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End of discussion: Deathly ban on free expression and the rise of fascism
December 17, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Chido Onumah *

Omoyele Sowore, a New-York based Nigerian journalist and prominent activist remains in detention under controversial circumstances.Photo credit :Quartz
Omoyele Sowore, a New-York based Nigerian journalist and prominent activist remains in detention under controversial circumstances.Photo credit :Quartz

At a time Nigeria requires a robust conversation about its politics, economy, ethnic relations, unity, and indeed, future, the country’s over-indulged lawmakers, egged on by a president who is anything but a democrat, are placing a deathly ban on free speech. This proposed ban must be opposed and defeated by any means necessary!

Two dangerous bills are currently in the National Assembly seeking not only to establish an “Independent National Commission for the prohibition of hate speeches” but to curtail free expression and take state repression of alternative voices to a whole new level by making the right to hold contrary views a capital offence. Social media and the civic space are the new arenas in Gen. Buhari’s renewed war against Nigerians; a war that goes back to 1984. And he isn’t alone. That other interloper, our First Lady, has already warned that, “If China can control 1.8billion people on social media, I see no reason why Nigeria should not attempt controlling only 180million people.”

There are enough reasons to oppose these bills. One, they are a throwback to the dark years of repression that saw the humiliation, harassment disappearance and assassination of journalists and social activists; two, the bills are being proposed in the regime of a military dictator-turned politician—a self-professed born again democrat—whose antecedent does not speak of one in tune with the tenets of an open society; three, the proposed laws  do not take into account the country’s current realities; realities that include a bulging youth population weaned on a regular diet of technology and free flow of information; four, and importantly, these bills bear the telltale signs of the precursor of a political agenda that typified the second term of the regime of Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo.

For these reasons and more, those who cherish freedom and are concerned about the prospect of Nigeria sliding into one-man rule or the rule of a triumvirate, must band together and say unequivocally that we shall never travel this road again. Our country has a long history of murderous attacks on the media, civic space and freedom of expression. And unless we halt the current slide, this history will repeat itself with very tragic consequences.

Last week, the Punch newspaper, in a well-crafted editorial highlighting the creeping fascism in the country noted, “As a symbolic demonstration of our protest against autocracy and military-style repression, Punch will henceforth prefix Buhari’s name with his rank as a military dictator in the 80s, Major General, and refer to his administration as a regime, until they purge themselves of their insufferable contempt for the rule of law.”

Mr. Buhari and his handlers did not disappoint. They responded the way a regime and its courtiers who are out of touch with reality would respond. For them, Buhari “earned” the rank and, therefore, should not be concerned that he is being referred to as a general. By that logic, it seems they are tacitly agreeing that Gen. Buhari has not earned the title of president, much less a democrat, if they are not concerned that he is being addressed as a general in a democratic dispensation. For a man who ran for president on four occasions, shed tears when he lost and publicly confessed that he is a born-again democrat, that must sting even if he and his adulators pretend they are unperturbed.

Of course, Gen. Buhari has not hidden his disdain for the rule of law. Several actions of his regime foreshadowed the decision of the Punch newspaper, but none was more egregious than the events of Friday, December 6, where agents of the State Security Service (SSS) invaded the Federal High Court in Abuja to abduct Omoyele Sowore and Olawale Bakare, two activists who had been granted bail—after more than 120 days in illegal detention on allegation of announcing a revolution on TV—and had subjected themselves to trial.

In August 2018, Gen. Buhari gave a foretaste of what Nigerians should expect when he appeared at the Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and averred that, “Rule of Law must be subject to the supremacy of the nation’s security and national interest.” Under the regime of Gen. Buhari, the rule of law and due process—the legal requirement that the state must respect all legal rights that are owed to a person—the pillars of democracy, have come under severe attack.

Individual, media and civic freedom has been subordinated to the power and authority of Gen. Buhari and his security agencies. There is a name for this: fascism! Under the current regime, we have seen the invasion of the National Assembly by the SSS. We have witnessed flagrant abuse of due process, the desecration of our courts and the strangulation of the judiciary by the same SSS. Now, they have descended on the last bastion of our democracy: the media and civil society.

As pro-democracy and civil society organizations, journalists, civic activists, etc., gather in Lagos on Tuesday, December 17, for this year’s pro-democracy conference, they need to pay close attention to the theme of the conference, “reviving popular action for democracy and freedom in Nigeria.” Nigeria returned to “democracy” in 1999. Twenty years after, the country is still fighting for its rulers to keep faith with the fundamental tenets of democratic governance. Every day, reactionary forces continue to undermine our hard-won victories; they constantly chip away at the prospect of an egalitarian society; they scorn the need for a robust media and civic space and social progress.

What this tells us is that as citizens, we must, as the late great pan-Africanist, Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, admonished, “organize rather than agonize.” We have travelled this road before and no matter how hard they try, this is one battle Gen. Buhari and those who seek to steal our freedoms can’t win.

We stand in solidarity with all prisoners of conscience in Nigeria: Omoyele Sowore, Olawale Bakare, Agba Jalingo and other journalists and civic activists in prisons across the country and call for their immediate and unconditional release. That is the only way to restore the democratic credentials of the Buhari regime.  

*Onumah is author of We Are All Biafrans: A Participant-Observer’s Interventions in a Country Sleepwalking to Disaster.

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Equatorial Guinea Expects Major Oil & Gas Investments in 2020
December 17, 2019 | 0 Comments


The country estimates $1.2 billion in investments and a contingent forecast of $273 million into its hydrocarbon sector in 2020


MALABO, Equatorial Guinea, December 16, 2019/ — The Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons has concluded its work program and budget meeting evaluations after technical negotiations with oil and gas companies; The country estimates $1.2 billion in investments and a contingent forecast of $273 million into its hydrocarbon sector in 2020; The country is actively pursuing international investors in an effort to increase exploration activity and boost its oil and gas sector.

Equatorial Guinea’s Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons (MMH) has concluded its evaluation of work programs and budget meetings of multiple oil blocks in the country, corresponding to the 2020 fiscal year, which has yielded many successful results.

A major outcome of these meetings is the expected direct investment of a minimum of $1.4 billion; a firm $1.2 billion and a contingent forecast of $273 million predicted for 2020, associated with the drilling of two wells and the continuous development of six existing wells.

The expected investment will support several oil field projects, aid in the generation of reservoir models and assist in the preparation of drilling equipment in identified prospects up until the first quarter of 2021. The investment will also generate a robust amount of direct and indirect jobs in the country’s hydrocarbon sector specifically for citizens of Equatorial Guinea.

“We expect 2020 to be the biggest year of investment in Equatorial Guinea’s hydrocarbons industry in years. This is a strong sign of our industry’s enduring attractiveness and will enable us to continue increasing oil and gas production, support local companies and create jobs.” Stated H.E. Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima, Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons.

In 2019, Noble Energy, Trident Energy and Kosmos Energy, all made offshore discoveries and will enter 2020 doing further appraisals. Those offshore campaigns are expected to yield positive results in Equatorial Guinea’s efforts to reverse oil production declines.

Noble Energy made a new discovery in Block 1 offshore Equatorial Guinea in August and Trident and Kosmos Energy made a joint oil discovery at the S-5 well in November. 

*Africa Energy Chamber

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Equatorial Guinea Pledges Continued Support to Foreign Operators in its Hydrocarbon Sector
December 17, 2019 | 0 Comments

Equatorial Guinea continues to be proactive in encouraging foreign direct investment into the country

MALABO, Equatorial Guinea, December 16, 2019/ — New rules introduced by the Bank of Central African States has created a challenging environment for foreign investment into CFA union states; The Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons will continue to support foreign operators in its hydrocarbon sector; Equatorial Guinea continues to be proactive in encouraging foreign direct investment into the country.

Equatorial Guinea’s Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons (MMH) recognizes that new financial measures passed by the Bank of Central African States (BEAC) will create restrictions for international oil companies. The MMH is prepared to provide continued support to its foreign operators as they put more capital into Equatorial Guinea’s resources.

In June, the BEAC introduced new rules to bring order to a monetary bloc flooded with petrodollars – which often end up in offshore bank accounts after bypassing local economies completely – and curb money laundering and diminishing foreign exchange reserves that are causing cash flow shortages across the CFA union.

The new rules state that all foreign exchange transfers over $1,680 be vetted for approval by the bank, and that all export proceeds above $8,400 be repatriated in 150 days to a local bank account. These stringent rules have resulted in transaction delays of up to three months.

“Equatorial Guinea understands the need to be proactive in promoting investment and reaching out to global energy stakeholders. We will continue to support investment into our hydrocarbon sector, despite challenging circumstances. We welcome all investors to help us further develop our oil and industry,” says H.E Gabriel Obiang Lima, Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons, Equatorial Guinea.

The central African CFA union comprises Chad, Congo Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Cameroon and Central African Republic – all but the last of them among sub-Saharan Africa’s top oil producers, whose financial dealings are among the world’s most opaque.

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African Development Bank approves $5 million grant to scale up Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme
December 17, 2019 | 0 Comments

Tony Elumelu

The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank has approved a grant of $5 million to enable the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme to scale up its outreach and impact to 1,000 select youth entrepreneurs.

The grant follows the signing of a letter of intent between the Bank and the Tony Elumelu Foundation, which took place during the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme launch in March this year. The partnership will bring about future collaboration focused on strengthening small to medium-sized enterprises as well as talent and skills development for Africa’s youth.

The partnership will support 3,050 young entrepreneurs across 54 African countries. The Bank’s participation will enable an additional 1,000 entrepreneurs to benefit from the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Program, which provides much needed opportunities to help stem the rising tide of unemployment and inequality facing the continent’s youngest citizens.

The programme aligns with the Bank’s ten-year Jobs for Youth in Africa strategy launched in 2016, to support the creation of 25 million decent jobs across the continent. The strategy is also expected to equip 50 million young African people with employable skills that enable them to access economic opportunities and realize their full economic potential across the continent.

The Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme will deliver business training, mentoring, access to networks, markets and capital for business development to selected youth-led start-ups in order for them to grow and create jobs.

The Entrepreneurship Programme demonstrates a strong alignment with the Bank’s Youth Entrepreneurship and Innovation Multi-Donor Trust Fund objectives to build the African youth entrepreneurship ecosystem by scaling innovative youth led start-ups, expanding youth market opportunities and improving youth access to finance.

Other development partners involved in supporting the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme are Agence Française de Développement, the German Agency for International Cooperation, the United Nations Development Programme and the International Committee of the Red Cross. They will also work to provide more business opportunities to youth entrepreneurs across the continent.

In 2017, the Bank established the Youth Entrepreneurship and Innovation Multi-Donor Trust Fund, in partnership with the governments of Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Italy and the Netherlands. The fund is a grant vehicle managed by the Bank to support the African entrepreneurship ecosystem directly and indirectly by leveraging on the Bank’s instruments. Its interventions will equip Africa’s youth with the right tools to establish start-ups and micro, small and medium enterprises.

*AFDB

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African Development Bank commits €20 million to boost private sector competitiveness in Cabo Verde
December 17, 2019 | 0 Comments

The African Development Bank’s Board of Directors today approved a €20 million loan to strengthen the private sector’s role in Cabo Verde’s economic growth. 

Bank funding will support the second phase of the Private Sector Competitiveness and Local Economic Development Programme (PSC-LED-II).  The programme will extend fiscal 2019 budget support to the government of Cabo Verde as it undertakes reforms to boost domestic productivity and the country’s overall economy.

Specific initiatives of PSC-LED-II include promoting the competitiveness environment through the adoption of a revised commercial companies code, key legislation for judicial insolvency as well as a strategy of transition from the informal to the formal sector. The African Development Bank project partners include the World Bank and the European Union, as well as the governments of Luxembourg and Portugal.

The project advances the Bank’s aim to industrialize Africa and to improve the lives of its people, two of its High 5 development priorities.

Approval of the loan by the Bank’s Board of Directors signaled the successful completion of the first phase of the project, which set out a project framework and proposed reform measures. 

“The overall performance of the programme is good and we continue to work closely with authorities and with development partners,” said Abdoulaye Coulibaly, Director of the Bank’s Governance and Public Financial Management Coordination Office.

The planned reforms aim to strengthen Cabo Verde’s private sector by tackling the Atlantic island nation’s score on a number of competitiveness and economic development indicators. These include increasing credit to the private sector from 63% in 2016 to 70% of GDP in 2020; improving Cabo Verde’s score on the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business index; and boosting labor contribution to value added growth from 1.1% in 2014-2017 to 2% in 2017-2020.

A few hours after the approval of the project by the Board of Directors, an agreement was signed at the Bank’s headquarters between Marie-Laure Akin-Olugbade, the Bank’s Director General for West Africa and the Ambassador of Cabo Verde in Senegal, Felino de Carvalho.

“The signing of this loan agreement affirms the Bank’s commitment to supporting Cabo Verde’s economic advancement.  We have every confidence the government will continue the vital reforms needed to strengthen the private sector and decentralization.” Akin-Olugbade noted.

*AFDB

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2019 UN climate change conference (COP25): African Development Bank urges African nations to persist with climate change ambitions as marathon talks end in Madrid
December 17, 2019 | 0 Comments

The Bank will also continue to drive initiatives to strengthen the ability of regional member countries to advocate robustly at global forums such as COP 25
MADRID, Spain, December 16, 2019/ — The African Development Bank (www.AfDB.org) has urged the continent’s nations to stay the course on climate action, after a marathon session of talks at the twenty-fifth Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 25) in Madrid.

The conference was scheduled to run from 2 to 13 December, but only concluded business on Sunday, two days after the official programme ended.

Meanwhile, back home, Africans were reminded of the all-too-real consequences if these talks fail to deliver results. Thousands of East Africans have been displaced in the wake of heavy rains that have battered the region since October, and more wet weather is expected due to an Indian Ocean Dipole attributed to the warming of the ocean.

Such extreme weather events should galvanise Africans; their governments are spending 2% of GDP on climate related disasters, said Anthony Nyong, Director for Climate Change and Green Growth at the African Development Bank. He encouraged the global community to remain steadfast in finding effective solutions to climate change. The annual negotiations are now in their 25th year.

“The global community, and in particular Africa has a lot to offer in terms of solutions; what is evidently lacking is the global political will to turn potential into wealth to serve humanity and the planet,” said Nyong, who led the Bank’s delegation to the UN conference.

At the conference, African delegates pushed for support for climate finance to build resilience against the impact of climate change and for special consideration for Africa around targets contained in the treaties under discussion.

The discussions at COP 25 centred around the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement, which calls on countries to cut carbon emissions to ensure that global temperatures do not rise by more than 2°C by the end of this century, while attempting to contain it within 1.5°C. The conference ended with a declaration on the “urgent need” to close the gap between existing emissions pledges and the temperature goals of the Paris agreement.

The African Development Bank attended the conference to lend strategic support to its regional member countries in the negotiations.

Nyong pointed out that Africa is committed; 51 of the 54 African countries have already ratified their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement signed at the landmark COP21 in Paris. The NDCs are specific climate change targets that each country must set.

Support for the Bank-funded Desert to Power project highlighted Africa’s determination to strive for a climate-friendly world, especially for its local populations, said Nyong. Desert to Power is a $20 billion initiative to deploy solar energy solutions across the entire Sahel region, generating 10,000 MW to provide 250 million people with clean electricity.

“The African Development Bank stands ready as ever to assist its regional member countries to build resilience against climate change, as indicated by the Bank’s decision to join the Alliance for Hydromet Development, announced at COP 25 (https://bit.ly/35sye5S). The Alliance will assist developing countries to build resilience against the impact of natural disasters caused by extreme weather,” Nyong said.

The Bank will also continue to drive initiatives to strengthen the ability of regional member countries to advocate robustly at global forums such as COP 25, Nyong added. One example was the Bank’s participation at the annual African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) and support for the Africa Group of Negotiations (AGN).

“We look forward to engaging further with regional member countries and other parties to ensure that the continent’s development agenda remains on track,” Nyong added.

Leaders and institutions from 196 nations plus the European Union, who have signed up to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, attended the conference in Madrid.

*AFDB
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US Congress Calls On UN to investigate atrocities in Cameroon’s Crisis
December 16, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Amos Fofung

Ambassador Kelly Craft urged to push UN to act on Cameroon worsening conflict (photo: AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Ambassador Kelly Craft urged to push UN to act on Cameroon worsening conflict (photo: AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Eliot L. Engle, Chairman of United States House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs has penned an opened letter to US permanent representative to the United Nation, Ambassador Kelly Craft expressing deep concerns over the worsening situation of Cameroon’s armed conflict with its separatist rebels. 

In his strongly -worded letter, he opines that it was time good enough to send a “strong signal to the government of Cameroon and armed separatist fighters perpetuating violence that the international community will not turn a blind eye to the gross violation of human rights” they subdue the population to, daily.

In the letter, a copy of which was sent to our newsroom, the chairman of the house foreign affairs committee remarked that the conflict which metamorphosed into an armed revolution in 2017 has entered a whole new dimension with over 3.000 deaths recorded already and over 800.000 internally displaced with some 35.000 seeking asylum in neighboring Nigeria.

Painting a bleak picture of the humanitarian situation that has now plague Cameroon, chairman Eliot notes; “approximately 4.3 million people in Cameroon are now in need of humanitarian assistance and over 600.000 children have been denied access to education for the past three years.”

Lamenting over the fact that despite the disturbing situation in Cameroon, humanitarian organizations find it hard to access the needy population due to the altitude of the government of Cameroon.

“As a response to this situation, I urge you to lead an effort at the united nations to pass a resolution calling for an end to the violence in Cameroon and the establishment of an independent international fact-finding mission.”

Such a mission, he says will “help determine the fact and circumstances of the gross human rights violations being committed by the country’s military, security forces and armed separatists and, hopefully, bring an end to the overall impunity with which these crimes and atrocities are being committed.”

In doing so, Eliot L. Engle hopes peace, justice and the protection of minority rights in Cameroon will enhance stability for the country and the entire Central African subregion as a whole while fostering the “vital interest of the United States.”

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From Gabonews to Global Business Mogul: The story of Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard, Founder and Chairman of APO Group
December 16, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Our partnerships with world-leading multinational media platforms ensure our content is delivered to global audiences, says Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard

With a  client list that includes  global giants like Facebook, Uber, Marriott, Hilton, GE, Orange, DHL, Philips, the NBA, Standard Chartered Bank, Siemens, Canon, PwC, EY, McKinsey & Company, AccorHotels, flydubai, DP World, and others, the African Press Organisation Group, is  the indisputable leader when it comes to public relations, media relations, and press release distribution services in the continent.

Building the firm to the iconic status it enjoys today is the handiwork of Franco-Gabonese self-made entrepreneur Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard, the Founder, chairman and 100% owner of APO Group. In 2007, Nicolas was still a Journalist for the online Gabonese news outfit Gabonews when he took the risk of investing his savings of €10.000 into the creation of the APO Group. The investment proved to be a stroke of genius, and today, the Group works with more than 300 clients from government to international institutions, prominent personalities, and a myriad of companies across Africa, and the Middle East.

“Our reach across all 54 countries in Africa is unparalleled, but we also want to raise the profile of African organizations internationally, and our partnerships with world-leading multinational media platforms ensures our content is delivered to global audiences,” says Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard in an interview with Pan African Visions.

Though Pompigne-Mognard stepped down as CEO of the Group and appointed Lionel Reina to take over in December 2018, he remains very active on issues concerning the APO Group in diverse capacities. He sits on the Advisory Board of the Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF), the premier hotel investment conference in Africa, and is also member of the Advisor Board of the EurAfrican Forum, an action-oriented platform that aims to foster stronger collaboration between Europe, and Africa.

While public and media relations  will remain the core business under the leadership of   Lionel Reina as  CEO, the APO Group plans to make acquisitions in the field of digital transformation , and data management, says Pompigne-Mognard .

“Our ultimate goal is to become the consulting firm of choice for all companies looking to grow across Africa,” says Pompigne-Mognard in the interview which also discusses the media landscape in Africa, helping the  next generation of African communicators, sponsorship of the World Rugby’s African association, and more.

Thanks for granting us this interview, Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard. As the Founder and Chairman of leading Pan-African communications consultancy ,APO Group, could you start by giving us an overview of the firm, and its standing in the global media landscape today?,

Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard : APO Group is a consulting firm operating across Africa. We provide public relations, media relations and press release distribution services and have developed a growing portfolio of turnkey solutions for the world’s leading brands. Our core business is in the production, distribution and monitoring of text, image and video to online, print, broadcast and social media, but we also provide a bridge between business communicators and the media by helping hundreds of diverse organizations build meaningful relations with journalists and the wider media community.

Our reach across all 54 countries in Africa is unparalleled, but we also want to raise the profile of African organizations internationally. Our partnerships with world-leading multinational media platforms ensure our content is delivered to global audiences. Recently we partnered with Getty Images, meaning our clients’ photos and videos reach their subscribers all over the world.

By opening up new audiences in this way, we can change the narrative around our continent, ensuring uplifting, positive and uniquely African stories reach as many people as possible.

It is our understanding that you started off as a journalist for a Gabonese media. What pushed you into creating the APO Group and how were you able to raise the seed capital?

Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard :I wanted to change the narrative about Africa. At the time, the majority of news being written about the continent was negative. I wanted to find a way of addressing that and ensuring more positive stories were getting out to international audience.

I was a journalist working as European correspondent for Gabonews back in 2007, and I had known for years how difficult it was to get hold of Africa-related press releases.

There simply wasn’t a way for the media to find public relations content all in one place. That connectivity didn’t exist.

So, APO Group was the result of creating a channel that communicators could use to tell their compelling stories to the rest of the world. 12 years later, we are the leading press release distribution firm in Africa and the Middle East.

As we have grown, we have built out our network, creating strategic alliances with internationally renowned organizations, we now have the network and reputation to deliver on that original vision of changing the narrative in Africa – and that’s something I’m really proud of.

APO Group is clearly a powerhouse today. Could you walk us through some of the memorable phases that you went through in growing the firm to where it is today? In other words, what are some of the challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?

Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard :At the beginning there were many challenges.

First up, there were no employees! It was just me. I was the Sales Manager, IT consultant, HR team – everything. I soon realized I needed help, but I was not prepared for how difficult it would be to find the right team to deliver what the company needed. The first hires I made did not work out, and it took a while before I discovered the right fit.

I discovered it was important to hire proven talents. To surround yourself with people who are better than you are at what they do. I began to understand that the true wealth of your company is your employees. Without them you are nothing.

As we have grown, our challenges have changed. I’d known for a long time that I was an ‘accidental’ CEO. If we were going to scale up and take APO Group to the next level, we needed to hire somebody with a proven track record. So, I stepped aside and brought in a new CEO – Lionel Reina – who joined us with a strong background as a former senior executive for Orange Business Services and Accenture. I’m happy to say, it has been a great success and the business continues to go from strength-to-strength.

I remain the owner of APO Group, but I am now Chairman, and am thoroughly enjoying the strategic side of the business, while also working on other projects.

Your growing list of clients includes corporate giants like Facebook, Uber, Marriott, Hilton, GE, Orange, DHL, Philips, the NBA, Standard Chartered Bank, Siemens, Canon, PwC, EY, McKinsey & Company, AccorHotels, flydubai, DP World. Can you shed some light on how you are able to attract such high profile clients? What draws them to APO Group and what is it you do to keep them in the face of competition?

Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard :We attract these clients because we represent their best – and in some cases only – chance of achieving what they need in terms of engagement with African media audiences.

These companies want professional advice and consultation, as well as help in building long-lasting strategies, but they also, fundamentally, need the best network to carry their message.

APO Group’s network covers the whole continent – including Eritrea and Somaliland, where no other distribution agencies can reach. We have dedicated huge time and resources to media research and building relationships and trust both with individual journalists and the titles they work for.

It is not a coincidence that dozens of the region’s most prominent Public Relations Agencies – 57 at the last count – rely on APO Group’s network to target the media they need.

But while clients may initially be drawn to our network, it is our level of experience and expertise that stands us out from the competition. We do not only deliver content to media, we work alongside them on a daily basis, coordinating press conferences, interviews, op-ed publications, speaker opportunities, photo and video production and social media management – so we are able to forge long-lasting relationships.

We now have the network and reputation to deliver on that original vision of changing the narrative in Africa – and that’s something I’m really proud of, says Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard.

In December 2018, you decided to step down as CEO of APO Group, may we know why, and how has the company fared under your successor?

Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard :As I mentioned, Lionel Reina took over as CEO earlier this year. Lionel is a proven success having worked as Vice President of Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa for Orange Business Services and Middle East Director for Accenture – and has a fantastic track record in helping companies scale up quickly and break new ground.

Under his stewardship, we have continued our strong growth trajectory and cemented several new strategic alliances that have enabled us to move into new industries – extending our influence into exciting areas like technology.

We have known each other for years and I couldn’t have dreamed of a better CEO.

What is your take on the state of the African media landscape?

Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard Firstly, it’s important to clarify that the media landscape in Africa is extremely diverse. There are 54 distinctly different countries on the continent, each with their own unique cultures and trends.

Generally speaking, there are huge challenges involved in ensuring the press are allowed to do their job without impediment. But they are evolving challenges. Ten years ago, there was genuine threat to life for journalists who dared to step out of line. Last year, out of 58 journalists killed on duty around the world, only six were African – and those were in the conflict zones of Somalia and the Central African Republic.

Now, the challenges are more insidious – and they are more like the ones you see all over the world. As well as arbitrary censorship in some countries, governments are able to infiltrate so-called ‘private’ media. The financial weakness of many media outlets makes them susceptible to political and financial influence that undermines their independence and diminishes their chances of providing fair and accurate reporting to the people they serve.

There has been a growing emphasis on the need for the African media to tell the African story, but you know very well the challenges that African press organs go through. Besides the sharing of press releases, what is it that APO is doing or planning to do to help empower the press in Africa?

Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard :It’s a really big problem. No-one is better equipped to tell African stories than African media, but they have significant challenges around digitalization, monetization and talent management.

But I believe the biggest issue of all is around the arrival of large, multinational media organizations taking market share and advertising revenue away from the local outlets.

Several international media organizations have expanded into Africa in the last few years. The BBC, for example, has opened its biggest office yet outside of the UK – in Kenya; The Washington Post has recently announced it is expanding into Africa, and European TV channel Euronews, has launched Africanews. The Huffington Post and Le Monde have created African subsidiaries, while CNN now has six programmes dedicated to Africa.

Most of these international media houses are investing in Africa because they see the potential for new audiences and new revenue streams – and the local African media are struggling to compete.

APO Group work closely with local press and try to facilitate conversations and relationships with our hugely influential client base. Many of our international clients have a real appetite for authentic African coverage, so our ability to make introductions and drive engagement can be extremely positive for the African media – as well as our clients.

Presenting the APO Group African Women in Media to Ugandan Journalist Nila Yasmin. Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard says It’s been a long ambition of his to help the next generation of African communicators in whatever way he can.

 Since you stepped down as CEO you have done quite some traveling across Africa to live the passion of helping entrepreneurship in Africa. What are some of the most remarkable things you have learned from the travels and interactions with people? And to all aspiring entrepreneurs out there, what is the recipe for success?

Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard :I’ve been lucky enough to visit universities all over Africa this year.

It’s long been an ambition of mine to help the next generation of African communicators in whatever way I can. By running these seminars all over the continent, I’ve seen first-hand the passion and commitment of young journalism and communications students as they complete their studies.

As for a recipe for entrepreneurial success, there is no magic dust, unfortunately! You need to identify an opportunity or make sure you are solving a specific problem in a new and compelling way. Plus, of course, you need a lot of hard work – and a good deal of luck!

 Talking from experience, what recommendations do you have for a more robust relationship between businesses and the media in Africa?

Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard :In the current climate of fake news and misinformation, the most valuable thing you can bring to that relationship is trust and credibility.

Both businesses and the media have a duty of care to their readership to provide accurate information. As soon as original press release content is called into question, that relationship can be irrevocably damaged.

For APO Group, as a news distributor, we have a responsibility to be a credible Primary Information Provider. We are that bridge between business and the media. A such, our reputation is on the line every time a press release goes out. 

It’s why we have always maintained a strong set of checks and balances to ensure the authenticity of the news we publish. Most important of all, we have made it a fundamental rule never to relinquish a human editorial presence. We will always check the validity of our news sources, and if we have any doubt whatsoever, we simply don’t publish.

LONDON, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 12: Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard, Founder and CEO of APO Group and Abdelaziz Bougja, Chairman of World Rugby’s African association, Rugby Africa during the signing ceremony of the agreement under which APO Group becomes the main Official Sponsor of Rugby Africa, at Royal Garden Hotel on November 12, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images for APO Group)

 We see the APO building strong partnerships notably in rugby. How is this working out and with the global appeal of sports, any extra dividends you see for Africa through such partnerships?

Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard :Sport has the power to inspire millions of people and help put Africa in the global spotlight.

APO Group’s role in raising the profile of African sport has largely focused on rugby. In November 2017, APO Group became the Main Official Sponsor of World Rugby’s African association, Rugby Africa, the governing body of rugby in Africa. This is the highest level of sponsorship, and the partnership has recently been extended until 2024. Rugby is developing at an unprecedented pace in Africa and is now the fastest growing sport on the continent. The popularity of the game is booming all over Africa. Ten African nations are currently placed in the top-50 of the world rankings and more women and men, girls and boys, are playing than ever before.

The players are inspirational role models for the next generations of young Africans who are discovering the sport. Although few may know this, out of 105 countries playing rugby competitively, one-third are African and there are many talents in Africa who deserve more recognition by the general public. In 2017, growth in player registration in African nations (excluding South Africa) was 66%, against an overall global increase of 27%. In the female game, the number of registered players increased by 50% in 2017 alone. This phenomenal growth at grass roots level is starting to bear fruit on the international scene.

 Any projections for 2020, from where it is at this point? What next for APO Group?

Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard: After delivering 60% growth in 2018, our plan is to maintain a 40% yearly growth until 2024. Our ultimate goal is to become the consulting firm of choice for all companies looking to grow across Africa.

Lionel’s main area of focus for 2020 is to develop new integrated services and turnkey solutions to continue to help corporations to expand across Africa. We are also looking to make an acquisition in the field of Digital Transformation, AI and Data management. But our core business will remain Public Relations and Media Relations.

In my role as Chairman, I will have more time to continue to promote existing projects and new initiatives in several areas, including our rugby in Africa, female entrepreneurship and student conferences and internships.

So, as you can see, we are very optimistic about the future of the continent!

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GAMBIA: GOV’T CALLS FOR CALM AHEAD OF MONDAY’S DEMONSTRATIONS
December 15, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay 

President Adama Barrow
President Adama Barrow

In the wake of intensifying and sometimes very provocative and ominous messages trending on social media regarding Monday’s authorized peaceful procession, The Gambia Government hereby assures citizens and all residents that their security and safety is guaranteed and cannot be compromised. All are therefore,  urged to go about their normal business routines.  

In a press release signed by Ebrima G. Sankareh, spokesperson the Gambia Government indicated that school authorities are reminded that Monday is not a public holiday and all schools should be fully operational as well as all Government offices and institutions. 

Businesses, market vendors and women who have been experiencing panic buying due to the barrage of false information being bandied around on social media are urged not to be intimidated and to open their businesses to the public as this country remains very peaceful, safe and secure.

The Gambia Government wishes to reiterate that ‘Operation 3 Years Jotna’s’ was issued a Peaceful Procession Permit and their permit is valid from 10:00AM to 2:00PM, from Sting Corner to some 200 Metres before the Denton Bridge. 

Motorists plying the Banjul—Serekunda Highway are urged to maintain the left shoulder-lane leading to Banjul as the Jotna Movement is exclusively assigned the right shoulder lane by the mangroves.

Any demonstrations outside of the assigned jurisdiction is a serious violation of the law and those who choose to violate the law will face severe consequences. 

Equally, members of the public are urged to allow the peaceful procession to move on smoothly without let or hinderance and anyone who interferes with the peaceful procession will be committing an offense also, punishable under the law. 

Accordingly, The Gambia Government hereby solicits the cooperation of all citizens and residents to maintain calm for the maintenance of the peace and security of the country. 

Beginning tonight, members of the public will notice increased security patrols around the country to ensure that everybody is safe and secure. All are strongly advised to cooperate fully with the patrol teams.

Finally, contrary to wild-spread and  malicious allegations calculated to undermine the image of President Adama Barrow and his Government, members of the public, the Diplomatic and Consular Corps are assured that that this Government respects the sanctity of life as well as the fundamental rights of all citizens and recognizes their right to peaceful Procession, Assembly and Association as enshrined in our Constitution. 

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Cameroon:Controversial Buea Mayor Ekema Patrick Interred
December 15, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

Minister Paul Atanga Nji pays last respect to Late Ekema Patrick Esunge
Minister Paul Atanga Nji pays last respect to Late Ekema Patrick Esunge

The late mayor of Buea Patrick Ekema Esunge has been buried. The state burial Saturday, December 14, 2019, at Bongo square was presided over by the President’s representative Paul Atanga Nji, Minister of Territorial Administration.

Various eulogies presented the late Mayor as the man of the people, a community ambassador, a man who will never take no for an answer when he believes in what is right.

Minister Atanga Nji indicated that when he is in Buea he is comfortable with the clean nature of the environment thanks to the late Mayor. “He went down to the streets, and he was not in his office. Most times he went to the streets to talk to the traders, people, and everybody.” Atanga Nji noted. “It is no crime to be a courageous person.”

Late Mayor posthumously raised to Commander of National Order of Valor
Late Mayor posthumously raised to Commander of National Order of Valor

“The President has recognized a very determined person. Tomorrow when I come back here, I would like to see Buea to be a clean town that Ekema was fighting for. It is important because if I come back here one or two weeks and I see trash everywhere, motorbikes left, and right that is when I will start mourning. If you keep the flag up at least even where he is people will remember that he started something, and we should keep the standards.”

“We both we have certain things in common, we are courageous, we have a lot of determinations, we have the fighting spirit, respect for state institutions, and the unflinching support to President Paul Biya,” Atanga Nji added.

The event brought together a cross section of Government Ministers, Fako Elites, traditional authorities, GMs, educational and religious authorities, and members of the public.

Minister Nalova Lyonga noted that Buea must play the role the Ekema was playing — never giving up. “He could not see his municipality to fall. If you want to say that is his error then let it be but it was also his power of bravery.” “We have to look at things, see where he went wrong, and see what we can do. He is gone, but we are left, if we lose the place is it Ekema’s fault? Minister Nalova questioned.

She went further to call on each one to help in defending Fako for those who were born here or who love this place.

The Fako chiefs were however disgruntled that such a “brave warrior” could not be buried with the attendance of CPDM militants.

Chief Ndike Kombe Richard, President of Fako Chief’s Conference noted that for a ceremony like this we cannot see one militant putting on the CPDM uniform. “If Ekema cannot be celebrated by the party what becomes of us. It is a shameful act, and we are very disgruntled with the party hierarchy.”

Chief Etina Monono of Great Soppo said, “To the bereaved family we all condole with them. Losing someone is a very sad moment, and we are sure that the good Lord who called him to do a good job for Fako and Buea will guide them through this difficult moment of their sorrow.”

To councilor Dr. Kingsley Ngange, “we have to uphold the legacy that I was a councilor for past seven years that we have put in place. If in the next days, we start seeing bikes and other things around the place like what the Minister said, then, Ekema would have fight over his life for nothing. Let us uphold the legacy we all stood for.”

Born on September 26, 1976, He was elected councilor of the Buea Council during the 2007 twin elections. He would later become first deputy Mayor.

When Mayor Mbella Moki Charles was elected into the Senate in April 2013, Ekema Patrick Esunge was then installed on Monday, May 27, 2013, at the Buea council hall, as Mayor of the Buea municipality to complete Charles Mbella Moki’s term of office.

During the September 30, 2013, municipal elections, the CPDM list won in Buea and on October 16, 2013, Ekema Patrick got a fresh mandate as Mayor of Buea — a mandate that was due to expire on February 2020.

Ekema was at the heart of things when he welcomed President Paul Biya in Buea in February 2014 during the 50th anniversary celebrations of the country’s independence and reunification.

His fight against separatist tendencies in Buea earned him multiple recognition, the latest being a recognition from the traditional rulers of the South Region. In July 2019, traditional rulers of the South Chiefs Conference crowned Ekema “Nyamoto Kpwatolo” — the great warrior — for his bravery.

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Cameroon:U.S Steps Up Pressure Campaign On Biya, Urges him to engage in Swiss-led Facilitation process
December 15, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

Rep Karen Bass speaking during a July visit to Cameroon.Photo credit Moki Edwin,VOA
Rep Karen Bass speaking during a July visit to Cameroon.Photo credit Moki Edwin,VOA

Some U.S Congress members have written to Cameroon’s President Paul Biya, urging him to engage in a Swiss-led peace process to bring an end to the ongoing crisis in Cameroon’s North West and South West Regions.

The letter dated December 12, 2019, was signed by nine members of the U.S Congress, such as  Ranking member   Christopher Smith, Congresswoman Karen Bass, Congressman Ron Kind, Congressman James Sensenbrenner Jr, Congressman David Cicillline, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, Congressman Ron Wright, Congressman Tim Walberg, and James McGovern.

As noted in the three paged document, the conflict between security forces and non-state armed groups have led to an ever-increasing number of casualties and of internally displaced persons and refugees, and has kept hundreds of thousands of children out of school for going on a third year in a row.

The conflict has severely hurt the timber, agro-industry, cocoa, energy, telecommunications, tourism, and transport sectors. Given the failure of various internal initiatives to halt the crisis and bring peace to these regions of Cameroon, the government of Cameroon should demonstrate political will by engaging in the Swiss-led facilitation process, which could lead to future negotiations between the Cameroonian government, and the opposition in the Northwest and Southwest, as well as the diaspora.

The members added that, “A process of inclusive negotiation and institutional reforms would lead to greater power-sharing and decision-making, facilitate peace, and save Cameroonian lives. Children, particularly in rural areas of the Northwest and Southwest, need to resume their education, but that is not going to happen until there is a resolution of the conflict.”

“… The conflict in the Northwest and Southwest, if left unchecked, could very well lead to a generation of unskilled and underdeveloped people who are prone to unemployment, and prone to violent extremism and criminality. A peaceful and inclusive resolution of the crisis would strengthen bilateral ties and lead to greater trade and investment between our two countries.”

The members equally noted that military action cannot solve the conflict. The fault the non-state armed groups for horrific acts of violence, and also noted that the Cameroon defense and security forces have equally been involved in majority of the killings of unarmed Cameroonians, destruction of property, including the burning of homes. 

“There is evidence of soldiers dragging wounded people out of hospitals and their lifeless bodies found abandoned later. Soldiers have raped women, either for opportunistic, or punitive reasons,” the document read in part.

With respect to the upcoming Municipal and Legislative elections in the country sated for February 9, 2020, the members of Congress noted that if there is not a durable ceasefire in the Northwest and Southwest, February elections, let alone plans for bilingualism, decentralization, DDR, reconstruction and resumption of education are unlikely to succeed. “A process of inclusive negotiations, and a genuine commitment to establish peace is a necessary condition for all the good suggestions from the national dialogue to move forward,” they noted.

“Only sincere dialogue can lead to an end to the violence and insecurity in the Northwest and Southwest, allowing people to return and rebuild their homes, children to return to school, and economic activity to resume safely.”

According to the United Nations, as of November 2019, more than 2,000 people have died, as many as 71 0,000 people have been internally displaced, and 44,000 refugees have fled to neighboring Nigeria due to the ongoing conflict in the Northwest and Southwest. Roughly 2.6 million people in these areas are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, and more than 855,000 children, the majority of whom are internally displaced, do not have access to education.

It is not the first time the US Congress has written to the President of the violence in the North West and South West Regions. In July this year, the US Congress on a visit to Cameroon called on the government to dialogue with rebels.

The ongoing crisis and human rights violations led to Cameroon being removed from the AGOA forum. US President Donald Trump said Cameron’s preferential trade benefits from January 1. “I have taking this step because I have determined that the Government of Cameroon currently engages in gross violations of internationally recognized human rights, contravening the eligibility requirements of section 104 of the African Growth and Opportunity Act,” Trump noted

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At Pre-Launch Of African Diaspora Development Institute In Maryland-USA, Ambassador Arikana Receives Award For Promoting Pan-Africanism
December 15, 2019 | 0 Comments
Ambassador Arikana receives award for promoting Pan-Africanism (photo: Amos Fofung for Pan African Visions)
Ambassador Arikana receives award for promoting Pan-Africanism (photo: Amos Fofung for Pan African Visions)

Ambassador Arikana Chihombori-Quao former African Union Ambassador to the United States of America has been honored with an award for her firm stand on promoting the Pan-African spirit and driving socio-economic development to the African continent.

She received recognition from Prince Adekoye, Chief Executive Officer of Africa400years.org, a New Jersey-based organization that commemorates and celebrates Africa and Africans in remembrance of 400 years of slavery.  

Ambassador Arikana served as the AU ambassador to the US from 2017 right up to October 2019 when she got terminated purportedly due to her strong stance on France occupation hold over its former African colonies, which she shared publicly.

Speaking as she receives the recognition which she dedicated to Pan-African legends before her, the medical doctor and activist reputed for her grasp of public speaking, thanked the African diaspora who turned out for the pre-launch of the African Diaspora Development Institute, ADDI, a body which she added will henceforth be the go-to place for development initiatives in Africa.

Addressing attendees at the soft launch of ADDI a brainchild of hers, the renowned public speaker and educationist cum entrepreneur urged the diaspora to come together and invest in building #TheAfricaWeWant or sit back and watch foreigners do so while ripping millions off their continent.

And to build this Africa, she said it was important they do so via the ADDI, an umbrella African diaspora organization where all Africans in the diaspora ought to convene to build #TheAfricaWeWant by driving healthcare, education and socio-economic development to the continent.

Registered and based in the United States, the institute African office will be situated in South Africa and will also include the putting in place of an African diaspora center of excellence and a Pan-African fund to raise money and invest in the African continent.

“I will not rest unless all Africans raise up to drive our development – the continental agenda of Africa must be driven by children of the continent,” she said categorically as she enjoined all to turn out in February 2020 for the official launching of the continental institute.

Ambassador Arikana dedicated the award to Pan-African legends (photo: Amos Fofung for Pan African Visions)
Ambassador Arikana dedicated the award to Pan-African legends (photo: Amos Fofung for Pan African Visions)

Prior to her appointment, Ambassador Arikana Chihombori-Quao was a renowned family medicine doctor in Murfreesboro, Tennessee where she has been practicing medicine for the last 25 years. Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao is known internationally for her diligent efforts to improve healthcare systems, particularly in countries in Africa, and to promote women’s rights around the globe.

Addressing attendees at the pre-launch (photo: Amos Fofung for Pan African Visions)
Addressing attendees at the pre-launch (photo: Amos Fofung for Pan African Visions)

Nearly 20 years ago, at a conference organized by then-Africa Resources, Presidents Nelson Mandela and Robert Mugabe presented the noted philanthropist with an Achievement Award. This was her first major distinction.

Since 2012, she was the Chair of the African Union-African Diaspora Health Initiative (AU-ADHI) where she was involved in mobilizing the African Diaspora health professionals to assist in addressing the healthcare crisis on the continent of Africa.

In 2015 at the 25th AU Summit held in Johannesburg, South Africa, Dr. Chihombori-Quao was one of the fifteen women who received the “Women of Excellence Award” alongside President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, Mrs. Joyce Banda, former President of Malawi, and Mrs. Winnie Mandela, the former first lady of South Africa, as well as several other prominent and remarkable African women.

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