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Fitch affirms African Development Bank’s Triple ‘A’ rating with Stable Outlook
August 12, 2017 | 0 Comments

Leading global rating agency Fitch Ratings has affirmed the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) Long-Term Issuer Default Rating (IDR) at ‘AAA’ with a Stable Outlook and its Short-Term IDR at ‘F1+’ (best quality grade, indicating exceptionally strong capacity to meet its financial commitments).

In a statement released on 4 August, the agency said the ‘AAA’ rating primarily reflects extraordinary support from AfDB’s shareholders which provides a three-notch uplift over the Bank’s intrinsic rating.

“AfDB enjoys strong support from its 80 member states, which include 26 non-African countries with high average ratings. Callable capital subscribed by member states rated ‘AAA’, the largest of which are the US, Germany and Canada, accounts for 21% of the total. This fully covered the Bank’s net debt at end-2016, underpinning the ‘aaa’ assessment of shareholders’ capacity to support,” the statement said.

The report underscores the strong propensity of member states to support the Bank in case of need as illustrated by previous capital increases and the Bank’s important role in the region’s financing.

In the assessment, Fitch maintains that fast growth in AfDB’s lending in the last two years has translated into a rapid increase in its indebtedness, noting that the Bank’s Management has indicated that if there is no clear evidence of a capital increase within the next two years, it will have no choice but to curb lending growth to preserve the Bank’s solvency metrics. The report added that if no capital increase is approved by 2019, debt will not be fully covered by callable capital from ‘AAA’ rated countries, adding that this would place substantial pressure on Fitch’s assessment of extraordinary support and, hence on AfDB’s IDR.

Fitch asserts that the relatively high risk profile of borrowers is mitigated by the preferred creditor status (PCS) that the Bank enjoys on its sovereign exposures.

Fitch assesses AfDB’s liquidity at ‘aaa’, which reflects excellent coverage of short-term debt by liquid assets (2.9x). However, Fitch notes that the share of the portfolio invested in securities or bank placements rated ‘AA-‘ or above (83% in 2016) is declining, although their quality is still assessed at excellent. Fitch understands that management intends to rebalance the treasury assets portfolio in order to increase the proportion of assets rated ‘AA-‘ or above. This would help underpin Fitch’s assessment of the strength of extraordinary support, given the relevance of liquid assets’ quality to the net debt calculation.

“The -1 notch adjustment to AfDB’s solvency stemming from our assessment of its business environment reflects the high risk operating environment in which the bank operates,” the report says, noting that the majority of African countries are classified as low income by the World Bank. The average income per capita and average rating of member states are the lowest of all regional MDBs, and they are subject to an overall high level of political risk.

Commenting on the rating, AfDB Acting Vice-President for Finance, Hassatou Diop N’Sele, said, “We welcome the confirmation of the AfDB’s AAA rating by Fitch, with a stable outlook. The Bank is dedicated to doing the most to make a marked positive difference in the lives of hundreds of millions of Africans, while at the same time preserving its financial integrity. Our High 5agenda is our response to the need to accelerate and scale up Africa’s development to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of the continent. The High 5 agenda, reflecting five identified priority areas (namely energy, agriculture, industrialization, integration and human capital development), enjoys strong support from our shareholders. The AfDB will continue to maintain a careful balance between maximizing its development effectiveness and assuring complete preservation of the interests of its stakeholders.”

*AFDB

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One Thousand Young African Leaders Convene in Washington to Collaborate on Leadership and Skill Building
August 12, 2017 | 0 Comments
Ngale Foretia Henry, a Fellow from Cameroon hopes to put his experience to use in transforming the poultry sector

Ngale Foretia Henry, a Fellow from Cameroon hopes to put his experience to use in transforming the poultry sector

One thousand young African leaders gathered in Washington, D.C., last week for the 2017 Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit. Representing 48 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, the diverse group of leaders immersed themselves in activities to strengthen their leadership skills and to build connections with each other and U.S. leaders from the public, private, and non-profit sectors.

Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders logo

Held July 31 – August 2 and hosted by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs with support from IREX, the Summit marked the culmination of the Fellows’ six-week Academic and Leadership Institutes at colleges and universities across the United States. Fellows now return home to apply the skills they have gained and utilize the networks they have created to enhance peace and security, spur economic growth, and strengthen democratic institutions to the benefit of Africa and the United States.

 

 

Mandela Washington Fellow Peo Pinkie Sebotho from Botswanacommented on collaborating with other Fellows. “We were excited to share our experiences and our dreams for Africa. I made friends, I made business partners. We were planning what we would do together in the future.”

Participants at the Institute for Regional & International Studies at UW Madison

Participants at the Institute for Regional & International Studies at UW Madison

Mark Taplin, then Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, said: “I don’t think of this as just a Mandela Washington Fellows Summit. This may be the biggest gathering all year here in D.C. of the up-and-coming, the leading and creating, the dreaming and doing, the sharing and caring. You are the future in business and entrepreneurship, in civil society and governance of the world’s most up-and-coming continent.”

Wade Warren, then Acting Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development, also addressed the Fellows, calling on them to use the full power of the networks the Fellowship has helped them forge, and to think of challenges as opportunities.

Participants from Togo

Participants from Togo

Wednesday highlighted U.S. and African perspectives on leadership with remarks from Tony Elumelu, Chairman of Heirs Holdings and Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation; Dr. Helene Gayle, CEO of McKinsey Social Initiative; Norman Moyo, Author and CEO of New Enterprise Business DPA & CUMII at ECONET; and General (Retired) Richard Myers, President of Kansas State University and 15th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://youtu.be/YHl_wNJ0KDE

“I’ve studied why leaders are successful and I’ve seen a common thread: legacy. So as young leaders, you must think legacy. You must think long-term. The age you’re creating is the age of empowerment,” Elumelu declared.

In his address, General Myers emphasized courage and risk-taking. “If you’re trying to make a difference, you have to persevere. It takes more than a heroic leader to make a difference, it takes all of us,” urged Myers.

Wednesday also featured a Congressional forum on investing in the next generation of Africa with U.S. Senator from Delaware Chris Coons discussing advocacy, entrepreneurship, civic engagement, human rights, and U.S.-Africa relations.

IREX President and CEO Kristin M. Lord notes: “The Mandela Washington Fellowship creates a network of leaders advancing peace, prosperity, and more effective governance. That benefits not only people on the African continent, but forges people-to-people and government-to-government relationships that benefit both the United States and Africa.”

*Source IREX/PR Newswire.Contact Alex Cole, Director of Strategic Communications, IREX
acole@irex.org
202-628-8188

 

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UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Angélique Kidjo and Benin’s music stars say NO to child marriage!
August 8, 2017 | 0 Comments
© UNICEF UNICEF international Goodwill Ambassador, Angélique Kidjo and UNICEF Benin national Goodwill Ambassador Zeynab Abib, along with seven of Benin’s greatest artists have joined forces to create a song calling on the population to say NO to child marriage

© UNICEF
UNICEF international Goodwill Ambassador, Angélique Kidjo and UNICEF Benin national Goodwill Ambassador Zeynab Abib, along with seven of Benin’s greatest artists have joined forces to create a song calling on the population to say NO to child marriage

UNICEF international Goodwill Ambassador, Angélique Kidjo and UNICEF Benin national Goodwill Ambassador Zeynab Abib, along with seven of Benin’s greatest artists have joined forces to create a song calling on the population to say NO to child marriage, as part of the national Zero Tolerance Campaign against child marriage.

“A little girl is still a child. She cannot be a mother or a bride. Let her grow up to live a fulfilling life. Say NO to child marriage!”, sing UNICEF’s Goodwill Ambassadors, Angélique Kidjo and Zeynab Abib, accompanied by Danialou Sagbohan, Kalamoulaï, Don Métok, Sessimè, Dibi Dobo, Norberka and Olga Vigouroux.

As part of the national Zero Tolerance Campaign against child marriage, launched by the Government of Benin on June 16th – the Day of the Africa Child (DAC) – the nine artists committed themselves to this unprecedented movement to help break the silence around child marriage. Through the creation of a song and a video, which are deeply moving, yet full of hope, the nine artists called on the population of Benin to act.

“Child marriage is a negation of children’s right to grow up free. Every child has the right to a childhood. I call on parents not to marry off their young daughters as they are our wealth and the future of our continent”, said Angélique Kidjo who co-created the song with Zeynab Abib.

The artists sing in a variety of languages, including Fon, Mina, Mahi, Sahouè, Yoruba, Goun, Bariba and French in order for the message to reach people throughout the country and in neighbouring countries.

“The impact on these girls is terrible. Once married, they no longer attend school, they are raped, they fall pregnant, which puts their health and that of their baby in danger. We artists are saying NO to all these injustices! Girls are not the property of anyone; they have the right to choose their own destinies”, insists Beninese pop star Zeynab Abib, who was able to mobilise Benin’s greatest artists around this cause.

In most African societies, marriage extends beyond the couple, sealing the union between two families. As such, certain parents or guardians force their children to marry before they are physically or psychologically mature. Poverty, poor levels of education, and the prevalence of traditions and belief systems, along with a general culture of impunity, are all tied to the continued practice of child marriage.

 

 

Among the 700 million women around the world who are victims of forced marriage, more than one in three – or 250 million – were married before the age of 18. In Central and Western Africa, two in five girls (41%) marry before reaching their 18th birthday. In Benin, one in ten girls is married under the age of 15 and three out of ten girls are married before they are 18 years old.

“We need all the strength and weapons we can muster to fight the scourge of child marriage. Art, especially music, is a powerful weapon. As Nelson Mandela said, ‘politics can be strengthened by music, but music has a potency that defies politics’. This power must be harnessed!” said Dr Claudes Kamenga, UNICEF Representative in Benin.

The national authorities, through the voice of the Minister for Communications and the Minister of Social Affairs also hailed the commitment of the performers and called on the media to broadcast the video widely.

The Zero Tolerance campaign against child marriage is directly in line with the African Union Campaign to End Child Marriage on the continent. The campaign has been made possible thanks to financial support from the nations of Belgium and the Netherlands’.

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do.  Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

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Has France Found an African Solution to an African Problem?
August 8, 2017 | 0 Comments

The days of the French colonial empire may be long gone, but Paris’ involvement in the unstable region of the Sahel is not. French forces have been offering support for countries in the region — notably Group of 5 (G5) members Burkina Faso, Mali, Chad, Niger and Mauritania — for years. But as French concerns about the overmilitarization of the Sahel have grown, Paris seeks to find another solution in the form of the G5 Sahel Force. Made up of African troops from the G5 states, this counterterrorism and counter-trafficking entity may eventually play a critical role in stabilizing the Sahel region.

As recently as Aug. 2, French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly visited the Sahel states of Chad, Niger and Mali to engage with soldiers and speak with leaders. The subtext for Parly’s trip was a desire to reaffirm French support for the Sahel Force. France and its allies are hoping that the entity will one day offer regional security using local forces, enabling Paris and other Western nations to lessen their involvement in the Sahel.

The Long Struggle

Africa’s Sahel region is most commonly associated with a handful of countries stretching across the sub-Saharan portion of the continent, including the G5. These nations are prone to several forms of state weakness, including a lack of resources and investment, poverty, corrupt and ineffectual armed forces and an inability to assert control over vast territories. Thus, the region has historically been a hotbed for terrorism, political instability and the trafficking of arms, drugs and humans. As a result, Western nations — particularly France, a former Sahel colonizer — have often stepped in to help stabilize the area. The French military, for example, has been conducting counterterrorism operations there under the auspices of Operation Barkhane since 2013, when Paris intervened to prevent Mali’s collapse amid an assault from Tuareg and Islamic militant forces.

France has been fairly successful as the region’s security guarantor, pulling its diplomatic and security weight to aid Mali and shore up other relatively weak regional allies such as Niger. But recently, Paris has sought to lessen its defense burden in the Sahel by increasingly offloading onto African and European allies. (The U.S., for its part, is already involved in the region, engaging in special operations, drone operations and logistical support.) All European states are ultimately threatened by the problems of the Sahel, given that its relative proximity to the Mediterranean Sea provides a thin barrier for transnational issues. It is therefore understandable that France would expect these nations — especially Germany — to increase their contributions.

One key component of this redistribution of resources has been the European Union Training Mission in Mali (EUTM), designed to advise and train the Malian military. As noted, Mali has been at the epicenter of the region’s terrorism problem, and since 2013, the EUTM has been critical in building up the Malian armed forces following a coup and decades of corruption. Training missions such as the EUTM have been particularly useful in encouraging involvement from European countries — including Germany — that are more reticent about exercising hard power overseas.

The EUTM mission and Operation Barkhane are successes in many respects. But the overall picture of Sahel security in the coming years is one that will heavily feature French forces, simply because of the limited capacity of regional governments and militaries. From Mauritania to Niger, countries on the continent continue to struggle with border security: On July 12, the Mauritanian minister of defense declared the country’s border with Algeria closed and its immediate area a military zone, with the Mauritanian armed forces considering all individuals in the zone to be legitimate targets. The decision was no doubt the result of increased drug trafficking and terrorist group operations in the area.

And the degradation of the security environment in recent months and years is not exclusive to Mauritania’s remote north. Other zones, such as the tri-border region between Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, have seen increases in terrorist activity: militants have attacked wayward government outposts to steal provisions, wreak havoc on locals and sometimes kidnap the few Westerners left in the vast space. Thus, the local authorities of formerly stable zones are now under additional pressure to address the metastasizing threat.
An African Solution

The reality is that France cannot significantly reduce its security burdens in the Sahel right now. The former colonial power has instead been attempting to broaden the scope of its strategy. French President Emmanuel Macron has expressed concern about France’s strategy in the region becoming overly militarized in recent years, to the detriment of longer-term state building. Since May 2017, Macron’s administration has accelerated efforts to get the G5 Sahel Force up and running. Designed to tackle the more transnational nature of terrorism and crime, the standing force has been touted as “An African solution for African problems” (a term no doubt used to drum up international support). But as with everything in the instability-plagued region, the launch of the G5 Sahel Force has been marked by almost equal parts success and setbacks.

There are countless examples of African forces struggling to make progress without being totally dependent on the financial and logistical support of the United Nations, the European Union and other global powers. For instance, the standby forces of the Economic Community of West African States and the Economic Community of Central African States both faced serious difficulties in their efforts to become productive and autonomous. The G5 Sahel Force is almost certainly headed in the same direction.

On June 5, the European Union committed $56 million to the force following a visit to Mali by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. France has also ponied up, reportedly providing an initial $9 million along with 70 tactical vehicles, in addition to $228 million in regional development aid over the next five years. As Macron put it, France’s real contribution will be “advice, material and combat.” Moreover, Berlin is expected to host an international donors conference in September to partially fund the G5 Sahel Force.

In spite of these initial and prospective gains, the financial viability of the force is still in question. Reportedly, each G5 Sahel member state will contribute $10 million each, bringing in another $50 million. But Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita recently noted that current levels of funding were nowhere near the estimated $500 million annual budget that he sees as necessary to fund the 5,000-member force.

A “two steps forward, one step back” dynamic was further on display at the United Nations on June 21, when the U.N. Security Council unanimously passed a resolution that backed the Sahel Force. U.S. objections to additional U.N. spending obligations forced France to water down the resolution’s text. (The Trump administration has sought to cut its international commitments, including in the realm of peacekeeping.) The version of the resolution that ultimately passed states only that the U.N. Security Council “welcomes the deployment” of the force; it does not commit the international organization to any funding.

Putting the Sahel Force Into Action

Nevertheless, Macron is pushing hard to have the G5 Sahel Force up and running by October, so that it can “prove itself” on the ground. Some facts about the entity have already been revealed: For example, it will be headquartered in Sevare in northern Mali and will reportedly focus on three critical border regions: the West Zone (Mali-Mauritania), the Center Zone (Mali-Burkina Faso-Niger), and the East Zone (Niger-Chad). This follows the emphasis on cross-border security challenges implemented by the Multinational Joint Task Force, which was designed to address the threat posed by the Boko Haram insurgency. And in a broader sense, the regional focus continues a trend of Sahel states pooling their resources. In one such recent instance, Mali, Chad and Niger signed an agreement in May allowing the three countries to expedite potential terrorist or criminal suspects, exchange judicial records and obtain information about travelers.

However, the exact number and composition of the Sahel Force remain uncertain. It will reportedly be composed of battalions of 750 soldiers from each country, although this would tally up to a 3,750-member force, well short of the oft-cited 5,000-member figure. Moreover, it has been stated that these soldiers will operate under their own respective flags rather than being part of a supranational group. This could prove problematic if political leaders become unwilling to spread various burdens across the broader force. Chadian President Idriss Deby recently complained that his country’s armed forces — a key French ally and the region’s most capable military — are “overstretched” in their struggle to combat terrorism. The G5 request for more troop contributions comes amid Chad’s continued financial difficulties in the wake of falling crude oil exports prices. Deby is likely hoping to drum up more financial support from Western allies, namely France.

Overall, it remains to be seen how much interoperability can truly be achieved by the five nation, seven battalion Sahel Force — and how heavily the entity will rely on France. There have been joint African military operations in the past, such as Mali and Burkina Faso’s Operation Panga, which focused on rooting out militants in the Fhero Forest. But while that operation was hailed as a success because militants were killed and captured, materiel was seized and intelligence was gained, it relied heavily on the French military as its backbone. France’s Operation Barkhane furnished soldiers, tactical vehicles, fighter jets and drones.

One thing is clear: Along with limited help from other international actors, the French military is instrumental in holding the Sahel region together. Getting the G5 Sahel Force up and running is a big step forward in finding regional solutions for regional problems. But even in the best case scenario, France is still many years away from being able to significantly reduce its security burden in the Sahel.

*Culled from Stratfor Worldview

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CONSTITUENCY FOR AFRICA ANNOUNCES COLLABORATION WITH THE AFRICAN UNION AND THE ELLIOTT SCHOOL OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS FOR THE 2017 RONALD H. BROWN AFRICAN AFFAIRS SERIES
August 4, 2017 | 0 Comments
CFA President Melvin Foote  with Dr. Arikana Chihombori Quao, the  African Union Ambassador to the United States.

CFA President Melvin Foote with Dr. Arikana Chihombori Quao, the African Union Ambassador to the United States.

WASHINGTON, DC (August 3, 2017) – The Constituency for Africa (CFA) announces its collaboration with the African Union (AU) and the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University for the 2017 Ronald H. Brown African Affairs Series. This year’s Series will be held from September 18th through September 23rd in Washington, DC.

“I am excited about CFA’s partnership with the African Union and George Washington University,” stated Mr. Melvin P. Foote, CFA’s Founder, President & Chief Executive Officer. “We have worked closely with both institutions in previous years, and our collaboration this year affords CFA the opportunity to more closely align our efforts with the AU and George Washington University to engage the Diaspora on meaningful policy issues that affect the lives of hundreds of millions of Africans and Africans in the Diaspora.”

The theme of the 2017 Ronald H. Brown Series is “Mobilizing the Diaspora in Support of the U.S.-Africa Agenda.” The purpose of the Series will be to bring together stakeholders from the U.S., Africa, and throughout the Diaspora to assess the U.S. Administration’s Africa policy, and to identify challenges and opportunities. Participants in the Ronald H. Brown Series will discuss critical issues in a number of key areas, including Healthcare Infrastructure, Democracy & Governance, Trade & Investment, Next Generation Leadership, Agriculture, and Diaspora Engagement. Based on these discussions, CFA and its partners will produce a Diaspora strategy to include policy recommendations for the U.S. Administration and the AU.

Over the first three days of the Ronald H. Brown Series, CFA will convene several policy roundtables at the AU Mission in Washington, DC. “The AU looks forward to hosting CFA and its participants. Over the years, we have followed CFA’s work closely, and believe that CFA is having tremendous impact on U.S.-Africa policy. Additionally – and just as important – CFA’s work to educate and mobilize the African Diaspora is consistent with one of our key activities at the AU Mission. The AU is fully aware that sustainable development in Africa must involve the African Diaspora,” said H.E. Arikana Chihombori, the AU’s Permanent Representative to the U.S.

After the conclusion of the policy roundtables, CFA will convene a U.S.-Africa Policy Forum hosted by the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University in Washington, DC. In 2016, this Policy Forum was Co-Chaired by the Honorable Andrew Young, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and Mayor of Atlanta, Georgia; and His Excellency Hage Geingob, President of the Republic of Namibia.  “Last year’s U.S.-Africa Policy Forum was a tremendous success,” said Ambassador Reuben E. Brigety, Dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs (ESIA), who hosted and moderated the Forum. “Based on our experience last year, ESIA expects the upcoming U.S.-Africa Policy Forum to provide a platform for a robust and productive policy discussion. I look forward to an exchange of ideas, and the development of substantive policy recommendations for the U.S. Government and the African Union.” ESIA will also host the CFA Chairman’s Reception on the evening of Wednesday, September 20th.

For more information on this year’s Ronald H. Brown African Affairs Series and to register for events, please visit www.ronaldbrownseries.org.

For over 26 years, CFA has established itself as one of the leading, non-partisan organizations focused on educating and mobilizing the American public and the African Diaspora in the U.S. on U.S.-Africa policy.  As a result, CFA has helped to increase the level of cooperation and coordination among a broad-based coalition of individuals and organizations committed to the progress, development, and empowerment of Africa and African people worldwide.

The African Union Representational Mission to the U.S. is the first bilateral diplomatic mission of the African Union. Officially launched on July 11, 2007 in Washington, DC, its mandate is to undertake, develop, and maintain constructive and productive institutional relationships between the African Union and the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. Government, the African Diplomatic Corps, the Africans in the Diaspora, and the Bretton Woods Institutions.

 

About the Elliott School of International Affairs

The George Washington University has educated generations of international leaders and advanced the understanding of important global issues since 1821. The Elliott School of International Affairs, named in honor of former GW President Lloyd H. Elliott and his wife Evelyn, is dedicated to this mission. ESIA trains its students in the theory and practice of international affairs, offering them in-depth analysis of international economic, political, scientific and cultural issues. The School’s widely respected faculty prepares Elliott School students for global careers in the public, private and non-profit sectors.

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In a World of Disarray, Africa Is Taking Steps Forward
July 31, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Michael O’Hanlon & Emily Terry*

A Mozambican soldier takes part in exercises as part of the African Union's African Standby Force (ASF) at the South Africa National Defence Force's Lohatla training area October 27, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

A Mozambican soldier takes part in exercises as part of the African Union’s African Standby Force (ASF) at the South Africa National Defence Force’s Lohatla training area October 27, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

At this juncture in mid-2017, while the Middle East remains highly turbulent and global security challenges remain acute from Korea and East Asia to Ukraine and Afghanistan, what is the state of security in Africa? A continent of fifty-four nations, ranging from the Arab regions of the north to the Sahel region and a number of subzones in Sub-Saharan Africa, there are of course many stories to tell. But three stand out. The net assessment for the continent as a whole, while far from rosy, has a number of promising dimensions.

Africa’s security situation might be summarized as follows:

First is the state of terrorism and extremism. This remains a tough and disturbing story, overall. Countries from Mali to Libya to Somalia have been afflicted, by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, ISIS, and Al-Shabaab among the key perpetrators. Terrorist attacks have also occurred in places such as Kenya and Burkina Faso. It is hard to talk of improvement in any of these places. At least things are not getting worse on balance. Indeed, there has perhaps even some slight improvement in Nigeria in particular, where the fight against Boko Haram continues(and occasionally spills over slightly into neighboring countries like Cameroon), but where the International Institute for Strategic Studies reports a reduced fatality rate relative to 2015.

Second is the state of civil war and famine in several key countries in the general east-west swath of land that includes the semi-arid Sahel region of Africa. This is a tragedy happening before our eyes in real time. It involves a belt of nations overlapping with some of the countries suffering from terrorism and extremism. The Sudans, Central African Republic, Somalia and Nigeria are among the worst hit, with parts of these countries collectively now containing more than 15 million people at acute risk of starvation. Beyond the specific risks from famine, South Sudan continues to devour itself in pointless and petty violence that involves huge numbers of sexual crimes as well.

Other conflict zones in this swath of countries may be faring slightly better. Sudan does not have the degree of infighting it suffered a decade ago, even if it is far from peaceful. On June 19 of this year, the Central African Republic’s government and thirteen of the fourteen armed groups in the country signed an accord to end ethnic and religious conflict. However, it is too soon to know if this will lead to a meaningful trend towards stability.

Third is the continent writ large, encompassing the majority of the nations in Africa. Most of it is more peaceful that it has been, on average, since the waves of independence in the late 1950s and 1960s or during most of the Cold War and then the 1990s. On balance, Africa is slightly more stable (and somewhat more democratic) than ever before in modern times.

Of course, this is a provisional judgment—and whatever peace may be breaking out coexists near lots of ongoing conflict and also requires many peacekeepers to sustain. Indeed, there are currently eight United Nations peacekeeping operations in Africa: UNMISS in South Sudan, UNISFA in the disputed Abyei region, UNAMID in Darfur, MONUSCO in the Democratic Republic of Congo, MINUSCA in Central African Republic, MINUSMA in Mali, UNMIL in Liberia and finally MINURSO in Western Sahara. Overall, there are over 92,000 personnel serving in UN peacekeeping operations in Africa.

In addition to collaborating with the UN in Darfur, the African Union has two active peace operations: AMISOM in Somalia, and the Regional Cooperation Initiative for the Elimination of the Lord’s Resistance Army (RCI-LRA). There are over 22,000 deployed AMISOM personnel, with most of its troops coming from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone. RCI-LRA has a Regional Task Force of over 3,000 soldiers from Uganda, South Sudan, DRC and CAR.

Political tensions over transfers of power, or more commonly, the absence of a transfer of power, make things dicey in several other countries, too. Too many leaders are holding onto power indefinitely, either through sham elections or no real elections at all, or the dominance of political organization and process in their respective countries that allows them to get elected more or less indefinitely. Not only DRC and Burundi, but Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Angola are notable examples of this dangerous trend. Even in a relatively benign case like Paul Kagame’s Rwanda, where the strongman leader has undoubtedly delivered much for his country, the tendency towards a “presidency for life” pattern of behavior puts democracy—and national stability—at risk.

Indeed, eight presidents in Africa have now amassed more than 229 years in power between them. These include: Eduardo dos Santos from Angola (thirty-seven), Teodoro Obiang Nguema from Equatorial Guinea (thirty-seven), Paul Biya from Cameroon (thirty-three), Idriss Deby from Chad (twenty-six), Denis Sassou-Nguesso of Congo-Brazzaville (thirty-two), Yoweri Museveni of Uganda (thirty-one), Paul Kagame of Rwanda (seventeen) and Joseph Kabila of the DRC (sixteen). Beyond just these cases, Africa’s trend towards democracy, after an impressive period of improvement in the 1990s and 2000s, has plateaued: Freedom House ranked four African countries as free in 1998, eleven as free in 2007, but only ten as free in 2016.

 There are more hopeful political stories too, of course. In January 2017, former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh left the country after twenty-two years in power, marking the first president to peacefully hand over power in Gambia since its independence from the British in 1965. The Gambia’s peaceful transition of governance gives hope for future democratic elections. More significantly, a successful election in Kenya in August could give the cause of African democracy a substantial boost.

Southern Africa, including Angola and Mozambique, remains fairly quiet in terms of conflict if not necessarily politics. Most of West Africa is moving well beyond the civil wars of the 1990s and 2000s (and the Ebola crisis of 2014). Ethiopia, the continent’s second most populous state, may have quieted down somewhat after significant unrest a couple years ago.

On balance, there are ample troubles today in Africa, as always. Yet fatality rates are down more than half relative to the 1990s, according to data from the Peace Research Institute of Oslo and Uppsala University in Sweden among others (and economic growth rates, while slower the last couple years, have typically reached 4 to 5 percent annually in the 2000s, after decades of far worse performance). Overall, in a world characterized by disarray, it may be somewhat risky but still fair to venture that Africa continues to move gradually if fitfully forward.

*Source National Interest.Michael O’Hanlon is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Emily Terry is an intern with the Brookings Africa Security Initiative.

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How much have development strategies changed in Africa since independence?
July 29, 2017 | 0 Comments

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Ibrahim Hassane Mayaki (left), former prime minister of Niger; Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma (center), former South African minister of health; and Carlos Lopes, former executive secretary of the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa, during a 2013 working breakfast of the 29th Session of the New Partnerships for Africa’s Development at African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (GCIS/Flickr)

Ibrahim Hassane Mayaki (left), former prime minister of Niger; Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma (center), former South African minister of health; and Carlos Lopes, former executive secretary of the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa, during a 2013 working breakfast of the 29th Session of the New Partnerships for Africa’s Development at African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (GCIS/Flickr)

This week in the African Politics Summer Reading Spectacular, we talk about economic development in Africa. In a broad study of nine African countries, Landry Signé examines innovation in development in his book, “Innovating Development Strategies in Africa: The Role of International, Regional and National Actors.” Signé kindly answered my questions about the book.

Kim Yi Dionne: As you observe in your book, both African and international development leaders invoke innovation in describing their development strategies. But how much have development strategies in Africa actually changed over the decades since independence?

Landry Signé: It depends on the way you think about innovation. In identifying innovation, most scholars focus on the content of development policy. They ask if a new development strategy is just “old wine in a new bottle,” usually on their way to explaining why a policy is doomed to fail. This substantive perspective often overlooks the slow-moving processes of some development innovations.

Most scholars have taken little interest in explaining development strategies in a procedural sense, at least when focusing on Africa. By procedural, I mean the forms, processes and mechanisms by which development strategies emerge, change and impact development outcomes over the long term.

My book examines both perspectives on innovation — substantive and procedural — and pays special attention to the lesser-explored one: procedural. Much of the research by scholars working from a substantive perspective find a lot of continuity in development strategies in Africa. But I find in my work that there are innovations — often incremental ones — which lead in the long run to much more substantial and often overlooked economic and institutional transformation.

After independence, African countries shifted from state-led development to various levels of state withdrawal in the 1980s, combined with strategies for economic integration and development. In the 1990s, states continued to disengage, but added social protection measures. In the 2000s, the emergence of the World Bank’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers and the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) have marked a return to a more significant role for public institutions and continentwide development strategies in promoting economic development in a more market-friendly context. Only looking at the content of strategies, and not taking into account the process of emergence and the long-term impact of policies would miss this incredible transformation over the last few decades.

KYD: An important point you make in your book is that development strategies can be considered innovations even if they fail. Is there a failure you think is a good example of innovation in African development strategy?

LS: New development policies, whether substantially or procedurally innovative, could lead to poor outcomes over the short run, but can also contribute to a much more important dynamic of change. For example, although structural adjustment programs (SAPs) have broadly been considered a failure, they have defined new rules of the game and practices resulting in better macroeconomic management, increased accountability and governance effectiveness. Together with debt relief and a favorable international context, SAPs thus contributed to the transformation and overall good economic performance of African economies in the beginning of the 21st century. When scholars only focus on short-term impacts, they overlook more transformational changes brought by apparently failed policies.

KYD: Your book examines development in nine French-speaking countries formerly colonized by France. Why did you focus on these countries?

LS: I aimed to explain the overall transformation of African economies since the 1960s, providing a big picture of the changes which have taken place in development strategies. To make the study manageable, I first constructed a continental puzzle inspired by Paul Collier and Stephen O’Connell’s classification of African countries by economic structure and economic policy orientation. I wanted the sample of countries I studied to be a mix of low and middle-income countries, oil producers and non-oil producers, landlocked and poor in natural resources and landlocked and rich in natural resources, those that are coastal and poor in natural resources and those that are coastal and rich in resources, and those with socialist-leaning economies and those that are liberal-leaning.

After finalizing the continental classification, I realized that enough former French colonies were well represented in all the relevant categories to cover the full range of criteria for the continental analysis. I ultimately chose Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo for many reasons.

First, as members of the CFA franc zone, they have similar monetary policies. At the same time, these countries had contrasting economic structures, economic policy orientations and development outcomes. These important contrasts, despite the countries’ similarities, were more important in my decision to choose Francophone countries, than their former belonging to the French colonial empire, even if both are intertwined.

Second, I wanted to look at countries that shared the same colonial power as part of a growing effort among African scholars to dismantle the myth that colonial heritage is the main driver of contemporary development strategies in Africa. More and more work shows that domestic political economies interacted with international influence to shape development outcomes.

KYD: How might we take what we learn from your study to examine development in — for example — former British colonies or former Portuguese colonies?

LS: My book’s goal was to better understand how economic development strategies emerge and transform economies in sub-Saharan Africa — not only in Francophone Africa. I offer a theory explaining change over time in African development policies that applies broadly to African countries that underwent structural adjustment, whether former French, British, Portuguese, Belgian or Spain colonies.

I focus on the dynamics of domestic political economies in African countries and on their interactions with external actors. Despite the asymmetry in power relations with their international counterparts, African governments still have agency in making decisions about their development. My book offers a framework for understanding these interacting dynamics in the emergence and evolution of economic policies and development institutions in Africa.

Finally, I’ll say that one takeaway from my book is that we should take a broader view. While we researchers witness institutional and political continuities in the short run, even minor innovations can give rise to great political, economic and social innovations and transformations in the long run.

*Source Washington Post.Landry Signé is a distinguished fellow at Stanford University’s Center for African Studies, professor and senior adviser to the chancellor on international affairs at the University of Alaska Anchorage, Andrew Carnegie Fellow, Wilson Center Public Policy Fellow, Tutu Fellow and World Economic Forum Young Global Leader. Follow him on Twitter @landrysigne.

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Africa: Third Trump Try to Fill Senior Africa Policy Post
July 29, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Reed Kramer*

Two Africa posts to be filled by Trump administration? Cyril Sartor (far left) from the CIA may be picked to direct Africa at the National Security Council in the White House. J. Peter Pham from the Atlantic Council may be named Assistant Secretary of State for Africa.

Two Africa posts to be filled by Trump administration? Cyril Sartor (far left) from the CIA may be picked to direct Africa at the National Security Council in the White House. J. Peter Pham from the Atlantic Council may be named Assistant Secretary of State for Africa.

After two abandoned attempts to fill the highest Africa position in the White House, the Trump team is considering a career intelligence officer.

No announcement has been made, but sources with access to the selection process say Cyril Sartor, deputy assistant director for Africa at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), is the front runner to be senior director for Africa at the National Security Council (NSC).

On April 1, AllAfrica was the first to report the choice of Air Force veteran and former Pentagon Africa counter-terrorism director Rudolf Atallah for the NSC Africa job. Buzz Feed, which wrote about the Atallah selection 12 days later,  reported on June 23  that the offer to Atallah had been “yanked” – after he had been introduced at an ‘all-hands’ NSC meeting and had been actively working on African issues for the administration.

No reason has been advanced for the reversal on Atallah, who was the second person named to direct Africa at NSC. The first, Robin Townley, was blocked from taking the job after his security clearance reportedly was rejected by the CIA.

Among the positions Sartor has held, according to a brief biography posted online by the Aspen Security Forum in July 2016, are serving as briefer for two National Security Advisors and as acting intelligence officer for Africa at the National Intelligence Council (NIC), which produces strategic forecasts for the U.S. government. The bio says he earned an MA in African History from Boston University in 1984.

Sartor is among the small group of African Americans at senior level in the intelligence community. No official government biography is available online.

The information posted by Aspen accompanied Sartor’s participation in a public panel on terrorism in Africa at the Aspen forum in July 2016, a relatively rare appearance by an intelligence analyst. “It feels a little weird for a CIA officer to be live streaming on YouTube,” Sartor joked, as he began his prepared remarks.

“Violent Islamic ideology is a foreign import to sub-Saharan Africa and as such it only thrives where it can co-opt local grievances,” Sartor said, citing complaints among nomadic Tuareg people in Mali and “clan frustrations” that spur the insurgency in Somalia.

The socioeconomic roots of popular grievances must be addressed, he told the Forum, adding, “I sincerely believe the international community can defeat terrorism in sub Saharan Africa with a robust mix of long-term development and security assistance.” He said defeating terrorism in Africa “will take a long time” – in part because insurgencies typically last “more than a dozen years” and also because the youth population across Africa is growing faster than anywhere else in the world.

Top Africa Job at State Could Have Nominee Soon

Africa director at NSC is one of two high-level Africa jobs that remain unfilled more than five months into the Trump administration. No formal nomination has been put forward to head the Africa Bureau at the State Department, a front-line position tasked with managing U.S. diplomatic relations with the continent.

Africa experts who track policy developments believe a nomination for the senior Africa post at State could be nearing. The choice for Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian was announced on July 19 – only the third nomination to date for one of the 22 assistant secretary positions in the department.

After several names were discussed within the administration to be nominated as Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, well-connected sources say that J. Peter Pham, director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council, is being vetted and that his name could be one of the next submitted by the White House to the Senate for confirmation.

That these key posts remain empty is widely seen as part of the reason for the U.S. response to the ‘Compact for Africa’ put forward by German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the G20 Summit earlier this month. Riva Levinson, a Republican and a Washington DC-based government relations consultant with extensive African experience, writing in The Hill, labeled as “utterly tone-deaf” President Trump’s decision to leave the Summit during the session on ‘Partnership with Africa, Migration and Health’, the focus of which was “the well-being of Africa’s 1.6 billion people.” His daughter and advisor, Ivanka Trump, took his place at the table with the Summit principals, primarily heads of state and of international organizations,

Grant T. Harris, who was senior director for African Affairs in the Obama White House, sees ‘de-prioritization’ of Africa by the Trump administration as creating an opening In Africa for other powers. “Chinese leaders must be salivating” – the country now takes in $50 billion a year or more from African investments, he wrote in The Hill. “North Korea has sold weapons to African countries, in violation of UN sanctions, to fund its weapons of mass destruction programs, and Russia is looking to Africa to hedge against U.S. sanctions,” he wrote.

Peter Pham, the presumed nominee to head the Africa Bureau at the State Department,  is a prolific author of analytical essays and books whose work has focused on African security issues. He prepared a strategy paper published by the Council and submitted to the Trump transition team in December, which advocated – among other recommendations -reassigning four north African nations (Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco) to the Africa Bureau at the State Department, where they currently fall under the Bureau of of Near Eastern Affairs. This reorganization took place at the NSC soon after Trump assumed office.

 In a blog he wrote in January, Pham gave this assessment of how the U.S. needs to respond to the proposed German ‘Marshall Plan’ for Africa. “If the United States is to pursue a foreign policy of America First, then there is a lot of catching up to be done in bringing the public and private sectors together to forge a robust US approach to the new Africa, whose rising geopolitical importance and burgeoning economic dynamism ought to make it a strategic priority in the new administration.”
*Allafrica

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Women Advancing Africa placing women at the centre stage of Africa’s Economic Advancement
July 28, 2017 | 0 Comments
The Women Advancing Africa Forum is set to bring some of the continent’s best and brightest minds together to shape a common agenda to accelerate the economic advancement of women in Africa
Graca Machel

Graca Machel

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania, July 28, 2017/ — The inaugural Women Advancing Africa (WAA) Forum is a new Pan-African flagship initiative launched by the Graça Machel Trust to acknowledge and celebrate the central role women play in shaping Africa’s development agenda and by driving social and economic transformation. The Forum will take place from 9-12 August in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania at the Hyatt Kilimanjaro.
Mrs. Graça Machel says, “Africa has experienced tremendous development in the last few decades, however a significant gap in the economic advancement of women remains a huge challenge.

Africa is in a second liberation era – the economic liberation. Women can no longer be secondary or marginal, and through Women Advancing Africa the Trust wants to enable women to take centre stage in the economic advancement of Africa. The Trust is establishing a platform for women to claim their right to sit at the table where the decisions are made and to shape the policies, plans and strategies for our futures and those of the generations to come.”

The Trust is honoured to have H.E. Samia Suluhu Hassan, Vice-President of the United Republic of Tanzania and member of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment join the WAA Forum to share her insights on issues that will be discussed over the four days. The Forum will consist of interactive sessions organised around three core pillars: Financial Inclusion, Market Access and Social Change.
Inter-generational and inter-sectoral mix of participants attending WAA Forum

With an estimated attendance of 200 participants from across the continent, the WAA Forum will play host to a diverse mix of women and youth representing thought leaders and influencers from the private sector, philanthropy, academia, civil society, government, development agencies and the media who will bring their voices, experiences and ideas to strategize, set priorities and craft a common agenda to drive Africa’s social and economic transformation.
A number of speakers from key economic sectors such as mining & extractives, agri-business, banking, telecommunications, media, healthcare, goods and services will bring their knowledge and expertise to the Forum. Notable speakers include Leymah Gbowee, the Liberian peace activist and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize; Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission; Dr. Monique Nsanzabaganwa, Vice Governor of the National Bank of Rwanda; and Sheila Khama, Practice Manager at World Bank’s Energy and Extractive Industries Global Practice.

A Social Progress Agenda
A series of side events will also be held alongside the WAA Forum on variety of issues including Food and Nutrition, Education and Child Marriage, Leadership and Wellness, to drive home the importance of social change as an integral part of addressing women holistically.

We are honoured to be joined by Gertrude Mongella, former President of the Pan African Parliament who will be joined by some of Africa’s leading women giants who have shaped the women’s movement in the past and will bring legacy and the future face to face in a gathering at the side of the Forum.

The WAA Forum will also celebrate the diversity of African culture and creativity in all its forms, from language, to design and fashion, to movie making and dance.  This year’s Forum will celebrate African female writers and storytellers who are challenging the status quo, reshaping narratives and developing a deeper understanding and appreciation of the creative industries and their role in driving social progress.

Research looking at the Narrative and Economic participation of Women in Africa
A number of reports will also be launched during the Forum. Together with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Graça Machel Trust will be launching a study on “The Female Economy in Africa”.  The study analyses the participation of the women’s work in Africa focussing on gender gaps in the economy, participating in national politics, financial inclusion and sectoral segregation.  The study provides a baseline to track and measure the progress in women’s economic activity and advancement, with regular updates on the Index being shared.

The Graça Machel Trust’s Women in Media Network will also launch a research report on the coverage and portrayal of women in media entitled: “Women in Media – What is the Narrative?” The session will be broadcast as a Facebook Live event with interactive participation in the post launch In Conversation series to stimulate a broader conversation about the narrative of women in media as well as other storytelling formats and platforms.

Announcements will be made on the WAA website www.WomenAdvancingAfrica and the WAA Facebook page www.Women Advancing Africa – WAA, closer to the time.
Another highlight of this year’s inaugural WAA Forum will be the launch of a coffee table book entitled “Women Creating Wealth: A Collection of Stories of Female Entrepreneurs from Across Africa”. The anthology celebrates women trailblazers in business with a collection of inspirational stories from Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The book features a number of enterprising women from the Trust’s women’s networks and a foreword by Mrs. Machel.  The book can be pre-ordered here (http://SheInspiresHer.com/women-creating-wealth).

A movement of women focused on economic advancement
What makes WAA unique? Mrs. Machel explains, “Women Advancing Africa provides a space to bring together the energy, innovation and creativity of women from all parts of the continent to share solutions to make us stronger, united and unstoppable. The Forum is really the catalyst to creating a much larger movement of women centred around the economic advancement of women who will collectively shape and drive a development agenda that is measurable and sustainable.” With a Pan-African footprint spanning 20 countries, the Graça Machel Trust will leverage our women’s networks in Agribusiness, Business and Entrepreneurship, Finance and the Media to work with the larger WAA movement to catalyse the Forum’s agenda into actions with measurable and sustainable outcomes.
To be part of this exciting initiative, you can register here (http://WomenAdvancingAfrica.com) or take up one of the available exhibition or side event options available.

The Trust would like to thank our generous partners who have helped make our vision a reality. Special thanks to The UPS Foundation, the Intel Foundation, American Tower Corporation, and UN Women.  Media partners include: the ABN360 Group, incorporating CNBC Africa and Forbes Africa; the Nation Group and locally based Azam Media Group. The WAA Forum’s convening partner, APCO Worldwide has worked closely with the Graça Machel Trust, providing expertise and insights to develop this one-of-a-kind women’s network.  These partners share the Trust’s belief that advancing women economically is crucial to the health and prosperity of African families, communities and nations.

 

The Graça Machel Trust is an organisation that works across the continent to drive positive change across women’s and children’s rights, as well as governance and leadership. Through our support of local initiatives and connecting key stakeholders at a regional, national and sub-national level, we help to catalyse action where it is needed.  By using our convening power the Trust seeks to: amplify the voices of women and children in Africa; influence governance; promote women’s contributions and leadership in the economic social and political development of Africa.

The Network of African Business Women (NABW) provides women with opportunities to freely and effectively participate in the economic development of their countries through the establishment of sustainable business ventures. Through training, mentorship and capacity building, the Network supports business women’s associations and existing business women generating a much needed upsurge of growth-oriented, African women entrepreneurs.

The African Women in Agribusiness Network (AWAB) addresses challenges in food security and identifies opportunities for women in the agricultural sector. The network advocates for initiatives that enhance women’s competitiveness in local and global markets. AWAB also seeks to foster market linkages for women, connecting them to projects in the agricultural sector that can improve their access to resources, knowledge and training.

New Faces New Voices (NFNV)

New Faces New Voices (NFNV) advocates for women’s access to finance and financial services. The network aims to bridge the funding gap in financing women-owned businesses in Africa and to lobby for policy and legislative changes. The overall objective of the network is to advance the financial inclusion of women by bringing more women into the formal financial system.

The Women in Media Network (WIMN) is the latest Pan-African network established by the Trust.  It comprises a network of African women journalists who individually and collectively use their influence and voice to help shape and disseminate empowering storylines about Africa’s women and children.

Founded in 1984, APCO Worldwide is an independent global communication, stakeholder engagement and business strategy firm with offices in more than 30 major cities throughout the world. We challenge conventional thinking and inspire movements to help our clients succeed in an ever-changing world. Stakeholders are at the core of all we do. We turn the insights that come from our deep stakeholder relationships into forward-looking, creative solutions that always push the boundaries. APCO clients include large multinational companies, trade associations, governments, NGOs and educational institutions. The firm is a majority women-owned business

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World Bank Review Reveals a Weakening of Policy and Institutional Performance in Africa
July 26, 2017 | 0 Comments
Albert Zeufack, World Bank Africa Region Chief Economist, during the 2017 WBG-IMF Spring Meetings. Photo: Dasan Bobo/World Bank

Albert Zeufack, World Bank Africa Region Chief Economist, during the 2017 WBG-IMF Spring Meetings. Photo: Dasan Bobo/World Bank

OUAGADOUGOU, July 24, 2017-The quality of policies and institutions weakened in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2016 amid challenging economic conditions, according to the latest review by the World Bank. This weaker trend was observed in 40% of the region’s IDA countries, notably commodity exporters and fragile states.

 
The review is the annual World Bank Country Policy and Institutional Assessment (CPIA) Africa analysis, which scores the progress Sub-Saharan African countries are making on strengthening the quality of their policies and institutions. Since 1980, CPIA ratings have been used to determine the allocation of zero-interest financing and grants for countries that are eligible for support from the International Development Association (IDA)*, the concessional financing arm of the World Bank Group.
 
CPIA scores are based on 16 development indicators in four areas: economic management, structural policies, policies for social inclusion and equity, and public sector management and institutions. Countries are rated on a scale of 1 (low) to 6 (high) for each indicator. The overall CPIA score reflects the average of the four areas of the CPIA.
 
The average CPIA score for the 38 African countries assessed in the 2016 review edged lower to 3.1. Rwanda again led all countries in the region with a score of 4.0, closely followed by Senegal and Kenya, both with a score of 3.8. Although some countries saw a strengthening in policy and institutional quality, the number of countries with worsening overall scores outpaced improvers by a margin of two to one.
 
A common pattern across countries that experienced a weakening in their overall policy and institutional quality was slippage in economic management: monetary and exchange rate, fiscal, and debt policies. This can in part be explained by unfavorable economic conditions-deteriorating terms of trade, sluggish global growth, and difficult economic conditions-that continued to take a toll on countries across the region, deepening macroeconomic vulnerabilities. Weakening of fiscal and external buffers constrained the scope for macroeconomic policies to mitigate the effects of adverse shocks to economic activity.
 
On the upside, Côte d’Ivoire, the Comoros, Cameroon, Guinea, Madagascar, Mauritania, and Sudan have experienced a modest gain in the CPIA score, with most of these countries showing a stronger performance in the quality of governance. In a few countries, the quality of policies for social inclusion and equity also improved, reflecting a strengthening of safety net programs.
 
“Governance underpins all sectors of World Bank Group engagement, and moving forward, despite these slight gains, it will remain critical that Sub-Saharan countries implement or expand governance and public-sector reforms that will upgrade financial management systems, increase transparency, reduce corruption, protect rights, and improve public services,” notes Albert Zeufack, World Bank Chief Economist for Africa.
 
The latest CPIA results reveal that performance on policy and institutional quality in Sub-Saharan Africa’s non-fragile IDA countries is comparable to that of similar countries elsewhere. However, this is not the case for fragile countries, which generally fall behind other fragile countries outside the region. The combination of the two categories of countries pulls the overall CPIA score for the region’s IDA countries below the average for other IDA countries.
 
“African countries exhibiting economic resilience tend to have stronger macroeconomic policy frameworks, better quality of policies that promote sustainable and inclusive growth, and more effective public institutions than other countries,” explains Punam Chuhan-Pole, Lead Economist for the World Bank Africa Region and author of the report. “Nonetheless, there is scope for all countries in the region to speed up policy reforms and strengthen institutional quality.”
* The World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), established in 1960, helps the world’s poorest countries by providing grants and low to zero-interest loans for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve poor people’s lives. IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 75 poorest countries, 39 of which are in Africa. Resources from IDA bring positive change to the 1.5 billion people who live in IDA countries. Since 1960, IDA has supported development work in 113 countries. Annual commitments have averaged about $18 billion over the last three years, with about 54% going to Africa.
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The African trade revolution quietly afoot
July 25, 2017 | 0 Comments

In a tumultuous year for the global trading landscape, negotiations for a huge Africa-wide free trade area are progressing rapidly.

BY DAVID LUKE*

Across the developed world, longstanding advocates of free trade are in retreat. America has withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement and stepped back from the World Trade Organisation. Meanwhile, a crisis is brewing at the heart of the European single market.

Recognition has grown that the inequalities generated by trade are not being sufficiently addressed. And this has fuelled an anti-trade populism.

Noting these tumultuous trends, international institutions from the OECD to the International Monetary Fund and G20 have sought to reaffirm the benefits of trade and argued against protectionism.

A quiet revolution

Set against this uproar, an African trade revolution is also quietly afoot. The innovation is the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA). A boldly ambitious endeavour, the CFTA seeks to combine the economies of 55 African states under a pan-African free trade area comprising 1.2 billion people in a market with a combined GDP of $2.19 trillion.

Announced in 2012 by the African Union (AU) heads of state and government, the CFTA is the first flagship initiative of the AU’s Agenda 2063. It will reduce tariffs between African countries, introduce mechanisms to address the often more substantial non-tariff barriers, liberalise service sectors, and facilitate cross-border trade. This will also help rationalise the overlapping free trade areas that already exist within Africa.

The CFTA negotiations are complex. The 55 participating countries span a diversity of economic and geographic configurations. 15 are landlocked, while 6 are Small Island Developing States (SIDS). The biggest (Nigeria) has a GDP of $568 billion, while the smallest (Sao Tome & Principe) a GDP of just $337 million.

Rapid progress

Many outside observers have been quick to cast pessimism upon the project. This is not just because of the challenging world trade environment and complexity of negotiations, but Africa’s history of trade negotiations.

In particular, the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) between the European Union and African regional economic communities have proved an infamous failure. Despite 14 years of negotiations, only one EPA – that with Southern Africa – has been concluded.

With expectations low, the rapid progress in the CFTA negotiations is therefore all the more remarkable. The first negotiating forum was launched in February 2016. Since then, five more negotiating rounds have been concluded.

The most recent, held in Niger, determined modalities for trade in goods and services. It also pronounced a level of ambition to liberalise 90% of tariff lines – substantially more than aspired to in the EPAs – and establish a review mechanism to gradually lift this further.

The remainder of 2017 will see technical working group meetings and two more negotiating rounds to refine market access offers and the legal text of the agreement. The intention is to finish negotiations by the end of this year.

One African chief negotiator commenting at the last negotiating round remarked that he had “never seen negotiations move so rapidly”.

Boosting intra-African trade

These impressive achievements are being realised by political commitment at the highest level and a pan-African resolve to cooperate and compromise. Pan-Africanist forefathers like Kwame Nkrumah would be proud.

Success also derives from a shared belief in the project. Studies by the UN Economic Commission for Africa and UNCTAD identify the potential for the CFTA to boost intra-African trade. This would help diversify Africa’s exports away from a dependence on commodities that is little changed since colonial times.

Source: CEPI-BACI Trade Dataset, three year average (2012-14).

Source: CEPI-BACI Trade Dataset, three year average (2012-14).

Intra-African trade is substantially more diversified than Africa’s trade with the outside world. It comprises a greater share of value-added and industrial products such as textiles, cement, soap, pharmaceuticals, and even automobiles from South Africa as well as primary and processed food items. Services such as banking, telecoms, energy and transport are also being traded across borders. The CFTA forms part of an African strategy for industrialising through trade.

It could also help piece together Africa’s small fragmented markets to realise economies of scale necessary for industrial investment and growth. Niger’s President Issoufou Mahamadou, the African Union Champion for the CFTA, recently lamented looking upon a map of Africa as a “broken mirror”. The CFTA can help to fix this.

Making it a win-win

The CFTA, however, is no panacea. It must be accompanied by investments in infrastructure, energy and trade facilitation.

This is critical if sufficient jobs are to be created for Africa’s youth. 60% of Africa’s population is 24 or below and about to enter the workforce. Yet a shortage of opportunities contributes to high youth unemployment, poverty rates approaching 70%, and pressures to migrate.

It is also important not to overlook the origins of populist sentiment against free trade elsewhere in the world. Trade produces both winners and losers. The problem is that while gains can compensate losses in theory, that is not happening in practice.

Recognition of this has fuelled rethinking of trade policy across the world. For instance, the Canada-European Union trade agreement (CETA) was reworked following the election of the Trudeau administration to better reflect a new “progressive trade policy”.

The CFTA must likewise be crafted as a win-win agreement that leaves no one behind. Here, the UN Economic Commission for Africa has undertaken a human rights impact assessment of the initiative and advocated for a number of supporting measures.

This includes strategies to protect small-holder farmers and help them integrate into regional agricultural value chains. It calls for improving border controls to help informal cross-border traders, many of whom are women and major players in intra-African trade.

It also demands an approach that benefits Africa’s diversity of countries, including those which are small, island economies, landlocked or fragile states. One way to achieve this is by supporting initiatives for regional value chains and connectivity that have proven successful in Africa’s regional economic communities.

Light at the end of the tunnel

Light shines at the end of the tunnel for the CFTA, but obstacles remain. Implementation is a key but persistent challenge on the continent. To quote Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, former Chairperson of the AU Commission, “I don’t think Africa is short of policies. We have to implement. That is where the problem is”.

The commitment and belief shown in the CFTA by African leaders must be seen through for the benefits of the CFTA to be realised.

The reward would appear to be worth it. Africa’s consumer market is the fastest growing in the world.  In just over 30 years from now, by 2050, it will comprise a population larger than that of India and China combined. This is the right time to seize the opportunities generated by such a large market.

*African Arguments.David Luke is Coordinator of the African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC) at the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

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21 Next Generation African Leaders Announced as Winners of the Resolution Social Venture Challenge
July 20, 2017 | 0 Comments
Mastercard Foundation Scholars to receive seed funding and mentorship to lead impactful projects in their communities
Intersect for the Mastercard Foundation. The 2017 Resolution Social Venture Challenge winners will receive a fellowship that includes seed funding, mentorship and access to a network of young global changemakers to pursue impactful projects in their communities.

Intersect for the Mastercard Foundation. The 2017 Resolution Social Venture Challenge winners will receive a fellowship that includes seed funding, mentorship and access to a network of young global changemakers to pursue impactful projects in their communities.

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, July 19, 2017 – Ten teams of 21 budding African social entrepreneurs have been selected as winners of the Resolution Social Venture Challenge at the Baobab Summit in Johannesburg. Winning teams earn a fellowship that includes seed funding, mentorship and access to a network of young global changemakers to pursue impactful projects in their communities. A collaboration between the Mastercard Foundation and The Resolution Project, the Resolution Social Venture Challenge provides a pathway to action for socially responsible young leaders who want to create change that matters in their communities.

“Giving back to your community is an important part of the Scholars Program, yet few young leaders have the opportunity to make an impact at a young age,” explains Ashley Collier, Manager of the Scholars Community. “The Social Venture Challenge equips these young leaders with the tools, resources, mentorship and capital they need to ensure that their venture is successful, and to maximize their impact.”

Winners of the 2017 Social Venture Challenge say that:

“Winning the Challenge is an important milestone that will allow me to address problems faced by tea farmers in my community,” explains John Wanjiku, a Mastercard Foundation Scholar at the University of Pretoria. “With my project Ukulima Halisi, I hope to improve the tea collection process, both reducing the costs associated with spoiled tea leaves, and cutting down on the time Kenyan farmers spend waiting for tea collection. By shortening this process, Ukulima Halisi will provide farmers with additional time to engage in other economic activities that could increase their income, as well as preventing illnesses that occur when farmers spend long hours waiting for tea collection.”

“Winning the Social Venture Challenge will help us achieve our goals, communicating to our community in Baringo County, the huge potential in honey production,” says Sylvia Mwangi, a Mastercard Foundation Scholar from the University of Toronto. “With the mentorship offered to winners of the Challenge, we will design capacity-building workshops in bee-keeping that will change how women spend their days, and we will develop sales channels that will reduce the exploitation by middlemen.”

In 2016, the Mastercard Foundation first partnered with The Resolution Project, offering 16 Scholars on five competing teams the opportunity to pursue their aspirations and increase their appetite for leadership and impact. Winning projects address a wide range of challenges Scholars observed first-hand in their communities, including food security, access to sanitation, and young women’s access to reproductive health education.

Impact evaluation data reported by The Resolution Project shows that, while type and reach of impact varies, an average of 3,200 community members benefit per fellowship awarded. With over 350 Resolution Fellows active in 65 countries, more than 1.2 million people worldwide have been positively impacted by their work. They are driving progress in their communities, making each Resolution Fellow a change agent and a force for good.

“We are fortunate to have such an outstanding partner in the Mastercard Foundation,” says George M. Tsiatis, CEO & Co-Founder of The Resolution Project. “The Foundation saw the work that we were doing and the ideas that their Scholars had-it was a perfect match, and we are thrilled to be expanding our efforts together to give these young leaders a platform from which to launch lifetimes of impact!”

The 2017 cohort of Social Venture Challenge winners include projects based in Zimbabwe, Kenya, Ghana Uganda, Rwanda, and the United States:

AgriMatters – Clive Matsika – Arizona State University
With his AgriMatters initiative, Clive will partner with local fertilizer companies in Zimbabwe, harnessing nanotechnology to manufacture Greenfert, a rich, environmentally friendly fertilizer that can be sold to farmers at a reduced cost.

Baringo Asali – Sylvia Mwangi – University of Toronto
By working closely with marginalized communities in Baringo, Kenya, Sylvia aims to increase local revenue generated from honey production. Through partnerships with local and international apiaries, Sylvia will roll out training in advanced beekeeping techniques and local community skills training.

Dash for Girls – Frances Aanyu, Agatha Akello and Lisa Anenocan – Makerere University
Frances, Agatha and Lisa are working to empower the girl child in Karamoja, Uganda, by providing access to correct and accurate information about the dangers of teenage pregnancy so as to help them make informed decisions.

ECO Sanitation Services – Kwabena Adu-Darkwa, Abraham Addy and Justice Nyamadi – Ashesi University College
Kwabena, Abraham and Justice are working together to tackle the problem of the 2.4 billion people world-wide who lack access to safe toilets. Eco Sanitation Services (ECOSaS) provides environmentally friendly and affordable micro-flush toilets to low-income earners, supporting them with a flexible payment system.

Prawji-Mama Food Bank – Pauline Nalumansi and Ephrance Kalungi – Arizona State University
With Prawji-Mama Food Bank, Pauline and Ephrance are working to develop a sustainable food bank system supported by youth entrepreneurship and technology to overcome hunger in rural communities.

Rwanda Youth Initiative for Agricultural Transformation – Annet Mukamurenzi, Gerard Ndayishimiye and Yvette Abizeyimana – EARTH University
By working with vulnerable farming communities across Rwanda, Annet, Gerard and Yvette are committed to improving food security. They will equip smallholder farmers with modern farming skills, strategies and technologies to grow sustainable food security solutions and protect the environment.

Sparky Thermal Dehydrator – Kayiza Isma and Nsubuga Thomas – Makerere University
To address post-harvest losses, a leading cause of food insecurity in Uganda, Kayiza and Nsubuga will introduce the Sparky thermal dehydrator. Sparky, which operates using bio-fuels as a source of energy, is a low-cost, efficient device that dries farm produce 10 times faster than the conventional sun drying methods.

Strong Women, Strong Love – Ritah Arishaba and Alpha Ngwenya – Arizona State University
From Uganda to America, Ritah and Alpha are providing health education and feminine hygiene products to homeless and economically disadvantaged women. In Uganda, the pair will be teaching young women and girls to make their own sanitary products.

Ukulima Halisi – John Wanjiku – University of Pretoria
Most tea farmers in Kangema, Kenya, spend a lot of time waiting for their tea leaves to be collected. But, John believes, if farmers had access to tea leaves collection schedules, farmers would have more time to devote to other farming activities and improve their incomes.

ZAZI Growers’ Network – Thabu Mugala, Tanyaradzwa Chinyukwi and Martinho Tembo – EARTH University
Thabu, Tanyaradzwa and Martinho are committed to empowering and connecting women farmers in rural Zimuto, Zimbabwe. ZAZI Growers’ Network will provide women farmers with technical agricultural training and mentorship to help them improve their crop yields and enhance the community’s development.

The Mastercard Foundation works with visionary organizations to provide greater access to education, skills training and financial services for people living in poverty, primarily in Africa. As one of the largest private foundations, its work is guided by its mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to create an inclusive and equitable world. Based in Toronto, Canada, its independence was established by Mastercard when the Foundation was created in 2006.The Resolution Project is a unique pathway to action for aspiring young social entrepreneurs. Founded in 2007, Resolution identifies young leaders through Social Venture Challenges and empowers them to make a positive impact today through Resolution Fellowships. Resolution Fellows receive dynamic, hands-on support to implement their ventures and to develop as socially responsible leaders. With over 350 Resolution Fellows on all 6 inhabited continents, working in diverse, high-impact fields such as education, healthcare, human rights, water resources, and sustainability, Resolution is building a generation of leaders with a lifelong commitment to social responsibility. To date, Resolution Fellows have impacted over 1.2 million people with their work. The Resolution Project, Inc. is a 501(c) 3) nonprofit organization.
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IGD Launches Inaugural “Making Farming Cool!” Podcast Series
July 20, 2017 | 0 Comments
WASHINGTON – July 20, 2017 – The Initiative for Global Development (IGD) is pleased to announce the official launch of “Making Farming Cool!”, a new podcast series that aims to inspire and inform African young people to pursue careers and entrepreneurship in the agricultural value chain through vibrant African music and compelling interviews.

Produced by Afropop Worldwide, a Peabody award-winning radio program and online magazine dedicated to music from Africa and the African diaspora, Cameroonian-born veteran broadcaster Georges Collinet will host the podcast series. The podcast series is a component of the Africa Investment Rising (AIR) campaign, IGD’s dynamic communications and advocacy effort.

Agriculture is the engine driving in many African economies. While job opportunities exist in the agricultural value chain, young people are largely not entering the agriculture sector.

An estimated 25 million young people are expected enter the job market each year in Africa by 2025. To absorb the new entrants in the labor force, more than 10 million new jobs per year will have to be created in rural areas in the next two decades, according to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).

“We’re thrilled to launch the ‘Making Farming Cool!’ podcast series,” said Mima S. Nedelcovych, IGD President. “The podcast series has a youthful vibe and will feature compelling interviews with private sector leaders and experts working in agriculture to draw attention to the tremendous business opportunities for growth and innovation in the agriculture sector.”

In the first episode, host Georges Collinet will take listeners on a captivating journey through South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province to meet Siehle Zealous Sibisi, a 28-year-old who manages his family’s successful sugarcane farm, TBS Holdings, which produces 30,000 tons of sugar a year. TBS Holdings is a supplier of IGD Frontier Leader Illovo Sugar Group. Listeners will also hear about how the family business is a successful model of South Africa’s post-apartheid land restitution program.

IGD Frontier Leaders listened to a preview of the a podcast episode featuring Dr. Abdu Mukhtar, Group Chief Strategy Officer of Dangote Industries Limitedduring a May 5 evening reception at the Frontier 100 Forum in Durban, South Africa.

The podcast series will roll out new episodes of “Making Farming Cool!” on the Afropop Worldwide website at http://www.afropop.org/37720/making-farming-cool/. New episodes will be released in September and October.

The podcast series will be distributed through IGD’s media partners and initially broadcast in three target media markets: Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa. The series will also be distributed in the U.S. through Afropop Worldwide.

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Marrakech to host The World Premier high-level dialogue of leaders on Women, Agriculture and Sustainable Development September 11- 12, 2017 at the Four Seasons Hotel, Marrakech, Morocco
July 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

(Marrakech July 15, 2017.)- BELIEVE IN AFRICA (BIA), will be hosting is second Believe in Africa Day conference on Monday September 11 – 12, 2017, at the Four Seasons Hotel, in Marrakech, Morocco

Believe in Africa has chosen Morocco, the picturesque “Western Kingdom – a place the sun sets,” for this year’s “Woman and Agriculture” conference.  Hosting this conference in the Africa continent closer to home will bring together a cross-fertilization of ideas and home grown solutions from more than 500 delegates representing the diverse face of leading Africans in politics, business, regional/international experts in financing, technology and innovation, climate change and access to markets, including the voices of members of non-governmental organizations and institutions. By bringing people together, BIA 2017 will be the place where the pivotal role African women play, and contribute, in agriculture and sustainable development will be discussed and honoured.

 

Our choice of Morocco is not fortuitous. With the efforts deployed by His Majesty King Mohammed VI, King of Morocco with his clear vision and leadership in advancing African economic integration and enhancing the collaboration between, and within, African countries, was the inspiration behind our decision to choose Morocco for this year’s conference, for the first time in the African continent, “said Mrs. Angelle KWEMO, president of the association and president of the Congress.  She added that “Women and Agriculture” wishes to create a platform to empower women.

Angelle Kwemo

Angelle Kwemo

 Morocco is one of the most economically dynamic African countries. Geographically, and strategically located, Morocco is a bridge to Europe and the U.S. for Africa and a leader for South-South trade. It is certain that during this Congress we will learn a lot from the Moroccan experience in developing and expanding its agriculture sector. With the strong support of our conference partner, the OCP Group, world leader in phosphates and derivatives production, this conference will bring visibility to women who work daily in fields across Africa, concludes Mrs. Kwemo.

Another partner is the United Nations Women organization and BEYA Capital, a pioneer Casablanca-based climate investment and advisory firm that joined several global partners to organize the innovative Global Climate Finance Action Summit 2016 (GCFA 2016) during COP22. GCFA Summit made history by convening high-level international public and private sector leaders to discuss scaling actionable solutions to unlock climate finance flows towards developing countries, with a particular focus on Africa. Mustapha MOKASS, Founder & CEO of BEYA Capital stated “Women are the backbone of Africa food security and Climate change mitigation. Empowering them equals empowering the world”. He added “we are proud to join Believe in Africa in this historical event to showcasing concrete financial solutions to African women entrepreneurs’ projects to Climate Change Adaptation as a prelude to the upcoming gathering of GCFA Investors Platform on September 18/19 during NY Climate Week and during upcoming COP23 in Bonn (Germany).”

To drive our stimulating BIA 2017 agenda, we welcome our strategic partners, Washington Media Group, Reseau des Femmes Artisanes du Maroc (RESFAM), Africa 24 TV, Forbes Africa, AllAfrica.com, Horizon Africa, Inside Consulting and others will soon be joining us in moving our agenda forward.

Believe in Africa (www.believeinafrica.org) is an African diaspora-led initiative founded by former U.S. congressional staffers and African leaders in the U.S. to empower Women and young Africans, to harness the power of the African Diaspora, educate policy makers and the public about African economic growth and highlight the continent’s gradual rise in the global community.

 

 

 

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Africa: Tribute to Babacar Ndiaye – Titan of Africa
July 15, 2017 | 0 Comments

Photo: Africa Economy Builders Babacar Ndiaye (right) presenting the Africa Economy Builders Award to Ambassador Harold E. Doley, Jr. in Abidjan in April.

Photo: Africa Economy Builders
Babacar Ndiaye (right) presenting the Africa Economy Builders Award to Ambassador Harold E. Doley, Jr. in Abidjan in April.

New Orleans — The Greek mythological Titan of Forethought, Prometheus, dared to disobey Zeus’ wishes by sharing fire and heat with humanity. His punishment was to be shackled to the Caucasus Mountains (The derivation of Caucasian comes from the people of the Caucasus Mountains.).

This humane act for humankind led to eternal condemnation. Each day, the eagles ate Prometheus’s organs, but because he was a Titan (i.e. god), the organs grew back. Prometheus endured this daily fate until Hercules broke his chains.

Babacar Ndiaye, who passed away in Dakar yesterday, lived the life of Prometheus. He did what he knew was right and paid the price many times over.

Many people that he helped throughout his life hurt him and hurt him dearly. I personally saw him reconcile with each one of those people, even though just one of those blows could have been mortal.

Babacar was a religious man who knew the Koran as well as the Old and New Testaments and understood that we are all One. He recognized that Ishmael, Abraham’s first son, was the forbearer of Islam. He knew the Old Testament teachings that Noah son Ham’s descendants are Black, cursed to always be the servant of servants (slaves). In the New Testament, Babacar liked to point out that two men carried the cross to Calvary, Jesus and Simon of Cyrene, a black man.

God and history created Babacar, who was a compilation of Prometheus, Ishmael, Ham and Simon of Cyrene.

Bababcar is recognized for his decade (1985-1995) as president of the African Development Bank (AfDB). What is lesser known is that he orchestrated the quadrupling of the capital of that Bank and that he secured the first AAA rating for an African institution or sovereign country. He also was instrumental in creating Shelter Afrique, the African Export-Import Bank and the African Business Roundtable.

One little known anecdote is that – when the superpowers agreed in 1991 that the next Secretary General of the United Nations should be an African – Babacar Ndiaye was next in line for the position, had Boutros Boutros-Ghali not prevailed following a stalemate in the voting. Another unknown gem is that Babacar was asked by Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi to deliver his wish to Washington to reconcile with the United States.

Perhaps most important was Babacar’s behind-the-scenes contribution to ending apartheid. In 1985, the year Babacar became AfDB President, Hughlyn Fierce, senior executive vice president of Chase Bank in New York, won approval for the Bank to refuse to renew the debt of South Africa. This decision immediately put the white government in default, forcing the closure of the foreign currency exchange window and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

Less than 60 days later, President P.W. Botha gave his Rubicon speech in Durban and spoke of the ‘new’ South Africa. Within a matter of weeks, Nelson Mandela was moved from prison to a halfway house, and the lengthy negotiations that led to the country’s first non-racial elections in 1994 were underway.

Babacar quietly supported Chase Bank in extraordinary ways, and It was the cooperation of these two men of color – Fierce and Ndiaye – which helped to bring about this remarkable change.

Throughout his career, Babacar handled tens of billions of dollars. Yet he did not die a wealthy man in monetary terms.  What he accomplished was to do his job extraordinarily well.

Now that his earthly chains have been broken, we need not cry for Babacar. We should, however, mourn the fact that Africa has lost a great titan to whom we all are indebted..

*Allafrica.Ambassador Harold E. Doley, Jr. (Ret.) was the first U.S. Executive Director to the African Development Bank and Fund.

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China focuses on its military footprint in Africa, setting stage for new rivalry with West
July 14, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Fabio Scala*

While the United States is scaling back its international positions amid a significant reduction in State Department’s budget that will affect international aid, another superpower, China, is working to substantially increase its international engagement.

For years China has been spending enormous sums of money buying political influence, including in Africa. But China is now revving up its military engine, looking to step up where opportunities allow it amid an uncertain commitment from the West.

One of China’s top geographical priorities is Africa. This is because Beijing sees an opening, as Africa is being neglected by both Europe and the United States. For the West, the continent is always analyzed through the lenses of illegal migration, terrorism, and the extraction industry. The continent is largely seen first as a source of problems, and rarely an opportunity. China too has been focusing on natural resource acquisition, but it has also committed investments and manpower to build infrastructure and export its technical capabilities to its African partners. As these investments expand, Beijing is now seeking to protect the billions it already committed in the continent by flexing its military muscles.

The Chinese military has been on overdrive these past days. In the Mediterranean, on the northern tip of the African continent, the Chinese navy is conducted live-firing drills this week. It committed a destroyer, a frigate and a support ship in drills that took place on July 10. The group is headed next to Russia, where it will join its Russian counterpart in St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad to perform joint exercises.

This week also, China is inaugurating its military base in the strategically located Djibouti, a country transformed into an open military fortress for many foreign forces, include those of France, Italy, Japan, the Unite States, and soon Turkey and Saudi Arabia. China argues that its Djibouti presence will be for peacekeeping and humanitarian aid in Africa, but rivalry with the US and the protection of Chinese assets and investments in East Africa, and elsewhere in the continent are critical drivers to China’s military focus there. This week, several navy ships left the port city of Zhanjiang in China’s southern Guangdong province, headed to the small port of Obock, in the of the Gulf of Tadjoura, Djibouti. The port is linked to the Gulf of Aden, allowing it easy reach to the troubled Middle East.

China’s presence in Africa is pretty ubiquitous, and that includes the Southern Africa region too. Also this week, the Chinese military made a symbolic gesture to Mozambique when it pledged $18 million to build new Mozambican Armed Forces barracks in Maputo. The gesture is symbolic indeed, but there are major implications on the long run in the aftermath of the high-profile visit of Chang Wanquan, the Chinese Defense Minister to Maputo. During the visit, the two parties highlighted China’s commitment to training Mozambican soldiers, but they are also planning a Chinese involvement in military infrastructure and logistics.

This Chinese charm offensive in Mozambique is taking place as the Southern African country has witnessed a reduction of aid from Western donors amid a major financial scandal that has rocked Mozambique. But it is also happening as Mozambique prepares to produce a significant amount of gas from the northern Rovuma basin, off the coast of Cabo Delgado. Although symbolic for now, the Chinese investment in Mozambique is likely to accelerate in the near future, and that would include a growing military presence to protect such investments.

China’s interest in Africa is no secret. It begun years ago and in 2015, its leadership renewed their commitment to Africa with pledged investment of $60 billion going forward. China’s footprint can be found in many places across the continent, making it the continent’s biggest economic partner, surpassing by far the colonial powers, who have been neglecting the continent. The Chinese presence can be found in sectors like highways and railways, ports and housing. It is also in engineering and energy, in places like Djibouti, Ethiopia, Angola, Nigeria, Tanzania, Zambia and of course North Africa. The Chinese engagement is now expanding into the military world, and that could create the next area of conflict in the world, post-Daesh.
*The North Africa Journal

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The CFA Franc: French Monetary Imperialism in Africa
July 13, 2017 | 0 Comments
By Ndongo Samba Sylla*
A cartoon with a hand holding a key emerging from a jacket of the colours of the French flag. The key of for a padlock which holds the French nations to the much maligned CFA Franc currency used by former French colonies in West Africa

A cartoon with a hand holding a key emerging from a jacket of the colours of the French flag. The key of for a padlock which holds the French nations to the much maligned CFA Franc currency used by former French colonies in West Africa

Ndongo Samba Sylla argues that the CFA franc – officially created on 26 December 1945 by a decree of General de Gaulle – used across much of Africa today is a colonial relic. For those hoping to export competitive products, obtain affordable credit, work for the integration of continental trade, or fight for an Africa free from imperialist control, the CFA franc is an anachronism demanding orderly and methodical elimination.

On 11 August 2015, speaking at the celebrations marking the 55th anniversary of the independence of Chad, President Idriss Deby declared, ‘we must have the courage to say there is a cord preventing development in Africa that must be severed.’ The ‘cord’ he was referring to is now over 71 years old. It is known by the acronym ‘CFA franc’.

The pillars of the CFA franc

Like other colonial empires – the UK, with its sterling zone; or Portugal, with its escudo zone, France had its franc zone. The CFA franc – orginally the French African Colonial franc – was officially created on 26 December 1945 by a decree of General de Gaulle. It is a colonial currency, born of France’s need to foster economic integration among the colonies under its administration, and thus control their resources, economic structures and political systems.

Post-independence the CFA franc was redesignated: for the eight members of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) – Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo – it became the African Financial Community franc; for the six members of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CAEMC) – Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Chad – the Central African Financial Cooperation franc. The two zones possess economies of equal size (each representing 11 per cent of GDP in sub-Saharan Africa). The two currencies, however, are not inter-convertible.

As established by the monetary accords between African nations and France, the CFA franc has four main pillars:

Firstly, a fixed rate of exchange with the euro (and previously the French franc) set at 1 euro = 655.957 CFA francs. Secondly, a French guarantee of the unlimited convertibility of CFA francs into euros. Thirdly, a centralisation of foreign exchange reserves. Since 2005, the two central banks – the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) and the Bank of Central African States (BEAC) – have been required to deposit 50 per cent of their foreign exchange reserves in a special French Treasury ‘operating account’. Immediately following independence, this figure stood at 100 per cent (and from 1973 to 2005, at 65 per cent).

This arrangement is a quid pro quo for the French ‘guarantee’ of convertibility. The accords stipulate that foreign exchange reserves must exceed money in circulation by a margin of 20 per cent. Before the fall in oil prices, the money supply coverage rate (the ratio of foreign exchange reserves to money in circulation) consistently approached 100 per cent, implying in theory that Africans could dispense with the French ‘guarantee’. The final pillar of the CFA franc, is the principle of free capital transfer within the franc zone.

The CFA franc: for and against

Despite its exceptional longevity, the CFA franc by no means enjoys unanimous support among African economists and intellectuals. Its critics base their analysis on three separate arguments. Firstly, they condemn the absence of monetary sovereignty. France holds a de facto veto on the boards of the two central banks within the CFA franc zone. Since the reform of the BCEAO in 2010, the conduct of monetary policy has been assigned to a monetary policy committee. The French representative is a voting member of this committee, while the president of the WAEMU Commission attends only in an advisory capacity. Given the fixed rate of exchange between the CFA franc and the euro, the monetary and exchange rate policies of the franc zone nations are also dictated by the European Central Bank, whose monetary orthodoxy entails an anti-inflation bias detrimental to growth.

Secondly, they focus on the economic impact of the CFA franc, construed as a neocolonial device that continues to destroy any prospect of economic development in user nations. According to this perspective, the CFA franc is a barrier to industrialisation and structural transformation, serving neither to stimulate trade integration between user nations, nor boost bank lending to their economies. The credit-to-GDP ratio stands around 25% for the WAEMU zone, and 13% for the CAEMC zone, but averages 60%+ for sub-Saharan Africa, and 100%+ for South Africa etc. The CFA franc also encourages massive capital outflows. In brief, membership of the franc zone is synonymous with poverty and under-employment, as evidenced by the fact that 11 of its 15 adherents are classed as Least Developed Countries (LDCs), while the remainder (Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Congo, Gabon) have all experienced real-term economic decline.

Finally, they maintain that membership of the franc zone is inimical to the advance of democracy. To uphold the CFA franc, it is argued, France has never hesitated to jettison heads of state tempted to withdraw from the system. Most were removed from office or killed in favour of more compliant leaders who cling to power come hell or high water, as shown by the CAEMC nations and Togo. Economic development is impossible in such circumstances, as is the creation of a political system that meets the preoccupations of the majority of citizens.

For its partisans, in contrast, the underlying logic of the CFA franc lies not in neocolonialism, but in monetary cooperation. The under-development of the franc zone nations is attributed to factors independent of their monetary and exchange policies, in particular to their political instability and the poor economic policies of their leaders.

The CFA franc is characterised as a credible and stable currency, a significant virtue given the experience of most currency-issuing African nations. This counter-argument is, however, flawed: experience shows that nations like Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, which post independence withdrew from the franc zone and mint their own currency, are stronger economically than any user of the CFA franc.

It is also claimed that the CFA franc has allowed inflation to be pegged at a rate considerably lower than the African average. For its critics, however, the counterpart of this low inflation rate is weak economic growth and the creation of fewer jobs. Not to mention that this low average inflation rate does not prevent cities like Dakar from ranking among the most ‘expensive’ in the world.

In fact, the terms of the debate are quite simple. The CFA franc is a good currency for those who benefit from it: the major French and overseas corporations, the executives of the zone’s central banks, the elites wishing to repatriate wealth acquired legally or otherwise, heads of state unwilling to upset France etc. But for those hoping to export competitive products, obtain affordable credit, find work, work for the integration of continental trade, or fight for an Africa free from colonial relics, the CFA franc is an anachronism demanding orderly and methodical elimination.

From forbidden topic to emerging social movement

In October 2016, a group of African and European economists published a book entitled [in translation] Liberate Africa from Monetary Slavery: Who Profits from the CFA Franc? The date was not selected at random; it coincided with a meeting of the franc zone’s finance ministers, central bank governors and regional institutions. In the wake of the public debate sparked by the book, people are beginning to speak out.

France maintains the position that the CFA franc is an ‘African currency’, existing only as a support to Africans, who retain their ‘sovereignty’. Some heads of state, like Alassane Ouattara in Côte d’Ivoire and Macky Sall in Senegal take the same line. Unlike Idriss Déby, Macky Sall describes the CFA franc as ‘a currency worth keeping’. Ouattara goes further, insisting that the currency is a matter for experts and thus not a subject for democratic debate. From this standpoint, any critic of the CFA franc must by definition know nothing about it.

Yet, alongside radical economists and intellectuals, the critics of the CFA franc also include former international officials like Togo’s Kako Nubukpo (ex-BCEAO), Senegal’s Sanou Mbaye (ex-African Development Bank, and Guinea-Bissau’s Carlos Lopez (ex-UN Economic Commission for Africa), as well as African bankers like Henri-Claude Oyima (President-Director General of BGFI Bank).

From a taboo subject raised only by a handful of African intellectuals and politicians, the CFA franc debate is starting to enter day-to-day conversation and to attract the attention of activists. A social movement is developing to demand the joint withdrawal of African nations from the CFA franc. On 7 January 2017, on the initiative of ‘SOS Pan-Africa’ (‘Urgences Panafricanistes’), an NGO set up and run by the activist Kemi Séba, anti-CFA demonstrations were organised in several African and European cities, and in Haïti. The mobilisations varied in size according to country, bringing together intellectuals, pan-Africanist and anti-globalisation activists and others. SOS Pan-Africa has since issued a symbolic appeal for Africans to boycott French products.

The current alternative to the CFA franc in West Africa is the joint currency planned for members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The new currency was due to enter circulation in 2015, but this has since been deferred until 2020. The new deadline may or may not be met, but one thing seems increasingly clear: the CFA franc no longer has a future.

*Ndongo Samba Sylla (@nssylla) is  Research and Programme Manager for the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. He is the editor and author of a number of books including The Fair Trade Scandal.This article was first published on the Review of the African Political Economy (ROAPE) blog
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Macron Got A Lot Wrong About Africa … But Made One Good Point
July 12, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Viviane Rutabingwa*


French President Emmanuel Macron speaks a Press conference after a meeting of European Union leaders at the Chancellery on June 29, 2017 in Berlin, Germany.
Michele Tantussi/Getty Images

At a press conference at the G20 summit in Hamburg on July 8, French President Emmanuel Macron answered a question from a Cote d’Ivoire journalist.

The reporter asked why there was no Marshall Plan for Africa.

Macron’s response included these comments: “The challenge of Africa is completely different, it is much deeper. It is civilizational today. Failing states, complex democratic transitions, the demographic transition.” He later said, “One of the essential challenges of Africa … is that in some countries today seven or eight children [are] born to each woman.”

Many commentators have called these statements racist, problematic and arrogant. And many of us Africans agree.

The Audacity Of Macron

The French colonial empire ruled over much of North, West and Central Africa from around 1830 until 1960. During this time, African peoples were labeled “French subjects” but as a rule could not own property or vote.

By the time the last French colonial country — Gabon — fully gained its “independence” in 1960, France had left behind a legacy of colonization, slavery and pillage.

President Macron, as the leader of France, speaks on the status of Africa with this backdrop looming behind him. In 1884, a French statesman and leading proponent of colonialism, Jules François Camille Ferry, stated: “The higher races have a right over the lower races, they have a duty to civilize the inferior races.” He called it France’s “mission civilisatrice” or “civilizing mission.” That idea was at the core of French colonial ideology. And now in 2017, President Macron declares the problems in Africa “civilizational.”

It is concerning to see the casual manner in which a head of state can play into racist stereotypes of the African continent and African women. Africa is a continent of 54 dynamically different countries. Each of them — like any other country on earth — has strikingly different needs and issues to face — and a conglomerate of local individuals and organizations working hard to address them.

When Macron in his comments refers to “failed states, complex democratic transitions, demographic transition, infrastructure, porous borders, drug trafficking, arms trafficking, human trafficking, violent fundamentalism, Islamist terrorism….,” he plays into the tiresome trope that “Africa is a country, everyone is poor and can’t help themselves.”

Which country is he speaking of? Could it be Rwanda, one of the fastest growing economies globally and a country that is always high up on the list of gender equality: almost 64 percent of parliamentarians are women compared to just 22 percent worldwide? Or perhaps is he referring to Botswana, which has demonstrated remarkable economic progress by jumping from a low-income to a middle-income country within a few decades.

It has been discussed ad nauseum why the rhetoric that there’s one story for all of Africa is damaging to the progress of African countries and the dignity of African people.

Birth Rate Misinformation

And then there is the matter of children.

Niger is the country with the world’s highest fertility rate — 7.6 children per mother, according to World Bank data. But the number of children per African woman in many African countries is lower and is generally declining. The data in 2015 shows 3.5 in Namibia, 5.6 in Nigeria, 4.3 in Kenya (down from 7.9 in 1960).

In 2015, on average, according to World Bank data, a Sub-Saharan African mother gives birth to 4.9 children.

I’m distressed by the ease at which this president throws out an extreme number to paint an inaccurate and stereotypical picture of African mothers.

Moment Of Clarity

French President Emmanuel Macron with Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. EPA/Christophe Petit Tesson

French President Emmanuel Macron with Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. EPA/Christophe Petit Tesson

Despite my criticisms of Macron’s comments, I do believe he made a pertinent point when he said: “If we want a coherent response to Africa, then Africans must develop a series of policies that are far more sophisticated than a simple Marshall plan.”

That observation mirrors statements made by African heads of states as well as many researchers and academics who have been pushing for alternative models to help the countries of Africa grow.

In her book Dead Aid, the acclaimed author and International economist Dambisa Moyo observes that African peoples — for decades — have been pointing to the inherently ineffective and actually destructive nature of Western aid programs. Too often these programs bring in foreign personnel and do not invest in grassroots efforts. And they fail to recognize that one size does not fit all.

Despite this bit of clarity, Macron’s comments dig up the ever hidden stems of old imperial notions. His words remind many of us Africans of the terror our ancestors and elders went through during the years of imperial rule.

And yet I’m not entirely sorry that Macron said what he said. His comments were a much-needed reminder that we must keep demanding accountability from imperial nations — a goal that president Macron himself seems to agree with. In a speech in Algeria in February, he called colonization “a crime against humanity.”

Well said!

*NPR Viviane Rutabingwa was born in Nairobi, Kenya, at the twilight of the Ugandan civil war to Ugandan parents and grew up in Kenya, Burundi and Uganda. She now divides her time between Uganda and Canada. She is a public health professional with a focus on the uninsured and refugees. a Global Health Corps alumni and a founding member of A Place For Books. She tweets @Rootsi

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Better connecting Africa to the US should be a priority
July 4, 2017 | 0 Comments

BY JOHN WILLIAM TEMPLETON*

The new Ambassador of the African Union to the United States has a distinctive viewpoint for her task.

Dr. Arikana Chihombori Quao has practiced medicine in middle Tennessee for the past 25 years, operating four clinics.

A new generation of African leaders versed in science and finance are changing the image of the continent.

Chihombori, known in Tennessee simply as “The African Queen,” has been part of that transition since the ascension of Nelson Mandela as President of South Africa.

The Zimbabwe native launched the African Diaspora Healthcare Initiative 20 years ago to bring about a vision of world-class medical centers on the continent, fueled by doctors from around the world who make time in Africa an important part of their experience, and train practitioners while there.

 

She joined us in Los Angeles for the launch of a tourism initiative to spotlight the black experience in Southern California, where 1.5 million African-Americans are among the 50 million yearly visitors to Los Angeles.

However, they rarely learn about the significant role of blacks in the city’s history or the extensive cultural amenities which the 1 million African-American residents have created.

Along with her was Richard Patterson, CEO of Trion Supercars, the first African-American automaker in a century.

The previous week, I had been in lower Manhattan where 25 years ago, the black community of New York City insisted that the bones of 15,000 17th century Africans be properly respected with the African Burial Ground National Monument.

The new Visitor Center is as moving as the new Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History, with a 20 minute film that captures the feelings of the people who worked so hard to build what became the world’s greatest city.

Chihombori understands the mandate of that history as she discusses the “Joseph generation” in the Biblical analogy which was separated in order to save their home in the future. The continent’s leaders have charged her with being the catalyst for invigorating ties between the Sixth Region of the African Union-the Africans who migrated around the world–and its nations.

Changing old stereotypes takes direct personal engagement. On a suggestion from a patient, she visited the auction of Chapman Clearing, a plantation dating back to 1799 and unexpectedly won the property, which had practiced slavery during the 19th century. In an act of grace, she told the Chapmans that they could stay in the property while she decided what to do with the investment.

Later on, Chapman confided with her that it had completely changed the way he thought about black people.

She and her husband, Dr. Nii Saban Quao, then turned the former slave plantation into Africa House, using the 15,000 square foot mansion and the surrounding 30 acres for tourists, events and conferences on the transformation of the African continent.

She also bought a hotel in Durban, South Africa which is also a place for cultural heritage tourism and intellectual engagement.

The graduate of Fisk University and Meharry Medical College is returning the grace that former Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher extended during her medical studies. She had almost turned down her acceptance to Meharry because she lacked the funds for medical school, but her husband insisted that she accept.

Although the money didn’t materialize, every year, the financial aid office sent her to meet with Dr. Satcher, then the president of the college, for a long conversation about her goals and African culture. Every year, he would sign papers to allow her to continue her studies. Eventually, she completely repaid all the tuition and fees.

Satcher’s insight channelled the voices of those unknown Africans buried in the African Burial Ground and at Chapman Clearing who endured suffering so that future generations would learn about the proud heritage that they inherit.

Africa’s new spokesperson in the U.S. knows America from the inside out.

Both sides of the Atlantic are certain to benefit.

*The Hill.John William Templeton is co-founder of the 14th annual National Black Business Month and creator of the California African-American Freedom Trail. He leads African Free School summer institutes in Washington, New York, Philadelphia and Miami in July and August.

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Mugabe donates $1 million to African Union
July 4, 2017 | 0 Comments
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe arrives at the African Union headquarters during the opening ceremony of the 29th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and the Governments, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia July 3, 2017. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe arrives at the African Union headquarters during the opening ceremony of the 29th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and the Governments, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia July 3, 2017. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said on Monday he was donating $1 million to the African Union (AU), hoping to set an example for African countries to finance AU programmes and wean it off funding from outside donors.

For years, about 60 percent of AU spending has been financed by donors including the European Union, World Bank and governments of wealthy non-African countries.

Mugabe, who has held power in Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980, has said reliance on foreign funds allows big powers to interfere in the work of the AU.

The 93-year-old Mugabe told an African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, he had auctioned 300 cattle from his personal herd in May to fulfil a promise made to the continental body two years ago.

“Africa needs to finance its own programmes. Institutions like the AU cannot rely on donor funding as the model is not sustainable,” Mugabe said in comments broadcast on Zimbabwe’s state television.

“This humble gesture on Zimbabwe’s part has no universal application but it demonstrates what is possible when people apply their minds to tasks before them.”

The African Union’s 2017 budget is $782 million, increasing from $416.8 million last year. African leaders in July 2016 agreed in principle to charge a 0.2 percent levy on some exports to help finance AU operations.

Zimbabwe, whose economy was devastated by a drought last year, does not disclose its contributions to the AU. The top five African contributors are Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria and South Africa.

*Reuters.(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by James Macharia and Andrew Roche)

 

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Memory Lane:AN INTERVIEW WITH AMBASSADOR AROUNA ON HIS DECADE-LONG AFFAIR WITH MCA-BENIN
June 30, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L,*

 

Ambassador Omar Arouna

Ambassador Omar Arouna

On June 17, 2017, in Cotonou, Benin –the capital city of the tiny French speaking west African country once dubbed as a beacon of democracy on the continent– everywhere, in the press –there was news of the signing of “entry into force” (EIF) of the second Millennium Challenge account. This was a big deal for the country’s 10 million inhabitants. Among the officials, three current Ministers of the Government of Patrice Talon were in attendance among other government officials, foreign representatives, U.S. diplomats and international foreign assistance workers.

Earlier in the summer of 2015, Benin’s former president Dr. Boni Yayi signed the second Millennium Challenge Corporation Power Compact at the White House, shortly before leaving office at the end of his second term. The first compact, negotiated and signed under President Mathieu Kerekou, focused on improvements to the market access sector, the financial sector, the judicial sector and land reform. This new contract provided $407,000,000 to strengthen Benin’s national utility, attract private-sector investment, and fund investments in electricity generation and distribution infrastructure and off-grid electrification for poor and unserved households.

Only one-third of Benin’s population has access to electricity, and total consumption is low due to limited access and availability.  Electricity consumption in Benin is below the average for Africa’s low-income countries at 110 kilowatts per hour per capita annually, or 0.01 percent of the average for middle-income economies. Now thanks to the generosity of the American people there is a certainty that Benin might see the light at the end of the tunnel.

As Benin looks forward to brighter days, it is a big sigh of relieve for Omar Arouna who was that country’s Ambassador to Washington,DC,when that second compact was signed. With Benin facing formidable obstacles as it sort the Compact, former President Yayi Boni tapped Omar Arouna , a man who knew his way around Washington to serve as his Ambassador. His major assignment? Get that second Compact for Benin.

Understanding what these MCC Compacts do to transform lives for the millions in Benin , I could not remain indifferent or say no to the call to be of service, says Arouna who had to forgo his U.S Citizenship to serve as Ambassador . Pan African visions met with the former Ambassador of Benin to the United States Omar Arouna to learn more about MCA-Benin.

How were you introduced to the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) program?

This started unexpectedly; one evening in the early spring of 2004, when my wife in answering the proverbial question “how was your day?” revealed that the highlight of her day was a meeting at the White House. During that meeting, President George W. Bush announced a list of 17 countries chosen to submit a proposal for a newly formed assistance agency by his Administration. Nine of these countries were in Africa and Benin was on the list. This was the first time I was hearing about the Millennium Challenge Account, a program launched by President Bush at the Monterrey Summit in 2002 to provide greater assistance to countries that are themselves taking greater responsibility for their own development, by putting good policies in place that promote poverty reduction and promote growth–countries that rule justly, invest in their people, and encourage economic freedom.

The following days and weeks after my conversation with my wife, I switched into research mode making phone calls, meeting people and visiting the State Department and USAID offices, educating myself and learning more about that new aid agency and the program.

Why were you so interested about the program?

As a consultant, I was trying to understand how I could offer my services to selected countries. During that process, I gain a comprehensive understanding of the program and produced a detailed analysis of the program with the intention of helping governments, specifically African governments, to take advantage of this opportunity.

While I was educating myself on the program, I realized that most of the selected countries weren’t officially notified. I placed a call to then Benin Minister of Public Service, Labor and administrative Reform, who was my elder brother. I talked to him at length about the opportunity such a program represents for the people of Benin and urged him to inform his boss then President Mathieu Kerekou as well as the State Minister of Development and Planning who also coincidentally was a family member.

I was determined to make President Mathieu Kerekou’s government understand the value proposition of the program. I saw the MCA as an opportunity for the country to improve its governance, get rid of corruption and strengthen its democracy. I knew then if Benin agrees to enter into a compact agreement with the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the country’s leadership will have to allow greater scrutiny by the U.S. government and the international community and would consequently be obligated to uphold higher standards in its democratic practices, the rule of law, civil liberties and social investment in order to qualify to receive funding under the MCA. Benin and its people would therefore benefit not just financially, but in many other ways by having open, transparent governing norms. Years later, that intuitive sense has proven to be correct and was even dubbed by many as the MCC effect in some circles in Washington DC.

A week following our telephone conversation, Benin Minister of Public Service, Labor and administrative Reform flew to the U.S. During a dinner at a now closed Indian restaurant on K Street in Washington, DC, I went on a lengthy exposé about the program, aided by my wife’s extensive expertise in development. Upon his return to Benin the Minister formally reported on the program in the Council of Ministers meeting and the government decided to follow up via the State Ministry of Planning and Development.

Subsequent to the Minister of Public Service, Labor and administrative Reform report to the Council of Ministers, I met with then-Benin State Minister of Development and Planning. During the meeting at Hotel Lombardy on Pennsylvania Avenue, a few blocks away from the White House, the State Minister asked that I provide him with a detailed written brief on the program. I acquiesced and handed to him a report a couple of days later at the Washington Dulles International Airport as he was returning home to Cotonou.

By the time the US government officially informed the government of Benin about the country’s selection, some officials in the country were already well aware of it due to my activism. The State Minister of Development and Planning appointed an Interim Coordinator who was later confirmed as the coordinator of the program.

 After an extensive public consultation–one of these consultations was held with selected members of the Benin diaspora and several senior Benin government officials at GoodWorks International, where I worked for 8 years as a Managing Director.

In February 2006, the Millennium Challenge Corporation signed a five-year, $307,000,000 compact with the Government of Benin toward the end of the Kerekou Administration.

 Did you remain involved after Benin signed the compact?

Vice President Joe Biden (right) shakes hands with Benin's President Thomas Boni Yayi, during a Compact Signing Ceremony in the Indian Treaty Room at the White House in Washington, Sept. 9, 2015.

Vice President Joe Biden (right) shakes hands with Benin’s President Thomas Boni Yayi, during a Compact Signing Ceremony in the Indian Treaty Room at the White House in Washington, Sept. 9, 2015.

In April 2006, a newly elected President Boni Yayi was sworn in as the new head of state and took over the nation’s destiny. He presides over the MCC compact in Benin entry into force (EIF) in October 2006, formally initiating the five-year timeline for project implementation for what is now known as the Benin MCA first compact.

Throughout the project’s implementation, I would occasionally touch base with the Program Coordinator and his team to inquire about the project’s progress and offer unsolicited advice based on information I gathered from various colleagues in DC.

The project was successfully completed in October 6, 2011, with international accolades due to the exemplary implementation and the leadership of the country’s President, who from the beginning understood its importance.

What was that compact used for?

Benin and MCC designed the compact to address obstacles to investment and economic growth by modernizing and expanding the Port of Cotonou, often referred to as the “lungs” of Benin; promoting land security; improving access to capital for micro- and medium-sized enterprises; and creating a more efficient judicial system.

In October 2011, then CEO of the U.S. Government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), Daniel W. Yohannes, noted that MCC’s investment in the Port of Cotonou was of significant contribution to economic growth.

The modernized port is expected to attract over $200 million in financing from the private sector, which will increase revenues and create more jobs.

The partnership between MCC and the Government of Benin is already impacting the lives of the Beninese.  In addition to progress at the Port of Cotonou, these results include: strengthening land rights, improving access to justice, strengthening the microfinance sector, Improving business registration.

 What happened after that, did Benin qualify for a Second Compact?

Yes! On the 9th, of November 2011, The U.S. Government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) released its fiscal year 2012 country scorecards. The scorecards, produced each year for every low income and lower middle income country, measures countries’ policy performance and serve as the basis for the MCC Board of Directors to select countries eligible for MCC compact funding. Following that release, the Millennium Challenge Corporation Board in December 2011, also authorized MCC to invite Benin to submit a proposal for a second compact. Although a submission of a proposal is not a guarantee that MCC will finalize a compact with an eligible country, Benin was eligible to apply for a second compact.

Ambassador Arouna with President Obama, Arouna worked hard to improved the frail relations between Cotonou and Washington

Ambassador Arouna with President Obama, Arouna worked hard to improved the frail relations between Cotonou and Washington

In December 2011, MCC wrote in its report to congress: “As a candidate country Benin is one of the poorest countries in the world, but maintains relatively strong policy performance. It is particularly strong in the Ruling Justly category, where it passes all six indicators, and is recognized as a stable, democratic country in West Africa. In FY12, Benin passed the new indicator criteria, but it did not pass the old indicator criteria, due to performance in the Investing in People category. By compact conclusion, Benin delivered all core construction targets and undertook an ambitious and complex series of policy reforms. This included letting a major port concession, undertaking changes to customs and port procedures designed to reduce corruption and improve port efficiency, and making improvements in the microfinance regulatory system. These activities allowed the Government of Benin to address some of their greatest development challenges and create new opportunities for economic growth. Over the next 20 years, MCC’s port investment in Benin is expected to affect a regional import-export facility that not only serves the entire population of Benin, but also provides meaningful trade capacity for Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Nigeria. Increased imports and exports could also open up the potential for new market and trade opportunities for U.S. businesses. This port project serves as an example of MCC and the Government of Benin working together to address a complex project that combined ambitious infrastructure investments and policy reform. While projects with this level of complexity are difficult, they embody MCC’s mandate of reducing poverty through economic growth in poor, well- governed countries.

That qualification was Short lived, why?

Little did I know, this “first-second” qualification was doomed from the start and was short lived. Some of the indicators were rapidly turning red, due to a lobbying campaign astutely orchestrated in Washington DC.

Mr. Patrice Talon, a cotton mogul who financed both of President Boni Yayi’s presidential campaigns, was now in a tug of war with his former champion and was raising questions regarding the direction of the country under Boni Yayi’s leadership. In the Spring of 2013, Patrice Talon recruited Arent Fox one of the largest U.S. law and government relations firms to lobby the U.S. congress, with the aim to stop all U.S. development assistance to the country while questioning the commitment of the country to democracy under President Boni’s leadership.

The specific lobbying issue recorded on lobbying disclosure forms filed by Arent Fox on July 18 2013, November 18, 2013 and January 20, 2015 was: “Promotion of respect for the rule of law in Benin, including honoring of contractual obligations, application of equitable and transparent judicial procedures in Benin. Human rights effort to secure release of Benin citizen imprisoned without bail in Benin. Millennium Challenge Corporation grant funding”.

With this new development, all foreign assistance to the country was in jeopardy and chief among them was the high probability of the country’s losing its eligibility to receive a second MCC compact.

 You were on K street, how did you react?

On Wednesday, July 24, 2013, GoodWorks International senior advisor a former director for Africa at the U.S. treasury walked to my office around 11 am with a report. His analysis was simple. The country will lose its eligibility to receive a second compact. The narrative about Benin was rapidly changing in Washington DC. The country was no longer talked about as a democratic market economy and this change could have a long-term devastating effect on U.S. assistance to Benin.

I thought about the 10 million people in Benin who will suffer from this campaign. I couldn’t stomach the fact that the burden of losing US assistance will be carried by the country’s poorest, the ones that were currently benefiting from the MCA grant and the ones who stood to benefit from the second compact.

 By now I knew I couldn’t just watch this unfold in Washington DC without doing something about it. I was on K street long enough to know how these games are played. I knew as well that I was practically one of the few in Washington DC that understood the situation and I couldn’t stand the thought of seeing the country lose its eligibility to the second compact. I knew that if the U.S. stops aid to the country, it might create a ripple effect with all other donors and will affect the livelihood of the 10 million people of Benin, who would be hurt. With them in mind, I was ready to help change the narrative.

 How did you help solve the issue?

I devised a lobbying plan and informed my Chair, of my intention to provide pro-bono help in raising Benin’s country profile in the U.S. By the end of July 2013, I was in full lobbying mode. I worked to register an entity named “Friends of Benin in the U.S.” to serve as a conduit for the effort, met with most stakeholders in town to provide them with factual information about the country and helped clarify the situation, and began to meet with key members of Congress. All lawmakers and officials I met were very sympathetic to my argument, with the exception of Congressmen Alan Grayson of Florida of the 8th Congressional District.

Despite my direct plea to him, Congressmen Grayson introduced resolution H. R. 3827 to prohibit the United States from providing financial assistance to Benin in Congress. Due to the collective advocacy of those of us who wanted to protect the livelihoods and well-being of people in Benin, we ensured that, this resolution never made it to the foreign affairs committee. H.R. 3827 was dead on arrival.

 Our understanding is that Benin ultimately lost its eligibility for a second compact in FY 2004; does this mean your efforts went in vain?

Because perception indicators are hard to correct by the time the MCC scorecards for FY 2014 were released in November 2013, Benin indicators in the area of corruption in the ruling justly category plummeted and subsequently the MCC board decided to drop the country from eligibility.

This turn of events was not the outcome that I was expecting. Mildly put, I was disappointed. We fought hard, but we couldn’t save Benin eligibility to the program that year.

 Your appointment as Ambassador coincided with the return of Benin to the good books of the MCA, how were these events related?

Benin lost its eligibility to apply for a second compact. However, President Boni Yayi was determined to get it back. He prioritized this and began to exercise direct leadership over the effort, consulting practically on a weekly basis with the MCA formulation unit in Benin, the Council of Presidential Investment and sectorial agencies to help improve the country’ indicators.

With the retirement of the Benin Ambassador to the United States, he decided to appoint me as his successor. I will have a singular charge: ensure Benin’s eligibility to receive a second compact. In order to accept my appointment, I had to relinquish my U.S. Citizenship.

Did you actually relinquish your US Citizenship ,how challenging was it for you to make that decision?

It was a tall order with a caveat. How could I be sure about the outcome of the goal set forward by president Yayi? Acquiring my US citizenship was not an easy task, and why would I gamble it way under this condition? Could I get my U.S. citizenship back at the end of my appointment? These were some questions I struggled with for weeks before accepting the appointment. I worried that if I did not accept the appointment; I would lose the opportunity to serve and would have given up my right to have a voice in shaping my country’s narrative in the US. I would have given up on MCA-Benin. I would have let down 10 million people, who could benefit from a second compact.

What was your agenda as the Benin Ambassador?

I presented my letter of credence to President Obama in April 2014 after having renounced my U.S. citizenship a month earlier and became the Benin Ambassador to the United States of America, Mexico, Bahamas and Barbados. I was the country’s permanent observer at the Organization of American States and its representative with the Breton Woods Institutions.

As Ambassador, my equation was simple: “How well can I perform in the shortest time period?” Speed and results were of essence, if I wanted to reach the goal set by President Yayi.

I was meeting all the independent agencies in charge of compiling data for the MCC indicators and providing them with supplemental updated data. I was talking to MCC Board members regularly providing factual information to dispel the remains of the negative perception of the country in the United States. I was doing op-eds and press interviews, sending letters to stakeholders and meeting constantly with key government officials.

 Were you successful?

Madame Awahou Codjo is a small business owner in Cotonou who benefitted from MCC’s 2006 investments in Benin. Now, she stands to benefit from MCC’s $375 million Benin Power compact. Picture courtesy of MCC

Madame Awahou Codjo is a small business owner in Cotonou who benefitted from MCC’s 2006 investments in Benin. Now, she stands to benefit from MCC’s $375 million Benin Power compact. Picture courtesy of MCC

When the FY 2015 MCC scorecards were released in November 2014, Benin was back again in the game and subsequently was invited by the MCC Board of Directors to submit a grant proposal. Now the compact was anticipated to be a total of $375,000,000 in addition to $28,000,000 that the country would contribute.

 So Benin signed its Power Compact a second in the country’s history….

Yes, Then-Benin Minister of Finance Komi Koutche and MCC CEO Dana J. Hyde signed the $375,000,000 Benin Power Compact in the presence of Benin President Dr. Thomas Boni Yayi and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday, September 9, 2015, in Washington at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Indian Treaty Room.

 What was this grant for?

The Benin Power Compact seeks to unlock private investment by supporting policy reforms and investing in electricity generation, distribution and off-grid electrification. The Benin Compact is MCC’s contribution to Power Africa, advancing the goals of increasing electricity generation and access in sub-Saharan Africa, and combating climate change through $175,000,000 for renewable energy capital works and policies.

 Benin has certainly come a long way, what comes to mind what you take a look back at this journey to another MCA Compact?

September 9, 2015, six months to the day, I presented my letter of credence as my country’s Ambassador to Washington, I was witnessing the signing of Benin’s second compact. When I take stock of my own contribution, I flash back to that evening in the spring of 2004 when I casually asked my wife “How was your day?” That question led me to this day: a decade of involvement with MCA-Benin, most of it in the shadows.

A few months later, President Boni Yayi’s second term ended and he stepped down. His successor President Patrice Talon, was sworn into office and he now holds the guardianship of Benin’s MCA Power Compact and is responsible for its successful implementation.

 The Trump administration is projecting cuts to Foreign aid, are you concerned?

Despite all its challenges this tiny West African country of Benin is upholding in that region core democratic values that are the fundamental beliefs and constitutional principles of a free society.  These are the same values expressed in the United States Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.

The partnership with the United States through the Millennium Challenge Account reaffirms these shared values and undergirds a long tradition of cooperation and mutual support.  The generosity of the American people ensures that Benin remains the beacon it has always been.

Bill Gates says it best, “these programs give American taxpayers a phenomenal return on investment, one of the best anywhere in government. They do this by making Americans safer and the world more stable, by creating jobs at home and promote trading partners that will buy American goods, saving lives and building up health systems so other countries can take better care of their people”.

However, with the news of upcoming cuts to foreign assistance under the Trump administration, many other African countries may not be as lucky as Benin in obtaining U.S. government support.

*** Former Ambassador Omar Arouna is President & CEO GlobalSpecialty, LLC

***The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is a bilateral United States foreign aid agency established by the U.S. Congress in 2004, applying a new philosophy toward foreign aid. It is an independent agency separate from the State Department and USAID

 ***The Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) is a bilateral US development assistance program announced by President Bush in March 2002.

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Africa: Don’t Abandon Patriotism, KK Reminds Africa
June 29, 2017 | 0 Comments

Kenneth Kaunda

Kenneth Kaunda

First Republican president Kenneth Kaunda has reminded Africa not to abandon the patriotism that its founding fathers exhibited when they stood by each other to liberate the continent from colonial bondage despite geographic locations.

Dr Kaunda said good neighbourliness was the cornerstone that the founding fathers built on Africa and liberated it from colonial bondage, and it was important that the current generation did not forget this component of history.

The former head of State said it was important that Africans worked together in love because where there was love, people could overcome any challenges.

Dr Kaunda said this yesterday when visiting Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo paid him a visit at his residence in Lusaka’s State Lodge area.

“Our neighbours may be from another region or origin. They may even be from another political party. We are all brothers and sisters. We work together to do our part in God’s work. With love we can overcome great challenges,” Dr Kaunda said.

He said Africans should not allow themselves to be divided on account of colour, ethnicity, language or religion.

Dr Kaunda said African countries had in the past helped one another attain independence from the colonial masters, and this mutual support should be sustained in the interest of good neighbourliness.

 He hailed the Ghanaian leader for his election to the presidency, which coincided with Ghana’s 60th independence anniversary.

Dr Kaunda said Mr Akufo-Addo’s visit would nourish the deep relations between Zambia and Ghana, which dated many years back when Kwame Nkrumah worked to liberate the continent.

President Akufo-Addo said the warm relations that existed between Zambia and Ghana symbolised love and solidarity.

He said Ghana under his administration would continue to work closely with Zambia to improve existing relations for the betterment of people in the two states.

Mr Akufo-Addo said this was living up to the relationship that existed from the days before independence foe the two countries.

He said Dr Kaunda was an icon of this generation, and that Africa was one people and that he would work with his counterparts to defend the rights of the people on the continent.

*Culled from Times of Zambia

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Continental Free Trade Area Is Africa’s Path To Self-Reliance & Prosperity” – President Akufo-Addo
June 29, 2017 | 0 Comments
President Akufo-Addo was speaking at a State Banquet held in his honour by the President of the Republic of Zambia, His Excellency Edgar Lungu, on Tuesday, June 27, 2017

President Akufo-Addo was speaking at a State Banquet held in his honour by the President of the Republic of Zambia, His Excellency Edgar Lungu, on Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has urged African leaders to hasten the coming into being of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA).

According to President Akufo-Addo, “if we remain resolute and see to its realisation, we will obtain a major boost to the development of our economies, and a considerable reduction on our dependence on foreign goods and services. It is the path to collective self-reliance and prosperity.”

It will be recalled that Heads of State and Governments who attended the 28th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union, in January this year, signed up to the implementation of the CFTA.

The purpose of the free-trade area is to ensure significant growth of Intra-Africa trade, as well as assisting countries on the continent use trade more effectively as an engine of growth and for sustainable development.

The CFTA will also reduce the vulnerability of the continent to external shocks, and will also enhance the participation of Africa in global trade as a respectable partner, thereby reducing the continent’s dependence on foreign aid and external borrowing.

President Akufo-Addo was speaking at a State Banquet held in his honour by the President of the Republic of Zambia, His Excellency Edgar Lungu, on Tuesday, June 27, 2017, when he made this known.

He noted that for a continent that has made the choice of pursuing integration, Africa has not done much in liberalizing and promoting trade amongst member countries.

“Research has shown that countries or groups of countries with the largest share of world trade are located within regions with the highest share of intra-regional trade. Trade between African nations remains low compared to other parts of the world,” he lamented.

In 2000, intra-continental trade accounted for 10% of Africa’s total trade, and increased marginally to 11% in 2015. Trading amongst members of the European Union, for example, amounted to 70% in 2015. Intra-African trade is still estimated at less than two percent (2%) of global trade.

“With these very low levels of trade and investment co-operation in Africa, we must put in place deliberate measures aimed at expanding trade and business collaborations to improve the prospects for prosperity of our peoples,” he added.

The coming into effect of the CFTA, the President was confident, would bring progress and prosperity to the African peoples.

With Africa’s population of 1.2 billion set to expand to 2 billion people in 20 years, the President stressed that “this means that a genuine continental market in Africa should be in our economic interest, for it will present immense opportunities to bring prosperity to the peoples in our continent with hard work, creativity and enterprise.”

It is for this reason that President Akufo-Addo noted that “we should no longer delay the process of African integration. A functioning, common continental market has to be a very fundamental objective of all the peoples and governments on the continent, an objective that will consolidate the process of structural transformation of our national economies on which we must be engaged.”

Intensify Ghana & Zambia links

President Akufo-Addo, in his remarks, also called for the intensification of the links between Ghanaian and Zambian enterprises.

With Zambia and Ghana recording similar GDP growth rates in 2016, i.e., 3.3% and 3.6% respectively, as a result of high fiscal deficits, low investor confidence, falling commodity prices and low agricultural productivity, President Akufo-Addo explained that the time has come for the two countries to move away from being mere producers and exporters of raw materials.

“There can be no future prosperity for our peoples in the short, medium or long term, if we continue to maintain economic structures dependent on the production and export of raw materials. Unless we industrialise, with the goal of adding significant value to our primary products, we cannot create the necessary numbers of good-paying jobs that will enhance the living standards of the masses of our country,” he said.

To this end, President Akufo-Addo outlined a number of policies he has initiated since assuming office in January 2017, which has shifted the focus of Ghana’s economy from taxation to production.

He also applauded his Zambian counterpart for his recently approved National Development Plan, on the theme “Accelerating development efforts towards vision 2030 without leaving anyone behind”.

The Zambian programme is hinged on the pillars of economic diversification and job creation, reduced poverty and vulnerability, reduced developmental inequalities, enhancing human development, and conducive governance environment for economic diversification, to create a diversified economy for sustained growth and economic development is highly commendable.

“The transformation of our two economies we seek through these measures should make our enterprises and businesses very competitive in Africa, and beyond,” he added.

*Presidency Ghana

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Quett Masire (1925-2017), the great African leader you’ve never heard of
June 29, 2017 | 0 Comments
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International Trademark Association CEO visits Africa to cement collaboration on trademarks and Intellectual Property rights systems
June 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

The International Trademark Association (INTA) CEO, Mr. Etienne Sanz
de Acedo who is visiting Africa and Zimbabwe in particular for the
first time has convened meetings with key stakeholders especially in
the Intellectual Property (IP)rights sector to cement collaboration
and support trademarks and related rights systems with the continent.

According to Susan Mwiti, Documentations and Communications Officer
for the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO)
Acedo’s mission is to understand how to better serve and increase INTA
membership in Africa as well as strengthen ties and cooperation with
ARIPO, government departments, the Judiciary and academic institutions
responsible for or who have a stake in the effective use of trademarks
for development.

INTA is the global association of trademark owners and professionals
dedicated to supporting trademarks and related intellectual property
in order to protect consumers and to promote fair and effective
commerce. Recently, INTA has been paying more attention to Africa.
INTA CEO, Mr. De Acedo, says his priorities are “to becoming truly
global” and “engaging as many constituencies as possible.”

INTA undertakes advocacy work throughout the world to advance
trademarks and offers educational programs and informational and legal
resources of global interest.

At ARIPO, the CEO met with the agents, attorneys and brand owners
based in Zimbabwe.

Mr. Acedo, accompanied by the ARIPO Director General, Mr. Fernando dos
Santos, is also expected to meet with the Zimbabwean Chief Justice,
Justice Luke Malaba and Vice President, Vice President Emmerson
Mnangagwa.

INTA has seven member organizations in Zimbabwe and in Africa 248
members from 37 countries. Globally, it has more than 7,000
organizations from 190 countries. INTA members collectively contribute
almost $12 trillion to global GDP annually. For comparison, the 2015
annual GDP of the top three markets was $10.9 trillion (China), $16.2
trillion (European Union) and $17.9 trillion (United States).

The Association’s member organizations represent some 30,000 trademark
professionals and include brand owners from major corporations as well
as small- and medium-sized enterprises, law firms and nonprofits.
There are also government agency members as well as individual
professor and student members.

The not-for-profit Association was founded in 1878 by 17 merchants and
manufacturers who saw a need for an organization “to protect and
promote the rights of trademark owners, to secure useful legislation
and to give aid and encouragement to all efforts for the advancement
and observance of trademark rights.”

The African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) is
an Inter-governmental organization (IGO). It was created under the
Lusaka Agreement that was concluded and signed in Lusaka, Zambia on
December 9 1976. Membership of the Organization is open to all
African States members of the United Nations Economic Commission for
Africa (ECA) or the African Union (AU).

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INNOVATIVE AND EFFICIENT LAND AND SOIL DEGRADATION CURBING MECHANISMS IN WESTERN CAPE PROVINCE, SOUTH AFRICA: LESSONS FOR OTHER AFRICAN COUNTRIES
June 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

By   Moses Hategeka*

“A combination of conservation agriculture production practices, that involve no-till, cover cropping, and crop rotation, encompassing, rotating of wheat and legume pasture on my more than 1900 hectares farm, has significantly increased my wheat yields, right from mid-1990’s, on average from, 2854kg/ha to 4072kg/ha, to, 5850kg/ha to7520kg/ha currently. Thus, I am now enjoying both financial profitability and farming sustainability, as the practice, has increased, organic matter on my farm soils, and so is, to other thousands of farmers, in Western Cape Province, who are doing the same”. Says, Francois Rossouw, a Western Cape Province farmer, who besides, wheat and legume farming, is also engaged in animal husbandry.

Indeed, during, my farming tour of his farm and other farms too recently, in Western Cape province, on a fact finding mission, on what farmers, in this province, have done, to curb land and soil degradation, which is on skyrocketing levels globally, I was amazed, by the clearly and strategically innovative and efficient phased strategies, that the provincial administration of Western Cape and farmers, adopted right from 1984 to date, and the capacity, the farmers in this province, have attained to conserve and improve soil fertility in a sustainable way.

It is important to note that, land and soil are the basis of life on earth, but a closer look, at an alarming soil nutrients depletion, and destruction of crop, grass, and forests lands, going on, in different regions of the world, reveals that, effort to ensure sustainable land use and protection of soils, is still insufficient, with Sub Saharan Africa Region, being the hardest hit, with land and soil degradation problems.

Globally, 33 percent of grasslands, 25 percent of croplands, and 23 percent of forests lands, have, for the over past three decades, experienced degradation. Land degradation, is on rise globally, and negatively affecting the livelihood of millions of people globally, and yet, every US dollar invested, in saving land and soils today, will save us five USA dollars in the future.

According to Professor Joachim Von Braun, ZEF Director and co-editor of the book, “Economics of land degradation and improvement- A Global Assessment for Sustainable Development”, soil is the most neglected natural resource, yet investments in land and soil are crucial for food supply, climate, and human security.

It is thus, very paramount, for, countries, regional, and global agricultural organizations, to work together, in a cohesive and collaborative manner, in the area of knowledge transfer, research, and development, and put in place and implement agricultural policies, that makes their farmers, to build capacity, to engage in production practices, that result in soil health attainment.

The provincial administration of Western Cape, has for the over past three decades to date, produced agricultural innovations, built efficient  agricultural scientific human resource, and massively trained the provincial farmers, to engage in agricultural production practices, that, promote soil health, which can be replicated in other African countries.

 Dr. Johann Strauss, a scientist in sustainable cropping systems, Directorate plant sciences, Western Cape Department of Agriculture, says, that land and soil degradation curbing measures, in Western Cape Province, were systematically and periodically done in phases.

From 1984 onwards, slow adoption of minimum tillage, this involved, massive training of the provincial farmers, on proper residue retention techniques, on their farmers. This improved organic matter in their farm soils, and in the six years, that followed, all the farmers recorded, improved yields.

In the mid 1990’s, Western Cape department of agriculture, massively, introduced no- till and crop rotation farming techniques, which in essence meant, and means, minimum soil disturbance and periodical rotating of crops on the farms. This was accompanied, with progressive introduction, of locally produced no- till planters, suitable for Western Cape local conditions.

Currently, about 90 per cent, of the farmers in Western Cape Province, have fully adopted, no-till, and crop rotation farming techniques, and presently, no- till planters, are available in abundance to farmers, at fair prices, at locally production centers, while others, are imported.

Besides cover cropping, and permanent soil cover, that is done by, many farmers in Western Cape area, to conserve and attain soil health, farmers in the province, also do regular soil monitoring and testing, and according to obtained outcome, fine-tune soil compounds, by adding or reducing specific inputs. Currently in Western Cape Province, there is a movement, to move away, from testing for macro elements (N,P,K), to microbial activity, as an indication of soil health.

Many farmers in the province, have and are embracing organic farming, preferring to use, more of organic inputs on their farms. Globally, demand for organically produced products, are on high demand, and this demand is projected, to continue skyrocketing, due to health benefits associated with consuming organic products, and luckily for Western Cape farmers, their department of agriculture, introduced sustainable certification initiatives, for their farmers, which have enabled them to access export markets.

How has these land and soil degradation curbing innovative approaches transformed the provincial agriculture?

 

Moses Hategeka

Dr. Johann Strauss, a scientist in sustainable cropping systems, Directorate plant sciences, Western Cape Department of Agriculture, confidently articulates that, these innovative approaches, have led, to increased organic matter in Western Cape soils, emphasizing that, in some scenarios, soil carbon has increased from less than 0.5% to about 2% and in some situations even 4%.

Water retention, has tremendously increased, to the extent that, many producers, have started to do away, with contour banks, to prevent erosion and water runoff.

Many farmers in Western Cape Province, are now more resilient, to the effect of climate change especially droughts, as their health soils, is no able to retain water for longer, and their soil cover practice, has decreased evaporation process.

The adoption of these innovative measures, have also made agricultural producers, in the Western Cape Province, more sustainable, as well as increasing their crop yields and farming profitability.

In sum, given that globally, one third of farming land is degraded mostly due to conventional tillage practices, with sub- Saharan Africa region, being the hardest hit region, African countries, together with, other key private and civil society players in Africa’s agricultural sector, must work hand in hand, through knowledge transfer, research and development, and proper training, to build the capacity of African farmers, to conserve and improve soil fertility in a sustainable way, like what the farmers in Western Cape Province in South Africa are doing. Innovations that are soil moisture and soil fertility improvement inducing, are key, to reducing hunger, attaining food security, and decreasing poverty.

Moses Hategeka, is a Ugandan based Independent Governance Researcher, Public Affairs Analyst, and Writer

Email: moseswiseman2000@gmail.com

 

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The Race to Solar-Power Africa
June 22, 2017 | 0 Comments

American startups are competing to bring electricity to communities that remain off the grid.

Bill McKibben*

Solar panels power a solar drip irrigation system for a collective women’s garden in Kalale, Benin. The system provides a cost-effective, clean way to irrigate crops, especially in the long, dry season.Pic credit Face to Face Africa

Solar panels power a solar drip irrigation system for a collective women’s garden in Kalale, Benin. The system provides a cost-effective, clean way to irrigate crops, especially in the long, dry season.Pic credit Face to Face Africa

In eighteen months, entrepreneurs brought electricity to hundreds of thousands of people in places that the grid failed to reach.
Illustration by Oliver Munday / Photographs courtesy Mathieu Young / Off-Grid Electric

The cacao-farming community of Daban, in Ghana, is seven degrees north of the equator, and it’s always hot. In May, I met with several elders there to talk about the electricity that had come to the town a few months earlier, when an American startup installed a solar microgrid nearby. Daban could now safely store the vaccine for yellow fever; residents could charge their cell phones at home rather than walking to a bigger town to do it. As we talked, one of the old men handed me a small plastic bag of water, the kind street venders sell across West Africa—you just bite off a corner and drink. The water was ice-cold and refreshing, but it took me an embarrassingly long moment to understand the pleasure with which he offered it: cold water was now available in this hot place. There was enough power to run a couple of refrigerators, and so coldness was, for the first time, a possibility.

I’d come to Daban to learn about the boom in solar power in sub-Saharan Africa. The spread of cell phones in the region has made it possible for residents to pay daily or weekly bills using mobile money, and now the hope is that, just as cell phones bypassed the network of telephone lines, solar panels will enable many rural consumers to bypass the electric grid. From Ghana, I travelled to Ivory Coast, and then to Tanzania, and along the way I encountered a variety of new solar ventures, most of them American-led. Some, such as Ghana’s Black Star Energy, which had electrified Daban, install solar microgrids, small-scale versions of the giant grid Americans are familiar with. Others, such as Off-Grid Electric, in Tanzania and Ivory Coast, market home-based solar systems that run on a panel installed on each individual house. These home-based systems can’t produce enough current for a fridge, but they can supply each home with a few lights, a mobile-phone charger, and, if the household can afford it, a small, super-efficient flat-screen TV.

In another farming town, in Ivory Coast, I talked to a man named Abou Traoré, who put his television out in a courtyard most nights, so that neighbors could come by to watch. He said that they tuned in for soccer matches—the village tilts Liverpool, but has a large pocket of Manchester United supporters. What else did he watch? Traoré considered. “I like the National Geographic channel,” he replied—that is, the broadcast arm of the institution that became famous showing Westerners pictures of remote parts of Africa.

There are about as many people living without electricity today as there were when Thomas Edison lit his first light bulb. More than half are in sub-Saharan Africa. Europe and the Americas are almost fully electrified, and Asia is quickly catching up, but the absolute number of Africans without power remains steady. A World Bank report, released in May, predicted that, given current trends, there could still be half a billion people in sub-Saharan Africa without power by 2040. Even those with electricity can’t rely on it: the report noted that in Tanzania power outages were so common in 2013 that they cost businesses fifteen per cent of their annual sales. Ghanaians call their flickering power dum/sor, or “off/on.” Vivian Tsadzi, a businesswoman who lives not far from the Akosombo Dam, which provides about a third of the nation’s power, said that most of the time “it’s dum dum dum dum.” The dam’s head of hydropower generation, Kwesi Amoako, who retired last year, told me that he is proud of the structure, which created the world’s largest man-made lake. But there isn’t an easy way to increase the country’s hydropower capacity, and drought, caused by climate change, has made the system inconsistent, meaning that Ghana will have to look elsewhere for electricity. “I’ve always had the feeling that one of the main thrusts should be domestic solar,” Amoako said. “And I think we should put the off-grid stuff first, because the consumer wants it so badly.”

Electrifying Africa is one of the largest development challenges on earth. Until recently, most people assumed that the continent would electrify in the same manner as the rest of the globe. “The belief was, you’d eventually build the U.S. grid here,” Xavier Helgesen, the American co-founder and C.E.O. of Off-Grid Electric, told me. “But the U.S. is the richest country on earth, and it wasn’t fully electrified until the nineteen-forties, and that was in an era of cheap copper for wires, cheap timber for poles, cheap coal, and cheap capital. None of that is so cheap anymore, at least not over here.”

Solar electricity, on the other hand, has become inexpensive, in part because the price of solar panels has fallen at the same time that the efficiency of light bulbs and appliances has dramatically increased. In 2009, a single compact fluorescent bulb and a lead-acid battery cost about forty dollars; now, using L.E.D. bulbs and lithium-ion batteries, you can get four times as much light for the same price. In 2009, a radio, a mobile-phone charger, and a solar system big enough to provide four hours of light and television a day would have cost a Kenyan a thousand dollars; now it’s three hundred and fifty dollars.

President Trump has derided renewable energy as “really just an expensive way of making the tree huggers feel good about themselves.” But many Western entrepreneurs see solar power in Africa as a chance to reach a large market and make a substantial profit. This is a nascent industry, which, at the moment, represents a small percentage of the electrification in the region, and is mostly in rural areas. There’s plenty of uncertainty about its future, and no guarantee that it will spread at the pace of cell phones. Still, in the past eighteen months, these businesses have brought electricity to hundreds of thousands of consumers—many of them in places that the grid failed to reach, despite a hundred-year head start. Funding, much of it from private investors based in Silicon Valley or Europe, is flowing into this sector—more than two hundred million dollars in venture capital last year, up from nineteen million in 2013—and companies are rapidly expanding their operations with the new money. M-Kopa, an American startup that launched in Kenya, in 2011, now has half a million pay-as-you-go solar customers; d.light, a competitor with offices in California, Kenya, China, and India, says that it is adding eight hundred new households a day. Nicole Poindexter, the founder and C.E.O. of Black Star, told me that every million dollars the company raises in venture capital delivers power to seven thousand people. She expects Black Star to be profitable within the next three years.

Like many of the American entrepreneurs I met in Africa, Poindexter has a background in finance. A graduate of Harvard Business School, she worked as a derivatives trader before leading business development at Opower, a software platform for utilities customers that was acquired by Oracle last year. (Unlike many of these entrepreneurs, who tend to skew white and male, Poindexter is African-American.) She decided to start the company in 2015, after she began to learn about energy poverty. She recalled watching TV coverage of the Ebola epidemic in Liberia. “There was a lot of coughing in the background, and I was thinking, That’s someone with Ebola,” she said. “But it wasn’t. It was from the smoke in the room from the fire.” Last year, in the Ghanaian community of Kofihuikrom, one of the first towns that Black Star served, the company erected twenty-two solar panels. Today, the local clinic no longer has to deliver babies by flashlight. The town chief, Nana Kwaku Appiah, said that he was so excited that he initially left his lights on inside all night. “Our relatives from the city used to not come here to visit,” he said.

When I visited the Tanzanian headquarters of Off-Grid Electric, in the city of Arusha, the atmosphere was reminiscent of Palo Alto or Mountain View, with standing desks and glassed-in conference rooms for impromptu meetings. Erick Donasian, the company’s head of service in Tanzania, grew up in a powerless house three miles from the office and joined the company in 2013; he said that, along with his enthusiasm for the company’s goals, one attraction of working there is that it is far less formal than many Tanzanian businesses, where “you have to tuck your shirt in, which I hate the most.” Off-Grid’s Silicon Valley influence was clearest in the T-shirt Helgesen wore. It read “Make something people want,” and sported the logo for Y Combinator, Silicon Valley’s most famous incubator, where Helgesen’s wife had recently developed a bartering app.

Helgesen, who is thirty-eight years old and lanky, with hair that he regularly brushes out of his eyes, grew up in Silver Bay, Minnesota, a small town on the shore of Lake Superior. At fourteen, he came up with the idea of leasing the municipal mini-golf course for a summer, and tripled revenues by offering season passes and putting on special promotions for visiting hockey teams. As a sophomore at Notre Dame, in 1999, he set up a Web site that posted the college’s freshman register online, so that, as he put it, “you’d actually know who that cute girl you saw in anthro class was.” Helgesen started similar sites at other colleges, but, he told me, “I wasn’t as good a programmer as Zuckerberg. Even if I’d gotten it completely right, it would have been more Friendster than Facebook.” His first major company, Better World Books, founded in 2002, took the model of charity used-book drives and moved it online. It’s now one of the biggest sellers of used books on Amazon, and has helped raise twenty-five million dollars for literacy organizations, including Books for Africa.

Helgesen made his first trip to Tanzania in 2006, to visit recipients of Better World’s funding and to go on safari. “I was staying at a fancy lodge near Kilimanjaro, and I remember thinking, How do things really work around here?” Helgesen said. He paid a local man to take him to the nearest village. “I was peppering him with questions: ‘Do young people go to the city?’ ‘How much does coffee sell for?’ ” The experience, he said, “flipped my mind-set from ‘People in Africa are poor and they need our help and our donated books’ to ‘This is what an emerging economy looks like. This is young people, this is entrepreneurialism, this is where growth will be.’ ” During a second trip to Africa, he went scuba diving in Lake Malawi (“to see the cichlid fish, which keep their babies in their mouths”), and was invited to dinner by his scuba instructor. “It was a decent-sized town, maybe twenty thousand people, but absolutely no electricity,” Helgesen said. “It was all narrow alleys—they were bustling, but they were pitch-black.”

In 2010, Helgesen won a Skoll Scholarship to Oxford, for M.B.A. students seeking “entrepreneurial solutions for urgent social and environmental challenges,” and spent the year researching the renewables market. He found two like-minded business partners, and, in 2012, they set up shop in Arusha. At first, they planned to build solar microgrids to power cell-phone towers and sell the excess electricity to locals, but, Helgesen said, “it became clear that that was a pretty expensive way to go.” So they visited customers in their homes to ask them what they wanted. “Those conversations were the smartest thing we ever did,” Helgesen said. “I remember this one customer, she had a baby, and she would keep the kerosene lamp on low all night, as a night-light. It was costing thirty dollars a month in kerosene. And I was, like, Wow, for thirty dollars a month I could do a lot better.”

Helgesen decided to “start with the customer, and the price point they could pay, and build the business behind that.” Matt Schiller, the thirty-two-year-old vice-president of business operations, said that, in some ways, it is an easy sell. “If we talk to a hundred customers, not one says, ‘I’d rather have kerosene,’ ” he told me. “Not one says, ‘I’d like the warm glow of the kerosene lights.’ In fact, when we were designing the L.E.D.s, we focus-grouped lights. And the engineers assumed they’d want a warmer light, because that’s what they were used to. But, no, they picked the bluest, hardest light you can imagine. That’s modernity. That’s clean.”

There were solar panels in sub-Saharan Africa before companies like Off-Grid arrived, but customers generally had to pay for them up front, a forbidding prospect for many. “Cost is important to the customer at the bottom, but risk is even more important,” Helgesen told me. “A bad decision when you’re that poor can mean your kids don’t eat or go to school, which is why people tend to be conservative. And which is why kerosene was winning. There was no risk. You could buy it a tiny bit at a time.”

Off-Grid, like several of its competitors, finances the panels, so that people can pay the same small monthly amounts they were paying for kerosene. Customers in Tanzania put down about thirteen dollars to buy Off-Grid’s cheapest starter kit: a panel, a battery, a few L.E.D. lights, a phone charger, and a radio. Then they pay about eight dollars a month for three years, after which they own the products outright. The most popular system adds a few more lights and a flat-screen TV, for a higher down payment and about twice the monthly price. Customers pay their bill by phone; if they don’t pay, the system stops working, and after a while it is repossessed. That scenario, it turns out, is uncommon: less than two per cent of the loans in Tanzania have gone bad.

Despite Off-Grid’s Silicon Valley vibe, it faces challenges unfamiliar to software companies. Aidan Leonard, Off-Grid’s Arusha-based general counsel, told me that the company “requires a lot of people walking around selling things and installing things and fixing things. There’s a lot of hardware—someone’s got a physical box in their house, and a panel on the roof, and they have to pay for it on a monthly basis.” Poindexter, of Black Star, put the problem more bluntly. “We’re a utility company,” she told me, and utilities are a difficult business.

In America, utilities are burdened with infrastructure, such as the endless poles and wires that come down in storms. Off-Grid doesn’t have to worry about poles, and the wires only run a few feet, from panel to battery to appliance. Still, the company is working with technology that is brand-new and needs to be made cheaply in order to be affordable. When solar energy first came to Africa, it was expensive and unreliable. Arne Jacobson, a professor of environmental-resources engineering at Humboldt State University, in California, is a couple of decades older than most of the entrepreneurs I met in Africa. He got his doctorate studying the first generation of home solar in Kenya, in the late nineteen-nineties. “In Kenya, I was trying to understand the quality of the panels that had started to flood the market,” he said. Much of the technology had “big troubles. Chinese panels, panels from the U.K., all this low-quality junk coming in. Later, L.E.D.s that failed in hours or days instead of lasting thousands of hours, as they should. People’s first experiences were often really bad.”

Jacobson has spent his career in renewable energy; he helped build the world’s first street-legal hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicle, in 1998. He now runs Humboldt’s Schatz Energy Research Center. (“You want to know why a lot of early solar research happened in Humboldt?” he asked me. “Because there were a lot of back-to-the-land types here, and they had cash because they were growing dope.”) After seeing the unpredictability of solar technology, he created, in 2007, what he calls a “de facto consumer-protection bureau for this nascent industry.” The program, Lighting Global, which is run under the umbrella of the World Bank Group, tests and certifies panels, bulbs, and appliances to make sure that they work as promised. Jacobson credits this innovation with making investors more willing to put their money into companies such as Off-Grid, which has now raised more than fifty-five million dollars. His main testing lab is in Shenzhen, China, near most of the solar-panel manufacturers. He also has facilities in Nairobi, New Delhi, and Addis Ababa, and some of the work is still done in the basement of his building at Humboldt, where there’s an “integrating sphere” for measuring light output from a bulb, and a machine that switches radios on and off to see if they’ll eventually break.

Because many of Off-Grid’s potential customers have experience with bad products, or know someone who has, the company takes extra steps to build trust with its clients. After an Off-Grid installer shows up on his motorbike, he opens the product carton with great solemnity; in an Ivorian village, I watched along with seventeen neighbors, who nodded as the young man held up each component, one by one. He then climbed onto the roof of the house, nailed on a solar panel about the size of a placemat, and used a crowbar to lift up the corrugated-tin roof to run the wire inside. He screwed the battery box to the cement-block wall and walked the customer through the process of switching lights on and off several times, something the man had never done before. The company also offers a service guarantee: as long as customers are making their payments, they can call a number on the box and a repairman will arrive within three days. These LightRiders, as the company calls them, are trained to trouble-shoot small problems. They travel by motorcycle, and if they can’t make repairs easily they replace the system with a new one and haul the old unit back to headquarters.

This sales-and-installation system presents some engineering challenges. When the company expanded into Ivory Coast, last year, it had to redesign its packaging to fit on the smaller motorcycles used there. It also runs into problems coördinating coverage across a vast area where most houses don’t have conventional addresses. “We had to build our own internal software to make it possible,” Kim Schreiber, who runs Off-Grid’s marketing operations in Africa, said. “We optimize, via G.P.S. coördinates, the best routes for our riders to take. The LightRider turns on his phone every morning, and he has a list of his tasks for the day, so he knows what parts to take with him.”

Solar companies also contend with the complexity of the mobile-payment systems. In Ghana, where many customers don’t use mobile money, Poindexter’s Black Star team instead sells scratch cards from kiosks, which give customers a code they need to enter on their meter box to top up their account. Off-Grid delivers these codes over the phone, but the company still needs a call center, manned by fifteen people, to help customers with the mechanics of paying. Nena Sanderson, who runs Off-Grid’s Tanzanian operation, showed me the steps entailed in paying a bill through a ubiquitous mobile-money system called M-Pesa. There are ten screens, and the process ends with the input of a sixteen-digit code. “And I have a smartphone,” she said. “Now, imagine a feature phone, and imagine you may not know how to read, and the screen is a lot smaller, and it’s probably scratched up. Mobile money is a great enabler, but it’s not frictionless.” One of Off-Grid’s competitors, PEGAfrica, has printed the whole sequence on a wristband, which it gives to customers.

Because one of the biggest obstacles to the growth of solar power in the region is the lack of available cash, many of these companies are essentially banks as well as utilities, providing loans to customers who may have no credit history. That can make it hard to figure out what to charge people. “What you see in this space is at least eight to ten decent-sized pay-as-you-go solar companies, all trying to parse through what the actual end price to the customer really is,” Peter Bladin, who spent many years in leadership roles at Microsoft and now invests in several of these firms, told me. Bladin first started studying distributed solar—solar electricity produced near where it is used—in Bangladesh, where the Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus used his Grameen microcredit network to finance and distribute panels and batteries. Lacking that established financial architecture, companies in sub-Saharan Africa are constantly experimenting with different plans: Off-Grid began by offering ten-year leases, but found that customers wanted to own their systems more quickly, and so the payments are now spread out over three years. PEGAfrica customers buy their system in twelve months, but the company gives them hospitalization insurance as a bonus. Black Star is a true utility: the customers in the communities where it builds microgrids will always pay bills, but the charges start at only two dollars a month. (The business model depends on customers steadily increasing the amount of energy they buy, as they move from powering televisions to powering small businesses.) Companies like Burro—a Ghanaian outfit launched by Whit Alexander, the Seattle entrepreneur who founded Cranium games—sell lamps and chargers and panels outright, saving customers credit fees but limiting the number of people who can afford the products.

This uncertainty about the most practical financial model reflects the fact that in sub-Saharan Africa there is a great deal of economic diversity, both between countries and within them. One morning, I found myself walking down a line of houses in the Arushan suburb of Morombo. At the first house, a two-room cinder-block structure with a broken piece of mirror on one wall, a woman talked with me as we sat on the floor. The home represented a big step up for her, she said—she and her husband had rented a place for years, until they were able to buy this plot of land and build this house. She had a solar lantern the size of a hockey puck in her courtyard, soaking up rays. (Aid groups have distributed more than a million of these little lamps across the continent.) She assured me that she planned to get a larger solar system soon, but, for many of Africa’s poorest people, buying a lantern is the only possible step toward electrification.

Next door, a twenty-six-year-old student named Nehemiah Klimba shared a more solidly built house with his mother. It had a corrugated-iron roof on a truss that let hot air escape, and we sat on a sofa. Klimba said that, as soon as he finished paying off the windows, he was going to electrify. He and his mother were already spending fifteen dollars a month on kerosene and another four dollars charging their cell phones at a local store, so they knew they’d be able to afford the twenty dollars a month for a solar system with a TV.

One door down was the fanciest house I’d seen in weeks. It belonged to a soldier who worked as a U.N. peacekeeper, and the floors were made of polished stone. There was an Off-Grid solar system on the roof, but it was providing only backup power. The owner had paid a hefty fee to connect to the local electric grid, so he faced none of the limitations of a battery replenished by the sun. In his living room, he had a huge TV and speakers; a stainless-steel Samsung refrigerator gleamed in the kitchen.

“This is how the solar revolution happens—one hot sales meeting at a time,” Off-Grid’s Kim Schreiber whispered to me as we watched one of the company’s salesmen, an Ivorian named Seko Serge Lewis, at work. We were visiting the village of Grand Zattry with Off-Grid’s Ivory Coast sales director, Max-Marc Fossouo. A couple of dogs tussled nearby; a motorbike rolled past with six people on board. In the courtyard next to us, a woman was doing the day’s laundry in a bucket with a washboard. Her husband listened to the sales pitch from Lewis, who was showing him pictures on his cell phone of other customers in the village.

“That’s to build up trust,” Fossouo said. He’d been providing a play-by-play throughout the hour-long sales call. “This customer is on a big fence,” he said. “He’s stuck in the trust place. And I’m pretty sure the decision-maker is over there washing the clothes anyway.” Fossouo was born in Cameroon and went to school in Paris. In his twenties, he spent seven summers in the U.S., selling books for Southwestern Publishing, a Nashville-based titan of door-to-door marketing. (Rick Perry is another company alum; so is Kenneth Starr.) “I did L.A. for years,” he told me. “ ‘Hi, my name is Max. I’m a crazy college student from France, and I’m helping families with their kids’ education. I’ve been talking to your neighbors A, B, and C, and I’d like to talk to you. Do you have a place where I can come in and sit down?’ ” All selling, he said, is the same: “It starts with a person understanding they have a problem. Someone might live in the dark but not understand that it’s a problem. So you have to show them. And then you have to create a sense of urgency to spend the money to solve the problem now.”

The man turned down Lewis’s pitch. He was worried that he wouldn’t be able to make the monthly payments in the lean stretch before the next cacao harvest. “That’s crap,” Fossouo whispered, pointing again to the man’s wife. “He loves this woman, he can move the world for her.” When we went to the next house, Fossouo took over. This prospect was a farmer and schoolteacher, and they talked in his classroom, which had a few low desks with shards of slate on top. Fossouo had the man catalogue everything that he was spending on energy: money for kerosene, flashlight batteries, even the gas for the scooter that he borrowed when he needed to charge his phone. Then Fossouo showed him what he had to offer: a radio and four lights, each with a dimmer switch. “Where would you put the lamp?” he asked. “In front of the door? Of course! And the big light in the middle of the room, so when you have a party everyone could see. Now, tell me, if you went to the market to buy all of this, how much would it cost?” Fossouo tried angle after angle. “You have to think big here,” he said. “When I talked to your chief, he said, ‘Don’t think small.’ If your kid could see the news on TV, he might say, ‘I, too, could be President.’ ”

“This is great,” the man said. “I know you’re trying to help us. I just don’t have the money. Life is hard, things are expensive. Sometimes we’re hungry.”

Fossouo nodded. “What if I gave you a way to pay for it?” he asked. “So the dollar wouldn’t even come from your pocket? If you get a system, people will pay you to charge their phones. Or, if you had a TV, you could charge people to come watch the football games.”

“I couldn’t charge a person for coming in to watch a game,” the man said. “We’re all one big family. If someone is wealthy enough to have a TV, everyone is welcome to it.”

The hour ended without a sale, but Fossouo wasn’t worried. “It takes two or three approaches on average,” he said. “You always have to leave the person in a good place, where he loves you stopping by. This guy wants to finish building his house right now—his house is heavy on him—but it won’t be long.” As we talked, the first prospect came over, asking for a leaflet and a phone number. His wife, he said, was very interested.

The arrival of electricity is hard for today’s Westerners to imagine. Light means differences in sleeping and eating patterns and an increased sense of safety. I talked with one Tanzanian near Arusha who had traded in a kerosene lamp for five Off-Grid bulbs, including a security light outside his door that went on automatically when it got dark. “Crime is here,” he said, “but also dangerous animals. Especially snakes. So it’s good to have lights.” Everywhere I went, I met parents who said that their children could study at night. “You can feel the effects with their grades now at school,” one Ivorian father said. Several town chiefs told me that they hoped to get classroom computers, and one planned to mechanize the well so that townspeople would no longer need to pump water by hand. Farmers in West Africa were getting daily weather reports from Farmerline, a Ghanaian information service that uses G.P.S. to customize the forecasts. “If a farmer puts fertilizer on the field and then it rains, he loses the fertilizer—it washes away,” Alloysius Attah, a young Ghanaian entrepreneur who co-founded the service, told me. “And the farmers say they can’t tell the rain anymore. My auntie could read the clouds, the birds flying by, but the usual rainfall pattern has shifted.”

“Our killer app is definitely the television,” Off-Grid’s Schreiber said. “If the twenty-four-inch is out of stock, lots of people won’t buy.” Wandering through newly electrified towns, I saw teen-agers watching action movies. Black Star’s Poindexter told me, “There was a kid in town that I liked, Samuel, and when I came back after the power was turned on his arm was in a cast. He’d watched a karate show on TV, and he and his friends were playing it, and he broke his arm. I was horrified—I was, like, society is not prepared for this. And then I remembered that I did the same thing after I watched ‘Popeye’ as a kid. I ran right into the hedge and had to get twenty stitches. That’s kids and TV.”

In Daban, after I asked what the most popular program was, everyone began laughing and nodding. “ ‘Kumkum’!” people shouted. “Kumkum Bhagya,” an Indian soap opera set in a marriage hall and loosely based on Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility,” airs every night from seven-thirty to eight-thirty, during which time village life comes to a standstill. “All the chiefs have advocated for everyone to watch, because it’s about how relationships are built,” the local chief, Nana Oti Awere, said. Of course, the changes brought about by electrification will affect local communities in unpredictable ways that will play out over many years. One mother I spoke to explained that the TV “keeps the children at home at night, instead of roaming around.” The Ivorian farmer who told me about the effects on his children’s grades went on to say, “In the old time, you had to go outside and talk. Now my neighbor has his TV, I have my TV, and we stay inside.”

A decade ago, most experts would have predicted that foreign aid, rather than venture capital, would play a central role in bringing power to sub-Saharan Africa. Off-Grid Electric has been funded by sources including Tesla and Paul Allen’s venture fund, Vulcan. Allen, one of the world’s richest men, is worth twenty billion dollars, or roughly half of the G.D.P. of Tanzania, a country of almost fifty-four million people. Should he be able to make yet more money off the electrification of African huts? There’s more than a whiff of colonialism about the rush of Westerners and Western money into Africa. As Attah, the young Ghanaian who helped found Farmerline, put it, “There are a lot of Ivy Leaguers coming to Africa to say, ‘I can solve this problem, snap, snap, snap.’ They’re doing good work, but little investment goes to community leaders who are doing the same work on the ground.”
“I don’t know what that is, either—it could be the Olsen twins.”

The Westerners I spoke to, though they pledged to hire more local executives, didn’t think that the drive to help was incompatible with the desire to make money. As Poindexter put it, “There is a level of responsibility that I feel, and that I think any appropriate investor needs to have, about extraction versus contribution. I am not willing to be an extractive capitalist here, but I think that capitalism has an extremely important role to play in these communities.” Helgesen—who, despite his occasional oblivious tech-dudishness, spends most of his time in very remote places trying to provide power—is unapologetic about his company’s funding sources. Billionaires, he says, have the capital to make companies grow fast enough to matter. “Paul Allen didn’t invest because he thought it was the easiest way to make more money,” Helgesen said. “I got an awful lot of ‘no’s along the way from people who wanted easier money.” In any event, it’s not clear that other sources of funding are available, at least from the U.S.: Trump, pulling out of the Paris climate accord earlier this month, said that the country would not meet its pledge to help poor nations develop renewable energy, dismissing the plan as “yet another scheme to redistribute wealth out of the United States through the so-called Green Climate Fund—nice name.”

Even when aid agencies are well funded, they haven’t always delivered. Over the last decade, a strong critique of aid, ranging from William Easterly’s “The White Man’s Burden” to Dambisa Moyo’s “Dead Aid,” has laid much of the blame for Africa’s continued underdevelopment on the weaknesses of sweeping programs planned from afar. Still, aid agencies and global-development banks have a useful role to play in the energy transition. It will be years before it makes financial sense for solar companies to expand to the most remote and challenging regions of the continent. As new companies launch, they will need an infusion of what Helgesen calls “ultra-high-risk capital.” Private investors will supply it, he says, “but they want forty per cent of your company in return, which makes it hard to raise capital later on, because you’ve already sold off such a big chunk.” Some aid agencies have funded private ventures in the early stages, to help them get off the ground or reach new geographic areas. U.S.A.I.D. gave Off-Grid five million dollars toward its early costs, and, over the past few years, a Dutch development agency has given the company several hundred thousand euros as it has extended into the impoverished lakes region of Tanzania, where it otherwise wouldn’t have been profitable to go. Currency risks pose another problem: Poindexter told me that when she builds a Ghanaian microgrid she has invested in an asset with a twenty-year life span in a country where inflation is highly unpredictable. “We just had an election in the U.S. with huge consequences for policy,” she said. “But over here every election is potentially like that.” And, like anywhere in the world, national governments can make things easier by establishing clear policies. Rwanda’s leaders, for instance, specified the regions in which the rapidly developing country planned to extend its grid, thereby delineating where solar would be needed most.

“African leaders used to think solar was being pushed on them,” Clare Sierawski, who works on renewable energy with the U.S. Trade and Development Agency in Accra, said. “But now they all want solar. It’s a confluence of things. Mostly, it’s getting cheaper. And governments were tuned in to it by the Paris accord.” Ananth Chikkatur, who runs a U.S.A.I.D. project in the city, had just returned from taking thirteen high-ranking Ghanaians on a trip to study solar power in California. “Renewable energy should not be considered an alternative technology,” he said. “It’s becoming a conventional technology now.” Rwanda is not the only nation expanding its grid, and many countries are turning to large solar farms to generate power. Burkina Faso, for instance, has plans for solar arrays across its desert regions.

Distributed generation, however, is especially essential in rural areas, and it is growing fast—maybe, according to some observers, too fast. The investor Peter Bladin told me that the push for quick returns on investment could lead some companies to try to “squeeze more out of poor households” and warned about “mission drift, trying to make money off the backs of the poor in a dubious way.” Earlier this year, three principals from the impact-investment firm Ceniarth, which had put money into Off-Grid and similar companies, said that it was backing out of the industry for the time being. In an open letter, they wrote that the hype of venture capitalists and the lack of government regulation “puts consumers at risk and places a great deal of responsibility on vendors to self-police.” The gush of money, they cautioned, “may be too much, too fast for a sector that still has not fully solved core business model issues and may struggle under the high growth expectations and misaligned incentives of many venture capitalists.” Helgesen, unsurprisingly, disagreed with their analysis of investor over-exuberance. “It’s like looking at a Palm Pilot and saying, ‘This is not so great,’ ” he said. “Or even an iPhone 1. The iPhone 1 was a necessary step to the iPhone 7. People who have raised real money have not raised it on the premise that we’ll be selling the same stuff in ten years.” But he wasn’t waiting for the technology to mature. “We have to think about the future, and we have to sell something people want today,” he said.

Most customers I met had little interest in the fact that their power came from the sun, or that it was environmentally friendly. Since these communities weren’t using power previously, their solar panels fight climate change only in the sense that they decrease pressure to build power plants that consume fossil fuel. But some observers hope that the experience in Africa—which today has more off-the-grid solar homes than the U.S.—could help drive transformation elsewhere. Already, a few dozen American cities have pledged to become one-hundred-per-cent renewable. (Pittsburgh did so the day after Trump held up its theoretically beleaguered citizens as a reason for leaving the climate accord.) The U.S. has already sunk a fortune into building its electric grid, and it may seem far-fetched to think that users will disconnect from it entirely. But, as Helgesen told me, “As batteries get better, it’s going to be a lot more realistic for people to stop depending on their utility.” He thinks that, in an ideal world, technological change could lead to cultural change. “The average American has no concept of electrical constraint,” he said. “If we accept some modest restrictions on our power availability, we can go off-grid very quickly.”

For many people in the countries I visited, solar power is creating a new hope: for electric fans. When I was there, Off-Grid Electric was expanding from the relatively cool highlands around Mt. Kilimanjaro to the scorching, humid lowlands of West Africa, and in every village we visited the message was the same: The TV is great, the light bulb is great, but can I please have a fan? Many homes are poorly ventilated; windows are expensive, and can attract burglars. Fans, however, draw a comparatively large amount of current, threatening to quickly drain the battery that a solar panel has spent the day filling. And, unlike light bulbs or televisions, fans have moving parts that easily break. “Our customers tend to make heavy use of their equipment,” Off-Grid’s Schreiber said. Still, she promised one village after another that fans were coming soon.

Shea Hughes, Off-Grid’s product manager, is one of the employees charged with delivering on that promise. Hughes told me that he hopes to someday make Off-Grid’s product powerful enough to perform industrial tasks: pumping water for irrigation, milling cacao, and so on. “I’m confident solar is capable of doing that,” he said. “You just add more panels and you get to the power requirements you need. And as the price drops, well . . . ” He had recently been to a consumer-electronics fair in China. “I was amazed to see the prices,” he said.

For the moment, though, a workable fan would be nice. “We’d always thought a fan would take too much power for the current systems we’re selling,” Hughes said. “But the people in Ivory Coast were so insistent that we went back and looked at it.” Because of the emerging market for super-efficient appliances, in the U.S. and elsewhere, some manufacturers had a product that, as long as you kept it set to medium, drew only eight and a half watts. (The standard incandescent light bulb that hung in American hallways for generations drew sixty.) “We’ve told the manufacturer to eliminate the high-speed option,” Hughes said. “Now medium is high. And in our tests people are satisfied with the air speed. But they say the battery tends to run out at 3 or 4 A.M., and they typically sleep till 6 A.M. So it’s not perfect, but it’s getting there.”

*The New Yorker

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Is the U.S. taxpayer paying for French neo-colonialism in Africa?
June 22, 2017 | 0 Comments
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FRENCH PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON DURING VISIT TO MALI, MAY 12, 2017 (REUTERS)

FRENCH PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON DURING VISIT TO MALI, MAY 12, 2017 (REUTERS)

At the end of his first week in office, newly-elected President Emmanuel Macron visited French troops in the West African country of Mali. Macron flew into Gao, the largest city in Mali’s north, where political unrest and ethnic strife have raged for more than five years. He met some of the 1,600 French soldiers stationed there, at the largest French military base outside of France.

The French had intervened in its former colony in January 2013 in an effort to drive out al-Qaeda-linked groups which had taken advantage of the unrest and conflict created by a rebellion of the ethnic Tuaregs in 2012 to try to take control of the central government in Bamako, Mali’s capital. This rebellion spread throughout the Sahel; an eco-climatic and biogeographic zone of transition in Africa between the Sahara to the north and the Sudanian Savanna to the south covering more than 3.053 million km².

Before one can explain the role played by the U.S. in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel, it is important to understand the continuing role of the French Government and army in the region. France established military bases in Africa during the colonial period and maintained a military presence in Africa after the ‘flag independence’ of its former colonies in the 1960s. The independence struggle of French Africa resulted, with the exception of Guinea, in the notional independence of the African states, each with a flag, a national anthem, a football team, and a continuing dependence on France under the terms of a Colonial Pact. The terms of this pact were agreed at the time of independence as a condition of the de-colonialization of the African states.

The Colonial Pact Agreement enshrined a number of special preferences for France in the political, commercial and defence processes in the African countries. On defence, it agreed to two types of continuing contact. The first was the agreement on military co-operation or Technical Military Aid (AMT) agreements. These covered education, training of soldiers and officers of African security forces.

The second type, secret and binding, were defence agreements supervised and implemented by the French Ministry of Defence, which served as a legal basis for French interventions within the African states by French military forces. These agreements allowed France to have pre-deployed troops and police in bases across Africa. In other words, French army and gendarme units present permanently and by rotation in bases and military facilities in Africa, run entirely by the French.

For the past half-century, the secretive and powerful “African Cell” has overseen France’s strategic interests in Africa, holding sway over a wide swath of former French colonies.

The Colonial Pact was much more than an agreement to station soldiers across Africa. It bound the economies of Africa to the control of France. It made the CFA franc the national currency in both former colonial regions of Africa and created a continuing, and enforceable, dependency on France.

In summary, the colonial pact maintained French control over the economies of the African states:

    • it took possession of their foreign currency reserves
    • it controlled the strategic raw materials of the country
    • it stationed troops in the country with the right of free passage
    • it demanded that all military equipment be acquired from France
    • it took over the training of the police and army
    • it required that French businesses be allowed to maintain monopoly enterprises in key areas (water, electricity, ports, transport, energy, etc.)
    • it required that in the award of government contracts in the African countries, French companies should be considered first
    • it didn’t matter if Africans could obtain better value for money elsewhere, French companies came first, and most often got contracts
    • the African states must make a contribution to France each year for the infrastructure created by the French colonial system and left behind when independence was granted

France not only set limits on the imports of a range of items from outside the franc zone but also set minimum quantities of imports from France. These treaties are still in force and operational.

The system is known as Françafrique. These policies of Françafrique were not concocted by the French National Assembly or the result of any democratic process. They were the result of policies conducted by a small group of people in the French President’s office, the ‘African Cell’, starting with Charles de Gaulle and his African specialist, Jacques Foccart. For the past half-century, the secretive and powerful “African Cell” has overseen France’s strategic interests in Africa, holding sway over a wide swath of former French colonies. Acting as a general command, the Cell uses France’s military as a hammer to install leaders it deems friendly to French interests and to remove those who pose a danger to the continuation of the system. Sidestepping traditional diplomatic channels, the Cell reports only to one person: the president.

GENERAL CHARLES DE GAULLE SPEAKING AT THE AFRICAN-FRENCH CONFERENCE IN BRAZZAVILLE, CONGO, 1944.

Under Chirac, African policy was run by the President himself. He worked with the “Cellule Africaine” composed of African Advisor Michel De Bonnecorse, Aliot-Marie (the Defence Minister) and DGSE chief Pierre Brochand. They were aided by a web of French agents assigned to work undercover in Africa, embedded in French companies like Bouygues, Delmas, Total, and other multinationals; pretending to be expatriate employees.

Under Sarkozy the “Cellule Africaine” was run by the President and included Bruno Joubert and an informal adviser and Sarkozy envoy, Robert Bourgi. Claude Guéant, secretary general of the presidency and later interior minister, played an influential role. Hollande’s “Cellule Africaine” was composed of his trusted friends: Jean-Yves Le Drian (Minister of Defence); the chief of his personal military staff, General Benoît Puga; the African Advisor Hélène Le Gal, and a number of lower-level specialists from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and the Treasury.

EMMANUEL MACRON MEETS MALI PRESIDENT IBRAHIM BOUBACAR KEITA IN MALI (REUTERS/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON)

It isn’t clear yet who will make up Macron’s African Cell.

What is important about the effects of Françafrique on African states is that the French resisted any locally-engendered change in the rules and had troops and gendarmes available in Africa to put down any leader with different ambitions. During the last 50 years, a total of 67 coups happened in 26 countries in Africa; 61% of the coups happened in Francophone Africa. The French began the ‘discipline’ of African leaders by ordering the assassination of Sylvanus Olympio in Togo in 1963 when he wanted his own currency instead of the CFA franc.

  • In June 1962, the first president of Mali, Modiba Keita, decreed that Mali was leaving the CFA zone and abandoning the Colonial Pact. As in Togo the French paid an African ex-Legionnaire to kill the president. In November 1968 Lieutenant Moussa Traore made a coup, killed Modiba Keita, and became President of Mali.
  • The French use of African ex-Legionnaires to remove Presidents who rebelled against the Colonial Pact, the CFA or Françafrique became commonplace. On January 1st, 1966, Jean-Bédel Bokassa, an ex French foreign Legionnaire, carried out a coup against David Dacko, the first President of the Central African Republic.
  • On January 3, 1966, Maurice Yaméogo, the first President of the Republic of Upper Volta, now called Burkina Faso, was victim of a coup carried out by Aboubacar Sangoulé Lamizana.
  • On 26 October 1972, Mathieu Kérékou who was a security guard to President Hubert Maga, the first President of the Republic of Benin, carried out a coup against the president.

There were several other assassinations managed by the French which took place without the use of Legionnaires. These included:

  • Marien Ngouabi, President of the Republic of the Congo was assassinated in 1977.
  • In Cameroon, Felix Moumie, who was the successor to previously-assassinated Reuben Um Nyobe, was murdered by thallium poisoning in Geneva on October, 15 1960. His killer was a French agent, William Bechtel, who posed as a journalist to meet Moumie in a restaurant and poisoned his drink.
  • François Tombalbaye, President of Chad was assassinated by soldiers commanded by French Army officers in 1975. Then, in December 1989 the French overthrew the government of Hissan Habre in Chad and installed Idriss Deby as President because Habre wanted to sell Chadian oil to U.S. oil companies.
  • Perhaps the most tragic was the assassination of Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso in 1987. Thomas Sankara seized power in a popular coup in 1983 in an attempt to break the country’s ties to its French colonial power. He was overthrown and assassinated in a coup led by his best friend and childhood companion Blaise Compaoré on French orders.
  • In March 2003 French and Chadian troops overthrew the elected government of President Ange-Felix Patasse and installed General François Bozize as President when Patasse announced that he wanted French troops out of the Central African Republic. A few years later the French deposed Bosize as well.
  • In 2009, the French supported a coup in Madagascar by Andry Rajoelina against the elected government of Marc Ravalomanana who wanted to open the country to investments by international companies in mining and petroleum and refused to allow Total to unilaterally raise its contracted price for oil by 75%.
  • The French used its troops in the Ivory Coast to provoke an attempted overthrow of the democratically-elected government of Gbagbo. When the rebellion to oust Gbagbo failed, the French troops divided the country into two areas and continued to plan coups against Gbagbo. When Gbagbo won the election in 2010, despite French interference, the French troops (and the UN ‘peacekeepers’) used helicopter gunships to attack the Ivorian citizenry and took over the country in 2011.

French Military Involvement in Africa

The current problem for France is that it maintains wide engagement of its military in operations outside of metropolitan France. These are very expensive. There are currently 36,000 French troops deployed in foreign territories. Such operations are known as “OPEX” for Opérations Extérieures (“External Operations”).

Since colonial days France has stationed its troops across Africa in permanent bases. These participate in controlling the internal politics of the African nations of Franćafrique as well as their borders.

These included:

  • Côte d’Ivoire, where the French troops in Operation Licorne and its helicopters recently overthrew the government of Gbagbo and supervised the killing of numerous Ivoirian citizens in collaboration with UN Peacekeepers.
  • Chad, with the Epervier mission. Established in 1986 to help re-establish peace and maintain Chad’s territorial integrity, and establish and protect the government of Deby.
  • France has been present in Mali since January 2013 in support of the Malian authorities in the fight against terrorist groups. 2,900 men were deployed with the Serval operation.
  • Since December 2013, France also has operated in the Central African Republic in support of the MISCA, the African Union peacekeeping operation. 1,600 men are deployed with the Sangaris operation.

France also supports the participation of African soldiers in peacekeeping operations through the Reinforcement of African Peacekeeping Capabilities (RECAMP) program.

These terrorists are not, for the most part, invading foreigners coming to seek domination, power or advantage. They are locals who have taken up the Salafist ideology to further their joint aims of setting up an Islamic State and in preserving the smuggling routes across the Sahel.

Recently the French have concentrated their troop deployments in West Africa to fight the rising threat of Islamic fundamentalism. Around 3,000 soldiers remain in the expansive Sahel area of Africa to check Islamist violence and arms trafficking, with no specified exit date. French forces are organised around four base camps, each with its own focus, and with headquarters based in the Chadian capital of Ndjamena. Their primary aim is not entirely the suppression of fundamentalist forces; their primary aim is to safeguard the French Areva uranium mines in Niger which provide France with fuel for its nuclear power programs.

This operation is known as Operation Barkhane (the name refers to a sickle-shaped sand dune). It is an effort to streamline French military activity in the region and to retain the military power but reduce the costs of duplication of tasks. Following diplomatic agreements with Chad, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania (the “Sahel G-5”), over 3,000 French troops are involved in securing the Sahel-Sahara region in cooperative operations involving G-5 troops. Other assets deployed in the operation include 20 helicopters, 200 armoured vehicles, 200 trucks, six fighter-jets, ten transport aircraft and three drones.

The initiation of Operation Barkhane brought to an end to four existing French operations in Africa; Licorne (Côte d’Ivoire, 2002-2017), Épervier (Chad, 1986-2014), Sabre (Burkina Faso, 2012-2014) and Serval (Mali, 2013-2014). Licorne is coming to an end in June 2017 (though 450 French troops will remain in Abidjan as part of a logistical base for French operations) while the other operations were folded into Operation Barkhane. Operation Sangaris (Central African Republic, 2013-present) is classified as a humanitarian rather than counter-terrorism mission and the deployment of some 2,000 French troops will be reduced 1,200 French soldiers who will remain in northern Mali. Existing French military deployments in Djibouti, Dakar (Senegal) and Libreville (Gabon) are expected to be scaled back significantly.

FRENCH SOLDIERS DURING CEREMONY IN BANGUI, DECEMBER 19, 2013, MARKING THE TRANSFER OF AUTHORITY OF THE MULTINATIONAL FORCE OF CENTRAL AFRICA (FOMAC) TO THE AFRICAN-LED INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT MISSION TO THE CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (MISCA), MANDATED BY THE UNITED NATIONS. (IVAN LIEMAN, AFP)

France’s problem in maintaining its military presence in Africa is that it has run out of money. It cannot afford to maintain such a strong military posture in Africa. It has been able to get the assistance of its European Union partners in a Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) in programs like EURFOR in Chad which notionally confronts the terrorist organisations with European troops, but the funds needed to provide a real challenge to the terrorists are wanting.

The notion of intrinsic forces is important in the evaluation of warfare in the Sahel. These terrorists are not, for the most part, invading foreigners coming to seek domination, power or advantage. They are locals who have taken up the Salafist ideology to further their joint aims of setting up an Islamic State and in preserving the smuggling routes across the Sahel. The ancient salt caravans across the Sahel from Mali making their way to Europe and the Middle East have evolved into caravans of drugs, diamonds and gold from Mali to Europe and the Middle East. The large revenues earned from this smuggling have helped fund the AQIM, the MNLA, MUJAO and other bands and have generated financial and political support from the Wahhabi extremists of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. The collapse of Libya under Qaddafi left these smugglers without a protector so the radical extremists who supplanted Qaddafi offered the smugglers of the Sahel the same protection as before and lots of weapons.

The Sahel is still a major centre of illicit trafficking in goods. The tribes of Northern Mali are emboldened and protected by terrorist organisations in the barren wastes of Northern Mali and live, symbiotically, with the terrorist forces. Their paths are overlapping. While the tribes continue their smuggling, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) engages in illegal taxation in its areas of control, ISIS in Libya is active in human and narcotics trafficking, and Boko Haram generates significant revenues from trade in cocaine and heroin.

The trafficking overlaps the terrorist threats. It is matched by a large influx of weapons. Conflict Armament Research, a UK organization that monitors armaments transfers and supply chains, published an important report in late 2016, “Investigating Cross-Border Weapon Transfers in the Sahel.” The report confirms that a flow of weapons from Libyan dictator Qaddafi’s stockpiles after his fall played a major role in the Tuareg and Islamist insurgencies in Mali in 2012.

That same stockpile supplied weapons systems that included man-portable air defence systems to insurgents throughout the Sahel region. But, the report documents that weapons flows since 2011 are no longer predominately from Libya. Instead, the weapons now come from African countries with weak control of their own weapons stockpiles, notably the Central African Republic and Ivory Coast. Sudan has also been an important source since 2015 of weapons used by insurgents in the Sahel. The report posits that the jihadist attacks in 2015 and 2016 on hotels and government installations specifically in Mali, Burkina Faso, and the Ivory Coast also included weapons from a common source in the Middle East, these Iraqi assault rifles and Chinese-manufactured weapons are also used by the Islamic State.

The Logistical Challenge In Opposing the Terrorist Threat

The terrain of the Sahel does not lend itself to conventional warfare. There are broad expanses of sand and dunes, broken up by small villages and, occasionally, a town or city. There are no petrol stations, wells, repair shops, water stores, food stocks or fuel reserves in most of the region. Trucks and buses, as well as conventional armour, are difficult to transport in such a terrain. Air bases are usually suited only to small aircraft and lack the scissor-tables, cranes, fork-lifts and loading equipment which allow the free flow of cargo.

On the positive side, in the war in the Sahel the lack of ground cover and a tree canopy in the region enables a strategy of using the most modern weapons, the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) which can seek out, observe and destroy small and mobile enemy forces. This has meant that the logistical demands of the war in the Sahel has generated a strategy of the use of high-tech weaponry deployed by Western forces combined with African troops on the ground as garrison forces for towns and cities.

Warfare, in general, in Africa requires a policy of expeditionary war. This is a polite way of saying that massed troop formations have no real use as there are few opposing forces of equal size to fight. African insurgents are bands and groups of often irregular soldiers. Across most of Africa troops must pass through jungles, deserts, mangrove swamps and hostile terrain to get to the enemy, often under heavy fire from the bush. The enemy of the peacekeepers is rarely an army battalion of any strength. Large-scale troop concentrations can sit in a city or town and maintain order, but they rarely can take the battle to the enemy. African armies have virtually no equipment which will allow them to fight an expeditionary war. This is a war of helicopters – in and out movement of troops to desert encampments or remote landing zones or the shooting up of ground formations by helicopter gunships when the enemy can be located.

This is how African wars are fought. Except for rented MI-8 and MI-24 helicopters leased from the Ukraine and Russia, most of Africa is bereft of air mobile equipment. They are certainly bereft of African pilots (other than South Africans and a small band of Angolans and Nigerians). There are very few African military aircraft capable of fighting or sustaining either air-to-air combat or performing logistics missions. Either they don’t exist or they are in such a state of disrepair that African combat pilots are unwitting kamikazes.

FRENCH HELICOPTER FLYING OVER A RIVER IN MALI. (MARC TESSENSOHN / BUNDESWEHR)

There are very few airbases in the bush which allow cargo planes to land safely when a war is on given that every rebel group has its share of rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and mortars. There are no fuel reserves at the airports outside most African capitals, and there are no repair facilities. There is no air-to-air refuelling, except that provided by foreign militaries. Indeed, except for Denel in South Africa and the main airbase in Ethiopia there are no places on the continent which perform sophisticated aircraft or weapons maintenance.

Most Western European armies themselves don’t have sufficient helicopters or heavy-lift capacities. The Africans have less. This lack of transport is critical to moving out the wounded. This takes its toll on the soldiers. This is mirrored in the lack of effective battlefield communications. In Africa the phone system doesn’t work in peacetime; why should it work in a period of war? Sending orders and receiving information between the central staff and outlying units is a ‘sometimes’ process. It sometimes takes days to contact units operating far from command headquarters.

Despite the good wishes of the French and the other Europeans, success relies on an active U.S. participation and engagement. The French have requested the support of the U.S. military (through NATO) in its ambition to retain control of its former African colonial empire.

Europeans are not really ready to assist in the Sahel, despite EU plans. In 2015 when Angela Merkel made the grand gesture of sending weapons to Kurdish rebels fighting ISIL, she learned that her cargo planes couldn’t get off the ground. At the time, the German military confessed that just half of its Transall transport aircraft were fit to fly. Of its 190 helicopters, just 41 were ready to be deployed. Of its 406 Marder tanks, 280 were out of use. In 2016 it emerged that fewer than half of Germany’s 66 Tornado aircraft were airworthy. The French Transall fleet is out of date and few are being replaced.

FRENCH TRANSALL DEPLOYED TO MALI. THE SAHEL REGION IS ARID, AND KNOWN FOR ITS DUST STORMS, WHICH CAN CREATE WEAR AND TEAR ON MILITARY EQUIPMENT.

This matches the debacle of the European military effort to conduct warfare on its own; starting in Kosovo. The Europeans wanted to show they had some independent military capability. The amount of bombs, missiles and other tactical devices used in the first two weeks of the Kosovo campaign exceeded the total arsenal storage of the totality of the European Community. The amount spent per day on the bombing of Kosovo, including indirect costs, amounted to over $12.5 million. It would have been far cheaper to buy Serbia than to bomb it. NATO could have offered each Serb $5,000 a head plus moving costs and still saved money. Under NATO rules the US was obliged to pay two-thirds of these costs.

This was just as true in Libya. The Europeans (calling themselves NATO) quickly ran out of ammunition, bombs and money. The US spent almost $1.5 billion in the first wave of attacks by the French and British. As Secretary of Defence Gates said in his speech, “Despite more than 2 million troops in uniform – not counting the U.S. military – NATO has struggled, at times desperately, to sustain a deployment of 25,000 to 45,000 troops — not just in boots on the ground, but in crucial support assets such as helicopters; transport aircraft; maintenance; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and much more.” He went on, “We have the spectacle of an air operations centre designed to handle more than 300 sorties a day struggling to launch about 150. Furthermore, the mightiest military alliance in history is only 11 weeks into an operation against a poorly armed regime in a sparsely populated country – yet many allies are beginning to run short of munitions, requiring the U.S., once more, to make up the difference.”

That is the key point in analysing the struggle against terrorism in the Sahel. Despite the good wishes of the French and the other Europeans, success relies on an active U.S. participation and engagement. The French have requested the support of the U.S. military (through NATO) in its ambition to retain control of its former African colonial empire.

There is an ironic side to the French requiring assistance from NATO to support its neo-colonial policies. France withdrew from being a full member of NATO in 1966, and remained separated for decades. The reason for withdrawal was that France believed NATO was not militarily supportive enough. France’s effort to develop its own non-NATO defence capability, including the development of its own nuclear arsenal in the 1960s, was to ensure that the French military could operate its own colonial and post-colonial conflicts more freely. Under de Gaulle, France had attempted to draw NATO into France’s colonial conflicts (on France’s side). De Gaulle claimed that Algeria was part of France and thus was part of NATO. Therefore, NATO was required to intervene to assist France in putting down Algerian independence movements. After the British and Americans refused to assist with French colonialism, de Gaulle expelled NATO troops from France and set up a more independent French military. Now that France is back in NATO it is making the same request of its partners as De Gaulle.

The Germans lead the EUTM Mali, which trains Mali’s armed forces, and EUCAP Sahel Mali, which is training and advising the country’s police, gendarmerie and National Guard. The Eucap Sahel Mission, under the command of the German diplomat Albrecht Conze, is co-ordinating European aid to the region. Gunther Nooke, Angela Merkel’s representative to Africa, a Commissioner for Africa at the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, has proposed a “German Marshall Plan” for Africa to relieve a continent struggling with terrorist bands in the region coupled with a drought which is causing mass famine. However, no money is yet attached to such a plan.

WOMEN AND CHILDREN AWAITING AID IN MALI. (UNHCR IMAGE)

The US has its own strategic interests in fighting Islamic terrorists in the Sahel because they pose a major danger to US business interests in the area; a threat to political stability in Africa as a whole which has produced a human tide of refugees. Most importantly, terrorism in the Sahel produces a major source of revenue to the international terrorist structures of Al-Qaeda, Daesh and the myriad sub-groups of these in the Middle East as well as Africa.

The US has agreed to support the French and European efforts to fight terrorism in the Sahel but has been unwilling to commit US regular forces to fighting on the ground. It has offered training, equipment and Special Forces participation in military programs in the Sahel and frequently arranges mass exercises to make sure the trained remain so.

The U.S. Military Presence in Africa

The US is at war in Africa and has been so for many years. The US has had practical experience in African wars. America has been fighting wars in Africa since the 1950s – in Angola, the DRC, Somalia, the Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Morocco, Libya, Djibouti to name but a few countries.

In some countries they used US troops, but in most cases the US financed, armed and supervised the support of indigenous forces. In its support of the anti-MPLA forces in Angola it sent arms and equipment to the UNITA opposition. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Larry Devlin of the CIA was an unofficial Minister of Mobutu’s government; the US ran its own air force in the Congo at WIGMO.

US airmen supported the South African forces in Kwando, Fort Doppies and Encana bases in the Caprivi from WIGMO. At these bases one could also find soldiers from Southern Rhodesia (in their DC3s) and German, French, Portuguese and other NATO troops. One of the largest of these bases was at Wheelus Field, in Libya. Wheelus Air Base was located on the Mediterranean coast, just east of Tripoli, Libya. With its 4,600 Americans, the US Ambassador to Libya once called it “a Little America.” During the Korean War, Wheelus was used by the US Strategic Air Command, later becoming a primary training ground for NATO forces. Strategic Air Command bomber deployments to Wheelus began on 16 November 1950. SAC bombers conducted 45-day rotational deployments at this staging areas for strikes against the Soviet Union. Wheelus became a vital link in SAC war plans for use as a bomber, tanker refuelling and recon-fighter base. The US left in 1970.

Another giant U.S. base was Kagnew Field in Asmara. The base was established in 1943 as an Army radio station, home to the U.S. Army’s 4th Detachment of the Second Signal Service Battalion. Kagnew Station became home for over 5,000 American citizens at a time during its peak years of operation during the 1960s. Kagnew Station operated until April 29, 1977, when the last Americans left.

A PAIR OF AIRMEN RETURNING TO THE GROUND AFTER THEIR PLANE AT WHEELUS FIELD, LIBYA, 1957. THE AIRFIELD WAS USED TO TEST THE NEW TECHNOLOGIES FOR THE US MILITARY. (NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC IMAGE)

However, with the end of the Cold War, the US has found itself fighting a much more difficult and insidious war; the war with Al Qaeda. This is much less of a war that involves military might and prowess. It is a war against the spread of drug dealing, illicit diamonds, illicit gold, human trafficking and the sheltering of Salafists (Islamic militants) who use these methods to acquire cash which has sustained the Al Qaeda organisation and now Daesh throughout the world. It is a conflict between organised international crime and states seeking to maintain their legitimacy.

There are now several ‘narco-states’ in Africa. The first to fall was Guinea-Bissau where scores of Colombian Cartel leaders moved in to virtually take over the state. Every day an estimated one tonne of pure Colombian cocaine was thought to be transiting through the mainland’s mangrove swamps and the chain of islands that make up Guinea-Bissau, most of it en route to Europe. This was equally true of Guinea under President Lansana Conte whose wife (and her brother) was shown to be kingpins in the Guinean drug trade. Many in the National Army were compromised and active participants.

This drug trade has spread to Senegal, Togo, Ghana and Nigeria. There are very few jails anywhere in the world which are not home to West African ‘drug mules’ tried or awaiting trial or execution. This drug trade is spreading like wildfire in West Africa, offering rich remuneration to African leaders, generals or warlords well in excess of anything these Africans could hope to earn in normal commerce.

PRES. BILL CLINTON, THIES MILITARY BASE, SENEGAL, APRIL 1998, WITH US ARMY AFRICA CMDR. IN CHIEF GEN. JAMES JAMERSON.

According to a US Congressional Research Service Study published in November 2010, Washington has dispatched anywhere between hundreds and several thousand combat troops, dozens of fighter planes and warships to buttress client dictatorships or to unseat adversarial regimes in dozens of countries, almost on a yearly basis. The record shows the US armed forces intervened in Africa forty-seven times prior to the now-concluded LRA endeavour. The countries receiving one or more US military intervention include both Congos, Libya, Chad, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Rwanda, Liberia, Central African Republic, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Eritrea. Between the mid 1950’s to the end of the 1970’s, only four overt military operations were recorded, though large scale proxy and clandestine military operations were pervasive.

Under Reagan-Bush Sr. (1980-1991) military intervention accelerated, rising to eight, not counting the large scale clandestine ‘special forces’ and proxy wars in Southern Africa. Under the Clinton regime, US militarized intervention in Africa took off. Between 1992 and 2000, seventeen armed incursions took place, including a large-scale invasion of Somalia and military backing for the Rwandan Kagame regime. Clinton intervened in Liberia, Gabon, Congo and Sierra Leone to prop up long-standing troubled regimes. He bombed the Sudan and dispatched military personnel to Kenya and Ethiopia to back proxy clients assaulting Somalia. Under Bush Jr. fifteen US military interventions took place, mainly in Central and East Africa.

Most of the US’ African outreach is disproportionally built on military links to client military chiefs. The Pentagon has military ties with fifty-three African countries. The Bush Administration announced in 2002 that Africa was a “strategic priority in fighting terrorism”. Henceforth, US foreign policy strategists, with the backing of both liberal and neoconservative Congress members, moved to centralize and coordinate a military policy on a continent-wide basis forming the African Command (AFRICOM) and Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA). These organise African armies, euphemistically called “co-operative partnerships,” to support anti-terrorist activities in the continent. U.S. special operations teams are now deployed to 23 African countries and the U.S. operates bases across the continent.

A Ghanaian instructor gives a brief to U.S. Soldiers during  at the Jungle Warfare School in Akim Oda, Ghana May 20.

In his 2015 article for TomDispatch.com, Nick Turse disclosed that there are dozens of US military installations in Africa, besides Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti (the Main Operating Base). These numerous cooperative security locations (CSLs), forward operating locations (FOLs) and other outposts have been built by the US in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Senegal, the Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, and Uganda. According to Turse, the US military also had access to locations in Algeria, Botswana, Namibia, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, Zambia and other countries.

Gen. Charles F. Wald divided these into three types:

    • Main Operating Base (MOB) is an overseas, permanently manned, well protected base, used to support permanently deployed forces, and with robust sea and/or air access.
    • Forward Operating Site (FOS) is a scalable, “warm” facility that can support sustained operations, but with only a small permanent presence of support or contractor personnel. A FOS will host occasional rotational forces and many contain pre-positioned equipment.
    • Cooperative Security Location (CSL) is a host-nation facility with little or no permanent U.S. personnel presence, which may contain pre-positioned equipment and/or logistical arrangements and serve both for security cooperation activities and contingency access.

There are a large number of UAV bases as well.

AFRICOM’s two forward operating sites are Djibouti’s Camp Lemonnier and a base on the United Kingdom’s Ascension Island off the west coast of Africa. Described as “enduring locations” with a sustained troop presence and “U.S.-owned real property,” they serve as hubs for staging missions across the continent and for supplying the growing network of outposts there.

One of the most important of these bases is in Niamey, the capital of Niger, and nearby at Agadez, into which the U.S. has just spent $100 million on improvements. N’Djamena, in Chad, has been heavily used in the battle against Boko Haram.

AFRICOM’s Programs

The main thrust of AFRICOM programs involves the training and equipping of local forces. It engages in regular exercises with African armies and conducts JCET training programs. Most of these involve working alongside and mentoring local allies.

SOCAFRICA’s showcase effort, for instance, is Flintlock, an annual training exercise in Northwest Africa involving elite American, European, and African forces, which provides the command with a plethora of publicity. More than 1,700 military personnel from 30-plus nations took part in Flintlock 2016.

AMISOM TROOPS IN SOMALIA. AMISOM IS A COLLABORATION BETWEEN THE AFRICAN UNION, UN AND THE SOMALIAN GOVERNMENT. AMISOM’S 22,000 TROOPS ARE PRESENT TO FIGHT AL SHABAB, A EXTREMIST PARAMILITARY GROUP.

There are a wide range of programs in addition to the U.S. participation in various UN programs like AMISOM in Somalia:

Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Initiative/Partnership (formerly Pan Sahel Initiative) (TSCTI) – Targeting threats to US oil/natural gas operations in the Sahara region Algeria, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Senegal, Tunisia, Nigeria, and Libya.

Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance Program (ACOTA) (formerly African Crisis Response Initiative) (ACRI)) Part of “Global Peace” Operations Initiative (GPOI) – Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia.

International Military Training and Education (IMET) – Brings African military officers to US military academies and schools for indoctrination; Top countries: Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, and South Africa.

Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) (formerly Africa Center for Security Studies) – Part of National Defence University, Washington; provides indoctrination for “next generation” African military officers; this is the “School of the Americas” for Africa, all of Africa is covered.

Foreign Military Sales Program – Sells US military equipment to African nations via Defence Security Cooperation Agency; Top recipients: Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Zimbabwe.

African Coastal and Border Security Program – Provides fast patrol boats, vehicles, electronic surveillance equipment, night vision equipment to littoral states.

Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) – Military command based at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti; aimed at putting down rebellions in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Somaliland and targets Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti.

Joint Task Force Aztec Silence (JTFAS) – Targets terrorism in West and North Africa. Joint effort of EUCOM and Commander Sixth Fleet (Mediterranean); based in Sigonella, Sicily and Tamanrasset air base in southern Algeria; Gulf of Guinea Initiative, US Navy Maritime Partnership Program Trains African militaries in port and off-shore oil platform security; Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Congo-Brazzaville, Congo-Kinshasa, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Nigeria, Sao Tome & Principe, Togo.

Tripartite Plus Intelligence Fusion Cell – Based in Kisangani, DRC to oversee “regional security,” i.e. ensuring US and Israeli access to Congo’s gold, diamonds, uranium, platinum, and coltan; Congo-Kinshasa, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda.

Base access for Cooperative Security Locations (CSLs) and Forward Operating Locations (FOLs) – U.S. access to airbases and other facilities in Gabon, Kenya, Mali, Morocco, Tunisia, Namibia, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Uganda, Zambia, Algeria.

Africa Regional Peacekeeping (ARP) – Liaison with African “peacekeeping” military commands East Africa Regional Integration Team: Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, Kenya, Madagascar, Tanzania. North Africa Regional Integration Team: Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya. Central Africa Regional Integration Team: Congo (Kinshasa), Congo (Brazzaville), Chad.

Regional Integration Teams: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Angola. West Africa Regional Integration Team: Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Niger, Western Sahara.

Africa Partnership Station (APS) – Port visits by USS Fort McHenry and High Speed Vessel (HSV) Swift. Part of US Navy’s Global Fleet Station Initiative. Training and liaison with local military personnel to ensure oil production security Senegal, Liberia, Ghana, Cameroon, Gabon, Sao Tome & Principe.

Claiming that this was a battle against “terrorism” the French were able to pass on the costs of their reoccupation of their former colonies using European, UN and, mainly, US taxpayer money.

The U.S. Taxpayer Is Paying For French Neo-Colonialism

The U.S. military is engaged in over 34 nations in Africa in the fight against terrorism and the growth of the various Al-Qaeda and ISIL affiliates in the region. One of the key problems in conducting this ongoing battle is that the political situation in each francophone country is determined by the needs of Françafrique to keep their chosen President in power; not necessarily what Africans want. A good example is Mali, where the French intervened militarily in January 2013 to stop an uprising of various militant groups in the north.

As the price for this assistance, France signed a new defence agreement with Mali, which would allow it to maintain a considerable military presence in the country. The agreement’s eleven pages of mostly general statements say that French military troops and civil servants will be allowed to stay in Mali, build military bases, operate, if needed, with Malian troops, etc., for the next five years. The five years’ term, as written in the document, is renewable.

This was a great triumph for France. Ever since the inauguration of the first President of Mali, Modibo Keïta, Mali had resisted the military aspects of the Colonial Pact. The last French soldier departed Mali in 1961. Keita refused to sign the defence protocols. Keita didn’t allow French military bases or troops on Malian soil. Even after the French had him assassinated by Lt. Moussa Traore, the Malians continued to refuse the defence pact. Traore’s successors Alpha Oumar Konare and Amadou Toumany Toure also refused, despite huge diplomatic and economic pressure. The most France could get in Mali was a 1985 military cooperation accord which allowed France to give military training and technical assistance to Malian troops.

Now, after engaging French troops to fight the Islamic forces in the North, France took over military control of Mali. After having defeated the invaders, and chasing them out of Timbuktu and other northern cities, and disarming factions of the rebellions, the French military banned the Malian army from Kidal, the central city of the northern Azawad region. The territory is claimed by different rebel groups, but it is under the de facto control of the mainly Tuareg MNLA (National Movement for Liberation of the Azawad). France allowed the rebels to occupy the area, reorganise and later gain a place at the post-war negotiations table.

France has openly supported the MNLA for a long time and insisted they be a party to the negotiations with the Malian government who did not want to negotiate with the Tuareg rebels. Then the French put on the agenda the division of Mali into two parts, despite the Malian refusal. There was a short interval of peace before hostilities started again.

The French, realising they could no longer afford the military costs of the Malian war, persuaded the UN to send peacekeepers to Mali. In December 2013, France announced a 60% reduction in its troops deployed in Mali to 1,000 by March 2014. Interim peace deals were agreed but were quickly broken. By August 2016 there continued to be attacks on foreign forces. More than 100 peacekeepers have died since the UN mission’s deployment in Mali in 2013, making it one of the deadliest places to serve for the UN.

UN PEACEKEEPERS CARRY COFFINS AT BAMAKO, FEBRUARY 17, 2016, AT A TRIBUTE TO SEVEN GUINEAN UN SOLDIERS KILLED. (HABIBOU KOUYATE / AFP)

The French were satisfied that the bulk of the expenses for the capturing of Mali in the web of Françafrique were being paid for by the “international community” (the UN, the US, and ECOWAS). In 2015, the European Union also joined to promote France’s ambitions. France got its military pact with Mali and control of the country. This seemed such a good idea, France then expanded its ambitions to pursue the military options of Operation Barkhane based in Chad to cover Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger and make sure that the costs of this expansion of the reach of Françafrique were being passed on to the ‘international community’; the large part of which is the US taxpayer (directly and indirectly).

The same situation emerged in Niger and the Central African Republic. The French intervened militarily in domestic disputes which they created, and took over de facto control of the countries. Claiming that this was a battle against “terrorism” the French were able to pass on the costs of their reoccupation of their former colonies using European, UN and, mainly, US taxpayer money. Both African countries remain at war with domestic enemies in conflicts created by France and perpetuated by French policies towards reinstalling the rigours of Françafrique; all in the name of counter-terrorism. The UN, the EU and the U.S. don’t get a chance to decide who is the enemy in francophone Africa; this is decided by France. They only get to pay for it and use their military to train the soldiers who keep Françafrique in place.

Perhaps NATO will soon make it clear to the new Macron Government that the United States is capable of choosing its own enemies and, as in the time of DeGaulle, it is not in the business of preserving French neo-colonial rule on the continent.

*Dr. Gary K. Busch, originally did the article  for Lima Charlie News

Dr. Busch has had a varied career-as an international trades unionist, an academic, a businessman and a political intelligence consultant. He was a professor and Head of Department at the University of Hawaii and has been a visiting professor at several universities. He was the head of research in international affairs for a major U.S. trade union and Assistant General Secretary of an international union federation. His articles have appeared in the Economist Intelligence Unit, Wall Street Journal, WPROST, Pravda and several other news journals. He is the editor and publisher of the web-based news journal of international relations www.ocnus.net.

Lima Charlie provides global news, insight & analysis by military veterans and service members Worldwide.For up-to-date news, please follow them on twitter at @LimaCharlieNews

 

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CCA U.S.-Africa Business Summit Spotlights African Business in Washington DC
June 21, 2017 | 0 Comments

-Business Summit hosted in Washington DC from June 13-16, 2017.

The 2017 Summit focused on the “U.S. Stake in Africa” and aimed to shape and promote effective U.S.-Africa trade and investment policies under the Trump Administration. Honorable Wilbur Ross, U.S. Secretary of Commerce, President Filipe Nyusi of Mozambique, and Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) were some of the high-level public sector participants who advocated for greater U.S.-Africa trade and investment.

CCA hosted a prelude to the 2017 U.S.-Africa Business Summit in Washington, DC on June 13 on Capitol Hill with a Congressional Dialogue on Africa which featured House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce and Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa Karen Bass.

Dr. Jeffrey Sturchio, CCA’s Chairman of the Board and CEO of Rabin Martin, officially opened and welcomed participants to the Summit on June 14. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross delivered the keynote address encouraging U.S.-Africa bilateral trade agreements. “The critical question that decision makers in Africa, including many of you, must ask is this: As these upward growth trends continue, with what types of partners do you want to collaborate?” said Sec. Ross during his keynote remarks, “I believe that, the more African nations partner with U.S. businesses, the better off both the United States and Africa will be.” Sec. Ross stressed the importance of bilateral trade agreements over larger multilateral agreements and the Trump administration’s stance on compliance with eligibility requirements for agreements such as AGOA.

Other speakers including President Filipe Nyusi called for greater U.S. investment and partnership in and with Africa, but President Nyusi stressed the need for diverse investors in industries such as tourism and agribusiness. “It easier to enumerate what is not grown in my country rather than list what is produced. Mozambique can almost grow everything,” said President Nyusi. “We urge and encourage the American business people to take advantage of the enabling business environment, and investment opportunities and potential that exist in Mozambique to diversify their interventions.”

The AfDB President, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina also emphasized the importance of U.S.-Africa partnerships. Dr. Adesina pushed for the U.S.-Africa business relationship to go beyond trade, to investment. “Africa offers you all ‘The Deal of the Century’, and America should not be left behind,” said Dr. Adesina. “Think of a continent where household expenditures will rise to $1.4 trillion in the next three years. Think of the continent where business to business investments will rise to $3.5 trillion in the next eight years. Think of the continent where the population by 2050 will be the same as India and China taken together today. Think of the continent that will brim with huge demand from a rising youth population that will reach 840 million by 2050, all buying and owning consumer products.”

As the leading U.S. business association solely focused on U.S.-Africa trade and investment, the sessions at CCA’s biennial signature event – the U.S.-Africa Business Summit – primarily featured private sector solutions and how public sector actors could support business through an enabling environment. More than 140 speakers including leading private sector executives across CCA’s core sectors discussed challenges and opportunities related to the theme of the conference.”The Summit provided one of the first opportunities and an excellent platform for African leaders, U.S. and African CEOs and other stakeholders to engage with the Trump Administration on the important issues impacting the U.S.-Africa economic relationship” said Florie Liser, CCA’s President and CEO.

Regional integration on the continent was also a strong underlying theme throughout the Summit. ECOWAS President H.E. Marcel de Souza and Liser signed an MoU to facilitate business in the West African region. ECOWAS, which covers 15 countries and includes some 340 million people, is an excellent partner for CCA and its many member companies interested in expanding business ventures in West Africa, said ECOWAS President De Souza. CCA President and CEO Florie Liser noted that “under this MOU, CCA and the ECOWAS Secretariat will be working together to help both U.S. and African companies operating in ECOWAS countries by improving the doing business environment and, among other things, organizing trade and reverse trade missions.

The 2017 U.S.-Africa Business Summit was proudly sponsored by leading American and African businesses and organizations including: Chevron Corporation; ExxonMobil Corporation; Zenith Bank; Acrow Bridge; General Electric; AGCO Corporation; AllAfrica Global Media; Petrolin Group; Procter & Gamble; Anadarko Petroleum Corporation; The Boeing Company; Caterpillar, Inc.; DAI; Development Finance International, Inc.; Fairfax Africa Fund; Philip Morris International; Varian Medical Systems; Visa, Inc.; East Africa Trade Hub; South African Airways; Covington and Burling LLP; and Manchester Trade Limited.

About Corporate Council on Africa (CCA)
Corporate Council on Africa is the leading U.S business association focused solely on connecting business interests between the United States and Africa. CCA uniquely represents a broad cross section of member companies from small and medium size businesses to multinationals as well as U.S and African firms. Learn more at www.corporatecouncilonafrica.com

Media Contact:
Michaela Ehimika
mehimika@corporatecouncilonafrica.com
202-263-3531

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Africa Could Help Feed the World – If Its Fertile Land Doesn’t Vanish
June 19, 2017 | 0 Comments

Photo: Mujahid Safodien/IRIN

Photo: Mujahid Safodien/IRIN

Ouagadougou — The 23rd World Day to Combat Desertification was celebrated in Burkina Faso’s capital of Ouagadougou on June 15 with a call to create two million jobs and restore 10 million hectares of degraded land.

Three African heads of state took part in the celebrations: Ibrahim Boubacar Kéita from Mali, Mahamadou Issoufou from Niger and Roch Kaboré from Burkina Faso. The Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Monique Barbut also attended the event.

Two-thirds of the African continent is desert or drylands, and nearly 75 percent of agricultural land is estimated to be degraded to varying degrees.

According to the UNCCD, two-thirds of the African continent is desert or drylands. This land is vital for agriculture and food production, but nearly 75 percent is estimated to be degraded to varying degrees.

The region is also affected by frequent and severe droughts, which have been particularly devastating in recent years in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel.

“Degraded lands is not an inevitable fate. Restoration is still possible. However, what will be more difficult is to feed 10 billion human beings in 30 years. The only place where there are still lands to do that is Africa. We need these lands to feed the whole planet. Therefore restoring lands is assuring food security for the whole planet,” said Barbut.

The high-level meeting that gathered 400 experts from around the world ended in the Call from Ouagadougou, urging citizens and governments to tackle desertification by restoring ten million hectares of land and by creating two million green jobs for youth, women and migrants.

“By 2050, the African population will double to two billion people,” Barbut noted. “I fear that as the population depends up to 80 percent on natural resources for their livelihoods, those resources will vanish given the great pressure on them.”

She added that young people emerging from this demographic growth will need decent jobs.

“In the next 15 years, 375 million young people will be entering the job market in Africa. Two hundred million of them will live in rural areas and 60 million will be obliged to leave those areas because of the pressure on natural resources.”

 According to UNCCD, it is critical to enact policies that enable young people to own and rehabilitate degraded land, as there are nearly 500 million hectares of once fertile agricultural land that have been abandoned.

Talking specifically about Burkina Faso, which hosted the celebration, Batio Nestor Bassiere, the minister in charge of environmental issues, said, “From 2002 to 2013, 5.16 million hectares, 19 percent of the country’s territory, has been degraded by desertification.”

The situation is similar in most African countries. That’s why “it’s nonsense to sit and watch that happening without acting, given that the means for action are available,” said Barbut.

The Call from Ouagadougou comes from a common willingness to save the planet and Africa particularly from desertification. Gathered to discuss the topic “Our land, our house, our future,” linked to the fulfillment of the 3S Initiative (sustainability, stability, and security in Africa), the Call from Ouagadougou also invites African countries to create conditions for the development of new job opportunities by targeting the places where the access to land can be reinforced and land rights secured for vulnerable populations.

Development partners and other actors have also been called on to give their contributions. They were invited to help African countries to invest in rural infrastructure, land restoration, and the development of skills in chosen areas and among those facing migration and social risks.

For that, the UN agency in charge of the fight against desertification and its partners can rely on the firm support of the three heads of state who came for this 23rd World Day to Combat Desertification.

The President of Burkina Faso Roch Kaboré let the audience know that they are all “engaged to promote regional and global partnerships to find funds for investment in lands restoration and long term land management, wherever they will have opportunities to speak.”

Representing the African Union, Ahmed Elmekaa, Director, African Union/SAFGRAD, said drawing attention to the resolutions of desertification, land degradation and drought and on climate change are at the top of the African Union’s environmental agenda.

Taking advantage of the celebration, the national authorities gave the name of the very first executive secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, Hama Arba Diallo, to a street of the capital Ouagadougou. Experts from many countries also had the opportunity to visit sites showing the experience of Burkina Faso in combating desertification.

At a dinner ceremony held immediately following the closure of the ceremony, the UNCCD announced the winners of the Land for Life Award, Practical Action Sudan/UNEP from Sudan; Watershed Organization Trust from India. The Land for Life China award was given to Yingzhen Pan, Director General of National Bureau to Combat Desertification, China.

*IPS/Allafrica

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