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Africa is Not Poor, We Are Stealing Its Wealth
May 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

ANALYSIS

By Nick Dearden*

Africa is poor, but we can try to help its people.

It’s a simple statement, repeated through a thousand images, newspaper stories and charity appeals each year, so that it takes on the weight of truth. When we read it, we reinforce assumptions and stories about Africa that we’ve heard throughout our lives. We reconfirm our image of Africa.

Try something different. Africa is rich, but we steal its wealth.

That’s the essence of a report (pdf) from several campaign groups released today. Based on a set of new figures, it finds that sub-Saharan Africa is a net creditor to the rest of the world to the tune of more than $41bn. Sure, there’s money going in: around $161bn a year in the form of loans, remittances (those working outside Africa and sending money back home), and aid.

But there’s also $203bn leaving the continent. Some of this is direct, such as $68bn in mainly dodged taxes. Essentially multinational corporations “steal” much of this – legally – by pretending they are really generating their wealth in tax havens. These so-called “illicit financial flows” amount to around 6.1 per cent of the continent’s entire gross domestic product (GDP) – or three times what Africa receives in aid.

Then there’s the $30bn that these corporations “repatriate” – profits they make in Africa but send back to their home country, or elsewhere, to enjoy their wealth. The City of London is awash with profits extracted from the land and labour of Africa.

There are also more indirect means by which we pull wealth out of Africa. Today’s report estimates that $29bn a year is being stolen from Africa in illegal logging, fishing and trade in wildlife. $36bn is owed to Africa as a result of the damage that climate change will cause to their societies and economies as they are unable to use fossil fuels to develop in the way that Europe did. Our climate crisis was not caused by Africa, but Africans will feel the effect more than most others. Needless to say, the funds are not currently forthcoming.

In fact, even this assessment is enormously generous, because it assumes that all of the wealth flowing into Africa is benefitting the people of that continent. But loans to governments and the private sector (at more than $50bn) can turn into unpayable and odious debt.

 Ghana is losing 30 per cent of its government revenue to debt repayments, paying loans which were often made speculatively, based on high commodity prices, and carrying whopping rates of interest. One particularly odious aluminium smelter in Mozambique, built with loans and aid money, is currently costing the country £21 for every £1 that the Mozambique government received. British aid, which is used to set up private schools and health centres, can undermine the creation of decent public services, which is why such private schools are being closed down in Uganda and Kenya. Of course, some Africans have benefitted from this economy. There are now around 165,000 very rich Africans, with combined holdings of $860bn. But, given the way the economy works, where do these people mainly keep their wealth? In tax havens. A 2014 estimate suggests that rich Africans were holding a massive $500bn in tax havens. Africa’s people are effectively robbed of wealth by an economy that enables a tiny minority of Africans to get rich by allowing wealth to flow out of Africa.

So what is the answer? Western governments would like to be seen as generous beneficiaries, doing what they can to “help those unable to help themselves”. But the first task is to stop perpetuating the harm they are doing. Governments need to stop forcing African governments to open up their economy to privatisation, and their markets to unfair competition.

If African countries are to benefit from foreign investment, they must be allowed to – even helped to – legally regulate that investment and the corporations that often bring it. And they might want to think about not putting their faith in the extractives sector. With few exceptions, countries with abundant mineral wealth experience poorer democracy, weaker economic growth, and worse development. To prevent tax dodging, governments must stop prevaricating on action to address tax havens. No country should tolerate companies with subsidiaries based in tax havens operating in their country.

Aid is tiny, and the very least it can do, if spent well, is to return some of Africa’s looted wealth. We should see it both as a form of reparations and redistribution, just as the tax system allows us to redistribute wealth from the richest to the poorest within individual societies. The same should be expected from the global “society”.

To even begin to embark on such an ambitious programme, we must change the way we talk and think about Africa. It’s not about making people feel guilty, but correctly diagnosing a problem in order to provide a solution. We are not, currently, “helping” Africa. Africa is rich. Let’s stop making it poorer.

*Allafrica/Al Jazeera.Nick Dearden is the director of UK campaigning organisation Global Justice Now. He was previously the director of Jubilee Debt Campaign.

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Closing Remarks By Akinwumi A. Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group, At the Official Closing Ceremony of the 52nd Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank, May 25, 2017
May 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

The Chief Minister of Gujarat,

Honorable Ministers, Governors of the Bank, Distinguished Guests, Partners, Ladies and Gentlemen.

African Development Bank (ADB) president Akinwumi Adesina addresses a press conference in Ahmedabad, May 20, 2017.(AFP)

African Development Bank (ADB) president Akinwumi Adesina addresses a press conference in Ahmedabad, May 20, 2017.(AFP)

Mr. Chairman, Minister Arun Jaitley, congratulations on successfully shepherding this 52nd Annual Meetings. The way you efficiently chaired all our statutory meetings has been impressive. We are grateful to you and your staff in the Ministry of Finance of India for a job well done!

From the Communiqué it is clear that you have all worked so hard. It is amazing how fast time has gone by. Four days ago we arrived here in Ahmedabad for our 52nd Annual Meetings. It has been a marathon of meetings and deliberations: we have run well, discussed well, and interacted well. From the opening ceremony, the tone was set: we should think big, act bold, and deliver faster development for Africa. Prime Minister Modi showed us in his speech that there’s nothing that can be called impossible.

From this same ground that honors the memory of Mahatma Gandhi, we must take with us his words “be the change you want to see”. For the change we want to see in Africa lies with us. Upon us lies the responsibility to rise to the occasion of giving Africa a new history: by lighting up Africa, feeding Africa, industrializing Africa, integrating Africa, and improving the quality of life of the people of Africa.

The Annual Meetings’ focus on transforming agriculture to create wealth has sparked political leaders, young people, researchers, private sector, bankers, and of course you, the Ministers of Finance, and Governors of the Bank, as well as the Central Bank Governors who came, to take agriculture as a business.

This Annual Meeting has also been a huge success in several other ways. We were not bothered by the heat, we simply generated cool ideas. We have not just focused on economics and finance, we brought in other voices.

I was excited at the cultural night yesterday to meet Nollywood and Bollywood actors and actresses who told me they will now focus on movies that will help change the perception of agriculture, for young people. That is one of the successes I am taking home.

And the coolest person around was Prime Minister Modi. His presence, participation and support for these Annual Meetings in Ahmedabad made it such a great success. We had two African Heads of State, from the Republics of Benin, and Senegal, a Former Head of State of Ghana, and the Vice-President of Côte d’Ivoire. Their presence sent a very strong signal that African leaders back the African Development Bank. And that is because the African Development Bank is Africa’s trusted Bank of choice.

You, the Governors of the Bank made all the difference. The Meetings are your Meetings: for you to see the African Development Bank at work, working for the greater good and benefits of the people of Africa. You saw the impacts of our High 5s in Africa. Not just in terms of money we lent to countries or the private sector, but in terms of real people-level impacts.

We measured those impacts, not as numbers, but as lives transformed. You saw some of those stories yesterday as we celebrated countries and governors from Morocco, Mauritania, Ghana, Somalia and Tanzania at the “Africa Development Impact Awards” – our own Oscars for development.

But the best awards go to you all for coming to our Annual Meetings. Your contributions, engagements, ideas, and suggestions will help us to become even better in what we do.

The Government of India deserves a big High 5: the organizations of the events were excellent. We are grateful for the great work of the Chief Minister of Gujarat and members of the Government of the State of Gujarat. The people who did the setting up; the electrical folks who worked late nights; the protocols and security who ensured our safety at all times, even late at nights; the media who told our stories; the wonderful cooks who fed us so well.

To Prime Minister Modi, a very big thank you for hosting us and honoring us with your presence and for your very warm words: let us make history together for Africa.

To all my staff at the African Development Bank, who worked tirelessly, thank you so much. To Nnenna Nwabufo, Célestin Monga and Vincent Nmehielle, you made it all happen and thank you so much. To the translators, who worked tirelessly, sitting unseen in their cubicles, you made it so seamless for us to conduct our business, and understand each other – thank you.

Above all, I am thankful to you, our Governors and Executive Directors who continue to give us support in our work and for our mission. In my town hall discussion with you, our Governors, yesterday, you voted an overwhelming 97% that there is need for urgent actions to finance the High 5s. No doubt, boosting the Bank’s general capital along with all other measures to optimize our balance sheet, will help us with more equity to leverage more to get the job done. We work so hard to earn your trust and you can trust us that we will continue to deliver more, better, and faster for Africa, with additional capital resources.

As a Bank let me assure you we will continue to be fit for purpose. The achievements we have had so far, in just under two years, on the High 5s and our reforms, show that we are moving in the right direction and solidifying the income, efficiency, effectiveness and development impacts of the Bank. Yet the road is still long to achieve our goals, but we are determined, with your support, to stay for the long haul. We hope you are leaving more inspired about the Bank; and ask that you, as Governors, be our strong advocates and champions for accelerating financing for the High 5s.

Let us continue to be optimistic for Africa and let us continue to be optimistic about the capacity of this Bank to deliver. At the Bank, we believe Africa can and will achieve the High 5s. But we must always be forward looking and raise the bar on our ambitions for financing Africa to address its challenges and unlock its opportunities.

What we need is “bold optimism”: optimism backed by greater financial resources. That is the kind of optimism that made Warren Buffet give $30 billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2006, to do more for the world. Melinda Gates, writing ten years later to Warren Buffet, said: “optimism isn’t a belief that things will automatically get better, it is a conviction that we can make things better….Your success didn’t create your optimism. Your optimism led to your success”.

So, let “bold optimism” from this Annual Meeting in India bubble and inspire us to accelerate financing, urgently, for the High 5s for Africa.

And let that “bold optimism” be fully concretized and solidified by the time we meet in Korea next year for the 2018 Annual Meetings.

I congratulate Korea for being the host country for next year’s Annual Meetings. I look forward to seeing you all next year in the beautiful city of Busan for our 53rd Annual Meetings.

Until then, safe travels back home – and, as you go, here is a High 5 for you all!

Thank you very much.

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West Africa: Ecowas Free Movement and Migration Project Launched in Accra
May 26, 2017 | 0 Comments
Mr Mustapha Abdul-Hamid

Mr Mustapha Abdul-Hamid

All citizens of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) can leave and enter any ECOWAS country and reside in it without any hindrance, Minister for Information, Mustapha Abdul-Hamid, has disclosed.

Mr Abdul-Hamid explained that the promotion of intra-regional migration for West African countries was part of a political and economic arrangement.

Addressing the media at the launch of the ECOWAS Free Movement and Migration Project in Accra on Wednesday, the Information Minister noted that when it came to migration issues, the focus of the Ghanaian media had largely dwelt on its negative consequences such as the involvement of migrants in unlawful activities that resulted in the destruction of the environment, including illegal mining, nomadic grazing, fake trading markets and human trafficking.

The media, the Minister said, therefore, had a crucial role to play in the promotion of a safe and secure intra-regional migration and cautioned it to be circumspect in their reportage.

He said giving the magnitude of the challenges of migration, there was the need to create a critical mass of advocates in the media who were willing to provide fair and objective coverage on issues of migration.

 He urged all media personnel and other relevant stakeholders to fully participate in the project in order to acquire the requisite skills and the solid foundation required to enable them to contribute to the promotion of safer migration practices.

Mr Abdul-Hamid expressed the appreciation of the Ministry of Information for the media response and its collaborating partners for supporting the project and commended the European Union and the International Organization of Migration for funding the project.

The ECOWAS Free Movement and Migration Project is a one-year project which will target the Greater Accra, Western, Ashanti and Northern Regions to promote free movement and migrant rights in West Africa.

The project’s activities include the organization of training workshops on investigative journalism on free movement and migration, establishment of a network of journalists for migrant rights and the implementation of a public radio campaign on free movement.

*Source :Allafrica/ISD (Edem Agblevor & Faith Eddison)

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South Africa: SA ‘Working On Scrapping Visa for All African Citizens’
May 20, 2017 | 0 Comments
Photo: Pixababy

Photo: Pixababy

South Africa is working towards allowing all African citizens to enter the country without visas – but at first “trusted travellers” like diplomats, officials, academics, business people and students will be the only ones to benefit.

The Department of Home Affairs outlines the steps that will be taken towards scrapping visa requirements in its latest White Paper on International Migration, which was adopted by cabinet six weeks ago but not made public yet.

The African Union’s Agenda 2063, championed by former AU Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, calls for the scrapping of visa requirements for all African citizens travelling on the continent by 2018 based on the views of the African Rennaissance.

The African passport was launched with great ceremony by Dlamini-Zuma and Rwandan President Paul Kagame at last year’s AU summit in Kigali.

According to the White Paper, South Africa “fully supports the vision of an Africa where its citizens can move more freely across national borders, where intra-Africa trade is encouraged and there is greater integration and development of the African continent”.

It said the current status was untenable. “For instance, on average Africans need visas to travel to 55% of other African countries. They can get visas on arrival in only 25% of other countries. Finally, they do not need a visa to travel to just 20% of other countries on the continent.”

Security-based approach

But the White Paper, which moves South Africa’s approach to immigration from a purely administrative one to a security-based approach, warns that the scrapping of visas needs to happen with caution.

South Africa’s risk-based approach “advocates for an incremental removal of migration formalities for frequent and trusted travellers including diplomats, officials, academics, business persons, students, etc.”

The policy is envisaged as follows: African citizens can enter South Africa visa-free where there are reciprocal agreements.

Visas will only be needed when there are risks of foreign nationals overstaying, security risks like organised crime, terrorism and political instability, civil registration risks, i.e. fraud by foreign governments in issuing documents or an unable or unwillingness to identfy their nationals when requested, and for countries “with a high number of nationals who abuse the asylum system”.

One of the countries identified elsewhere in the document as doing such is Zimbabwe.

 Key elements of the visa-free regime would be visa-free entry for visits up to 90 days, recognition of visas for third parties, for example regional visas, agreed standards on immigration and border management, agreed standards on civil registration and “sophisticated, real-time risk management, information and intelligence sharing”.

 Where visas are required “South Africa should make it as easy as possible for bona fide travellers to enter South Africa”, by standardising and expanding the use of long-term, multiple-entry visas for frequent travellers, business people and academics, according to the White Paper.

A list will be developed of countries whose visa adjucation systems are trusted and recognised by South Africa, and technology will be used to establish trusted traveller schemes.

Free movement of African citizens

At regional level, South Africa “should continue to advocate for a free movement of African citizens,” the paper states.

It also says, however, that there has been a large influx of semi-skilled an unskilled economic migrants who couldn’t get visas and permits through the “mainstream immigration regime”.

These had some negative consequences, such as the asylum seeker management system being “abused and overwhelmed by economic migrants”, and then these migrants, and by extension also South African workers, being abused by “some unscrupulous South African employers”.

There has also been “increased trade in false documentation and petty corruption by police and immigration enforcement officials”, and social cohesion has suffered, “as all citizens assume that all migrants from the rest of Africa are irregular and undesirable”.

There has also been a “revolving door” of migrants returning, and deportations to neighbouring countries increasing significantly.

The White Paper, which has a strong focus on attracting more skilled migrants to counter the brain drain, also announces a special dispensation for migrants from the Southern African Development Community, with the focus on giving visas to skilled migrants, traders and small and medium sized business owners.

Visas for lower skilled migrants will be “quota-based”, but details on this still have to be decided.

Home Affairs minister Hlengiwe Mkhize is expected to announce details on the new immigration dispensation in her budget speech in Parliament on Wednesday.

It is expected that the new policy will find its way into legislation by next year.

Source: News24

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JASON LOVES AFRICA
May 14, 2017 | 0 Comments

-With Wheel to Africa, a young American and his friends highlight the importance of people-to-people engagement in US-Africa relations.

Support for a noble cause:Ambassador Arouna with Jason and his young friends collecting bikes to send to Africa

Support for a noble cause:Ambassador Arouna with Jason and his young friends collecting bikes to send to Africa

Today Saturday, May 13, 2017, I pulled up into Bethesda Library Parking lot on Arlington road.  Bethesda is an affluent Maryland town in the suburb of Washington DC the nation capital.  I am here to meet Jason a college rising sophomore in African studies who spent summers in Africa, mainly Tanzania and Ghana. Jason and his friends under the guidance of his parents are collecting bikes to ship to Africa as part of the Wheel To Africa Initiative.

As soon as entered the parking lot I was greeted by a jubilant and grinning group of kids happy to see the two bikes attached on the back of my car. I could not help but to reminisce, back to the day… I mean, way back when I received my first bike as a child and how happy it felt then. Thinking about it, I am sure it is probably a fair statement to say that, these kids look as happy as the people who will soon be receiving these bikes in the continent of Africa.

Upon getting out of my vehicle, I met and greeted Jason Kohn the young men who initiated today’s event, his parents, and a few of his friends, all passionate about Africa. I introduced myself and we talked about their initiative and their passion for Africa while some of the kids unloaded the two bikes I donated and stacked them against dozens of others bikes neatly arranged on the asphalt. I spent few more minutes’ chit-chatting before saying goodbye, and got into my car.  While I was putting the key in the ignition to start the car, I murmured to myself, “Jason loves Africa… so does America” before driving off…

In today’s America where most in the international development community are wondering about the Trump administration stance on Africa, Jason and his friends with their good deeds remind us, this simple fact; before there was a government, there are people and there lies the answer.

A strong and stable relationship between the United States and Africa is undoubtedly at the center of the Trump overall foreign relations. Washington’s support to the security of the continent, especially as part of the global war on terrorism is probably an essential part of “making America great again” US foreign policy, however many non-governmental or “people-to-people” interactions such as trade and cultural exchanges as well as initiatives such as Jason’s are paramount. This dependence is expected to remain unchanged in the foreseeable future.

As history teaches us, whether it be slavery, the rise of African Nationalism, or the Cold War, America and the African continent have a complicated history full of contradictions, but ultimately the strength of the relationship lies in people-to-people engagement on both continents.

About Wheel To Africa:

During a vacation in Africa with his mother, 10-year-old Winston Duncan was struck by the distances that people had to walk to find food, water, and medical care. It was then that he decided that he needed to find a way to help

His answer: Collect bikes, because “everyone has an old bike”!

In Africa, a bike is a lifeline to survival for many people. It is often their only means to access food and water, markets, education, and jobs. Winston’s passion has motivated family, friends, neighbors and acquaintances to organize annual drives across three states

*Omar Arouna is the immediate past Ambassador of the Republic of Benin to the United States of America. He answers regularly present to initiatives that touch on US-Africa Relations and is President & CEO GlobalSpecialty, LLC.

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French election: What Emmanuel Macron’s win means for Africa
May 10, 2017 | 0 Comments

Emmanuel Macron’s decisive win in the French presidential election has not only spurred enthusiasm in Europe. Across Africa, where France retains huge influence in its former colonies, his election has been celebrated in the hope that it will usher in a radical change in France’s African policy. The BBC’s Lamine Konkobo looks at what that change might look like.

Africa’s ‘Ode to Joy’ moment

It was a very powerful, if subtle, symbol.

On Sunday evening, as supporters of Emmanuel Macron gathered at the Louvre’s Esplanade in central Paris waiting for their champion to arrive and address them, the podium was turned for about 15 minutes into a gigantic dance floor by one of Ivory Coast’s most famous bands.

Magic System took to the stage, flooding the Parisian night with rhythms and dance moves not often heard and seen in this part of town.

Mr Macron had originally taken to the stage to the European anthem Ode to Joy for his victory speech but for African audiences watching on television, this was their Ode to Joy moment.

It was a nod to Africa; a nod that reflected the positive message of openness and universalism which has underlined Macron’s winning campaign.

Magic System, Ivorian musical bandImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionTop Ivory Coast band Magic System performed at Mr Macron’s victory party

It could also be seen as one in the eye for defeated far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who must have felt repulsed by such a cultural invasion.

If the sight of Magic System at the Louvre was refreshing for Africans, that is not why the French presidential contest was closely watched across Africa.

Mr Macron is expected to deliver on issues of far greater importance in respect of the continent.

Fighting Islamist militancy

Mr Macron has said little on his African policy on the campaign trail, because Africa was not a decisive topic that could give him the votes he needed to win.

However, from the little he said about the continent, it appears that fighting Islamist militancy will be prominent on his African agenda.

French soldiers of the anti-insurgent Operation Barkhane sit on a vehicle in Gao, MaliImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThere are about 4,000 French troops fighting Islamist militancy in Africa

He was elected while France was under a state of emergency following a series of Islamist attacks in recent years, some of which were carried out by people with African links.

But while on the campaign trail, he made it clear that he realised that France was not the only country affected:

“Africa is struggling more and more with terrorism,” he told Jeune Afrique.

“We saw it in Bamako [Mali], in Ouagadougou [Burkina Faso] and in Grand Bassam [Ivory Cost].”

Islamist militants targeted hotels in all these places last year, killing many people, including foreign tourists.

“Everyone should get involved in the fight against terrorism,” he said.

France has deployed about 4,000 troops in the Sahel region of Africa as part of the anti-terrorism Barkhane operation.

The president-elect has no plan of withdrawing these troops in the foreseeable future.

On the military front, France’s policy in Africa under Mr Macron will be more of the same.

On aid, trade and development

There is a famous saying that nations have no permanent friends but only permanent interests.

Street scene from Chateau Rouge, ParisImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionFrance has a large population with African roots

Mr Macron has been elected to serve France’s interests and he will do so in his relationship with Africa, political analyst Serge Theophile Balima told the BBC.

“Macron is a neo-liberal who believes in businesses and trade,” Mr Balima says.

“He will do his utmost to open Africa to a maximum of French businesses. That is obvious.”

However, the new president believes that partnership with the continent will be more beneficial if Africa is strong.

As a candidate, he vowed to lobby the G20 at its July summit in Germany to support economic development in African countries.

In more clearer terms he has pledged to channel to Africa most of France’s foreign aid, which he intends to increase to 0.7% of his country’s GDP.

However, Mr Macron comes to power at a time when a growing movement of economists and political leaders have been pushing for a major reform they view as more empowering than aid.

A woman displays several 10,000 CFAImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionMr Macron says African countries have to decide whether they want to keep the CFA currency

One sign of France’s continued influence over its former colonies is the CFA franc, which is pegged to the euro with the financial backing of the French treasury.

While some see it as a guarantee of financial stability, others attack it as a colonial relic.

Critics say true economic development for the 14 African countries can only be achieved if they shake off the CFA currency.

Some argue that in exchange for the “luxury” of the guarantee provided by the French treasury, the African countries channel more money to France than they receive in aid.

Ms Le Pen said that if elected, she would drop the link. While no previous French president has ever expressed a willingness to let go of the CFA, Mr Macron says the decision to move away from it is for African countries to take.

Breaking from antiquated politics

France’s African policy has come under attack from pro-democracy activists since the 1990 Baule conference, at which former President Francois Mitterand issued a call for African countries to embrace democracy, following the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Family picture of African heads of state posing with their French counterpart Francois MitterandImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionAnalysts say Mr Macron brings hope as he represents a break from an old generation of political leaders

Critics have consistently railed against what they perceive as a form of hypocrisy.

They say France has repeatedly used anti-democratic means on the continent to further dictatorships or overthrow unfriendly governments if they serve French interests, while openly extolling democratic values.

The system of personal networks which backed these controversial practices is pejoratively referred to as “Francafrique”.

The times are long gone when a French commando unit would fly parachutes in broad daylight into an African capital to restore a deposed head of state.

But Francafrique is not totally dead.

Mr Macron says he will finally kill it off.

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy with two African heads of stateImage copyrightCORBIS
Image captionFormer French presidents including Nicolas Sarkozy had vowed to ended “Francafrique” but failed to deliver

He says he will defend and respect fundamental democratic principles everywhere in Africa, working with the African Union and regional organisations.

But how will he deliver where his predecessors failed to meet similar promises?

“I think he is in a position to bring that end,” analyst Mr Balima told the BBC.

“First of all, he is young. He does not belong to the old generation. He has few friends in the Mafiosi circles in Francophone Africa.”

“When meeting African heads of state, some will be embarrassed to speak to this man who could be their son.”

African leaders will no longer benefit from the former era’s complicity, Mr Balima says.

“A head of state in a situation of bad governance… could not count on Macron to mobilise the French army to quash a rebellion in a military barracks.”

If Mr Macron delivers on that promise, he would indeed turn a page that has been a source of much acrimony in French-African relations.

Addressing wounds from the past

And how France should remember its colonial legacy is closely related to the issue of whether it still pursues a neo-colonial policy in Africa.

Right-leaning French political leaders have long maintained that colonisation was not only about forced labour, exploitation and mass graves but that colonised countries also benefited.

French solidiers round up indigenous Algerians during colonial warImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThe new French president does not shy away from apologising for the stains in his country’s history

In 2005, under President Jacques Chirac, a provision enshrining that patriotic view in law was passed. However, it was repealed a year later as a result of an outcry in France as well as in some of its former colonies and overseas territories.

Nicholas Sarkozy, as a candidate and later on as president, often complained about being tired of endlessly apologising for his country’s past transgressions.

Unlike those politicians on the right, Mr Macron considers that recognising the wrongs France did in its past interaction with African people is crucial in redefining the type of dialogue necessary for the new relationship with the continent.

As a candidate on a visit to Algeria, he stirred a controversy by branding as a crime against humanity France’s colonial war in Algeria.

While that statement was condemned by Ms Le Pen and her supporters, it was well received across the whole of French-speaking Africa.

Immigration

What was strikingly different between Mr Macron and Ms Le Pen was how the two approached immigration.

Ms Le Pen’s closed-border proposition was that she “has love for the Africans but only if they are at home in Africa”, while Mr Macron has defended a policy of immigration that should be defined by France’s needs.

In other words, under President Macron, there would be no reason to stop an African from coming to France if they have skills that are useful to the country’s economy.

Since the 1970s, waves of migrants from North Africa and then former colonies south of the Sahara have found their way into France, playing a role in various sectors of the country’s economy.

Marine Le Pen, defeated French presidential candidateImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionUnlike Marine Le Pen, Mr Macron believes France stands to gain from immigration

Mr Macron does not say he will make immigration from Africa easier. But nor will he obsess about tightening immigration control to stem a real or supposed flow of migrants from Africa.

“That is part of the dynamics of [his] liberalism,” Mr Balima told the BBC.

The president-elect has said he would encourage foreign students and those with useful skills to move to France.

With Mr Macron’s liberal attitude to immigration, isn’t there a fear that Africa might end up losing its best talents?

Not really, says Mr Balima. “There will always be enough manpower within Africa for the development of Africa.”

*BBC

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We Will Champion Case For Stronger US-Africa Business Ties With Trump Administration- Florizelle Liser, President & CEO Corporate Council on Africa
May 6, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

When it comes to business relations and trade between Africa and the USA, there are few people around with depth of knowledge and wealth of experience of Florizelle Liser, President & CEO of the Washington, DC, based Corporate Council of Africa-CCA.

For over ten years, she served with the office of the US Trade Representative including a stint as its representative for Africa prior to departure from Government last year. Appointed by the Bush Administration, she served through the Obama years and even out of government, her professional life continues to circle around issues of Trade with Africa as she serves as the first female President of the CCA.

Though she served in the Asia Pacific Region, and Latin America, in the course of her career, it is not until I moved to the African Region that I thought my true calling had been found, said Florizelle in a recent interview at the CCA headquarters. With a combination of her experience, and the great work done by her Predecessor Steve Hayes, Florizelle Liser is confident that the CCA is on course to write the next great chapter of US-Africa Trade relations.

The start of Florizelle’s leadership of the CCA coincided with the arrival of the Donald Administration whose African policy is still in a state of flux, but if there is one thing she is bent on doing, it is to make sure that the momentum on US-Africa Trade relations is sustained. Citing a litany of programs from the Bush and Obama Administrations that facilitated growing business ties, Florizelle said the CCA will be leading the charge in making the case to the Trump Administration on why corporate ties between the US and Africa should be a priority.

While the corporate background of President Trump may help him see the great opportunities and partnerships that abound in Africa, the broader perceptions Americans have about Africa need to change, Florizelle said.  For a continent with all sorts of negative stereotypes, people will be surprised to know that in South Africa alone, there are over 800 U.S companies, there will be surprised to know that there are African companies doing so well in the continent to the extent that there are also setting up shore in the US as well , said Florizelle.

The Administration and the broader American public needs to get the message that if businesses are going to Africa, it is because of profit, it is because of a more enabling environment, and the growing interest of Africans to partner with US businesses, Florizelle said.

In her new role as CEO of the CCA, one of her first major events will be the 11th biennial US-Africa Business Summit that takes place in Washington, DC, from June 13-16. The Forums alternate between the US and Africa, said Florizelle and Washington is excited to host it again after the 2015 summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This will be a great opportunity for the CCA membership to interact with Trump Administration Officials. We have invited Officials from the most senior levels of the US Administration, Florizelle said, as she expresses optimisms for positive interactions between CCA members, African leaders and those who could be key actors in shaping the Administration’s policies on Africa.

 It has been 5-months now, since your appointment as CEO of the Corporate Council on Africa.  In what shape did you meet the CCA, and what has changed so far under your leadership?

Florie Liser: First of all, I have actually been here 3-months, and I was telling people up until probably this week that I have been here 6-weeks, 10-weeks.  When I got too far, I had to change it to months.  So, now I am saying that I have been here 3-months.  I started on January 23rd and I am delighted that I had the confidence of the full board that unanimously made me the CEO.  I am the first woman CEO of the Corporate Council on Africa, but I do not think that they chose me for that.  I think that one of the things that I bring to the table is my long-standing expertise and experience in terms of US-Africa trade and investment and I think the second thing that I bring to the table is the array of relationships that I have both here in the United States and across the continent.  And I’ve been very, very fortunate; very blessed to have been exposed to many, many stakeholders who have shared the vision that I have, which is that the economic relationship between the US and Africa is an important one, a vital one.  And that in this new job, the Corporate Council on Africa, is going to build on the 17-years that Steve Hayes was here.

I   commend him for the excellent leadership that he had of CCA.  But now, I believe that we want to build on CCA’s strengths.  I think that we are one of the most successful organizations focused on US-Africa business engagement.  We are the only ones in my view that are focused solely on Africa.  Other organizations have Africa as one of the areas that there are focused on, but we are solely focused on Africa.

In addition, we have, I think in terms of our successes, also been able to bring together numerous businesses from across the continent.  We have African members first, and we have not only large members of companies that are mega companies, but over 50% of our members are small and medium-size businesses as well.  And I think that, that sort of breadth of engagement also makes us a bit unique, because we are not solely focused on what is best for US businesses.  And of course, we are strong advocates for US businesses, but I think we are probably well-suited and best situated to promote mutually beneficial relationships between US and African businesses.

We held last year I think you know; a US-Africa business summit where we had more than 1400 participants and over 600 companies that attended.  This was in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  And actually, I was there.   I was there wearing my previous hat.  In addition, last year we had 6-trade missions, we hosted a range of very senior officials from Africa who came here, including the president of Mozambique, high-level trade delegation from Nigeria and so again, I think that we stand on our past and our history, but we also have a vision for the future.

And one of the things that we will be faced with now as I’m coming into leadership here, is how we work with the new US administration to make sure that the issues of US-Africa economic engagement are a priority for them.  We hope that we can make the case for expanding and enhancing the US-Africa business relationship.  And so, the issues will not only be, for example, Peace, Security, Counterterrorism, which are all very important, and in fact security is one of our core issues here.

We have 10-issue areas, as you know, which go from agribusiness, to health, security, trade, infrastructure, finance, energy, and power, etc.  But, one of the things that we will definitely want the new administration to recognize is that US businesses are in Africa because it’s profitable.  Because it is a critical part of their bottom lines as businesses.  And CCA is, and plans to be a very strong voice for US businesses who are engaged in the Continent, and also for African businesses which are expanding regionally and also some of them who are investing in the United States.  You know, it’s not one way and a lot of times people lose sight of or lose track of the fact that there are African businesses that are so successful that they are investing in the United States.    We have our upcoming US-Africa Business Summit in June and it will be our 11th biennial meeting.  We see that upcoming summit as one of the first opportunities for high-level officials from Africa, as well as CEOs, and US CEOs to meet with various people from the Trump administration.  And we have a theme which sort of reflects part of what I was saying.

We will get back to specifics of some the issues you raised as the interview proceeds.  Prior to your appointment, you serve with the office of US assistant trade representative for what?  Over 10-years?

Yeah.

Including a stint as Assistant as Assistant US Trade Representative for Africa?

Right.

How is this background helping you at the CCA?

So, you know; it’s such a natural progression to come from there, because the major role of the Assistant US trade representative for Africa was for us to promote US-Africa trade and investment.  That was my major responsibility and I did it for 13-years actually.  From 2003 until I left the US government at the end of December of 2016. Though I had worked in other regions of the world like the Asia-Pacific region, and Latin America, when I moved to the African region, I thought, wow, this was my dream job. I had studied Africa, when I was in graduate school, and visited Africa, a number of times, even in other positions.  And so, this was really an incredible opportunity for me, on a hands-on basis, to promote US-Africa trade and investment.  So, I worked with African heads of state, and ministers of trade and finance and those in charge of investment promotion on the African side as well as US businesses that will come in to ask questions about where they should go and issues that they had working in different countries.  I worked with members of Congress, and I had the privilege of working under a number of administrations. I was actually put in that position under the Bush administration, and then continued through succeeding administrations.  And I think that job was a perfect platform for me to come now and work here at CCA to continue doing really a lot of things that I’ve been passionate about for so long.

With this unique experience, in the government and now with the CCA, which is a private entity, you are in a good position to offer an assessment of business ties Between the USA and Africa.  At what point are we?  Where are things at the moment?  What is working?  And what is not working and what needs to be done to make things better?

First, I think, the average American citizen would be surprised at the number of US companies that are operating in Africa.  There are thousands and thousands of them there.  I think, in South Africa alone, there are almost 800 US companies that are there.  And so, we are all across the continent.  Our business is all across the continent in a range of sectors.  We are not just in extractive.  Although obviously, we have a huge stake in the extractive industries, we are also in telecommunications, manufacturing, and retail. We could go down the list of CCA members and beyond who are there.

Now, what has changed?  Even though many US companies have been in Africa for some time, the landscape has changed and is changing in Africa.  You know, where there were many conflicts in the past – there are only a small handful of conflicts today.  Where in the past there were governance and leadership issues, today, there are only a small number of countries where we could say that we have concerns about governance.  Where it was difficult to identify where opportunities were maybe more than a decade ago, I think today, many more US companies are aware of the opportunities in Africa.  It has the highest rate of return on investment there and the opportunities for joint ventures are probably endless.

These are economies that are growing more rapidly than most economies in the world, they have a burgeoning middle class, and disposable income is rising rapidly.  They have a youth bulge, which also has implications for the kinds of products and services that are desired on the continent, and there is a strong interest on the part of Africans to actually partner with Americans.  Therefore, a lot has changed.

Now, what is not working?  What is still difficult in many countries, is the doing business atmosphere.  The environment for quickly getting into a country, getting your operating licenses, being able to get access to the right partnerships.  These are things, which again, a number of countries in Africa are working on.  There are some who have done great in terms of the World Bank doing business scores that are rapidly rising.  But, I think anyone who goes to Africa also knows that there are some difficulties in navigating the African market.  Whenever US businesses would come in to talk to me before a trip, and they think, “well, we’re going to go there for a week and we’re going to close X deal!”  And I think, emm… I do not think that is going to happen.  And so, US businesses will still find sometimes that it takes a little bit too long to get things moving and solidify some of these partnerships.

But, because the benefits are so great, because the opportunities are so wide.  I think many of them realize, “okay, it’s going to take more than one trip.”  It may actually take me numerous trips and it might even take up to a year or more, but I am not going to run away, I am not going to lose this opportunity because I am impatient.   So, yes, I think there are ways that things could operate more smoothly, more efficiently, more effectively in Africa, and I think many US businesses would say that.  But again, the opportunities are enormous and so I think businesses are buckling down and trying to find a way forward.  Even if it is a little bit tough sometimes, even if it takes a little longer sometimes than they want.

 As we speak, there is a new administration in the USA, the Administration of President Donald Trump and people do not yet know the direction of its African policy.  From your experience in government, and signals you have seen, what should Africa expect?  Could his business background be a silver lining for business ties between USA and Africa? 

I mean, clearly it could.  Obviously, he is a businessman, he understands the benefits of doing business, not just here in the US, but across the world.  Because he is not just operating in the US.  He has operated in many places.  In fact, I was in Lesotho in November and someone was sharing with me that they thought there was a factory there that was even producing some products for one of the Trump product lines, yeah.  I did not get a chance to visit the factory, so I cannot definitively say it is true, but I had heard that.

So, what could this mean for the US-Africa business relationship – to have a businessman in the White House?  It could mean a lot.  But right now, it appears that those who our new President is looking to are largely in the area of military expertise, and people who when they look through the particular lens that they have-I’m not saying that’s a Bad lens, but, when they look through the lens that they have, they see Africa in a particular way.  And those issues such as security issues, counterterrorism issues, issues of peace, and conflict resolution; because that’s their sort of area of expertise, I think whenever they put on their lenses to look at Africa as well as other parts of the world, they see it through that lens.

I think one of the things that will be very important to do will be to help Trump Administration Officials and the President himself to take that lens off, and to put on the lens that many of our businesses and members of CCA have.  Which as I said earlier, is there are in Africa because Africa is a profitable place to be.  Everybody else in the world is scrambling to be first in Africa and to have access to what that market provides. we hope that with a strong voice from CCA as well as our members, that we can push that point, and hopefully have a Trump Administration which in short order will be talking about progress in pursuing on the business relationship with Africa.  And again, as a businessman, we are hopeful that President Trump and his Administration will do that.

I think some of them may already be leaning in that direction.  I know Secretary Ross of the Department of Commerce, mentioned Africa in his confirmation remarks, I believe, he talked about the fact that you really could not ignore Africa as a continent, and opportunities there. I understand last week, just last week that a number of the Finance Ministers and Energy Ministers that were here met with Secretary of Energy Rick Perry.  So, I was very encouraged by that and we are hoping for a robust US -Africa economic and business relationship.

As you mentioned in your last answer, “there is a growing competition for business opportunities in Africa,” you have the Chinese, you have Japanese, Indians, in addition to the traditional European countries all expressing interest.  How do you make the case for US business in Africa?  Why should African countries prefer or pick US businesses as partners as opposed to all these other partners trying to get in?

I actually do not think they should just choose us.  I think that the Africans are fairly savvy now.  This is not like the olden days where people just moved in and told Africans what to do, and treated them as if they were children.  The Africans are mature, they should not allow countries to just come in, or businesses from different countries just come in and sort of dictate.  I think that there is so much to be done there and so many opportunities that the key I think, will be to manage who can work with them most effectively, in which areas.

Just as an example, it could be that you know, to actually physically build out the hard infrastructure in Africa, perhaps which is something that the Chinese can do best.  But then, if you look at the engineering side of it, maybe that’s something that US businesses actually can provide for or someone was telling me of an example of where in a particular country, they were saying that the locomotives were being provided by the Chinese, but the engines were being provided by the US.

What you’re finding is that Africans are not, I think been forced to choose should I pick the Chinese or the American, should I pick the Americans or the French, should I pick the Indians or you know, I think what they’re doing and I think it’s a wise thing to do, is looking at what are the different partnerships we can have with different countries?

I think, what the US business brings to the table about why Africans really like working with Americans is first, I think many Americans go in with high-quality products and services.  Therefore, the value for dollar is there. You may get something cheaper from someone else that is fine.  And I’m not just speaking of Chinese, but you may get a product cheaper, but what do you get with the US is in terms of the quality of the product.

The second thing is, I think US companies are also valued for the fact that we are working with people on maintenance.  We are not just going to come in initially sell you a product or provide a service and then not build in to that relationship, what it is, what’s required to maintain it, you know.  So, what is the point of a road and three years later, it is falling apart, or getting equipment that would not last? What is the point of having, equipment and you know two years later, it is breaking down.  Maybe you would have been better off buying what would last for longer.  I think we do that.

The other thing is the partnerships.  I think that we; our US companies, we are very interested in transferring skills and technology to our African partners.  That is not to say that others do not do it, but I think we are particularly good at those transfers of skills and technology.   The kind of partnerships we then have with our African partners are a reflection of that.  So, those are some of the reasons actually, we hear back from the Africans about why they like working with us.  We treat them as partners; we do not bring them in at the lowest levels of the business and leave them there.  And to be frank, I visited a lot of factories built and run by others, we won’t say who, where if they left, even though the majority of the workers in the factory were African, the Africans actually would not know what to do to keep the business going.  They were not brought in to understand the entire value chain and what has to happen from point A to point Z to keep the business running.  And I think that, that is something that I think Americans; when we come in, we bring people in and we have them as full partners in knowing all the aspects of the businesses that we partner with.

From June 13-16, the CCA will be hosting the 2017 US-Africa Business Summit; can you shed some light on this?

 CEO Florizelle Liser with PAV's Ajong Mbapndah L at the CCA Office in Washington,DC

CEO Florizelle Liser with PAV’s Ajong Mbapndah L at the CCA Office in Washington,DC

Yes, this will be our 11th Summit.  We have been having these summits both here in the US and in Africa.  In fact, we alternate back and forth.  So, we have them every other year.  They are biennial, the last one was in Ethiopia, we had over 1400 participants over 600 companies, I think over 37 countries represented there from across the continent, and it was quite successful.  This year it is going to be in the US and we wanted it here.  We were glad it was our turn to host.  Because, we thought with the new US Administration coming in, this was going to be an excellent opportunity to bring together all of our stakeholders, our members, and many beyond our members to actually come together and to talk about the US stake in Africa, and the partnerships working with Africa.

Over the years, we have had probably over 40 heads of state.  We hope we will get a few; these are tough times because you know there are a lot of competing interests.  The G-20  is coming up.  I think the Africa program it actually happens almost on the same time frame in Berlin, but you know, we are hoping we will.  However, if we do not, we will have lots of high-level Officials, Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Trade, Energy, Health, Agriculture, and so forth. We will also have some doing business in whatever country as a part of it.  Some sessions will be on doing business in Ghana, doing business in Ethiopia, or wherever as a part of it.

We are also planning to have an event on the Hill.  We have been invited to have an event on the Hill, where we will be having a dialogue with key members of Congress, both from the Senate and the House and from both parties. The hill is so important especially right now.  They have always been important, and will always be important. We hope to have a good turnout of both US and African businesses, and CEOs covering a wide range of issues, core issues, all of CCA’s core issues will be touched on during the summit.  So, we’re inviting, I hope all those who read this article will hear about this summit and will register, and come and be a part of it.  Be that active voice that is needed right now, so that the US Administration can hear from all of us.

You mention the new US administration, and this will be the first summit that is taking place under the new leadership.  First, what level of participation do you expect from them?  Secondly, it was reported in March that there was an African Trade meeting out in California, where there were no Africans because of visa issues.  The Africans who were supposed to turn out were never granted visas to come for the summit.  Is the CCA concerned about this development?

Well, I think first of all, you asked who has been invited; we have invited practically all of the highest-level people from the Administration, who we think have a stake in Africa. So, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of Energy, we’re still waiting though for some other people to come into key positions throughout the Administration.  So, again, at the lower levels, or some of the more prominent folks that we would normally engage with are not even there yet.  But, we expect to have participation from a number of US Agencies.  We are also having a session that will be about engagement with Agencies of the US Government.  And we’re getting all of the highest-level people that are there, from the Department of Commerce, to OPIC, EXIM Bank, the US Trade Representative’s office where I came from; to come and be on a panel that will talk about our programs across those different government agencies and institution.  MCC will be a part of it, people who do work on power Africa will be there as well.  So, we think we’ll have a very good discussion of what the US ship brings to the table under this Administration, as well as others.

In terms of the visa issue, of course, you know we have to be a bit concerned that, that happens.  I don’t know the particulars of why that happened with the California conference, but what we’ve done is, we’ve talked to State Department and we’re going to be working with the State Department to let them know which Africans have been invited and also you know, as people register for the conference from different African countries, we will be sending that information to State Department so that they are aware of these people who will need visas.

And then CCA for our African partners who are coming from the private sector, we will be providing them with visa letters.  So, a letter of invitation, which is often needed for getting your visa. We will do that, and we have kind of broadly let people know that.  And as I said, we’re just going to work with the powers that be here to facilitate getting our African delegations into the summit.  That is the best that we can do, and we are going to hope for the best and hope that it will be positive.

Prior to leaving the USTR, you work with two Presidents one Republican, one Democrat. How have you seen the evolution of US-Africa business relations over the years? Who did more? Was it the republicans or was it the democrats?  

Well you know, that’s a great question and I love that question.  Now, my experience you know is that under President Bush, a lot of really incredible programs were launched. so we can talk about PEPFAR, to work on HIV-AIDS,  we can talk about the Millennium Challenge Corporation, that was set up and provides grants to build infrastructure in Africa, there was a program on malaria and girls’ education and so forth.  Then you get to the Obama administration, and he also launched some really effective programs like Power Africa, Trade Africa, YALI, and so on, but here is what I would say that distinguishes them.  I think that the trend has been more to move from initiatives the US has with Africa that are more, could more be described as aid, and development assistance to initiatives that are really more focused on trade and business engagement.  And so, I very much think that is the trend.  My expectation under the Trump Administration is, it will continue moving in that direction.

Another Program that I did not mention, that was very important under President Obama, was the President’s Advisory Council on doing business in Africa; we call it the PAC – DBIA.  Very focused on the doing business relationship, the economic relationship, and that one had CEOs from different US businesses there. We are looking to see now, whether under the Trump Administration that would continue, one would hope it would.

He gets it, he is a businessperson, and we expect that to continue that way.  But, I think the major sort of trend has been that we recognize that yes, aid is important, development assistance is important, but what is most important, what has probably more of a sustainable impact on Africa is private sector driven partnerships and relationships.  Public-private partnerships pushed by and supported by the private sectors on both sides. Power Africa is a good example of that, Trade Africa is a good example of that.

So, that is my experience and let me just say, that’s not to say that we should not give aid.  We definitely should, we have some countries in Africa right now that are facing famines , we want to make sure that we provide that kind of assistance and relief, but I remember from many years ago, they talked about how if Africa was able to increase its share of world trade by just one percentage point; at the time, they had 2% of world trade  Now, they have about 3%, but the movement of 1% additional trade would actually generate every year, three times the amount that Africa gets in aid from everybody in the world.  Just 1 percentage point of trade.

And I use that example, it is an old one.  It came from the old Blair report that came out, Oh, my gosh!  More than a decade ago.  But, the reason I use that is, because it shows you the power of trade and economic engagement.  That no matter how much aid you have, if you are generating your economic growth through private sector investment, through greater trade, the production of value-added products on the continent, the creation of jobs that come from investment and from trade, you can do way more with that, than you can with the aid – yeah.

Last question Ms. Florie, you have spent a huge part of your career working on Africa, and I believe that you have done a lot of travel, different countries, and different people

I have! I have!

What are some of the changes that you have seen? 

Yeah, well, even when I first started going to Africa, and it wasn’t a surprise to me, but you know, the pictures that you see of Africa here in the United States, the ‘Image’ I should say, of Africa here in the United States, is definitely not what is going on in the continent.

I went to cities that were vibrant, or growing metropolises even a decade, decade and a half ago, but you do not see those pictures on TV.  You see children with big bellies and flies in their eyes and, so Americans typically don’t have the vision of Africa that it is.I’ve been to factories that are producing everything from eyeglasses, and toys, and an apparel and footwear and you know, inputs for automobiles and automobiles themselves that are being produced in Africa.

African countries have the potential to do what China has done says Forizelle Liser

African countries have the potential to do what China has done says Forizelle Liser

When I see those thousands and thousands of workers in factories all across Africa, producing pepper sauces and all sorts of value-added agricultural products.  And I’ve been to cut flower farms, and just you know, it’s incredible places where they’re packing green beans and shipping them to the US and Europe.  The image I get is of an Africa that is a part of the global economy, that plays an important role in global value chains and how that Africa is critical to how everybody else is developing in the world too.  We need Africa to be a manufacturing floor, we need Africa’s labor.  Africa is going to contribute more to the global workforce in the next 20 years than any other region of the world.  And you know, FDI into Africa is increasing rapidly.

As I said earlier, the rate of return on investments is increasing rapidly.  Africa is a place now where people who are institutional investors you know, from the state of California or you know, people with pension plans here in the US, where firefighters and policemen and their money is being invested in Africa to their benefit.  And that’s an Africa that I see today and the potential of an Africa today that even 10 years ago, we did not see.  People were not putting their 401(k)s investments into Africa that kind of way 10 years ago, so the potential of Africa to be a fully integrated partner into the global economy is something that I can actually see it.  And you know, or read about it and so you know when I hear you know different fans talking about.  Oh yes, you know were to be investing these hundreds of millions or we have a call out and you know, the call has been filled in terms of you know, the investment bonds and so forth that are being issued.  You’re like wow!

This is what Africa is about today, I’ve been to stock markets in Ghana, in South Africa, in Botswana, and so I look at Africa and I see an Africa which, and let me end on this note, you know; “they are now where China was maybe 30 years ago,” And, if they continue in this direction, to me they have the potential to, not as one single economy because clearly they’re not, but then you know we have the concept of free trade area that’s been launched and where you know, 10 years from now, for sure, maybe we will be looking at it all as one large African market and economy.

I see them as having the potential in individual countries to do what China has done in terms of manufacturing, in terms of investment, in terms of business partnerships, companies that are present there, South Africa, Boeing just opened up an office in South Africa and Kenya, GE has an office in Kenya.

I mean we are seeing a lot of US business engagement there. There is a reason why they are going there.  They are not just going to Africa and setting up offices and businesses and investing there because they want to do good.  And they do, do a lot of good things, a lot of for corporate social responsibility in Africa, but are actually there to do well.  And so, the opportunity for mutually beneficial relationships between US and African businesses in all sorts of sectors and is a part of the global economy is really kind of the vision that everyone has for Africa now.  It is certainly not my vision, but I can personally attest to it.

Ms. Florie Liser, thank you very much for talking to Pan African visions!

Thank you for having me!

 

 

 

 

 

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The Rise of The Front National and Its Impact on Francophone Africa
April 22, 2017 | 0 Comments

Dr. Gary K. Busch*

Chadian president Idriss Deby Itno (R) speaks with French far-right Front National (FN) party candidate for the presidential election Marine Le Pen on March 21, 2017 at the presidential palace in N'Djamena.   Le Pen arrived on March 21, 2017 in Chad to visit French soldiers deployed against jihadists, ignoring protests from the regime's main opposition. / AFP PHOTO / BRAHIM ADJI

Chadian president Idriss Deby Itno (R) speaks with French far-right Front National (FN) party candidate for the presidential election Marine Le Pen on March 21, 2017 at the presidential palace in N’Djamena.
Le Pen arrived on March 21, 2017 in Chad to visit French soldiers deployed against jihadists, ignoring protests from the regime’s main opposition. / AFP PHOTO / BRAHIM ADJI

There is a very important presidential election coming up in France in which one of the main contenders for the presidency is the National Front (FN) led by Marine LePen. The FN is a party of the far right; a strongly nationalist party whose main programme is an anti-immigrant, anti-Islamic and anti- European Union policy aimed at eliminating or reducing France’s role in the globalisation of the world economy. It has gained an increasing share of support among the French electorate.

Marine LePen visited the former French colony of Chad rcently where 3,500 French soldiers are engaged in Operation Barkhane through which the French are seeking to secure the Sahara-Sahel region from terrorist attacks and to protect its source of uranium ore in nearby Niger. While she was there she pledged to break with her country’s decades-old relationship with Africa known as “Françafrique” and abolish the CFA franc currency policy that binds Paris and its former colonies. This was followed by a demand for France to leave the European Union and the Euro currency zone.

These policies were designed for their appeal to the ultra-right nationalists of the French electorate but they will also have a dramatic and disastrous effect on francophone Africa and its neighbours. The most important of these factors is the conflict over the Communuate Financiere de l’Afrique (“CFA’) franc, the common currency in francophone Africa. At its inception, the CFA was pegged at 100 CFA for each French franc but, after France joined the Euro zone at a fixed rate of 6.65957 French francs to one Euro, the CFA rate to the Euro was fixed at CFA 665,957 to each Euro, maintaining the 100 to 1 ratio. It is important to note that it is the responsibility of the French Treasury to guarantee the convertibility of the CFA to the Euro.

The monetary policy governing such a diverse aggregation of countries is uncomplicated for African Central Banks because it is, in fact, operated by the French Treasury, without reference to the central fiscal authorities of any of the African states. Each African state must deposit 65% (now reduced to 50%) of its foreign reserves with the French Treasury plus an additional 20% for administration. This means that since the early 1960s around 85% of the Africans’ foreign reserves have been transferred to France. These are deposited in the “operations accounts” controlled by the French Treasury. The two CFA banks are African in name, but have no monetary policies of their own. The countries themselves do not know, nor are they told, how much of the pool of foreign reserves held by the French Treasury belongs to them as a group or individually. The earnings of the investment of these funds in the French Treasury pool (at a rate of 0.75%) are supposed to be added to the pool but no accounting has ever been given to either the banks or the countries of the details of any such changes. The limited group of high officials in the French Treasury who have knowledge of the amounts in the “operations accounts”, where these funds are invested; whether there is a profit on these investments; are prohibited from disclosing any of this information to the CFA banks or the central banks of the African states. This makes it impossible for African members to regulate their own monetary policies. A recent Bloomberg survey estimates that the French Treasury is holding at least US$20 to $40 billion in African foreign reserves which are held in the name of the French Treasury.

African governments do not have access to these funds held by the Treasury but are allowed to borrow their own money from the French at commercial rates. In addition to the difficulties posed by the French Treasury holding unaccounted African money, France is in financial trouble. France has run out of money. It has massive public and bank debt. The reason it has been able to sustain itself so far is because it has had the cushion of the cash deposited with the French Treasury by the African states since 1960. Much of this is held in both stocks in the name of the French Treasury and in bonds whose values have been offset and used to collateralise a substantial amount of French gilts, including pledges to the ECB.

This has happened before.  In 1994, the French Treasury simply devalued the CFA franc by 50%, changing from a parity of one French franc for 50 CFA francs to the pre-Euro 100 CFA francs. This caused havoc in the African economies but the African Heads of State of did not do anything or make provisions for changing the relationship with France over their currencies. In a meeting in Yaounde in November 2016 another devaluation was mooted but was postponed.

Francophone Africa’s current problem is the threat of an electoral victory by the FN whose promise is to abandon Françafrique, the Euro and the European Union. That will mean that the African reserves held by the French Treasury and hypothecated by the French in their sale of French bonds and gilts and pledged as collateral to the ECB will be forfeit and irretrievable as they are in the name of the French Treasury.

Mamadou Koulibaly, the former President of the Ivory Coast National Assembly, has been holding meetings over the last four months trying to promote an awareness of the dangers of this. There are others equally concerned. They point out that even if LePen and the FN do not win, her opponents are also not committed to assist the African states. They, too, have pledged a revision of the terms of Françafrique.

This is a time of grave danger for Africa as a whole as many African economies, including the francophones, are involved in numerous intra-African projects of the AU, the Millennium Challenge and the World Bank-IMF programs. Now is the time to act.

The non-francophone states of the Economic Community of West African States’ (ECOWAS) have already created a mechanism for the introduction of an African Single Currency  the ECO. The ECO is the name of the common currency that the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) has agreed to introduce within the framework of ECOWAS in 2020. After its introduction, the goal is to merge the new currency with the West African CFA franc, creating a common currency for much of West Africa. The WAMZ member countries include Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. The purpose of creating the ECO is to produce a common currency for all of West Africa which will reflect the needs and opportunities for trade which link African economies together and to provide a common platform for interaction with non-African currencies. There are further plans to link the ECO with the rest of the CFA zone later as well as with the emerging East African Community (EAC) and the Common Monetary Area (CMA) of Southern Africa.

In order for these plans to become reality it will be the urgent task of the francophone CFA states to get a transparent statement of their tranche of funds being held by the French Treasury. Several West African Heads of State have already requested this. When these balances are disclosed and agreed they can then be transferred, en bloc, to the new ECO and the CFA franc and its infrastructure then dissolved.

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France gives citizenship to 28 African WW2 veterans
April 20, 2017 | 0 Comments
French President Francois Hollande (centre right) shakes the hand of one of the veterans

French President Francois Hollande (centre right) shakes the hand of one of the veterans

French President Francois Hollande has given citizenship to 28 Africans who fought for France in World War Two and other conflicts.

Mr Hollande said France owed them “a debt of blood”.

The veterans – many from Senegal, and aged between 78 and 90 – received their new certificates of citizenship at the Elysee Palace in Paris.

Campaigners have long been calling for the rights of the veterans, long-term French residents, to be recognised.

“France is proud to welcome you, just as you were proud to carry its flag, the flag of freedom,” said President Hollande.

More naturalisation ceremonies are expected to follow for other veterans in France.

One of those granted citizenship on Saturday, Mohamed Toure, said the gesture will go some way towards healing old wounds.

“President Hollande did what none of his predecessors ever imagined. And that repairs a lot of things,” he said.

Many of the veterans fought with the French army in Algeria and Asia

Many of the veterans fought with the French army in Algeria and Asia

The granddaughter of a Senegalese soldier, Aissatou Seck, who is herself deputy mayor of a Parisian suburb, has been a lead campaigner for African veterans’ rights.

Last year, she started a petition that gained tens of thousands of signatures in less than a week.

The veterans have long been struggling for recognition and equality in France.

Until 2010, they received lower pensions than their French counterparts.

Their ambiguous status also meant they lacked access to other benefits and sometimes found it difficult to travel, said the BBC’s Africa editor, Mary Harper.

In 1944, dozens of West Africans were shot dead by French troops when they mutinied over unequal pay and pensions.

A few years ago, Mr Hollande acknowledged that French soldiers had gunned down their African counterparts.

But many war veterans are still demanding a full apology.

*BBC

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AfDB Calls for a “Revolution” in Providing Energy Access Solutions
March 31, 2017 | 0 Comments
Adesina

Adesina

The African Development Bank (AfDB) brought together more than 180 stakeholders across the off-grid energy sector on Tuesday, March 28, in the context of “Energy Week” at the Bank’s headquarters in Abidjan to discuss interventions to support the scale-up of energy access investments. The overarching objective was to unleash an “Off-Grid Energy Revolution”, to provide up to 75 million households and businesses not covered by the power grid with modern, clean and affordable electricity using decentralized solar technologies.

During the plenary session of the Off-Grid Revolution consultation workshop, opening remarks were given by Bank President Akinwumi Adesina; the Minister of Oil, Energy and Energy Development of Côte d’Ivoire, Thierry Tanoh; and the Minister of Energy of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Henry Macauley.

President Adesina said, “Africa’s energy potential is as enormous as its electricity deficit. We must move quickly to unlock this energy potential. We must be smart, efficient, sustainable and quick in our actions.” The Off-Grid Revolution stakeholder consultation comes under the framework of the New Deal on Energy for Africa, which aims to provide universal energy access to all Africans by 2025.

“Although we can employ mix of approaches, off-grid solutions must be at the core of our approach to achieve the ambitious electricity access targets that we have set,” Adesina added.

The future of off-grid energy solutions is bright. Amadou Hott, the AfDB Vice-President for Power, Energy, Climate Change and Green Growth, noted that millions of Africans have recently been connected to electricity by start-ups, driven by plummeting costs of solar photovoltaic (PV) and batteries, innovations in mobile payments and wireless communications technologies. “These businesses are increasing energy access across Africa faster, more cheaply, and more widely than conventional grid extension,” said Hott.

In break-out sessions, participants discussed the issues related to access to financing, risk mitigation, enabling environment and appropriate business models to scale up the energy access in Africa. Overall, stakeholders reiterated the need for a stronger political will by governments, ensure long-term integrated planning of off-grid and on-grid, and to develop the local ecosystem including manufacturing, skills development. Stakeholders also agreed on the need for more patient capital and local currency financing, hedging tools to mitigate foreign exchange risks, and to improve the credit scoring data.

The meeting was attended by leading and emerging businesses, country-representatives, civil society, industry bodies, local financial institutions, key development partners, technology providers, impact investors and AfDB staff.

About the Off-Grid Revolution

The AfDB – under its New Deal for Energy for Africa (NDEA) Strategy – has set an aspirational target of “off-grid” electricity access target of reaching 75 million connections by end of 2025. This can only be achieved through an unprecedented collaboration across a wide spectrum of committed partners. Against this backdrop, the Bank convened the “Off-Grid Revolution” workshop to define towards a suite of interventions to support the scale-up of “off grid” investment. The event is part of the Energy Week, a series of events, including high-level discussions and partnerships focusing on lighting up and powering Africa, and unlocking Africa’s huge energy potential co-organised and hosted by the AfDB. Energy Week runs from Monday, March 27 to Friday, March 31, 2017 in Abidjan.

About the AfDB’s Power, Energy, Climate Change and Green Growth Complex

The Power, Energy, Climate Change and Green Growth Sector Complex (PEVP), was created to fulfill the objectives of “Light Up and Power Africa” – principally achieving universal access to electricity by 2025. The Complex will accomplish this by building Africa’s energy systems while ensuring green growth. The entire development ecosystem for operational effectiveness, scale, socio- economic, and environmental impact will be taken into account. The New Deal on Energy for Africa, together with the inter-connected flagship programs is a top initiative of PEVP.

*AllAfrica. Read full Speech here

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France’s Le Pen calls for end to ‘Francafrique’ relations, CFA franc currency
March 24, 2017 | 0 Comments

N’DJAMENA French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen pledged on Wednesday to break with her country’s decades-old relationship with Africa known as “Francafrique” and abolish the CFA franc currency policy that binds Paris and its former colonies.

Francafrique describes an informal web of relationships Paris has maintained with its former African colonies and its support, sometimes in the form of military backing, for politicians who favor French business interests.

Le Pen, one of the frontrunners in the presidential election, spoke at the end of a two-day visit to Chad where she sought to outline her policies regarding the continent, which has long held an important place in French foreign policy.

“It was only in coming here and explaining that I am able to get around the lies of my political adversaries who don’t want Africa to hear me,” the National Front (FN) party candidate said at a news conference in the capital N’Djamena.

“I’ve come to condemn the policy of Francafrique that they’ve carried out. I have come to say I will break with this policy,” she said.

Former President Nicolas Sarkozy and incumbent Francois Hollande also vowed to end the Francafrique policy, but both kept France deeply involved in African politics and security matters.

Le Pen, a nationalist and vocal critic of the European Union, has spoken of her desire for France to abandon the euro currency.

In N’Djamena, she also called for an end to the CFA franc, a currency used in 14 west and central African nations, which is tied to the euro at a fixed exchange rate – with the peg guaranteed by the French Treasury.

“I understand the complaints of African states which consider as a matter of principle that they must have their own currency and that the CFA franc is a hindrance to their economic development. I completely agree with this vision,” she said.

In building the FN into a viable mainstream party, Le Pen has worked to shake off the baggage of its historical anti-semitism and deflect current accusations of racism and Islamophobia.

And while she sought to highlight that French citizens of African origin have the same rights and duties as any other citizens, she maintained the hard line on immigration that has solidified her support among many voters.

“Because France is sovereign, because it has its laws, because everyone who enters a country must respect these laws, foreigners living illegally in France will be sent home and French borders will be restored,” she said.

*REUTERS

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Africa-Israel Summit: Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu to attend the Africa-Israel Summit in Lomé, Togo
March 24, 2017 | 1 Comments
The Africa-Israel Summit is jointly organized by the Togolese and Israeli diplomatic service as well as Africa-Israel Connect
TEL AVIV, Israel, March 21, 2017/ — The international news network i24News and the executive committee of the Africa-Israel Summit  have signed a partnership agreement, making i24News the official media partner for the summit which will take place in Lomé, Togo, from October 23-27, 2017.

i24news, a channel broadcasted from Tel Aviv, will offer exclusive coverage of the event through its three channels (French, English, Arabic) in partnership with its Washington, Paris and New York offices.

The network will ensure the media promotion of the Africa-Israel Summit in the months leading up to the event and will be the official media partner with exclusive access to the summit.

i24News aims to strike deep and long-term roots in the African continent and expand its coverage beyond the countries where it is already present. Franck Melloul, CEO of the i24 news channel declared: “I am very honored and excited to launch our media partnership between our network and the Africa-Israel Summit. I am convinced that it is a great initiative to promote cooperation between Africa and Israel and that promoting the media coverage of the event is an excellent opportunity for i24. In addition, I believe that the Summit will serve as an ideal framework for our network to strike deep roots in Africa and further i24news’ status as a global news network”.

The Africa-Israel Summit, an event jointly organized by the Togolese and Israeli diplomatic service as well as Africa-Israel Connect, will be held in October 2017 in Lomé, Togo and will host the senior leadership from both Africa and the State of Israel including PM Netanyahu and African heads of state for exclusive talks and discussions focused on political and business matters. Bruno Finel, CEO of the Africa-Israel Connect firm stated: “The Africa-Israel Summit is a unique opportunity to fulfill the formidable potential of heightened cooperation between Jerusalem and the African continent. Moreover, Lomé is an ideal venue to hold the Summit. Indeed, the city regularly hosts high-profile conferences and President Faure Gnassingbe is a historic and faithful friend of the Jewish state. In addition, the President’s proven commitment to proactive and dynamic diplomacy is an invaluable asset to the success of the Summit”.

The theme of the Summit is ‘Innovation for a shared prosperity’.

i24 news, a subsidiary of the Altice Group (SFR, Portugal Telecom, Suddenlink, Cablevision, L’Express, BFM, Liberation, HOT) was launched in July 2013 and employs a staff of 150 people.

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