dotAfrica (.africa) the best option for Africa in cyberspace
September 7, 2017 | 0 Comments
|54 countries in Africa are now united under a single, continent-wide domain name, staying true to the Oliver Tambo and Abuja Declarations of the 1990s|
|JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, September 7, 2017/ — It is now possible to own an Internet address, or domain name, ending with .africa.
Already, more than 8000 of the continent’s and world’s biggest brands, businesses and individuals have registered for this exciting new Internet address.
Diverse organisations ranging from banks to media companies are registering .africa domain names. “Leading continental and international brands are snapping up .africa domain names because they recognise the importance of being associated with Africa’s bright future online. With many positive stories coming out of Africa, brands understand that .africa domain names are valuable virtual real estate,” says Lucky Masilela, CEO of the ZACR, the non-profit company tasked with administering the new .africa domain name on behalf of the continent.
54 countries in Africa are now united under a single, continent-wide domain name, staying true to the Oliver Tambo and Abuja Declarations of the 1990s. These written resolutions stated that ICT will be central to Africa’s future wellbeing and .africa is surely amongst the top African-led ICT initiatives of the last twenty years.
“Initiatives like .africa help harness the power of new technologies to solve old problems. .africa is unique in that it gives Africans an important sense of pride to help motivate them to achieve the very best for their continent and themselves. ZACR appeals to all Africans to take ownership of .africa, because it truly belongs to us all,” concludes Masilela.
.africa domain names are now available and anyone can register through companies listed here: http://Registry.Africa/registrars
Unlocking Solar Capital Africa conference features first Solar Power Incubator to Unlock Potential of Energy in the Region
September 7, 2017 | 0 Comments
|Phanes Group will announce the winners at Solarplaza’s event in Abidjan come October|
|ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, September 7, 2017/ — Solaplaza’s (www.Solarplaza.com) ‘Unlocking Solar Capital Africa’ conference, an event focused on connecting solar project development and finance & investment, will be the first African event featuring a Solar Incubator program, aimed at identifying PV projects of potential in sub-Saharan Africa by providing access to funding, and commercial and technical knowledge.
The initiative, ‘The PV Solar Incubator, Your Project, Our Expertise, For a Sustainable Future,’ will be launched by Phanes Group in partnership with Solarplaza, Hogan Lovells, responsAbility, and Proparco, and invites PV developers to submit proposals for projects that are based in sub-Saharan Africa, and have a clear CSR component.
Candidates are asked to submit their proposals before October 1, 2017, via Phanes Group’s website or through the conference website. Shortlistees will be invited to pitch their projects to an expert panel at Solarplaza’s ‘Unlocking Solar Capital Africa’ conference in Ivory Coast, October 25 – 26, where the industry’s biggest players will hold extensive discussions about solutions for Africa’s solar energy funding gap.
It comes as part Unlocking Solar Capital Africa’s goal to solve Africa’s solar energy funding gap and Phanes Group’s core strategy to collaborate with Africa-focused counterparties, such as local project owners, governments, and developers on projects that seek to create a sustainable future for urban and rural communities across the sub-Saharan region.
“Clean energy has the potential to transform sub-Saharan Africa for years to come, but successfully implemented PV solar projects require a diverse mix of expertise and knowledge to bring them to financial close,” said Martin Haupts, CEO, Phanes Group. “We believe the Phanes Group Solar Incubator will leverage untapped local PV potential, and create more opportunities for local projects. Combined with our strengths in developing bankable solutions for clean, affordable energy and efforts in CSR, the incubator initiative can help to address local needs that haven’t yet been met.”
There are currently more than 620 million people in sub-Saharan Africa(www.WorldEnergyOutlook.org/africa) living without electricity, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), which works to ensure global access to reliable, affordable and clean energy.
This initiative aims to support developers not just in the funding phase, but throughout the project development and delivery phases, to ensure important, CSR-focused projects are brought to financial close. Phanes Group, along with its partners, will provide PV developers with access to a reliable partner that will support them in reaching bankability. Through an initial incubator phase, extensive mentorship, and access to the right network, this year’s candidate will have an opportunity to roll-out a sustainable energy solution in their community, as well as develop a lasting relationship with an end-to-end, integrated solar expert.
After the winning project has been announced at the ‘Unlocking Solar Capital Africa’ event, the developers will be invited to join Phanes Group for an intensive 4-day workshop at its headquarters in Dubai, UAE. This will help lay the foundations for delivering a bankable and sustainable project.
“As dreamers of a future where everybody can have access to electricity for a fair price, initiatives focused on long-term success like the Phanes Group’s Solar Incubator are always dear to our hearts,” said Edwin Koot, Solarplaza. “Renewable energy infrastructure projects result in myriad benefits. We wish participants the best in bringing forth this ripple effect to their communities, and look forward to meeting them at the ‘Unlocking Solar Capital Africa’ conference this October,” Edwin Koot added.
More about the Solar Power Incubator
The inaugural Solar Incubator, held under the theme of ‘Your Project, Our Expertise, For a Sustainable Future’, will be supported by Solarplaza, Hogan Lovells, responsAbility, and Proparco.
The initiative aims to select and develop PV project opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa that haven’t been able to gain access to funding and necessary know-how. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is an integral part of this initiative; along with the project details a solid CSR concept must be submitted and will be further developed during the incubator phase, and implemented in parallel with execution of the PV project.
The candidate of the winning project will enter a partnership with Phanes Group and hold a long-term stake in the project, collaboratively bringing it to financial close. With the incubator, Phanes Group and its partners will provide the winner with extensive mentorship and knowledge transfer throughout the project.
The deadline to submit projects for evaluation and shortlisting ends on October 1, 2017. The final selection process will take place during a live panel session in the ‘Unlocking Solar Capital Africa’ conference in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, October 25-26, 2017, where the winner will be announced. Interested candidates can submit directly on the PV Solar Incubator Competition website at www.PhanesGroup.com/incubator or on the ‘Unlocking Solar Capital Africa’ conference website at http://Africa.unlockingsolarcapital.com/solar-incubator.
Phanes Group is an international solar energy developer, investment and asset manager, strategically headquartered out of Dubai with a local footprint in sub-Saharan Africa, through its two offices in the region’s largest economies – Nigeria and South Africa.
Unlocking Solar Capital Africa is an event entirely focused on connecting solar project development and finance & investment across the entire African solar sector (On-grid Solar, micro-grids, off-grid lighting and household electrification). Unlocking Solar Capital Africa 2017 will bring together hundreds of representatives from development banks, investment funds, solar developers, IPPs, EPCs & other solar stakeholders to engage in extensive discussions to solve Africa’s solar energy funding gap – and get projects realized.
Five years on: Syngenta’s Africa ambition bearing fruit, but access to technology by small farmers remains limited
September 7, 2017 | 0 Comments
|Smallholder development projects, run in partnership with industry, academia, farmer organisations, civil society and enabled by national governments and international organizations, are crucial to achieving impact at scale|
|ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, September 6, 2017/ —
In 2012, following the G8 in Camp David, USA, Syngenta (www.Syngenta.com) announced an ambitious ten-year growth plan for our African business. This year marks the midway point in our African growth journey. Syngenta wrote in the Wall Street Journal “the continent can be food-secure within a generation…a boon for business and humanity alike” (May 22, 2012). As we take stock, what have we achieved so far and where are the bottlenecks?
Tabitha Muthoni grows tomatoes in Utange, near Mombasa. There are more than 450 million smallholder farmers like her around the globe, most of whom have family farms of less than 2 hectares of land.
For farmers like Tabitha, increased productivity can make a big difference in their ability to support their families, send their children to school and continue investing in their fields.
Since 2016, Tabitha has been part of Mavuno Zaidi, a project by Syngenta and TechnoServe that tackles difficulties faced by potato and tomato farmers in Kenya, including access to inputs, training opportunities and post-harvest storage solutions. Farmers participating also get better linkages to local markets. “Before the program” Tabitha says, “I had tried out tomato farming but had little knowledge on the crop and its diseases, often visiting agrovets with picked leaves to explain the problems I was facing.” Now she makes $5,000 per season on her small tomato farm—an increase from $2,000—and has grown from 4 to 11 employees.
To date, Mavuno Zaidi, or “grow more” in Swahili, has helped Syngenta and TechnoServe reach over 25,000 farmers, returning an average productivity increase of 185% for those tomato farmers.
Reaching out to farmers like Tabitha is just one example of our Africa ambition.
Alexandra Brand, Syngenta’s Regional Director for Europe, Africa and Middle East, joining this week’s AGRF explains, “Our chief aim is supporting the inclusion of smallholder farmers into viable value-chains so that they produce more of what national and global markets want. We strive to transform farmer yields at scale and increase their profitability in a way that creates sustainable value.”
How does Syngenta do this exactly?
Alexandra summarizes: “Our expertise lays in bringing top-class technology and agronomic knowledge tailored to the needs of diverse growers. Recognizing that Syngenta cannot achieve these goals alone and that farmers require holistic solutions, we continue to invest in innovative partnerships. These collaborations must tackle such barriers faced by African farmers as access to inputs, inadequate financial solutions, limited produce aggregation, dysfunctional markets, skills and information gaps.”
But despite many collaborative efforts, progress is slow.
Moving Africa closer to the UN Sustainability Development Goal of “Zero Hunger” requires long-term commitment. Moreover, the food chain revolving around the smallholder remains too disjointed.
Alexandra elaborates: “We see AGRF as a springboard to build stronger partnerships with like-minded organizations who share our vision and who can complement our skills and expertise with their own.”
Smallholder development projects, run in partnership with industry, academia, farmer organisations, civil society and enabled by national governments and international organizations, are crucial to achieving impact at scale. We at Syngenta believe that only through creative and committed collaborations can farmers access the full suite of products and services they need to succeed.
Syngenta is a leading agriculture company helping to improve global food security by enabling millions of farmers to make better use of available resources. Through world class science and innovative crop solutions, our 28,000 people in over 90 countries are working to transform how crops are grown. We are committed to rescuing land from degradation, enhancing biodiversity and revitalizing rural communities.
Working across more than 50 countries in Africa and the Middle East with a team of over 3000 people, Syngenta is driving growth through local investment, capacity building and business development initiatives that aim to provide crop protection and seed technologies tailored to the specific needs of this territory’s vast potential. Our ambition is to increase large and small scale farmer’s ability to sustainably invest in agriculture, leading to dignified livelihoods and thriving rural communities.
Africa50 to Announce its New Strategy, New Investments, and New Members at its Shareholder Meeting in Dakar on September 12
September 7, 2017 | 0 Comments
CASABLANCA, Morocco, 7 September 2017, Africa50, the pan-African infrastructure investment platform, will hold its third Shareholders Meeting in Dakar on Tuesday, September 12, at 11:00 a.m. at the King Fahd Hotel.
Hosting the first such meeting in West Africa, his Excellency Macky Sall, President of the Republic of Senegal, will welcome the delegates. His Excellency Bruno Tshibala, Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo, will also attend. Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Africa50, will give a feature address, and Africa50 CEO Alain Ebobissé will provide updates on Africa50’s most recent investments and its growing investment pipeline, as well as announcing two new country shareholders. Africa50’s 23 shareholder governments will be represented by finance ministers, senior officials, and ambassadors. Distinguished members of the business community and the Senegalese government will also attend.
Delegates will review Africa50’s 2016 activities and approve its financial statements. Africa50’s Board of Directors will present the fund’s updated investment, fund-raising and capital increase strategies.
Following the event, the media is invited to a press conference with the principals at 12:30 p.m. at the hotel conference center.
Africa50 is an infrastructure investment platform that contributes to the continent’s growth by developing and investing in bankable projects, catalyzing public sector capital, and mobilizing private sector funding, with differentiated financial returns and impact.
Sierra Leone: The Land of the Lion Mountain
September 5, 2017 | 0 Comments
One can never write a full story about disasters in Africa without talking about Sierra Leone. Hence, there will be many questions left unanswered on why the country moves from one form of disaster to the other.
Last month, Mr. Tony Elumelu, Founder of The Tony Elumelu Foundation, invited me to accompany him to Sierra Leone. He was going to lend his support to President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma and the people of Sierra Leone who were once again gripped by grief as a result of the devastating mudslides and floods that claimed hundreds of innocent lives and left many more still missing. He was amongst the first African business sector leaders to do the same when Ebola struck Sierra Leone in 2013; based on his fundamental belief that ‘Africans must help Africans.’
In the company of the Sierra Leonean President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, and the former President of Nigeria Olusegun Obasanjo, Mr. Elumelu, together with his team and I, visited some of the survivors at the Connaught Hospital in Freetown upon arrival in the country. Later, at the Sierra Leonean Statehouse, he donated USD$250,000 on behalf of the Tony Elumelu Foundation and another USD$250,000 on behalf of staffs, management, and Directors of United Bank for Africa (UBA) as emergency aid grants for victims of the mudslides.
Located on the west coast of Africa, Sierra Leone is a small country in terms of land mass. It totals 71,470 square kilometres with a population of just 7 million people. But it manages to squeeze beaches, rainforests, mountains, savannah grasslands, marshes, mangrove swamps and rivers into its relatively small size. Sierra Leone is belted on the west and southwest by the Atlantic Ocean, on the northwest, north, and northeast by Guinea, and on the east and southeast by Liberia. The capital and largest city is Freetown. Sierra Leone gained her independence from Britain in 1961 and became a republic on April 19, 1971. Comparatively, very few countries have faced as many natural disasters as Sierra Leone. Obviously, the more things change, the more they stay the same for Sierra Leone. At least 400 people were killed, hundreds more are still missing, and thousands have been rendered homeless in the mudslide that took place on the outskirts of the country’s capital, Freetown, in the early hours of August 14, 2017. The mudslide ranks as the country’s worst natural disaster in recent years and builds on years of the devastating impact of Ebola and before that civil war. And yet, for a natural disaster, it was not entirely unexpected bearing in mind that Freetown records the highest annual rainfall in Africa and previous flood incidents, while less devastating, have occurred. This incident can be linked to years of poor urban development planning. To avert similar situations from recurring in the future, Sierra Leone’s government will have to enforce urban planning regulations to prevent poorly planned construction of homes.
In its disastrous eleven year civil war, beginning in 1991, thousands of people lost their lives, countless more suffered mutilation, or rape and population was displaced. An official end to the civil war was declared in January 2002. By that time, it was estimated that at least 50,000 people had died, with hundreds of thousands more affected by the violence and some two million people displaced by the conflict. Sierra Leone with a very strong history of resilience, cannot continue to move from one problem to another.
On flying into the airport in Lungi, I could feel the impact of the latest disaster and see it in the faces of the people, gleaming with life, brilliance, and pain. The airport in Lungi, I discovered, is located on the opposite side of the mouth of a giant river flowing towards the capital. We took a water taxi – Sea Coach Express – from Tagrin as the only alternative to a four-hour drive to the capital. On my first trip to Sierra Leone, despite the choppy sea, I was able to reflect on all that I had learnt about the history, cultures, and people of this extraordinary country through my past research as a filmmaker; reading fiction and non-fiction from some of its most brilliant writers like Aminatta Forna and watching documentaries by the award winning Salone documentary filmmaker Sorious Samaura. And of course, who can forget the Hollywood film Blood Diamond; story of the illicit diamond trade and its funding of the civil war in Sierra Leone, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou. I recalled a line from the movie by Danny Archer played by Leonardo DiCaprio “Sometimes I wonder …. Will god ever forgive us for what we’ve done to each other? Then I look around and I realise….God left this place a long time ago.” But still, the spirit of the people of Sierra Leone endures.
We had arranged to meet the ten Tony Elumelu Foundation entrepreneurs from Sierra Leone who have been selected for the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme. We know they hold the key to the sustainable development of Sierra Leone and were keen to hear the impact of this latest tragedy on their emerging businesses. Indeed, their President had travelled to Lagos in October 2016 to speak to the 2016 TEF Entrepreneurs, applauding Tony Elumelu’s promise to not only empower entrepreneurs, but also to tackle the fundamental economic challenges confronting the African continent. Focusing on the uniqueness of TEF’s approach to entrepreneurship development, President Koroma hailed the programme as “a genuinely innovative approach to philanthropy in Africa – “an African offering African solutions.” He told their audience, “What is unique about this programme is that it not only provides a platform for entrepreneurs to build connections, but they are also being taught how to build their businesses in a sustainable way”.
We met the entrepreneurs in the Sierra Leonean Statehouse, built in 1895, it was the residence of the Governor of Sierra Leone and today the office of the President of Sierra Leone and his official residence. European contacts with Sierra Leone were among the first in West Africa. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to explore the land and gave Sierra Leone its present name, which means “lion mountain.” The country was named by Portuguese explorer Pedro de Sintra, who mapped the region in 1462, built a fort and began trading in gold, ivory, and humans. This journey across the Atlantic was embarked upon from the Freetown Peninsula estuary; the place in which today’s Sea Coach Express now docks.
The dehumanising slave trade had a significant impact on Sierra Leone, as this trade flourished in the 17th and 18th centuries, and later as a centre of anti-slavery efforts when the trade was abolished in 1807. In 1808, Sierra Leone became a British Crown colony. It was while researching for Redemption Song, a BBC series on the history, politics and cultures of the Caribbean) that I first learnt about the colony organised by the British for the black settlers known as Black Loyalists of Freetown. The black settlers, referred to as the Creoles or Krios were returning to Africa in the late 18th century: freed slaves from Nova Scotia, the Maroons from Jamaica and poor blacks from Britain. The slave narratives of this time are fascinating. Today, the Krios are part of the rich ethnic diversity of Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leone is well endowed in natural resources which is both an asset and “resource curse”. Freetown commands one of the world’s largest natural harbours. Sierra Leone is a mining centre. Its land yields diamonds, rutile, bauxite, gold, iron and limonite. Diamond is the key natural resources that is found in the Kono, Kenema and Bodistricts in Sierra Leone. The mining industry of Sierra Leone accounted for 4.5 percent of the country’s GDP in 2007 and minerals made up 79 percent of total export revenue with diamonds accounting for 46 percent of export revenue in 2008. According to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (2014 Report), Sierra Leone received USD 58 million in revenue from its extractive industry operations. Eighty five percent of these revenues came from the mining sector, with the rest mainly stemming from exploration activities in the petroleum sector. Unfortunately, the country’s rich natural resources have not metamorphosed into economic growth. Sierra-Leone is among the poorest countries in Africa. This is sad, if we consider the fact that Sierra Leone was the attractive hub destination for international visitors in the 1990s.
Sierra Leone must capitalise on its human resources, which is the most important resource that any country can have. The entrepreneurs we met are a testament to that. These entrepreneurs are building businesses that focus on local solutions for local challenges in agriculture, waste management, construction and renewable energy, to name but a few. They are eager to share their business stories, impact of the disaster on their families and friends, as well as their hopes and aspirations. We were interrupted by the President and Mr Elumelu to meet the entrepreneurs who gave their best business elevator pitch in the short time. The TEF Meet-Ups are a critical pillar of the programme, with Mr Elumelu leveraging his convening power to introduce the TEF entrepreneurs to their respective presidents and policy makers and evangelising entrepreneurship across Africa.
Edward Nonie, one of the TEF Entrepreneurs, shares his story of how he had volunteered his company’s services and man power to the UN Operations to provide immediate risk assessment, topographical mapping using drones and geological surveys of the mudslide sites on Sugar Loaf Mountain, where the disaster occurred. Listening, I am impressed by just how far this startup has come in just one year with training, mentoring and seed grant of $5000 he has received from the Foundation’s entrepreneurship programme! Imagine the impact, if the government and the private sector leaders in Sierra Leone came together to empower talented entrepreneurs like him to develop local solutions to local challenges?”
Entrepreneurs, like Edward Nonie, hold the key to the development of Sierra Leone and the government must invest in them and the wider entrepreneurial ecosystem: Business Support, Finance, Human Capital, Culture, Policy, Research & Development, Infrastructure, and Access to Markets. Investing in these eight pillars will promote entrepreneurship and market system performance which are vital for job and wealth creation. Sierra Leone will be doomed to continue with the begging bowl for decades to come if it fails to invest in these eight pillars. In all people, even in Sierra Leone, you find different kinds of talents, and entrepreneurship is about harnessing those talents, and making sure that it takes people to another level in their personal development.
The Tony Elumelu Foundation is dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship in the continent with the aim of discovering and raising African entrepreneurs through training, mentoring, networking, and funding of start-ups on the African continent. The annual TEF Entrepreneurship Programme which commits $100 million to training, mentoring, and funding of 10,000 African entrepreneurs, over 10 years, is the largest business plan competition on the continent. In 2015, the foundation received 20,000 applications. In 2016, this doubled to 45,000. This year over 93,000 African Entrepreneurs applied from 54 African countries. So, it is important for the government to develop the private sector and to create an environment that enables entrepreneurs to flourish.
In Sierra Leone, entrepreneurship is still at it ‘teething stage’. There is a disconnect between Business Support Services and Entrepreneurs in Sierra Leone. The business environment in Sierra-Leone must be developed. The Doing Business 2017 report, conducted by the International Finance Corporation and the World Bank, ranks Sierra Leone 148 out of 190 economies for overall ease of doing business, down 3 places from its 2016 rank. Africa sits at the bottom in the global rank of infrastructure by continent and Sierra Leone is in the bottom tier therein. The scale of Sierra Leone’s infrastructure deficit has been compounded by a staggering rate of urbanization, whereby 38% of residents are now urban dwellers. Sierra Leone’s network of trunk and feeder roads is severely deteriorated and unable to provide all-weather access to key producing centres (AFDB, 2016). Obviously, entrepreneurship cannot thrive without strengthening these eight key areas. Although there are a lot of barriers, entrepreneurship in Sierra Leone is necessary for the country to become a developed nation.
The Tony Elumelu Foundation has designed a unique “made in Africa, by an African and for Africans entrepreneurship programme” which we know works. We would like to offer this structured approach to growing the next generation of African Entrepreneurs to Sierra Leone and other African nation to adopt and adapt for their respective countries. While Mr Tony Elumelu’s donation of $500,000 will go towards addressing the immediate challenge, it is the long-term investment in the human capital that will yield sustainable transformation of the beautiful Sierra Leone. Entrepreneurship is the surest way forward for economic growth and development
As we leave Sierra Leone, I feel compelled to return, to spend more time meeting people, hearing their stories, their hopes, and ambitions. I am reminded of the words of Ishmael Beah, author and human rights activist. A child soldier in the Sierra Leone civil war, he rose to fame with his critically acclaimed memoir, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Solider. He said: “I guess what I’d like to say is that people in Sierra Leone are human beings, just like Americans. They want to send their kids to school; they want to live in peace; they want to have their basic rights of life just like everyone else. I think we all owe an obligation to support people who want to do that.”
Africans can help Africans. Tony Elumelu has taken a bold step. This is a clarion call to all. As Pope John Paul II once said: “Nobody is so poor that he has nothing to give, and nobody is so rich that he has nothing to receive.” Sierra Leone may be lagging, but no matter how long the night, the day is sure to come.
*CEO at The Tony Elumelu Foundation.Article culled from Linkedin page
ATA’s 41st Annual World Tourism Conference Showcases African Tourism
September 5, 2017 | 0 Comments
Kigali, Rwanda – September 5, 2017: The Africa Travel Association (ATA) hosted the 41st Annual World Tourism Conference in Kigali, Rwanda from August 28-31, 2017. The conference, which was developed to promote tourism as an engine for economic growth across Africa, was attended by H.E. Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda, who delivered the keynote address.
Hosted in collaboration with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), The 41st Annual World Tourism Conference attracted a select group of more than 200 public and private stakeholders in the African tourism sector including ministers of tourism, senior officials of national tourism boards from across the continent, airlines, hotels, travel agents and tour operators, as well digital platforms and service providers in the tourism industry such as TripAdvisor, Expedia, MasterCard, Tastemakers Africa, Facebook, Uber, Afro Tourism, Tourvest, and Marriott International.
In addition to President Kagame, other notable guests included Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi, UNCTAD Secretary-General, Ms. Clare Akamanzi, CEO of RDB and the United States Ambassador to Rwanda, Amb. Erica Barks Ruggles.
“Rwanda, like other countries on the continent, is keen to convert our favourable demographics into economic growth and prosperity,” said President Kagame in his keynote address. “The services sector – in particular, tourism – provides some of the best opportunities.”
Tourism is already doing well in Rwanda and the country is a strong example of how tourism can boost economic growth. The tourism sector is the country’s largest foreign exchange earner and Rwanda has liberalized its visa policies, which has led to a huge growth in tourists especially from Africa. The government is also investing heavily in infrastructure including a new airport to support a growing number of tourists. President Kagame did note however, that more could still be done to grow Rwandan tourism especially by harnessing technology and the new opportunities technological innovation can bring.
“This conference is particularly important to us, because tourism plays a key role in Rwanda’s economy,” said Ms. Clare Akamanzi, CEO of RDB, who welcomed attendees to Rwanda. According to Ms. Akamanzi, Rwanda’s tourism receipts doubled between 2010 and 2016 to more than USD $400 million.
CCA President and CEO, Ms. Florie Liser focused on the unique role ATA and CCA will play in the sector’s development “Under CCA’s new vision and leadership, I would like to affirm our commitment to continuing the promotion of sustainable development of tourism to and within Africa through new initiatives,” said Ms. Liser. One of those initiatives, ATAcademy, is a platform to support capacity building and inclusive growth for tourism professionals on the continent. The second initiative, ATA Connex, will focus on increasing investments in tourism through facilitated business-to-business and business-to-government linkages.
As part of the ATAcademy initiative, ATA hosted a series of capacity building sessions at the conference. Travel agents and tour operators attended sessions focused on North American travelers and on the tourism market and sustainability. “The United States – we are pleased to say – accounts for the single largest source of tourism in Rwanda as well as the largest single bilateral foreign direct investment country,” said U.S. Ambassador Erica Barks Ruggles.
UNCTAD Secretary-General, Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi, shared highlights of the recent UNCTAD report on African tourism, Economic Development in Africa Report 2017: Tourism for Transformative and Inclusive Growth. “The most startling and interesting discovery in our study is that by far, the fastest growing tourism in Africa is intra-African tourism,” said Dr, Kituyi. “Intra-African tourism is 12 months a year.” Over the last 10 years, intra-African tourism has grown from 34 percent to 44 percent of total African tourism revenues and is projected to be more than 50 percent in the next 10 years. Dr. Kituyi also emphasized a need to change Africa’s image perception and the importance of peace and security for tourism to thrive.
In less than 15 years, Africa’s travel and hospitality industries have quadrupled in size, and the continent remains one of the world’s fastest-growing tourist destinations, second only to Southeast Asia. The 41st World Tourism Conference featured more than 20 in-depth plenaries and breakout sessions with industry experts and professionals to discuss the latest trends and insights in African tourism and how best to grow the continent’s market share.
This year was the first time ATA’s Tourism Conference was hosted in Rwanda. The conference aligned with Kwita Izina, Rwanda’s annual gorilla naming ceremony, a national celebration creating awareness of the country’s efforts to protect the jewel of Rwanda’s tourism crown: the mountain gorillas and their habitat.
About the Africa Travel Association
Established in 1975, The African Travel Association serves both the public and private sectors of the international travel and tourism industry. ATA membership comprises African governments, their tourism ministers, tourism bureaus and boards, airlines, cruise lines, hotels, resorts, front-line travel sellers and providers, tour operators and travel agents, and affiliate industries. ATA partners with the African Union Commission (AU) to promote the sustainable development of tourism to and across Africa.
About the Corporate Council on Africa
Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) is the leading U.S. business association focused solely on connecting U.S. and African business interests. CCA serves as a neutral, trusted intermediary connecting its member firms with the essential government and business leaders they need to do business and succeed in Africa.
*Courtesy of CCA
Nigeria can beat anyone in Africa, vows John Obi Mikel
September 4, 2017 | 0 Comments
BY COLIN UDOH*
In the aftermath of Nigeria’s comprehensive rout of African champions Cameroon in World Cup qualifying on Friday, captain John Mikel Obi has vowed that the Super Eagles can beat any team in Africa if they play to their potential.
Mikel, along with four other experienced heads, returned to the team from injury to help mastermind the trouncing of their cross-border rivals and believes it’s just a taste of what’s to come from Gernot Rohr’s side.
“The players are very intelligent players, they listen a lot and we all work together as a team,” he told journalists in the post-match press conference. “If we continue playing this way and do what we are doing now, we can beat anyone in Africa.”
The experienced Mikel, a veteran of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations triumph, added the Super Eagles’ second goal in Uyo after setting up Odion Ighalo for the opener, and demonstrated just what an influential role he plays in Rohr’s reshaped squad.
“We have a very young team. I feel I have a responsibility every time I step on the pitch to play,” he continued. “This team needs experience, this team needs guidance.
“The players are good players, quick players but sometimes they need someone who can direct them, to make sure we have balance and that’s what we did today.
“I will do my best, I will carry this team same as I did in the Olympics,” the Tianjin TEDA midfielder continued. “I want to make sure we go to the World Cup and qualify for the Nations Cup.”
Recovering from four months on the sidelines after knee surgery, Mikel said he worked hard to be ready for the game.
“I knew I had to come back as quickly as possible,” the former Chelsea man added. “I spoke to the coach even before we lost the game against South Africa.
“We are always in contact. I told him the injury was a bad injury. I told him I would do what I can to get myself ready for this game. All I needed to do was to put my head down and just ‘work work work’…and that’s exactly what I did.
“I’m still not hundred percent yet but I promised him I would be here for this game and that’s exactly what I did. We communicate very well and the team is great.”
With three more games to go, Nigeria are one of only two teams in CAF’s World Cup qualifying programme – along with Tunisia — with a hundred percent record, but Mikel has warned Eagles fans that their team aren’t over the line just yet.
“It’s not finished yet,” the Champions League winner cautioned. “We can go to Cameroon and get a good result — draw or a win — and that’s what we want to do.”
Insight Into Atlas Africa: It is about Aligning Business Opportunities With Interested Parties, says CEO Lindi Gillespie.
August 31, 2017 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
For Lindi Gillespie, connecting the right people to opportunities in the market place and creating viable and strategic partnerships is her passion. Leveraging her vast networks and experience garnered over a twenty year period in diverse marketing and business roles, Lindi Gillespie founded Atlas Africa, an investment and brokerage company with operational base from South Africa. The firm offers clients the opportunity to expand business prospects on a broad range of sectors across Africa and on the global stage.
As CEO of Atlas Africa, Lindi, a Graduate of the University of Cape Town has surrounded herself with a solid team of talented associates who pride themselves in providing tailor made investment brokerage services and the delivery of first class returns to their clients.
“We do our best to understand our client’s business needs and long term plans when putting together a marketing strategy for bringing their services and products into the African markets,” says Lindi, who was recently ranked amongst Africa’s top 25 Women in Leadership by Amazon Watch Magazine.
With the goal of building long term professional relationships based on honesty, integrity, and sustainable revenue generation, Atlas Africa has steadily grown its business portfolio across Africa and beyond. In addition to South Africa and the SADC sub region, Atlas has excelled in West and East Africa, and Lindi says there are a growing number of hotel deals going through in the Maldives and Europe.
“Our clients stick with us because we work hard for them and always do our very best to find the best solutions to their needs by using our International network,” says Lindi as she expresses the ambition to further grow and sustain the strong reputation of Atlas Africa when it comes to investing in the continent.
Ms Gillespie, thanks so much for accepting to grant this interview , you are CEO of Atlas Africa Group, could you start by introducing the Group for us, what does it do, and when was it created?
Atlas Africa Group was formed in December 2015 when I attended the Global African Investment Summit in London. The Atlas Africa Group finds financing for renewable energy projects internationally; but predominantly in Africa. I raise these funds from individual investors; pensions fund; renewable energy funds and private equity funds. We also focus on Projects that are property related. We are very involved in development of hotels and also the buying and selling of hotels in Africa and its surrounding islands. Other sectors of the economies in Africa are covered as well.
What motivated you to create the Group, what skill set did you have, may we also have an idea of the staff strength and profile of those who make up the Group?
The motivation to start the Group was the dire need for infrastructure development; electricity; urbanisation development and especially agriculture to feed the people of Africa. Sustainability in Africa was my core motivation – to assist with this process. My skills are mainly in marketing and in introducing people where synchronicity exists to make things happen around the continent. For example I work closely with the Swiss who have foundations to help the poor and also various funds that have budgets to help the underprivileged people in our communities. The kind of people I choose to work with are professionals who are experts in all the fields that I can’t fill! Such as accounting and office administration. I prefer face to face contact with clients; travelling for work related projects and marketing our pipeline of projects.
Let’s talk about the success stories, are there concrete examples of successful projects that have been carried out by the Atlas Group? Potential clients may be interested in knowing something about the track record of Atlas
Our success stories are mainly in renewable energy and infrastructure development. At the moment deals are being processed in the Ivory Coast and Mali. These deals are private and public projects. We also have a number of hotel deals going through in the Maldives and Europe. These deals involve International hotel brands and private equity firms. We are processing low cost housing projects in two areas of Namibia where building of houses will begin within the next few weeks.
For people interested in using the services of Atlas, what do they need to do and what additional guarantees does the Group have to assure clients of positive results?
For positive result with new clients, it is a question of what stage the project is based. For instance we have investors of Greenfield renewable energy projects but projects with all licences and a PPA is where most of the clients invest. When it comes to PPPs, countries that offer sovereign guarantees or some form of guarantees make the project more attractive to investors. For projects needing funds Atlas Africa is always open to consider these projects.
What other parts of Africa is the Group operating in besides South Africa where it is based?
Atlas Africa focuses mainly on countries of good governance. We focus on areas where is safe for workforce to complete projects. Our presence is mainly in the SADC region and various countries in East and West Africa.
How will you describe the business climate first in South Africa and on other parts of the continent where you do business?
With the downgrading of South Africa’s economic sector; there are challenges in all parts of the economy including private and public business. I focus most of Atlas Africa Group’s growth outside of South Africa. I have a number of property interests however in South Africa. Our press in South Africa is bullish which helps with addressing the corruption in the country. The corruption has affected growth in all areas of the economy and many people are taking their money out of the country; emigrating or disinvesting.
Lindi Gillespie was recently profiled as one of Africa’s Top 25 Women in Leadership by Amazon Watch Magazine, what did this mean for you?
Being chosen as one of the 25 most influential women in Africa was a huge achievement for me. It showed that the work I do in Africa counts and that I have a voice on the continent. I would like to become more involved with positive movements and change.
To young Africans especially the women who see in you a role model, and will want to emulate your example, what are some secrets of success that you have for them?
The secret of success for young women is to have a specific focus. The best choice is to align yourself with positive people who will support your ideas and your business growth. If you are an entrepreneur like myself ,you need to expect difficulties and challenges. This will keep you up at night but you need faith to keep going. So many deals fall through but it’s all part of being in the game of business. Try and secure finance so that you can get through the hard times when deals are taking years to come through!!
We end with a last word on the future of the Atlas Group, what next after growing it to where it is, any big plans in the years ahead to grow and improve the client base?
Our big plans and ambitions are to grow and sustain our strong reputation when it comes to investing in Africa. Our clients stick with us because we work hard for them and always do our very best to find the best solutions to their needs by using our International network.
Independence of the Judiciary and Security of Investments-Opportunities & Challenges
August 29, 2017 | 0 Comments
By Chief Charles A. Taku*
Africa is endowed with abundant largely unexploited natural resources and raw materials yet the continent is afflicted by poverty, diseases and violent conflicts in the midst of plenty. Unfortunately, these resources when exploited are often not done so for the benefit of the people of Africa.
The availability and abundance of these resources present Africa with great investment opportunities. The paucity of a credible continental legal and economic framework defining Africa’s investment needs has led to a scramble for Africa’s resources by the leading nations of the world, from West to the East. This scramble has in turn generated an economic cold war that affects all sectors of Africa’s economic, political and social life.
Investing in Africa under the prevailing economic, judicial and political condition breeds significant challenges and invites critical questions that require answers. Significant among these is the question whether a credible independent judicial mechanism exists within Africa that regulates investment contracts in Africa that benefits Africa. Do African countries possess independent judiciaries capable of guaranteeing the security of investments in the continent through fair trial processes? Who negotiates the terms of the investments? Are the terms of negotiated investments favorable to Africa? Do investment contracts in Africa contain transfer of technology clauses aimed at transforming African economies from markets of cheap raw materials to markets for processed finished products? Is Africa endowed with an enabling legal environment for negotiating, drafting, interpreting and adjudicating investment conflicts? What are the opportunities and challenges that investors face in Africa? How can these challenges be surmounted? The answers to these questions and more are the subject of this paper.
The Universal Foundations of the Independence of the Judiciary
Among the founding objectives of the United Nations enshrined in the preamble of the UN Charter was a reaffirmation of “ … faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity of nations large and small, and the establishment of conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and sources of international law can be maintained, to promote social and better standards of life in freedom; and to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples”.
These universal conditions for the administration of justice significantly inspired and informed the founding of the United Nations in 1945. Justice for all was therefore, conceived and proclaimed a critical instrument for the promotion and protection of peace, and “the economic and social advancement of all peoples”.
In furtherance of this objective, the UN multilateral human rights treaty regime adopted provisions that guarantee the independence and impartiality of the Judiciary and recommended that they be enshrined in the laws of state parties to the respective conventions. To safeguard, protect and promote the independence of the judiciary within the international and national justice systems, the United Nations adopted the “Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary”.
The preamble of these basic principles emphasizes that the organization and administration of justice in every country, member state of the United Nations must be inspired by the principles. It states that efforts must be undertaken to translate these principles fully into reality. And that the rules concerning the exercise of judicial office should aim at enabling judges to act in accordance with the principles, because “judges are charged with the ultimate decision over life, freedoms, rights, duties and property of citizens”.
There is therefore no gainsaying that the United Nations Charter foundation of universal tenets of Justice as the underlying principles for the attainment of world peace, security, economic well-being and prosperity of nations big and small, is well settled in customary international law. It is on this basis that these principles are enshrined in the Constitutions of member states.
It cannot reasonably be disputed that at the founding of the United Nations in 1945, Africa was not a subject of international law. Africa and peoples of Africa descent were not contemplated by the founding fathers of the United Nations when they made the justice, economic, human rights and security pledges as the salvific tenets of a new world order and civilization. The so-called big and small nations that came under the protections afforded in the UN Charter did not include Africa and peoples of African descent. They were then invariably considered as chattel, European possessions, colonies by any other name but nations or states. Emerging from the humiliation of its World War defeat and occupation by Germany, France for example, led a genocidal campaign in its French Africa possessions orchestrating the extermination of millions of pro-independence nationalists and armless civilians in French Cameroun and Algeria.
Without the protections afforded by the United Nations Charter Africa was deprived on the economic sovereignty over its vast natural resources. Africa could not exercise judicial independence over commerce, industry and investments in the continent. There was therefore no investment charter for the benefits of African European colonies or possessions. Investments benefitted the colonial masters and their national economies. Africans were valued as slave labour and nothing more.
Decrying this situation in 1949 Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe ( Zik of Africa) in an Address delivered at the Plenary Session of the British Peace Congress powerfully submitted “There is gold in Nigeria. Coal, lignite, tin, columbite, tantalite, lead, diamonite, thorium, (uranium-133), and tungsten in Nigeria, rubber, cocoa, groundnuts, benniseeds, coton, palm oil, and palm kernels. Timber of different kinds is found in many areas of this Africa fairyland. Yet despite these natural resources which indicate potential wealth, the great majority of Nigerians live in want”. Dr Azikiwe speaking for all Africans stated emphatically, “therefore, we are compelled to denounce imperialism as a crime against humanity, because it destroys human dignity and is a constant cause of wars”.
Invoking the human carnage and devastation of the just ended World War 2 in which Africans were drafted to combat not as free people fighting for the interests of Africa and African Peoples, but as mere tools or instruments of warfare deployed to protect the economic and security interests of their colonial masters, Dr Azikiwe made the following proclamation amongst others: “We shall no longer be dragooned to act as cannon fodder in the military juggernaut of hypocrites who dangle before our people misleading slogans in order to involve humanity in carnage and destruction”.
The conscience awakening alarm raised by Zik of Africa in the threshold of the founding of the United Nations with lofty principles underpinning justice and economic empowerment as the salvation credo for a peaceful, prosperous world which ignored the situation of Africa and black peoples the world over, endures to this day. It endures because the cosmetic independence that was granted to many African states did not alter the European economic and political vassal possessions status that was imposed on them by European colonial treaties.
Due to the enduring effects of these injustices against Africa, it is safe to submit that the supposed tenets of universal justice, that includes the independence of the judiciary are elusive in Africa making the security of investments in the continent attainable but elusive.
Identifying the Investment and Justice Needs for Africa
The submission that the attainment of the goals of fair, credible and independent justice for Africa faces serious though surmountable obstacles may better be articulated through the following address credited to His Excellency President Jakaya Kwikete to the United Nations in New York in 2008.
Addressing the United Nations as Chairman of the African Union, President Kikwete reminded the world body that Africa rejected war, HIV Aids and Poverty as templates on which to anchor a just world security and economic order. He warned that highlighting the adoption of the UN political declaration on African development needs must not obfuscate the fact that poverty and the need to establish economic growth to overcome it was the continent’s greatest challenge. He pointed out that some so-called Millennium Development Goals were inadequate in addressing the serious shortfall in resources to meet African development needs. President Kikwete stated that “In trade, Africa’s prospects remained bleak as the Doha Round was stalled. New negative trends included climate change and soaring fuel and food prices”. 
In the face of this bleak picture of the African condition, there is an urgent need for investments in Africa must aim at attenuating poverty, Africa energy self-sufficiency and production industries for the processing and transformation of raw materials into finished products. There is an urgent need for the establishment of efficient healthcare, food security, science and technology and communication industries in Africa by Africans. Foreign investors are invited to invest in Africa but the investments must aim at and relevant to the attainment of Africa economic and investment goals. Investments in Africa that not include aim at the transfer of technology for the transformation of Africa’s raw materials and natural resources to finished products for the universal market are deemed not to benefit Africa.
To satisfy Africa’s investment needs, stable, credible, efficient and effective legal frameworks capable of attracting foreign and national investments must be established. Do the existing legal institutions in Africa provide adequate security for foreign and national investments that aim at promoting growth and the economic prosperity of the continent and its people? I hesitate at this point in time to answer this question in the positive. This is not for the lack of capital building capacity by African investors, economic operators, capable independent judiciaries or competent professional lawyers who can manage the continent’s investment portfolio. The critical obstacle to attaining these goals is the ghost of Africa’s colonial past which is still lingering within the continent and manipulating the soul of the continent at all levels of constitutional governance; making profitable investments that benefit Africa and its people difficult.
The Constitutional Guarantee of the Independence of the Judiciary
When most of Africa gained independence in the early 1960’s, the newly independent countries became member states of the United Nations. By their membership of the UN, they pledged allegiance to the United Nations Charter and thereafter ratified or adhered to many conventions in the UN Economic and Human Rights regime.
The constitutions of almost all independent African countries have provisions on separation of powers with the judiciary being an independent arm of government. The constitutions of these African countries guarantee the independence of the judiciary. Despite of the provision of article 26 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights guaranteeing through constitutional protections the independence of the judiciary, the effective independence of the judiciary as a constitutional arm of government remains illusory in many African countries. The enabling legislation regulating the administration of justice in many African countries contradicts the intendment of the constitutional guarantees of independence of the judiciary; compromising its independence.
A decision of African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in a case brought by the Southern Cameroons against the Republic of Cameroon, better explains this point succinctly. In that case the African Commission decided that Cameroon lacked independence of the judiciary despite the existence of a constitutional provision guaranteeing the independence of the judiciary and separation or powers. In that decision, the African Commission found that the lack of independence of the Cameroon judiciary violated article 26 of the Africa Charter.
The decision was predicated on an admission by Cameroon that it did not have an independent judicial service commission and that the President of the Republic was the Chairman of the Higher Judicial Council while the Minister of Justice the Vice President of the Council. The said council has a mandate for the administration and guaranteeing the independence of the judiciary. The African Commission found that by subjugating the judiciary to the executive arm of government, Cameroon was in violation of its treaty obligations by violating article 26 of the African Charter. The Commission asked Cameroon to provide an effective remedy by making its judiciary genuinely independent, a decision Cameroon has failed to implement.
A melting pot of competing conflicting investment interests
An anxious look at foreign and national investment policies in Africa against available investments opportunities and the investment needs of the continent, there is justification in characterizing Africa as a melting pot of competing conflicting investment interests. Foreign investment in Africa has a checkered history and a tortious purpose. Like a chameleon, it assumes different colours while remaining in substance, the same.
Prior to independence, foreign trade policies of African European colonies were imposed rather than negotiated. African economies were rudimentary and mainly aimed at producing and supplying raw materials for the European industrial and commercial markets. The huge mineral deposits and agricultural potential which Dr Azikiwe talked about in his 1949 address referred to earlier in this paper, although belonging to Nigeria and Nigerians, as a matter of colonial and imperial policy, in reality belonged to Her Majesty the Queen of England’s Government.
The colonial institutions at independence contained imposed military, monetary, economic, educational, social and cultural cooperation treaties that subjugated the economic sovereignty of the colonies to the erstwhile colonial powers. In former French Africa colonies, France imposed pre and post-independence cooperation agreements imposed that subjugated their economic, monetary and defense sovereignty to the control of France.
The subsistence of these treaties and colonial policies in Independent African countries renders an effective exercise of sovereignty over constitutional institutions among them independent judiciaries illusory. This state of affairs led Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah to conclude that “any form of economic union negotiated singly between the fully industrialized states of Europe and the newly emergent countries of Africa is bound to retard the industrialization, and therefore the prosperity and general economic and cultural development, of these countries. For it will mean that those African states which may be inveighed into joining this union will continue to serve as protected markets for the manufactured goods of their industrialized partners, and sources of cheap raw materials”. The existence of these colonial and neo-colonial economic treaties have retained Africa in what Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe characterized as “a perennial source of war”.
In seeking to safeguard and enforce these subsisting colonial and neo-colonial imposed preferential economic and investment treaties, the erstwhile colonial powers and the economic blocs in which they belong have resorted to using coercive methods to impose unfavourable terms of trade and investment terms that auction away African mineral resources and raw materials at prices and conditions intended to recolonize supposed independent states. These includes, economic sabotage, political instability, coups, military intervention and the manipulation of international institutions to discredit, subvert and isolate governments and peoples who dare turn their backs on colonial and neo-colonial puppetry.
In attempts to render the resource endowed countries of Africa ungovernable, alternative sources of power control are funded among the civil society, national and international Non-Governmental Organizations, the Military and the political class. With the use of weapons and funds supplied to these organizations, violent political activism triumphs over laudable civil society activism whose primary purpose ought to have been protecting and promoting the social, economic, political and civic rights of the citizenry.
The sources of instability arising from political and socio-economic factors are easily traced to the desire to control the natural resources and raw materials of African countries. The militarization of the political and economic life of the continent aimed at destabilizing many resource endowed African countries can be traced to this factor. Examples abound, but suffice to cite the failed recent violent regime change attempts in Burundi, Central Africa Republic, South Sudan, Angola and Libya.
According to Adekeye Adebajo and Kaye Whiteman, “the EU willingness to find ways of being militarily involved in Africa has been encouraged by France (seeking ways to justify its own continued military presence in Africa). The problem with the ambitious mission of the EU to support peace and security initiatives as outlined in the EU Common Position on the Prevention, Management and Resolution of Violent Conflicts in Africa is that in conceptual terms, the EU initiative seems good. But it conflates and conceals the colonial and neo-colonial treaties entered into by individual erstwhile colonial powers like France and Belgium in significant regards.
These colonial treaties and policies fuel and sustain the instability that the EU aims to prevent or redress. The erstwhile colonial powers habouring economic and political ambitions to control and micromanage the economic and political life of their former African colonies targeted by the EU initiative are not faithful participants in the EU initiative. There is overwhelming evidence establishing that they are the sources of instability in Africa. These former colonial powers have consistently used their EU members to attempt to railroad the EU initiative to attain their neo-colonial agenda.
The mitigated result of the EU initiative in Central Africa Republic even with the presence in the territory of French troops who have maintained a military base there since independence is an alarming example of this policy of duplicity on the part of France. Mineral resources Burundi has consistently accused Belgium which recently accepted responsibility and apologized for the assassination of Patrice Lumumba plunging the Democratic Republic of Congo into a blood bath that endures till date, for supporting a rebellion within its national territory aimed at effecting a regime change and controlling its natural resources.
The failed belligerent EU policy towards Burundi demonstrated by an overwhelming objection of an EU resolution submitted to the 33rd Session of the Joint EU-ACP Parliamentary Conference on 19 June 2017 arises from this policy. For the EU initiative to attain its objective, the EU must call on its member states to rescind with immediate all colonial and neo-colonial treaties or so-called cooperation agreements that undermine the sovereignty of African states and constitute a “perennial source of war”, violence, instability, impunity and criminality. These perennial sources of war have subverted the rule of law and sound constitutional governance.
Africa does not manufacture weapons but the investment in arms through legal and illegal channels fuels internecine armed conflict on the continent. For this to occur, the mineral resources and raw material of African countries are carted away to support materialistic and capitalist cartels in foreign in other continents. These colonial and neo-colonial treaties are not subject to legal challenges before the judiciary of the African countries concerned depriving the citizens of those countries the opportunity to test their validity and legality before independent judges. This keeps significant areas of the African investment and commercial sectors out of independent judicial scrutiny. The Neocolonial economic cartels have also concluded treaties keeping the judicial scrutiny before national courts, key public and private investment sectors in the defense industry, the oil industry, the energy industry and some strategic mineral contracts. With this, corruption is institutionalized at the expense of the people’s sovereignty over their resources, their economic well-being and prosperity.
Owning African investment dilemma and its Judicial quagmire
For Africa to attract valuable national and international investments that meets African prosperity needs, they must aim at attaining economic sovereignty over its natural resources. Africa must put in place valuable judicial institutions that are competent, independent and reliable.
Investment contracts are quite often negotiated by non-professional bureaucrats and politicians without the assistance of lawyers and professionals in the varying sectors of the economy in which the investment is taking place. This often results in unfavorable terms in the investment contracts with adjudication clauses that defer the interpretation of the contracts and conflict resolutions to foreign arbitration and adjudication bodies outside the continent. African lawyers and the judiciary are often not even contemplated as key actors in the negotiation of investment contracts and the adjudication of investment disputes in case of conflict. This leaves investments in Key sectors of African economies in the hands of expatriates and foreign agents whose agenda is to stultify the much desired growth of Africa economies.
It has hardly been contemplated nor desired that a transfer of technology clause if inserted into foreign investment contracts could lead to the rapid transformation of Africa from a continent of perpetual slave labour to a continent that processes and transforms its raw materials for the national and universal markets. Africa must own its problems and accept to conceive and apply some dose of painful remedy to this complex life threatening ailment.
Since President Kikwete raised the alarm that placed the required focus on “poverty and the need to establish economic growth to overcome the continent’s challenges” citing Africa’s prospects as remaining bleak with the Doha Round stalling’, and new negative trends that included climate change and soaring fuel and food prices”, Africa has made frantic judicial and continental level efforts towards addressing these problems. The AU has made some adjustments in its focus towards seeking solutions to the continent’s security, economic, health, technological research, energy, mineral exploitation, communication, inter-African and Pan African justice needs. The efforts deployed so far though commendable are still insufficient or not commensurate to the magnitude of the problems.
The AU significantly made giant steps towards establishing an African Criminal Court to try crimes committed in Africa, relieving the continent of the humiliating focus of the international criminal court which gives the perception that Africans may be inherently criminal. The Malabo Protocol granting the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights have more than any international court in history criminalized crimes which from Nuremburg and Tokyo World War Tribunals no other international court has criminalized.
The Protocol targets a wide variety of crimes perpetrated on the continent including economic crimes. The criminalization of the crimes of illicit exploitation of resources, trafficking in hazardous wastes, terrorism, money laundering, unconstitutional change of government, piracy and the crime of aggression have at long last awaken the enduring effects of the hitherto unpunished historic crimes of slavery, imperialism, colonialism and neo-colonialism from which colonial cooperation agreements and treaties drew legitimacy for eternal banishment from the continent of Africa. In other words, criminalizing these crimes at long last will target and slay the beast of colonial crimes and its offspring allowing room for Africa to develop and prosper in peace.
The African Union needs to conceive and proclaim an African Investment and economic Charter for the continent. The AU needs to summon as a matter of urgency, an Africa business forum in which governments and business operators in Africa will set in motion a mechanism and frame work for investment in Africa. The African Union lacks a clearing house for informing African investors and entrepreneurs the business potential of each African country. The Proposed investment and business Charter should aim at the AU working on harmonization business and investment law in Africa to enable African and foreign investors to invest in the continent. Presently, colonial and neo-colonial treaties favour foreign investors, particularly those from former colonial powers.
There is no reason why investment contracts in specific areas or sectors of the African economies should not prioritize national and African investors making foreign investors come in as partners only. Africa has to start training its own road investor contractors. African banks have to start providing loans to support African investments in key areas of the African economy.
African lawyers must mobilize to intervene and settle African conflicts of a political and economic nature. There is no reason why the AU cannot establish a Pan African institution for the settlement of investments disputes on the continent. There is no reason why the AU with the support of the African Bar Association cannot establish a Pan African Board of Arbitration to which different arbitration bodies in the continent will be affiliated. Such an arbitration board will keep a roaster of arbitrators from which arbitrators will be to meet the arbitration needs of investors in Africa.
There is no reason why the AU cannot make article 26 of the African Charter more functional by establishing a more robust mechanism within the AU aimed at encouraging and protecting the independence of the judiciary in member states. In this regard, for a member of the judiciary of a state party to be eligible for appointment to a high judicial organ within the AU institutional framework or within an international judicial or quasi-judicial institution requiring AU support, the constitutional and institutional arrangement in the state party must guarantee independence of the judiciary. A failure to set standards in this regard, led to two Judges from the Cameroon Judiciary which the African Commission on Human found in the Ngwang Gumne v Cameroon (The Southern Cameroons Case) not to be independent to be elected to the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights and to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights making a total mockery of its decision indicting the Cameroon judiciary for not being independent.
The Assembly of African leaders, lawyers, businessmen, professionals from all walks of life, the press and millions alive and unborn will look at this occasion with pride. With pride because African lawyers under the banner of the African Bar Association have risen to the occasion and the challenge to summon all of us here to make an informed pledge to lay down an enduring framework of investment, economic sovereignty and prosperity for Africa.
There is general agreement that investing in Africa will provide a much desired panacea for the dire economic situation facing our continent. The security of these investments needs be guaranteed by competent professional lawyers and an independent judiciary. Africa has significant investment opportunities, competent professional lawyers and independent judges. However, the ability of these key actors to manage Africa’s investment portfolio in ways that benefit Africa and the investors is hampered by powerful extraneous actors and factors.
There is a compelling need for all judicial actors in Africa and the judiciary to organize, assert and prove their expertise, proficiency and relevance in playing the role of key actors in managing the investment portfolio of Africa with unblemished expertise and uncontested independence. This conference on investment in Africa is critical and timely. The next conference on the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law complement must be organized to complement the results of this conference.
I respectfully submit that the proceedings of this conference and all the very rich conference papers presented here be delivered to the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, the UN Economic Commission for Africa, all African leaders and universities in Africa to help refocus the desired attention on investments in Africa.
*Chief Charles A. Taku is Executive Council of the AFBA, Member for Life; Vice-President of the ICCBA, Member of the Executive and Defence Committee of the ICCBA; Vice-President of ADAD; and Lead-Counsel at the ICC.The paper was presented at the conference of the African Bar Association in Port Harcourt from 7 to 10 August 2017
 Preamble, Charter of the United Nations, 24 October 1945.
 Articles 8 and 10, UN General Assembly, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 10 December 1948. Article 14, UN General Assembly, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 16 December 1966, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 999, p. 171.
 Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary Adopted by the Seventh United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders held at Milan from 26 August to 6 September 1985 and endorsed by General Assembly resolutions 40/32 of 29 November 1985 and 40/146 of 13 December 1985.
 The French campaign in French Cameroun commenced in 1948, the same year the UN Declaration on Human Rights was proclaimed against the Union des Population du Cameroun UPC founded by Um Nyobe Mpodol and continued this campaign directly or by proxy until 1971 when the last nationalist leader of the UPC Ernest Ouandie was assassinated.
 From an address delivered at the Second Annual Conference of the Congress of Peoples Against Imperialism on “Colonies and War” Poplar, London, on October 9, 1949 quoted in Wilfred Cartey and Martin Kilson: The Africa Reader: Independent Africa Rabdom House New York 1970 pp 74 and 75.
 President Jakaya Kikwete, AU Chairman Address to the United Nations in New York 23 September 2008.
 Article 26 of the African Charter states that “State Parties to the present Charter shall have the duty to guarantee the independence of the Courts and shall allow the establishment and improvement of appropriate national institutions entrusted with the promotion and protection of the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the present Charter”.
 Communication No. 266/2003, 27 May 2009, African Commission for Human Rights, Ngwang Gumne v Cameroon para. 132.
 Cooperation Agreement signed between Ahmadou Ahidjo and France dated December 12, 1959. Cameroon attained independence on January 1, 1960 .The cooperation agreement in its articles 1-6 reserve the authority to 1) determine Cameroon’s economic, political, and socio-cultural orientations to France.2) France shall manufacture currency for Cameroon called the CFA.3) France shall guide the determination of educational programs at all levels.4) The French national treasury shall have a portfolio named operations account to cover 100% of Cameroon’s foreign exchange. After a series of revisions, the percentage stands at 50% today. 5) France shall have strategic priority in the exploitation of Cameroon’s raw materials.6) On 10th November 1961, shortly Cameroon annexed and colonized the Southern Cameroons in the evening of September 30, 1961, President Ahidjo signed a military cooperation agreement with France in which the French army may be invited by the Cameroon President or the French Ambassador in Cameroon to send French troops to suppress an internal rebellion or insurrection or any threats to the regime in place. The Southern Cameroon had voted in a UN sponsored plebiscite to attain independence by joining the independent Republic of Cameroon upon terms to be worked out prior to independence. The independence was attained leading the way for the termination of the trusteeship over the Southern Cameroons but the sovereignty to negotiate a union treaty was subverted by the annexation and military occupation of the territory.
 Osafgyfo Dr Kwame Nkrumah: Neocolonialism in Africa in Africa Must Unite, (New York, 1964 cited in The Africa Reader: Independent Africa edited by Wilfred Cartey and Martin Kilson Random House New York, 1970 p. 220.
 The African Reader, p. 60.
 Adekeye Adebajo and Kaye Whiteman: The EU and Africa: From EuroAfrique to Afro-Europa, 2012, Hurst and Company, London, p.17.
 Malabo Protocol Granting Criminal Jurisdiction to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Adopted in Malabo Equatorial Guinea in June 2014) Articles 28 D, 28 E, 28 F, 28 F, 28 I, 28,Ibis, 28 J, 28 J, 28 L, 28 L Bis, 28 M. In addition to the crimes punishable under the Statute of Ad Hoc Tribunals and the ICC, the Malabo Protocol criminalizes and punishes the crimes unconstitutional change of government, piracy, terrorism, mercenarism, corruption, money laundering, trafficking in persons, trafficking in hazardous wastes, and illicit exploitation of resources.
Confessions of a Boko Haram Defector
August 28, 2017 | 0 Comments
The way Bana Umar tells it, VOA and other broadcasters helped convince him to leave Boko Haram.
Until the night of August 18, Umar was a fighter for the Islamist radical group, living at a camp in the vast Sambisa Forest, one of the group’s long-time strongholds in northeastern Nigeria.
The experience was certainly exciting. Umar says he served as a bodyguard for a commander, Abu Geidam, who he describes as very close to Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram’s best known leader.
And he saw action across Nigeria’s Borno State. “I have been to war about six times,” he says. “I fought in Wulari. I fought in Bita. I participated in the fighting around Chad. I was in the group that repelled Nigerian soldiers whenever they ventured into Sambisa.”
But his conscience was just as active as his gun. When asked if what Boko Haram does is good and right, he says it is not, because the group attacks people “mercilessly and unjustly,” and in his view, manipulates Islam to its own violent ends.
Radio prompted him to make an escape plan. Umar says he heard promises from the Nigerian chief of army staff, General Tukur Buratai, that defectors from Boko Haram would be welcomed, not punished. And he heard how Boko Haram’s deadly ambushes and suicide bombings were received in the outside world.
“Many of us listened to radio stations like BBC and VOA,” he says. “I listened to these radio stations frequently to the extent that when I laid down to sleep I would be thinking of what I heard. I realized that all our activities were evil. We killed. We stole. We dispossessed people of their properties in the name of religion. But what we are doing is not religion. Finally I got fed up with the group.”
Umar is now in the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, after fleeing the Boko Haram camp. He described his experiences this week in an interview with VOA Hausa Service reporter Haruna Dauda. His comments, translated from Hausa, provide insight into how the militants recruit and retain fighters and are managing to survive in the face of a multi-nation offensive.
Persuaded to join, scared to leave
Umar is 27 years old and hails from Banki, a town on Nigeria’s border with Cameroon. Until 2014, he made his living as a cell phone repairman and burning CDs.
But that year, Boko Haram overran the town. Umar says his friend, Abu Mujaheed, lured him into becoming a member of the group. All Nigerians are infidels, and only the followers of Abubakar Shekau are true Muslims, Mujaheed said. Join and you can fight to kill all the infidels.
Umar joined, but says he quickly got scared and wanted to run. He didn’t, he says, because Abu Mujaheed told him he would be killed if he tried to escape.
Asked this week if that was true, Umar said there is no doubt about it. “Even mere rumor or allegation that someone is contemplating leaving the group would lead to the killing of the person,” he says.
He says Boko Haram also discouraged defectors by telling them General Buratai’s promise of amnesty for any escapee was a ruse.
There are more than 1,000 Boko Haram members who would like to leave the group, Umar says. “There are many people that were abducted from their home towns who don’t know the way back to their places of origin. They [Boko Haram leaders] preach to such people not to leave, as if it was divine for them to be there.”
He adds: “Even some original members of the sect now want to leave because soldiers have intensified the war against them unlike in the past.”
All Boko Haram members must take new names when they join the group, and Bana Umar’s name was changed to Abu Mustapha. He says he became a fighter, not a commander. He said the militants were living in the Jimiya section of the Sambisa Forest, which, according to him, was the headquarters for Boko Haram.
At one time, he implies, living conditions were decent. In 2014, Boko Haram ruled large parts of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, and could operate almost at will.
Now, he says, “Life is difficult. It is not what it used to be in the past. Food is difficult for everyone.”
Some militants grow their own food, he says. “But even when you farm, your leader could take all your farm produce from you in the name of religion. You are always told that your leader has rights over all you have and yourself,” he says.
Boko Haram leaders also use religion as a prod to violence, he says.
“They use religion to tell us to kill with the promise of going to paradise. Leaders quote profusely from the Quran and the sayings of the prophet [Mohammed] to support their arguments. As they explain to make us understand their own point of view as the absolute truth, we must keep saying Allah is great, Allah is great. Then we would go out to kill,” he says.
A call to ‘repent’
Boko Haram has killed at least 20,000 people across Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger since it launched its insurgency against the Nigerian government in 2009. Attacks and bombings continue, even though the joint task force sponsored by those countries and Benin has stripped Boko Haram of nearly all the territory it once controlled, which leader Abubakar Shekau said would form the base of a “caliphate.”
With the weight of the group’s deeds bearing down on him, Bana Umar felt a growing need to flee. He didn’t act, however, until someone else encouraged him to believe what General Buratai promised.
He escaped on the night of August 18 with that person — the wife of his commander, Abu Geidam. On the 20th, they turned themselves in at a Nigerian army base in Maiduguri.
Asked what he would say to Boko Haram fighters still in the Sambisa Forest, Umar says: “I am calling them to repent, especially those who want to come out but are afraid… Let people know that soldiers would not do anything to whoever voluntarily repents. I came out and no one harms me. Not one single soldier lays his hand on me.”
Nigerian officials are currently debriefing Bana Umar, as they do with all Boko Haram members who leave the group voluntarily. When they finish, he will be reintegrated into Nigerian society, although not in his hometown of Banki. He will be taken to another location where he isn’t known, to make a fresh start.
*Culled from VOA
Power Africa Releases Annual Report
August 22, 2017 | 0 Comments
Power Africa, a U.S. Government-led initiative to double access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa, has released its annual report. The initiative consists of more than 150 public and private sector partners, which have collectively committed more than $54 billion towards achieving Power Africa’s goals. It is among the world’s largest public-private partnerships in development history.
The 2017 report highlights how Power Africa continues to lay the foundation for sustainable economic growth in Africa while creating opportunities for American businesses as it makes progress towards its goals of increasing installed generation capacity by 30,000 megawatts (MW) and adding 60 million new electricity connections by 2030.
Since its inception, Power Africa has facilitated the financial close of power transactions expected to generate more than 7,200 MW of power in sub-Saharan Africa. The 80 Power Africa transactions that have concluded financing agreements are valued at more than $14.5 billion, and Power Africa projects have generated more than $500 million in U.S. exports. In addition, Power Africa has facilitated more than 10 million electrical connections, which have brought electricity to more than 50 million people for the first time.
The report also highlights the role of women in Africa’s power sector, by chronicling the contributions of select members of Power Africa’s Women in African Power (WiAP) network. It includes an executive letter from the Honorable Irene Muloni, Minister for Energy and Minerals in Uganda, as well as profiles of women whose drive is strengthening Africa’s power sector.
Over the next year, Power Africa will work with more than 100 U.S. companies, African partners, other donors, and the private sector to harness the technology, ingenuity, and political will necessary to bring the benefits of modern energy to even remote parts of Africa while promoting economic growth. The initiative will also expand beyond its initial focus on solar lanterns and renewable energy to support more on-grid power projects in natural gas and other sources.
Philanthropists join forces to fund Africa’s cash-strapped health sector
August 22, 2017 | 0 Comments
Billionaires Bill Gates, Aliko Dangote come together to fund health care projects
Some of the factors driving unhappiness are the poor state of the continent’s health care systems, the persistence of HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, and the growth of lifestyle diseases such as hypertension, heart disease and diabetes.
Few African countries make significant investments in the health sector—the median cost of health care in sub-Saharan Africa is $109 per person per year, according to Gallup. Some countries, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Madagascar and Niger, spend just half of that per person annually.
In 2010 only 23 countries were spending more than $44 per capita on health care, according to the World Health Organization. These countries got funding from several sources, including government, donors, employers, non-governmental organisations and households.
Private investment is now critical to meet the considerable shortfall in public-sector investment, say experts.
While many international organisations, such as UNICEF and the International Committee of the Red Cross, continue to support Africa’s health care system, private entities and individuals are also increasingly making contributions. For example, Africa’s richest person, Aliko Dangote, and the world’s second richest person, Bill Gates, have formed a partnership to address some of Africa’s key health needs.
In 2014 the Nigerian-born cement magnate made global headlines after donating $1.2 billion to Dangote Foundation, which used the money to buy equipment to donate to hospitals in Nigeria and set up mobile clinics in Côte d’Ivoire.
A philanthropist himself, Mr. Gates wrote of Mr. Dangote in Time magazine: “I know him best as a leader constantly in search of ways to bridge the gap between private business and health.”
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation focuses, among other projects, on strengthening Africa’s health care resources. According to the Gates Foundation, as of May 2013 it had earmarked $9 billion to fight diseases in Africa over 15 years. In 2016 the foundation pledged to give an additional $5 billion over a five-year period, two-thirds to be used to fight HIV/AIDS on the continent.
While acknowledging the Gates’ generosity, locals noted that for many years the Foundation had invested in the oil companies that have contributed in making health outcomes extremely poor in some areas of Nigeria. These companies include Eni, Royal Dutch Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron and Total.
Facing a backlash, the Gates Foundation sold off some 87% of its investments in major coal, oil and gas companies, leaving approximately $200 million in these stocks as of 2016. Groups such as Leave It in the Ground, a non-profit organization advocating for a global moratorium on fossil exploration, are pushing for divestment.
“The link between saving lives, a lower birth rate and ending poverty was the most important early lesson Melinda and I learned about global health,” said Mr. Gates recently. The Gates Foundation supports reducing childhood mortality by supplying hospitals with necessary equipment and hiring qualified local practitioners to take care of patients and their children.
In 2016, the Dangote Foundation and the Gates Foundation formed a philanthropic dream team when they announced a $100 million plan to fight malnutrition in Nigeria. The new scheme will fund programmes to 2020 and beyond, using local groups in the northwest and northeast Nigeria. The northeast has for the past seven years been ravaged by the Boko Haram’s Islamic militant insurgency, affecting all health care projects in the region.
Malnutrition affects 11 million children in northern Nigeria alone, and Mr. Dangote said the partnership would address the problem.
The Foundations had already signed a deal to work together to foster immunization programmes in three northern states: Kaduna, Kano and Sokoto.
The Gates Foundation states on its website, “Contributions towards the costs of the program by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Dangote Foundation, and state governments will be staggered across three years: 30% in year one, 50% in year two, and 70% in year three, with the respective states taking progressive responsibility for financing immunization services.”
The future of about 44% of Nigeria’s 170 million people would be “greatly damaged if we don’t solve malnutrition,” said Mr. Gates, at a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari.
Despite the many international and local efforts, cultural and religious factors often impede efforts to address Africa’s weak health infrastructure. For example, in 2007, religious leaders in northern Nigeria organized against aid workers administering polio vaccinations after rumours started circulating that the vaccines were adulterated and would cause infertility and HIV/AIDS.
In 2014, during the Ebola crisis, villagers chased and stoned Red Cross workers in Womey village in Guinea, accusing them of bringing “a strange disease”.
The big players may be Mr. Dangote and Mr. Gates, but others less well known are also making important contributions to Africa’s health care. After the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, for example, which resulted in the loss of about 11,300 lives, private companies in the three most affected countries—Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone—partnered with the government to fight the virus.
The Sierra Leone Brewery, for example, helped in constructing facilities for Ebola treatment. Individuals, such as Patrick Lansana, a Sierra Leonean communications expert, also volunteered their services for the Ebola fight. He said: “I joined the fight against Ebola because I wanted to help my country. My efforts, and those of others, made a difference. It would have been difficult for the government and international partners to combat the virus alone.”
Private and public sectors need to collaborate to help Africa’s health care system from collapse, notes a report by UK-based PricewaterHouseCoopers consultancy firm. The report states that public-private partnerships, or PPPs, when fully synergised can bring about quality health care. Under a PPP in the health sector, for example, a government can contribute by providing the health care infrastructure, while private entities can be involved in the operations.
In a widely published joint opinion piece last April, Mr. Dangote and Mr. Gates stated that improving health care in Africa depends on a “successful partnership between government, communities, religious and business leaders, volunteers, and NGOs. This ensures that everyone is rowing in the same direction.”
*Culled from Africa Renewal
Africa on the road to industrial progress-Li Yong
August 22, 2017 | 0 Comments
As the director general of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Li Yong leads a specialised agency that promotes industrial development, inclusive globalization and environmental sustainability. Recently in New York, Mr. Yong took part in a special meeting on “innovation in infrastructure development and sustainable industrialization” in developing countries and countries with special needs. He spoke with Africa Renewal’s Kingsley Ighobor on a range of issues pertaining to Africa’s industrialization. Here are the excerpts:
Africa Renewal: You are attending a meeting on industrialization in developing countries, which includes many African countries. How does Africa fit in the picture?
Li Yong: The ECOSOC [UN’s Economic and Social Council] meeting is important because of SDG 9, which calls for inclusive sustainable industrialization, innovation and infrastructure. Africa has to compete within the global value chain, the manufacturing value addition and with the growth and speed of other regions. Two-thirds of the least developed countries are in Africa. Due to underdevelopment of the industrial sector, some countries are not growing fast enough.
What are the factors hindering Africa’s industrialization?
The sudden drop in commodity prices caused problems because it lowered the competitiveness of commodities-dependent countries.
But commodity prices dropped only recently.
No, not just recently. Let’s say this has been the case throughout the last century. But let me talk about factors hindering industrialization. Long ago the international development institutions wrongly prescribed deindustrialization for some countries. An ambassador of an African country actually told me that the very painful process of deindustrialization forced them to stop exporting cheese, cocoa beans and other products. Another reason is that countries change policies too often. Insecurity occasioned by frequent changes of policies scares away investors and disrupts the industrialization process.
Were the structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) of the 1980s a wrong prescription?
I do not want to talk about that because I was involved in the whole process of structural adjustment lending when I was working at the World Bank. I would just say that some of the prescriptions provided to African countries were not very good.
Critics say meetings such as the one you are attending are all talk but no action. What’s your take on this?
I think that sometimes if there’s too much talk, too much debate on the theories, on the reports and studies, action is lost. Just do it! If it’s creating jobs, let’s go for it.
UNIDO’s Programme for Country Partnership (PCP) aims to mobilise private and public sector resources for industrialisation and to provide technical assistance to countries. How is that going?
It’s an innovative way to support a country’s industrial development. We collaborate with governments and development institutions to create industrial development strategies, and we support such strategies. Usually there is a financing issue: the government needs to allocate resources to basic infrastructure. But development institutions also need to provide supplementary financing for infrastructure such as roads, highways, railroads, electricity, water supply, etc. We advise governments to formulate policies that protect investments that will trigger private-sector financing and FDI [foreign direct investment].
You were heavily involved in the development of agricultural and small and medium-size enterprises in China. What lessons can Africa learn from China?
There must be a vision and a strategy. Develop policies that support small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) in the agriculture sector, to begin with. In China, the number one document released at the beginning of the year was a plan to support agriculture development. Second, take concrete measures. We cannot talk about empty themes. Third, support with financial resources, capacity building and training. Fourth, provide an environment for SMEs to thrive. Lastly, link the agricultural sector to agro-industry, agribusiness and manufacturing.
Not long ago, a World Bank report stated that Africa’s agribusiness could be worth $1 trillion by 2030. Could agribusiness be a game changer for the continent?
Yes, although I wouldn’t say that the $1 trillion figure is exactly accurate. But agriculture is a very important sector for Africa. The job creation element in the sector requires innovation. If you try to grow wheat, corn, fruits, etc without connecting to agro-processing food packaging and the global value chain, there is very little opportunity for job creation. Some people argue that if you introduce modern technology, some farmers may lose jobs. I don’t accept this argument because farming services connect to the market. With agro-processing, farmers have more time and capacity to do things beyond planting and growing crops.
The goal of the African Agribusiness and Africa Development Initiative, which UNIDO supports, is to link farmers to big markets. But African farmers cannot compete in the global marketplace because many Western governments subsidize farming. What’s your take?
Africa can be innovative about this. For instance, cocoa-producing African countries that used to export cocoa beans are currently producing some chocolate products locally. In Ghana, a private company is producing cocoa butter, cocoa oil and cocoa cake for domestic consumption. And UNIDO supported them with a laboratory, equipment and technicians to enable them to receive certifications to export to Europe and Asia. Consider Ethiopia, with 95 million people and millions of cattle and sheep and cows. But they only export around 7% of their live cattle to other countries because they don’t have processing capacity. They don’t have the standard certifications for export, although the quality of meat is excellent. Currently we are supporting Ethiopia to set up a project for testing so that they meet the criteria for exporting to other countries. Actually, African agriculture can connect to the global value chain.
Countries may set up agro-industries in areas where they have a competitive advantage, but the lack of technical skills and inadequate infrastructure, particularly roads and electricity, is still an issue.
We have the traditional toolboxes, including vocational training. Capacity training is a very popular UNIDO programme. With donor support, we develop training programmes like we did in Tunisia and Ethiopia, where young engineers received training in how to operate big equipment. The second example is that countries need large-scale agro-processing projects. For instance, Ethiopia developed hundreds of industrial parks that are helping develop the capacity to manufacture many more products.
Most foreign investors target Africa’s extractive sector, which generates few jobs. How do you encourage investments in the agriculture sector?
The best approach for Africa is not to say, “Don’t export raw materials.” Look at Australia and other countries that still export raw materials. They did their cost-benefits analysis and decided not to set up manufacturing companies. What is needed is market discipline. But this doesn’t mean that all countries must export raw materials. If they have the capacity, if there are foreign investors that come in to build factories and create jobs, why not?
Sustainable industrialization produces long-term results, I believe. Countries grappling with poverty need resources immediately. Such countries cannot slow down their unsustainable exploitation of natural resources.
I believe we should have industrial development in an inclusive, sustainable way. If we manufacture goods with a heavy pollution of water, soil or air, there’s a cost to people’s health. Think about what it will cost to address those pollutions in the future. At UNIDO, we do not approve projects for implementation unless they meet our environmental standards.
Are African leaders receptive to your ideas?
Most leaders I’ve met request UNIDO’s support. Except for countries in difficult situations such as those in conflicts, others need to show a strong commitment to industrialization.
Are you seeing such commitments?
Yes, in Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Kenya, Senegal, Tanzania and Zambia—many leaders are showing a commitment. The new Nigerian president is committed to industrialization. However, countries in conflict, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC], may have difficulties industrializing. The DRC has many resources, including gold and oil. They have a vast land—you can grow anything there—and a huge population. But internal conflict is slowing industrialization. Yet a peaceful Rwanda is moving very fast with industrialization. So it depends on a country’s situation, the commitments of its leadership and the efficiency of its administrative systems.
How do you see Africa in about 10 years?
Many countries will move up the socioeconomic ladder and become middle-income countries. There will be more industries to manufacture goods and create jobs. I think it’s possible. The global community is ready to support Africa. Most importantly, African countries are committed to industrial progress and economic growth.
*Culled from Africa Renewal
Integrating Financial Services In Africa
August 18, 2017 | 0 Comments
A defining objective of the African Union is to promote sustainable development at the economic, social and cultural levels as well as the integration of African economies. This noble mandate, enshrined in Article 3, of the Constitutive Acts of the AU, actually predates the AU, and was a principal goal of the Organization of African Unity, OAU, the predecessor body of the AU.
Economic integration also provided a fundamental impetus in the formation of the various Regional Economic Communities, RECs, and monetary zones in Africa – viz. ECOWAS, UMOA, CEMAC, CEEAC, EAC, AMU, CEN-SAD, SADC, COMESA, IGAD, etc. Together, these RECs have striven to promote and co-ordinate social, political and economic integration in the continent.Interestingly, some countries are even members of up two or three RECs. This is a testament to the overarching criticality of economic integration in the vision, plans and activities of African states.
In this treatise, I will focus on the integration of financial services in Africa, an unheralded field, but where remarkable results are being recorded. A Payment System is a facilitator of monetary transactions, and a veritable integrative node. In the UEMOA zone, in West Africa, the Groupement Interbancaire Monétique de I’UnionEconomique et MonétaireOuestAfricaine, more widely known by its French acronym, GIM-UEMOA, set up by BCEAO, the Central Bank of West African States in 2003, in striving to create a cashless region, has grown to become a regional platform for cards, electronic payments, and clearing of interbank transactions. With over 100 banks, financial and postal institutions as members; cardholders in the GIM network,pay relatively low transaction fees.
Also, the Central African equivalent, GIMAC,created in 2013, under the guidance of the Central Bank of Central African States, BEAC, is working with Banks to integrate the electronic payments system in the region, and ensure inter-operability and acceptance of GIMAC cards, for ATMs, POS, etc, by banks and for international payments,and reduce transaction and cash handling costs, while facilitating e-commerce.
The East African Payment System, EAPS, provides a platform for the real time settlement of cross border payments in the region. Driven by the Central Banks in the region, and piloted in 2013, the payment system took off immediately in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and subsequently, Rwanda. More remarkable is that EAPS is based on direct convertibility, and the use of the currencies of participating countries for transactions and settlement, without the intermediary facilitation of any OECD currency. For instance, transactions initiated in Tanzania shillings can be directly settled in Uganda shillings or Kenya shillings.
In Southern Africa, the SADC Integrated Regional Electronic Settlement System (SIRESS),and the Regional Payment and Settlement System, REPSS, launched separately in 2014, are two integrative payments systems worth referencing. Through SIRESS, funds can be wired, real time, to beneficiaries with accounts in SIRESS commercial banks. REPSS, with a clearing house in Zimbabwe, and the Central Bank of Mauritius as its Settlement Bank, utilizes an electronic platform for cross-border payments and settlement.
Quite positively, these initiatives, operationalized under the auspices of Central Banks, and with the active participation of commercial Banks are technologically advanced, rapid, and secure. While leveraging on the real-time gross settlement systems of the countries, they seek to enhance efficiency, reduce settlement time, lower transaction costs and generally facilitate intra-African trade, and economic integration in the continent.
In tandem, the banking sector, in Africa, has expanded exponentially in the last decade, in asset size and profitability; geography -distribution channels and network; product sophistication- digital banking, cards, mobile payments; and, financial inclusion. Access to financial services continues to improve across the continent. Furthermore, leveraging on enhanced capacity, pan-African banks are increasingly able to collaboratively finance large ticket and transformational infrastructural projects through syndications and risk sharing. Currently, the top 20 pan-African Banks have assets over $800b, with over 11,000 branches. Beyond banking, we are also witnesses to the birth and growth of pan-African insurance, micro finance, and other financial service companies across the continent that offer greater diversity and depth of products and solutions. All these have led to the increase in the range, frequency, and diversity in the classes of risks that Banks, and other financial institutions, face. Concomitantly, risk management, regulatory compliance and corporate governance have become more stringent, and with onerous application, as they remain important variables for assessing the health of Banks, in the drive towards overall sector viability and sustainability.
Imperceptibly, but surely, the regulatory environment of the financial services sector, is also being integrated. The Association of African Central Banks, headquartered in Dakar, brings together 39 regional and country Central Banks in Africa. In line with its statutes, and practices, its Assembly of Governors, usually meets yearly, to deliberate on financial system stability, monetary and payment system integration, the African Central Bank initiative, etc.Another critical arm is the Community of African Banking Supervisors (CABS) which works to strengthen banking regulatory and supervisory frameworks.In the last decade, I have observed, first hand, this increased collaboration between African Central Banks,with MOUs being signed, to facilitate cross border supervision, exchange of ideas and information sharing between host and home regulators. Also, the College of Supervisors set up by the Central Bank of Nigeria, as a forum that brings together host regulators of Banks, with headquarters in Nigeria, but with operations in other jurisdictions,to strengthen governance practices, and ensure soundness in the banking sector, is also a positive development.
An evolving trend in the African banking space, is the initiative to connect Africa, andenablecustomers of a bank to conveniently access their accounts, deposit cash and make cheque withdrawals in any branch, in different countries across Africa, where the bank operates, outside the primary country holding the account. This has the distinct capability to alter the face and operation of banking in the continent as it will open up and facilitate easy movement of goods, services capital, and people. I also look forward to the day, soon enough, for instance, when a Moroccan manufacturer of fertilizer visiting Zambia to negotiate a contract; agrees payment terms, issues a paymentinstrument right away to a Zambian exporter of high quality packaging materials and gets value immediately, using simple electronic payment instruments.
On the whole, these emerging trends contribute significantly to the on-going African-led processes of creating a powerful, vibrant pan-African financial infrastructure, to further undergird and deepen Pan African economic, commercial, business and social interactions through access to personal and business finance across Africa. Together with the various similar initiatives in different spheres by African economic communities identified above, these initiatives will serve as a powerful signal of the march of African economic advancement through financial facilitation to build a fully integrated financial system that enhances financial inclusion, and serves the people.
Work remains. To accelerate financial integration, existing regional mechanisms and frameworks, including those highlighted above, must now begin to coalesce and fuse into larger pan-African systems, Central Banking, common currency, payments and collections; intra-African trade facilitation; etc. In spite of existing differences, but given the importance and fluidity of finance to agriculture, infrastructure, industry and economic development, the largest economies in each region showered as regional anchors, within a defined framework of the Assembly of the African Union.
*Emeka is Executive Director; CEO Africa- Francophone at UBA Group.Piece culled from linkedin page.
The Africa Travel Association to host the 41st Annual World Tourism Conference in Rwanda this month
August 17, 2017 | 0 Comments
AFRICA’S SKYROCKETING UNEMPLOYMENT: WHO IS TO BLAME, THE UNIVERSITIES OR THE STATES?
August 12, 2017 | 0 Comments
By Moses Hategeka
A few years back, I wrote an article titled, “Universities/Varsity Curricula Must be Practical” that was published in, The Herald, Zimbabwe’s most popular and biggest Newspaper, and was as well republished in various other Newspapers and Magazines in other African countries.
In that article, I argued that, theory based and powered curricula as administered in most African universities, cannot spur a critical mass of skilled graduates needed to transform African economies and called, for its total overhaul.
In the same article, I called upon, African governments to step up funding to their universities and compel them to overhaul cramming based learning and adopt research powered learning.
Research powered learning especially in the experimental sciences curricula, makes students, to gain knowledge of producing inventions, innovations, and ground breaking technologies, which if backed by supportive conducive governments’ policies, can be a catalyst, in spurring industrial and entrepreneurial development in African countries. It also enables the students from social sciences and humanities field, to gain interdisciplinary knowledge, that in turn makes them, critical thinkers, capable of objectively analyzing public policies and other issues at hand, and provide remedies where inadequacies exists.
Africa’s skyrocketing unemployment problem, especially youth unemployment that is affecting millions of youth on the continent, is a manifestation, of the failure of governments and universities, to harmonize their visions, into one complimentary vision of finding solutions to the challenges facing the continent.
Universities are supposed to be the center of knowledge production and dissemination where learners are equipped with relevant knowledge and skills that makes them capable of solving societal problems and meeting societal needs. Are African universities serving this purpose fully?
Globally, research is a chief driver of new knowledge and innovation crucial for spurring sustainable industrial and entrepreneurial development, but how much of the research have African universities done or are doing that have translated or are translating into industrial commercial usable products? Why is it that, African industries are majorly powered by imported technologies despite the fact that we have engineering and technology faculties at our universities?
In the medical field, why is that all the health complications that requires specialized surgeries are mainly done outside Africa with those unable to afford it dying miserably despite us having medical schools/faculties at our universities? Still in medical sector, why is that the few molecular biologists in our countries are unable to use computerized technologies to read and analyze the genomes of viruses and only do so after being subjected to re-training by experts trained from abroad?
African governments are supposed to apportion a good percentage of their national budgets for research development, if research, is to result into implementable policies and industrial usable products. But wait a minute! Looking at countries’ national Budgets, how much money percentage wise does African countries allocate to their institutions for research development?
Governments are also supposed to create robust favorable environment and opportunities for its employable citizens not only at national level, but also at international level, by incorporating in their foreign policies and international relations, the issue of systematically and legally transporting their employable labor to other countries where it is needed through bilateral relations, like what Cuba, Russia, China, and India have done and are doing. What are African countries doing in this regard?
For example, on realizing that, it cannot employ, all its trained Doctors, Cuba, decided to integrate medicine as a fundamental element in its foreign policy and international relations, as thus, eighty percent of Doctors and health professionals in Venezuela, are Cubans, send there by the Cuban government, on bilateral arrangement with Venezuelan government, where by Cuba, supplies medical workers in return for oil and gas supplies from Venezuelan government. Cuba also has hundreds of Doctors working on bilateral arrangement in other Latin American and African countries. Russia, India, and China, who produces, highest number of technology specialists and professionals in life and experimental sciences also does the same.
To the Chinese government, where there is Chinese capital and trade, there should be Chinese labor. Many people keep on wondering, why there is large presence of Chinese engineers, technicians, and traders, especially allover in African countries and other developing nations, forgetting that, transportation of labor to foreign countries, is a cardinal part of Chinese foreign policy and international relations. In fact, all the major infrastructural development projects in Africa, like major road high ways, Dams, buildings and industries construction, have been and are being executed by Chinese supported companies and labor
To overcome, the waves of rural- urban migration tied unemployment, and curb horrible unemployment figures among its science and technology specialists, the Chinese government, developed an economic diversification policy aligned, to urbanization, industrialization, and transformation of rural locations, into production centers, which involved relocating major industries from already congested industrial centers to rural areas, thus expanding industrial base and creating new towns and employment in the process, Wuxi and Nantong for example, owe their transformation from rural to major industrial centers to this policy.
In sum, universities’ curricula must be research derived and interdisciplinary powered, for the graduates to translate the acquired knowledge and skills, into industrial usable products and attaining critical thinking skills, capable of finding solutions to the societal challenges and needs and African governments must ably fund their varsities for this to happen in addition to putting in place, the implementable policies that stimulate entire spectrum
Moses Hategeka is a Ugandan based Independent Governance Researcher, Public Affairs Analyst, and Writer
Terrorism: Trump’s Approval And End Of The Black Days
August 10, 2017 | 0 Comments
The conjured and demonic opinions of skeptics on the unabated degeneration of Nigeria under a Buhari Presidency is the least of my nightmares. I am the more comfortable with myself because only falsehood struggles to be concealed, but truth breaks the most secured of jails to quench he thirst of man with its effervescent aura.
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Angélique Kidjo and Benin’s music stars say NO to child marriage!
August 8, 2017 | 0 Comments
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.
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
Burkina Faso: World Bank Approves $60 Million to Strengthen Local Government
August 8, 2017 | 0 Comments
WASHINGTON, August 4, 2017-Today, the World Bank approved a $60 million International Development Association (IDA)* grant to Burkina Faso for the Local Government Support Project(Programme d’appui aux collectivités territoriales–PACT).
The grant is an additional financing of the original project, which seeks to strengthen the national capacity for decentralization, the institutional capacities of communes in all regions and to increase citizen participation in local governance.
PACT responds to government priorities to reform public institutions.
It will help increase opportunities for improving the quality of service delivery at the local government level. The project contributes to decentralized service delivery and improved local governance, which serve as a critical pathway to improving services to citizens in Burkina Faso.
“This additional financing would supportthe government’s objectives for decentralization by improving the enabling environment and operational effectiveness of local governments, so that decentralization can be rolled out more effectively, in line with the objectives of the national economic and social development plan – PNDES – especially the third strategic objective on decentralization and good local governance.
The additional resources will support not only an enhanced delivery of public services, but will also promote inclusive development outcomes in Burkina Faso,” said Cheick Kanté, World Bank Country Manager for Burkina Faso.
* 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 percent going to Africa.
US military investigating Cameroon base torture allegations
August 5, 2017 | 0 Comments
BY JULIA MANCHESTER *
The head of U.S. Africa Command Gen. Thomas Waldhauser initiated the inquiry, an official confirmed to CNN on Friday.
The report said torture had occurred at military sites, including four military bases.
U.S. and French military personnel have been present at the Rapid Intervention Batallion (BIR) headquarters in Salak, which was one of the sites where a majority of the victims were tortured, Amnesty International claimed.
The U.S. has provided military support in Cameroon’s fight to combat the ISIS-linked terror organization Boko Haram.
Amnesty claims hundred of people are accused without evidence of working with the terror group in Cameroon.
AU: Return of Nigerian Refugees from Cameroon Should Be Voluntary
August 2, 2017 | 0 Comments
MAROUA, CAMEROON —
The African Union Peace and Security Council has urged Cameroon to ensure the repatriation of Nigerian refugees fleeing Boko Haram is done on a voluntary basis.
Hundreds of refugees, most of them children, complain they are thirsty and hungry as they leave Cameroon on their way back to Nigeria.
They are escorted by troops from the multinational joint task force fighting the Boko Haram insurgency.
Cameroon Red Cross official Joseph Guisso is among the humanitarian staff accompanying the refugees. He said the military escort is necessary because Boko Haram fighters can surprise them at any moment.
He said they have confidence in the task force and strongly believe the killings will end soon.
The soldiers told VOA Boko Haram has been organizing sporadic attacks on a small scale since January. During the past two years, the regional force has retaken much of the territory Boko Haram once controlled.
The number of Nigerian refugees repatriated from Cameroon has not been made public. In March, the governments of the two countries signed a tripartite agreement with UNHCR that stipulated the repatriations must be voluntary.
In June, the U.N. refugee agency condemned what it called the Cameroonian government’s forced repatriation of 887 Nigerian refugees to the border town of Banki. The United Nations said there had been other similar incidents.
Cameroon’s government has denied allegations of forced returns.
Cameroon has struggled to meet the humanitarian needs of the approximately 115,000 Nigerian refugees within its borders, as well as an estimated 200,000 Cameroonians displaced by the conflict.
Suicide attacks have picked up recently in border areas in Cameroon, with at least 30 attacks reported in June, including some targeting refugee camps. Far North region of Cameroon Governor Midjiyawa Bakari has argued it would be better for refugees to go to safer localities in their own country.
A delegation from the African Union visited the northern town of Maroua on Friday. The chairman of the African Union Peace and Security Council, Nigerian-born Ambassador Bankole Adeoye, led the delegation. He told VOA only refugees who choose to go back should be repatriated.
“We want to thank the government and people of Cameroon first for hosting these refugees and coordinating all the necessary sectors. With the United Nations agencies, we are suggesting and proposing that all the refugees should return in safety and in dignity,” said Adeoye.
Aid agencies have also expressed concern about the conditions to which refugees are returning. UNHCR and Doctors without Borders have warned food, water and other resources are dangerously overstretched in border communities in Nigeria.
Acting President (Vice President) Osinbajo Inaugurates 1.5 Billion USD Fertilizer Plant in Nigeria
July 28, 2017 | 0 Comments
|The Plant has a production capacity of 4000 metric tons (MT) of nitrogenous fertilizers per day or 1.5 MT per annum|
PORT HARCOURT, Nigeria, July 27, 2017/ — Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo today in Port Harcourt inaugurated a giant world-class fertilizer plant, built by Indorama (www.Indorama.com) Eleme Fertilizer and Chemicals Limited at the cost of $1.5 billion.
The acting President used the opportunity to remind all Nigerians that time has come for them to grow whatever they eat and produce whatever they consume.
“What Indorama is accomplishing today is very much in line with President Buhari’s vision for a country that produces what it consumes and grows what it eats. If you had to sum up our vision for the Nigerian economy in a few words, these would suffice. Grow what we eat, produce what we consume,” he said.
“At the end of last year, the President launched a Presidential Fertilizer Initiative, to ensure the availability of cheaper fertilizer to our farmers, to support what we’re doing in agriculture, in the production of rice and wheat and other staples.
“That Fertilizer Initiative, now well underway, has created significant economic opportunities for companies like Indorama Eleme Fertilizer & Chemicals Limited.
“This is the kind of economic progress we’re after, in which every unlocked opportunity proceeds to unlock several others, across multiple sectors of the economy.”
According to him, the company has turned out to be a huge success story. “I am glad that we’re here today to see one of the success stories of the Federal Government’s privatisation programme,” he said.
“We will continue to support Indorama Eleme Petrochemicals Limited’s expansion ambitions. Our commitment to the privatisation programme is equally assured, and we will continue to do everything to support investors to maximise the potential of their assets,” he said.
Earlier in his address, the Chairman of Indorama Corporation, Mr Sri Prakash Lohia said that the plant which has capacity to produce 1.5 million metric tons of fertilizer per annum is the largest single-train Urea plant in the world.
“Following the 2006 handover, the BPE carried out routine monitoring on the enterprise to ensure that the core investor adhered to and implemented the post-acquisition plan it had laid out for the company.”
“Today is the culmination of that process of monitoring and oversight by the BPE. I am delighted that it is taking place on an inspiring and hopeful note, and that we are all here today celebrating a thriving and promising company. We should not take this state of affairs for granted,” he said.
The Plant has a production capacity of 4000 metric tons (MT) of nitrogenous fertilizers per day or 1.5 MT per annum. The world-scale plant has been built with an investment of USD 1.5 billion, a huge Foreign Direct Investment, funded by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and a Consortium of 15 European and African banks and Financial Institutions.
Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, in his speech said that for Indorama to invest a whopping $1.5 billion in the state, it shows that the state is safe for investors and their investments. He called on other investors to emulate the footsteps of Indorama.
The plant will bring about a green revolution in the agriculture sector not only in Nigeria but also in other parts of Africa and world at large.
The plant has also generated lots of job opportunities contributing to the economic prosperity of Nigeria.
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|
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.
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.
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 Social Progress Agenda
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
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.
A movement of women focused on economic advancement
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
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.
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.
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).
A forgotten community: The little town in Niger keeping the lights on in France
July 25, 2017 | 0 Comments
Welcome to Arlit, the impoverished uranium capital of Africa.
From Niamey, the capital of the landlocked West African nation of Niger, we call ahead to a desert town in the remote north of the country.
“Journalists? On their way here? It’s been a while”, we hear down the phone from our contact. “We welcome you with open arms, but only on the pretence that you’re visiting to interview migrants on their way to Algeria. If they find out you’re poking your nose in their business, it’s a lost cause.”
That same evening, the public bus jolts as it sets off. Destination: the gates of the Sahara.
The stuffy subtropical heat gradually fades into scorching drought and plains of seemingly endless ochre sands. About two days later, we pass through a gateway with “Arlit” written on it in rusty letters.
The town of about 120,000 inhabitants is located in one of the Sahel’s most remote regions, not far from the Algerian border. The surrounding area is known to be the operating territory of numerous bandits and armed groups, including Islamist militants. It is like an island in the middle of the desert, an artificial oasis with only one raison d’être: uranium.
Areva in Arlit
For Arlit, 2 February 1968 was a crucial date. Eight years earlier, Niger had gained its independence from France, but now, the former colonial power was deepening its role in the country once again. After years of research, the French government had decided to open its first uranium mine in the area.
Starting production was relatively straightforward. “In the West you need a bookshelf full of permissions and certificates. In Niger, you give someone a spade and two dollars a day, and you’re mining uranium”, wrote journalist Danny Forston when he visited the town.
And so it went. The first shovel in the northern sand was accompanied by handshakes and the promise of an honest collaboration between one of the world’s least developed countries and its former coloniser. The French swore that Arlit would soon be known as Le Petit Paris.
Since then, approximately 150,000 tonnes of uranium have been extracted by the majority state-owned French company Areva, which is now one of the largest uranium producers in the world. The two mines around Arlit – Somaïr and Cominak – account for around a third of the multi-billion-dollar company’s total global production.
France uses this uranium to generate nuclear power, some of which is sold on to other European countries. According to Oxfam, over one-third of all lamps in France light up thanks to uranium from Niger.
However, in contrast to France, Niger has failed to see similar benefits. The West African country has become the world’s fourth largest producer of uranium, which contributes tens of millions to the nation’s budget each year. Yet it has remained one of the world’s poorest and least developed countries, with almost half its 20 million population living below the poverty line. Its annual budget has typically been a fraction of Areva’s yearly revenue.
The main reason for this is the deal struck between Areva and Niger. The details have not been made public, but some journalists and activists such as Ali Idrissa, who campaigns for more transparency in the industry, have seen the agreement. Amongst other things, the documents suggest that the original deal generously exempted Areva from customs, export, fuel, materials and revenue taxes.
In 2014, Niger attempted to re-negotiate. As the agreement came up for renewal, the government called for the tax breaks to be removed and for the low royalty rate to be raised from 5.5% to 12-15%. Areva insisted this would make its activities unprofitable and suspended operations for two weeks during negotiations, officially for maintenance reasons.
Eventually a new deal was agreed, but the power dynamic between Areva and Niger had been made clear in the drawn out negotiations.
Apart from criticising the Nigerien government for not spending its uranium revenue where it is most needed – such as in health care, education and agriculture – Idrissa emphasises the bigger geopolitical picture: “Don’t forget that Niger isn’t just negotiating with a regular company, but with the French state. Their development aid, military and political support means that we cannot ignore our former coloniser. Our dependency from France goes hand in hand with crooked business deals.”
Forgotten in the desert
Exhausted from the long journey to Arlit, we’re received in the dingy office of Mouvement Unique des Organisations de la Société Civile d’Arlit (MUOSCA), a local umbrella group for environmental and humanitarian NGOs.
In the corner sits an old ventilator covered in cobwebs. It seems needless to ask if it still works. Either way, there’s no power today.
“If either Areva or the government were to find out you’re poking your nose in their business, they’ll go to any length to make your work very difficult”, says MUOSCA’s director Dan Ballan Mahaman Sani as he wipes the sweat from his brow. “Besides that, Westerners are attractive targets in this region.”
Indeed, there is a history of Islamist militant attacks and kidnappings in the area, including some directly targeting Areva. In 2010, seven of the company’s employees were abducted, including five French nationals. In 2013, an attack on the Somaïr mine left one dead and 16 injured.
While the world held its breath as armed groups stepped up operations in the region, Areva, managed to extract over 4,000 tons of uranium, up from two years before, without too much trouble.
Dan Ballan says this illustrates how far the Nigerien uranium industry stands apart from the country’s social environment and how isolated Arlit has become especially amidst regional insecurity.
“International NGOs or UN agencies don’t exist here, and Areva has nothing to fear from the Nigerien government,” he says. “We’re literally a forgotten community, completely left to the mercy of the multinational.”
According to Dan Ballan and others, the uranium mining industry has taken a huge toll on Arlit and the region. While Areva has a multi-billion-dollar turnover, the majority of people here live in a patchwork of corrugated iron shelters on sandstone foundations. Poverty is rife. Power outages lasting two or more days are regarded as normal.
Moreover, while the uranium mines consume millions of litres each day, only a small proportion of Arlit’s Nigerien population enjoy running water. A 2010 Greenpeace studyestimated that 270 billion litres of water had been used by the mines over decades of operations, draining a fossil aquifer more than 150 metres deep. The depletion of these ancient water reserves has contributed to desertification and the drying up of vegetation.
“There’s not much fauna and flora left here. Local herdsmen left years ago,” says a water seller by the side of the road. Each day, he fills 25-litre containers with water from wells outside of town, and pushes a cart loaded with them into the city centre.
An elderly customer buys his daily portion of water, while the seller casually wipes off a layer of red dust from the can. “Look at this,” says the man. “All this while, a few kilometres away, Areva consumes millions of litres a day.”
The water in Arlit, however, is not only scarce. Researchers over the years also suggest that, along with the soil and air, it contains alarming levels of radiotoxins.
Bruno Chareyon, director of the French Commission for Independent Research and Information on Radiation (CRIIAD), has been measuring radioactivity in and around Arlit for over a decade. His studies from 2003 and 2004 suggested that the drinking water contains levels of uranium at ten to hundred times the World Health Organisation’s recommended safety standards.
“Despite these findings, Areva has stated continuously that they haven’t measured any excess radioactivity during their biannual examinations,” he says.
In 2009, Greenpeace conducted their own tests and found that five of six examined wells – all used to get drinking water – contained excess radioactivity as well as traces of toxins such as sulphates and nitrates.
When asked about this, Moussa Soley, Areva’s spokesperson in Niger, answered that this was simply the result of “natural contamination”.
At the bustling local market in Arlit, down some meandering alleyways, there are the normal wares, but among them one finds some more peculiar items: large industrial cogs; parts of metal cranes; digging equipment; and even a dump truck.
“All of these are cast-downs from the mines,” says Dan Ballan. “Useless material finds its way to local merchants, who recuperate it and sell it on. Most of them have no idea of the risks.”
CRIIRAD readings of goods at the market from 2003 and 2004 showed radioactivity levels at up to 25 times the maximum standards. “People buy radioactive material to cook with, build their homes with, or raise their children with,” says Dan Ballan.
Back in 2004, Areva admitted that mining equipment finds its way to markets, but said that it was doing its best to counter these activities with local authorities. The scrap metal found at the market suggests Areva’s campaign has not been fully effective.
As well as old discarded equipment, the mining industry also produces enormous amounts of toxic waste – around 5,000 tons per ton of extracted uranium. Over the years, hills of this debris have built up, containing radioactive substances such as radium, polonium, arsenic and poisonous radon gasses.
Areva’s spokesperson Solley insists that this does not pose any risk to the environment. “The open air makes sure the particles are spread around the adjacent areas,” he says. “The decay starts after just a couple of days and values are so low that there is no possibility of poisoning.”
Greenpeace and CRIIRAD confirm that radioactive dust spreads far and wide, sometimes to hundreds of kilometres away. But contrary to claims of a “superfast decay”, they say that while some products have half-lives of just days, others have half-lives of tens of years.
Furthermore, researchers say that radioactive waste is not simply dispersed. “The same radioactive rubble was used in Arlit on more than one occasion for landfills or building roads and homes”, alleges Chareyron. In 2007, CRIIRAD found that some road surfaces had radioactive values over a hundred times standard values.
After these findings, Areva claimed to have solved the problem, but Greenpeace came across similar findings in 2009. One measurement found levels over five hundred times higher than international safety standards. “This means that a person spending less than one hour a day at that location would be exposed to more than the maximum allowable annual dose,” explained one of the researchers.
Following Greenpeace’s study, Areva published its own report, denying all the environmental NGO’s allegations and highlighting its role in the Nigerien economy and for development. Areva argued that Greenpeace’s “anti-nuclear and Manichean discourse is based on public fears and disinformation, which only advocates for confrontation between local populations and the multinational.”
African Arguments’ own repeated requests for comments from Areva’s headquarters regarding various allegations were all declined.
Living with uranium
It is not difficult to come across Arlit residents suffering from serious health problems. In Akokan, a nearby community predominantly inhabited by Areva employees, we meet Hammett, 47, under a rusty shed.
“I had to quit because of unbearable pains in my joints, but I can consider myself lucky,” says the former worker. “The cases of heart attacks, strange skin conditions or permanent migraines in this place cannot be counted.”
Our conversation is interrupted by a deep thudding bang. “They’re digging in the Somaïr mine”, he explains. “The heavier the explosions, the faster they can get to work. And the more radioactive dust whirls down over Akokan.”
Elsewhere in town, Cissé, who was a technician at Areva for 25 years, limps along the road. Through the years, his right leg slowly became paralysed. “I got fired when I couldn’t perform anymore,” he says. With that, Cissé lost the right to Areva health care. “I don’t have the means to get my leg looked at elsewhere. I can only hope that one day it will get better.”
Fatima, a local inhabitant of about 50 years old, also claims to have had major health complications. “I’ve had four miscarriages and at the moment I’m suffering of an unknown skin condition on my legs,” she says. She lifts up her garments up to her knees, revealing a peculiar rash.
When asked about safety precaution for employees, Adamou Maraye, who is responsible for radiation protection at Cominak, reveals that miners are exposed to radiation up to 300 times the natural value. “That’s why we make them wear mouth masks and gloves. That should suffice as precautionary measure against radiotoxic substances”, he says, somewhat alarmingly.
The only hospitals in Arlit are run by Areva, with all the medical staff on the company payroll. The government provides no healthcare here. At the Cominak facility, Dr Alassane Seydou claims to have never diagnosed someone with a disease that could be linked to radiation or toxins. He says that in more than 40 years, not a single case of cancer has been discovered. “All employees are systematically examined, but we haven’t encountered any strange diseases,” he claims.
In 2005, the French law association Sherpa launched an investigation into Areva’s activities in Arlit. Speaking to them, one former employee at Somaïr hospital alleged that patients with cancer had been knowingly miscategorised as having HIV or malaria. The surgeon-in-chief at the hospital denied those claims.
There have been no official, large-scale health studies conducted in Arlit, but some smaller-scale studies give an indication of the prevalence of illness among residents and former Areva employees.
In 2013, the Nigerien organisation Réseau Nationale Dette et Développement interviewed 688 former Areva workers. Almost one quarter of them had suffered severe medical issues, ranging from cancer and respiratory problems to pains in their joints and bones. At least 125 had stopped work because of these health issues.
A similar survey was carried out on French former employees around the same time. In 2012, Areva was found culpable in the death of Serge Venel, an engineer in Arlit from 1978-1985. A few months before his passing, doctors had found that his cancer was caused by the “breathing of uranium particles”. The case went to court, with the judge ordering Areva to pay compensation for its “inexcusable fault”. Before the court of appeals, only the Cominak mine was found responsible.
Following the verdict, Venel’s daughter, Peggy Catrin-Venel, founded an organisation to protect the rights of former Areva employees. As part of this project, she managed to trace around 130 of about 350 French workers who had lived in Arlit at the same time as her father. 60% of those she was able to find information on had already died, most of them from the same cancer as her father.
Catrin-Venel continues to fight against Areva, but she is not alone. As shown in the documentary Uranium, L’héritage Empoisonné, Jacqueline Gaudet is also standing up to the company.
She founded the organisation Mounana after she lost her father, mother and husband all to cancer in the space of just a few years. Her husband and father had worked at an Areva uranium mine in Gabon, while her mother lived there in a house built from mining rubble. Their cancers were reportedly caused by excessive exposure to radon, which is released during uranium extraction. In collaboration with lawyers from Sherpa and Doctors of the World, Gaudet’s organisation works to collect testimonies from former employees in order to build cases.
For Michel Brugière, former director of Doctors of the World, it’s still unthinkable that so many employees of the French state-owned company could fall ill like this. Speaking in the documentary, he commented: “How can one allow one’s staff to live and work in such a polluted environment? This is unbelievable. It’s reminiscent of long gone abuses.”
In the same vein, Greenpeace describes Arlit as a forgotten battlefield of the nuclear industry. “There are few places where the catastrophic effects of uranium mining on nearby communities and the environment are felt more distinctly than in Niger”, said researcher Andrea Dixon.
Back in Arlit, the stories of French former employees standing up to Areva are well-known. But the struggle for Nigerien workers to get recognised is even steeper than in Europe. “Both the legal system and the financial means to stand up for our rights are lacking”, says Dan Ballan. “In a couple of years, the uranium reserves will be depleted and Areva will leave, however the pollution and underdevelopment will stay behind.”
He may be right, but Areva will not be going far. About 80km away, a third and enormous new Nigerien uranium mine called Imouraren is being developed. “Lacking any perspective of another job, the workers will eventually move wherever the mine is”, says the local activist.
In our last hours in Arlit we drive around in town. It’s the afternoon, the sky is dark red, and a harsh wind is blowing. A new sandstorm is gathering. We try not to think of the particles it carries from the radioactive hills.
The stormy twilight reveals bright yellow grains by the side of the road. “Sulphur,” our driver says. “It’s used in the mines, but it’s everywhere.” Between the yellow dust, a boy draws figures in the sand.
Along the so-called uranium route, which connects Arlit with Agadez and the Nigerien capital, we finally leave the mining area. It’s the same road Areva uses to transport the uranium to the West African ports. From there, much of it is shipped on to one of 58 French nuclear plants where it’s used to power light bulbs, computers and technologies – all thousands of miles away from dusty Nigerien desert and Arlit, the little town that pays the ultimate price to keep the lights on in France.
*African Arguments.Lucas Destrijcker is a Belgian freelance journalist and photographer focusing on (forced) migration, conflict and development. He works as a reporting officer for the United Nations in the Central African Republic. Mahadi Diouara is a Malian journalist, photographer and cameraman specialising in the Sahel region and Francophone Africa. He worked for AFP, France 24 and Reuters, for which he reported from his home town Gao during the civil war in 2012 and 2013. Today he has his own communication agency in Bamako.This story was realised with the support of Free Press Unlimited and the Lira Starting Grant for Young Journalists of the Fonds voor Bijzondere Journalistieke Projecten.
IGD Launches Inaugural “Making Farming Cool!” Podcast Series
July 20, 2017 | 0 Comments
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.
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
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.
“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.
The CFA Franc: French Monetary Imperialism in Africa
July 13, 2017 | 0 Comments
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.
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.
Macron Got A Lot Wrong About Africa … But Made One Good Point
July 12, 2017 | 0 Comments
By Viviane Rutabingwa*
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
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.”
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.”
*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