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Germany’s ‘Marshall Plan with Africa’
May 30, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Andrew Green*

Photo by: Irina Patrascu / CC BY

Photo by: Irina Patrascu / CC BY

BERLIN, Germany — A proposal from Germany’s development ministry stands to rewrite the country’s — and possibly the G-20’s — aid relationship with Africa. The so-called Marshall Plan with Africa would prioritize encouraging private investment on the continent, possibly while reducing or shifting official development assistance.

The plan is part of a broader German focus on Africa in 2017, in an effort to play a stronger role leading donor policy within Europe and the G-20.

Analysts and advocates working in Africa say the plan puts into writing some of the trends already underway in aid, including a shift toward the private sector. They warn, however, that moving away from ODA entirely could leave gaps in need. Others, meanwhile, are looking to the German government to use the plan to engage a wider range of actors, including other donors and multilateral banks, to introduce a range of initiatives that could truly have a long-term impact.

For now, though, the debate is largely hypothetical. The plan is still only a proposal, and Germany’s position on Africa is set to evolve rapidly in the coming weeks. The finance ministry is currently constructing a separate “Compact with Africa,” and the country is set to host the G-20 summit in July, where relations with Africa will feature heavily on the agenda. German elections in September could also impact the development agenda, particularly if Chancellor Angela Merkel loses her bid for a fourth term.

Amid the uncertainty, experts are cautious not to either under or overstate the Marshall’s Plan potential impact. German aid and implementing partners are equally unsure how to react. The ministry declined to answer specific questions about whether development partners should read the document as a broader shift in priorities, or consider realigning their programs to match the interventions highlighted in the document.

But one indicator of the proposal’s impact could come in June, as Berlin hosts a G-20 African Partnership Conference, ahead of the broader G-20 meeting in July. The agenda for that meeting, which is focused on improving the investment climate in African countries, dovetails with the emphasis in the plan and could indicate how much influence it will ultimately have on German aid.

What does this Marshall Plan entail?

The Marshall Plan with Africa, released earlier this year, is effectively a blueprint for tackling a range of challenges on the continent — chief among them the problems that could result from Africa’s likely population explosion by 2050.

The proposal aims to be an “integrated overall approach” to address issues ranging from food security, good governance to social concerns, Gerd Müller, the federal minister for economic cooperation and development, explained during a business summit in Nairobi in February.

The plan positions Germany to help African governments with more than 100 different reform ideas that fall under three broad pillars: Economic activity, trade and employment; peace and security; and democracy and the rule of law. Each pillar includes recommendations for African country governments, the German government and the larger international community. Some are quite specific, for example a call on African countries to support a continental human rights court. Others offer more vague guidance, as in the call for international partners to “promote local value chains.”

Throughout, the plan emphasizes improving the investment climate. Among the proposed initiatives are plans to help create incentive packages for businesses. It also floats the idea of using ODA funds to secure private investments.

“It’s not the governments that will create all the long-term employment opportunities that are needed, it’s the private sector,” the plan reads. “So it’s not subsidies that Africa needs so much as more private investment.”

The plan also looks to directly seed the ground for investors. It would support programs that promote peace, security and anti-corruption efforts, in order to better protect investment. It would also look to boost job and vocational training initiatives to prepare young people for the workforce. Traditional development initiatives, including improving health, education systems and infrastructure, would also likely continue.

“We need more ODA funds to meet the current challenges,” the plan says, without specifying an ideal amount. In 2015, the German government spent about 16 billion euros ($17.8 billion) on ODA — the third highest amount in the world behind the United States and the United Kingdom.

Still, “it’s definitely a pro-private investment shift and a bit away from ODA,” said Manfred Öhm, the head of the Africa department at Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. The German political foundation, which draws some financial support from the government, runs a range of development programs in Africa.

Implications for the G-20 relationship with Africa

If expanded, some advocates say the plan could have a significant impact, in part because Germany looks to be positioning itself as a policy-leading donor on the continent. The draft was released in a year when Germany is hosting the G-20, and has made re-evaluating its relationship with Africa a priority. Already, German officials appear to be reframing the plan, which is the vision of one ministry, as part of the larger discussion of the G-20’s relationship with Africa.

Speaking to the African Union last October, German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to “make the issues that concern you in Africa one of the priorities of the G-20 agenda, and also launch a large-scale initiative with Africa to this end.” The first step, the G-20 African Partnership Conference, will be designed to encourage private investment, sustainable infrastructure and employment in Africa.

The plan could form a significant part of the broader global discussion about the international community’s relationship with Africa, according to Jamie Drummond, the co-founder and executive director of ONE, a grassroots organization fighting extreme poverty and preventable diseases, particularly in Africa.

“This G-20 could and must herald a more coordinated push with Africa than we’ve seen since 2005 and Gleneagles,” Drummond said, referring to the U.K.-hosted G-8 summit that agreed to double aid to Africa, and eliminate the debts of some of the world’s poorest countries.

Drummond is looking for something equally bold to emerge — or at least begin — in Hamburg, where Germany is hosting its G-20. He would like to see momentum towards improving the quality and quantity of funding for education, increasing funds for women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship and an emphasis on good governance, alongside any focus on improving the climate for private investment.

“The private sector approach is incredibly important,” he said. “But if it was the only thing that was being proposed, that would not be enough.”

With Africa’s population set to more than double by 2050, from 1.2 billion to 2.5 billion, according to the Population Reference Bureau, “African development is now clearly central to European and G-20 security into the twenty-first century,” he said. “That’s what this G-20 acknowledges and now we must urgently act on that.”

Domestic support for the plan

The Marshall Plan proposal will need to pull in new elements and some more collaborators — including from within the German government — if it is to be relevant, some analysts warn.

Given what it hopes to achieve, the proposal doesn’t yet include enough partners, said Stefan Brüne, an associate fellow at the German Council on Foreign Relations. The federal ministry for economic cooperation and development may not be the best body to strengthen democracy, for example, he said.

“They are not in a position to really address these problems,” he said, compared to their counterparts in the ministry of foreign affairs, for instance, who can exert more political pressure.

Domestic politics could also impact the roll out. Though Müller comes from the ruling party coalition, it is still not clear how popular his plan is within his own government. Experts are looking for input from the ministry of defense, and greater cooperation with the ministry of finance, as it puts together its own compact with Africa. They are also watching to see if Merkel will more publicly embrace the plan or introduce her own strategy that might borrow elements from it.

If it is to truly jumpstart a broader conversation, it would also need to draw in officials from other G-20 nations, the World Bank and other international institutions — something its architects are clearly already aware of and which its advocates are prepared to push for.

Öhm said one of the ministry’s priorities should be providing more clarity, including about the future of ODA, programs the government plans to support and which governments the ministry is specifically hoping to assist. Some African countries are interested in reforms to improve the investment climate, and some are interested in transparency and democratic promotion, but the two groups are not necessarily the same.

At best, he and some other analysts see the plan as a potential starting point for conversations about the balance between ODA and private investment, for instance.

Truly rethinking Germany’s — or the G-20’s — relationship with Africa in the terms that the plan lays out would require a significant generational commitment, experts said. The question is whether the Marshall Plan actually represents that.

*DEVEX

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David Oyelowo Demands The Horrors Of Human Trafficking In Africa ‘Must Change’
May 28, 2017 | 0 Comments

He tells HuffPost he’s on a mission to eradicate human trafficking on the continent and around the world.

By Brennan Williams*

David Oyelowo is serious about inspiring positive change in the world.

GEANCO In addition to his scholarship for girls in Nigeria, Oyelowo says he wants to extend his humanitarian efforts to combat the global epidemic of human trafficking.

GEANCO
In addition to his scholarship for girls in Nigeria, Oyelowo says he wants to extend his humanitarian efforts to combat the global epidemic of human trafficking.

The actor will be honored on June 4 by the Diamond Empowerment Fund, a nonprofit co-founded by Russell Simmons, with the Diamonds Do Good International Vanguard Award. The award, which will be given to Oyelowo during the organization’s annual awards gala in Las Vegas, recognizes his achievements in the arts and in the educational empowerment of vulnerable girls in Nigeria.

Oyelowo told HuffPost that he prefers projects that showcase Africa’s overlooked history, such as “United Kingdom,” which highlighted Botswana’s role as a leading diamond-producing nation. In that film, Oyelowo plays Botswana’s first president, Sir Seretse Khama.

“My passion is really behind any African story that highlights the transcendent beauty and just the amazing quality of Africa and its people,” Oyelowo told HuffPost. “So whether it’s in ‘United Kingdom’ or whether it’s in ‘Queen of Katwe’ or other projects that I’m at the inception stages with, that’s what I’m fundamentally interested in and it just so happens that Botswana’s success story is tied into diamonds.”

The actor, who was born in England to Nigerian parents, adds that in addition to highlighting Africa’s abundant culture on the silver screen, he also wants to change the negative perception of Nigeria ― specifically as it pertains to the marginalization of women.

“One of the stories that isn’t a success story of course is surrounding the Chibok girls and what’s going on with Boko Haram, and what’s going on with the marginalization of women generally, not just in Nigeria, but on the African continent and around the world,” he said. “So for me, it’s about highlighting the great story, but also trying to change the narrative around the negative, because those are things that can and must change.”

ALBERT L. ORTEGA VIA GETTY IMAGES
David Oyelowo and his wife Jessica Oyelowo and children arrive for the premiere of Disney’s “Queen Of Katwe.”

Aside from his David Oyelowo Leadership Scholarship for Girls in Nigeria, the actor says he wants to extend his humanitarian efforts to combat the global epidemic of human trafficking.

“Going beyond the borders of Nigeria, human trafficking, modern-day slavery, sex trafficking, these are really disgusting things that are going on in society,” he said. “A lot of them are dealing with girls being pulled out of Africa. It’s happening within the continent itself. Even here in Los Angeles ― the San Fernando Valley, where I live ― it’s one of the worst hubs for human trafficking in the country.”

“So it’s on our doorstep, and it’s international. And if you’re a father of children, really it’s a thing that young people are being subjected to by those who prey upon them,” the actor continued. “It’s unthinkable to think about what’s going on out there. So anything and everything I can do, and my colleagues can do, to eradicate this is what I’m interested in.”

Sometimes with Hollywood specifically, we tend to rush after the buzzy, glamorous, attention-seeking initiatives and it’s not sustainable.”David Oyelowo

As many as 17,500 people are trafficked into the country every year, according to estimates from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, with an estimated 21 million people trafficked around the globe.

And, according to the United Nations, sexual exploitation is the most common form of human trafficking in the world, and women and girls make up the largest proportion of victims.

Oyelowo is committed to reducing these startling statistics, regardless of public recognition.

JASON LAVERIS VIA GETTY IMAGES
Oyelowo encourages more of his peers in entertainment to commit themselves to humanitarian movements in order to see real change.

“I think that’s one of the problems with our society in general. And sometimes with Hollywood specifically, we tend to rush after the buzzy, glamorous, attention-seeking initiatives and it’s not sustainable,” he argued. “Anything that is for instant gratification for yourself will not last. This is a problem in terms of what’s going on in Nigeria, and specifically the marginalization of women.”

“If you’re looking in Hollywood, it’s not as egregious and injustice as sex trafficking and human trafficking but, when you look at sexism within the film industry, we have these moments when everyone pays it attention and then people forget,” he said.

Rather than participating in an occasional initiative for instant gratification, Oyelowo encourages more of his peers in entertainment to commit themselves to humanitarian movements in order to see real change.

“I’m a big believer in not focusing in on the big moment, but on the movement,” he said. “The movement is something that has to be perpetual. Once I attach myself to something I try to focus on it and not let go until the job is done, regardless if the cameras are on or not.”

“I think if more of us do that, the more will actually get done,” he added.

*Source Huffpost

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This is Why Africa Matters to the United States
May 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

Grant Harris (right), former special assistant to the president and senior director for African affairs at the White House, joins Karen Attiah, global opinions editor at the Washington Post, for a Facebook Live discussion on the importance of US engagement in Africa.

Grant Harris (right), former special assistant to the president and senior director for African affairs at the White House, joins Karen Attiah, global opinions editor at the Washington Post, for a Facebook Live discussion on the importance of US engagement in Africa.

The cuts to foreign aid proposed in US President Donald Trump’s new budget, if passed, would drastically diminish US influence in Africa, threaten US security interests, and make way for countries like China to fill the void, according to a former White House official.

We can’t be ceding this space to China and to other players to have them deepen their economic ties and their political ties and have the US really lose out,” said Grant Harris, who served as special assistant to the president and senior director for African affairs at the White House from 2011 to 2015.

Trump’s new federal budget would put an end to important US engagement on the continent, engagement which, according to Harris, is vital for US national security.

This is the premise of his recently published Atlantic Council report: Why Africa Matters to US National Security. “Far too many people think that Africa is of secondary importance to US interests, where, in reality, it’s really important to US national security,” Harris said in a Facebook Live discussion with Karen Attiah, the global opinions editor with the Washington Post, at the Atlantic Council on May 25.

Why Africa Matters to US National Security

Why does stability in Africa matter for security in the United States? Karen Attiah from the Washington Post discusses why Africa is important to US national security interests with Grant Harris, former special assistant to the president and senior director for African affairs at the White House. To learn more, read Harris’ new report: http://bit.ly/2qnK3oJ

Posted by Atlantic Council on Thursday, May 25, 2017

In order to stem the spread of transnational threats, from terrorism to pandemics, Africa must become stable, said Harris. However, achieving stability requires that the United States remain actively engaged, providing not only humanitarian assistance, but also promoting economic growth. “The budget cutbacks would hurt all of that,” he said.

Attiah noted that in the “new US political climate – it’s not just Africa—there’s a real sense that the US may be retreating from its role as a global leader.” This turn inward has opened the door for other nations, such as China, to strengthen their foothold in Africa.

 China is already actively engaged in providing funds to many African nations in desperate need of improved infrastructure. Attiah described how China’s influence in Africa is “visible,” down to details such as Chinese signs in airports throughout the continent. However, Harris said, while Chinese funding of infrastructure projects in many African countries is good for those countries, the projects have “no strings attached,” meaning there are no stipulations regarding labor regulations, human rights, or environmental concerns.

“The US holds itself to different standards, and it should,” said Harris. He insisted that principled engagement bolsters not only US influence, but strengthens relationships with African partners, who are becoming increasingly significant voices on the world stage. African votes make up more than a quarter of the votes in the United Nations, therefore, “we need African partners to advance [US] priorities,” said Harris.

Africa is vital not only to US national security interests, but to the United States’ European allies as well, Harris claimed, citing the migration crisis as a major concern.

Harris said that while his report stresses Africa’s importance to US national security, “even if you’re skeptical of what I’m saying, you’ve got to believe that European allies are important to national security.” Consequently, he said, while Europe seeks to promote stability in Africa in order to stem migration, the United States should engage as well, if not for its own interests, to promote the interest of its allies. “If the US retrenches and we pull back on our assistance… then we’re going to be part of the problem,” according to Harris.

Previous US administrations have promoted deep bipartisan engagement in Africa. Harris called for the Trump administration to follow suit, emphasizing the importance of a much-overlooked, but increasingly important part of the world.

*Allafrica.Rachel Ansley is an editorial assistant at the Atlantic Council.

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

ANALYSIS

By Nick Dearden*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Chief Minister of Gujarat,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you very much.

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South Sudan: Warring Sides Sign Peace Deal in Uganda As Dialogue Begins
May 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

Photo: VOA South Sudan map

Photo: VOA
South Sudan map

South Sudan’s warring parties on Friday signed an undertaking to work on a roadmap for the implementation of the 2015 Arusha Agreement and end the war.

The deal was struck in a meeting chaired by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in Entebbe. The meeting was attended by the acting SPLM secretary-general Jena Nunu Kumba, SPLM-IO foreign secretary Ezekiel Lol Gatkhouth, the head of former detainees Pagan Amum Okietch, Juba’s ambassador to Kampala Samuel Luate Leminsuk and Betty Bigombe.

The deal came as the South Sudan National Dialogue finally started on May 22 with the swearing-in of the steering committee.

However, there are concerns about whether the team will achieve its objective because some areas in the country are inaccessible due to the ongoing civil war. Armed groups opposed to President Salva Kiir’s government, former detainees, and a few opposition parties have cast doubts on the success of the Dialogue, saying it is not all-inclusive and terming it a “monologue.”

But Abel Alier, the co-chair of the 94-member National Dialogue Steering Committee, is confident that the team will reach out to the armed opposition and other stakeholders in and outside the country, despite President Salva Kiir having declared that rebel leader Riek Machar should return to the country for the talks.

 Mr Alier said the team will adopt a bottom-up approach that will involve starting from the grassroots, then the constituency level where intra and inter-communal grievances will be addressed.

The exercise will end at the National Conference in Juba to discuss and adopt the findings. His co-chair is Angelo Beda Bangboru, a veteran South Sudanese politician.

 But the main rebel group led by Dr Machar has cast doubt on the National Dialogue — which was proposed by President Kiir in December 2016 — terming it an attempt to scuttle the implementation of the August 2015 Peace Agreement and an attempt to hoodwink donors into releasing budgetary support, which has been frozen for three years.

According to Mabior Garang de Mabior, chairman of the rebel movement’s National Committee for Information and Public Relations, the rebels are opposed to the “one-sided” dialogue, which they believe is being imposed by President Kiir and his allies as part of a campaign to derail the peace process.

“If President Kiir is honest and the intention is to achieve national healing, reconciliation and forgiveness, then the lack of inclusiveness and prejudice in the selection of the so-called steering committee will make the entire process redundant,” he said.

Mr Mabior added that lack of a political agreement at the national level — which puts an end to the war and creates the necessary peaceful environment for dialogue — will affect the bottom-up approach.

He said his movement believes that the issues to be addressed by the National Dialogue, such as unequal distribution and mismanagement of national resources, are already provided for in the 2015 peace agreement.

President Kiir unveiled the National Dialogue in December last year.

*The East African/Allafrica

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Kiir opens S.Sudan dialogue with unilateral ceasefire
May 24, 2017 | 0 Comments
South Sudan President Salva Kiir, pictured on May 18, 2107, has vowed the army will lay down arms, but warned that his troops would defend themselves if attacked (AFP Photo/ALBERT GONZALEZ FARRAN)

South Sudan President Salva Kiir, pictured on May 18, 2107, has vowed the army will lay down arms, but warned that his troops would defend themselves if attacked (AFP Photo/ALBERT GONZALEZ FARRAN)

Juba (AFP) – South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir declared a unilateral ceasefire Monday as he launched a national dialogue, a controversial bid to end a civil war that excludes his rival Riek Machar.

It is not the first time Kiir has vowed the army will lay down arms in the three-year conflict, and he warned that his troops would defend themselves if attacked.

“I am also once again declaring a unilateral ceasefire effective from today, so that we can create an environment for an inclusive dialogue and so that we can transport humanitarian aid to famine struck areas,” Kiir said at the opening of the national dialogue.

However he told army commanders “you have the right to defend yourself”.

A 94-member steering committee was sworn in “to conduct consultations as widely as possible to give the people of South Sudan (a chance) to air out their views and aspirations to restore peace in their country.”

The process — first announced in December — has been hampered by financial constraints as well as disagreements over the set-up of the steering committee.

Kiir himself will be overseeing the dialogue, a fact which has drawn criticism from opposition groups and activists, and has refused to have his foe Machar take part.

South Sudan has been at war since December 2013 when Kiir fell out with Machar, accusing him of plotting a coup.

“Everybody is welcome to participate in the national dialogue except Riek Machar. Riek Machar will come and cause another war in Juba,” said Kiir.

“But if he has a delegation … let them appoint these people to come to Juba. We guarantee their safety and so that they don’t fear their lives.”

Three years after the power struggle led to war in the world’s youngest country, a peace deal signed in 2015 is in tatters, and all efforts to end fighting have failed.

The conflict has evolved beyond the two main protagonists, breaking down along ethnic lines and drawing in different actors and local grievances.

“A national dialogue could be critical in ensuring a representative discussion of the major issues that affect South Sudanese and on the way forward for the future,” said Amanda Lucey, a peace building researcher at the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies.

“However, there are serious concerns over the legitimacy of the process.”

The UN last month slammed a “callous and blatant disregard” for a ceasefire promised by Kiir in March.

Several government offensives in recent weeks have led to intensified fighting around the country, sending tens of thousands fleeing with reports of atrocities at the hands of Kiir’s army.

*AFP

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Ethiopia’s Tedros wins WHO race, first African to get top job
May 23, 2017 | 0 Comments

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, a former health minister and foreign minister, received more than half the votes in the third round.

Ethiopia’s Tedros wins on third ballot

* Offers more geographical representation of WHO jobs

By Stephanie Nebehay and Tom Miles*

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

GENEVA, May 23 (Reuters) – Ethiopia’s Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus won the race to be the next head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Tuesday, becoming the first African to lead the United Nations agency.

The former health minister and foreign minister received more than half the votes in the first round and eventually won a decisive third-round election to beat Britain’s David Nabarro to the job.

“It’s a victory day for Ethiopia and for Africa,” Ethiopia’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva Negash Kebret Botora told Reuters before Tedros, as he is widely known, was to take the floor at the WHO’s annual ministerial assembly.

Six candidates had stood to take the helm at the WHO, which is tasked with combating outbreaks and chronic diseases.

The job has never before been earned through a competitive election and health officials from all over the globe thronged the assembly hall in the U.N.’s Geneva headquarters where voting took place behind closed doors.

Tedros will begin his five-year term after Margaret Chan, a former Hong Kong health director, steps down after 10 years on June 30. Chan leaves a mixed legacy, after WHO’s slow response to West Africa’s Ebola epidemic in 2013-2016, which killed 11,300 people.

In a last pitch before voting began, Tedros had appealed to ministers by promising to represent their interests and to ensure more countries got top jobs at the Geneva-based WHO.

“I will listen to you. I was one of you. I was in your shoes and I can understand you better,” Tedros told the ministers. “I know what it takes to strengthen the frontlines of healthcare and innovate around the constraints.”

Tedros was widely seen as having the support of about 50 African votes, but questions about his role in restricting human rights and Ethiopia’s cover-up of a cholera outbreak surfaced late in the race, threatening to tarnish his appeal.

Nabarro, a WHO insider who has worked for 40 years in international public health, had pitched himself as a “global candidate”.

Chan, in a speech on Monday, urged ministers to tackle inequalities as a “guiding ethical principle”.

“Scientific evidence is the bedrock of policy. Protect it. No one knows whether evidence will retain its persuasive power in what many now describe as a post-truth world,” she said.

*Reuters

 

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JASON LOVES AFRICA
May 14, 2017 | 0 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Wheel To Africa:

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

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

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

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

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Siemens signs agreements with Uganda and Sudan
May 8, 2017 | 0 Comments

The African states signed the corresponding Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) at the World Economic Forum 2017 in the South African city of Durban.

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, May 4, 2017/ —

  • Memoranda of Understanding to cooperate in the areas of power supply, industry, transportation and healthcare
  • Focus on infrastructure investments and partnerships between public and private sectors
  • Participation in “Make IT Alliance” to promote start-ups and technology companies in Africa
Signing of Uganda MOU: (L-R) Joe Kaeser, Siemens Global President and CEO; Hon. Minister of Finance Matia Kasaija, Uganda; Mesut Sahin, CEO MMEC Mannesman, Germany

Signing of Uganda MOU: (L-R) Joe Kaeser, Siemens Global President and CEO; Hon. Minister of Finance Matia Kasaija, Uganda; Mesut Sahin, CEO MMEC Mannesman, Germany

Siemens  will work more closely with the African countries Uganda and Sudan in the areas of power supply, industry, transportation and healthcare. The African states signed the corresponding Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) at the World Economic Forum 2017 in the South African city of Durban. The documents were signed in the presence of Brigitte Zypries, German Federal Minister for Economics and Energy, Joe Kaeser, President and Chief Executive Officer of Siemens AG and further high-ranking personalities.

“Africa’s economies are gaining ground and can develop their full potential with the right partner. Siemens wants to support their sustainable development – with solutions and projects in Africa, for Africa. The agreements with our African partners are important steps along this path,” said Joe Kaeser, President and CEO of Siemens AG. “Our goal is to double our order intake in Africa to more than €3 billion by the year 2020.”

Brigitte Zypries, German Federal Minister for Economics and Energy, said: “Africa is a continent with economic opportunities and the German industry is an outstanding partner for the countries of Africa to realize these opportunities. I am very pleased that with the agreements signed today, good progress is being made towards the goal of better infrastructure and thus more growth and employment. I particularly welcome the training program because well-trained skilled workers are a key pillar of prosperity and development. And it is precisely these elements that I also support with the ‘Pro! Africa’ plan.”

“Siemens is a company that invests for the long term, and we are interested in the long-term fundamentals of these markets and the diversification of their economies,” said Sabine Dall’Omo, CEO of Siemens Southern and Eastern Africa. “The opportunity for industrialization in Africa is now. It is estimated that Africa imports one-third of the food, beverages and other similar processed goods it consumers. The potential exists for Africa-based companies to meet this domestic demand and in so doing create sustainable revenue streams and opportunities for job creation.”

Under these agreements, Siemens and its partners will develop solutions in the areas of power supply, transportation, industry and healthcare. Another key point in the agreements relates to continuing training programs for various technical fields in order to create a pool of well-trained local workers. Furthermore, Siemens is joining the “Make IT Alliance” of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development to promote start-ups and technology companies across the African continent. The agreement was signed in the presence of Guenter Nooke, German Chancellor’s Personal Representative for Africa in the ministry.

Signing of Sudan MOU: (L-R) Joe Kaeser, Siemens Global President and CEO, Brigitte Zypries, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs, Germany; Sabine Dall’Omo, Siemens CEO Southern and Eastern Africa; Salih Ali Abdalla, Director General – Sudan Electricity Holding Company

Signing of Sudan MOU: (L-R) Joe Kaeser, Siemens Global President and CEO, Brigitte Zypries, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs, Germany; Sabine Dall’Omo, Siemens CEO Southern and Eastern Africa; Salih Ali Abdalla, Director General – Sudan Electricity Holding Company

Africa possesses vast economic potential with forecasted growth rates of up to five percent. Spending on African infrastructure has more than doubled to $80 billion over the last 15 years, and the aspiring urban centers offer growth opportunities for the entire continent. More than a billion people worldwide have no access to electric power, and half of those people live in Africa. In Uganda and Sudan, Siemens’ primary goal is to increase national power generating capacities and to connect the local population to the power grids. A reliable and extensive power supply system is the fundamental prerequisite for economic growth.

African countries need infrastructure and industrial projects that generate sustained income streams to fully exploit their own economic potential. New financing concepts and long-term investment guidelines that will remain in effect for 30 years will create a stable investment climate for international investors and help to implement planned infrastructure projects.

Sabine Dall'Omo Siemens - CEO, Southern and Eastern Africa

Sabine Dall’Omo Siemens – CEO, Southern and Eastern Africa

Siemens has already developed financing solutions for its megaproject in Egypt and power plant projects in Nigeria and is supporting its African partners’ efforts to implement these major infrastructure projects. Siemens promotes economic growth in Africa through far-reaching partnerships in the competence fields of power generation, transportation and healthcare, as well as the digitalization of industry.

Siemens has been active in Africa for more than 157 years. Today, with more than 3,600 employees based in a total of 15 African countries, the company contributes decisively to the continent’s economic development. In addition, Siemens is investing an average of €10 million per year for training programs and is promoting programs to increase integrity in politics and society. In the spirit of Germany’s current presidency of the G20 group and the recently published Marshall Plan for Africa, Siemens is developing new projects for the continent, with the long-term goal of promoting the African economy and creating local jobs.

Siemens AG (Berlin and Munich)  is a global technology powerhouse that has stood for engineering excellence, innovation, quality, reliability and internationality for more than 165 years. The company is active in more than 200 countries, focusing on the areas of electrification, automation and digitalization. One of the world’s largest producers of energy-efficient, resource-saving technologies, Siemens is a leading supplier of efficient power generation and power transmission solutions and a pioneer in infrastructure solutions as well as automation, drive and software solutions for industry.

Joe Kaeser - Global CEO Siemens

Joe Kaeser – Global CEO Siemens

The company is also a leading provider of medical imaging equipment – such as computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging systems – and a leader in laboratory diagnostics as well as clinical IT. In fiscal 2016, which ended on September 30, 2016, Siemens generated revenue of €79.6 billion and net income of €5.6 billion. At the end of September 2016, the company had around 351,000 employees worldwide.

*Siemens/APO

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Kidnapped Frenchman Freed in Rescue Mission in Sudan’s Darfur
May 8, 2017 | 0 Comments

The French citizen (center) who was abducted south of Abeche, arrives at Khartoum airport after his release, in Khartoum, Sudan, May 7, 2017.

The French citizen (center) who was abducted south of Abeche, arrives at Khartoum airport after his release, in Khartoum, Sudan, May 7, 2017.

A Frenchman who was kidnapped in Chad in March and taken to the restive Darfur area of Sudan has been rescued in a raid organized by France, Chad and Sudan and was handed over to French authorities on Sunday, Sudanese officials said.

They said the kidnappers had demanded an undisclosed ransom for the man, an employee of a French mining company operating in Chad. He was abducted south of Abeche, a mining area about 800 km (500 miles) east of Chad’s capital, N’Djamena, and 150 km from the border with Sudan.

The Frenchman arrived on Sunday morning in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, where he was handed over to French Embassy officials at the airport.

The French president’s office confirmed that the hostage had been freed, without giving details of the rescue.

“The President of the Republic has learned with great satisfaction about the release of our compatriot who was abducted in eastern Chad and then taken by his captors to Sudan,” it said in a statement.

Sudan has been working with Chadian and French authorities for weeks to secure the release of the Frenchman.

Mohamed Tabiedy, a spokesman for the Sudanese security and intelligence service, told reporters that the Frenchman had been freed in a rescue mission carried out in coordination with Chad and French intelligence. Five kidnappers were arrested in the raid and would be tried, he said, adding that no one was hurt.

Sudanese Foreign Ministry official Khalid Attaras said no ransom was paid.

Sudanese officials said the Frenchman had not been abducted by any of the known rebel movements that are battling Sudan’s government but by an armed group in the border area.

Kidnappings are rare in Chad, a former French colony in West Africa, but the remote eastern border area has seen decades of back-and-forth movement by armed groups, including rebels fighting the Sudanese government.

Before this case, the last French national kidnapped in Chad was an aid worker seized in the eastern frontier area in 2009.

He was released nearly three months later in Darfur.

Around 1,000 French troops are stationed in Chad, which hosts the headquarters of France’s 4,000-strong regional anti-militant operation, known as Barkhane.

*Reuters/VOA

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

By Ajong Mbapndah L

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah.

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

Right.

How is this background helping you at the CCA?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have! I have!

What are some of the changes that you have seen? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for having me!

 

 

 

 

 

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