Global companies give Africa a second look
August 22, 2017 | 0 Comments
When travelling abroad for work and looking for accommodation, Joe Eyango, a Cameroonian living in the US, considers two factors: convenient transportation from the airport and around the city and reliable Internet access. He is a university professor and wants to be able to jet in, hit the ground running, make his presentation and zoom off to another destination in a day or two.
Mr. Eyango has been to various countries in Africa for business and work but has reasons for preferring South Africa.
“South Africa has a lot to offer compared with other African countries. The road system is good, there is adequate electricity and reliable Internet connection, which is necessary for work and business,” Mr. Eyango told Africa Renewal in an interview.
Recently, having been invited to present a conference paper on a tight schedule, Mr. Eyango flew into Johannesburg from Amsterdam, spent less than 30 minutes in customs at the O. R. Tambo International Airport, took a taxi and was at his hotel in less than an hour since arrival.
South Africa attracts many professionals and big multinationals. It’s currently home to more than 75% of all top global companies in Africa.
“Where these big companies choose to invest depends on whether the environment is right for business. Investors are interested in relatively stable countries, good infrastructure, reliable communication, electricity and labour,” says Dr. John Mbaku, a researcher at Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution and also a professor of economics at Weber State University, US.
Some of the global companies with a presence in South Africa include luxury car manufacturers BMW, the Standard Bank Group, Barclays Bank, Vodafone (one of the world’s largest communication companies), Volkswagen, and General Electric. There is also FirstRand, Sasol, Sanlam, and MTN Group.
In an earlier interview with South African officials on why they’d chosen the country as an investment destination, Sam Ahmed, then the managing director of Britannia Industries, an India-based manufacturer of biscuits, snacks and confectionery, said his organization had been looking for a country that would give it access to the entire African market while keeping its costs low.
“In South Africa you have first-world infrastructure and third-world cost,” Mr. Ahmed said. The company’s production costs in South Africa were much lower than in Southeast Asia, the company headquarters.
Big businesses are also attracted to countries where the legal system works, so they can be assured of justice should legal issues arise. South Africa’s judiciary has been hailed for its sound judgements and independence from political machinations relative to other African countries.
Another attraction for big businesses is human resources. The efficiency and smooth operation of these large companies depend on the calibre of its labour force. Despite many years of apartheid, according to Mr. Mbaku, South Africa provides its citizens with relatively good quality education the multinationals are looking for in their labour force.
However, despite its successes, South Africa continues to grapple with a high crime rate (especially in urban areas), graft accusations and the political uncertainty that businesses loathe.
Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi, the secretary-general of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the UN body that deals with trade, investment and development issues, acknowledges that South Africa has the oldest and most developed market economy in the whole of Africa for historical reasons: the market grew out of a strong mining and industrial base and the financial industry.
However, according to Mr. Kituyi, things are now changing and other African countries are also attracting big investors.
“It’s true South Africa has had a head start, but in net terms, there is faster growth in alternative centres for both manufacturing and service delivery than in South Africa. Today, the financial services industry is growing faster in Morocco than in South Africa,” Mr. Kituyi told Africa Renewal in an interview.
He notes that some multinational enterprises operating out of South Africa have relocated substantially. “We recently saw the opening of the Volvo truck-manufacturing plant in Mombasa. And similarly, we have seen many other services, particularly IT-based services and telecommunications, growing in new nodes like Nigeria, Kenya and Rwanda.”
So why should African governments want to encourage global companies to set up shop in their countries?
Driven by insufficient funds, African governments are increasingly turning to private-sector companies for a much-needed boost. Foreign investments provide capital to finance industries, boost infrastructure and productivity, provide social amenities and create jobs, all of which can help a country reach its economic potential. And as countries rush to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, funding is key.
In Africa, governments and industry are gradually forming public-private partnerships (PPPs) in which companies provide capital while governments ensure an environment conducive to business. In the last 10 years, the continent has welcomed PPPs for projects in infrastructure, electricity, health and telecommunications.
Lenders like the African Development Bank are urging African countries to improve business environments by “creating the necessary legal and regulatory framework for PPPs, and to facilitate networking and sharing of experience among regulatory agencies and other similar organizations.”
However, even as PPPs begin to change the face of Africa, there is need for countries to tread carefully and to learn from failed PPPs when signing up for such partnerships.
“Ask yourselves, does the state have the capacity to forge ahead with these partnerships? This is necessary to avoid bad debt,” says Mr. Kituyi, adding that governments should not let private companies drive the agenda.
This word of caution is echoed by the Brookings Institution’s Mr. Mbaku, who is advising African governments to ensure that PPPs work to their advantage: “If you have a weak or corrupt leadership, you may not have the power or the skills required to negotiate a favourable partnership. You will end up with a PPP that is not really a partnership.”
Mr. Mbaku gives the example of oil companies that have been operating in Africa for more than 20 years yet still depend on expatriate labour instead of employing locals. Such companies are reluctant to transfer skills, knowledge and technology to the locals.
Another problem with PPPs is the imbalance of power. “If you are a government engaged in a PPP on a development project, there is inequality in power. The multinational has capital, skilled manpower and [an] external market. The government has no power over these,” says Mr. Mbaku.
Despite the challenges, however, PPPs will continue playing a major role in the development of poor countries. For African countries to attract multinationals and other big investors to partner with, their governments need to put their house in order—improve infrastructure, communication, security and the legal system, and fight corruption.
*Culled from Africa Renewal
Stanford Graduate School of Business Launches Two Educational Opportunities to Empower Youth and Entrepreneurs in Southern Africa
August 19, 2017 | 0 Comments
|Silicon Valley-based university continues to expand global program offerings with new partnership with De Beers Group|
|STANFORD, California, August 18, 2017/ — Stanford Graduate School of Business(www.GSB.stanford.edu) (Stanford GSB) today announced a USD $3 million, three-year partnership with De Beers Group to empower young, budding entrepreneurs and owners of established businesses in Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa through two new educational programs launching in 2018.
Stanford is expanding two of its successful programs to Southern Africa: the Seed Transformation Program of the Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies, known as Stanford Seed(www.GSB.stanford.edu/seed), and the Stanford Go-to-Market(www.GSB.stanford.edu/programs/stanford-gotomarket-botswana) program for accelerating business ventures to market.
The two programs are:
These new programs exemplify Stanford GSB’s commitment to creating lasting global impact by bringing the Stanford experience to new regions, engaging promising business leaders globally, transferring knowledge, and building relationships. Through these new programs, Stanford GSB has an opportunity to share insights through hands-on management education for students, while also gaining a better understanding of the business climate and unique economic attributes of Southern Africa.
“We are excited to work with the young and established entrepreneurs in the Southern African region. As with our experiences in East and West Africa, we are coming to learn as much as we are to teach,” said Jesper Sørensen, professor of organizational behavior at Stanford GSB and faculty director of Stanford Seed, a Stanford University initiative led by the Stanford GSB. “If the business and job growth that follows matches what we are seeing in our other locations, I anticipate this collaboration will be a very impactful initiative.”
The Seed Transformation Program launched in West Africa in 2013 and expanded to East Africa in 2016, and will open a third location in India later this month. Faculty, staff, and coaches have trained more than 500 business leaders with the goal of promoting prosperity in these regions.
Both the Seed Transformation Program and Stanford Go-to-Market program will be headquartered at the Botswana Innovation Hub, a science and technology park in Gaborone, Botswana. The initiative will be supported by a range of government entities in Botswana, including the Botswana Innovation Hub, the Botswana Ministry of Tertiary Education, and the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport & Culture Development.
Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, Stanford University is known for its entrepreneurial spirit and leadership in research and learning. Stanford’s faculty and students work to improve the health and wellbeing of people around the world through the discovery and application of knowledge. Breakthroughs at Stanford include the first successful heart-lung transplant, the debut of the computer mouse, and the development of digital music. Stanford’s areas of excellence span a wide range of fields across seven schools, including the Stanford GSB.
The Africa Travel Association to host the 41st Annual World Tourism Conference in Rwanda this month
August 17, 2017 | 0 Comments
How AfDB’s investments in youth raise hope for a new Africa
August 13, 2017 | 0 Comments
“The future of Africa’s youth does not lie in migration to Europe; it should not be at the bottom of the Mediterranean; it lies in a prosperous Africa. We must create greater economic opportunities for our youth right at home in Africa.” – Akinwumi Adesina to G7 leaders
Sixty per cent of unemployed people are young women and men. Of the young people who are employed, many are trapped in low-productivity work in the informal sector. Providing young African people with the education, skills and capacities for gainful employment is considered an urgent priority.
Thanks to the African Development Bank (AfDB), a new crop of highly inspired young Africans are gradually emerging. AfDB’s initiatives in this area are seen as model of how the continent’s young population could become a development asset for a new Africa.
To enable them contribute to the economy and to achieve an improved quality of life, a growing number of youths are embracing small, medium and large agriculture-based industries nudged on by the AfDB.
They are taking hold of their destiny. They can be also found in education, health, ICT and other facets of entrepreneurship.
Indeed, latest statistics reveal that many young Africans are not only exploring their inner potential, they are taking advantage of innovation platforms, inspired by the African Development Bank.
Through initiatives like the Jobs for Youth in Africa (JfYA), Empowering Novel Agri-Business-Led Employment (ENABLE) Youth, and the African Youth Agripreneurs Forum (AYAF), the AfDB is equipping young people with the right skills for business and employment. AfDB has also strengthened its support for science, technology and innovation training by investing in centres of excellence, working in collaboration with the private sector.
With 200 million Africans recorded to be between the ages of 15 and 29, youth unemployment and underemployment are high. Investing in skills through technical and vocational education will be essential to enabling young people to find jobs and business opportunities.
“We will keep Africa’s youth in Africa by expanding economic opportunities. This will help Africa to turn its demographic asset into an economic dividend,” Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group, said.
At the African Union Summit in January, the African Union (AU) adopted the theme for 2017 as “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth.”
AU Heads of States and Governments recognized a country-level demographic dividend as central to the continent’s economic transformation in the context of AU Agenda 2063 – its global strategy for socioeconomic transformation within the next 50 years.
Given Africa’s current demographic structure with a high youthful population, the regional body sees a substantial potential for economic transformation.
According to the AU Roadmap on Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth, “Africa is on the march towards a more prosperous future in which all its citizens, young, old, male, female, rural, urban, of all creeds and backgrounds are empowered to realize their full potential, live with satisfaction and pride about their continent.”
AfDB is showing that this is doable and is already leading the way.
For instance, through its Jobs for Youth in Africa initiative, AfDB has taken a comprehensive and integrated approach to equipping young people for work and enterprise.
Over the next decade, Jobs for Youth in Africa projects to generate 25 million jobs and impact 50 million youths.
In the agriculture sector, the AfDB is focusing on Empowering Novel Agri-Business-Led Employment (ENABLE) Youth programs, developing small and medium enterprises and creating jobs in agriculture. ENABLE Youth is a programme for young African people (18-35 years old) wanting to start a business in the agricultural sector. It works to promote, enhance, and modernize agricultural entrepreneurship in Africa.
The stories from the ENABLE Youth participants are resounding.
In Uganda (the second largest producer of bananas in the world), Sam Turyatunga saw an opportunity in producing his own brand of banana juice. As a college student, Sam produced the juice in his own dormitory. Supported by AfDB, Turyatunga now produces 1,500 litres of banana juice daily and sells its product in three other countries in East Africa. His firm also supports 500 banana farmers.
At the African University of Science and Technology in Abuja, Nigeria, young scientists and researchers are being trained to enhance industrial innovation, competitiveness and sustainable development across the continent.
“We are integrating a youth employment component into new Bank projects, and are working closely with regional member countries to develop policies that promote youth employment,” said Adesina.
The Bank believes that harnessing the labour, energy and enterprise of young women and men is critical to driving economic growth and reducing poverty.
In line with its Jobs for Youth in Africa Strategy, the Bank is integrating a youth employment component into the design of every operation it undertakes.
The Bank is assisting its regional member countries to develop national youth employment policies, supporting innovative work on best practices to help young people become entrepreneurs, and making investments that catalyze the private sector to increase employment opportunities.
There is a consensus that the 2017 theme on Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth, has the potential to have far-reaching implications that would address all the key issues that Governments have had to contend with, and change the development trajectory of Africa.
“We must create wealth and restore happiness to our nation. We can only do this when we have an educated and skilled population that is capable of competing in the global economy. We must expand our horizons and embrace science and technology as critical tools for our development,” said Nana Akufo-Addo, President of Ghana.
“The good economic prospects of our country must first profit our youth, because they are our greatest strength and our greatest wealth,” said Alassane Ouattara, President of Côte d’Ivoire.
AfDB’s leadership in this area is considered a viable example, which countries can tap into.
African Regional Center of New Development Bank to be launched next week
August 13, 2017 | 0 Comments
JOHANNESBURG, Aug. 12 (Xinhua) — The African Regional Centre of the New Development Bank (NDB) will be launched by the South African President Jacob Zuma on August 17 in Johannesburg.
This was revealed by the National Treasury in a statement on Friday. The African Regional Center will allow countries in the continent to have access to the bank.
“The launch of the African Regional Center will showcase the NDB’s service offering, highlighting the Bank’s potential role in the area of infrastructure and sustainable development in emerging and developing countries,” said the Treasury in the statement.
The NDB is an institution to solve the infrastructural development and funding problems for BRICS and developing countries particularly in Africa. The BRICS Summit in Brazil signed an agreement to establish the bank in 2014.
“Another key resolution taken at the 2014 Summit was to establish regional offices that would perform the important function of identifying and preparing proposals for viable projects that the bank could fund in the respective regions,” said the treasury.
The NDB headquarters were officially opened in Shanghai, China in February 2016. The NDB is expected to complement the work done by the Breton Woods institutions but not have strings loans like the latter.
Africa: A.P. Moller Holding launches new infrastructure fund with a focus on Africa
August 12, 2017 | 0 Comments
|The new fund will focus on investments in infrastructure in Africa to support sustainable economic growth in the region while delivering an attractive return to its investors|
|COPENHAGEN, Denmark, August 10, 2017/ — A.P. Moller Holding (www.APMoller.com) has together with PKA, PensionDanmark and Lægernes Pension launched a new infrastructure fund with a focus on Africa. The fund has received commitments of USD 550 million from anchor investors.
The new fund will focus on investments in infrastructure in Africa to support sustainable economic growth in the region while delivering an attractive return to its investors.
The fund will be managed by A.P. Moller Capital, which is an affiliate of A.P. Moller Holding, and consists of a team lead by four partners, Kim Fejfer, Lars Reno Jakobsen, Jens Thomassen and Joe Nicklaus Nielsen. The partners all have extensive industrial and investment experience combined with a substantial network in Africa.
“We are very pleased with the significant support from the Danish pension funds and A.P. Moller Holding. Together, we will build and operate infrastructure business in Africa to support sustainable development and improvements in living standards across the continent. We will combine the best from industry in terms of project management and operational capabilities with the best from private equity in terms of agility and focus,” says Kim Fejfer, Managing Partner and CEO of A.P. Moller Capital.
“A.P. Moller Holding was established to build value creating businesses that have a positive impact on society. Africa, with a working-age population likely to reach more than one billion people in the next decades, has a pressing requirement for more investments in infrastructure. In this respect, we are delighted to have established a new promising company in our portfolio with a strong team, who hold the right capabilities and experience to manage infrastructure investments in emerging markets,” says Robert Mærsk Uggla, CEO of A.P. Moller Holding.
The fund has a duration of 10 years and has an initial target of 10 to 15 investments in total.
Peter Damgaard Jensen, CEO at PKA: “PKA has for many years invested in infrastructure both in Denmark and abroad. We have positive experiences investing in Africa and we have for a long time wanted to invest more on the continent. With this new fund we will be making infrastructure investments in Africa and get the opportunity to provide a good return to the pension savers and at the same time make a positive difference in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals”.
Torben Möger Pedersen, CEO PensionDanmark: “We are delighted to be among the seed investors in Africa Infrastructure Fund I. We see this as a unique opportunity to invest in a region with high economic growth and attractive investment opportunities alongside a partner, A. P. Moller Capital, that has extensive investment experience combined with a strong network and a promising pipeline of potential investment projects. The fund is a good example of how private capital can be mobilized on large scale to implement the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals”.
Chresten Dengsøe, CEO at Lægernes Pension: “Lægernes Pension are delighted to invest in the development of sustainable infrastructure in Africa together with similar-minded Danish pension funds. The team has many years of experience and a proven track record in the region and we expect them to provide attractive investment opportunities going forward”.
Following first commitments, the fund will be open for additional institutional investors for the next 12 months. The ambition is to raise USD 1bn in commitments.
Fitch affirms African Development Bank’s Triple ‘A’ rating with Stable Outlook
August 12, 2017 | 0 Comments
Leading global rating agency Fitch Ratings has affirmed the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) Long-Term Issuer Default Rating (IDR) at ‘AAA’ with a Stable Outlook and its Short-Term IDR at ‘F1+’ (best quality grade, indicating exceptionally strong capacity to meet its financial commitments).
In a statement released on 4 August, the agency said the ‘AAA’ rating primarily reflects extraordinary support from AfDB’s shareholders which provides a three-notch uplift over the Bank’s intrinsic rating.
“AfDB enjoys strong support from its 80 member states, which include 26 non-African countries with high average ratings. Callable capital subscribed by member states rated ‘AAA’, the largest of which are the US, Germany and Canada, accounts for 21% of the total. This fully covered the Bank’s net debt at end-2016, underpinning the ‘aaa’ assessment of shareholders’ capacity to support,” the statement said.
The report underscores the strong propensity of member states to support the Bank in case of need as illustrated by previous capital increases and the Bank’s important role in the region’s financing.
In the assessment, Fitch maintains that fast growth in AfDB’s lending in the last two years has translated into a rapid increase in its indebtedness, noting that the Bank’s Management has indicated that if there is no clear evidence of a capital increase within the next two years, it will have no choice but to curb lending growth to preserve the Bank’s solvency metrics. The report added that if no capital increase is approved by 2019, debt will not be fully covered by callable capital from ‘AAA’ rated countries, adding that this would place substantial pressure on Fitch’s assessment of extraordinary support and, hence on AfDB’s IDR.
Fitch asserts that the relatively high risk profile of borrowers is mitigated by the preferred creditor status (PCS) that the Bank enjoys on its sovereign exposures.
Fitch assesses AfDB’s liquidity at ‘aaa’, which reflects excellent coverage of short-term debt by liquid assets (2.9x). However, Fitch notes that the share of the portfolio invested in securities or bank placements rated ‘AA-‘ or above (83% in 2016) is declining, although their quality is still assessed at excellent. Fitch understands that management intends to rebalance the treasury assets portfolio in order to increase the proportion of assets rated ‘AA-‘ or above. This would help underpin Fitch’s assessment of the strength of extraordinary support, given the relevance of liquid assets’ quality to the net debt calculation.
“The -1 notch adjustment to AfDB’s solvency stemming from our assessment of its business environment reflects the high risk operating environment in which the bank operates,” the report says, noting that the majority of African countries are classified as low income by the World Bank. The average income per capita and average rating of member states are the lowest of all regional MDBs, and they are subject to an overall high level of political risk.
Commenting on the rating, AfDB Acting Vice-President for Finance, Hassatou Diop N’Sele, said, “We welcome the confirmation of the AfDB’s AAA rating by Fitch, with a stable outlook. The Bank is dedicated to doing the most to make a marked positive difference in the lives of hundreds of millions of Africans, while at the same time preserving its financial integrity. Our High 5agenda is our response to the need to accelerate and scale up Africa’s development to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of the continent. The High 5 agenda, reflecting five identified priority areas (namely energy, agriculture, industrialization, integration and human capital development), enjoys strong support from our shareholders. The AfDB will continue to maintain a careful balance between maximizing its development effectiveness and assuring complete preservation of the interests of its stakeholders.”
One Thousand Young African Leaders Convene in Washington to Collaborate on Leadership and Skill Building
August 12, 2017 | 0 Comments
One thousand young African leaders gathered in Washington, D.C., last week for the 2017 Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit. Representing 48 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, the diverse group of leaders immersed themselves in activities to strengthen their leadership skills and to build connections with each other and U.S. leaders from the public, private, and non-profit sectors.
Held July 31 – August 2 and hosted by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs with support from IREX, the Summit marked the culmination of the Fellows’ six-week Academic and Leadership Institutes at colleges and universities across the United States. Fellows now return home to apply the skills they have gained and utilize the networks they have created to enhance peace and security, spur economic growth, and strengthen democratic institutions to the benefit of Africa and the United States.
Mandela Washington Fellow Peo Pinkie Sebotho from Botswanacommented on collaborating with other Fellows. “We were excited to share our experiences and our dreams for Africa. I made friends, I made business partners. We were planning what we would do together in the future.”
Mark Taplin, then Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, said: “I don’t think of this as just a Mandela Washington Fellows Summit. This may be the biggest gathering all year here in D.C. of the up-and-coming, the leading and creating, the dreaming and doing, the sharing and caring. You are the future in business and entrepreneurship, in civil society and governance of the world’s most up-and-coming continent.”
Wade Warren, then Acting Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development, also addressed the Fellows, calling on them to use the full power of the networks the Fellowship has helped them forge, and to think of challenges as opportunities.
Wednesday highlighted U.S. and African perspectives on leadership with remarks from Tony Elumelu, Chairman of Heirs Holdings and Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation; Dr. Helene Gayle, CEO of McKinsey Social Initiative; Norman Moyo, Author and CEO of New Enterprise Business DPA & CUMII at ECONET; and General (Retired) Richard Myers, President of Kansas State University and 15th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“I’ve studied why leaders are successful and I’ve seen a common thread: legacy. So as young leaders, you must think legacy. You must think long-term. The age you’re creating is the age of empowerment,” Elumelu declared.
In his address, General Myers emphasized courage and risk-taking. “If you’re trying to make a difference, you have to persevere. It takes more than a heroic leader to make a difference, it takes all of us,” urged Myers.
Wednesday also featured a Congressional forum on investing in the next generation of Africa with U.S. Senator from Delaware Chris Coons discussing advocacy, entrepreneurship, civic engagement, human rights, and U.S.-Africa relations.
IREX President and CEO Kristin M. Lord notes: “The Mandela Washington Fellowship creates a network of leaders advancing peace, prosperity, and more effective governance. That benefits not only people on the African continent, but forges people-to-people and government-to-government relationships that benefit both the United States and Africa.”
*Source IREX/PR Newswire.Contact Alex Cole, Director of Strategic Communications, IREX
CONSTITUENCY FOR AFRICA ANNOUNCES COLLABORATION WITH THE AFRICAN UNION AND THE ELLIOTT SCHOOL OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS FOR THE 2017 RONALD H. BROWN AFRICAN AFFAIRS SERIES
August 4, 2017 | 0 Comments
WASHINGTON, DC (August 3, 2017) – The Constituency for Africa (CFA) announces its collaboration with the African Union (AU) and the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University for the 2017 Ronald H. Brown African Affairs Series. This year’s Series will be held from September 18th through September 23rd in Washington, DC.
“I am excited about CFA’s partnership with the African Union and George Washington University,” stated Mr. Melvin P. Foote, CFA’s Founder, President & Chief Executive Officer. “We have worked closely with both institutions in previous years, and our collaboration this year affords CFA the opportunity to more closely align our efforts with the AU and George Washington University to engage the Diaspora on meaningful policy issues that affect the lives of hundreds of millions of Africans and Africans in the Diaspora.”
The theme of the 2017 Ronald H. Brown Series is “Mobilizing the Diaspora in Support of the U.S.-Africa Agenda.” The purpose of the Series will be to bring together stakeholders from the U.S., Africa, and throughout the Diaspora to assess the U.S. Administration’s Africa policy, and to identify challenges and opportunities. Participants in the Ronald H. Brown Series will discuss critical issues in a number of key areas, including Healthcare Infrastructure, Democracy & Governance, Trade & Investment, Next Generation Leadership, Agriculture, and Diaspora Engagement. Based on these discussions, CFA and its partners will produce a Diaspora strategy to include policy recommendations for the U.S. Administration and the AU.
Over the first three days of the Ronald H. Brown Series, CFA will convene several policy roundtables at the AU Mission in Washington, DC. “The AU looks forward to hosting CFA and its participants. Over the years, we have followed CFA’s work closely, and believe that CFA is having tremendous impact on U.S.-Africa policy. Additionally – and just as important – CFA’s work to educate and mobilize the African Diaspora is consistent with one of our key activities at the AU Mission. The AU is fully aware that sustainable development in Africa must involve the African Diaspora,” said H.E. Arikana Chihombori, the AU’s Permanent Representative to the U.S.
After the conclusion of the policy roundtables, CFA will convene a U.S.-Africa Policy Forum hosted by the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University in Washington, DC. In 2016, this Policy Forum was Co-Chaired by the Honorable Andrew Young, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and Mayor of Atlanta, Georgia; and His Excellency Hage Geingob, President of the Republic of Namibia. “Last year’s U.S.-Africa Policy Forum was a tremendous success,” said Ambassador Reuben E. Brigety, Dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs (ESIA), who hosted and moderated the Forum. “Based on our experience last year, ESIA expects the upcoming U.S.-Africa Policy Forum to provide a platform for a robust and productive policy discussion. I look forward to an exchange of ideas, and the development of substantive policy recommendations for the U.S. Government and the African Union.” ESIA will also host the CFA Chairman’s Reception on the evening of Wednesday, September 20th.
For more information on this year’s Ronald H. Brown African Affairs Series and to register for events, please visit www.ronaldbrownseries.org.
For over 26 years, CFA has established itself as one of the leading, non-partisan organizations focused on educating and mobilizing the American public and the African Diaspora in the U.S. on U.S.-Africa policy. As a result, CFA has helped to increase the level of cooperation and coordination among a broad-based coalition of individuals and organizations committed to the progress, development, and empowerment of Africa and African people worldwide.
The African Union Representational Mission to the U.S. is the first bilateral diplomatic mission of the African Union. Officially launched on July 11, 2007 in Washington, DC, its mandate is to undertake, develop, and maintain constructive and productive institutional relationships between the African Union and the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. Government, the African Diplomatic Corps, the Africans in the Diaspora, and the Bretton Woods Institutions.
About the Elliott School of International Affairs
The George Washington University has educated generations of international leaders and advanced the understanding of important global issues since 1821. The Elliott School of International Affairs, named in honor of former GW President Lloyd H. Elliott and his wife Evelyn, is dedicated to this mission. ESIA trains its students in the theory and practice of international affairs, offering them in-depth analysis of international economic, political, scientific and cultural issues. The School’s widely respected faculty prepares Elliott School students for global careers in the public, private and non-profit sectors.
Barclays Africa Group to Collaborate with Nine Fintech Companies
August 2, 2017 | 0 Comments
Barclays Africa Group, one of Africa’s largest financial services group with close to 12 million customers, will collaborate with nine financial technology (fintech) companies to rapidly explore promising new technology-based solutions that could prompt significant improvements for consumers and in bank services.
Barclays Africa will collaborate with fintech companies including Abe.ai from the US, Kapitalwise from the US, as well as FOMO Group and Byte Money from South Africa to test the potential to scale up and roll out the solutions across the ten countries where Barclays Africa Group has operations. Others include Howler, FlexPay, Spatialedge, Sun Exchange and Avenews-GT.
“The solutions created by these companies are among the top innovations in the fintech space in the world right now,” said Yasaman Hadjibashi, Chief Creation Officer at Barclays Africa Group. “Any of these solutions could have the potential to solve some of the biggest challenges facing the financial services sector in Africa,” said Hadjibashi, who leads Barclay Africa Group’s innovation agenda.
The fintech companies are among ten businesses that participated in the 2017 Barclays Accelerator, powered by Techstars, a worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed. The 13-week mentorship driven accelerator programme, hosted at Rise, Barclays Africa Group’s fintech innovation hub in Cape Town during May to July, follows the renowned Techstars curriculum which comprises intensive networking and development initiatives. The experience is enhanced through the involvement of local and global mentors, including industry experts and Barclays Africa executives.
The ten companies showcased their solutions during a ‘demo day’ held in Cape Town today. The participating companies were selected in a robust and competitive process that attracted applications from more than 50 countries. Barclays Africa Group is exploring potential agreements with further participants.
“Today’s demo day, to an audience of investors and corporate partners, showcased both the breadth and depth of the innovations happening here in Africa. I’m excited by the caliber and potential that these companies have to offer,” said Yossi Hasson, Managing Director of Techstars (Barclays Accelerator).
The financial services industry has experienced significant disruption over the past few years as agile fintech start-up companies introduced solutions that brought step-changes to customer convenience and efficiency. Barclays Africa Group is staying ahead of the curve by embracing start-ups and their agile approach, seeking out their disruptive thinking and challenging the norm.
Rise, Barclays Africa Group’s fintech hub in Cape Town, was established to foster innovation and create the future of financial services together with Rise centres in New York, London, Mumbai, Tel Aviv and others. The global Rise network is a community of the world’s brightest startups, experts, investors and colleagues. The network offers startups access to an exclusive network of curated experts, businesses and partners so they can work together, learn together and solve the biggest industry challenges together.
“Innovation is the powerful collaboration of bright humble minds that are continuously originating, testing and shipping new customer-centric products,” said Hadjibashi.
Participants in the 2017 Barclays Accelerator, powered by Techstars
|Abe.ai||Abe AI is a revolutionary AI platform that eliminates friction within customer interactions, helping banks provide superior customer service at scale while reducing operational costs|
|Howler||Howler is the powerful tech platform that event organisers use to optimise the planning, promotion, management and control of their events, and to create fault-free, frictionless, seamless guest experiences and ‘moments that matter’.|
|Spatialedge||Spatialedge – Proprietary technology as well as wholly owned spatial and consumer datasets are used to drive precision targeted engagements with existing, and prospective clients, growing both the customer base and customer lifetime value by enabling critical customer acquisition and retention activities to become data driven.|
|Sun Exchange||Sun Exchange enables anyone in the world own and lease solar panels to power African businesses and communities to earn a solar powered income. Sun Exchange closes a huge gap for commercial scale solar energy finance across Africa. The underpinning technology that enables this is Blockchain, utilised to enable global micro-investing using autonomous secure smart-contracts.|
|FOMO Group||FOMO Group consists of two subsidiaries; FOMO Travel and FOMO Payments. FOMO Travel is a proven business which allows people to travel debt-free and conscience-free. FOMO Payments is taking the same model to the entire travel industry by allowing a wider scope of travelers to use the gamified, lay-buy, interest-free payment solution with any supplier.|
|Avenews-GT||Avenews-GT is a decentralized ecosystem for agricultural trade that provides a digital trading platform based on Blockchain technology to enable verified farmers and cooperatives to transact directly with agri-buyers such as retailers and manufacturers to reduce distribution costs, create financial security and increase supply chain transparency.|
|Byte Money||Byte Money is a receipting and allocation specialist servicing Sub Saharan Africa. The platform enables secure, verified and authenticated ‘agent collections’ and real time reporting for the micro finance industry.|
|FlexPay||FlexPay Technologies offers an automated, reliable and accurate lay-buy purchase platform that increases merchant’s sales by enabling customers to afford goods and services via convenient flexible payments. With both online and offline functionality, consumers are enabled to make payments towards the intended item for purchase over a stipulated timeframe.|
|eCoida||eCOIDA is a web based platform, bringing together employers, employees, medical service providers (“MSPs”) and the Insurer, in a real-time, seamless and integrated process that conforms to the full spectrum of statutory and policy requirements in the Injury on duty market space.|
|Kapitalwise||Kapitalwise disrupts the way millennial investors invest in capital markets by simplifying the process through the automation of investment decisions. They empower financial enterprises with a simple and easy to use digital platform that will nudge users to make frequent but small investment.|
Barclays Africa Group Limited (“Barclays Africa” or “the Group”) is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and is one of Africa’s largest financial services groups.
Barclays Africa offers personal and business banking, credit cards, corporate and investment banking, wealth and investment management and insurance.
The Group operates in 12 countries with approximately 40,000 employees, serving close to 12 million customers.
The Group registered head office is in Johannesburg, South Africa and owns majority stakes in banks in Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, South Africa (Absa), Tanzania (Barclays Bank Tanzania and National Bank of Commerce), Uganda and Zambia. The Group also has representative offices in Namibia and Nigeria.
Liberia’s president calls for peace as campaigns begin
August 2, 2017 | 0 Comments
MONROVIA, Liberia – Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is urging peaceful elections as candidates begin campaigning to replace the Nobel Peace Prize winner who has led the West African country through the Ebola crisis and recovery from civil war.
Among those running in the Oct. 10 election are her vice president and two of the men she faced during Liberia’s last vote in 2011.
In a radio broadcast late Monday, the 78-year-old Sirleaf urged political leaders to put Liberia first and control the emotions of their supporters.
“We hold them as political leaders who seek the highest office of our land to act with dignity and responsibility that befits that office — to live up to their commitments to ensure violence-free elections,” she said.
These are the country’s third presidential and general elections following the end of the 14-year civil war that devastated the nation and killed over a quarter of a million people. Fighting ended in 2003.
Anxiety is high over who will succeed Sirleaf, a 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner who led the country through the Ebola epidemic that killed more than 4,800 people.
Among the top candidates is her vice president, 72-year-old Joseph Nyumah Boakai, who has been endorsed by Sirleaf and appears to be profiting from a divided opposition.
Former soccer star George Weah, a current senator who ran as vice president on the 2011 ticket that lost to Sirleaf, also is mounting a bid. It is his second attempt at the presidency after losing in 2005.
His running mate is Jewel Taylor, a fellow senator and the ex-wife of former President Charles Taylor. The former Liberian leader was convicted of crimes against humanity for his role in the violence in neighboring Sierra Leone.
Another repeat candidate is Prince Johnson, a one-time rebel leader who has long been involved in politics. Human rights activist MacDella Cooper is the lone female presidential candidate. She has said that as president she would reduce her salary to $1 a year.
In a World of Disarray, Africa Is Taking Steps Forward
July 31, 2017 | 0 Comments
At this juncture in mid-2017, while the Middle East remains highly turbulent and global security challenges remain acute from Korea and East Asia to Ukraine and Afghanistan, what is the state of security in Africa? A continent of fifty-four nations, ranging from the Arab regions of the north to the Sahel region and a number of subzones in Sub-Saharan Africa, there are of course many stories to tell. But three stand out. The net assessment for the continent as a whole, while far from rosy, has a number of promising dimensions.
Africa’s security situation might be summarized as follows:
First is the state of terrorism and extremism. This remains a tough and disturbing story, overall. Countries from Mali to Libya to Somalia have been afflicted, by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, ISIS, and Al-Shabaab among the key perpetrators. Terrorist attacks have also occurred in places such as Kenya and Burkina Faso. It is hard to talk of improvement in any of these places. At least things are not getting worse on balance. Indeed, there has perhaps even some slight improvement in Nigeria in particular, where the fight against Boko Haram continues(and occasionally spills over slightly into neighboring countries like Cameroon), but where the International Institute for Strategic Studies reports a reduced fatality rate relative to 2015.
Second is the state of civil war and famine in several key countries in the general east-west swath of land that includes the semi-arid Sahel region of Africa. This is a tragedy happening before our eyes in real time. It involves a belt of nations overlapping with some of the countries suffering from terrorism and extremism. The Sudans, Central African Republic, Somalia and Nigeria are among the worst hit, with parts of these countries collectively now containing more than 15 million people at acute risk of starvation. Beyond the specific risks from famine, South Sudan continues to devour itself in pointless and petty violence that involves huge numbers of sexual crimes as well.
Other conflict zones in this swath of countries may be faring slightly better. Sudan does not have the degree of infighting it suffered a decade ago, even if it is far from peaceful. On June 19 of this year, the Central African Republic’s government and thirteen of the fourteen armed groups in the country signed an accord to end ethnic and religious conflict. However, it is too soon to know if this will lead to a meaningful trend towards stability.
Third is the continent writ large, encompassing the majority of the nations in Africa. Most of it is more peaceful that it has been, on average, since the waves of independence in the late 1950s and 1960s or during most of the Cold War and then the 1990s. On balance, Africa is slightly more stable (and somewhat more democratic) than ever before in modern times.
Of course, this is a provisional judgment—and whatever peace may be breaking out coexists near lots of ongoing conflict and also requires many peacekeepers to sustain. Indeed, there are currently eight United Nations peacekeeping operations in Africa: UNMISS in South Sudan, UNISFA in the disputed Abyei region, UNAMID in Darfur, MONUSCO in the Democratic Republic of Congo, MINUSCA in Central African Republic, MINUSMA in Mali, UNMIL in Liberia and finally MINURSO in Western Sahara. Overall, there are over 92,000 personnel serving in UN peacekeeping operations in Africa.
In addition to collaborating with the UN in Darfur, the African Union has two active peace operations: AMISOM in Somalia, and the Regional Cooperation Initiative for the Elimination of the Lord’s Resistance Army (RCI-LRA). There are over 22,000 deployed AMISOM personnel, with most of its troops coming from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone. RCI-LRA has a Regional Task Force of over 3,000 soldiers from Uganda, South Sudan, DRC and CAR.
Political tensions over transfers of power, or more commonly, the absence of a transfer of power, make things dicey in several other countries, too. Too many leaders are holding onto power indefinitely, either through sham elections or no real elections at all, or the dominance of political organization and process in their respective countries that allows them to get elected more or less indefinitely. Not only DRC and Burundi, but Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Angola are notable examples of this dangerous trend. Even in a relatively benign case like Paul Kagame’s Rwanda, where the strongman leader has undoubtedly delivered much for his country, the tendency towards a “presidency for life” pattern of behavior puts democracy—and national stability—at risk.
Indeed, eight presidents in Africa have now amassed more than 229 years in power between them. These include: Eduardo dos Santos from Angola (thirty-seven), Teodoro Obiang Nguema from Equatorial Guinea (thirty-seven), Paul Biya from Cameroon (thirty-three), Idriss Deby from Chad (twenty-six), Denis Sassou-Nguesso of Congo-Brazzaville (thirty-two), Yoweri Museveni of Uganda (thirty-one), Paul Kagame of Rwanda (seventeen) and Joseph Kabila of the DRC (sixteen). Beyond just these cases, Africa’s trend towards democracy, after an impressive period of improvement in the 1990s and 2000s, has plateaued: Freedom House ranked four African countries as free in 1998, eleven as free in 2007, but only ten as free in 2016.
There are more hopeful political stories too, of course. In January 2017, former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh left the country after twenty-two years in power, marking the first president to peacefully hand over power in Gambia since its independence from the British in 1965. The Gambia’s peaceful transition of governance gives hope for future democratic elections. More significantly, a successful election in Kenya in August could give the cause of African democracy a substantial boost.
Southern Africa, including Angola and Mozambique, remains fairly quiet in terms of conflict if not necessarily politics. Most of West Africa is moving well beyond the civil wars of the 1990s and 2000s (and the Ebola crisis of 2014). Ethiopia, the continent’s second most populous state, may have quieted down somewhat after significant unrest a couple years ago.
On balance, there are ample troubles today in Africa, as always. Yet fatality rates are down more than half relative to the 1990s, according to data from the Peace Research Institute of Oslo and Uppsala University in Sweden among others (and economic growth rates, while slower the last couple years, have typically reached 4 to 5 percent annually in the 2000s, after decades of far worse performance). Overall, in a world characterized by disarray, it may be somewhat risky but still fair to venture that Africa continues to move gradually if fitfully forward.
*Source National Interest.Michael O’Hanlon is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Emily Terry is an intern with the Brookings Africa Security Initiative.