, Oliver Andrews, Alwyn Wessels, Sipho Makhubela and Fola Fagbule.

Andrew Alli said: “we are pleased that the Anergi transaction has come to a final close, and I look forward to working with the board and management to implement the strategy and achieve the operational goals of the business over the next few years”.

Tshepo Mahloele, Chairman of Aldwych Holdings Limited said: “we are excited about this merger and the next phase of growth for our African energy business. As we continue to implement our strategy of creating valuable and permanent operating platforms with significant technical and financial capabilities, Anergi Holdings Limited will be an important part of our future”.

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Addis Ababa hosts the biggest finance event of 2017
December 14, 2017 | 0 Comments

The first ever ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) Africa Members’ Convention was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 6-8 December. The three-day event’s theme centered on: “The impact of socio-economic trends on the future of finance and business in Africa”.

The inaugural event saw significant and relevant issues facing the accountancy profession being discussed. Several influential and renowned finance and business leaders from across the continent were in attendance, including; Ambassador Mumba S. Kapumpa (Corporate Governance Expert, Zambia), Prof. Nii Quaynor, the father of the internet in Africa, Dr. Nigel Chanakira, Chairman Success Motivation Institute, Walter Muwandi, CEO CCG Systems, South Africa, Daniel Asapokhai, Executive Secretary, CEO of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria, Prof. Patrick Lumumba and South African public speaker – Vusi Thembekwayo amongst many others.

The ACCA President, Leo Lee and other council members were in attendance along with over 750 ACCA members from 31 countries. The highlight of the 3-day conference was the unveiling of the Member Wall to commemorate ACCA reaching a milestone of 200,000 members worldwide.

Jamil Ampomah, director of ACCA Sub-Saharan Africa remarked, “I am delighted that the ACCA Africa Member Convention was able to bring together the best and brightest of the African accountancy profession. This conference was a fantastic opportunity for finance professionals to share their insights and discuss the topical issues they face.

In times of change globally, which we are certainly seeing now, it is important for local and regional communities to come together and forge a positive and sustainable future. By addressing the future role and relevance of accountancy and finance in Africa, this event has enabled ACCA demonstrate its membership capacity, strength and expansive network across Africa and globally”.

The ACCA Africa Members’ Convention addressed critical issues on the future role and relevance of the professional accountant in Africa, the impact of the shifting paradigms of social expectations and the economic focus supported by rapid digital transformation. Some of the topics discussed at the convention included: Innovation and the role of the accountant in the fourth industrial revolution, Ethics in a digital world; Managing and navigating the new economy; and the future of the profession: opportunities across Africa.

Also discussed was ACCA’s groundbreaking research, “Professional Accountants- the future series”, which highlights digital transformation as a major driver of change impacting business, finance and the accounting profession over the next decade. Delegates agreed that a key aspect of promoting the industry is to understand the increasing expectations of stakeholders, and develop effective approaches and systems to deliver real value to them.

ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants, offering business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management.

ACCA supports its 200,000 members and 486,000 students in 180 countries, helping them to develop successful careers in accounting and business, with the skills required by employers. ACCA works through a network of 101 offices and centres and more than 7,200 Approved Employers worldwide, who provide high standards of employee learning and development. Through its public interest remit, ACCA promotes appropriate regulation of accounting and conducts relevant research to ensure accountancy continues to grow in reputation and influence.

ACCA is currently introducing major innovations to its flagship qualification to ensure its members and future members continue to be the most valued, up to date and sought-after accountancy professionals globally.

Founded in 1904, ACCA has consistently held unique core values: opportunity, diversity, innovation, integrity and accountability. More information is here: www.accaglobal.com

*AMA

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READERS OF GLOBAL TRAVELER HONOR SOUTH AFRICAN AIRWAYS AS “BEST AIRLINE TO AFRICA”
December 14, 2017 | 0 Comments

Fort Lauderdale, FL (December 13, 2017) – South African Airways (SAA), the national flag carrier of South Africa and Africa’s most awarded airline has been selected by the readers of Global Traveler in the U.S. as the “Best Airline to Africa” for the 14th consecutive year in their annual reader survey. The publication presented the award to SAA at a ceremony held on December 12, 2017, at The Peninsula Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills, California.

The magazine, whose readership consists of discerning, high-frequency travelers, polls readers and reports on their preferences in its annual survey that recognizes the best in business travel. SAA’s Premium Business Class service, with its fully flatbed seats, on-demand audio-visual entertainment system in every seat, an exclusive collection of South African wines and warm African hospitality played a key role in SAA winning the award. These service attributes are complemented by SAA and its regional partners offering an extensive route network in Africa providing business travelers with many choices when traveling to, from and within the continent.

“We are grateful that the readers of Global Traveler, who are true road warriors and expect nothing short of premier experience every time they fly, recognized SAA as the Best Airline to Africa,”said Todd Neuman, Executive Vice President – North America for South African Airways. “This award,which we have received for 14 consecutive years, is proof that business travelers recognize our employee’s commitment to excellent service, both on the ground and in the air, our competitively priced fares, and our comprehensive route network throughout Africa”.

“”Congratulations to South African Airways for yet another GT Tested Reader Survey awards win. For 14 consecutive years, our readers have agreed the airline is best in Africa, a true nod to SAA’s service and quality.” said Francis X. Gallagher, publisher and CEO of Global Traveler.

As the leading carrier from the U.S. to Africa, South African Airways offers the most flights with non-stop service from New York–JFK Airport to Johannesburg and daily non-stop service from Washington, DC-Dulles to Dakar, Senegal, or Accra, Ghana, with continued service to Johannesburg. From its hub in Johannesburg, SAA together with its regional partners SA Express, Airlink and Mango offer easy, convenient connections to more than 75 destinations throughout Africa. SAA’s awarding – winning premium Business Class offers 180 fully lie-flat seating with duvet and full-size pillows, gourmet cuisine designed by renowned South African celebrity chefs, a wine cellar featuring some of South Africa’s finest vintages and extensive programming of on-demand audio and visual entertainment.For further information on South African Airways product and services, please visit www.flysaa.com or for reservations call 1-(800) 722-9675.

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African presidents draw strong consensus for inclusive growth at Africa 2017
December 13, 2017 | 0 Comments
President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and African leaders pose for a photo in the second day of the Africa 2017 Forum on Friday- press photo

President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and African leaders pose for a photo in the second day of the Africa 2017 Forum on Friday- press photo

Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt, 11 December 2017, -/African Media Agency (AMA)/- African presidents reached a strong consensus to focus on regional integration, inclusive growth and youth empowerment in order to achieve continued and sustained growth on the continent at the Africa 2017 Forum in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. President of Egypt Abdel Fattah Al Sisi hosted African heads of state and business leaders including President of the Republic of Guinea Alpha Condé, President of the Republic of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Côte D’Ivoire Alassane Ouattara, and President of Somalia, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed.

The business and investment Forum titled “Driving investment for inclusive growth” was convened to increase intra-African investments and cross-border collaboration. The message sent was that entrepreneurship and private sector would be the driving force to transform the continent. The Forum was preceded by a Young Entrepreneurs Day which brought together over 200 young African entrepreneurs who were meeting investors to pitch their businesses over the two days of the Forum. Al Sisi highlighted the importance of African youth, saying they should be the cornerstone of development plans in the continent as governments strive to promote innovation and technology.

The second edition of the Forum was another clear statement of intent from the Egyptian President, who, in his opening remarks, highlighted the strong bond Egypt has with the rest of the continent, saying it has always been a partner in African development. Putting Africa on the global map and paving the way for a prosperous future can be achieved by working harder to attract investment and collaborating more closely.

President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, co-chair of the Young Entrepreneurs Day, reiterated the need for more urgency: “We cannot afford to waste opportunities because of unnecessary red tape and associated delays.” Citing the launch of the Tripartite Free Trade Area in Egypt in 2015, he added it was important that African leaders drive the institutional reform of the African Union in order to get the FTA fully operational.

Heba Salama, Director of the COMESA Regional Investment Agency, co-conveners of the Forum, in an emotional address reminded the young and the leaders in the room that if your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough. This did not go unheeded by the entrepreneurs in the room many of whom had scaled up businesses that were ripe for take off.

Africa 2017 Forum is held under the high patronage of H.E. Abdel Fattah Al Sisi on 7th to 9th December 2017 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, and is organized by the Ministry of Investment and International Cooperation of Egypt and the COMESA Regional Investment Agency (RIA).
The 2017 edition builds on the success of the inaugural Africa 2016, which saw participation of 6 Heads of State and more than 1,000 delegates from 45 countries. This year the programme has been enhanced with exclusive Presidential Roundtables with Africa leaders and CEOs as well as a Young Entrepreneurs Day
Africa 2017 remains the premier business platform to nurture new partnerships; meet investors and fast track your business objectives in Africa.
Take your place and belong in the conversation that will drive new projects, transactions and policy throughout the continent with global business leaders who will lead both dialogue and progress on some of the most important projects in Africa.

Omar Sakr is the founder and CEO of Nawah-Scientific. Omar graduated as a pharmacist in 2005 from Ain Shams University, Egypt, after which he was appointed as a teaching assistant in the department of Pharmaceutical Technology, at the German University of Cairo (GUC) where he got his MSc degree in 2009. Omar then started his PhD journey at the University of Geneva, Switzerland and got his doctoral degree in 2015. As a part of his studies Omar worked for 3 years as a researcher at Capsulution Pharma in Berlin (Germany). Omar’s research activities are focused on nanotech applications for controlled delivery of small molecules and biological drugs. To his name, Omar holds several scientific and business awards for innovative product design. He authored and co-authored several peer-reviewed articles and book chapters that are published in top journals in the field.
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Egyptian young businessman Omar Sakr wins ‘elevator pitch’ at the Africa 2017
December 13, 2017 | 0 Comments
Press Photo - Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Khaled Abdel Ghaffar awarded CEO of Nawah-Scientific Omar Sakr the elevator pitch prize

Press Photo – Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Khaled Abdel Ghaffar awarded CEO of Nawah-Scientific Omar Sakr the elevator pitch prize

Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt, 11 December 2017, -/African Media Agency (AMA)/- Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Egypt, awarded Omar Sakr, founder and CEO of Nawah-Scientific, the winning prize for the “elevator pitch” competition, which was held at Africa 2017 at Sharm-el-Sheikh, in Egypt. The prize is an entry to a training programme at Stanford Business School in California, the spiritual home of modern day entrepreneurs.

The competition, as part of Young Entrepreneurs Day, offered a chance for African start-ups to gain exposure and raise their profile by pitching their business ideas to an international delegation of executives representing capital prospects, business mentors, and advisors. From over 100 start-ups and entrepreneurs, 18 were selected to make ‘elevator pitches’ – each 3 minute in length maximum – where these young business leaders had the stage to present their idea and opportunity, highlight their needs and generate new leads.

Minister Gaffer mentioned that Egypt understands the important role that entrepreneurship and young entrepreneurs play in job creation and inclusive growth. The government is creating favourable environment to facilitate this, he added.

“I am thrilled to have won this competition,” said Sakr, “There were some amazing start-ups here and I am pleased to have won the opportunity to go to Stanford for the business management exposure.” Nawah-Scientific is the first, private, multidisciplinary research center in Egypt catering for natural and medical sciences. Nawah’s online platform receives task requests from individual scientists or industrial clients, samples to be analyzed are picked up via a partnership with courier services, experiments are carried by high caliber scientists and finally results are sent back online to the client.

Young Entrepreneurship Day partners, were impressed with the calibre of competitors. The judges were, Ben White, Founder and CEO, VC4Africa, Obi Ejimofo, COO, Asoko Insights, UK, Heba Ali, Managing Director, Egypt Ventures, Egypt and Abdelhameed Sharara, Founder and CEO, RiseUp, Egypt

Africa 2017 Forum is held under the high patronage of H.E. Abdel Fattah Al Sisi on 7th to 9th December 2017 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, and is organized by the Ministry of Investment and International Cooperation of Egypt and the COMESA Regional Investment Agency (RIA).
The 2017 edition builds on the success of the inaugural Africa 2016, which saw participation of 6 Heads of State and more than 1,000 delegates from 45 countries. This year the programme has been enhanced with exclusive Presidential Roundtables with Africa leaders and CEOs as well as a Young Entrepreneurs Day
Africa 2017 remains the premier business platform to nurture new partnerships; meet investors and fast track your business objectives in Africa.

Take your place and belong in the conversation that will drive new projects, transactions and policy throughout the continent with global business leaders who will lead both dialogue and progress on some of the most important projects in Africa.

Omar Sakr is the founder and CEO of Nawah-Scientific. Omar graduated as a pharmacist in 2005 from Ain Shams University, Egypt, after which he was appointed as a teaching assistant in the department of Pharmaceutical Technology, at the German University of Cairo (GUC) where he got his MSc degree in 2009. Omar then started his PhD journey at the University of Geneva, Switzerland and got his doctoral degree in 2015. As a part of his studies Omar worked for 3 years as a researcher at Capsulution Pharma in Berlin (Germany). Omar’s research activities are focused on nanotech applications for controlled delivery of small molecules and biological drugs. To his name, Omar holds several scientific and business awards for innovative product design. He authored and co-authored several peer-reviewed articles and book chapters that are published in top journals in the field.
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Hitachi Vantara appoints new East Africa Regional Director
December 10, 2017 | 0 Comments
Wycliffe Selebwa

Wycliffe Selebwa

Hitachi Vantara, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi Ltd, has appointed Wycliffe Selebwa as East Africa Regional Director.

As the Regional Director, Selebwa is tasked with working closely together with sales teams and other stakeholders to drive incremental revenue and market share in East Africa. He will also play an important part in helping clients to leverage Hitachi Vantara’s broad portfolio of solutions to influence business outcomes.

“This is an important chapter in Hitachi Vantara’s development as it strategically aligns its operations and strengthens its technology and IoT offerings, and we are confident that Wycliffe will be a valuable addition to the business as it moves forward,” says Alexander Jenewein, General Manager and Managing Director for Sub-Saharan Africa.

Prior to joining Hitachi Vantara, Selebwa held a Business Development role at Oracle. Before this he headed up Oracle’s Cloud Infrastructure sales team for almost five years. His 15 years of experience in the technology industry also includes a seven-year stint as Managing Director and Enterprise Business Lead at Hewlett Packard as well as two years managing Distribution for Microsoft in Southern and Eastern Africa.

He currently holds a degree in Public Administration and Economics from the Moi University in Kenya as well as a post-graduate diploma in Sales and Marketing from the Institute of Chartered Marketing in the UK.

“I am extremely excited to take on this new role with Hitachi Vantara and look forward to driving consistent and sustainable growth and profitability within the region. By focusing on helping customers to reap the full benefits of Hitachi’s entire solutions portfolio, I believe we can help them to exceed the expectations of both their customers and stakeholders,” The East Africa market boasts of tremendous growth in the IT space with all the vendors fighting for significant market share and growing their customer bases. Hitachi will capitalize on its broad products and solution portfolio to stay ahead of the pack says Wycliffe.

Hitachi Vantara, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi, Ltd., helps data-driven leaders find and use the value in their data to innovate intelligently and reach outcomes that matter for business and society. We combine technology, intellectual property and industry knowledge to deliver data-managing solutions that help enterprises improve their customers’ experiences, develop new revenue streams, and lower the costs of business. Only Hitachi Vantara elevates your innovation advantage by combining deep information technology (IT), operational technology (OT) and domain expertise. We work with organisations everywhere to drive data to meaningful outcomes.
Hitachi, Ltd. (TSE: 6501), headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, delivers innovations that answer society’s challenges with our talented team and proven experience in global markets. The company’s consolidated revenues for fiscal 2014 (ended March 31, 2015) totaled 9,761 billion yen ($81.3 billion). Hitachi is focusing more than ever on the Social Innovation Business, which includes power & infrastructure systems, information & telecommunication systems, construction machinery, high functional materials & components, automotive systems, healthcare and others.
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The 17th World Conference on Tobacco or Health (WCTOH) to be held for the first time in Africa where tobacco industry interference is endemic
December 8, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Organisers of the 17th World Conference on Tobacco or Health (WCTOH)
) to be held in Cape Town, South Africa, on 7 to 9 March in 2018,
thave announced the attendance of WHO Director-General Dr Tedros
Adhanom Ghebreyesus, South Africa Minister of Health Dr Aaron
Motsoaledi and Michael R. Bloomberg, a leading actor on tobacco
control and WHO Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases.

For the past 50 years, WCTOH has been the premier international
forum on tobacco control and next year’s event – the first to be held
on the African continent – is expected to attract over 2000
researchers, scientists, civil society, healthcare professionals,
policymakers and media representatives from around 100 countries. It
is reported that tobacco use is the world’s leading preventable cause
of death killing more than 7 million people each year.

“This conference is being held at a critical time, both in the war on
tobacco and the drive to protect public health,” said WHO
Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“Countries have stepped up action to beat back the tobacco epidemic.
But more is needed. By embracing the Sustainable Development Goals,
governments have committed to promoting healthier and stronger futures
for their citizens. Tobacco control offers one of the surest ways to
achieve such ambitions.”

The theme of the conference is Uniting the World for a Tobacco-Free
Generation with an overarching focus on expediting progress to reduce
tobacco use in all populations around the world – using new research
and innovative approaches in public health, as well as powerful but
under-used policies, including tobacco taxation and those aimed at
preventing industry interference.

Michael Bloomberg will preside over the Bloomberg Philanthropies’
Awards for Global Tobacco Control during WCTOH. The awards recognise
leading organisations in low- and middle-income countries doing best
in class work on the most effective tobacco control policies,
collectively known as MPOWER measures: monitoring of tobacco use and
prevention policies,protecting people from tobacco smoke,offering help
to quit tobacco use,warning about the dangers of tobacco,enforcing
bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship and raising
taxes on tobacco.

It is further added that while tobacco use is decreasing in many
countries, smoking rates in Africa are anticipated to rise
dramatically. By 2030 the number of smokers in the region is projected
to increase by 40 percent from 2010 levels, unless there is
significant intervention. Africa continues to be aggressively targeted
by the tobacco industry, as it represents an opportunity for
considerable market growth.

Dr Flavia Senkubuge

Dr Flavia Senkubuge

Dr Flavia Senkubuge, President of the 17th WCTOH and a specialist in
Public Health Medicine at the University of Pretoria, South Africa
said: “The developing world continues to be the most urgent
battleground for those working in tobacco control. We are delighted to
have the commitment of three such prominent public health champions at
the inaugural WCTOH conference to be held in the Africa region.”

Professor Harry Lando, Chair of the 17^th WCTOH organising committee
said: “We are confident that the high quality of the science being
presented in Cape Town will complement the advocacy around WCTOH – we
need both, if we are to make bigger strides in tobacco control,
especially in this part of the world.”

Some of the scientific highlights being featured at WCTOH include a
novel study around HIV and smoking in South Africa, e-cigarette use
and young people, and the impact of tobacco taxation and point-of-sale
changes on consumers.
The 17th World Conference on Tobacco or Health (WCTOH) is expected to
unite researchers, academics, non-governmental organisations, civil
society, scientists, healthcare professionals and public officials
working on all aspects of tobacco control from around 100 countries.

Convened by WCTOH’s Advisory Board, the Cape Town Consortium and the
Conference Secretariat (The Union), WCTOH is a call for a collective
resolution to fight tobacco use by working together and integrating
tobacco control into our health and development goals. Held every
three years, WCTOH is the premier international conference on tobacco
control.

It is reported that the conference theme – Uniting the World for a
Tobacco-Free Generation – recognises that tobacco control is a global
issue, crossing all geographic boundaries. The World Health
Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) stands
as the backdrop for the conference and for our global response to the
tobacco epidemic. It is the only internationally, legally-binding
health treaty of the 21st century. Only by coming together are we able
to create a tobacco-free generation.

The Union is the Conference Secretariat for WCTOH. The Union is a
global scientific organisation with the mission to improve health
among people living in poverty. We do that by conducting scientific
research, working with governments and other agencies to translate
research into better health for people around the world, and
delivering projects directly in the field. The Union is made up of a
membership body of people around the world who help to advance our
mission, and a scientific institute that implements public health
projects within countries. For close to 100 years, they have been
leaders in the fight against some of the world’s biggest killers,
including tuberculosis, lung diseases and tobacco use.

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SureRemit targets 250 million immigrants with non-cash remittance service
December 8, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

. SureRemit, a global blockchain-based non-cash remittance service has
announced a token sale event to allow investors to contribute to
SureRemit and receive RMT tokens at a 40 % bonus.

A big argument for the potential of blockchain and cryptocurrencies
has been about how the revolutionary technology can impact the $600bn
cross-border remittance market. Several platforms are already enabling
cheaper and faster transfer of money using cryptocurrencies like
Bitcoin; however, a new product, SureRemit, is focusing on a
particular segment: non-cash remittances.

It is reported that there are over 250 million immigrants across
the world. A significant volume of money sent by these immigrants is
intended to serve specific needs of their friends and family at home
like food, clothing, utility bills and education. Senders utilize a
myriad of formal and informal channels to move money, but while there
have been improvements in recent years, the international money
transfer process is far from convenient.
Cash transfers are heavily regulated in order to prevent money
laundering, fraud and terrorist financing, so the systems and
intermediaries involved are forced to create elaborate compliance
processes that result in high fees and less-than-ideal transaction
flows. Furthermore, after sending money home, immigrants have no
control or visibility over the use of funds.

A new blockchain-based remittance service is being created to address
this. Immigrants all over the world with Remit tokens can purchase
digital vouchers that are redeemable for goods and services directly
from local merchants at their specified destinations. This
cryptocurrency removes the cash layer, reduces the cost of transfers
and provides the sender some control and visibility over how the value
is spent.

“International remittance transactions can be frustrating, but it
doesn’t have to be, at least for non-cash value transfers which
constitute about 40% of all transfers” said ‘Laolu Samuel-Biyi,
Director of Remittances at SureRemit. “In very many cases, immigrants
and travelers just want to buy food or pay a bill for someone at home.
Those transactions do not have the same risk profiles as cash
transactions, and they should not be subjected to the same costs,
timelines and procedures.”

Remit tokens are being issued in partnership with Stellar. The tokens
generated will be the primary tool for accessing digital shopping
vouchers, utility bill payments and mobile airtime services within the
SureRemit app. SureRemit already has access to over 500 redemption
points of major retail chains within the SureGifts merchant ecosystem
across Africa, with partnerships to acquire thousands of ecosystem
merchant partners in India and the Middle-East in the works. Expansion
into other major remittance corridors are planned for next year.

SureRemit is a platform for global non-cash remittances. Remit tokens
are being issued in partnership with Stellar. The tokens generated
will be the primary tool for accessing digital shopping vouchers,
utility bill payments and mobile airtime services within the SureRemit
app. SureRemit already has access to over 500 redemption points of
major retail chains within the SureGifts merchant ecosystem across
Africa, with partnerships to acquire thousands of ecosystem merchant
partners in India and the Middle-East in the works. Expansion into
other major remittance corridors are planned for next year. Pre-sale
token distribution begins December 8, 2017.

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WorldRemit raises $40m to target 5 million customers in Africa
December 8, 2017 | 0 Comments
Series C funding round brings the total amount raised to $220m
Ismail Ahmed, founder and CEO at WorldRemit

Ismail Ahmed, founder and CEO at WorldRemit

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, December 7, 2017/ — Leading digital money transfer service WorldRemit  has raised $40m to drive its next phase of global growth, aiming to serve 10 million customers connected to emerging markets. Half of these customers will be in Africa.

As part of the expansion, WorldRemit will enable customers in Africa to transfer money to 148 countries as easily as sending an instant message, using the WorldRemit app. Countries in Africa which now receive remittances through WorldRemit, will become send countries. Most importantly, the new service will make sending money within Africa faster, easier and low cost. According to the World Bank, inter-Africa transfers are amongst the most expensive in the world.

Money transfers to Africa account for more than half of WorldRemit’s total volume of transactions. The company currently handles 74% of remittances to popular mobile money services across Africa like MTN, Ecocash, Tigo Pesa, Vodafone M-Pesa and Airtel Money, making it the global leader in mobile-to-mobile international money transfers.

Ismail Ahmed, founder and CEO at WorldRemit, comments: “This new funding will fuel our growth, and help bring our service to millions more customers across the globe. Africa is a crucial market for us and over the next few years, we will expand our services so customers can send and receive with WorldRemit, getting the benefits of our fast, secure online service.” 

Since its last funding round in 2015, WorldRemit has launched 206 new services across the globe and has grown its transaction volume by 400%. Last month WorldRemit became Arsenal FC’s (www.Arsenal.com) first-ever online money transfer partner.

The Series C round was led by LeapFrog Investments (www.LeapFrogInvest.com) – a dedicated equity investor in emerging markets, supporting fast-growth firms that deliver social impact alongside commercial returns. The round also had significant participation from existing investors Accel (www.Accel.com) and Technology Crossover Ventures (TCV) (www.TCV.com).

Michael Liu, Regional Director, Asia-Pacific

Michael Liu, Regional Director, Asia-Pacific

This latest funding round follows a Series B investment raised from TCV in 2015 and a Series A from Accel and Project A in 2014 – then one of the largest ever Series A rounds in Europe.

WorldRemit (www.WorldRemit.com) was founded in 2010 by a UK-based entrepreneur from Somaliland, Ismail Ahmed, a remittance specialist and former compliance advisor to the United Nations. Personal experience of using money transfer agents convinced Ismail that technology could improve the sending process, enhance compliance and reduce costs to the customer.

In November 2017 WorldRemit became Arsenal FC’s first-ever online money transfer partner in a global sponsorship deal for all Premier League, League Cup and FA Cup games. In June 2017 WorldRemit added Android Pay to its service, offering a new way for WorldRemit’s Android Pay users to safely and securely send money to 130 million mobile money accounts accessible via its network.

WorldRemit has secured $220 million in funding backed by Accel and TCV – early investors in Facebook, Spotify, Netflix and Slack – and LeapFrog Investments.

WorldRemit’s global headquarters are in London, UK with offices in the United States, Canada, South Africa, Japan, Singapore, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand.

LeapFrog (www.LeapFrogInvest.com) invests in extraordinary businesses in Africa and Asia. We partner with their leaders to achieve leaps of growth, profitability and impact. LeapFrog companies now operate across 33 markets reaching 111 million people with financial services and healthcare. Over 93.8 million of those are emerging consumers, often accessing insurance, savings, pensions, credit and healthcare for the first time. LeapFrog companies provide jobs and livelihoods to over 114,626 people. These companies have grown on average by 43.3 per cent per annum since LeapFrog’s investment. LeapFrog was recently named by Fortune as one of the top five companies changing the world, the first private equity firm ever to be listed.

Accel (www.Accel.com) is a leading venture capital firm that invests in people and their companies from the earliest days through all phases of private company growth. Atlassian, Algolia, Avito, Cloudera, Crowdstrike, Deliveroo, DJI, Dropbox, Etsy, Facebook, Flipkart, Funding Circle, Kayak, QlikTech, Slack, Spotify, Supercell and WorldRemit are among the companies the firm has backed over the past 30 years. The firm seeks to understand entrepreneurs as individuals, appreciate their originality and play to their strengths. Because greatness doesn’t have a stereotype.

Technology Crossover Ventures (TCV) (www.TCV.com), founded in 1995, is a leading provider of capital to growth-stage private and public companies in the technology industry. With nearly $10 billion in capital raised, TCV has invested in more than 200 technology companies over the last 20 years. Selected investments include Altiris, C|NET, ExactTarget, Expedia, Facebook, Fandango, FX Alliance, GoDaddy, Genesys Software, HomeAway, Netflix, NewVoiceMedia, RealNetworks, Redback Networks, RiskMetrics Group, Sitecore, Splunk, Spotify, Thinkorswim, VICE Media, and Zillow. TCV is headquartered in Palo Alto, California, with offices in New York and London

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Rwanda Africa’s ‘City of Innovation’ to host conference on ‘Uniting Africa’
December 7, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

Rwanda's Paul Kagame and Chad's Idriss Derby displaying their copies of the African Union Passport

Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and Chad’s Idriss Derby displaying their copies of the African Union Passport

Next year Rwanda, one of Africa’s most technologically ambitious
countries, will take over the Chairmanship of the African Union. It
will also play host to eLearning Africa and the organisers are
predicting that it will be the biggest conference in the event’s
13-year history. They believe it could play a signinficant role in
pushing forward the African Union’s 2063 Agenda.

The conference, which is being jointly organised by ICWE GmbH and the
Rwanda Convention Bureau under the patronage of the Rwandan
Government, usually attracts well over 1,000 participants from all
over the world. They are not only teachers, academics and learning
experts, but political leaders, policy makers, investors,
technologists, business leaders and entrepreneurs too. The conference
will also be an occasion for an annual round table meeting of African
education and technology ministers.

In Rwanda, participants in eLearning Africa will have a chance to see
for themselves the achievements of an African government, which has
set about using technology to transform education. In 2014, the
Government signed an agreement to incorporate information and
communication technology into the country’s schools and colleges. The
benefits of “a new system of teaching that emphasises the use of
computers and internet to impart knowledge” are already starting to be
felt across the country. And now the Government is confident that by
2020 all schools in the country will have at least two smart
classrooms and all subjects will have been digitised.

eLearning Africa 2018 will take place from 26 to 28 September in
Rwanda’s capital city, Kigali, which has gained a reputation for its
ICT-based initiatives in a variety of sectors. So great is its
apparent enthusiasm for new technological solutions that some
observers have referred to it as the “Innovation City of Africa.”

In addition to its technological prowess, Kigali is also one of
Africa’s most attractive cities – eLearning Africa participants will
be able to take advantage of its bustling streets, ridges, valleys,
and lush hillsides, not to mention Rwanda’s world renowned Gorilla
trekking tours, only a short journey away.

“It is wonderful that Rwanda is now setting a real example for other
countries in technology-assisted learning and hosting a conference
whose theme is „Uniting Africa“, says conference organiser, Rebecca
Stromeyer. “l am confident that eLearning Africa 2018 in Rwanda will
be the biggest and most exciting eLA yet.”

Under the overall theme of “Uniting Africa,“ conference participants
will also discuss how the benefits of technology can be shared and
help to improve education across Africa, making a reality of the
African Union’s 2063 Vision of a “transformed continent.” A call for
papers has been issued and will remain open until 30 January 2018. The
organisers are looking for contributions on subjects including
“creating opportunities through education,” “boosting competitiveness
and ICT-centric growth,” “matching skills demand and supply,” and
“overcoming barriers.”

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AfDB’s Leadership4Agriculture Forum Sets in Motion Strategies to Spur Africa’s Agricultural Transformation
December 7, 2017 | 0 Comments

ABIDJAN, COTE D’IVOIRE – December 6, 2017 – African Finance and Agriculture Ministers and private sector leaders convened for the African Development Bank’s first high-level convening of the Leadership4Agriculture (L4Ag) Forum to pave a way forward in spurring the continent’s agricultural transformation on November 28 in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.

The invitation-only L4Ag Forum, supported by the Rockefeller Foundation and in collaboration with the Initiative for Global Development (IGD) and Grow Africa was held at the AfDB headquarters in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. The event was held on the sidelines of the AU-EU Summit, which took place on November 29-30.

More than 150 public and private sector leaders gathered for dialogue, advocacy and policy action to drive Africa’s agriculture transformation on the theme, “Leadership for Agriculture: Moving African Policy to Action”. African Ministers from Cote d’Ivoire, the Republic of the Congo, Mali, Sierra Leone, Togo, Central African Republic, Seychelles, Ghana, Uganda, Gambia, and Chad were in attendance at the forum.

In a keynote address, Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina, president of the African Development Bank, told forum attendees that, more than ever before, governments and private sector must work together to rapidly modernize agriculture in Africa to reach its full potential.

President Adesina challenged African agriculture leaders to become global food producers and move away from importing foods that the continent should be producing, emphasizing that Africa sits on 65% of the world’s uncultivated arable land.

African countries currently spend $35 billion annually on food imports and if current trends continue the continent will spend some $110 billion annually by 2030 on food imports. “There is absolutely no reason for Africa to be a food-importing region,” said Adesina. “Africa has huge potentials in agriculture, but nobody eats potential!”

The AfDB President encouraged African leaders to develop new agrarian systems that combine smallholder farmers with a dynamic generation of medium and large commercial farmers.

African Ministers and private sector leaders offer insights on the panel, “Agriculture Powering Africa’s Economic Transformation: Fueling Agro-industry and Agribusiness”

African Ministers and private sector leaders offer insights on the panel, “Agriculture Powering Africa’s Economic Transformation: Fueling Agro-industry and Agribusiness”

Mamadou Biteye, managing director of the Rockefeller Foundation Africa Regional Office, agreed, noting that “strong and decisive” leadership and partnerships are required to achieve a greater impact in ensuring Africa’s food security, creating jobs and mobilizing investments in the agriculture sector.

The Rockefeller Foundation conceived the Leadership4Agriculture Forum during its 2013 centennial celebrations, where an unprecedented gathering of finance and agriculture leaders from over 20 African countries convened to identify concrete ways to work together and strengthen African agricultural markets and value chains to benefit economies.

“African governments need to be talking and integrating action,” asserted Biteye. He implored governments to draw in the private sector, “so they cease shying away from the sector due to the perception of agriculture being risky, and make greater investment.”

Dr. Mima S. Nedelcovych, president and CEO of the Initiative for Global Development reiterated the essential role of the private sector in delivering fundamental change in the agriculture sector.

“Agriculture is a business,” said Nedelcovych. “For far too long, agriculture has been approached largely as a development issue, and Africa’s born- and bred private sector was not actively sought out to be part of the long-term strategy for their country’s agricultural transformation.”

IGD collaborated, in partnership with the AfDB and Rockefeller Foundation, in the planning, execution and outreach to the African private sector for the L4Ag Forum.

By bringing together private sector leaders with high-level African officials to drive action and growth in Africa’s agriculture sector, Nedelcovych said the forum aimed to push for a market-led approach to agriculture.

Moderated by BBC presenter Alan Kasujja, a panel of Ministers and private sector leaders discussed and put forth solutions and strategies on transforming Africa’s agriculture by improving the regulatory environment, enhancing access to improved agricultural inputs and commercializing agriculture during panel sessions.

The forum panel sessions — “Enabling the Business of Agriculture: Increasing Access to Agricultural Inputs to Enhance Productivity and Regulatory Reforms”and “Agriculture Powering Africa’s Economic Transformation: Fueling Agro-industry and Agribusiness” — were guided by recently-released reports by the World Bank’s 2017 Enabling the Business of Agriculture Report and the 2017 Africa Transformation Report by African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET).

Joost W. van Odijk of Grow Africa outlined to forum attendees the Country Agribusiness Partnership Frameworks or CAP-F, a tool that sets policy reforms in motion through cross-sectoral engagements to improve efficiency in the agribusiness value chains and to attract private sector investments.

During the public-private action roundtable sessions, African high-level government officials and business leaders reviewed policy and sub-indicators from the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and brainstormed their aligned interests and achievable goals in reaching policy indicators. The breakout sessions also explored investment opportunities in agribusiness ventures. CAADP is a policy framework for agricultural transformation, food security and nutrition, and advancing country-led economic growth in Africa.

Nedelcovych encouraged attendees to take the wealth of knowledge and bold strategies gained at the forum to build momentum for Africa’s agricultural transformation.

“There’s a tremendous opportunity to work together and deepen public-private sector collaborations and investment in agriculture to harness its full potential and contribute to accelerating the continent’s economic growth,” said Nedelcovych. “We all must be champions for agriculture!”

An action-oriented outcomes report highlighting forum sessions and actions from the public-private sector roundtables will be will be produced in early-January.

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A borderless Africa? Not yet, but some countries open doors
December 7, 2017 | 0 Comments

By RODNEY MUHUMUZA*

FILE - In this Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017 file photo, the crowd watch as Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, center, and Deputy President William Ruto, center right, appear on a video screen at his inauguration ceremony at Kasarani stadium in Nairobi, Kenya. Citing the need to be "more integrated," Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta announced during his inauguration that the East African commercial hub will now give visas on arrival to all Africans. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)

FILE – In this Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017 file photo, the crowd watch as Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, center, and Deputy President William Ruto, center right, appear on a video screen at his inauguration ceremony at Kasarani stadium in Nairobi, Kenya. Citing the need to be “more integrated,” Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta announced during his inauguration that the East African commercial hub will now give visas on arrival to all Africans. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)

For years African leaders have toyed with the idea of free movement by citizens across the continent, even raising the possibility of a single African passport.

Now some African countries are taking bold steps to encourage borderless travel that could spur trade and economic growth on a continent in desperate need of both.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta announced during his inauguration last week that the East African commercial hub will now give visas on arrival to all Africans. That follows similar measures by nations including Benin and Rwanda.

“The freer we are to travel and live with one another, the more integrated and appreciative of our diversity we will become,” Kenyatta said.

The African Union continental body has cheered such steps, calling it the direction the 54-nation continent needs to take. “I urge all African states that have not yet done so to take similar measures,” AU Commission chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat said on Twitter after Kenya’s announcement.

Trade among African countries is at just 16 percent, while trade among European Union states is at 70 percent, Mahamat told AU trade ministers on Friday.

For a continent whose leaders often speak fondly of “African brotherhood” and once pondered the idea of a United States of Africa, the visa policies of many countries for many years suggested little progress in implementing the continent-wide, visa-free ideal advocated by the AU.

Africans can get a visa on arrival in 24 percent of African countries, yet North Americans, for example, have easier access on the continent, according to a 2017 report on visa openness by the African Development Bank. African Union figures show Africans need visas to travel to 54 percent of the continent.

Free migration of people across the continent would help in talent exchange as well as trade, said Ali Abdi, the Uganda chief of mission at the International Organization for Migration. Countries may have to invest more in border patrols but “the benefits far outweigh the costs, in my view.”

Kenya’s decision is a “good move and it’s progressive,” said Godber Tumushabe with the Uganda-based Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies. “It should have been done a long time ago.”

Change is coming, and not just in East Africa. While visiting Rwanda last year, Benin’s President Patrice Talon said his West African country would no longer require visas for other Africans. He said he was inspired by Rwanda, whose government started issuing visas on arrival to Africans in 2013 and recently announced that in 2018 citizens of all countries will benefit from the policy.

“We are happy that other African countries are opening their borders up for Africans to increase foreign investments,” said Olivier Nduhungirehe, a deputy foreign minister in Rwanda in charge of regional integration. Opening borders will spur economic prosperity for the entire continent, he said.

Some African countries are going visa-free by region first. Weeks ago, the Central African Economic and Monetary Community removed visa requirements for citizens of its six members.

Many African countries rely heavily on tourism for foreign currency. Kenya’s new visa policy was welcomed in a country where the threat by Islamic extremists based in neighboring Somalia has deterred some international travelers.

Offering visas on arrival to all Africans could attract the continent’s small but growing middle class.

“Visa-free travel for Africans into Kenya is a great move by the president and a strategic one for the tourism industry,” said Bobby Kamani, who runs the popular Diani Reef Beach Resort and Spa in the second-largest city, Mombasa. “The president’s bold move couldn’t have come at a better time when the tourism sector has experienced uncertainty and is now on recovery mode.”

Conflict and sharp income disparities in many countries are among other factors slowing the adoption of visa-free policies. Even the African Union passport, launched in July 2016 and given to some heads of state, is yet to be offered to citizens.

Some North African countries, notably Libya, struggle with a flow of impoverished African migrants trying to make their way to Europe. South Africa, one of the continent’s top economies, has seen a sometimes violent backlash against African immigrants amid fears about crime and the taking of jobs. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and another of its strongest economies, maintains visa requirements before arrival for many nations across the continent.

Still, many are hopeful for a borderless Africa and urge those regional leaders to follow Kenya’s lead.

“Is a new wind blowing across #Africa?” Wolfgang Thome, a tourism consultant who once led the Uganda Tourism Association, tweeted. “When will the last walls fall? #Nigeria we are waiting!”

*AP

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Dangote: Only African in Bloomberg 50 list of year’s most influential people
December 5, 2017 | 0 Comments
Dangote’s contribution to the world this year revolves around his dynamic attention to lessen food imports into his own country and Africa’s largest nation, Nigeria
Aliko Dangote

Aliko Dangote

NEW YORK, United States of America, December 5, 2017/ — Aliko Dangote was honored last night at the Bloomberg 50 annual gala dinner at New York’s iconic Gotham Hall. Bloomberg’s list of 50 most influential names (http://APO.af/hCnHFd) who have had an impact on the world in 2017 included Dangote, Africa’s richest person, for his outstanding commitment of over $4B USD to increase Nigeria’s food production capacity.

Represented in New York by the CEO of his Foundation, Dangote was joined by electric car visionary Elon Musk; Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salmon; Beatrice Fihn, anti-nuclear weapons advocate and Nobel Peace Laureate; Amazon’s Jeff Bezos; Robert Mueller, special counsel investigating Donald Trump’s potential collusion with Russia; and Vitalik Buterin, whose invention of the cryptocurrency Ethereum is revolutionizing the new blockchain craze.

Dangote’s contribution to the world this year revolves around his dynamic attention to lessen food imports into his own country and Africa’s largest nation, Nigeria, by focusing on domestic production of sugar and dairy, with 500 million liters of Nigerian milk to be produced by 2019. Earlier this year he announced a $50B USD plan to invest in renewable energy.

“What sets The Bloomberg 50 apart from other lists is that each person chosen has demonstrated measurable change over the past year,” Bloomberg Businessweek editor Megan Murphy  said.

The event was emceed by actor Keegan-Michael Key, with a performance by Mandy Gonzalez of Broadway sensation “Hamilton.”

Dangote claimed another distinction at the Bloomberg 50; he was the only African.

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Barclays Africa, China Development Bank sign agreement to cooperate on development projects in Africa
December 5, 2017 | 0 Comments
Barclays Africa will leverage the MoU to unlock opportunities in order to strengthen its contribution towards Africa’s economic growth and development
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, December 5, 2017/ — Barclays Africa Group Limited (BAGL) (www.BarclaysAfrica.com) and China Development Bank (CDB) (www.CDB.com.cn) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) aimed at strengthening cooperation and exploring opportunities to fund development projects in Africa.

Given CDB’s focus on infrastructure finance for roads, railways and dams, Barclays Africa will leverage the MoU to unlock opportunities in order to strengthen its contribution towards Africa’s economic growth and development. Barclays Africa will also extract synergies from the CDB’s focus on inclusive finance to provide capital to SME’s and low income communities.

In addition, Barclays Africa and CDB will explore reciprocal training and development opportunities for their respective investment teams. In this regard, Barclays Africa has already hosted more than 30 employees from the CDB.

“This MoU represents a long-term commitment by senior leadership at Barclays Africa to strengthen our relationship with the world’s largest development finance institution, which has assets of over US$2-trillion. This partnership will unlock opportunities that are aligned to our Shared Growth approach and could facilitate positive socio-economic impact,” says Barclays Africa’s Corporate and Investment Banking (CIB) Co-Chief Executive, Temi Ofong.

Barclays Africa has a history of more than 100 years in Africa, with deep local and regional expertise. As one of the leading Pan-African banks on the continent, Barclays Africa’s in-depth understanding of local markets and sectors, coupled with a strong branch, ATM and customer networks, is well positioned to provide a unique value proposition to local, regional and global clients.

“Strengthening these kinds of relationships will help our Group identify opportunities aligned to our Shared Growth commitment to leave our communities better than we found them. As a Pan-African bank, Shared Growth gives our business an exciting opportunity to make a difference in our communities and to be part of shaping the collective futures of this great continent,” says Ofong.

The CDB was established in 1994 as a policy bank but now operates as a Development Finance Institution (DFI) for the Chinese Government. By 2017, CDB supported more than 500 projects in 43 African countries valued at USD 50-billion.

In 2016, China-Africa trade flow reached US$150-billion, making China, Africa’s largest trade partner for seven consecutive years.

Barclays Africa Group Limited (‘Barclays Africa Group’ or ‘the Group’) (www.BarclaysAfrica.com) is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and is one of Africa’s largest diversified financial services groups. As of June 2017, Barclays PLC is a minority shareholder in Barclays Africa Group.

Barclays Africa Group offers an integrated set of products and services across personal and business banking, corporate and investment banking, wealth and investment management and insurance. We are strongly positioned as a fully local bank with regional and international expertise. We are committed to Shared Growth, which for us means having a positive impact on society and delivering shareholder value.

Barclays Africa Group operates in 12 countries, with approximately 40 000 employees, serving close to 12 million customers.

The Group’s registered head office is in Johannesburg, South Africa and owns majority stakes in banks in Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania (Barclays Bank Tanzania and National Bank of Commerce), Uganda and Zambia. The Group also has representative offices in Namibia and Nigeria.

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The True Story of the Fake U.S. Embassy in Ghana
December 5, 2017 | 0 Comments

BY YEPOKA YEEBO*

Image by Yepoka Yeebo. Ghana, 2017.

Image by Yepoka Yeebo. Ghana, 2017.

On Friday 2 December 2016, a curious story appeared on the website GhanaBusinessNews.com. “Ghana security authorities shut down fake U.S. Embassy in Accra,” the headline declared. For a decade, the story went, there had been a fake U.S. embassy in the Ghanaian capital. The fraudsters behind it had flown the American flag from their building and even hung a portrait of Barack Obama on the wall. The criminal network behind the scam had advertised on billboards and prowled the most remote villages of west Africa, searching for gullible customers. They brought them to Accra, and sold them visas for as much as $6,000 (£4,495).

The story was an immediate hit. “In less than an hour we were getting 20,000 views on the website for that story alone,” Emmanuel Dogbevi, the website’s managing editor, told me. Two days later, the news agency Reuters picked up the story and it swiftly became an international sensation.

“No Passport Control: Mobsters busted after running FAKE US Embassy in Ghana for 10 years” (The Sun). “‘Sham’ US embassy in Ghana issued fake visas for a decade” (Fox News). “Ghana uncovers fake US embassy that issued authentic visas” (Deutsche Welle). “The actual US embassy in Accra shut down the fake embassy over the summer,” stated the Chinese news agency Xinhua. “This takes counterfeiting operations to a whole new level,” read a comment about the story on the Times of India website, which triggered an argument between readers over which country did corruption better.

According to a U.S. state department statement, which had been published in early November, the fake embassy was operated by “figures from both Ghanaian and Turkish organized crime rings and a Ghanaian attorney practicing immigration and criminal law”. The American authorities supplied a picture of an old, two-storey pink building with a tin roof, originally captioned: “The exterior of the fake embassy in Accra, Ghana.” The caption was later changed to: “One of several buildings used by the disrupted fraud ring.”

Reuters reported that the Americans, with the help of the Ghana Detectives Bureau, had raided the fake embassy. Several people were arrested, and officials seized 150 passports from 10 different countries. The Ghanaian police did not distinguish themselves. The conmen eluded them long enough to move the operation out of Ghana, and get their associates out on bail. But, the U.S. state department said, the number of fraudulent documents coming from west Africa had gone down by 70% as a result of this and other raids, and “criminal leaders no longer have the political cover they once had”.

The fake embassy became a sensation largely because the story was so predictably familiar. The Africans were scammers. The victims were desperate and credulous. The local police officers were bumbling idiots. Countless officials were paid off. And at the end, the Americans swooped in and saved the day. There was only one problem with the story: it wasn’t true.

On the morning the news broke, Seth Sewornu, who was then head of Ghana’s visa and document fraud unit, got a text message from the director of the police criminal investigation department (CID). Like everyone else, the director wanted to know about Sewornu’s bust. “I was receiving a lot of calls,” Sewornu said when we met earlier this year in an open-air restaurant near the police headquarters in Accra. “A reporter from BBC called me, a CNN reporter called me. The Ghanaian media houses were all calling to find out. I got calls from other police officers.” The U.S. state department story had said that the scammers had also been running a fake Dutch embassy, so the Dutch called, too.

Sewornu was stumped. He knew nothing about any investigations into a fake embassy. He tried to find out which officers had been involved, but the police unit credited by the Americans, the Ghana Detectives Bureau, didn’t exist. Ghana’s national Swat unit, the CID and the Bureau of National Investigation all told Sewornu that they weren’t involved either.

It didn’t make any sense. The entire story seemed to be based on one source: the U.S. state department website. And their source was the U.S. embassy in Accra. “So I called the American embassy to find out, and my contact said: ‘I don’t know anything about it,’” said Sewornu. “It was like they were tightlipped over the matter.”

In Ghana, it can be extremely difficult to obtain visas for travel to other countries. The application processes tend to be expensive, time-consuming and usually end in disappointment. As a result, over the past two decades, a thriving underground economy has sprung up in Accra. It ranges from low-level conmen who can produce counterfeit paperwork to sophisticated criminal organisations that operate in multiple countries. In 2016, of all the American embassies in the world, the one in Ghana had the highest number of pending fraud cases, according to a U.S. state department report.

The operators and middlemen who help circumvent the visa application processes are so ubiquitous that few people realise that what they do is illegal, Sewornu told me. “Some are very bold, they advertise visas on TV,” he said. “Plenty have fallen victim. They think it’s authentic once it’s on TV.”

Sewornu has been a policeman for 23 years, and as we spoke, he was serious and reserved – but when he talked about particularly audacious crimes, he started grinning. “I’ve lost count of the musicians,” he said. “A lot of them are into visa fraud. They go on tour and take people who can’t even perform. They just play CDs and lipsync.” Then, those people vanish.

In the past, he said, passports were easier to tamper with. Fraudsters would steal a real passport belonging to a well-travelled person with valid visas and replace the picture with one of a paying client. The classic method was to put the passport in a freezer for about an hour, which caused the film on the photo page to peel away. Then, said Sewornu, the scammers could “clean off the original picture with chemical eraser, and put in a new one, printed on a thin, almost transparent film.”

Now that passports contain biometric data, such as fingerprints, it is becoming harder and harder to get away with this kind of crime. “You can’t fake everything 100%,” said Sewornu. Instead, the underground economy has started to focus on faking the documents required for legitimate visa applications, both for short visits and for people who want to emigrate. For the right fee, you can get hold of school certificates that turn you from an unskilled worker to a PhD, or bank records that turn you from a shoeshine boy into a successful entrepreneur. Of course, scammers do still offer fake visas, but most of these are not actually intended to get the bearer past border control in other countries. Instead, they’re meant to make it look – to embassies – like you’ve travelled extensively, and returned to Ghana each time. As if you are the kind of person who has no intention of becoming an illegal immigrant.

In 2010, as the number of fake travel documents continued to rise, Ghana’s government founded the Document Fraud Expertise Centre, which verifies documents for embassies, banks and the police. It’s the only one in west Africa, which reflects the sheer scale of Ghana’s shadow visa industry. In 2016, about half the documents submitted to them for testing turned out to have been forged.

For centuries, Ghana was a magnet for immigrants, not a country people were trying to leave. The country’s population of about 28 million is made up of about a dozen ethnic groups, most of which trace their origins to other parts of west Africa. In 1957, after Ghana won independence from Britain, the country’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, embarked on a massive infrastructure programme. All that infrastructure needed people to build it, and partly as a result, by 1960, immigrants made up 12% of Ghana’s population. By comparison, less than 4% of the population of England and Wales had been born abroad.

In 1966, Nkrumah was deposed in a military coup. The country was destabilised and people started to leave almost immediately. Over the next three decades, much of the economy collapsed, unemployment soared and millions of Ghanaians left in search of work.

Today, Ghana is one of the most stable and prosperous countries in west Africa. But while the population is expanding, the economy is not. Each year, 250,000 young people compete for just 5,000 new jobs. Lack of prospects drives many young people abroad. Of the Ghanaian-born citizens currently living abroad, 70% are in other west African countries. Of the remaining 30%, most live and work in the U.K., Germany, Italy, Canada and the U.S.

A small, but significant number of Ghanaians simply travel to these countries on tourist visas, then stay on when their visas run out and work illegally. So wealthier countries now assume that most Ghanaians who apply for temporary visas will become illegal immigrants. Visa policies have been designed to filter out the young and unskilled and the poor, says Paolo Gaibazzi, a research fellow at the Zentrum Moderner Orient in Germany. Such policies sometimes also exclude people who are perfectly qualified and would be granted visas if they were coming from wealthier countries. In one case not long ago, a Ghanaian consultant orthopaedic surgeon with two decades of experience was shocked to have his application rejected for a short-term visa to attend a medical conference in Spain.

Even with legitimate, professional help, filling out the application form for a U.S. tourist visa is a maddeningly difficult and unforgiving process. Applicants have to provide their parents’ dates of birth, but Ghana had no complete register of births until 1965, so a lot of people just don’t know. Then there’s the fee: around $160, which amounts to about 75% of Ghana’s average monthly wage. That fee is non-refundable. If you are rejected, and you want to apply again, you will have to pay another $160.

Once you have done the paperwork and paid, you still don’t get your visa. You just get to book a visa interview at the U.S. embassy. Well before dawn on most weekdays, there is a sizable crowd of people outside the embassy in Accra waiting to go in. “Applicants often waited outside the embassy compound for extended periods, presenting a poor image of the US government and causing a security issue,” according to a 2017 U.S. state department report.

Once you get to your appointment, you must produce proof that you are who you say you are. Then it gets harder: fewer than 10% of people in Ghana have a salaried job, but many applicants have to present a letter of introduction and a payslip from their employer. You will also need a letter of invitation from someone in the U.S. who can vouch for you. Got all that? Congratulations. You can still be rejected on the spot, with no explanation.

People in countries such as Ghana are faced with a simple choice: apply over and over again and spend huge sums of money each time, or pay someone who promises to get you that visa. Each time a new con is discovered, the embassies panic and add another layer of scrutiny to their visa application processes. Each layer of scrutiny gives the fraudsters an extra hurdle – but also creates extra business. “People try to level the playing field. This is where the migration industry kicks in,” said Gaibazzi. “The exclusion from legal ways of migrating creates so-called illegality.”

Kwesi Abrantie is one of the thousands of Ghanaians who have knowingly paid for fake documents to pad out a visa application. In 2008, as the country was going through an economic downturn, Abrantie’s business – signing people up for management courses – began to falter. “Things were getting really bad here,” he said. “I thought hustling in the U.S. would be way better than going through this hand-to-mouth thing in Ghana.” A little fraud was a small price to pay if it meant he could send home enough money to keep a roof over his family’s heads. The tricky part was getting to the U.S.

Without much money, Abrantie (who asked that his name be changed) stood almost no chance of getting a U.S. visa. He went to see the forgers, and they sold him a story. “I was going to attend, in quotes, a cousin’s graduation,” Abrantie said. The “connection men” – as the middlemen who obtain visas through dubious means are known in Ghana – paid a student in New York to vouch for him. They gave Abrantie the student’s name and address, as well a real letter from the university stating that he was invited to the ceremony. It cost him 7,000 Ghanaian cedi up front, with another 5,000 if he was successful – a total of about £2,000, or twice Ghana’s annual per capita income.

A fake visa operation in Accra. Image by Yepoka Yeebo. Ghana, 2017.

A fake visa operation in Accra. Image by Yepoka Yeebo. Ghana, 2017.

The men Abrantie met filled out his form, paid his fees and went with him to the embassy. The scheme didn’t work. “Unfortunately, I was bounced,” he said. After the interview, Abrantie was handed a piece of paper explaining why his visa may have been rejected. He got the impression the Americans didn’t think he had enough money to pay his way in the U.S.

Abrantie still wanted a visa – or his money back. So the agents passed him on to some friends of theirs who specialised in getting Dutch visas. This time, he would pose as a salesman at a truck company, heading to Holland to buy tyres. (The company was real, Abrantie said.) Abrantie said the connection man he was dealing with ran a legitimate travel agency with a sideline in visa fraud. He found out about the firm because three other friends had successfully gone abroad with their help.

Once again, the agents filled in his forms and padded out his application, this time with a fake bank statement, Abrantie told me. And this time, the Dutch thought Abrantie had too much money in the bank. At the interview, they asked him where it had all come from. Abrantie said something unconvincing about being a businessman, and it seemed as if he had been bounced again. But his connection man, who had previously run a business that imported goods from Holland, called a contact at the embassy and demanded to know why his employee was being denied a visa. Shortly afterwards, his visa was granted. (When I asked the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs about this incident, it said: “There are strict guidelines if someone wants to apply for a short-stay Schengen visa in Ghana. Connections with businessmen have nothing to do with that.”)

Abrantie was packing his bags when his friends pointed out that he didn’t speak a word of Dutch, and wouldn’t have enough time to get his bearings, find a job and figure out if he could survive as an illegal immigrant before his real visa ran out. He decided to take his chances hustling in Ghana instead.

The men Abrantie paid had no real office. He met them in restaurants and out in the street. They certainly didn’t have an entire fake embassy, complete with flags and presidential portraits. The story seemed so extraordinary that one day in early June, I decided to go in search of this fake embassy, which the U.S. state department claimed had operated from a house in an old neighbourhood north-west of central Accra.

The pink house sits on a tumbledown street, part industrial, part residential, overlooked by a hulking shoe factory. There are mechanics’ shops, stalls selling spare parts and a huge, dusty football field. The house itself is stately but decrepit, the walls covered with a layered patchwork of faded paint and cement. In the house’s front yard, there is a small tailor’s shop. (According to the U.S. state department story, a dress shop near the fake embassy was one of the fronts for the operation: “It was purported to house an industrial sewing machine they would use to re-create the binding on the fake passports.”)

When I visited, I found a man named Pierre Kwetey, who was cutting a pattern out of turquoise and yellow wax print fabric. He was adding an ever-widening series of chalk lines to a shirt for a man who was so big that “you’d think he’s pregnant”. Kwetey’s shop is less than two metres across at its widest point. The walls are yellow, with shallow seams of dust in the uneven cement. Above the cutting table, there’s a crucifix draped with two rosaries.

Kwetey first saw the fake embassy story when someone sent him a link via WhatsApp. He was totally baffled. “If I’m doing such illegal business, you’ll see my Range Rover parked in front,” he joked.

A few days later, when I returned to the pink house, I came across one of the building’s owners, Susana Lamptey. Sitting in the small courtyard in front, Lamptey was wearing a yellow dress and a headscarf, and looked even less like a crime kingpin than Kwetey. Her grandfather had built the house long before she was born, she said, probably in the 1920s or 1930s. When he died, he left it to his eight children. Most of them moved away and cut their portions of the house into flats, which they rent out.

A flyposter advertising visa services in Accra. Image by Yepoka Yeebo. Ghana, 2017.

A flyposter advertising visa services in Accra. Image by Yepoka Yeebo. Ghana, 2017.

In the entrance hall, there were no portraits of U.S. presidents. Instead, it smelled comfortingly of flour and margarine – Lamptey runs an open-air bakery in the back yard. The rest of the yard is a tangle of washing lines and uneven cement. From the second floor, you can see clear across Accra’s industrial area: flyovers, rail yards, factories, and the pungent Odaw river.

When the Americans announced that her house was a fake U.S. embassy, Lamptey was one of the last to hear about it. A friend called to say it was all over the internet, she said. “I was really annoyed. Because how? And from where?”

Lamptey said there had never been a police raid. Instead, after the story broke, she and the family marched down to the local police station to find out whether they were really under investigation. The cops told them there was nothing to worry about.

In the days after the story was published – and in the following months – Lamptey was plagued by journalists, all asking the same questions about her alleged life of crime. She has denied everything, every single time. In response to her denials, the U.S. embassy doubled down on its story. “We cannot speculate at this time what has occurred at that building after the initial raid,” the U.S. press attache told Ghanaian reporters in December 2016. “The photo used in the online article is of the building the criminal enterprise used to conduct their fraud operations.”

When we met, Lamptey still couldn’t understand why anyone had believed the story. Look at this place, she said. “If there was an American embassy for 10 years in this house, by now everybody would be in America!” As it happened, Lamptey had applied for an American visa – a real one, at the real U.S. embassy, in the spring of 2016. She was rejected.

Lloyd Baidoo, a detective in Accra’s regional police force, said he was the one who took the photo of Lamptey’s house. In person, Baidoo looks like the classic film-noir cop: chiselled, muscular and world-weary. He’s been on the force for 18 years. The living room of his flat, in the western suburbs of Accra, was covered in huge pictures from his wedding. A football match was on TV, on mute.

Baidoo first heard about the fake embassy in June 2016, months before the Americans put out their story, when his team got a tip about a visa-fraud ring. Someone was allegedly issuing U.S. visas out of an old pink house in Adabraka on Tuesdays and Thursdays. When it was open, they flew an American flag and hung up a portrait of Obama.

Baidoo and another officer went to check it out. They drove past the pink house a few times, and Baidoo took some pictures. He couldn’t see anything suspicious, so he walked around the back of house, in plain clothes, to have a closer look. Wandering around the rundown property, Baidoo quickly realised nobody would buy a $6,000 visa there. “I did not take five minutes to conclude that,” he said.

Later that week, Baidoo got a second tip. Another operation in Adabraka was issuing U.S. visas. This time, there were more details: it was allegedly run from the apartment of a man named Kyere Boakye, who charged 2,000 Ghana cedi (about £350) for his services. This time, the information seemed to check out. Baidoo decided to raid the property.

Just before dusk, in late June 2016, a Ghanaian Swat team, five detectives, and a diplomatic security officer from the U.S. embassy swooped in on the apartment. Inside, officers found 135 Ghanaian passports. The majority would turn out to be counterfeit. There were other passports too, mostly from other African countries. Some appeared to be real, but might have been stolen or bought on the black market. The passports contained visas for, among other countries, the U.S., the U.K., South Africa, China, Kenya and Iran.

Detectives also found two dozen counterfeit rubber stamps, used to endorse the official letters for visa applications. There were stamps purporting to be from the Ghana Immigration Service, Barclays bank, the National Investment Bank, several non-existent doctors and even a firm of lawyers with offices below the apartment. Three men were arrested in the raid: Kyere Boakye, Benjamin Ofosu Barimah and Jeffery Kofi Opare. All three were charged with forgery and possession of forged documents. It was a month before they made bail.

The real US embassy in Accra. Image courtesy diplomacy.state.gov. Ghana.

The real US embassy in Accra. Image courtesy diplomacy.state.gov. Ghana.

It wasn’t a fake embassy, but it was a major case. Baidoo wrote to the passport office, banks, businesses, government departments, and even the country’s biggest teaching hospital – 45 institutions in all – in order to confirm whether or not each of the suspicious-looking documents was fake. By the time Baidoo was done, two months after the raid, the police docket was the size of three phone books, and the case was ready to go to trial.

Then, in December 2016, the U.S. state department put out its story about the discovery of a fake embassy. Dep Supt Sewornu took over the case, and Baidoo was moved on to a different police department. (Sewornu, too, was soon transferred.) Since then, the case has gone nowhere, having been delayed largely for banal administrative reasons. When I went to a hearing for the case in June, the three defendants were there, but their lawyer wasn’t. Neither was the prosecutor. The courtroom was almost empty. It didn’t look like a case that had made news around the world. After some muttering between the judge and another prosecutor, the hearing was adjourned.

Outside the courtroom, Kyere Boakye told me he had no idea why he kept being hauled into court. He didn’t think there was going to be a trial. Boakye insisted that he was just an ordinary travel agent. “It’s my clients who brought every paper they found [in the raid],” he said. “I have never forged anything.”

As for the idea that he had been running a fake U.S. embassy, he insisted it was ridiculous. Despite the case being all over the papers, and all over the internet, there was not a single witness to back up the story.

When Detective Baidoo finally got to the bottom of the fake embassy story, he was perplexed. Sitting together in his flat, we looked over the U.S. state department’s story. Almost every detail in it came from the faulty intelligence Baidoo’s unit had received in June 2016. The photo of the pink house – the one that had brought the world’s media to Susana Lamptey’s doorstep – was, he insisted, one he had taken himself when surveilling the building.

Another photo that appeared in the original U.S. state department story had showed a heap of passports strewn on the ground. That one, Baidoo said, had come from his raid on Kyere Boakye’s apartment, not from a raid on any fake embassy. In the top-left corner of the photo, you could see part of a maroon trainer, which, Baidoo said, belonged to him. “I was the one standing there,” Baidoo said, going out into his hallway to show me the shoe in question. “In my independent opinion, I’d say the story was fake.”

Sewornu was equally sure that there was no story. He said that his contacts at the U.S. embassy told him someone at the state department had taken the faulty intelligence and “kind of married the story” with details of Baidoo’s raid. The two cases had been merged into one. It might have started with a diplomatic cable – a classified memo – sent from the U.S. embassy in Accra to the state department in Washington DC on 25 July 2016, titled “Ghana: Fake US Embassy Closed for Business.”

When I asked the U.S. state department for comment, an official simply told me that U.S. Diplomatic Security Service officials work with Ghanaian authorities to uphold the integrity of the visa system. The state department declined to provide additional information in response to specific questions. They referred all queries to the government of Ghana. Ghana’s Bureau of National Security and Ministry of the Interior did not respond to dozens of letters, emails and calls requesting comment.

As it can take weeks or months for an embassy to check whether a document submitted by a visa applicant is real, most embassies do not attempt to verify everything. Instead, everyone puts on a show. Embassies overzealously scrutinise a handful of applications. Ghana’s police shut down what scams they can. Reporters file sensational pieces. Foreign governments, facing increasing pressure to limit immigration, add ever higher hurdles for legitimate applicants to clear. Everyone gets to say they’re doing something.

But the harder it is for ordinary people to apply for visas successfully, the greater the demand for fraud. While the Americans have been making a show of shutting down a non-existent fake embassy, it’s boom-time for Accra’s visa-fraud industry.

One day this summer, I stopped by the leafy, upscale Cantonments neighbourhood of Accra. There, hidden in plain sight, is a one-stop shop for visa fraud – one of dozens of such places that are scattered across the city. The fraudsters at the office I visited use a Microsoft Word template to churn out fake letters from dozens of different employers. A student visa application, complete with all the documents you’ll need, will cost you 1,000 cedi (£175).

One of the men running the place told me that people needed help jumping through all the hoops. As he spoke, customers picked up their paperwork and headed off to keep their appointments at the huge grey complex in the distance, spread over 12.5 acres of prime Accra real estate.

On the horizon, above the embassy, the American flag was flying.

*Culled from Guardian /Pullitzer Center.org

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Egypt to host six Heads of State and Africa’s leading Chief Executive Officers at the Africa 2017 Forum
December 5, 2017 | 0 Comments
Over 100 speakers and 1,500 delegates to discuss regional integration and job creation in Africa
CAIRO, Egypt, December 5, 2017/ — President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi will be hosting six African heads of state at the Africa 2017 Forum (www.BusinessForAfricaForum.com) that will take place this week in the picturesque beach resort of Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. The President of Guinea, current chair of the AU, will be joining the Forum as well as the Presidents of Chad, Rwanda, Côte d’Ivoire, Comoros and Somalia. The Vice President of Nigeria is also expected as is the Prime Minister of Mozambique. The Forum will start with a Young Entrepreneurs Day, with 50 of Africa’s leading start-ups in funding and partner pitches.

This business and investment Forum, whose theme is “Driving investment for inclusive growth’, has been convened to increase intra African investments and cross border collaboration. Egypt in 2015 hosted the signing of the tripartite agreement between the three regional economic communities SADC, COMESA and the EAC, and the Forum has been designed for African business leaders to play a greater role by investing in opportunities throughout the continent.

The first edition of the Forum took place in February 2016. This year the programme has been enhanced to include 2 exclusive Presidential Roundtables, where these business leaders will openly discuss policy with the African presidents present to help create a more conducive business environment, in addition to immense investment and business opportunities available in the continent. Youth and entrepreneurs will also play a prominent role. Over 50 of the continent’s brightest and most promising entrepreneurs have been invited to showcase their businesses and will be presenting them to investors and funds in a Deal room curated by Asoko Insights.

The Forum is being organised by the Ministry of Investment and International Cooperation of Egypt and the COMESA Regional Investment Agency (RIA). Speaking ahead of the Forum, Dr. Sahar Nasr, Minister of Investment and International Cooperation of Egypt stressed the importance of greater intra-Africa collaboration: “Intra-Africa trade is a valuable component of Africa’s and Egypt’s economic growth strategy,” she said. “For Egypt’s growth strategy, Intra-Africa trade remains a valuable component. Despite European and North American markets dominating Egypt’s trade activities, we have proximity to African markets as well as trade agreements with African nations. The markets where Egypt has seen an increase in its trade include North Africa, specifically Morocco, East Africa, specifically Kenya, South Africa and Sudan.”

Heba Salama, head of RIA, highlighted the responsibility of the private sector to devise innovative solutions. “The private sector can play an important role in filling in the US $93bn infrastructure gap. Manufacturing is another important sector where private sector support is needed. McKinsey Global Institute estimates that Africa could double its manufacturing output in 10 years, which could ultimately create between 6 million and 14 million stable jobs and boost African GDP growth.”

The Forum will take place between the 7-9th of December. The speakers feature some of Africa’s leading CEOs and policy makers, including Isabel dos Santos, Chairperson of Unitel Angola, Daniel Matjila, CEO, Public Investment Corporation, Dr. Ahmed Heikal, Founder of Qalaa Holdings, Tony Elumelu, Chairman of UBA, Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

Africa 2017 Forum (www.BusinessForAfricaForum.com) is held under the high patronage of H.E. Abdel Fattah Al Sisi on 7th to 9th December 2017 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, and is organized by the Ministry of Investment and International Cooperation of Egypt and the COMESA Regional Investment Agency (RIA).
The 2017 edition builds on the success of the inaugural Africa 2016, which saw participation of 6 Heads of State and more than 1,000 delegates from 45 countries. This year the programme has been enhanced with exclusive Presidential Roundtables with Africa leaders and CEOs as well as a Young Entrepreneurs Day.
Africa 2017 is one of the premier business platform to nurture new partnerships; meet investors and fast track your business objectives in Africa.

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BUSINESS TRAVELER MAGAZINE NAMES SOUTH AFRICAN AIRWAYS THE BEST IN AFRICA
December 5, 2017 | 0 Comments

SAA recognized as “Best Airline in Africa” and “Best Business Class to Africa”
Fort Lauderdale, FL (December 5, 2017) – South African Airways (SAA), the national flag carrier of South Africa and Africa’s most awarded airline is proud to be the recipient of two of Business Traveler Magazine’s prestigious Best in Business Travel Awards for 2017. Being honored for the 9th consecutive year as “Best Airline in Africa” and the 8th consecutive year as “Best Business Class to Africa” by the readers of Business Traveler is a continued affirmation of SAA’s long-standing position as the preferred carrier for business travel to the continent.

“We are thrilled to have earned these two awards from Business Traveler, a publication whose readers know the very best in travel,” said Todd Neuman, Executive Vice President for South African Airways in North America. “It is a tremendous honor to be named their favorite airline to the African continent for so many years. All of us at SAA will continue to work hard to earn their support and accolades by offering the most convenient schedules and unsurpassed service on our flights to Africa.”

“The business traveller has absolutely taken center stage,” noted Dan Booth, editorial director of Business Traveler Magazine. “Today’s business travel community – empowered by technology – is an ever-expanding platform for new products, new ideas, and new opportunities. For our readers to pick your company as the Best in Business Travel means you have connected with them in a meaningful and innovative way. And your most sophisticated and demanding customers are recognizing you for it.”

As the leading carrier from the U.S. to Africa, South African Airways offers the most flights with non-stop service from New York–JFK Airport to Johannesburg and daily non-stop service from Washington, DC-Dulles to Dakar, Senegal, or Accra, Ghana, with continued service to Johannesburg.From its hub in Johannesburg, SAA together with its regional partners SA Express, Airlink and Mango offers easy, convenient connections to more than 75 destinations throughout Africa. SAA’s awarding –winning Premium Business Class offers 180 fully lie-flat seating with duvet and full-size pillows, gourmet cuisine designed by renowned South African celebrity chefs, a wine cellar featuring some of South Africa’s finest vintages and extensive programming of on-demand audio and visual entertainment.

For further information on South African Airways product and services, please visit www.flysaa.com or for reservations call 1-(800) 722-9675.

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 and Virgin America, 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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Senegal’s sports minister Matar Ba aiming for the World Cup semi-finals
December 5, 2017 | 0 Comments
Senegal's sports minister Matar Ba believes the Teranga Lions can reach the last four at the 2018 World Cup

Senegal’s sports minister Matar Ba believes the Teranga Lions can reach the last four at the 2018 World Cup

Senegal’s sports minister, Matar Ba, says the Teranga Lions are aiming to do better than any other African nation at the World Cup and reach the semi-finals next year.

In Russia, Senegal are in Group H along with Poland, Colombia and Japan.

In 2002, at their first ever World Cup, Senegal made it to the quarter-finals.

“We have to have our objectives – those objectives are to get to the second round and do better than in 2002,” Ba told BBC Sport.

“The semi-finals are achievable because today football is not about being European or African or American – football is global,

“You look at the biggest championships in the world – in England in Italy, everywhere – there are Senegalese playing and they are in the teams. So we can rival any of the teams.

“We won’t underestimate any of these teams because all 32 teams who are there have won through the qualifiers and so we have to respect them and we have to take them seriously.”

Senegal will begin their Group H campaign against Poland on 19 June in Moscow before they play Japan on 24 June and finally Colombia four days later.

Ba refused to be drawn into making comparisons between the current team and the squad that play in South Korea and Japan in 2002.

“It’s not the same – we can’t compare them,” he said.

“Each generation does its work and this generation want to do better than the team of 2002.

“We have a great team and we have Senegalese coach and we are going to prepare well for a good performance.

“We are ambitious but we are also reasonable and so we are going to set obtainable objective.”

Ba admitted they may not now much about their opponents at the moment but added that can easily be changed.

“Nothing can be hidden these days with the internet. We can see everything we can analyse Colombia’s matches and all the others,” he pointed out.

*Culled from BBC

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HEINEKEN lays the foundation stone of its first brewery in Mozambique
December 4, 2017 | 0 Comments
HEINEKEN makes $100 million investment
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands, December 4, 2017/ — HEINEKEN (www.theHEINEKENcompany.com) today laid the foundation stone of its first brewery in Mozambique in the presence of His Excellency Mr. Max Tonela, Minister of Trade and Industry.

This new brewery, incorporating the latest technologies, represents a $100 million (€85 million) investment. Located in the province of Maputo, between the Marracuene and Manhiça districts, the brewery will have a production capacity of 0.8 million hectoliters and will brew high quality beers for the domestic market. The first bottle of beer is expected to come off the production line in the first half of 2019.

HEINEKEN Mozambique started its activities in 2016 through a sales and marketing office, importing international beers including Heineken®, Amstel, Amstel Lite and Sagres in the country to offer more choice to Mozambican consumers. The construction of HEINEKEN’s very first brewery is a major step forward for the company’s presence in the country.

With this significant investment, HEINEKEN Mozambique is expected to create 200 direct jobs and support additional indirect jobs through its entire value chain.

Aligned with the HEINEKEN ambition of sourcing 60% of its agricultural raw materials in Africa by 2020, HEINEKEN Mozambique will explore the possibility of locally sourcing the raw materials it will need to produce its beers. One of the objectives of this project will be to improve crop yields as well as the capabilities and living standards of Mozambican farmers, contributing to the economic development of the country.

Boudewijn Haarsma, HEINEKEN International’s Managing Director East & West Africa, stated: “We are delighted to enter Mozambique, where we see promising long-term economic perspectives. The project is progressing well thanks to the support of the Mozambican Government and its commitment to bring investments into the country. Investing in a new market like Mozambique supports HEINEKEN’s ambition to expand its footprint and be the number one or a strong number two in all markets in which it operates. With our extensive experience and existing business in Africa, we also aim to be a partner for growth today in Mozambique as we already are throughout the continent. I am convinced our presence will contribute to the economic and social development that is already under way in Mozambique.”

Nuno Simes, HEINEKEN Mozambique’s General Manager said: “With HEINEKEN’s passion for quality, our new brewery will deliver high quality beers to Mozambique according to the international standards of the HEINEKEN Company. We look forward to continue to provide enjoyment to Mozambican consumers with our brands.”

HEINEKEN (www.theHEINEKENcompany.com) is the world’s most international brewer. It is the leading developer and marketer of premium beer and cider brands. Led by the Heineken® brand, the Group has a portfolio of more than 250 international, regional, local and speciality beers and ciders. We are committed to innovation, long-term brand investment, disciplined sales execution and focused cost management. Through “Brewing a Better World”, sustainability is embedded in the business and delivers value for all stakeholders. HEINEKEN has a well-balanced geographic footprint with leadership positions in both developed and developing markets. We employ over 80,000 employees and operate breweries, malteries, cider plants and other production facilities in more than 70 countries. Heineken N.V. and Heineken Holding N.V. shares trade on the Euronext in Amsterdam. Prices for the ordinary shares may be accessed on Bloomberg under the symbols HEIA NA and HEIO NA and on Reuters under HEIN.AS and HEIO.AS. HEINEKEN has two sponsored level 1 American Depositary Receipt (ADR) programmes: Heineken N.V. (OTCQX: HEINY) and Heineken Holding N.V. (OTCQX: HKHHY). Most recent information is available on HEINEKEN’s website: www.theHEINEKENcompany.com

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Sierra Leone Parliament Ratifies Key Bumbuna II Project Documents
December 4, 2017 | 0 Comments
This marks another important milestone in the development of the Bumbuna II hydropower project which, when completed, will provide much-needed all-year round power to Sierra Leone
LONDON, United Kingdom, December 4, 2017/ — Following on from the Government of Sierra Leone’s signing of the 25-year Power Purchase and Implementation Agreements with Joule Africa (www.JouleAfrica.com) in August 2017, these important project documents have now been ratified by the Sierra Leone Parliament. This marks another important milestone in the development of the Bumbuna II hydropower project which, when completed, will provide much-needed all-year round power to Sierra Leone.

Under the conditions of the agreement, local project company Seli Hydropower, jointly owned by Joule Africa and its local partner Energy Services Company (ESCO), will build an extension to the existing 50 MW hydro station, Bumbuna I, situated in the north east of the country, adding a further 143 MW of power capacity. Construction on the extension is anticipated to start in the second half of 2018 with operations forecast to start four years later. Seli Hydropower, will be responsible for building, owning and operating Bumbuna II and will also be responsible for operating Bumbuna I.

Commenting on this announcement, Patrick Beckley, Chairman of Seli Hydropower, said:

“We would like to thank the Government of Sierra Leone for their ongoing support and in maintaining their commitment to the Bumbuna II project ahead of General Elections in early 2018. I am delighted that we received approval for ratification in Parliament with no exemptions –  a clear indication that there is unanimous cross-party support for this project.”

“The development of Bumbuna II has always been a key part of the country’s long-term energy strategy and we look forward to being able to deliver affordable, all-year round power for the consumers of Sierra Leone.”

Andrew Cavaghan, Joule Africa’s Chairman and a Director of Seli Hydropower, added:

“I am pleased that we have reached another important milestone in the development of the Bumbuna II project. We are making good progress on all fronts and will look to build on this momentum in the coming weeks and months as we continue to consult with interested parties, appoint a contractor and finalise the relevant financing.”

The Bumbuna II hydropower project is Sierra Leone’s largest infrastructure project and is a key part of the Government of Sierra Leone’s long term Energy Plan.
Bumbuna II will be located 200km from Freetown on the Upper Seli River in North East Sierra Leone.
The project involves building an extension to the existing 50 MW Bumbuna I facility.
When complete, Bumbuna II will add 143MW of new capacity and will provide Sierra Leone with a minimum of 80MW of reliable, all-year round affordable electricity.

Joule Africa (www.JouleAfrica.com) is a developer owner-operator of sustainable power projects across Africa. In addition to Bumbuna II, Joule Africa is developing Kpep, a 485MW hydro project in Cameroon, while considering various options for its third project.
Joule Africa puts sustainable development and transparency at the heart of its business practice. The company works closely with all of its stakeholders to create infrastructure assets that will generate long-term value and is dedicated to working closely with Governments to help deliver projects that complement existing plans for social and economic development.

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Gambia gets new homeland security minister after Fatty sacking
December 4, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Kebba Jeffang

Mai Fatty

Mai Fatty

The Gambian President Adama Barrow has appointed a replacement for a key coalition member Mai Ahmad Fatty as Interior Minister following his unexplained sacking in November.

The new Minister was officially disclosed on Monday, December 4th as Habib Saihou Drammeh. With no background in security as per the content of the statement from the presidency, Drammeh becomes the first replacement as a minister for Barrow’s administration that just celebrated one year last Saturday.

He is due to take oath of office on December 6th to officially commence carrying out his responsibility.

Barrow after dismissing Fatty told journalists that the decision was in the best interest of the country. However, he refused to tell why he took the decision.

Mai is the first Minister to be relieved as a cabinet member by the President. He too has been quiet about his removal.

This was one of the most criticized decisions of Mr. Barrow by the Gambians with many describing it a ‘betrayal’ towards one of the key members of the coalition government.

While serving as Interior Minister, Fatty suspended the issuance of National Identity Cards as well as the production of non-ECOWAS Passport. He is undoubtedly one of the most controversial ministers in the cabinet.

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Acting Assistant Secretary Yamamoto Travel to Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, London, and Rwanda
December 4, 2017 | 0 Comments
Acting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Donald Yamamoto

Acting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Donald Yamamoto

On December 4, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Donald Yamamoto attended the Somalia Security Pact Review in Mogadishu.  The meeting was chaired by President Farmaajo and provided the opportunity for stakeholders invested in Somalia’s security and stability to discuss the development of Somali security institutions.

Following the Somalia Security Pact Review, the Acting Assistant Secretary will travel to Nairobi, Kenya from December 4-6, where he will meet with representatives of the Kenyan government, as well as with Kenyan civil society.  The visit will encourage all sides in Kenya to participate in a national dialogue following the presidential election.

In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the Acting Assistant Secretary will meet with senior leaders of the Ethiopian government and of the African Union from December 7-9.  In addition to continuing discussions on bilateral issues between the two countries, he will talk with both Ethiopian government and AU officials about regional concerns, including food security, peacekeeping and refugee matters.

In London, Ambassador Yamamoto will participate in the twice yearly gathering of P3 Africa Directors meeting on December 11-12 to discuss current policy issues with defense and development colleagues from France and the UK.

Ambassador Yamamoto will then travel to Kigali, Rwanda on December 13-14, where he will meet with President Kagame ahead of his term as President of the African Union.

*Courtesy of US State Department

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What France’s Macron really means when he says Africa needs to look after itself
December 2, 2017 | 0 Comments

Siddhartha Mitter*

French President Emmanuel Macron is welcomed by Burkina Faso's President Roch Marc Christian Kabore at Ouagadougou airport, Burkina Faso November 27, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

French President Emmanuel Macron is welcomed by Burkina Faso’s President Roch Marc Christian Kabore at Ouagadougou airport, Burkina Faso November 27, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

The Big Africa Speech is a ritual for every French president. For better or worse, it serves as the tone-setter for his Africa policy, and signals his approach to the tangle of political and business networks known as Françafrique.

Nicolas Sarkozy’s speech, given in Dakar in 2007, is remembered for an arrogant, paternalistic phrase: “The African has not yet sufficiently entered History.” It did not go over well. François Hollande’s speech in 2012, also in Dakar, was amiable but insipid. Like Hollande himself, it is largely forgotten.

Emmanuel Macron has now given his own Big Africa Speech. It came Tuesday (Nov. 28), in a raucous auditorium at the University of Ouagadougou, in Burkina Faso. What will likely be remembered most vividly is the atmospherics. Where past presidents went formal and flowery, Macron went casual and scrappy. He fed off the room full of students and their energy. He took questions—a big break from his predecessors—and even solicited direct questions from the crowd after the pre-selected questioners had their turn.

The question phase produced a small blunder that has turned into a viral clip. After serious questions to do with security and economics, a student asked about local power supply, including to the campus, where the air conditioning had gone out. Macron said that was not for him to solve, but for Burkina’s president, Roch Marc-Christian Kaboré, who was standing offstage. An awkward moment ensued as Kaboré briefly left the room (his team later hinted it was a bathroom break) and Macron joked he was going to fix the AC. The social-media take was that Macron “humiliated” Kaboré, though it could also be seen as pantomime with the Burkinabè leader playing along.

Macron fancies himself a disrupter; his Africa tone is no exception. Like past presidents, he announced a new course for France-Africa relations, but he couched it in generational terms, distancing himself—he was born in 1977—from the colonial hangover and urging young Burkinabè to do the same. He was more frank than his predecessors about, as he put it, “the crimes of colonialism.” He hailed Burkina’s late anti-imperialist hero Thomas Sankara, to great applause. He walked back an unfortunate earlier comment of his own about demographic growth as a “civilizational” challenge. His references to African writers and his tactical insertions of Burkinabè phrases were judicious and well-timed.

But Macron’s disruption of French politics comes from the center—a very Establishment kind of disruption—and his Africa policy promises the same. The new approach looks a lot like the old. He is doubling down on France’s security apparatus in the region, he called for applause for French soldiers serving in the Sahel, he celebrated the role of French firms in infrastructure projects, and his economic advice to young Africans was vapid, consisting mostly of buzzwords: entrepreneurship, innovation, and mobility.

Two points in Macron’s speech, however, are truly new and have potential for major consequences. One is political. Macron promised that France’s remaining secret files to do with Thomas Sankara’s assassination, in 1987—which may not have been ordered by France or its close ally Côte d’Ivoire, but was certainly convenient for them—will be declassified and made available to the Burkinabè courts. This sets a major precedent, and could make more than a few Françafrique actors nervous well beyond Burkina Faso. It is also high time, and goes much further than rhetoric toward dealing with the past.

The second is Macron’s reply to a student challenging him on the CFA franc, the currency of 14 African countries. The CFA and its structure, in which the countries, through two regional central banks, deposit 50% of foreign exchange reserves at the Bank of France in exchange for fixed-rate euro convertibility, are facing their most significant criticism in decades.

Macron defended the CFA, but only to the extent of pointing out that separate currencies would still need their own forex backing. (He sidestepped the key point that countries would then be able to determine their own monetary policy and use it to shape development.) But he also said he’d be open to any change the member countries wanted—including expanding the CFA or a successor currency to the rest of the region, Nigeria included; changing the exchange rate-setting mechanism; or ending the whole arrangement altogether.

This, perhaps, was Macron’s most revolutionary talk of all. The CFA is not the “colonial tax” that periodic social-media screeds label it, but it certainly is a fundamental structure of the French-African apparatus. And Macron is right that any decision to change it must come from African leaders themselves. He knows, of course, that this will be hard for them, as political elites in Franc zone countries have used the system for decades to their benefit. Disrupting those interests, he signaled, would be fine with him.

*Culled from Quartz Africa

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Statement from the Archbishop Tutu Fellows to African Heads of State and the International Private Sector, Civil Society and Multilateral Organisations on the Great Stain of Slavery in Libya
November 30, 2017 | 1 Comments
Slavery in Libya is a crime against humanity and immediate action is required by all stakeholders, including African governments
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, November 30, 2017/ — Statement from the Archbishop Tutu Fellows to African Heads of State and the International Private Sector, Civil Society and Multilateral Organisations on the Great Stain of Slavery in Libya:

Your Excellencies, leaders of private sector and civil society organisations, policy makers at the United Nations and the African Union and fellow Africans,

Slavery in Libya is a crime against humanity and immediate action is required by all stakeholders, including African governments, to put an end to this outrageous practice and hold responsible parties accountable.

There are three Great Stains on humanity; War, Genocide and Slavery.

They are the Great Stains not only because they are the fertile soil for many other debasing evils; they are Great Stains because they are assaults and crimes against humanity.

The prevalence of war, genocide and slavery historically is by no means the measure by which we as humanity can accept such behavior as normative, then or now.

Slavery has spawned intergenerational social and economic disruption to the Continent of Africa and other areas; and has stolen the liberties and lives of people for the commoditization of their bodies against their will.

The slave trade is a crime against Humanity.

It is abhorrent to humanity.

It is monstrous.

It is an assault on the dignity of all.

Slavery can and must be stopped.

We, Archbishop Tutu Fellows, call upon the United Nations Security Council and its related organs to urgently declare the practice of Slavery – particularly in Libya- a threat against humanity and to work closely with civil society and member states to arrest the slave trade and create an effective punitive framework to combat against the slave trade globally.

We call upon the Africa Union to demonstrate continental leadership in aggregating national voices on ensuring slavery remains a historical footnote.

We call upon all African heads of State to take action to hold each other accountable, and to engage with other states beyond the continent who can make a contribution toward eradicating the Slave trade, and to stanch the capital flows and lack of consequence which makes this vile economy thrive.

We call upon businesses invested in countries such as Libya- which have failed to abide by the unwritten laws of humanity- to divest and support the removal of the Great Stain.

We call upon the NGO community invested in the fight against human trafficking, forced labor, involuntary migration, social justice and the betterment of the planet to support the removal of the Great Stain.

We call upon all Africans, in particular the nations of the African North, to support the removal of the Great Stain in all its forms.

We call upon the instruments of justice– national and international- to charge beneficiaries of the slave trade as Enemies of humanity.

As Archbishop Tutu Fellows and as Africans, we request the following immediate course of action:

  1. All African countries to recall their ambassadors and diplomatic representatives from Libya, as some have already done.
  2. Appropriate, responsible and action-oriented responses from the countries of origin of our enslaved African brothers and sisters in Libya, with a clear request for support from the international community where needed.
  3. Firm action against Libya from the African Union, of which the country is a member, such as suspension from the multilateral organization once investigations have been concluded.
  4. Other African countries to follow Rwanda’s lead and accept African brothers and sisters who are caught in the slave trade in Libya, and pan-African support for these African host countries.

As a network of more than 300 emerging young African leaders, we, the Archbishop Tutu Fellows, are willing and able to assist where such assistance is needed. We are deeply aware that it is pertinent upon the conscience and humanity of every member of the international community to act against the evils to which our fellow human beings are subject to in Libya. The urgency of the situation is such that we need to act now. Our ancestors fought slavery over hundreds of years and we cannot bear witness to its evils today and do nothing.

The Archbishop Tutu Fellows, of the African Leadership Institute (https://ALInstitute.org), are a diverse group of leading professionals from 42 African countries working at the forefront of positive change on the African continent and representing various sectors  – civil society, government, business, the arts, education, healthcare,  media and more. Tutu Fellows have undergone the Institute’s flagship programme, the Archbishop Tutu Leadership Programme, which is widely considered the premier leadership training programme on the continent. The goal of the programme is to impact the future of Africa through building and nurturing the capability of future leaders of the continent, drawing upon the globally-respected leadership values of ther Patron, Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Since the inaugural class of 2006, the network now boasts 300+ Tutu Fellows.

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Togo Opposition Parties Vow to Keep Up Pressure on President
November 30, 2017 | 0 Comments

FILE - Togo's Faure Gnassingbe speaks to media in Lome, Togo, April 25, 2015.

FILE – Togo’s Faure Gnassingbe speaks to media in Lome, Togo, April 25, 2015.

Togo’s opposition parties pledged Wednesday to maintain the momentum of anti-government protests, as thousands took to the streets once more ahead of promised talks with the president.

The leader of the National Alliance for Change (ANC), Jean-Pierre Fabre, led the crowds in the capital but similar protests were banned on security grounds in the north.

“Mobilization will continue, even during talks. We are not going to give up the fight,” Fabre told AFP.

A source in Togo’s second-largest city of Sokode — the stronghold of Tikpi Atchadam, the Panafrican National Party leader behind the demonstrations — said the streets were calm.

Many young people who had fled into the countryside fearing repercussions have not yet returned home, the source said, adding that sporadic arrests were still occurring.

Wednesday’s march was the first of three planned for this week to put pressure on Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbe to resign.

Gnassingbe has been president of the West African nation since 2005, taking over after the death of his father, General Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled Togo for 38 years.

Fourteen opposition parties want two-term limits for presidents which would be applied retroactively to prevent Gnassingbe from contesting the 2020 and 2025 elections.

At least 16 people have been killed in three months of protests after opposition supporters clashed with police and security forces, especially in the north.

Gnassingbe — who left for an Africa-Europe summit in Ivory Coast on Wednesday morning — said last week that preparations were being made for talks with the opposition in the coming weeks.

FILE - A man holds up a sign, which reads: "Faure still how many death by you," during an opposition protest calling for the immediate resignation of President Faure Gnassingbe in Lome, Togo, Sept. 6, 2017.

FILE – A man holds up a sign, which reads: “Faure still how many death by you,” during an opposition protest calling for the immediate resignation of President Faure Gnassingbe in Lome, Togo, Sept. 6, 2017.

But demonstrators said they wanted the issue addressed at the summit.

“I would like the heads of state and France in particular to get involved personally and speak face-to-face with Faure Gnassingbe,” said Abla, a student in Lome.

No meeting has been scheduled so far between Gnassingbe and President Emmanuel Macron, from Togo’s former colonial power, France.

Franck Paris, a spokesman for Macron’s office, said last week that “Togo will be an important subject of talks on the ground.”

Macron, in an interview Wednesday with France 24 television and Radio France Internationale (RFI), said he hoped Togo’s citizens “could express themselves freely.”

“I hope there can be an electoral process … which allows either a democratic confirmation or transition of power,” Macron said.

“Keeping power for a long period of time without any electoral processes, without a framework of pluralism, is not a good thing.”

*AFP/VOA

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Sky captain Gyan: Soccer star to launch ‘Baby Jet’ airline
November 30, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Kieron Monks*

(CNN)Ghana’s record goalscorer has traveled the world over the course of his career.

during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group D match between Serbia and Ghana at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on June 13, 2010 in Pretoria, South Africa.

Asamoah Gyan left his homeland as a teenager and took the scenic route around Europe playing in France, Italy, and England, before taking a detour via China and the United Arab Emirates, and then arriving at his current club Kayserispor in the Turkish Super League.

Gyan has also clocked up the air miles at international level, making 105 appearances for Ghana encompassing three World Cups.
The Black Stars skipper, 32, is now contemplating life after the game. Fittingly, he is planning a career in the travel industry.
The President of Ghana Nana Akufo-Addo recently announced that Gyan has been granted a license to operate an airline, which will carry his nickname – ‘Baby Jet’.
The new carrier is expected to launch in 2018, beginning with domestic flights before progressing to international routes.
The announcement bought new scrutiny and pressure to the venture, but Gyan was thrilled to have recognition from his president.
“It’s a special honor that the president announced my business and it is positive pressure,” he tells CNN. “All business is a risk and I am ready.”
Gyan has been pursuing the idea for several years after advisers identified aviation as sector with rich potential. Passenger numbers in Ghana have shown strong growth which is expected to continue and accelerate in the coming years.
“I conducted research with my team and we identified business opportunities,” he says. “The airline idea started from 2012 but I waited for the right time and I believe Ghana’s economy is now expanding in many areas (including) the aviation industry.”
Gyan scores against Germany at the 2014 World Cup.

during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group G match between Germany and Ghana at Castelao on June 21, 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil.

The striker says his motivation is a mix of personal and patriotic: “A desire to help my country, to create more jobs, and also to have a good life after football.”

Gyan expects to face new challenges in the aviation industry, but he believes that skills acquired on the pitch will prove transferable.
“I have learned a lot throughout my career,” he says. “Leadership, determination, commitment, perseverance and mental toughness will come into play.”
However, there is one new skill that the soccer star is determined to pick up.
“I will learn how to pilot,” he says. “Hopefully it will become a part time job.”
Should all go to plan, passengers could soon have Ghana’s top scorer wishing them a pleasant flight.
*Culled from CNN
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House Arrest OK’d for Ex-Diplomat Awaiting Corruption Trial
November 29, 2017 | 0 Comments

By ADAM KLASFELD*

Cheikh Tidiane Gadio is highly respected in his native Senegal and across Africa,and  was instrumental in the forging of close ties between the USA and Senegal in the fight against terrorism

Cheikh Tidiane Gadio is highly respected in his native Senegal and across Africa,and was instrumental in the forging of close ties between the USA and Senegal in the fight against terrorism

MANHATTAN (CN) –  U.S. prosecutors lobbied unsuccessfully Monday to ensure the pretrial detention of former Senegalese diplomat awaiting a New York corruption trial.

Once deeply involved in U.S. peacekeeping and anti-terrorism efforts in Africa following the 9/11, Senegal’s former foreign minister Cheikh Gadio was arrested just over a week ago in connection to a three-year bribery scheme.

Alleging violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, prosecutors say 61-year-old Gadio helped Hong Kong-based businessman Patrick Ho funnel $2 million to Chad President Idriss Deby to help tap the nation’s vast oil reserves.

Though a federal magistrate granted Gadio a $1 million bail package, the government contended at a hearing Monday that Gadio should be considered a flight risk since America has no extradition treaty with Senegal.

“People flee, and they flee for rational reasons,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Richtenthal said this afternoon.

U.S. District Judge William Pauley III found house arrest under GPS monitoring enough to ensure Gadio’s appearance at trial.

“He’s going to be confined to his home in Maryland,” Pauley ruled.

Defense attorney Sean Hecker said Gadio’s reputation in the international community would be enough to ensure his appearance in court.

“This is a man of honor, a man of deep and well-deserved reputation,” said Hecker, from the firm Debevoise & Plimpton.

A West African nation roughly the size of South Dakota, Senegal has been a key U.S. partner in the fight against terrorism.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell heralded Gadio’s leadership on the issue the year after the 9/11 attacks.

“Senegal took a strong position against terrorism in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the U.S., and in October 2001 hosted a conference establishing the African Pact Against Terrorism,” a U.S. State Department noted in 2002 press briefing.

WikiLeaks also published a cable in which former ambassador Janice Jacobs emphasized senegal’s outsized peacekeeping role in a region rife with conflict.

“Despite high rates of poverty and illiteracy, Senegal retains a high degree of political stability and coherence thus enabling GOS to be a diplomatic player on a continent replete with conflicts,” the Nov. 8, 2006, cable said. “With U.S. training and assistance, Senegal has also become one of the world’s top ten contributors of peacekeepers.”

Gadio has not formally entered a plea, but his attorney made clear the diplomat will dispute the charges against him.

“The facts will come out,” Hecker said. “We’ll have the chance to tell our side of the story.”

Although he lived in Ohio for a decade, Gadio will await trial with his wife and children in Maryland. Hecker said that his wife works for the United Nations, where she is stationed in Equatorial Guinea.

Prosecutors say Gadio’s bribery scheme lasted from 2014 to this year, well after his tenure in Senegal from 2000 and 2009. Before his arrest earlier this month, Gadio posed for smiling photographs shaking hands both with Powell and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

*Culled from Court House News

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AfDB Launches Youth Advisory Group to Create 25 Million Jobs
November 28, 2017 | 0 Comments
The Jobs for Youth in Africa initiative aims at creating 25 million jobs and impacting 50 million youth over the next ten years by equipping them with the right skills to get decent and meaningful jobs
Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB)

Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB)

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, November 28, 2017/ — The President of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) (www.AfDB.org), Akinwumi Adesina, has launched the Presidential Youth Advisory Group (PYAG) to provide insights and innovative solutions for job creation for Africa’s youth, as outlined in the Bank’s Jobs for Youth in Africa Strategy (JfYA) (http://APO.af/nRtVAs).

The Jobs for Youth in Africa initiative aims at creating 25 million jobs and impacting 50 million youth over the next ten years by equipping them with the right skills to get decent and meaningful jobs. It is currently the largest effort going on for youth employment in Africa today.

The advisory group, inaugurated on the sidelines of the 6th EU-Africa Business Forum in Abidjan on Monday, November 27, will work with the Bank to create jobs for Africa’s youth.

“This is a huge opportunity for Africa. If we fix the youth unemployment challenge, Africa will gain 10-20% annual growth. That means Africa’s GDP will grow by $500 million per year for the next thirty years. Africa’s per capita income will rise by 55% every year to the year 2050,” Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) said at the inauguration of the Group.

Adesina, who identified Africa’s greatest asset as its youth, observed that out of the 13 million youths that enter the labour market each year, only 3 million (about 33% of African youth) are in wage employment, while the rest are underemployed or in vulnerable employment. The annual gap of more than 8 million jobs is going to worsen, with the number of youth expected to double to more than 800 million in the next decades.

“Africa has an unemployment crisis among its youth,” he stressed, noting that unless employment opportunities are created for them, Africa’s rapidly growing population of youths can give rise to serious social, economic, political and security challenges.

Africa’s youths, though strong and dynamic, cross the desert or the Mediterranean sea because they do not find decent jobs in Africa. Graduates are wandering in the streets, jobless. The low level of employment opportunities is also fueling violence and extremism in Africa. “40% of African youths engaged in armed violence join gangs or terrorist groups because of limited opportunities in their countries,” Adesina said.

“66 million African youths earn less than $2 a day, less than the price of a hamburger,” the AfDB President emphasized. “66 million is 8 times the size of Switzerland, 6 times the size of Belgium, the same size as UK, France or Italy, and 80% of Germany’s population,” he added.

The Presidential Youth Advisory Group (PYAG) comprises nine members under the age of 40 who have made significant contributions to the creation of employment opportunities for African youth.

The PYAG members are: Ashish Thakkar, CEO, Mara Group, Tanzania (Chair); Uzodinma Iweala, award-winning author, Nigeria; Mamadou Toure, Founder / CEO, Africa 2.0 / Ubuntu Capital, Cameroon; Vanessa Moungar, Human and Social Development Director, AfDB and member of President Macron’s Presidential Council for Africa, Chad; Francine Muyumba, President, Panafrican Youth Union, Democratic Republic of Congo; Jeremy Johnson, Co-founder, Andela, USA; Clarisse Iribagiza, CEO, Hehe, Rwanda; Ada Osakwe, CEO, Agrolay Ventures, Nigeria; and Monica Musonda, CEO of Java Foods, Zambia.

On the rationale behind the setting up of the advisory group, President Adesina explained: “We recognize the enormous amount of energy, creative and innovative thinking, and entrepreneurial excellence that many of our youth bring to the table. For this reason, the Bank must ensure that it is well advised by cutting-edge youth representatives on its policies, actions and programmes, for the benefit of Africa’s youth.”

“The members of the Presidential Youth Advisory Group are expected to actively engage private sector partners, government leaders, civil society, donor partners, and other stakeholders; and support the significant amount of work that the Bank is already doing and promoting across the continent through its Jobs for Youth in Africa strategy,” President Adesina added.

A youth-led economic transformation agenda

PYAG is an opportunity for leading young voices in Africa to develop new and fresh perspectives and recommend innovative solutions that will shape AfDB’s support to African countries, and reduce the scourge of Youth unemployment.

The AfDB is fully committed to working with the PYAG to scale up and expedite results that deliver decent and sustainable jobs for African youth, through formal employment and successful youth entrepreneurship that allows African youth to become their own drivers of economic prosperity, social stability and environmental sustainability.

Ashish Thakkar, CEO of the Mara Group and Chair of the PYAG, said: “It is a great honour to serve our continent in this function. We know that the stakes are high, but we are committed to the task of creating flourishing youth businesses that provide tremendous value. We are also focused on facilitating the achievement of AfDB’s High 5s and Sustainable Development Goals. We have just concluded our work program for the next year and have hit the ground running.”

He described how his family lost everything they had during the genocide in Rwanda in the 1990s.

“I have borrowed $5,000 to launch my business without any form of support. Today, Mara Group has 14,000 employees around the world. I was alone, but imagine what we can do together with the support of an institution like the AfDB.”

“I have never heard of an institution as important as the AfDB setting up and advisory group only made of youth. A Chinese proverb has it that if you want 1 year of prosperity, plant a grain. If you want 10 years of prosperity, plant a tree. If you want a century of prosperity, invest on people,” said Mamadou Touré, a member of the group.

Also speaking, Ada Osakwe said: “40% of entrepreneurs in Nigeria are women, but 73% operate in consumer retail systems. We need to address that and provide youth with more lucrative jobs.”

To make agriculture more attractive to young people, the AfDB last year invested $800 million in supporting young entrepreneurs in agriculture as a business in 8 countries. It will reach 15 countries this year. The Bank expects to invest 1.5 billion per year for the next 10 years to support young agripreneurs.

The AfDB is delivering on its youth strategy

The AfDB has made great progress toward implementing its strategy through three key pillars: innovation, integration and investment. In terms of integration, the Bank entered into partnership with the International Labour Organization to strengthen the capacity of African countries to harmonize Youth Employment into national policies.

The Youth Entrepreneurship and Innovation Multi-Donor Trust Fund which will serve as a financial and operational instrument, with initial support of USD 4.4 million by Denmark and Norway.

The African Development has also developed the Enabling Youth Employment (EYE) Index to measure youth employment outcomes and enabling policies at country levels.

“With this amazing group of very diverse young individuals, we even hope to exceed the Bank’s goal to create 25 million jobs and 50 million youth equipped with the right skills,” said Thakkar enthusiastically. “It is time to change the narrative about Africa’s youth!”

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Folorunso Alakija Inspires 300 Women at Prestigious 2017 Flourish Africa Conference
November 28, 2017 | 0 Comments
The 66-year-old business magnate has persistently championed the causes of women in Nigeria from her work with widows and orphans
LAGOS, Nigeria, November 28, 2017/ — Folorunso Alakija, one of a handful of successful female entrepreneurs on the continent listed as one of Forbes most powerful women in the world, attended the Africa conference. The 66-year-old business magnate has persistently championed the causes of women in Nigeria from her work with widows and orphans through the Rose of Sharon Foundation which Alakija uses as a medium to empower thousands of impoverished women and their children through Flourish Africa (http://FlourishAfrica.com) which is the first platform of its kind designed to create an impact on the lives of women in Africa by providing the tools they need to fulfill their God given potential. Through a series of conferences, workshops and mentorship programs, the platform hopes to bring women from all walks of life together to share in their unique experiences and become who God has destined for them to be.

Initiatives designed to give them a better standard of living

As CEO of Famfa Oil (www.Famfa.com), one of the largest indigenous oil companies in Africa, she has built schools, science labs, roads as well as providing scholarships to thousands of young students all over Nigeria. Her philanthropic work continues this year with the launch of the women empowerment platform, Flourish Africa.

The first Flourish Africa conference took place at the Renaissance Ikeja Hotel in Lagos at an exclusive invitation only event hosted by Forbes Africa Head of Digital Media and Partnerships and West Africa Correspondent, Peace Hyde, which saw applications from over 2000 women vying for the opportunity to be part of the 300 people who were selected to partake in the exchange of knowledge from powerful women like Folorunso Alakija, Ibukun Awosika, Senator Daisy Danjuma, Mrs. Fashola, Juliet Ehimuan Chiazor, Uche Pedro, Ayo Mogbepe and many more.

Flourish Africa (http://FlourishAfrica.com) is the first platform of its kind designed to create an impact on the lives of women in Africa by providing the tools they need to fulfill their God given potential. Through a series of conferences, workshops and mentorship programs, the platform hopes to bring women from all walks of life together to share in their unique experiences and become who God has destined for them to be.

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