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

By Ajong Mbapndah L

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abou Dieng with Dana Hyde, CEO of MCC

Abou Dieng with Dana Hyde, CEO of MCC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona

With Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOD BLESS!

 

 

 

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Gabonese want their Voices Heard and Their Votes Respected-Franck Joctane, Ping’s Campaign USA
September 15, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Franck Joctane

Franck Joctane

The Gabonese people are frustrated by a second electoral hold up by President Ali Bongo, says Frank Joctane who represented the campaign of Jean Ping during the recent Presidential elections in Washington, DC. In Washington, DC, his candidate Jean Ping won 71% of the vote while Ali Bongo scored 26% and Joctane says Gabonese just want their voices to be heard and their votes respected.

An IT Specialist, Joctane, one of the most visible faces of the Gabonese diaspora in the U.S calling for change, believes that it is time for the Bongo chapter to be turned in the history of his country. Defending Jean Ping from criticisms of not reigning in his supporters, Joctane describes the post electoral violence as a regrettable manifestation of frustration by Gabonese tired of their will been taken for granted. With the Constitutional Council addressing petitions from both Ping and Bongo, Joctane says a wrong decision could throw Gabon into greater chaos.

Your candidate Jean Ping is contesting the results on what grounds are his claims based on?

He is contesting the election because of only one region the Haut Ogouee, where Ali Bongo claimed that he won over 98% of that electorate with 99% of that electorate participating. The result given by the governor of the Haut Ogouee and the result given by the CENAP (Electoral Commission) are different. A Fact which reveals fraud, and tempering of the results.

Does your candidate have faith in the constitutional court of Gabon and will he accept the decision if the court confirms that indeed the winner of the elections was Ali Bongo?

We do not have faith in the constitutional court of Gabon, because it has a track record of leaning one way, always protecting the interest of the ruling family the Bongo and their allies. Jean Ping feels the same way.  I do not know if Jean Ping will accept the decision of the court if this one declares Mr. Ali Bongo the winner of this presidential election. However, I do know that he said that he will be standing by the side of the Gabonese people who desire that their vote count and that their choice for once be respected.

After the elections, a number of public offices were burnt down by supporters of Jean Ping including the National Assembly, why did your candidate Mr Ping not let the electoral process play through?

I do not think that is what really transpired. Indeed, public offices were burnt down, but I am not convinced that they were burnt down by Jean Ping’s supporters for the reason given. I believe that the majority of the Gabonese people frustrated by a second attempt to an electoral hold up, started to burn. Ping did let the electoral process play through, we are all now awaiting the result from the constitutional court.

Mr Ping has been criticized for not acting Presidential by calling for calm amongst his supporters, what is your response to those who say he is more interested in his victory and not what happens to Gabon?

Friends turned foes, both President Ali Bongo and challenger Jean Ping served under late President Bongo

Friends turned foes, both President Ali Bongo and challenger Jean Ping served under late President Bongo

I do understand those who claimed that Mr. Ping is not acting Presidential by calling for calm amongst his supporters, however I disagree with them. Mr. Ping is being sensitive to the frustration of a people who have endured 50 years of tyranny. For 50 years, Gabonese people were denied political change. Gabonese people are frustrated and in particular the youth that represents the bulk of the Gabonese population. People need to understand that this was a referendum, the Gabonese people voted against Ali Bongo and his party, they voted against a system. The violence has nothing to do with Jean Ping but it has to do with a people being fed up with a system, Bongo/PDG that does not serve the interest of the Gabonese people. So that as far as I am concerned, I believe that the violence that we are witnessing in Gabon is the result of the people’s frustration than a desire for Jean Ping to access power at all cost.

In the course of the campaigns, Mr Ping and the opposition coalition spent more time on issues like the nationality of President Bongo and less on the specifics of what they will do for Gabon, can you remind us of the platform or program that he had in Gabon?

Here we go again, I do not believe that is true. What is true is that Ali Bongo Ondimba should not have been allowed to run for president period.  Ali Bongo is Gabonese through adoption. He is originally from Nigeria, according to our constitution, in order to run for president, one must be born from at least one parent who is Gabonese. Jean Ping traveled all over the country in order to inquire what are the pressing needs of the Gabonese people. Mr. Jean Ping ran for president on those premises. He wants the Gabonese people to be safe from fear and want. « Le Gabon à l’abri de la peur, le Gabon à l’abri du besoin. »

Gabonese say there have had enough of the Bongo dynasty, but considering that Jean Ping, Casimir Oye Mba and others  in the opposition coalition are products of Bongo, ,why should Gabonese think that  a Ping presidency will be better for them?

As I said earlier, the people voted against Ali Bongo Ondimba instead of for Jean Ping. The Gabonese people are thirsty for change, they want to get rid of the Bongo dynasty they opted for Jean Ping to achieve this purpose. That’s all I am convinced that the process of change in Gabon has begun with the defeat of Ali Bongo. I also believe that a lot of pressure will be put on Jean Ping to deliver what the Gabonese people desire. If he fails to do so, he will not be able to govern properly. So he has no choice, it has to be better for his own sake.

In 2010 in the heat of the contentious elections in Ivory Coast, calls from the Gbagbo camp for a recount were rejected by Jean Ping when he was Chair of the African Union, why should a recount be a credible solution in Gabon when it was not considered as a solution in Ivory Coast?

I am not Jean Ping so may not be able to answer that question adequately, the way you want me to. I will simply say that Ali Bongo Ondimba rigged the election, the only way to bring that to light is a recount. The EU, the US, the AU see the wisdom in recounting the vote polling station by polling station so let us recount the votes.

Still on criticisms of Mr Ping, from the phone tapes with an Ivorian directing him on how to make the country ungovernable , to frequent calls for the international community to intervene and visibly open support from countries like France, do you understand when some people think that Jean Ping will just be an agent of foreign interests in Gabon?

I do understand but I also do know that there is a new generation of Gabonese people who desire to influence directly their destiny in Gabon and Gabon’s destiny. So if Jean Ping wants to serve the interest of others before his own people I believe that he will be confronted strongly with his own people.

 

As someone who lives in a country where contentions in elections are settled differently, what message do you have for your compatriots both in your camp and in the camp of Ali Bongo, atleast you all are first and foremost Gabonese.

I will simply say that it is important that the will of the people be respected. In august 27th, 2016 the Gabonese people voted, they chosed a president let them have the president that they picked. This time around the country will not be peaceful if once again the will of the people is denied. The Gabonese people desire democracy, they want a country where the rule of law is a reality and it must start by respecting the result of the election.

Thanks for granting this interview

Thank you so very much for giving me the opportunity to talk about my country.

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US think tank hails African leader accused over election ‘anomaly’ and crackdown on critics
September 13, 2016 | 0 Comments
President Ali Bongo of Gabon is due to be honoured in Washington despite recent allegations of vote rigging and jailing opponents CREDIT: AP

President Ali Bongo of Gabon is due to be honoured in Washington despite recent allegations of vote rigging and jailing opponents CREDIT: AP

An American think tank with close ties to government will next week fete Ali Bongo, the president of Gabon, as an “exceptional global citizen” despite his brutal crackdown on opposition supporters who accused him of stealing last month’s election.

Mr Bongo, who has been president since 2009, will receive a Global Citizen Award from the Atlantic Council during a glittering reception in New York. It is not known whether he will risk leaving Gabon to accept in person.

The award is given to “individuals who have made exceptional and distinctive contributions to strengthening the transatlantic relationship”.

Mr Bongo is a celebrated environmentalist who has befriended fellow campaigners including the Prince of Wales.

Gabon has until now been viewed as an island of stability in a volatile region often characterised by authoritarian leaders and  human rights abuses.

A country of just 1.6 million citizens on the cusp of central and west Africa, it has large oil reserves and pristine forests that are home to large populations of some of the continent’s most prized species, notably elephants.

Gabon held a temporary seat on the UN Security Council during the Libya crisis in 2011 and was pivotal in securing backing for sanctions against Col Muammar Gadaffi and a no-fly zone over the country.

Mr Bongo, whose father was president before him, is also thought to have the ear of many regional power-brokers, and was the first African leader to call for Col Gadaffi to step down.

The US also views Gabon as a bulwark against terrorism by Boko Haram and other extremist groups to the north of its border, and along with Britain, has provided training to its security forces.

Both countries may however have to rethink their relationship with Gabon’s president.

Two weeks ago, Mr Bongo claimed to have won re-election by only 5,594 votes, extending into a fifth decade the Bongo family’s time in power.

However, his main rival, Jean Ping, insisted he had in fact won the election and called his supporters on to the streets.

Mr Bongo’s security forces responded with ferocity, rounding up an estimated 1,000 people, allegedly killing at least five, and bombing the opposition headquarters in a midnight attack after parliament was set on fire by demonstrators.

International observers including the United States, the European Union and the former colonial power France have called for a recount.

“Elections must credibly reflect the will of the people,” said John Kirby, the US government spokesman. “We call on the Gabonese Government to release results for each individual polling station.”

European Union election observers have pointed to the “anomaly” of a 99 per cent turnout in Mr Bongo’s home province, with 95 per cent of those votes going to him.

Mr Ping, writing in The New York Times , claimed Mr Bongo’s “deadly and dangerous tantrum” had cost at least 12 lives.

“Ali Bongo Ondimba, is using our national security forces — armed with valuable military weaponry provided by the United States to fight terrorism — against our own people,” he said.

Mr Bongo has rejected suggestions of a recount, saying the opposition must appeal to the Constitutional Court, a body they claim is biased towards the incumbent.

“African governments are often accused of not respecting the law,” he said. “For once we’re respecting the law and we’re being told to circumvent it – it’s strange.”

The Washington-based Atlantic Council, which employs a number of former officials and ambassadors, told the Telegraph it would not rescind Mr Bongo’s award.

“The Atlantic Council is honouring Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba for his life of public service and efforts to improve the lives of the people of Gabon – demonstrated through his economic and infrastructure reforms – and his consistent campaign to preserve Africa’s national treasures and put an end to poaching,” said Nicole Hobbs, a spokesman for the Council.

*Telegraph UK

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Gabon’s Ali Bongo hits back at EU over poll ‘anomalies’
September 8, 2016 | 0 Comments

President accuses EU observation mission of bias and insists that only the country’s top court can order a recount.

"I would also have liked them to have noted some anomalies in the fiefdom of Mr Ping," says Bongo

“I would also have liked them to have noted some anomalies in the fiefdom of Mr Ping,” says Bongo

Gabonese President Ali Bongo has denied EU observers’ calls for a recount of last week’s disputed presidential vote, saying it was a matter for the country’s top court to decide.

On Tuesday, an EU mission observing the August 27 polls reported a “clear anomaly” in voting in Haut-Ogooue province, Bongo’s heartland.

Official results gave turnout in the province at more than 99 percent, with 95 percent backing the incumbent against rival Jean Ping.

“I would also have liked them to have noted some anomalies in the fiefdom of Mr Ping. If we are raising anomalies, we have to be clear, balanced and raise all the anomalies that have been noted,” Bongo told France’s RTL radio, in an interview broadcast on Wednesday.

“What people should be asking me to do is apply the law. I cannot violate the law. As far as a recount is concerned … that’s done at the level of the Constitutional Court.”

Bongo, whose family has ruled Gabon for nearly half a century, won a second term by a slender margin of fewer than 6,000 votes over Ping.

The opposition leader, however, says that the election was a sham and has demanded a recount – a call echoed by Manuel Valls, prime minister of Gabon’s former colonial power, France.

Post-election clashes between his supporters and security forces have resulted in the deaths of between 50 and 100 people, Ping said on Tuesday. The government’s official casualty count stands at just three dead.

The parliament in the capital, Libreville, was also torched in protests over the result.

Calls for recount

Ping, a 72-year-old  former African Union Commission chairman, has yet to announce whether he will challenge the election result in the Constitutional Court.

The deadline for doing so is 15:00 GMT on Thursday.

In their analysis, the EU election monitors said the number of non-voters and of blank and disqualified votes revealed a “clear anomaly in the final results in Haut-Ogooue”.

In an interview with Europe 1 radio, Bongo accused the EU observers of “overstepping their mandate” and said he too was preparing to challenge some of the results.

“Ping committed fraud” in his home constituency and others with the help of “cyber-criminals”, he told Europe 1.

Bongo, 57, is under increasing pressure at home and abroad after Justice Minister Seraphin Moundounga resigned on Monday, demanding a recount “polling station by polling station”.

Bongo also accused Ping of attempting “massive fraud” and said it was difficult to envisage dialogue with “people who ask the Gabonese to go into the street to loot and destroy and burn things”.

*Al Jazeera

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France’s Bongo-Bongo Party
September 8, 2016 | 0 Comments

BY ROBERT ZARETSKY*

As Gabon erupts in violence, the dark, twisted legacy tying this former colony to Paris is bubbling up to the surface.

Gabon's President Ali Bongo Ondimba (R) leaves Elysee Palace after a press conference with French President Francois Hollande (L) regard to the COP 21 meeting in Paris, France on November 10, 2015. (Photo by Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

PARIS, FRANCE – NOVEMBER 10: Gabon’s President Ali Bongo Ondimba (R) leaves Elysee Palace after a press conference with French President Francois Hollande (L) regard to the COP 21 meeting in Paris, France on November 10, 2015. (Photo by Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

There is France, and there is Africa,” French President François Hollande announced on a state visit to Senegal in 2012. It was a remark validated by geography but repudiated by history. Since most of France’s African colonies gained independence in 1960, they have maintained a web of opaque and incestuous ties with Paris — culminating in Élysée-backed coups, African strongman-banked safaris, and diamond-studded tokens of appreciation. But this decades-long patron-client relationship, Hollande insisted in 2012, would be replaced with a transparent partnership of equals founded on respect and solidarity.

This was largely nonsense, of course. As the contested presidential election and subsequent violence in Gabon has shown, La Françafrique refuses to go quietly into the night: For those Africans seeking to build democracy as well as those trying to deny it, the ties that have long bound France and francophone Africa cannot be easily undone. As wits point out, “Françafrique” rhymes with “France-à-fric” — slang for French politicians’ use of Africa as a personal ATM. While the practice has faded, its scars remain.

re is France, and there is Africa,” French President François Hollande announced on a state visit to Senegal in 2012. It was a remark validated by geography but repudiated by history. Since most of France’s African colonies gained independence in 1960, they have maintained a web of opaque and incestuous ties with Paris — culminating in Élysée-backed coups, African strongman-banked safaris, and diamond-studded tokens of appreciation. But this decades-long patron-client relationship, Hollande insisted in 2012, would be replaced with a transparent partnership of equals founded on respect and solidarity.

This was largely nonsense, of course. As the contested presidential election and subsequent violence in Gabon has shown, La Françafrique refuses to go quietly into the night: For those Africans seeking to build democracy as well as those trying to deny it, the ties that have long bound France and francophone Africa cannot be easily undone. As wits point out, “Françafrique” rhymes with “France-à-fric” — slang for French politicians’ use of Africa as a personal ATM. While the practice has faded, its scars remain.

On Aug. 27, the Gabonese went to the ballot boxes to choose a president. For the first time in a half-century, the nation’s 2 million citizens had a realistic chance of electing a president with a last name other than Bongo. But as the post-election intrigue has revealed, they never had a chance of escaping France’s shadow.

For 42 years until his death in 2009, Omar Bongo ruled over a Gabon that was the heart of La Françafrique. As the nation’s founding father, Bongo sought to create a dynasty rather than a democracy. Instead of giving the Gabonese a true multiparty system, he gave them his son, Ali Bongo Ondimba. (Long rumored to have been born in Nigeria and adopted by the elder Bongo — rumors given a good deal of substance by the French journalist Pierre Péan, who has been a persistent thorn in the younger Bongo’s side.)

“Africa without France is like a car without a driver, while France without Africa is like a car without gas.” True to his bon mot, Omar Bongo provided the gas, both literally and metaphorically, for France and its political elite. While the French oil giant Elf Aquitaine exploited the tiny Central African country’s substantial oil reserves — filling a massive slush fund for France’s ruling class as well as for Bongo’s kleptocracy that was uncovered in the 1990s by French investigators — Bongo exploited his equally substantial bank reserves to cultivate ties in Paris.

Installed in power 1967 by Charles de Gaulle’s éminence grise on African affairs, Jacques Foccart, Bongo had little interest in cultivating democratic practices at home. What he was interested in was meddling in the politics of France, which he saw as the ultimate guarantor of his power. Occupants of the Élysée came and went, but Bongo remained a fixture of the murky fringe of French campaign finance. Among the load of diplomatic cables dumped by WikiLeaks in 2010 was one from the American Embassy in Cameroon, which hinted at the role played by the Banque des Etats d’Afrique Centrale (BEAC) in the financing of the presidential campaigns of Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy. Bongo stands accused of embezzling millions of dollars from BEAC — he named the bank’s pliant director, Philip Andzembe — and allegedly channeled some of his ill-gotten lucre into Chirac’s and Sarkozy’s campaign coffers. Bongo, as one BEAC administrator noted with superb understatement, was “France’s favorite African president.”

Through mechanisms such as these, Omar Bongo built his signature “system of suitcases.”

In a 2001interview with the French newspaperLibération, Mike Jocktane, an ex-insider of the Bongo clan, admitted that the bribing of French politicians was an “open secret” in Gabon.

In a 2001 interview with the French newspaper Libération, Mike Jocktane, an ex-insider of the Bongo clan, admitted that the bribing of French politicians was an “open secret” in Gabon. “Everyone knew that when a French leader came to Gabon, he almost always left with a suitcase. The character of the regime was to cultivate everyone, regardless of their political affiliation, so as to obtain and maintain their support.”

Both Sarkozy and Ali Bongo Ondimba have denied the charges leveled by the BEAC administrator in the WikiLeaks cable. Undeniable, however, was Sarkozy’s critical support in 2009, when the younger Bongo, following his father’s death, claimed victory in a presidential election his opponents insisted he had stolen. Even as the contested results were still being reviewed by Gabon’s Constitutional Court, Sarkozy’s government congratulated the younger Bongo on his victory — a rush to judgment, Jocktane believes, explained by the existence of videotapes recording Sarkozy’s visits to the elder Bongo’s presidential palace.

In last month’s presidential election, Bongo’s opponents were determined to avoid a rerun of 2009, when his two principal opponents divided more than 50 percent of the popular vote between themselves. This time around, the opposition parties settled on a single candidate, Jean Ping, to run against the incumbent. While the 73-year-old Ping was hardly a new face — in addition to heading a number of ministries under Bongo, he served as chair of the African Union in 2008-2012 — he had the advantage of having a last name other than Bongo.

But when the election results were tallied, an anomaly appeared: While Ping won decisively in nearly all of the country’s provinces, Bongo carried his home province of Upper Ogooé by a margin that would stoke the envy of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. He won more than 96 percent of the voteamid a 99.98 percent turnout. (Given that only 71,000 voters were registered in Upper Ogooé, this means that only 12 failed to cast their ballots.) Not only did this raise his total vote count above Ping’s — 49.8 percent to 48.23 percent — and thus raise eyebrows among European Union observers; it also got a rise from Ping’s supporters, who immediately took to the streets in protest.

In the days following the initial riots, which broke out on Aug. 27, at least seven people have been killed. The government shut down the internet and silenced the domestic news media, so there’s no way to verify opposition claims that the death toll now tops 50. It could be much higher. The only thing clear now is that little is clear; as the magazine Jeune Afrique observed, “Information is now a rare commodity in Gabon.”

Hunkered down in his house, Ping has both declared himself president and demanded a recount of the vote, province by province — a demand rejected by Bongo’s representatives, who claim that such a procedure (one not anticipated by Gabon’s electoral laws) would be unconstitutional.

The results of the election, and the future of democracy in Gabon, probably won’t turn on such fine legalisms. On Sept. 5, Ping upped the ante, calling for a general strike by his followers and appealing to Hollande to intervene personally. “At this point,” declared a Ping spokesperson, “we depend on Hollande’s decision. He needs to bang his fist on the table and intervene. If he doesn’t, it will amount to nonassistance to a people in danger.”

For now, Hollande has refrained from intervening, not to mention banging his fist on tables. Instead he has called for “restraint and calm on the part of all parties” as well as an electoral “process guaranteeing transparency.” Hollande’s reluctance to go beyond diplomatic pieties may reflect the dwindling importance of Gabon’s oil reserves — France gets most of its fuel from Norway, Saudi Arabia, and Russia these days — but, ironically, it may also reflect France’s colonial legacy in the tiny African country. To intervene on behalf of Ping would be to continue the politics of Françafrique by another name.

Then again, to leave the name of Bongo in charge of the capital, Libreville, would be to ensure its continuation as well. There may be France and there may be Africa, as Hollande observed, but disentangling them is another matter.

*Culled from Foreign Policy

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Protesters in Gabon burn parliament building amid allegations of stolen election
September 1, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Max Bearak*

Smoke billows from the burning parliament of Gabon in the capital of Libreville late Wednesday after protesters set the building on fire after what they say was a rigged election in the African nation. (Marco Longari/AFP via Getty Images)

Smoke billows from the burning parliament of Gabon in the capital of Libreville late Wednesday after protesters set the building on fire after what they say was a rigged election in the African nation. (Marco Longari/AFP via Getty Images)

Protesters in Gabon set alight the country’s National Assembly building Wednesday night after a day of agitations against what many saw as a rigged election.

The small central African country has been governed by one family, the Bongos, since 1967. Ali Bongo, who took over from his father in 2009, was announced midday Wednesday as the winner in the election by a razor-thin margin, after the release of the results were delayed by one day.

Bongo received 49.8 percent of the vote, and his main rival, Jean Ping, received 48.2 percent, according to Gabon’s Interior Ministry. While nationwide turnout was 59.6 percent, turnout in Bongo’s home region of Haut-Ogooué was reported at 99.3 percent, prompting many to question the veracity of the results.

Both France, which once ruled Gabon as a colony, and the United States released statements that voiced concern about the transparency of the election results and called for the results from each polling station to be made public.

The U.S. Embassy in Libreville said — via a somewhat contradictory Facebook post — that the election had been professional yet marked by “many systemic deficiencies and irregularities.”

Riots broke out, too, in 2009 when Ali Bongo won his first election.

Bongo has sought to portray himself as a responsible leader who doesn’t lead the lavish lifestyle his father was known for. Gabon has large oil reserves, and wealth from them has made the Bongos rich, even though much of the population still lives in poverty.

Jean Ping spent most of his life working in Omar Bongo’s administration, as well as acting as chairman or president of large international bodies such as OPEC, the U.N. General Assembly and the African Union. He has portrayed himself as an agent of change after five decades of Omar and Ali Bongo.

Ping said in a statement that the people chose “our country’s next president” and that Bongo did not approve of their choice, “so he substituted his will for theirs.”

He called on Bongo to “turn to peace and stop the violence by ordering our brothers, sisters and children in the security forces to attack our own.”

*Washington Post

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Kenyan economist awarded World Food Prize
August 31, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

Dr Andrew Mude

Dr Andrew Mude

The Rockefeller Foundation has awarded Kenyan economist, Dr Andrew Mude the 2016 Norman Borlang award for field research and application for his outstanding work in developing insurance for never before insured communities whose livelihoods depend on herding cattle, goats, sheep and camels in the remote, arid and drought-prone lowlands of the horn of Africa.

According to Nicole Barreca, Director of Communications and Events for the World Food Prize, Dr Mude has made novel use of satellite data to achieve an innovative and highly effective solution that helps pastoral livestock herders reduce the considerable and costly drought-risk they face in the horn of Africa region.

The announcement of the award for individuals under the age of 40 was made at an event hosted by the International Livestock Research (ILRI) in Nairobi, Kenya by Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, President of the World Food Prize, headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa. Dr Charity Mutegi, also from Kenya received the award in 2013.

It is also reported that Dr Mude will be formally presented with US$10 000 on October 12, 2016 in Iowa, USA, as part of the 2016 World Food Prize international symposium.

Mude is a 39 year old Kenyan native who received his PhD from Cornell University and is principal economist at the International Livestock Research Institute. He spearheads a programme called Index Based Livestock Insurance (IBLI), which is reported to be greatly reducing the vulnerability of East Africa’s livestock herding families to recurring droughts, which kill great numbers of livestock, sending many hungry households in remote regions into deep and lasting poverty.

Since launching IBLI in 2008, Mude and his team have engaged local herders and leaders in building and delivering extension education programmes, employing videos, cartoons and radio broadcasts to increase understanding of the principles and coverage of the insurance plans.

The World Food Prize reports that before Mude’s innovative approach was implemented, African herders had no access to livestock insurance. It was highly impractical and costly for insurance claim adjusters to travel through East Africa to confirm dead animals and pay claims.

IBLI eliminates the need for such visual confirmation of stock losses by using satellite data to monitor grazing conditions. When these conditions  are seen to fall below a certain threshold, the data serves as a proxy for dead animals and insurance payouts are made.

In future, more than 50 million pastoralists across Africa are expected to have an opportunity to benefit from the financial technology.

Dr. Andrew Mude (right) during a press conference

Dr. Andrew Mude (right) during a press conference

Mamadou Biteye, Managing Director of the Rockefeller Foundation Africa Regional Office said with today’s changing climate, weather based insurance has become a critical tool in building the resilience of some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.

The Kenyan government is reported to have already provided 5 012 households with IBLI coverage and made indemnity payments to a few hundred herders in Kenya’s huge and arid northern county of Wajir, which has suffered prolonged drought.

In Ethiopia, Kenya’s neighbour to the north, a government pilot project spearheaded by Mude’s team is working to scale out the insurance programme while the World Food Prize programme is making IBLI-type insurance a key pillar of its food security strategy in Ethiopia’s pastoralist lowlands. Other governments and development agencies are reported to be seeking help in testing IBLI-type policies across West Africa’s Sahel and the drylands of southern Africa.

During his work at the Rockefeller Foundation, the late Dr Norman Borlang developed high yielding, disease resistant wheat in Mexico and introduced adaptable wheat varieties into India and Pakistan during the 1950s and 60s for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970.

The World Food Prize was created in 1986 by Nobel Peace Prize recipient Dr Norman Borlang. It is the foremost international award recognising individuals whose achievements have advanced human development by increasing the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.

 

 

 

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Gabon: Ali Bongo wins re-election as president
August 31, 2016 | 0 Comments

Protests erupt as supporters of presidential challenger Jean Ping say the vote was “stolen”.

Gabon's President Ali Bongo [Reuters]

Gabon’s President Ali Bongo [Reuters]

Gabon’s interior ministry has declared incumbent President Ali Bongo as the winner of the country’s closely-fought presidential race.

Interior Minister Pacome Moubelet Boubeya said on Wednesday that Bongo had won 49.80 percent percent of the vote and rival candidate Jean Ping had won 48.23 percent.

Election commission members belonging to the opposition denounced the vote, which one commissioner for Ping’s party, Paul Marie Gondjout, said was “stolen”.

Catherine Soi, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in the capital Libreville, said Ping’s camp has rejected the result.

“They say they will not accept this result at all,” Soi said.

“Protests have started. Protests are expected to continue,” she said, adding that what appeared to be clouds of tear gas and smoke could be seen over parts of the city.

“Jean Ping has been telling his supporters not to accept a vote that is not favourable to him…. He is telling his people to defend their vote, to defend their choice.”

Security forces used tear gas and stun grenades against protesters shouting “Ali must go!” who tried to reach the headquarters of the election commission in Libreville, AFP news agency reported.

Second term

Bongo, 57, has now won a second term as head of the tiny oil-rich state previously ruled for 41 years by his father, Omar.

In 2009, Bongo was declared winner of the presidential election after his father’s death. The result was disputed and in the ensuing clashes several people were killed, buildings looted and the French consulate in the economic capital Port-Gentil was torched.

Prior to becoming Bongo’s bitter rival, Ping, a 73-year-old career diplomat well-known on the international scene, worked with Bongo senior for many years.

The European Union, which monitored the election, has called for Gabon to publish “detailed results” for every polling station and urged all actors to help keep the peace.

“We invite all stakeholders to exercise restraint, work to maintain civil peace in the post-electoral context and make use of legal channels to resolve any dispute,” the EU said.

*Al Jazeera

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

By Wallace Mawire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Wallace Mawire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Gabon’s presidential election: are the opposition’s attempts at unifying too little too late?
August 22, 2016 | 0 Comments
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Governance, Corruption & Democratic Development Questions will guide Clinton’s African Policy-Snr Policy Advisor Jake Sullivan
July 26, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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