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Mugabe ready to cede power – Tsvangirai
July 25, 2012 | 0 Comments

Wellington – Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe is ready to cede power if elections planned for the troubled African nation do not go his way, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said Wednesday.

Tsvangirai said he did not believe Mugabe, who disputed election results in 2008 and eventually retained the presidency under a power-sharing deal, would risk another round of violence in Zimbabwe.

He said 88-year-old Mugabe, who has led the country since independence in 1980, wanted to protect his legacy and would abide by the result of a ballot scheduled to be held within the next 12 months.

“I’m sure he will accept the result,” Tsvangirai told reporters during an official trip to New Zealand.

“I do not see any reason why he should plunge the country again into another dispute.

“I think he’s committed, for his own legacy and the legacy of the country, to move forward and he has to accept the result if it is conducted in a free and fair manner.”

Tsvangirai confirmed he would stand against his arch-rival Mugabe in the election, which is set to be held under a new constitution, a draft of which was finalised on Friday.

He described the draft constitution as a “progressive step” which he hoped would help Zimbabwe emerge from decades of violence and instability.

New chapter

“Although we have suffered, there is no way we can bring back our loved ones,” he said.

“We need to open a new chapter. That’s why I say revenge should not be on the agenda. There should be reconciliation, rebuilding and reconstruction. That should be the future direction.”

To help the country move on and rebuild its economy, Tsvangirai said the international community should ease sanctions if Zimbabwe showed a commitment to staging legitimate elections.

“No country can progress with such measures against it,” he said, adding that sanctions had put a “financial squeeze” on the economy, which has stabilised in recent years after hyper-inflation followed the 2008 election.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, who received a briefing on the situation in Zimbabwe from Tsvangirai, said there was a compelling case to lift sanctions if elections went ahead.

“If free and fair elections are held in Zimbabwe, and therefore a free and open voice can be given to the people of Zimbabwe, why wouldn’t the global community respond in kind and support that new regime?” he said.

New Zealand imposed sporting and travel sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2002 over alleged human rights abuses by the Mugabe government.

– AFP

*Source: www.news24.com

 

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Ghana VP sworn in hours after president’s death
July 25, 2012 | 0 Comments

ACCRA, Ghana (AP) – President John Atta Mills’ election victory secured Ghana’s reputation as one of the most stable democracies in West Africa, though his death Tuesday came before the 68-year-old could finish his first term in office.

Hours later, Vice President President John Mahama took the oath of office, further underscoring Ghana’s stability in a region where the death of a leader can spark a coup attempt.

Ghanaian state-run television stations GTV and TV3 broke into their regular programming to announce the president’s death Tuesday afternoon, which came three days after his 68th birthday.

Mahama was sworn in as president by 8:15 p.m., raising the golden staff of office above his head only six hours after Atta Mills’ death.

Ghana had “been hit by an unprecedented tragedy” Mahama said, adding that the late leader “gave himself to bettering the lives of the people of this country.”

Chief of Staff John Henry Martey Newman told the nation that Atta Mills had died at the 37th Military Hospital in Accra but gave no details about the cause. Rumors had swirled about his health after he made several trips to the United States in recent months.

“It is with a heavy heart and deep sorrow that we announce the sudden and untimely death of the president of the Republic of Ghana,” Newman said.

On the streets of Cape Coast, 80 miles from Accra, people held radios to their ears on the street, listening to the funeral hymns playing on FM stations and waiting for more information about the president’s unexpected death.

“His speeches were full of a spirit of love and peace,” said Efua Mensima, 45. “He was soft-spoken. I wept when I heard of his death.”

In a predominantly Ghanaian section of Ivory Coast‘s commercial capital, 10 men gathered just outside the home of Nour Ousmane Aladji, monitoring radio reports Tuesday night and trying to organize a bus to take them to Ghana for the president’s funeral.

“The Ghanaian people were happy with this president and his program for the development of the country,” said Aladji, 27, a taxi driver who moved to Abidjan in 2000. “Frankly, we liked him. Since his arrival everything he undertook was for the well-being of the country and his countrymen.”

Chris Fomunyoh, the senior director for Africa for the Washington-based National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, said that Ghana’s democracy could weather the death of a president.

In other nations in West Africa, the death of a ruler usually spells a coup, as it did in neighboring Guinea following the 2008 death of longtime dictator Lansana Conte, and Togo, where the military seized power after the president’s death in 2005 in order to install the leader’s son.

“Ghanaian democracy has been tested and its institutions function well,” said Fomunyoh. “There’s no reason to think that Ghana and its democracy will not handle this event properly.”

Ghana, whose economy has been fueled by gold, cocoa and timber exports in the past, hopes to put its oil money to good use, mindful of how nearby Nigeria suffered through military dictatorships and widespread corruption over its oil wealth.

Atta Mills was elected in a 2008 runoff vote that was the closest in the country’s history — and his third presidential bid. The election also marked the country’s second successful handover of power from one legitimately elected leader to another.

He campaigned on a platform of change, arguing that the country’s growth had not been felt in people’s wallets.

“People are complaining. They’re saying that their standard of living has deteriorated these past eight years,” he told The Associated Press in 2008. “So if Ghana is a model of growth, it’s not translating into something people can feel.”

Seth Arthur, 29, who works at a hotel, said he voted for Atta Mills and believes he needed more time to fulfill his promises.

“He wasn’t 100 percent successful though he tried. He tried.”

Richard Downie, the deputy director of the Africa program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said that Atta Mills may be remembered less for who he is or what he did, and more for what his election in 2008 symbolized.

He defeated the ruling party by the slimmest of margins, marking two successful handovers of power in Ghana, a benchmark used by political scientists to measure a mature democracy.

“It showed just how robust Ghana’s democracy was, and it proved here in the U.S. what a success Ghana had become in terms of its political maturity,” he said.

Atta Mills had traveled to the U.S. in March where he met with Obama, whose administration offered its condolences Tuesday.

“Our thoughts go to his family and to the people of Ghana who have a lost a beloved leader,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.

Opposition newspapers had recently reported he was not well enough to run for a second term.

Last month when he went to the U.S., some radio stations reported that he was dead. When Atta Mills returned to Ghana, he jogged at the airport and blasted those who had reported his death

A government official in neighboring Ivory Coast said that he saw Atta Mills around six months ago in Ethiopia during an African Union meeting.

“We are hearing that he died of cancer of the throat. I saw him in Addis Ababa— not this meeting, but the one maybe six months ago,” said the official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press. “He was walking slowly. I am surprised to learn that he is only 68. He looked much older.”

Still, the official said no one suspected he was gravely ill. “Yes, his death is a surprise — it’s six months before the election, and he was a candidate.”

He won the 2008 second round ballot capturing a razor-thin victory with 50.23 percent of the vote — or 4,521,032 ballots. His opponent, Nana Akufo-Addo, garnered 49.77 percent — or 4,480,446 votes.

Atta Mills also served as vice president under Jerry Rawlings, a coup leader who was later elected president by popular vote and surprised the world by stepping down after the 2000 vote.

Atta Mills spent much of his career teaching at the University of Ghana. He earned a doctorate from London’s School of Oriental and African Studies before becoming a Fulbright scholar at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

Source : www.usatoday.com.Larson reported from Dakar, Senegal. Associated Press writers Sammy Ajei and Jon Gambrell in Lagos, Nigeria; Rukmini Callimachi in Dakar, Senegal; Laura Burke in Cape Coast, Ghana; and Robbie Corey-Boulet in Abidjan, Ivory Coast contributed to this report.

 

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President Obama Pays Tribute to President Mills
July 25, 2012 | 0 Comments

WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama paid tribute to Ghana President John Atta Mills on Tuesday after his sudden death, hailing him as a “strong advocate” for human rights and a tireless champion of his people.

The 68-year-old Mills died Tuesday hours after being taken ill. He had recently traveled to the United States for a medical check-up. The cause of death remained unclear.

“It was with great regret that I learned of the passing of President John Evans Atta Mills of Ghana,” Obama said, in a White House statement.

“I will always remember my trip to Ghana in 2009, and the hospitality that President Mills and the people of Ghana showed to me, Michelle, Malia, Sasha and our entire delegation,” he said, also recalling Mills’ US visit this year.

“President Mills tirelessly worked to improve the lives of the Ghanaian people. He helped promote economic growth in Ghana in the midst of challenging global circumstances and strengthened Ghana’s strong tradition of democracy.”

Obama also praised Mills as a “strong advocate for human rights and for the fair treatment of all Ghanaians,” as he offered his condolences to the people of Ghana on behalf of all Americans.

Presidential elections are set for December in Ghana, a country seen as a rare example of stable democracy in West Africa and which recently joined the ranks of the world’s large-scale oil producers.

Mills was set to seek re-election.

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said on Twitter: “Saddened by the death of President John Atta Mills. Our thoughts are with his loved ones and the great people of Ghana.”

Source: www.ghanaweb.com

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Cameroonians Abroad Poised for Major Impact
July 25, 2012 | 0 Comments

 By Denis Foretia, MD.MPH.MBA*

 Every student of history or international development would certainly agree that my country, Cameroon, faces tremendous challenges if it is to seriously implement a growth agenda in order to regain its economic footing. These students would also agree that while structural issues diminish the prospects of an economic renaissance, significant opportunities exist to re-engineer a collective political dispensation as a necessary precursor to socio-economic prosperity. For the last decade, we have maintained a staggering unemployment rate of greater than 30 percent. In 2009, the government of Cameroon put together the Vision 2035 strategy with the goal of attaining middle-income status by 2035. For this to be remotely feasible, the country must sustain double-digit growth in its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The fact that our GDP growth has not reached 5% since the onset of this strategy is not particularly surprising. Bretton Woods institutions estimate only a 4.5% increase in GDP for 2013. It is particularly informative that the government of Cameroon, in its Vision 2035 plan has no real strategy for engaging the Cameroonians residing abroad.

While many African countries, notably Senegal, Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria have made tangible efforts to attract diasporan investments, we in Cameroon have proceeded very timidly. The recent presidential degree, issued late last year amid the October presidential elections, to extend voting rights to Cameroonians abroad was largely seen as window-dressing to a problem that should pre-occupy the government’s growth agenda.

Despite the timidity with regards to the formulation and passage of the Cameroon Diaspora Bill, efforts are underway among Cameroonian communities abroad to facilitate the country’s economic transformation. A growing consensus has emerged among Cameroonians in the United States to play such a pivotal role with regards to Diaspora-Directed Investments and the conveyor belt for foreign-direct investment, the strengthening of civil society and the spearheading of progressive economic policies.

The Cameroon Professional Society (CPS) is a key organization in the quest for substantive diaspora engagement. Some have argued that it is the singular organization with a truly “national” agenda. With its focus of “nurturing tomorrows leaders today” the CPS has expanded the playing field, energized Cameroonians from all professions and has laid a detailed framework for harnessing the socio-economic potential of Cameroonians abroad. The CPS Diaspora Proposal calls for government incentives that are not only broad in scope but equally deep in reach. It calls for the elimination of travel bottlenecks, the facilitation of land ownership, business creation and the strengthening of our legal framework.

CPS activities have demonstrated its broad reach and unique perspective on macroeconomic policies. In fact, the Distinguished Annual Congress organized in Washington D.C provides the platform for critical appraisal of our current development trajectory by Cameroonian stakeholders, development institutions and foreign partners seeking to capitalize on the investment opportunities in the country. As Cameroonians and friends of Cameroon convene this weekend in Washington D.C for the 2012 CPS Distinguished Annual Congress, they will use the opportunity to focus on the Congress theme: – “Towards an Emerging Economy – The Road Map for Cameroon.”

Participants will discuss the feasibility of the 2035 strategy given the current growth projections, the state of both hard and soft infrastructure, the challenges facing our health, social services and educational sectors, and the credibility, or lack thereof, of our legal system. The Congress provides the opportunity for attendees to examine important areas in our feeble economy with a focus on the banking and informal sectors.

The world is changing rapidly, powered by the revolution in information technology especially within the last decade. As once famously said, even if we stumble in our quest for a better future, we, as a people, would still be moving forward. The 2012 CPS Distinguished Annual Congress will demonstrate that Cameroonians abroad are ready for constructive engagement. Now is the time to become part of the solution. http://congress.cpsociety.org

*Dr. Denis Foretia is a surgeon and president of the Cameroon Professional Society (CPS). He holds a medical degree from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, a Masters in Public Health from the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins as well as a Masters in Business Administration from the Carey School of Business also at the Johns Hopkins University. For more information on the CPS,visit www.cpsociety.org

 

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Britain and EU to lift sanctions against Robert Mugabe’s allies
July 24, 2012 | 0 Comments

 

Britain announced a “step change” in its policy towards Zimbabwe, promising to exempt a raft of President Robert Mugabe’s allies from personal sanctions.

By David Blair*

The measures, first imposed a decade ago, ban 112 individuals from visiting the European Union, while also freezing any assets they hold in European banks. The targets include generals, cabinet ministers, businessmen and officials, all of whom are blamed for masterminding political violence, which has claimed hundreds of lives, or looting

Zimbabwe’s shattered economy, which has impoverished millions.

Most of the targeted individuals will be taken off the list and, in principle, allowed to visit Britain and any other EU member state.

A meeting of EU foreign ministers agreed to take this step provided that Zimbabwe holds a “credible” referendum on a new constitution later this year. The restrictions will be eased regardless of whether Zimbabwe goes on to hold a free and fair presidential election in 2013.

Violence has scarred every poll in Zimbabwe for the last 12 years, with militias from Mr Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party hunting down his opponents. At least 200 people were murdered before the last presidential election in 2008, with thousands more beaten, tortured or abducted.

The Foreign Office said that sanctions could be reimposed if the bloodshed were to recur. Mr Mugabe, 88, has promised to contest the next election after 32 years in power.

He currently appears as number one on the sanctions list – and William Hague, the foreign secretary, made clear that he would stay there. Sanctions on Mr Mugabe and a core of his closest aides will remain in place despite Monday’s decision. But more than half the names will be dropped from the list.

Mr Hague said this was justified by “concrete progress on the ground”.

“We have made clear that we would respond to a peaceful and credible referendum in Zimbabwe, due to take place in the Autumn, with a suspension of the majority of EU Restrictive Measures, but not including those on Mugabe,” he said.

This amounted to an “important step-change” in policy towards Zimbabwe, said the Foreign Secretary, with the aim of encouraging “reformers across the political spectrum”.

President Mugabe has formed a coalition with Morgan Tsvangirai, the former opposition leader who now serves as prime minister. A new constitution has been agreed that should make a free and fair election more likely.

But real power still lies in Mr Mugabe’s hands and economic recovery has been held back by his insistence on keeping a punitive law that compels any company owned by foreigners or white Zimbabweans to surrender 51 per cent of its shares.

Although no restrictions apply to trade or investment in Zimbabwe, Mr Mugabe has blamed sanctions for the country’s economic malaise. This propaganda line – however preposterous – has been widely believed. Western diplomats in Harare believe that lifting the restrictions would rob Mr Mugabe of his alibi.

These measures were first imposed at the request of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which helped compile the list of targeted individuals.

Today, however, Mr Tsvangirai, the leader of the MDC, wants them to be lifted.

Alex Vines, head of the Africa programme at Chatham House, said the measures had “passed their sell-by date” and become an “impediment to progress”. He added that yesterday’s decision struck the right balance between rewarding progress and maintaining the pressure on Mr Mugabe.

Some individuals have already been dropped from the sanctions list, including Patrick Chinamasa, the Zanu-PF justice minister. He played a key role in undermining the independence of the judiciary by personally hounding Anthony Gubbay, then chief justice, into resignation.

*Source: www.telegraph.co.uk

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‘Peeling back the mask: A quest for justice in Kenya’, a Kenyan political thriller starring sleaze, scandal and spin
July 24, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Simon Allison*

He says he’s a whistle-blower, exposing the corruption and cynicism at the heart of the Kenyan political establishment, all the way into the prime minister’s office. Others describe him as a disgruntled and bitter, a sacked employee with ambition and axes to grind. All SIMON ALLISON knows for sure is that Miguna Miguna has kicked up a whole lot of dirt – and that it probably won’t change anything.

Miguna Miguna, ‘the man with two names’ at the centre of the political controversy that has taken Kenya by storm, is a larger than life character. He’s loud, prone to exaggerated hand gestures and always dressed in flowing robes and some form of headgear – a sartorial habit that has attracted plenty of criticism of its own, with commentators gleefully pointing out a passing resemblance to Zairean dictator Mobuto Sese Seko. “I dress African. I am a pan-Africanist at heart,” he told one interviewer. “If was able, I would sleep in African pyjamas.”

African pyjamas or not, Miguna probably isn’t sleeping all that soundly at the moment. For the last couple of weeks, the only thing Kenyan politicians and journalists have been able to talk about is his new tell-all book, which claims to lay bare the inner workings of Kenya’s fragile coalition government and attacks the record of prime minister Raila Odinga. “Kenyans have never seen anything like it. The media feeding frenzy was like none other in their history up to this point in time,” wrote Joe Adama in the Nairobi Star.

Much of the talk has been vitriol – and most of it directed at Miguna himself. Things got so bad that one group of villagers burnt an effigy of Miguna in a mock-funeral, complete with mourning dirges and cleansing rituals. Miguna, meanwhile, has taken himself and his family to Canada, on what he says is a pre-planned holiday; critics suggest he’s fleeing into exile to escape the heat, and the anticipated slew of libel lawsuits.

Miguna’s book, Peeling back the mask: A quest for justice in Kenya, was the fulfilment of a threat. Miguna worked as an aide to Odinga from after the botched 2007 elections until late 2011, when he was sacked by the prime minister for not toeing the party line. Miguna, less than pleased by this decision, threatened to “undress” the prime minister. His book is an attempt to make good on that promise.

In it, Miguna paints a picture of a prime minister’s office stuffed with corrupt and thieving politicians. The politicians are portrayed as venal and self-serving, looking out for their own interests rather than their constituency’s, while the grand coalition government, which has been in charge Kenya since the post-election violence of 2008, is cast as lumbering and ineffective, and always at the mercy of the power struggle between Odinga and President Mwai Kibaki.

Odinga himself comes in for some withering criticism. “I know Raila very well,” writes Miguna. “I know that he is a very weak leader. I also know that he doesn’t believe in, is not committed to, and doesn’t represent the new dispensation…He isn’t dedicated to the fight against corruption. He has no loyalty but to himself and his immediate circle…Through the numerous preferential treatment of his family and relatives, it’s obvious that Raila is a nepotist.”

In addition to the juicy anecdotes, Miguna makes a few stunning allegations. He offers some specifics on local corruption cases, especially to do with a maize importation scam; he insinuates that the results of the 2007 elections were fixed, and that Odinga’s party – apparent victims of the fixing – may have knowingly turned a blind eye; and, most damagingly, he claims that Odinga’s party deliberately stoked up ethnic tensions in the run-up to those elections. It was these tensions that resulted in the post-election violence which killed hundreds, displaced thousands and destroyed Kenya’s hard-won reputation for peace and stability.

Miguna claims he’s got even more dirt that he left out of the book. “Every single leader here, I can take to The Hague [where the International Criminal Court is based]. I have it right here. And I am saying come baby come…” he told his audience, a clear threat to his critics. He says he went easy on Odinga and his party: “When I decide in a 500-page book not to say what the Orange Democratic Movement did in the PEV [post-election violence], they should take me, kneel before me and kiss my feet.”

Kissing his feet is the very last thing the prime minister, or any of the other names implicated in the book, is doing. Although Odinga himself is remaining relatively quiet, the fight back has begun – and it’s taking the form of a smear campaign against the Miguna the “bloviating ignoramus”, as one partisan commentator described him. Odinga’s main defender has been his communications consultant, journalist Sarah Elderkin, who wrote a lengthy three-part rebuttal of some of Miguna’s claims in the Daily Nation newspaper, focusing particularly on the claims of his own self-importance. She wrote that the book was typical of the Miguna she had come to know, describing him as “a person with deeply worrying issues and insufficient personal morality to restrain him from selling his friends down the road, let alone to prevent his embarking on a campaign of all-consuming personal vengeance filled with hatred.” Several lawsuits are also in the pipeline, from figures tarnished in the book, and the director of public prosecutions is looking into whether Miguna should be charged for withholding evidence relating to the post-election violence.

But Miguna himself is not the real issue, for Odinga and his team are working towards a rather grander prize. The real question is whether Miguna’s allegations – regardless of their basis in fact – are strong enough to jeopardise Odinga’s tilt at the presidency in 2013, for which he is favourite by some distance.

Chances are that he will weather the storm. The tone of the coverage of this drama has very much been coloured by political affiliation, with more time spent dwelling on the relative merits of the main players than on the substance of the allegations involved; this suggests that the controversy is merely hardening divisions rather than encouraging anyone to switch their support to someone else. And the reality may well be that Odinga, for all this flaws, is the best of a bad bunch; after all, two of his main competitors, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, are being tried for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court.

If there is a lesson for politicians in this somewhere, it’s that people like Miguna are better kept inside the tent pissing out, than outside pissing in. It’s a lesson the likes of Jacob Zuma know well, one suspects, explaining the lengths the presidency has taken to protect such controversial figures as Richard Mdlulu and Bheki Cele.

The lesson for the rest of us is that four years after the post-election violence, and in the run-up to another election, the ethnic and political fault-lines which exploded so disastrously last time round are still very near the surface.

Source:Daily Maverick

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Obama needs re-focus Africa strategy, says Museveni
July 24, 2012 | 0 Comments

 

The Obama Administration needs to re-focus its strategies to Africa.

Like the independence, Africa leaders, who opted for nationalizing their economies undermining the private sector, the American government is also focusing on software elements, which cannot ensure economic growth.
The President made these observations while meeting a delegation from the Obama Administration on the sidelines of the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa recently.
The delegation included; Michael Froman, who is President Obama’s Assistant and also Deputy National Security Advisor; Mr. Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs; Ambassador Mike Barrow and Cicely Smith.
President Museveni told the delegation that the Administration focuses on what he termed soft-ware instead of hard-ware factors.
He explained that Africa needs to overcome hardware factors, register economic growth that can generate funds to finance the soft-ware bottlenecks.
President Yoweri Museveni said that many African leaders were impressed by the rapid growth of the former Soviet Union which had transformed from a feudal state into a super power within a very short time without considering the important economic factors.
On the other hand, Mr. Museveni pointed out that countries like South Korea accessed large markets and registered strong economic growth and is an economic power.
He explained that Africa is stagnating because of the conflicting but unproven solutions that have been applied to the continent and the fact that Africans can survive easily.
“Even a fool can survive in Africa which is not possible on other continents”, he said, adding that “Africa’s problem is not over-population because the continent can accommodate more people. What is important is the spacing of the children for the safety of the mothers. The continent can accommodate more people.”
“A lot of time has been wasted on clichés such as Africa needs good governance, foreign aid. These are important but do not lead to economic growth”, he said. The President added that because the software factors cannot be sustained by the African countries, financing them is dependent on foreign aid through NGOs.
“In order to sustain good governance, he said, there is need for heavy investments in the hardware factors, such as construction of more dams to generate reliable and cheap energy, heavy investment in the private sector, construction of modern roads in partnership with government or those that can generate funding for the private investors and modern railway lines.”
Mr. Museveni stressed that there is also need to invest in technology that can ease the transportation of goods. “Technology is needed in the screening of containers, we can also have inter-state inspection at the ports and documentation so that goods move from country to country very quickly”, he said.
The President said that funding should also be invested in health services and education to have a skilled labour group that can work in industries.
Citing Uganda as example, President Museveni said that his government would have done more but time was wasted on debating the need for power with international financiers and the World Bank.
Mr. Museveni dismissed the linkage between economic growth and good governance saying that many African countries that have not had political instability are as backward as those that have gone through instability.
This, he said, means that stability must be linked to industrialization and access to both domestic and local markets.
He defended the retention of the AGOA arrangement saying that it has helped some African countries which had the basics in place.
For example, Mr. Museveni said, South Africa is selling cars to USA and other countries like Kenya. In Uganda, he said, that the country has also benefited.

*Source East African Business Week

 

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The scramble for Nigeria
July 24, 2012 | 0 Comments

The disastrous privatisation programme in Nigeria is the epitome of greed, avarice and corruption, benefitting  a tiny elite at the expense of everyone else.

Abdulrazaq Magaji*

A mad scramble for Nigeria has been underway since 1999. The name of the game is called privatisation. It was a programme put in place to dispose of some 1,000 state-owned enterprises and institutional buildings to a few highly placed Nigerians and their foreign collaborators. The exercise has never been transparent; it was not intended to be anyway. So far, it has been characterised, in typical Nigerian fashion, by greed and avarice. While privatisation may not be entirely dismissed, the manner in which it has so far been implemented in Nigeria leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

For decades, Nigerians have been contending with many non-performing state run enterprises and past efforts to stem the tide failed to turn things around. But while Nigerians knew this and more, and welcomed any moves at repositioning these money guzzlers, they hardly knew former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, had unpatriotic plans when he labelled all state run enterprises as corrupt and promised to breathe fresh life into them. Thereafter, the government proceeded on a frenzied and incoherent privatisation exercise that has continued to be the source of embarrassment and shame to Nigerians. Rather than handing over the enterprises to efficient private investors with the requisite technical knowhow and experience, the government proceeded on an exercise that was largely shrouded in secrecy and bereft of even the semblance of transparency. Most of the enterprises, including institutional buildings, were cornered by shady investors and their collaborators in high places in government. Even some of its most vociferous proponents believe so many things have gone wrong with the privatisation exercise. In an unusual admission of failure, the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) the body charged with overseeing the privatisation exercise, recently revealed that a miserly 10 percent of the 400 hundred privatised firms in Nigeria are properly functioning. Even at that, many sneering Nigerians and experts hotly dispute this figure.

One of the early signs that Obasanjo presided over a monumental fraud in the name of privatisation broke two months after he eased himself out of office following a failed bid to elongate his tenure. While on hand to receive a delegation from the United States Department of Energy on 17 July 2007, then director-general of the BPE, Irene Chigbue, was still maintaining that the handing over of Port Harcourt Refinery Company and Kaduna Refining and Petrochemical Company to Blue Star Oil Services Limited was a transparent exercise which, in her words, resulted from ‘a complex five-year transaction process conducted subject to international best practice and following the adoption of a multiple-bidder competitive tender process’. Nigerians knew Mrs. Chigbue was being economical with the truth as the privatisation of the refineries, like other hastily conducted ones in the twilight of the Obasanjo administration, was not transparent and apparently carried out to reward friends and loyalists of then outgoing President Obasanjo.
The flawed transaction surrounding the refineries is just one of many examples of the haphazard implementation of the privatisation policy. As if to confirm the fear of Nigerians, the privatisation exercise, right from the beginning, has been bogged down by greed, avarice and absence of transparency. These are evident in the sale of institutional buildings such as the Apo Legislative Quarters under the guise of the monetisation programme, the ‘concessioning’ of the National Theatre, Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos International Trade Fair Complex and the stalled sale of Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL), National Electric Power Authority (NEPA), as well as reforms in the ports, and power and oil sectors. For similar reasons, the sale of national steel companies located at Ajaokuta and Aladja, Daily Times of Nigeria, African Petroleum, ALSCON, NAFCON, Eleme Petrochemicals and their attendant labour disputes, the controversial auction sale of African Petroleum and Stallion House, the sale of Federal Government properties in Lagos and Abuja, among others, have stalled with millions going down the drain.

Taken on its own, the sloppy handling of the sale of Ajaokuta Steel Company, built at a cost of $1.5 billion, is a classic example of how fraud was perpetrated in the name of privatisation. SOLGAS, the company Ajaokuta Steel Company was handed to, clearly lacked the managerial skills and technical knowhow for the big job it was saddled with. After months of squabbles with the local branch of the iron and steel workers union, Nigerians woke up one day to discover that vital components of the company had been dismantled and shipped out of the country. All an embarrassed federal government did was to query SOLGAS. The outcome of the inquiry was a termination of the agreement by the federal government after which an Indian conglomerate was drafted in by the Obasanjo administration after the Indians paid $30 million. Today, the original dream of Ajaokuta to power the nation’s industrial take-off remains a dream.

NITEL might not have been a shining example of state run enterprise but the organisation, despite its structural weakness, was paying dividends in billions of naira to the Nigerian government. Rather than reposition this goose that laid the golden eggs, Obasanjo, upon assuming office in 1999, dubbed NITEL as a corrupt organisation that needed to be privatised. NITEL was handed over to IILL Limited, a company that did not have the technical knowhow to handle the project. Worse still, IILL Limited lacked the financial muscle to finance the purchase. Eventually IILL Limited could not pay, a situation that paved the way for Pentascope, a backwater Dutch company brought in by Mallam Nasir El-Rufai. It did not take much effort to discover Pentascope was a mere front. NITEL reportedly suffered a N100 billion deficit after the Pentascope debacle. After stumbling from one crisis to the other, the company was forced off the stage but not before it turned NITEL’s account into red and cleared what was left of the company’s offshore foreign currency savings. Any dream of NITEL escaping insolvency perished when TRANSCORP, a so called home grown company, was brought in as NITEL’s undertaker. 13 years on, the mad scramble for NITEL’s jugular is still ongoing, as her assets, spread across the country, have been shared and cornered by a privileged few.

A similar fate befell Daily Times of Nigeria (DTN). Until the early 1980’s, DTN was the largest Nigerian newspaper corporation with landed properties worth billions of naira. It was sold to Folio Communications as scrap. The matter was finally resolved by a Federal High Court of Nigeria ruling in January 2010 voiding the sale of 140 million shares of DTN to Folio Communications by the BPE. According to the court, Folio Communications acquired the Daily Times without paying a dime but curiously used the company’s shares and assets network to secure a bank loan to the tune of N750 million from Afribank. Folio Communications did not even bother to repay the loan before it stripped and sold off several DTN properties and assets. Another major scam concerns the fate of Apo Legislative Quarters, Abuja. In the frenzy to sell off the buildings, lawmakers who arrived in Abuja believing they would be allocated the flats were momentarily stranded because the housing units originally built for the MPs had been sold to their predecessors. Though more than N25 billion was realised from the sale of the Legislative Quarters, the nation has been groaning under the burden of an annual budget of N3 billion for accommodation allowances, thereby placing a big question mark on the long term benefit of disposing of the Legislative Quarters.

The sale of institutional buildings, including eye-popping presidential guest houses, which ended up in the hands of serving public officials heightened fears among Nigerians that there was more to the privatisation process than they were made to understand. It further confirmed the fear of Nigerians that the exercise was taken advantage of primarily by residents within the corridors of power and their loyalists. Some instances will suffice: Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, bought the presidential guest house at No. 16 (now No. 12) Mambilla Street, off Aso Drive, Maitama, Abuja; Dr. Andy Uba, former Special Assistant to the President on Domestic Matters, dethroned as governor of Anambra state by a Supreme Court judgement which reinstated Peter Obi, bought the property at No. 19 Ibrahim Taiwo Street, Aso Rock, Abuja; Mrs. Remi Oyo, Senior Special Assistant to the former President on Media bought the property on Yakubu Gowon Crescent, inside the Presidential Villa; while Dr. Mohammed Hassan Lawal, former Minister of Labour and Productivity bought the property on Suleiman Barau Street, Asokoro, Abuja. Mr. Akin Osuntokun, former Managing Director of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) and, later Honorary Political Adviser to the former president, bought the presidential guest house at No. 2 Mousa Traore Crescent, Abuja; while the official residence of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) was cornered by then IGP, Mr. Sunday Ehindero.

The criminal desperation to sell off Nigeria soon became a source of embarrassment to some of the main beneficiaries of the exercise. For instance, in March, 2007, Obasanjo’s deputy, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar said:

The well-conceived and well-intentioned privatization programme, which was designed to transparently transfer state-owned assets to private hands to ensure better service delivery, has gradually been personalized and our prized economic assets and choice enterprises have been cornered and auctioned off to a tiny cabal of private sector interests closely associated, or in full partnership with those in the corridors of power, with little or no pretence at due process or transparency… (They) used the privatization programme to auction our crowned jewels to themselves at rock-bottom prices.

He should know because as vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar chaired the National Council on Privatisation between 1999 till he fell out with Obasanjo in 2005. Four months later, specifically in July 2007, Senator Ahmadu Ali, former chairman of the ruling People’s Democratic Party added his voice to what had become a national uproar: ‘This is an age when they sell off everything including the family silver. I don’t encourage all these things. I don’t see why Federal Government Colleges should be sold. I don’t see why certain things that are of national security should be sold’.

The private sector was at its infancy when Nigeria inherited its colonial capitalist economy at independence. With the first coming of the military in 1966, Nigeria, in line with the policy of non-alignment, adopted a hybrid of state capitalism and socialism with significant private participation. In 1973, the military government introduced and rolled out an Indigenization Decree which nationalised operations run by multinational corporations and brought them under state control. The result was the proliferation of more 1,000 state run enterprises funded by Nigeria’s new found oil wealth. However, the crash of international oil prices in the early 1980’s, dwindling annual profits of state run enterprises and operational problems of nepotism, excessive bureaucracy, gross incompetence in management, lack of effective control and supervision by the Government among others made increased private participation in the national economy imperative. The response of the military administration of President Ibrahim Babangida to these challenges was the establishment of the Technical Committee on Privatization and Commercialization (TCPC) headed by the late Hamza Rafindadi Zayyad.

Under Rafindadi, the TCPC was widely hailed for laying down enduring structures to ensure effective privatisation of state run enterprises. Its assignments and targets were the disposal of Government equities in the Nigerian capital market, the privatisation of commercial and merchant banks, cement companies etc. To build on these economic landmarks, the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) was established in 1999 as a successor to the TCPC. The National Council on Privatisation (NCP) was also established as the supervising body to BPE. These two regulatory agencies on Nigeria’s privatisation were established through the promulgation of the Public Enterprises Privatisation and Commercialisation Act 1999. But as Nigerians have come to realise, the Obasanjo idea, typical of Nigerian standard practice, altered the original programme of privatisation.

As usual, nobody will be sanctioned for the fraud and, in typical Nigerian style, buck-passing and shadow-chasing have been the game. Do Nigerians have to wait for a ‘corrective regime’ to clear the mess? Should there be a problem in dealing with whoever derailed a programme that was widely hailed at inception? Our fingers are crossed!

* Source: PAMBAZUKA NEWS. Abdulrazaq Magaji is a writer, journalist and former history lecturer, living in Abuja, Nigeria. He can be reached at magaji777@yahoo.com

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Adebayor: A Higher Life, On A Soft Heart
July 24, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Obed Boafo*

Two years ago, on a tragic weekend in Cabinda, northern Angola, Togolese striker Emmanuel Sheyi Adebayor, together with other members of their national football team suffered an attack from unknown assailants on their way to the Angolan capital, Luanda.

The team was among 15 others who were to compete for honours at the 27th edition of the African Cup of Nations. The attack claimed the life of one member of the team and left several others injured and traumatized. The team had to exit the tournament and headed for the Togolese capital, Lome, to mourn their departed colleague.

In what saw an unpleasant back and forth disagreement between Togolese football officials and the governing body CAF on how genuine Togo’s exit had to be taken, the team made all the headlines for very repugnant reasons.

One person, who stood out in the whole controversy, and refusing to budge to CAF’s dictates was captain of the team Emmanuel Sheyi Adebayor. The 28 year old, then playing professional football for English Premiership side Manchester City, won for the team a lot of sympathy as he went on a free for all bashing of the governing body.

At a point, he described CAF as “an inhuman institution made up of self seeking individuals”. Those sentiments of his, was that of many on the continent who felt CAF was being overly naïve about the depth of grief the team, and as a matter of fact the whole continent was going through.

It’s been several months after that incident happened and the Togolese national team has since moved on. Although memories of Cabinda are still fresh in their minds, they’ve found a good reason to shake off the sad incident. The team is currently engaged in qualifiers for the 28th edition of the competition.

But for Adebayor, memories of the sad incident and the seemingly “unstable” and sometimes messy and unpredictable terrain in Togo have kept him away. Neighbouring Ghana, which lies on the West of Togo, has been the beneficiary of this football star.

In the plush and Ghana’s foremost up-market residential Trassaco Valley in Accra, sits a stunning edifice owned by the lanky football star. Trassaco Valley houses only the rich and affluent in the Ghanaian society and is also home to some of Ghana’s top A-List football celebrities. Recently, pictures of Adebayor’s long fleet of cars, and a huge residential property which he owns in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, has generated a lot of interest.

“I love Ghana. I feel very much at ease when I am here. That is not to say I don’t love my home country Togo. There is time for everything. At the moment, this is where I have decided to stay. We are all one people so it doesn’t really matter where you stay. It is the impact you can make on the people around you that matters.

“Ghana happens to be that one place where I connect with” he told me in a recent interview for the Africawatch Magazine.

“I have done a lot in Togo and this is known to all. Together with other friends of mine, I have helped communities such as Kpalime, Sokode and Aneho, with educational infrastructure for the youth and also provided the needed medical supplies to the community dispensary.  So something, and a lot, is being done”.

Adebayor’s explanation of how dear Ghana is to his heart is traced to his early years as a young adult. Stories are told of how he spent part of his formative years in Ghana before finding enough reason to pledge allegiance to Togo.

These days, he’s been making the headlines for all the right reasons. In recent times, and coming before the launch of his Sheyi Emmanuel Adebayor Foundation (SEA), the lanky footballer has spent most of his vacatiosn doing charity work. He’s commissioned borehole projects in the Togolese twin town of Hamile and Koro in Lambussie-Karni district in the Upper West Region, in the northern part of Ghana.

At a grand durbar of chiefs in Hamile in Wa, the Togolese star said: “I just couldn’t believe it when I heard that the people here have to travel long distances just to get water. I have been in similar situation and I know how it feels like so it fills me with joy to see that I am able to bring some relief to these people. I am glad that from henceforth, you will no longer have to trek for long hours in search of water. We believed from the beginning that it can be done and today, we have done that”.

He was also part of another charity event where he joined other Africa and World football stars including Chelsea star Ashley Cole, to play a peace match in Accra organized by Ghana midfielder Michael Essien.

However, it’s not all about charity, long and solemn speeches and travelling distances and hours to touch the hearts of the destitute and poor in the African society. Once a while and when on vacation in Ghana, he makes the most of his time by throwing parties for some of Ghana and Togo’s A-List celebrities and football colleagues. So pomp are these parties that almost everybody in the “who is who” list in Ghana find their way there.

For many of Africa’s youth, personalities like Adebayor provide a lot of inspiration and hope for a bright and promising future that can only get better with time. He is surely a template and perfect case study that will continue to be of use to a continent that owes its young people so much.

*Source :african.howzit.msn.com

 

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In Zimbabwe Land Takeover, a Golden Lining
July 23, 2012 | 0 Comments
By LYDIA POLGREEN*

 

HARARE, Zimbabwe — When Roger Boka started his auction business in the 1990s, this city’s tobacco trading floors were hushed places, save the mellifluous patter of the auctioneer. A handful of white farmers, each selling hundreds of bales of tobacco, arrived in sport utility vehicles, checking into the city’s best hotels while waiting for their big checks to be cut.

During this year’s auction season, a very different scene unfolded underneath the cavernous roof of the Bock Tobacco Auction Floors. Each day, hundreds of farmers arrived in minibuses and on the backs of pickup trucks, many with wives and children in tow. They camped in open fields nearby and swarmed to the cacophonous floor to sell their crop. The place was lively and crowded; two women gave birth on the auction floor. The most obvious difference, though, was the color of their faces: every single one of them was black.

“You used to only see white faces here,” said Rudo Boka, Mr. Boka’s daughter, who now runs the family business. “Now it is for everybody. It is a beautiful sight.”

Before Zimbabwe’s government began the violent and chaotic seizure of white-owned farms in 2000, fewer than 2,000 farmers were growing tobacco, the country’s most lucrative crop, and most were white. Today, 60,000 farmers grow tobacco here, the vast majority of them black and many of them working small plots that were allotted to them in the land upheavals. Most had no tobacco farming experience yet managed to produce a hefty crop, rebounding from a low of 105 million pounds in 2008 to more than 330 million pounds this year.

The success of these small-scale farmers has led some experts to reassess the legacy of Zimbabwe’s forced land redistribution, even as they condemn its violence and destruction.

The takeover of white commercial farms was a disaster for Zimbabwe on many levels. It undermined one of Africa’s sturdiest economies, and as growth contracted and its currency became worthless because of hyperinflation, joblessness and hunger grew. Large chunks of land were handed to cronies of President Robert Mugabe, many of whom did not farm them. It spurred a political crisis and violent reprisals by the security forces that have killed hundreds of people. Yields on food and cash crops plummeted.

But amid that pain, tens of thousands of people got small farm plots under land reform, and in recent years many of these new farmers overcame early struggles to fare pretty well. With little choice but to work the land, the small-scale farmers have made a go of it, producing yields that do not match those of the white farmers whose land they were given, but are far from the disaster many anticipated, some analysts and scholars say.

“We cannot make excuses for the way it was carried out,” said Ian Scoones, an expert on farming at the University of Sussex who has been intensively studying land reform in Zimbabwe for the past decade. “But there are many myths that have taken hold — that land reform has been an unmitigated disaster, that all the land has been taken over by cronies in the ruling party, that the whole thing has been a huge mess. It has not. Nor has it been a roaring success.”

The result has been a broad, if painful, shift of wealth in agriculture from white commercial growers on huge farms to black farmers on much smaller plots of land. Last year, these farmers shared $400 million worth of tobacco, according to the African Institute for Agrarian Studies, earning on average $6,000 each, a vast sum to most Zimbabweans.

“The money that was shared between 1,500 large-scale growers is now shared with 58,000 growers, most of them small scale,” said Andrew Matibiri, the director of Zimbabwe’s Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board. “That is a major change in the country.”

The new farmers are receiving virtually no assistance from the government, which for years poured money into larger farms given to politically connected elites.

Instead, farmers are getting help from the tobacco industry, in the form of loans, advances and training. It is in Ms. Boka’s interest to revive the industry, so the company has invested heavily in helping farmers improve the yields and quality.

Tobacco is a tricky crop, requiring precise application of fertilizer and careful reaping. It must then be cured and graded properly to fetch a top price.

Recently, Alex Vokoto, head of public relations at the auction house, spotted several bales of desirable tobacco leaves cured to a honey color on the floor, and hustled the man who grew them, Stuart Mhavei, into the V.I.P. lounge for a cup of coffee and a chat.

“This man is growing top-quality tobacco, and he has only been at it for three years,” Mr. Vokoto said.

Mr. Mhavei, a 40-year-old tile layer, got a small piece of a tobacco farm several years ago in the town of Centenary in central Mashonaland, about 80 miles from Harare.

“All the big guys who got land, they are doing nothing,” Mr. Vokoto said. “But these small guys are working hard and really producing.”

Mr. Mhavei has steadily increased his yield, quality and income. So far this season, he has earned more than $10,000 on part of a vast farm that once belonged to a white family, investing the profits in a truck to transport his tobacco, as well as renting the truck to other farmers.

Mr. Mhavei said that like many of the other people who got land, he supports Mr. Mugabe and his party, ZANU-PF.

“Why should one white man have all this?” he asked, sweeping an arm across the lush, rolling farmland around his fields. “This is Zimbabwe. Black people must come first.”

Charles Taffs, president of the Commercial Farmers Union, said that the industry could have been transformed to include more black farmers in a much less destructive way.

“The tragedy with tobacco is that expansion, if they had the right policies, could have been done in the 1990s in conjunction with the commercial sector,” Mr. Taffs said. Instead, hundreds of thousands of workers have lost their jobs and the country has suffered huge economic losses as a result.

The personal cost for white commercial farmers has been immense. One white tobacco farmer in northern Zimbabwe whose family purchased its land after independence described the slow, painful erosion of his family’s livelihood.

“Now that we are down to less than 200 hectares, there isn’t enough income to support everyone,” said the farmer, who asked not to be identified because he feared seizure of even more land if he spoke out. A plot of 200 hectares is less than 500 acres.

His brother had to leave the farm to find work elsewhere, and his own future was deeply uncertain. The farm employs far fewer workers. Yields are down since critical investments in irrigation and other infrastructure have been put off, he said.

“We are Zimbabweans,” the farmer said. “We employ people, and take care of our workers. It is really painful to see this happening to our country.”

The tobacco yield is still below its peak in 2000, when the crop hit 522 million pounds. But Tendai Murisa, a researcher who has studied tobacco farming since land reform, said that judging the success of land reform by looking at production figures misses a crucial point.

“No one ever argued that this is a more productive form of farming,” Mr. Murisa said. “But does it share wealth more equitably? Does it give people a sense of dignity and ownership? Those things have value, too.”

*Source www.nytimes.com. A version of this article appeared in print on July 21, 2012, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: In Zimbabwe Land Takeover, a Golden Lining.

 

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The U.S. And Egypt Understand Each Other Better Than You’d Think
July 23, 2012 | 0 Comments

Analysis: The meeting last week between Hillary Clinton and newly elected Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was between leaders from two countries that not only need each other, but may have a surprisingly similar approach to public life.

By Alain Frachon*

PARIS – They are politely smiling at each other as they sit down on “Louis Farouk,” the faux Louis XVI style furniture typical of Arab palaces. They are sizing each other up, gauging the temperature. The special envoy from the United States has come to greet the first democratically elected Egyptian president.

Egyptian-and-American-Christian-pilgrims-at-a-World-Youth-Day-Fr-James-Bradley

Egyptian-and-American-Christian-pilgrims-at-a-World-Youth-Day-Fr-James-Bradley

The scene took place last Saturday in Cairo. On one side of the couch is the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her dark pantsuit; on an armchair next to her is the Islamist Mohamed Morsi, in a stern grey suit and tie. The two could not be possibly more different.

Born in 1947 in Chicago, Clinton embodies a political career shaped by the turbulent 1960s in the United States. She has the career of a baby-boomer who was there on every front: the liberation of women, right to abortion, sexual minority rights and activism against the Vietnam War. She is Jane Fonda gone to law school.

Mohamed Morsi was born in 1951 on a family farm in a small town of the Nile delta. Thanks to a scholarship, this serious and deserving student spent 10 years in California to study and then teach civil engineering. He didn’t come back with a Hawaiian shirt and a ponytail. He remained faithful to the life that he chose at the end of his teenage years. He is an activist in this strange organization that places the Koran at the center of all political, economic, social and family life: the Muslim Brotherhood.

On this 14th of July, in the living room of the Heliopolis presidential palace in a Cairo suburb, the meeting was historic: the representative of America facing an Islamist leader; a paragon of social conservatism and religious fundamentalism facing a progressive Methodist Protestant.

Recent events don’t make the conversation any easier. The United States didn’t wait for 9/11 to be suspicious about political Islam. They supported their ally Hosni Mubarak for 30 years because he kept the peace with Israel. The authoritarian raïs martyred the Brotherhood, many members of which were tortured and imprisoned. The Brotherhood was close to the Palestinian organization Hamas, vilified America and denounced the peace treaty with Israel.

And yet the relations between Washington and Islamism are complicated. In Cairo, Mr. Morsi is in open conflict with the army, which was largely financed and trained by the United States. The military is in charge since Mubarak’s downfall in February 2011. Barely elected with 51.73% of the vote, Morsi is trying to flex his muscles in front of the generals.

The Secretary of State is urging the Brotherhood and the Army, the only two structured political organizations in Egypt, to negotiate. But she is squarely on the elected president’s side. The United States “supports the full transition to civilian rule with all that entails,” she said. Clinton said the United States looked forward “to support the military’s return to a purely national security role.”

The military, the Copts and secularists on the left or the right weren’t exactly pleased, but Washington’s message was crystal clear. If they are freely elected, respect minority rights and the peace treaty with Israel, America will cooperate with the Muslim Brotherhood. And Morsi gave some guarantees.

Closer than you think

At a time when political Islam is emerging as a dominant force in the Arab world – from Rabat to Cairo via Tunis and tomorrow, maybe, Damascus – this July 14 message is important. It isn’t that surprising. America encouraged the “Arab Spring.” It called for elections, and made logical choices. In the past few months, it multiplied contacts with the Egyptian Brotherhood.

Is Washington convinced that the Islamists have converted to political democracy? The real test is still ahead, explains Richard Haass, one of American foreign policy’s great initiators. “In the end, for an individual or for a party, the real proof of attachment to democracy is to accept losing elections, not participating in them and winning,” writes the president of the Council on Foreign Relations. “That means that we don’t content ourselves with an honest vote counting,” he says. “There also has to be equal access to television, to organization rights and funding.”

An American is actually better equipped than a European to understand the ideological profile of a Muslim Brother: the mix of God and politics; free market economics and social conservatism; visceral anti-communism – this is all very familiar to public life on the other side of the Atlantic.

When their strategic interests were in play, the United States never hesitated to develop strong relations with the most Islamist of regimes. The military and oil alliance with Riyadh is the best example. Next to the Saudi Arabian regime, the Muslim Brothers are quite the moderate Islamists, even centrists with lax values!

The strange relation forged with Pakistan is just as paradoxical. Here is an American ally whose army – partially equipped by the United States – is a major political actor who finances and arms Islamist extremists.

Washington has better relations with Ankara, where the Turkish Islamist AKP party has been in control for the past decade. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party came to power democratically and liberalized Turkey, but – is it a bad omen? – his team has looked increasingly authoritarian over the past few months.

The State Department has given much thought to the Algerian precedent of December 1991. The United States had approved a military coup to interrupt the free elections that an Islamist party was going to win. Ten years of an atrocious civil war followed, with tens of thousands of dead and thousands of missing people of whom we still know nothing.

Maybe Mrs. Clinton was thinking of this precedent during her conversation with “Brother” Mohamed Morsi.

*Source LE MONDE/Worldcrunch

 

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Mauritius swears in new president
July 23, 2012 | 0 Comments

Port Louis – Rajkeshwur Purryag became the fifth president of the Republic of Mauritius when he was sworn into the largely ceremonial post Saturday.

He was elected Friday during a special parliamentary session after his predecessor Anerood Jugnauth resigned in March following open conflict with Prime Minister Navin Chandra Ramgoolam.

The row erupted when the leader of the opposition in parliament, Paul Berenger, announced the creation of a new opposition alliance headed by Jugnauth.

Ramgoolam himself asked Jugnauth to either deny the statement by the opposition, or, in the case of confirmation, to resign, arguing his new role was incompatible with a position as head of state.

Vice President Monique Ohsan Bellepeau filled in until Purryag, 64, the former president of the National Assembly, was sworn in Saturday in the presence of both Ramgoolam and Berenger.

Purryag and Ramgoolam are both members of the Labour Party.

An attorney by training, Purryag has worked in politics for 36 years, holding several ministerial positions as well as acting as deputy prime minister. He became speaker of parliament in 2005.

Mauritius is an archipelago of four islands in the Indian Ocean that gained independence from Britain in 1968.

It has since been considered a stable democracy and has sustained economic growth to make its 1.2 million inhabitants among the richest in Africa.

Best known for its top-end tourism and as a honeymoon destination, Mauritius recently made headlines after a honeymooner from Northern Ireland was strangled in January 2011 in her luxury hotel room.

– AFP

 

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Africa’s wealth is being devoured by tyrants and vultures
July 23, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Nick Dearden *

Citizens of the Democratic Republic of Congo should be living in one of the world’s richest countries. Plunder and corruption condemns them to poverty

A surprise judgment was made last week against a vulture fund, FG Hemisphere, striking down its claim for $100m from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Keeping money

Repayment' of loans made to the corrupt Mobuto Sese Seko has proved an important means of draining the DRC's wealth. Photograph: Remy De La Mauviniere/AP

Repayment' of loans made to the corrupt Mobuto Sese Seko has proved an important means of draining the DRC's wealth. Photograph: Remy De La Mauviniere/AP

out of the hands of profiteers is welcome, but wider questions raised by the case lead straight to one of the central problems of the global economy: the right of money to flow wherever, whenever, while millions remain in poverty.

FG Hemisphere has spent many years and a small fortune pursuing Congolese dictator Mobutu Sese Seko for a debt it bought “secondhand” for $3m, but on which it hoped to claim back $100m.

Most recently it has been trying to grab the assets of Congo’s state-owned mining company, Gécamines, through a joint venture in which it is invested on Jersey. It was winning until Tuesday when the privy council, the final court of appeal for Jersey, overturned previous judgments, saying Gécamines assets could not be taken as state assets.

With luck, the case will have cost Hemisphere so much that we won’t hear from it again. But for the people of Congo, it’s not the end of the story. Few of them will know much about the case. Indeed, it raises the question of why wealth derived from mining in the DRC was being fought over in faraway Jersey in the first place.

The DRC has vast mineral wealth including diamonds, copper, oil and gas; one estimate puts the value of these resources at $24 trillion. However, it is pretty much the poorest country in the world. The reason is centuries of plunder, at its worst involving the buying, selling and brutalisation of millions of people. But plunder today continues in different guises – through odious debt and tax avoidance.

The debt bought up by FG Hemisphere was part of a vast pile that fuelled the rule of Mobutu, who pillaged his country for more than 30 years. Mobutu’s lenders knew he was as corrupt as hell; a report by an IMF mission in 1982 reported there was “no, I repeat no, chance on the horizon for Zaire’s [DRC’s] numerous creditors to get their money back”. But lending continued to rise sharply. Mobutu was, on balance, doing what his paymasters wanted.

“Repayment” of this money, long after Mobutu was ousted, has proved the first important means of draining the DRC of wealth. The country was judged eligible for debt cancellation on the basis of its poverty, but this involved jumping through so many hoops it took eight years to complete. By then, more than $2bn had left the country repaying Mobutu’s debts and numerous new loans were needed.

It seems incredible that so rich a country can end up in serious debt, until you think about the amount of money leaving the DRC through the other crucial factor in its impoverishment: unpaid taxes. Although the DRC has been a poor reporter of data, it has been estimated that, between 1970 and 2008, more than $6bn left the country illicitly. This is equivalent to about 1% of the economy every year – more than enough to cover its total outstanding debts. The figures suggest that an average of $170m has left the DRC every year, almost two-thirds of the average $300m it has to make in debt service payments. Little wonder that its debt is starting to rise again, and is expected to reach $7.5bn by 2015.

In essence, successive governments have used foreign loans as a means of financing their activities – including building palaces in the jungle and stealing from state coffers. This is useful for governments interested in avoiding accountability to their people. It’s useful for lenders interested in plundering the countries of those governments. For today’s leader, payment is put off for another day; for today’s lender, a web of dependency is created with an income stream potentially reaching into the far future.

This tale is not limited to Congo. Latest estimates put capital flight from sub-Saharan Africa – money lost to the continent and hidden offshore – at $683bn between 1970 and 2010, more than enough to wipe out sub-Saharan Africa’s debts to the rest of the world.

As Africa is celebrated for its growth rates, the amount of taxes lost to the continent accelerates. The funds flowing in, lauded by Tony Blair, Sir Bob Geldof and their ilk, will primarily enrich those already at the top, fuel inequality and expand dependence on a crony form of finance. Vultures will increasingly swoop on these riches. Stopping them, and building a different society, means controlling the flow of money – and taxing it.

*Nick Dearden is Director of the Jubilee Debt Campaign. Source www.guardian.co.uk

 

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Rwanda cut off from US military aid over conflict in DRC
July 23, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Reuters in Abidjan ,guardian.co.uk,

Rwanda denies UN reports that it is backing rebels in Democratic Republic of the Congo as US cuts aid for this year

Former US president Bill Clinton with the Rwandan president and Chelsea Clinton in the Kayonza District in Rwanda last week. Photograph: Cyril Ndegeya/AP

Former US president Bill Clinton with the Rwandan president and Chelsea Clinton in the Kayonza District in Rwanda last week. Photograph: Cyril Ndegeya/AP

The US government has said it will cut military aid to Rwanda, citing evidence that the central African country is supporting rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Rwanda has denied reports by United Nations experts and rights groups that it is backing eastern Congolese rebels, including the M23 group, which has seized parts of North Kivu province in fighting that has displaced over 260,000 people since April.

But in a significant step by one of Rwanda’s staunchest allies, the US state department cited evidence of Rwandan support for the rebels in announcing the military aid suspension.

“The United States government is deeply concerned about the evidence that Rwanda is implicated in the provision of support to Congolese rebel groups, including M23,” said Hilary Fuller Renner, a state department spokeswoman, in an emailed statement.

“We will not obligate $200,000 in Fiscal Year 2012 Foreign Military Financing funds that were intended to support a Rwandan academy for non-commissioned officers.

These funds will be reallocated for programming in another country,” she said.
Washington has stood by Rwanda in the past despite the tiny nation’s long history of involvement in wars in vast neighbouring Congo.

Rwanda’s foreign minister has previously said reports of its involvement in Congo fighting were “disingenuous” and a bid to make Rwanda a scapegoat for its neighbour’s problems. Officials in Kigali were not immediately available for comment on the US aid cut.

Renner said Washington was in the process of assessing whether further steps should be taken in response to Rwanda’s actions in Congo.

She said the United States would continue to help Rwanda support peacekeeping missions.

Rwanda has a major peacekeeping presence in Sudan’s Darfur region.

Although the amount of cash being withheld is small, analysts said the move clearly signalled Washington’s displeasure.

“The US government has been a longstanding ally of the Rwandan government. This step, even if symbolic, is emblematic of a shift in perception – if not necessarily in aid – in Washington,” said independent Congo expert Jason Stearns.

Rwanda sent its army into Congo, then called Zaire, in the mid 1990s, ostensibly to hunt down Rwandan Hutu rebels who fled there after the 1994 genocide.

A decade of conflict followed, in which Rwandan forces helped Congolese rebels topple the dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.

They then fell out with the rebels they initially backed, sparking a war that sucked in other neighbouring armies and officially ended in 2003.

The current rebellion comes after three years of generally improved relations between Kinshasa and Kigali since the latter helped end a 2004-9 eastern Congolese uprising, which Rwanda was also accused of backing.

The leaders of Congo and Rwanda agreed at a meeting this month to allow a neutral force to be deployed in Congo to defeat each others’ rebels, but the plan’s details have not been announced yet.

• The web headline and standfirst were amended on 22 July 2012 to correct our abbreviation for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or DRC – formerly Zaire; we call its neighbour Congo-Brazzaville.

 

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Kenya’s investment in women pays off
July 21, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Drazen Jorgic | Reuters* 

ITEN, Kenya (Reuters) – It has taken Kenya nearly five decades to gain the upper hand over its neighbour and greatest athletics rival Ethiopia, but the winning formula was staring Kenyan track officials in the face all along.

The London Games will be the next battleground between the two giants of middle and long-distance running, who have tussled for east African track dominance since the 1960s.

Kenya finally toppled Ethiopia from its perch in the medals table by going against the grain to focus on female athletes in a male-dominated track team.

It was only then that the number of gold, silver and bronze medals around Kenyan necks went through the roof.

“Kenya was shooting itself in the foot initially by not including women,” said Paul Ereng, Kenya’s 800m Olympic gold medal winner at the 1988 Seoul Games.

Ereng, a cross-country head coach at the University of Texas, said Kenya would often select three male athletes to compete for an Olympic event but only take one woman.

“Our societies are male dominated. It is said women belong to the house and all that but I think we are disturbing those ideals,” Yobes Ondieki, Kenya’s 1991 world champion over 5,000m, told Reuters in Eldoret, a town in western Kenya’s Rift Valley.

“We are giving women a chance and women are proving themselves,” Ondieki said, looking at his old friend Ereng, who nodded. “You can say it’s like an Arab Spring for women.”

After Ethiopia narrowly pipped Kenya in the medals table at the 2004 Athens Games, Kenyan athletics officials realised the majority of Ethiopian medals at Athens were won by women and decided to bring women’s athletics to the high level of men.

“We got more sponsorships (for women), we trained more coaches to focus on the women…,” said Peter Angwenyi, a spokesman for Athletics Kenya.

The new strategy started to pay off when 18-year-old Pamela Jelimo won the 800 metres at the 2008 Beijing Games to become the first Kenyan woman to win an Olympic gold medal.

But Jelimo wants even more financial investment in women, insisting: “We still have a long way to go.”

ETHIOPIA IN DISARRAY

Ethiopia heads to London hoping to improve on the Beijing Games, where Kenya won twice as many medals, eager to prove its athletics factory can still produce great champions.

But its preparations appear to have run into trouble.

Ethiopia experimented with a more conventional training approach after the Beijing Games, allowing athletes to report to camps only ahead of major competitions, but went back to stricter methods after the country’s runners flopped in two subsequent world championships.

Daegu 2011 represented a steep downfall for Ethiopia, a country used to outpacing its rivals in the 5,000m, 10,000m and marathon — it only won a single gold medal and four bronze.

Kenya, on the other hand, scooped seven gold, six silver and four bronze medals.

“What happened in Berlin (in 2009) and Daegu is a reflection of that (conventional training approach),” said Yilma.

“I’m not saying they don’t train at all in those circumstances, but the concentration levels and commitment won’t be the same if they are based on their own.”

At Addis Ababa’s stadium, Ethiopia’s elite athletes scamper in groups in a return to the old Soviet-era boot camps that thrust Ethiopia’s long distance runners to the sport’s pinnacle.

It’s eight months since the Ethiopian Athletics Federation summoned 200 athletes ahead of the world indoor championships in March and the London Olympics in July and August.

“We keep a close eye on our athletes because we want to monitor their forms at close range and to avoid a situation where they would return back burnt out from over-competing,” said national team coach Yilma Berta.

IN SEARCH OF THE MAGIC FORMULA

In contrast, Kenya favours the open-house philosophy and a desire to keep athletes training near their rural homes.

As the dawn sunrise peers over acacia trees and lush green hills in western Kenya’s Rift Valley, it is the sight of slim torsos that catches the eye in Iten, a small Kenyan town some 2,400m above sea level.

The ranks of runners jogging through the maze of trails around Iten’s gentle hills is swelled every year by foreign athletes who visit the ‘Runner’s Mecca’ in hope that the magic formula will rub off on them.

Pieter Langerhorst, Dutch national athletics coach who co-owns the High-Altitude Training Centre in Iten, says athletes from dozens of countries have trained in his camp over the past year, including the likes of Mo Farah and Paula Radcliffe.

“A lot of top Ethiopians are also training here in our place,” Langerhorst explained, pointing out that Kenyans do not go to the main training camp in Ethiopia. “You can’t compare what they have (in Addis) to here.”

But one of the biggest concerns for Ethiopia, according to local commentators, is the lack of talent coming through the ranks to replace the likes of the great Haile Gebrselassie, while Kenya is reporting one of its greatest crops ever.

“Kenya had an absolute and huge reservoir of athletes training so it was only a matter of time before the Kenyans would wear (the Ethiopians) down,” said Brother Colm O’Connell, an Irish missionary who has trained 25 Kenyan world champions and four Olympic gold medal winners in the last 36 years.

“The same as Jamaicans in sprinting — it’s only a matter of time before the cream comes to the top.”

(Additional reporting by Aaron Maasho; Editing by James Macharia)

*Culled from Reuters

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Nigeria’s low-cost tablet computer
July 21, 2012 | 0 Comments

BBC 20 July 2012
© Encipher Group | BBC Sport

Nigeria’s Saheed Adepoju is a young man with big dreams. He is the inventor of the Inye, a tablet computer designed for the African market.

Saheed Adepoju

Saheed Adepoju

According to the 29-year-old entrepreneur, his machine’s key selling point is its price – $350 (£225) opposed to around $700 for an iPad.

He believes that, because of this, there is a big market for it in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa, particularly amongst students.

He is also hoping to sell his tablet – which runs on the Google Android operating system – to the Nigerian government and plans to have at least one computer in each local government area.

“The Inye is a mobile internet device. It gives you access to the internet; it allows you to play media files and watch movies. What we have is an 8-inch device, a device that is half-way between a laptop and a mobile phone,” he told the BBC’s series African Dream.

“You have the standard software applications that come pre-installed and then you have the ones that we are working with various local developers to bundle on,” he added.

Among those local apps there is one designed to raise awareness about HIV and others related to water and sanitation.

“We work with local developers that have expertise in particular areas so that we don’t end up doing so much work and we just have a collaborative way of doing things together,” he said.

‘Word of mouth’
Mr Adepoju has a background in software development and is a Sun-certified Java programmer.

After doing a first degree in maths and computer science in Nigeria, he completed another one in advanced computing by research at Bournemouth University, in the United Kingdom.

Upon graduation in 2009, he returned to his home country and started working for a consulting firm.

“Within eight months I got fired, primarily because of differences in approach to doing business. In the middle of all this, the Apple iPad launched, back in January of 2010, which inspired us to actually look to build such [a] product within the African marketplace,” the entrepreneur told the BBC Africa’s Chris Ewokor.

He said that, with that goal in mind, he borrowed money from friends and family, raising a total of about $60,000.

According to him, all of that went on the devices and the logistics – there was no budget for marketing, so early advertising was “word of mouth” on social media.

The first 100 units of the Inye, which means One in Nigeria’s Igala language, were built in China and, after receiving feedback from its users, a second version was launched in May 2011.

Encipher Group, the company he cofounded with web developer Anibe Agamah, also offers customised IT services and products, including cloud computing, which are mostly based on open technology to keep costs down.

Raising capital
According to Mr Adepoju, the company and the apps it develops are focused on preserving local culture through technology and making products which are specific to the local market.

Another product that the firm has been working on is Encipher TV, a box where people can watch African television, plays and films.
However, he says that it has not been easy to raise capital in order to develop the business faster.

“Here venture capital (VC) is still in its infancy and most VC firms wound want to invest in tried and trusted companies that have gained some form of traction,” he said.

“We face the challenge of getting people to listen to the various propositions. We’ve been to a number of private investors and also to the government,” he explained.

Not surprisingly, his immediate plan is to “try and raise capital from whatever sources we can get – locally, internationally or privately – and to try and still to push the brand forward as much as we can”.

Will his tablet computer succeed in such a competitive environment? Only time will tell but Mr Adepoju and his colleagues are adamant that it will, not only in Nigeria but also in other African markets.

African Dream is broadcast on the BBC Network Africa programme every Monday morning, and on BBC World News throughout the day on Fridays

Every week, one successful business man or woman will explain how they started off and what others could learn from them.
InyeScreen: 8-inch capacitive touchscreen
Processor: 1Ghz
Connectivity: WiFi, 3G, Bluetooth
I/O: USB, micro USB, SD card slot (up to 32Gb), 35mm sound jack, HDMI, SIM card for 3G
OS: Android
Battery: 5hrs
Storage: 8Gb internal, 16Gb in the box
Warranty: 12 months
App store: Google play store
Local apps: Spinlet for streaming local Nigerian music and many locally inclined applications
Source: Encipher Group

 

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Vast aquifer found in Namibia could last for centuries
July 21, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Matt McGrath Science reporter*

A newly discovered water source in Namibia could have a major impact on development in the driest country in sub-Saharan Africa.

Pressure from the aquifer means the water is cheap to extract

Pressure from the aquifer means the water is cheap to extract

Estimates suggest the aquifer could supply the north of the country for 400 years at current rates of consumption.

Scientists say the water is up to 10,000 years old but is cleaner to drink than many modern sources.

However, there are concerns that unauthorised drilling could threaten the new supply.

Huge resource

For the people of northern Namibia water is something that they either have too much of or too little.

The 800,000 people who live in the area depend for their drinking water on a 40-year-old canal that brings the scarce resource across the border from Angola.

Over the past decade the Namibian government have been trying to tackle the lack of a sustainable supply in partnership with researchers from Germany and other EU countries.

They have now identified a new aquifer called Ohangwena II, which flows under the boundary between Angola and Namibia.

On the Namibian side of the border it covers an area roughly 70 km by 40 km (43 miles by 25 miles).

According to project manager Martin Quinger, from the German federal institute for geoscience and natural resources (BGR), it’s a substantial body of water.

“The amount of stored water would equal the current supply of this area in northern Namibia for 400 years, which has about 40 percent of the nation’s population.”

“What we are aiming at is a sustainable water supply so we only extract the amount of water that is being recharged.

“What we can say is that the huge amount of stored water is will always be enough for a back up for an area that is currently supplied only by surface water.”

Test-drilling-on-the-new-aquifer.jpg

Test-drilling-on-the-new-aquifer.jpg

This region is dependent on two rivers for its water supply. But this has restricted agricultural development to areas close to these water sources. Mr Quinger says that the new aquifer has great potential to change the nature of farming in the area.

“For the rural water supply the water will be well suited for irrigation and stock watering, the possibilities that we open with this alternative resource are quite massive.” he explains.

As well as providing a new source for agriculture in a region the aquifer will augment existing potable supplies. Martin Quinger says the discovery may be up to 10,000 years old but it is still good to drink.

“If the water [has spent] 10,000 years underground, it means it was recharged at a time when environmental pollution was not yet an issue, so on average it can be a lot better than water that infiltrates in cycles of months or years.”

Dangerous drilling

The natural pressure that the water is under means that it is easy and cheap to extract. But because a smaller salty aquifer sits on top of the new find it raises the possibility that unauthorised drilling could threaten the quality of the water.

Martin Quinger says that random drilling into the aquifer could be dangerous.

“If people don’t comply with our technical recommendations they might create a hydraulic shortcut between the two aquifers which might lead to the salty water from the upper one contaminating the deep one or vice versa.”

One of the biggest advantages of the new aquifer could be in helping people cope with climate change.

The researchers estimate that it could act as a natural buffer for up to 15 years of drought.

As well as identifying the new water source a key aim for the researchers involved is to develop the capacity among young Namibians to manage their country’s water resources before the funding from the EU runs out.

*Culled from BBC Africa

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P Square: Big Boys, Deals, Dreams!
July 21, 2012 | 0 Comments

July 21, 2012 by www.msn.com

Most African musicians find it easy maintaining their form after they land mainstream success, while others simply lose grit, and slowly but regrettably, sink into complete oblivion after working hard to get to the top.

The Twins

The Twins

In this part of the world, there is a wide, blurred gap between underground acts and those in the A-List category. The setting is such that unsigned acts struggle to even get their demos played on radio. Plus, there is an accompanying pain of staying irrelevant as a yet-to-be-signed act for a very long time.

Underground acts always watch from afar, almost with a show of life in the fast-lane and how-sweet-it-will-sound while still being irrelevant. Half of the time, they never get to experience real mainstream status and how well the big boys and girls live. It’s a tough environment out here.

The features of persevering and keeping hope alive as an underground act often include being stripped of everything you’ve put together over the years or being taken for granted by a not-so-qualified producer who doesn’t have the slightest clue what the business of music is all about.

So when, through an artist’s hard work and persistence, he is able to penetrate into mainstream appreciation, it is important that the hustle that led him to the Promised Land must be protected or at least revered. Some respect this creed, others don’t.

Nigerian music duo P Square is one of the continent’s finest pair of musicians, who are protecting the years of hard work that got them into the top core of the continent’s most respected acts.

Recently collaborating with Maybach Music boss Rick Ross and fellow African-American Akon on songs off their current album The Invasion to wild global reviews, there is certainly no stopping them, as they take the competition to their contemporaries.

The duo, made up of twin brothers Peter and Paul Okoye, is Nigeria’s biggest and most successful musical duo of the past decade, winning multiple awards and being nominated by a good number of award schemes domestically and internationally.

P Square’s consistency and sense of force over the years has endeared them to a very large following that is almost becoming cult-like. Across the continent, and in most parts of the world, they sell out shows, command a lot of local presence, and are able to sell thousands of records apart from the ready-made sales in Nigeria – a rare occurrence in the life of an African musician.

The Invasion, a solid album made up of beautifully-calculated and well-composed songs produced with a global audience in mind, has proven to be filled with well thought-out material.

Chop my Money, a fast, up-tempo song off the album, is already topping the charts in most parts of the continent. The song and P Square’s ratings were both refreshed by the collaboration of Senegalese-born American singer Akon on it, which led to a remix version.

The union with Akon was the result of the duo signing with his Konvict Muzik label in a deal that will see P Square and other Nigerian acts Wizkid and Tuface acting as representatives of Akon’s label in Africa. P Square thus joins other international acts like Brick and Lace, T-Pain, and Lady Gaga who are also part of the Konvict Muzik family.

And just when the collaboration with Akon became the talk of the town, a video of a remixed version of their ‘Beautiful Onyinye’ track – also from the current album – featuring hip hop heavyweight Rick Ross started making waves. Social media networks buzzed with intense blitz about how awesome the video was.

The idea to have Ross, who is considered a modern day hip hop class act, chant a few lines on a track that had its own beauty worked a lot of magic, and the video has remained one of the most watched online.

For most African acts, this is the farthest and highest you can go.

However, the duo still shows no signs of letting up. They are clearly interested in spreading their wings, and have also signed a strategic deal with Universal Music Group of South Africa in an agreement that will see the music company handle P Square’s digital and CD sales all over the world.

The deal reportedly “covers P-Square’s past albums and DVDs, including, Game Over, their 2007 album,” which sold millions of copies worldwide.

“It’s a great pleasure and excitement to announce that from today onwards P Square is signing to Universal music,” The New Age newspaper quotes executive director at Universal Music SA, Lindelani Mkhize as saying.

“This is a platform that will allow our fans to get our music as it is released, anywhere you are if P-Square says our album is coming out … you’ll be able to get it,” said Peter Okoye.

From very humble beginnings, P Square has gradually matured into the duo every investor interested in music as a commercial venture would want to work with.

Through a lot of hard work, the duo has almost become synonymous with success. Their 2009 album Danger, for instance, sold some one million copies in just eight days after official release. That was a huge figure.

P Square started off as dancers during their school days, where they formed a group that mainly mimicked the steps of other iconic dancers like Michael Jackson and MC Hammer.

The twin brothers later found music a worthy experiment, and got their breakthrough with the 2003 album Last Night. The album made P Square an instant household name in Nigeria, and in Africa. Other albums like Get Squared (2005), Game Over (2007), and Danger have followed.

A talented duo with very danceable songs to their credit – the type most of their fans have got used to – P Square’s line of music usually focuses on the more afro-centric kind that combines Western and African rhythms to create a fine tapestry of eclectic, soulful, yet hard-hitting drum patterns, chord progressions, and lyrics of sampled songs.

The end result usually is a carefully-created electronic hook or rhythm, with a feel that can only be awesome, cutting across various age, gender, and geographical boundaries, hence their huge popularity base across the world.

That they are popular across the continent is known to them, and something they are ready to hold on for a very long time to come.

“When you become one of the biggest acts (on) a continent, you get to have many challenges in keeping up with and not disappointing your fans, because all eyes are on you. We’re the greatest for some time now in Africa and we working very hard to keep it that way,” the group said in a recent interview.

The inspiration to do more in music they believe comes from the likes of the late Michael Jackson and R&B and hip hop superstar R. Kelly, who they say have shaped what they do now.

“Our biggest musical inspiration is the late Michael Jackson and R. Kelly. Jackson, because we started off imitating his moves and R. Kelly because he’s a great song writer, producer, and composer all in one, just like we are. And he knows how to follow music trends,” they told Apinke Magazine.

For years to come, P Square will surely be making good music, and will be selling platinum albums. After all, that has been their trump card.

Nigerians and Africans to a larger extent can be proud of this unique group, as they continue to raise the flag of the continent high.

And like always, if we don’t appreciate the dark side of a continent that already has too many unresolved issues, ‘stuff’ like what P Square is offering, can always cheer us up.

Rick Ross gives a good picture of what would become of P Square years from now: in a line in his verse on that Beautiful Onyinye song he said “turn up the music, we are bumping with P-Square, number one in the game, we’re going to be here … always making it…”.

That they will continue to make it, as Ross suggests, will surely happen, and, when it does, Peter and Paul will always cast their minds back to the very first talent competition they won in 2001, which got this whole craze off to a squared and well-figured-out start.

Source:http://african.howzit.msn.com

 

 

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Building Systems That Change Lives in Rwanda
July 21, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Valerie Alexander  *

I spent yesterday and today traveling with President Clinton through Rwanda, a country he first visited in 1998, as president. I was honored to join him on his fourth trip to the country, and to learn of the dramatic change that’s taken place here since that first visit 14 years ago. In Rwanda we see the good that can come when people are given the investment and opportunity they need to secure their own futures – when people’s hard work and good efforts are rewarded with strong systems that yield strong outcomes.

President-Clinton-and-Chelsea-Clinton-Meet-Health-Care-Workers

President-Clinton-and-Chelsea-Clinton-Meet-Health-Care-Workers

In 1998, Rwanda’s per-capita income was about $268 per year. Today it’s about $1,300 per year – almost a fivefold increase. The country is building stronger systems, and in turn, a culture around the predictability of good results for good efforts.

We can see the success of these efforts in the Clinton Foundation projects we visited yesterday and today, and in the people we’ve met whose lives have been measurably improved by the Foundation’s programs and by the work of our friends and partners.

At the new Butaro Cancer Center in Northern Rwanda, we met local doctors and staff who are not only the sole providers of cancer treatments in the region but also the most innovative. They are building the health infrastructure that’s needed to sustain quality care in the region long into the future. We also met mothers and children who will have futures because of this work – and who will return to their communities to lead healthy, productive lives. I can’t think of an experience more meaningful than meeting people whose lives have been saved or changed by the work we do.

Today we stopped in Kigali to learn about the Human Resources for Health (HRH) program – which is addressing a critical shortage of health workers in Rwanda not by staffing clinics and hospitals with foreign specialists, but by building a local, sustainable education system, in partnership with 13 top-ranked U.S. schools. Currently, Rwanda has only 633 physicians for a population of over 10 million people.

Also in Kigali, we visited the Mount Meru Soyco factory, which is currently under construction. We met with local farmers who will benefit from the agribusiness project through our Clinton Hunter Development Initiative. The lush green landscape – the backdrop to the newly erected steel beams –  will become the permanent home for a fully

President-Clinton-and-Chelsea-Clinton-with-SoyCo-Farmers

President-Clinton-and-Chelsea-Clinton-with-SoyCo-Farmers

functioning processing facility soon. And that was an overwhelming sight. Through a translator, I asked a farmer who also serves as president of one of the local cooperatives, what this project means to him and to his family. His wide smile needed no translation. What is taking place is truly a game changer.

I see these projects in photo and video every day. I work alongside our local staff and write about the dramatic impact we’re having on the ground – yet none of that compares to seeing the work firsthand, or meeting the people whose lives have been impacted by our programs. In my official capacity on staff, I have the privilege of communicating the Foundation’s great work to people the world over. Yet over this past week, people have been communicating the Foundation’s great work to me.

* Source www.clintonfoundation.org

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Gulf African Bank to expand to Tanzania and Uganda
July 20, 2012 | 0 Comments

By  Dinfin Mulupi*

Gulf African Bank (GAB) has announced it is planning to enter Tanzania and Uganda by the end of the year. The plans follow the Islamic bank’s successful launch and growth in the Kenyan market.

Speaking during the opening of the Second Gulf African Bank Annual East and Central Africa Islamic conference in Nairobi, GAB chairman Suleiman Shahbal said the bank is pursuing licences that will see it start operations in the two East African nations.

Representatives from Bank of Uganda and Bank of Tanzania attended the conference and were expected to give advice on how GAB can successfully enter the two markets.

Shahbal said the growth of Islamic banking in Kenya in the past two years has proved its huge potential the world over.

“Countries in the region are leaning towards East African Community (EAC) integration and we want to be part of that expansion. Our strategy was to expand to East Africa after launching in Kenya, however, [those] plans were delayed by the financial crisis but now is the time to do [it],” said Shahbal.

GAB CEO Najmul Hassan said the increase in new accounts opened by both Muslims and non-Muslims has shown that the market is embracing the concept of Islamic banking.

GAB was launched in Kenya two years ago and has over 30,000 deposit accounts.

The bank is also seeking to invest in Islamic insurance, investment banking and microfinance.

“Islamic insurance is based on the principle of profit and loss sharing and should be in the market by the end of the year. Microfinance is even much more important since it is our obligation to support those who cannot access banking services. Talks and frameworks to achieve these projects are at advanced stage[s],” said Shahbal.

*Culled from http://www.howwemadeitinafrica.com

 

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Rwanda best place to do business in East Africa – report
July 20, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Dinfin Mulupi*

 

Rwandas-capital-Kigali.-According-to-a-World-Bank-report-Rwanda-is-the-most-business-friendly-country-in-East-Africa

Rwandas-capital-Kigali.-According-to-a-World-Bank-report-Rwanda-is-the-most-business-friendly-country-in-East-AfricaRwanda is the best place to do business in East Africa. This according to a World Bank report published this week. The Doing Business in the East African Community 2010 report placed Kenya second after Rwanda in the region.

The report states that despite Kenya enjoying a business-friendly environment, doing business in Kenya is more challenging for investors compared to Rwanda. Rwanda emerged as the global top reformer in 2008/09 for carrying out seven out of the nine reforms enacted in the region over the review period. Reforms include:

  • facilitating trade across borders;
  • property registration;
  • commercial laws and institutions; and
  • access to credit.

According to the report (covering up to June 2009), Kenya only carried out minimal reforms during the review period compared to Rwanda, which undertook a wide range of changes.

Kenya’s Permanent Secretary in the East African Community (EAC) Ministry, David Nalo, said although Rwanda was rated the best in the region, Kenya may have overtaken Rwanda due to many reforms carried out in recent months.

“The cost of doing business in Kenya has reduced and we expect the situation will continue to improve as more reforms continue to be implemented,” he said. He identified poor infrastructure, for example the Mombasa-Nairobi–Kigali road, as challenges to doing business in the region.

Sylvia Solf of the World Bank said none of the East African countries made it into the global top 30. The average ranking for East African countries stood at 116 out of 183 economies overall.

Solf, who co-authored the report, said Kenya is performing well but should endorse reforms in all the economic sectors to attract more investments and maximise opportunities that come with its strategic position in the region by reducing the cost of doing business.

*Source http://www.howwemadeitinafrica.com

 

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Zuma warns on Africa’s trade ties to China
July 20, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Leslie Hook*

BEIJING — South African President Jacob Zuma warned Thursday that the unbalanced nature of Africa’s burgeoning trade ties with China is “unsustainable” in the long term.

The South African leader was addressing the China-Africa Forum in Beijing just after China’s president pledged $20 billion in loans to Africa, doubling the amount Beijing agreed to give the continent three years ago at the same forum.

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“Africa’s commitment to China’s development has been demonstrated by supply of raw materials, other products and technology transfer,” Zuma said. “This trade pattern is unsustainable in the long term. Africa’s past economic experience with Europe dictates a need to be cautious when entering into partnerships with other economies.”

Zuma appeared to be referring to the concerns of some African nations about the unbalanced nature of the trade relationship. Two-way trade between China and Africa hit $166 billion last year, with a trade surplus in Africa’s favor due to exports of raw materials such as crude oil and copper. China is a major exporter of cheap manufactured goods to Africa, such as electronics and clothes.

Critics have accused China of taking a neo-colonialist approach to the continent and of exploiting Africa’s natural resources. Many African nations want China to import more than just resources.

China sees Africa as a strategic ally and has pushed for expanded African roles at the United Nations, while encouraging Chinese infrastructure and resources companies to invest in the continent.

China’s investment in Africa — estimated at $15 billion over the past decade — is growing rapidly, and Chinese companies are building infrastructure across the continent, from dams and airports to mines and wind farms. On Wednesday, Nigeria announced the signing of a $1.5 billion railroad project to be built by the state-owned China Civil Engineering Construction Corp.

While he hinted at potential long-term trade issues, Zuma spent much of his speech, which was made in the presence of Hu Jintao, China’s president, praising China’s “steadfast” commitment to Africa. That commitment, he said, “has already been demonstrated with concrete and tangible results particularly in terms of human resources development, debt relief and investment.”

The two nations have close ties, and South Africa joined the “BRIC” group of developing countries — Brazil, Russia, India and China — last year. South Africa has also attracted significant Chinese investment as it seeks to market itself as the gateway to other African countries.

China introduced several measures this week to help rebalance trade ties, including zero tariffs for an expanded range of African products. Beijing also pledged to hold more trade expos to display African merchandise.

Although Chinese companies have invested heavily in Africa, they have not always had a smooth experience. One of the low points came in 2010 when a Chinese mining boss in Zambia shot nearly a dozen local miners during a riot.

Chinese companies have also been caught up in the recent maelstrom of political changes in North Africa, with more than $4 billion worth of projects suspended in Libya after the fall of Moammar Gaddafi and the kidnapping of 29 Chinese workers in Sudan earlier this year.

The triennial China-Africa Forum hosts heads of state and ministers from more than 40 African countries and is a “pageant of China-Africa friendship and unity,” as one Chinese state-run paper put it.

In addition to the $20 billion loan commitment over the next three years, China also vowed to focus on cooperation in agriculture, infrastructure, cultural exchanges and more scholarships for African students to study in China. Chinese scholars say China’s aid to Africa is not mercenary, but instead motivated by historic ties.

“China regained its seat in the United Nations with the help of African countries,” said Zhang Haibin, an Africa expert at the Shanghai Institute for African Studies. “We cannot forget our old friends.”

That certainly seemed to be the case on Thursday, judging from the pomp and ceremony on display at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. The normally stoic Hu was effusive in his welcoming speech to the forum Thursday morning.

“Forever we will be the good friends, partners and brothers of Africa,” he said. “We deeply thank the men and women of Africa for their support of China in its development.”

*Financial Times

Gwen Chen in Beijing and Andrew England in Johannesburg contributed to this report.

*Source Washington Post

 

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South Africans Hold Day of Service to Honor Mandela
July 18, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Peter Cox*

JOHANNESBURG — Nelson Mandela turned 94 Wednesday and all over South Africa, it is a day of celebration and service in the former president’s name.

 

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Members-from-the-South-African-correctional-service-repair-a-wall-at-a-school-where-former-South-African-President-Nelson-Mandela-went-as-a-child-as-they-celebrate-his-birthday-in-Qunu-South-Afr

Mandela Day is a relatively new tradition in South Africa. People are asked to take 67 minutes out of their day to volunteer. The number is 67 because that is how many years Mr. Mandela fought for civil rights.

Sello Hatang, spokesman for the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, says the day is about honoring Mandela’s legacy by continuing his work.

“The significance of the day is in response to Madiba’s call, which he made in 2008 in London, where he was saying to all of us it’s time for new hands to carry the baby, it’s time for new leadership to carry the struggle forward. And to ensure that we build a much more caring world, where we can fight inequality and poverty. Not as a gesture of charity, but as a call of justice,” he said.

​​In Johannesburg, there were hundreds of projects around the city, from sprucing up schools, to working with the elderly, or cleaning up the city.

At the Braamfontein Spruit, Tina Sekhu was helping clean up refuse with her co-workers from Nedbank.

“This is actually humbling to see a lot of people committing to different initiatives and actually making the 67 minutes to make a difference. I’m very honored to actually participate,” she said.

Vusi Khanyile, the Chairman of Thebe Investment Corporation in Rosebank, says his company is taking on a project of helping build a library in the township Orlando West and donated books to the Mandela Foundation. But his employees are making individual efforts as well.

“In my personal case, I’m going to be taking time off from the company.  I’m not going to be here this afternoon, as I’m going to be meeting with a young man that I’m going to be sponsoring and mentoring through university. He comes from the rural areas. He had a string of distinctions from the most impoverished school in the area and is starting at Wits [University in Johannesburg]. And I’m going to be walking the path with him through his university career,” he said.

While the day is an opportunity to serve others, some say it is an important step in moving forward with a new legacy for the country.

Nzima, who studies management at the University of Johannesburg, says the country must keep progressing and not get complacent standing in Mr. Mandela’s shadow.

“People have found a comfort zone and haven’t actually tried to soul search and enhance their abilities to become the next great thing in the world. I find it very true that as people here in South Africa, we don’t actually go out there and make our lives the best for other people, not only for ourselves but for actually other people that are out there,” he said.

Stuart Hoy, who organized the clean-up of Braamfontein Spruit, says the day is a great call to action and for leadership.

“I don’t think there’s anyone nearly close to Madiba that is filling the space that his legacy will leave. We need a million of them. The thing that I love, and Madiba said this in his inauguration speech, was we’re all meant to shine as children do. And people hang around in the shadows, and it’s a very South African thing where we don’t do something in case someone tells us something is wrong or chops us down,” he said. “We need a million Madibas, there’s space for that. There’s space for every South African to do something which is awesome. And this is small, you know?”

Khanyile, the executive in Rosebank, says the day needs to become an essential part of the national calendar.

“A country needs to build shared traditions … the Madiba legacy is one such important common tradition for South Africans. Irrespective of what race or religion or political ideology you supported before our democratic change, Madiba became an instrument and a symbol for the coming together for the different streams that make up South Africa,” he said.

Mandela, South Africa’s first black president and Nobel Peace Prize winner, spent the day quietly in his home village of Qunu. He no longer appears in public but his activism is here on full display.

*Culled from VOA

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The world’s view of terrorism in Nigeria
July 17, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Bola Olajuwon*

IN the past few weeks, what was seen as a Nigerian local phenomenon took an international dimension with successive action and declarations by the United States (U.S.) government and the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Mrs. Fatou Bensounda, against the radical fundamentalist sect, Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad, loosely translated as Boko haram, and its leaders.

Firstly, it started with the U.S. on June 21, labelling Abubakar Shekau, the most visible leader of Boko haram and two other chieftains, Abubakar Adam Kambar and Khalid al-Barnawi as Specially Designated Global Terrorists with the aim of weakening the capacity of the sect members to execute violent attacks. According to a statement by the State Department, the designation under Executive Order 13224, “blocks all of Shekau’s, Kambar’s and al-Barnawi’s property interests subject to U.S. jurisdiction and prohibits U.S. persons from engaging in transactions with or for the benefit of these individuals.” Before the designation of the sect’s leaders, Shekau’s name was well known to the Nigerian public, as other operatives of the sect had used false names to hide their real identities.

The statement described Shekau as the most visible leader of the sect under whose leadership Boko haram has claimed responsibility for many attacks in northern Nigeria. More so, the designations of al-Barnawi and Kambar were based on their ties to Boko haram and close links to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb – a designated Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO).

However, the action fell short of the clamours in U.S. government circles that the sect members should be designated FTO. Some U.S. top security chiefs had reasoned that the sect members should be given the tag of FTO for the United Nations building bombing in Abuja that killed no fewer than 23 people and injured scores of others. It was also argued that many Nigerians – both Muslims and Christians and others – have been killed by Boko haram since 2009 when it began its bloody campaign against Western civilisation in Nigeria and campaigns for substitution of Sharia code for civil laws. “Who knows whether American citizens and those of its western allies would be the next,” they argued.

Also, while Nigeria’s political parties and religious leaders were reacting to the U.S. action, the Commander of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), Gen. Carter Ham, came out a few days later, warning that three of Africa’s largest militant Islamist groups are trying to co-ordinate their efforts. He called the three – North African al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Boko haram and al-Shabab, as the “most dangerous” groups. Ham, who spoke in Washington, said the AQIM was probably sharing explosives and funds with Boko haram. He also asserted that the separatist movement in northern Mali had provided AQIM with a “safe haven”.

AFRICOM has its headquarters in Germany from where it co-ordinates U.S. military operations, which include the use of drones against al-Shabab Islamists in Somalia to the training of African armies in various countries.

Though Ham highlighted that these groups were not monolithic, and that not all followed an international jihadist agenda, he, however noted that what was most worrying was that the most radical elements among them were co-ordinating and synchronising their efforts.

Nevertheless, Bensounda came calling at the State House, Abuja recently as part of her maiden visit to Nigeria. The ICC top official revealed that the court was monitoring the Boko haram insurgence in the country and the effort by the Federal Government to tackle the menace.

After conferring with President Goodluck Jonathan, she told State House correspondents that she had briefed the president on the preliminary examinations that had been done by her office concerning Boko haram and what she described as the trouble in the Middle Belt area of the country in the past four to five years. Bensounda noted that though the sect’s activities might be regarded as terrorism, they also qualify as crimes against humanity.

Bensounda however stressed that the ICC did not intend to intervene in the crisis since the Federal Government was already handling it.

Before the designation of the three sect members, the Secretary-General of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Alhaji Lateef Adegbite, had pleaded with the U.S. not to label the Islamic sect members, a terrorist group. But this was too late, as the American government announced the executive order same day.      Adegbite, while speaking with reporters at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, said since Nigerians are doing everything possible to address the matter through dialogue, America should move with caution. He also alluded to the fact that it would be difficult for the American government to know the members of the sect, adding that any action precipitously carried out, could have serious repercussions.

Meanwhile, while Nigerians were yet to internalise the import of the designation of sect leaders, the Nigerian Mission in Washington DC appealed to the U.S. government that in the eventuality of whatever action that would be taken against the sect’s hierarchy, it should not affect their immediate neighbours who had not only been the hardest hit, but had vehemently opposed the activities of the Islamic sect.

But this appeal infuriated the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and in its reaction, blamed Nigeria’s leadership for the designation of Shekau, Kambar and al-Barnawi. It explained the implications of the letter written by the Nigerian mission for Nigeria’s sovereignty.

The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in a statement, said the Jonathan administration had virtually surrendered the nation’s sovereignty to the U.S. through the letter from the Nigerian embassy in Washington begging Americans not to kill innocent Nigerians.

The party’s position is understandable. While America’s current target is officially on three key leaders of the group, it may be forced to widen the designation of more leaders of the group. It may also go ahead to designate the group as FTO. As the U.S. and its NATO allies did in such countries as Libya, Afghanistan and Pakistan, suspected Boko haram’s camps, havens and vehicles conveying its leaders and operatives may be hit by American drones if President Barack Obama so desires and provided the Federal Government agrees and sanctions such action. The U.S. may also take a unilateral action like it did when Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan if it is established that Nigerian government officials could not be trusted.

But a research fellow with Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Prof. Osita Agbu, told The Guardian that despite the positions of Nigerians on the matter, the international community disapproved terrorism in whichever guise. According to him, no nation will stand by and watch a group killing and destroying lives and property. Also, Agbu contended that if in deed it was true that Nigeria is seeking American help in tackling the Boko haram’s menace, “there is nothing wrong. It is the usual practice for any nation to seek and accept the help of other country or countries if confronted with a problem like that of Boko haram.”

He also said that with the cooperation and partnership between Boko haram and AQIM and al-Shabab, America and its allies would not wait until they are hit like al-Qaeda before taking actions. On the issue of drone attacks, he said that its “marginal collateral damages are always inevitable.” He stressed that drone attacks are always well-considered before such actions are taken, but when it strikes, the environment is not immune to “marginal collateral damages.”

Also, a foreign diplomat who craved anonymity told The Guardian that the window of opportunity is now open to the Federal Government to tackle the Boko haram violence finally before the nation and innocence people start facing the consequence of interventions of foreign actors like the U.S. and its allies.

According to the diplomat, the Federal Government can go after the three designated leaders of Boko haram, arrest them and jail them. Else, the group and its other leaders may as well be designated as explained by U.S. State Department’s spokesperson, Victoria Nuland. Nuland, answering a question at a briefing at the State Department, said: “There is always this question of whether designating individuals within an organisation is the most effective strategy or whether the designating (of) the whole organisation is the most effective strategy. So, we’re continuing to look at the question of a broader designation.”

However, despite the call for dialogue with Boko haram, the Director-General of NIIA, Prof. Bola Akinterinwa, believes that religious bigotry has created one of the most serious national security problems that Nigeria is dealing with at the moment. He said the series of suicide bombings that the Boko haram has inflicted on the country since the beginning of its insurgency have continued to sow the seed of ethnic disharmony and divisive, rather than integrative nationalism.

To Dr. Onu Ekhomu of Trans-World Security Systems Ltd., the designation of three militant leaders as terrorists is a welcome but overdue development that should be extended to the entire sect for maximum effect.

“Boko haram is a terrorist group killing Nigerians and attempting to set Nigeria on fire through a contrived sectarian conflict. I must say that Boko haram terrorism is not about Islam. It is about extremism and terrorism…No right thinking Nigerian will agree that it is okay to spill innocent Nigerian blood…We should not hope that Boko Haram will quietly go away without vigorous intervention from our government and our allies…”

*Source http://www.ngrguardiannews.com

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iROKO Partners closes on $2m funding
July 17, 2012 | 0 Comments

– iROKO Partners, the world’s leading online distributor of Nigerian movies and music, announces today that it has closed on a final round of funding, totaling US$2m, from Swedish-based Kinnevik, an early investor in Groupon. The additional investment will be used to grow iROKO Partners’ operations in New York, London and Lagos, as well as for purchasing more content for its platforms iROKOtv (movies) and iROKING (music).  The deal forms part of iROKO Partners’ second round of investment with US-based hedge fund, Tiger Global, in April 2012.

Jason Njoku, Founder & CEO of iROKO Partners commented: “We were already on our way towards becoming a world class company, but this investment is an awesome catalyst for us to increase our offering and solidify our market leadership.

“Kinnevik’s vast experience of working in emerging markets, combined with the momentum that iROKO Partners has gained in aggregating the African Diaspora is a winning combination. We’re extremely fortunate to have Kinnevik’s expertise on our board and we’re looking into new and innovative ways that we can bring incredible Nigerian entertainment to the world.”

Headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria and with offices in London and New York and a staff of almost 100, iROKO Partners was set up in December 2010 to bring Nigerian movies (Nollywood) and music to the African Diaspora. Its platform for showing Nollywood movies on demand, iROKOtv, has over 560,000 registered users and moved to a subscription-based model on 1 July 2012.

 Mia Brunell Livfors, President and CEO of Investment AB Kinnevik, said: “We are impressed by the growth and entrepreneurship of iROKO Partners. In two years it has become one of Africa’s top tech companies and a global leader in the distribution of Nigerian movies and music, one of the largest and fastest content categories in the world. The predicted growth for the sector is exciting and iROKO is delivering this content to a global audience and building an online entertainment hub.”

iROKOtv, has been groundbreaking in bringing over 5,000 Nollywood films to the African Diaspora, with viewers logging on from over 178 countries across the world.  To date, over 10 million hours of Nollywood movies have been watched on irokotv.com.

Launched in December 2011, iROKOtv is a subsidiary of iROKO Partners, Africa’s largest, legitimate distributor of Nigerian film and music entertainment with key partnerships with the likes of Facebook; iROKOtv viewers can login via their Facebook account, and is YouTube’s largest African partner. iROKO Partners is expected to increase its viewers to over 250 million in 2012 across its brands iROKOtv, iROKING (the “Spotify of Africa”), Nollywood Love and iROKtv, Africa’s answer to “E!”.

In April 2012 Tiger Global, a New York-based private equity and hedge fund run by an early investor in Facebook and Zynga, led two $4 million rounds of investment into iROKO Partners, in one of the largest ever fundraisings into a West African tech firm.  The funding will continue to be used to build iROKOtv’s library and to continue working directly with Nollywood production houses to buy the higher prices for the online licenses to Nollywood films which enables them to better monetize their content and to reinvest in making more, higher quality productions.

In May 2012, iROKOtv announced that from 1 July 2012, subscribers across the world will  have exclusive access to brand new and exclusive Nollywood releases, uploaded weekly for $5 per month and payable by SMS, PayPal or card.

www.irokotv.com | facebook.com/irokotv | @iROKOtv

Kinnevik

Kinnevik was founded in 1936 and thus embodies seventy-five years of entrepreneurship under the same group of principal owners. Kinnevik’s objective is to increase shareholder value, primarily through net asset value growth. The company’s holdings of growth companies are focused around seven comprehensive business sectors; Telecom & Services, Online, Media, Micro financing, Paper & Packaging, Agriculture and Renewable energy. Kinnevik has a long history of investing in emerging markets which has resulted in a considerable exposure to consumer sectors in these markets. Kinnevik plays an active role on the Boards of its holdings.

Kinnevik’s class A and class B shares are listed on the NASDAQ OMX Stockholm’s list for large cap companies, within the financial and real estate sector. The ticker codes are KINV A and KINV B.

For further information please contact:

 

iROKO Partners                                    
Jessica Hope jessica.hope@irokopartners.com
+44 203 176 2808
Pelham Bell Pottinger
Victoria GeogheganElizabeth Snow +44 20 7861 3821

 

 

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How Kenya became a world leader for mobile money
July 17, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Wolfgang Fengler *

What if anyone owning a cell-phone, whether rich or poor, also had access to financial services with the ability to save and send money safely, no matter where they are located?  This is not science fiction; in fact it is already happening in Kenya, which has become the world’s market leader in mobile money.

Today, Kenya has more cell-phone subscriptions than adult citizens and more than 80 percent of those with a cell phone also use “mobile money” (or “M-PESA” which is very different from “mobile banking” as Michael Joseph–the former Safaricom CEO, and the man behind that revolution—can explain passionately!).

Internet access is also increasing rapidly, even though many are complaining about poor service by some operators. Within the next two years, Kenya could become one of the most connected, and modern economies in the developing world, and a unique case among the world’s poorer countries, that have an average annual income of below US$ 1000 per capita (see figure).

While the telecom revolution is not unique to Kenya, mobile money is. There are approximately 60 million mobile money users in the world, which means that almost one in three is a Kenyan. Half of all mobile money transactions are taking place in Kenya where annual transfers are now around US$ 10 billon.

The emerging social and economic impact has been remarkable. Businesses can operate more effectively: shop-owners don’t need to carry a lot of cash, or to stand in long queues at Banks to transfer money to suppliers. Urban dwellers no longer need to make overnight trips to their rural homes to pay their children’s school fees (or give money to relatives). Women have been empowered because their husbands have a harder time taking their money away. Even macroeconomic policy has become easier because the Central Bank has a better handle on the money in circulation, as mobile money helped to move cash from the mattresses to the market.

The success of mobile money in Kenya should be a source of national pride: it gives the country a global profile, which is only matched by the successes of its long-distance runners.

But Kenya’s global leadership in this area is also puzzling. Even Hillary Clinton wondered why this “brilliant innovation” is not available in the USA. How come mobile money has not yet taken off in other countries, especially those where money transfers from urban to rural areas are enormous even by Kenyan standards? If it is so beneficial to customers and operators, why have they not sought to replicate Kenya’s success, given that replication is so much easier than innovation?

There are three main reasons why mobile money took off in Kenya, while facing challenges in other countries (even though the India, Philippines, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda have started to catch up).

First, Kenya’s regulators enabled the mobile money take-off. The Central Bank in particular played a very progressive role and allowed “regulation to follow innovation”, while reassuring the market of its oversight. The regulator agreed that mobile money agents needed only limited requirements to enter the business, as they were not providing banking services, while the operator behaved as if it was regulated and periodically reported financial and usage data as Banks do.

Second, the strategy of the omnipresent operator – Safaricom – was also important. In 2007, the company already had more than 50 percent market share. Its strong position and national presence helped it to reach scale. But when replicating mobile money in other countries, such dominance by a single operator is not a precondition for mobile money to take off: many alternative models can also lead to success such as “third-party platforms” into which operators connect to. Even more important was the company’s business philosophy to “build a brand rather than make quick return”. Indeed, it took some three years until M-PESA generated a net-profit. However, it created indirect benefits from the beginning because in Kenya’s increasingly competitive market, mobile money boosted loyalty and attracted new customers to its core business of voice and SMS.

Third, Safaricom’s management understood that the success of M-PESA was ultimately about people management, not technology. Many innovations fail because management focuses exclusively on designing and launching a product, and assume that technology will take care of itself afterwards. The opposite is true. You need people to run machines and the interactions you get after product launch can generate even better products. The true secret of M-PESA’s success is the management of the agent network, which grew from 300 initially to almost 30,000 today.

There is no doubt that mobile money will soon go global, especially if countries consider the lessons from Kenya. In the whole world, there are still more than two billion people who have cell-phones but no Bank account: for these, mobile money is an extremely attractive proposition.

—————————————————————————————————–

*Wolfgang Fengler is the World Bank’s Lead Economist in the Nairobi office of the World Bank where he covers Kenya, Rwanda, Eritrea, and Somalia. This article draws on a forthcoming paper titled “Scaling-up through disruptive business models – The inside story of mobile money in Kenya” (by Pauline Vaughn, Wolfgang Fengler and Michael Joseph) which will be published by Brookings as part of a book project on “Scaling up for development impact”.Source http://blogs.worldbank.org

 

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Algerian ship makes historic visit to United States
July 17, 2012 | 0 Comments

Written by defenceWeb/USN*

The Algerian Navy ship ANS Soummam (937) has arrived in New York City for a five-day port visit, marking the first time an Algerian Navy ship has ever visited the United States.

Soummam transited the Atlantic Ocean as part of a training program for officer trainees from the Algerian Naval High School. She was greeted on arrival by Algeria’s

The Algerian navy ship (ANS) Soummam (937) sails past the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, marking the first time an Algerian navy ship has visited the United States.

The Algerian navy ship (ANS) Soummam (937) sails past the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, marking the first time an Algerian navy ship has visited the United States.

ambassador to the United States, Algeria’s defence attaché, the Consul General of Algeria in New York, members of the Algerian diplomatic corps, and U.S. military and civilian authorities.

“I was very moved when I saw the ship in the port of New York,” said Abdallah Baali, Algerian Ambassador to the United States. “It is truly a historic moment for us in New York and certainly for the crew and officers of the ship who came to the prestigious city of New York.”

This call is part of the “Summer 2012” training programme, during which officer-trainees will receive practical on-the-ground training.

The visit by Soummam displays the increasing cooperation between the United States and Algerian navies. Earlier this year, Algeria hosted the combined maritime operations centre in Oran during Exercise Phoenix Express.

“The great thing about a country’s navy is that a naval ship can be used for multiple purposes,” said Captain Andy Lennon, the lead coordinator for the visit assigned to U.S. 6th Fleet headquarters. “It can be used in war and equally it can be used for diplomacy.”

While the training mission is designed to instruct students on navigating the world’s oceans, the port visit is also part of their training. According to Baali, a cultural and sports programme was developed to give the officer-trainees an opportunity to conduct exchanges with the U.S. Navy in order to better acquaint themselves with one of the world’s largest navies and learn about its different services.

The cultural programme for the Algerian sailors included tours to various sites throughout the city, such as the United Nations, the Bronx Zoo and the 9/11 Memorial.

“We have all been very excited to visit New York,” said Algerian Captain Mamia Mouzaoi. “It is a great opportunity to visit America, and the people have been very welcoming.”

Showing their appreciation for the hospitality, Soummam also hosted a reception aboard the ship, allowing for greater interaction between the crew, U.S. Navy, and government officials.

“We are happy to have the Algerians here,” said Terrence Holliday, New York City’s Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs commissioner. “New York is a great city with a warm heart and a lot to see, we appreciate everything they bring here to make this city richer.”

Throughout their visit, local U.S. Navy sailors from Navy Operation Support Center New York City and Naval Weapons Station Earle New Jersey have been readily available to show the Soummam crew around the city.

“We have U.S. Navy sailors travelling with them to all of the sites throughout the visit,” said Lennon. “It allows us more opportunities to engage on a personal level, hopefully giving both nation’s sailors a richer experience.

ANS Soummam was built in China and commissioned in 2006.

Algeria is in the process of expanding its navy in recent years as it faces problems such as smuggling, illegal migration and indigenous terrorism. These threats mainly affect Algeria’s harbours and maritime communication routes and ships passing through the Straits of Gibraltar. Consequently, the Algerian Navy maintains a well-trained and well-equipped fleet to provide security to more than 1000 km of coastline.

In May it emerged that Algeria had signed a contract with China Shipbuilding Trading Company for three light frigates, after ordering two Meko A-200N frigates from Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems.

The three light frigates will be built either at Guangzhou or the Shanghai Huangpu Shipyard. The vessels will displace around 2 800 tons fully loaded, and will be powered by MTU diesel engines.

On March 26 this year Algeria’s ministry of defence signed a contract with ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) for two Meko A-200 frigates with an option for two more, after a year of negotiations.

TKMS will supply two Meko A-200 frigates and six AgustaWestland Super Lynx helicopters under the €2 175 520 000 contract. According to Russia’s Periscope magazine, the ships will be armed with RBS 15 Mk III anti-ship missiles, Umkhonto IR surface-to-air missiles, Oto Melara and Rheinmetall guns and MU 90 torpedoes. The helicopters will be equipped with Mokopa air-to-ground missiles.

In the middle of last year it was announced that Algeria had signed a deal with Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corporation and state arms exporter Rosoboronexport for two new Tiger class corvettes. The Tiger corvette (Project 20382) is an export model of the Project 20380 Steregushchy class, which is the Russian Navy’s newest corvette class.

The vessel can be equipped with a variety of weaponry, including 100 or 76.2 mm guns, 14.5 mm machine guns, 533 mm torpedoes and a variety of surface-to-air and surface-to-surface missiles (e.g. P-800 Oniks, Uran-E or Yakhont). In addition, the vessels have capacity for a helicopter.

According to the IISS’s The Military Balance 2012, Algeria’s surface fleet comprises of three 1970s-era Koni class antisubmarine frigates, six corvettes, 22 patrol and coastal combat vessels, three amphibious vessels and three logistics and support ships.

In June 2006 Rosoboronexport signed a contract with the Algerian Navy for the construction of two Project 636 Improved Kilo class submarines under a roughly US$400 million contract.

Construction of the first submarine started in 2006 and the second began in 2007. They were handed over to the Algerian Navy in March and September 2010 where they joined two Project 877EKM Kilo diesel electric submarines, which Algeria received in 1987-1988.

Russia is presently upgrading a Nanuchka II class corvette and a Koni II class frigate for the Algerian Navy and will hand them over in July. Algeria and the Severnaya Verf shipyard signed a contract in 2007 for the overhaul of three warships of each class. Russia delivered the first pair, consisting of a Project 1234E Nanuchka II class corvette (Rais Hamidou) and a Project 1159T Koni II class frigate (Mourad Rais), to Algeria in February 2011.

*Source www.defenceweb.co.za

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Tony Blair appointed South Sudan government advisor
July 17, 2012 | 0 Comments

July 15, 2012 (JUBA) – Former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair is set to become to an advisor to the South Sudan government as part of an agreement between his charity, the Africa Governance Initiative (AGI) and the new country’s leadership.

The deal, according to The Telegraph, was reached last month between AGI and South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, following a four-day visit to the country at the end of May

Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister, sits through a question and answer session at the University of Hong Kong on June 14, 2012. (Getty)

Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister, sits through a question and answer session at the University of Hong Kong on June 14, 2012. (Getty)

by David Miliband MP, British former foreign secretary. At the seminar, which was attended by South Sudan’s vice-president and ministers, reportedly the Chinese involvement in the country’s oil industry was also discussed.

South Sudan thus becomes the fifth African nation, including Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Liberia and Guinea, where AGI now has offices in presidential departments.

It, however, remains unclear in what capacity Blair will be involved in South Sudan, while AGI’s South Sudan operation will reportedly be headed by Miliband.

“The objective of our work is to strengthen the capacity of the new institutions at the center of the government so they are better able to lead the country’s development. We hope that our work can help to deliver improvements to the people of South Sudan,” reads a statement on the AGI website.

No official statement has, however, been issued by the South Sudan government or officials from the British embassy in Juba, the South Sudan capital, regarding the ex-premier’s involvement.

The addition of South Sudan to Blair’s portfolio, The Telegraph argued, gives him influence over the world’s newest nation state, which was officially recognized a year ago following years of civil war in the region.

Blair’s appointment comes at a time when South Sudan tries to grapple with the aftermath of its oil shut down following a dispute with Sudan. Oil revenues, until then, accounted for about 98 percent of the government budget.

Also, the new nation has stepped up its fight against corruption, with the President recently issuing letters to 75 former and current officials, asking them to account for nearly $4bn allegedly siphoned from the national treasury. The President has since received lots of support from lawmakers, the civil society and the public for his anti-corruption crusade.

Last year, Blair visited Juba and held talks with South Sudan’s foreign affairs minister, Nhial Deng Nhial before meeting President Kiir.

During the visit, the former British prime minister pledged his country’s commitment towards addressing South Sudan’s post-independence challenges, and assured the latter of full international community support.

Born in May 1953, Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, a member of the country’s Labour party served as the UK’s Prime Minister from 1997 to 2007.

During his tenure, however, he was widely criticized for his foreign policy, especially his support of US President George W. Bush’s war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan.

*Culled from Sudan Tribune, www.sudantribune.com

 

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Boko Haram: The American option
July 14, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Ladi Thompson*

Every right-thinking Nigerian would welcome the broad suggestion made by the United States Ambassador, Mr. Terence McCulley to the Federal Government.

In the course of an address delivered at the Distinguished Public Lecture during the 50th anniversary of the University of Lagos, the Ambassador campaigned for a change of tactics in the current fight against terrorism.

Tapping into his nation’s experience, he cautioned against the heavy-handed approach and went on to suggest that community policing was one of the directions in which to go.

The envoy was quoted to have drawn a parallel between New York in the 1980’s and Northern Nigeria of the modern day. While Nigerians must appreciate his genuine concerns, we must however make available the African opinion about his surmise.

Something about the presentation reminds me about a setting in the primary school that I attended in the early 1960s. There was a particular school friend of mine whose reputation for dullness in Arithmetic was legendary. Every time the teacher asked him a question, the entire class would mouth different answers in attempts to help save his face.

Silent and helpless, the poor chap would twiddle his thumbs and curl his toes with sweat dripping down his face, as diverse answers would fly around and leave him more confused than ever. But he turned out a different person on the sports field.

In many ways, African nations are subconsciously handled like that on the global stage. The envoy started out by inadvertently admitting the existence of a terrorism problem in Nigeria, but he went on to compare the experience of an American city with that of a sovereign nation.

Aware that the resurgent terror problem is a documented global affair, McCulley’s historical foray into the New York experience and the ideological war that is being conducted on Nigerian soil leaves one in a daze.

Both global and local patterns clearly show that the ideological conflict takes advantage of negative economic climes, as well as government’s lapses. If the Nigerian opinion counts for anything, we would rather have US backing for solutions that de-emphasize the lines of division between Northern and Southern Nigeria.

If we want to pursue solutions that will not create greater problems, it is our patriotic duty to announce to our allies that this colonial North-South demarcation has been the root of many national problems.

More than anything, the unskillful suturing of the Northern and Southern Protectorates of 1914 promoted the Boko Haram policy that created the imbalance in industrialization and development. It is undeniable that the cultural clash between the Arabic bent of Northern Nigeria and the colonial interests of Britain was the reason for the indirect rule policy.

We were joined together at the hip but kept apart by the social engineering skills of our colonizers and there will never be any real progress until an exercise in consensus building is undertaken.

Africans have learnt to bear hardship and poverty with dignity. It would be tantamount to a slap in the face for anyone to insist that terrorism is a product of poverty instead of the other way round.

The poverty quotient of Northern Nigeria is not any different from that of most parts of our federation, except that the Boko Haram has created its stronghold there because of an ancient strain of Islamism that was revived by the global quest. The letters of El Kanemi, an Islamic scholar to the Sokoto Caliphate in the early 1800s will lay all doubt to rest. The terrorism that sponsors bloodshed by waging war against non-Muslims and fellow Muslims alike is not a new phenomenon in Nigeria. Ideological corrosions thrive on full stomachs as well as empty ones!

The failed terror attack undertaken by the scion of the wealthy Mutallab family of Northern Nigeria was no fluke and there are millions of such boys waiting in the wings to be recruited but for want of the means.

The preponderance of Osama bin Ladin stickers on motorbikes, carts and walls is a pointer to the pandemic proportions of this corrosive influence. We think that the US ambassador’s suggestion about community policing is a great idea, but the dynamics of Nigerian politics and the architecture of governance will not accommodate it except compelled otherwise.

Finally, the US has to be made aware that many Nigerian citizens have been exposed to life in the Gulf states and the political arm of terrorism is showcasing the modern development in the Emirates as proof positive that Nigerians do not need a cumbersome democracy to enjoy the fruits of modern living.

The ease of visa procurements to the emirates compared to the western nations means more and more Africans are being influenced towards an alternative form of governance. Now that Nigerians have finally come to the place where we know that no one can build a lasting structure on shaky foundations, it would be tragic if our democratic republic goes under because we do not face the Islamist threat for what it is. The domino effect in Africa would be something else and the globe would not want to see what an Arab-Africanised continent will be in the hand of fundamentalists.

*Rev. Thompson, a conflict resolution and anti-terrorism expert. This piece was also published at www.punchng.com

 

 

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China football fans greet Didier Drogba at Shanghai
July 14, 2012 | 0 Comments

Ivory Coast football star Didier Drogba has arrived to a hero’s welcome in China, to take up a contract to play for Shanghai Shenhua.

Hundreds of fans of the struggling Chinese Super League team greeted the 34-year-old former Chelsea star at Shanghai’s Pudong airport.

Hundreds-of-fans-welcomed-Drogba-at-Shanghais-Pudong-airport.

Hundreds-of-fans-welcomed-Drogba-at-Shanghais-Pudong-airport.

Drogba’s reported $300,000 (£193,000) a week salary makes him one of the world’s highest paid footballers.

Drogba is among many foreign stars who have made recent moves to China.

He joins former Chelsea colleague Nicolas Anelka at Shanghai Shenhua.

Soon after his arrival, Drogba insisted he had not come for the money.

He said: “It would have been easier for me to stay in Europe, but I chose China. Money is not the most important [thing]. I am here for a whole new experience.”

Tough task

The BBC’s John Sudworth in Shanghai says that Shenhua is a club with an ambition that far outstrips its modest earnings.

Drogba’s reputed salary is not far off the club’s total revenue from ticket sales and advertising combined, he says.

Like other big spending Chinese clubs, our correspondent says, the maths add up only because of the big spending ways of the owners and the multi-billion-dollar companies they run.

The hope is that the injection of new foreign talent will help to raise standards in China.

Drogba-said-his-move-was-not-about-the-money.

Drogba-said-his-move-was-not-about-the-money.

But some fans fear the signings are simply a vanity and publicity drive for the corporations behind the deals, our correspondent says, and that not enough is being done to develop the grassroots of the game.

Drogba has his work cut out. Shanghai Shenhua are one point off the bottom of the 16-club Chinese Super League.

He could be introduced to fans at Saturday’s fixture against Beijing Guoan and may make his debut in the Cup at Changchun next week.

Drogba scored 157 goals in 341 appearances for Chelsea and was on target to help them win the Champions League final this year.

*Culled from BBC

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