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MTN:Delivering a bold new Digital World to over 200m subscribers in 22 countries
August 19, 2013 | 0 Comments

MTNMTN Group today marked its 200 million subscriber milestone by announcing a bold R200 million initiative to improve the quality of education across its markets in Africa and the Middle East over the next two years.
News of MTN reaching the 200 million subscriber mark comes a year before it celebrates 20 years of connecting people and economies, from South Africa – the launch pad – to South Sudan, its most recent market.

As a multinational telecommunications company operating in emerging markets, says MTN Group President and CEO Sifiso Dabengwa, MTN has a particular opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to social development.

“Due to the lack of access to quality education and infrastructure, and low literacy rates in most of these countries, MTN has chosen to direct a significant amount of its corporate social (CSI) spend towards education over the next two year. This will provide people with the skills, knowledge and confidence they need to make positive decisions about their lives,” says Dabengwa.

MTN runs a comprehensive multi-country CSI programme through MTN Foundations spanning education, health and other national priorities. A grand total of R193 million was spent in these three areas during 2012. Going forward, the company will scale up its contribution towards building knowledge economies in its markets by investing in more education initiatives aimed at empowering learners and teachers using ICTs and mobile learning.

As seen in MTN’s 2013 interim results released today, MTN is a growth company with a solid performance record and an aspirational vision to lead the delivery of a bold new digital world to its customers.
It will continue to share the fruits of its success with customers and communities through, among others, offering affordable and innovative services, as well as investing in social upliftment and network infrastructure to improve the quality of its services.

“We are grateful to our customers for their loyalty and contribution to the growth of the MTN brand over the years. Using that feedback, MTN is making significant investments towards improving the quality of our service, while also providing solutions designed to make a real difference in the lives of our customers,” adds Dabengwa.

The MTN brand has achieved great prominence over the years. For two consecutive years, MTN emerged as the highest ranked African brand in the prestigious Millward-Brown Brandz Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands 2013 survey. Most recently, MTN emerged as South Africa’s most valuable brand in this year’s BrandFinance Most Valuable Brands Survey, for a second consecutive year.

“The award is further acknowledgement of our on-going efforts to enhance customer experience in the various touch-points in the markets,” says Dabengwa.

Sifiso_Dabengwa_3To achieve this ambition, which will allow MTN to provide a seamless service experience to customers across its markets, the company has launched a project aptly called ‘Perfect 10’. Already launched in Ghana, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Zambia and South Africa, the initiative aims to give customers a 10 out of 10 experience of the MTN network, products and services. Benefits of the programme are already filtering through to customers. In Ghana, for example, where the programme was first launched, feedback received in the early stages of implementation has been very positive.

Looking ahead, Dabengwa says the company’s new vision, to lead the delivery of a bold new Digital World, and mission to make our customers’ lives a whole lot brighter, has positioned MTN well for further growth into the future.

“MTN’s previous vision ‘to be the leader in telecommunications in emerging markets’ has largely been achieved. The need for a broader digital offering led MTN to refresh its vision and mission and refine its strategic objectives. We believe MTN is now ready for the next frontier of growth – digital services. And we are humbled that over 200 million of our subscribers are embarking on this journey with us, to lead the delivery of a bold new digital world.”

*Source MTN

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Selling Mandela: From t-shirts to TV shows, how Madiba became a brand
August 19, 2013 | 0 Comments

From Robyn Curnow*

Nelson Mandela's daughter Makaziwe Mandela, and her daughter Tukwini Mandela, show off their House of Mandela wine range.He has not formally appeared in public for years, and recently he’s been battling illness inside a Pretoria hospital. But former South African president Nelson Mandela is still a beloved icon across the world, an international symbol of courage, strength and hope.

The 95-year-old Nobel laureate is also one of the world’s most recognizable figures. More than just a man, he has become a global brand — one that’s estimated to be worth millions of dollars. Ever since Mandela was released from prison, where he had endured 27 years for fighting apartheid, many South Africans have felt like they’d like to “own” a little piece of him.

As a result, the smiling image of Madiba, as Mandela is affectionately referred to by South Africans, has been emblazoned on all sorts of memorabilia, items that are usually not associated with his legacy — everything from t-shirts and place mats to banknotes and even salt and pepper shakers.

Some members of Mandela’s own family have also been accused of cashing in on the anti-apartheid icon’s legacy, using the world-renowned name for business ventures such as a collection of wines, called the “House of Mandela,” or a clothing range branded with his prison number or an image of his hand.

More recently, two of his granddaughters — Zaziwe Dlamini-Manaway and Swati Dlamini –starred in their own reality TV series, “Being Mandela,” in which the family showed some of the Mandela-branded products. In answer to critics accusing them of tarnishing the Mandela name, his granddaughters say it’s their name too, and that they are treating it with respect and integrity.

Mandela's face can also be found adorning countless other clothes and products in boutique stores and roadside stalls across South Africa.“You can’t tell people how not to celebrate their father, or grandfather, or great grandfather, because they are using their own name,” says Sello Hatang, head of the Nelson Mandela Center of Memory, which Mandela founded to continue his work after he retired.

“It would be arrogant … to say you can’t use your name so it’s ensuring that we stick to what we believe is the legacy,” he continues.

Speaking to CNN earlier this year, Mandela’s daughter Maki, who is behind the wine brand, said that using the family name is important because it promotes South Africa, as well as a good product. She added that her father had told her: “If you use the name either for commercial or charitable or political (purposes), use it with a lot of integrity and responsibility.”

But how can Mandela’s legacy and values be balanced with the commercial potential of his image? Hatang says that when Mandela’s name was used by Viagra without permission, there was a public backlash.

“When Madiba was turning 90, they put up their own ad saying, ‘Madiba turns 90, Viagra turns 10,'” explains Hatang. “And it was members of the public who objected, so it tells you that the legacy of Mandela is not just being preserved by us but it’s being preserved and protected by many others.”

In 2012, South Africa launched banknotes featuring a picture of the former president and anti-apartheid icon on the front.While it’s still unclear exactly who will control the “Mandela Brand” in the years to come, the way Madiba’s legacy and image endures seems to depend on all those who have a stake in it — from his family and his party, the African National Congress, to the people of South Africa.

Those who know him say he is comfortable with that, never prescribing how he should be honored.
“We tend to not want to recognize Madiba as a brand,” says Hatang. “He represents something in humanity that we should all have. It’s that thing that’s special in each one of us, where we need to reach deep to find it,” he adds.

*Source CNN

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We are watching you! Tech helps Africans hold governments to account
August 15, 2013 | 0 Comments

By Loren Treisman*

 

Map Kibera Trust has used mapping information from mobiles to create a security map on two walls in Kibera, Nairobi. Wall painting helped provide security information during Kenya's general election, showing political and trouble hotspots in the area.

Map Kibera Trust has used mapping information from mobiles to create a security map on two walls in Kibera, Nairobi. Wall painting helped provide security information during Kenya’s general election, showing political and trouble hotspots in the area.

With hundreds of millions of Africans owning mobile phones, citizens are becoming increasingly well connected. This is providing a powerful opportunity for citizens to access critical information about their parliaments and to report on human rights violations, corruption and poor service delivery.

These interventions are amplifying the voices of marginalized communities and helping citizens to hold governments to account.

For citizens to actively participate in democracy, it is critical that they are able to access information on parliamentary proceedings and elected representatives. MySociety is contributing to this process. It has partnered with local organizations across Africa to build sites like Mzalendo in Kenya and Odekro in Ghana, which enable citizens to access information about parliamentary proceedings and their elected representatives, rate their MPs and gain a better understanding about government’s inner workings.

They’ve taken this process one step further in South Africa. TheOpen Democracy Advice Centre has created a platform where citizens can submit Freedom of Information Requests. A data repository has been created online, enabling journalists, analysts and campaigners to utilize this information to hold government to account and campaign for improved service delivery.

There’s a real thirst for this information in Africa. In Nigeria, a simple application created by developer Pledge 51 enables citizens to access their constitution by mobile phone and has been downloaded more than 750,000 times. During protests sparked by last year’s fuel crisis, where an increase in the price of fuel resulted in soaring commodity prices, this enabled citizens to exercise their rights against police forces.

Misinformation fueled this crisis, with few citizens understanding the new fuel subsidy payment or oil revenue share in their country. A local organization called BudgIT aimed to address this by generating simple infographics which took citizens through these complex processes in a visual format.

Utilizing the power of social media, this sparked more informed debates and dialogue that contributed to restoring order. The team has since produced a whole series of images that breakdown the Nigerian budget by state and sector, enabling citizens to better understand the country’s budget and to utilize this information to ensure that allocated funds are translated into improved services.

Across the continent, platforms are being developed that enable citizens to use SMS from basic phones to report challenges in service delivery. In the impoverished Khayelitsha township in Cape Town, residents have submitted around 3,000 reports on issues like poor sanitation, electricity and transport to the Lungisaplatform from their mobile phones, Facebook and the web. Remarkably, most of the issues have been resolved by the city council.

In Northern Uganda, the brutal Lord’s Resistance Army conflict has displaced hundreds of thousands of people, leaving infrastructure and service delivery in dire straits. A Peace, Recovery and Development Plan has been put in place but progress is limited. Only a few health centers have been established, there’s a severe shortage of drugs, medical workers and equipment and corruption is commonplace. of the issues have been resolved by the city council.

CIPESA has created a platform populated with information on health programs being implemented in the region and citizen journalists are able to submit reports, photographs and audio footage describing the real situation on the ground, whilst Voluntary Sector Accountability Committees established by WOUGNET are utilizing a similar platform to report on corrupt practices and poor governance. The data collected is being used by the NGOs to hold government to account and advocate for improved services.

In many African countries, youth often feel excluded from the political process. As young people are the biggest consumers of technology, platforms are being developed that enable them to become more actively engaged. In Kenya, Youth Agenda is utilizing an SMS platform to encourage youth to vet their leaders according to policies and attributes instead of along tribal lines. The platform is also used to gauge political opinion. The feedback is collated into reports which are fed into government, giving youth a voice and allowing them to contribute to the development of policy.

Until 2009, Kibera — one of the world’s largest slums and home to more than 250,000 people — appeared only as a blank on online maps. This made it easy for government to ignore the needs of its citizens. Map Kibera has equipped young activists with GPS-enabled phones and has supported them in creating a map of the region, part of a wider program that empowers youth to raise awareness of the challenges faced by their communities and advocate for change.

Plan Cameroon has taken this process a step further in three districts. Once youth have mapped their area, they populate the map with data on service delivery such as access to water points, clean water and hygiene facilities. Local councilors and activists are utilizing this data to mobilize the involved communities to demand better services and advocate for change.

Oluseun Onigbinde is creator of BudgIT. "Most people never went to school to do public finance or economics," says Onigbinde, "so you're (helping) people understand these things."

Oluseun Onigbinde is creator of BudgIT. “Most people never went to school to do public finance or economics,” says Onigbinde, “so you’re (helping) people understand these things.”

Technology applications can be developed anywhere and what’s exciting about many of these initiatives is that they’re being devised locally. Technology innovation hubs are springing up across the continent. These state-of-the-art facilities enable technologists and social activists to access high-speed internet, events and mentoring, as well as creating a collaborative environment that galvanizes the tech community. This is beginning to have a significant effect on the number and quality of projects being developed locally.

Homegrown solutions are often most effective, as local communities are best able to understand the complex local needs, behaviors and nuances. Some of these hubs such as Jozi Hub in Johannesburg and Co-Creation Hubin Lagos, Nigeria, have targeted programs to support transparency initiatives, thus catalyzing this process.

Undoubtedly, technology isn’t a panacea for all social problems. And at times, such as when the technology utilized isn’t locally available or where governments lack capacity to respond to issues being reported it can be entirely inappropriate. However, when combined with well devised programs, their power to reach the previously unreachable and to bring the voices of citizens closer to government makes them a significant contributor to the process of ensuring that government’s best serve the interests of their citizens.

*Source CNN Loren Treisman is Executive of Indigo Trust, a grant-making foundation that supports technology-driven projects in Africa. She holds a PhD from Cambridge University and has expertise in international development, health and the use of new technologies to stimulate social change.

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Ibrahim Boubacar Keita wins Mali presidential election
August 15, 2013 | 0 Comments

Mali’s presidential election has been won by Ibrahim Boubacar Keita after his rival admitted defeat in the second round.

IBKEx-Finance Minister Soumaila Cisse said he had congratulated Mr Keita and wished him good luck.

Mr Keita, 68, served as prime minister from 1994 to 2000.

Mali has suffered a year of unrest including a military coup and a French-led military intervention to oust Islamist rebels from the north.

A 12,600-strong United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Mali (Minusma) is currently deploying to the West African nation, as France begins to withdraw its 3,000 troops.

‘Enormous challenges’

No official results have yet been released following Sunday’s run-off, however, reports had put Mr Keita well ahead.

In the first round Mr Cisse, who pledged to improve education, create jobs and reform the army, polled just 19% against Mr Keita’s 40% and most of the other candidates then gave Mr Keita their endorsements.

Late on Monday, Mr Cisse tweeted that he and his family had just left the home of Mr Keita “future president of Mali, to congratulate him for his victory. May God bless Mali”.

He later told private Malian television Africable that he wished Mr Keita success “so that you can have the strength to take up the enormous challenges that await you”, the Associated Press news agency reports.

The BBC’s Alex Duval Smith in the capital, Bamako, said Mr Keita – known as IBK – had the support of influential moderate Islamic leaders; he was also considered the favourite of the military, including last year’s coup leaders.

The 68-year-old will now oversee more than $4bn (£2.6bn) in foreign aid promised to rebuild the country after a turbulent 18 months.

His new government will also be obliged to open peace talks with the separatist Tuareg rebels within two months following a ceasefire that allowed voting to take place in the north.

Military officers staged a coup in March 2012 – a month ahead of scheduled elections – accusing the government of failing to end a Tuareg rebellion in the north.

The Tuareg rebels were allied with al-Qaeda-aligned groups, but the alliance quickly crumbled with the Islamists occupying major cities such as Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu where they imposed a strict form of Islamic law.

A win for democracy in Africa. Defeated candidate Soumaila Cisse in suit visits President elect Boubacar Keita to extend congratulations

A win for democracy in Africa. Defeated candidate Soumaila Cisse in suit visits President elect Boubacar Keita to extend congratulations

In January, France sent more than 4,000 troops in January and together with West African troops regained control of northern towns and cities.

Tuareg rebels then captured Kidal, the only town in Mali where the Tuaregs form a majority, and agreed a deal in June to allow nationwide elections to go ahead.

During campaigning, Mr Keita vowed to unify Mali if elected.

“For Mali’s honour, I will bring peace and security. I will revive dialogue between all the sons of our nation and I will gather our people around the values that have built our history: dignity, integrity, courage and hard work,” the AFP news agency quoted him as saying.

After the first round Mr Cisse, who has been more openly critical of the coup leaders than Mr Keita, had complained of widespread fraud, with more than 400,000 ballots declared spoiled.

However, Mali’s Constitutional Court rejected the allegations and the head of the EU election observer mission, Louis Michel, hailed the electoral process for its transparency.

On Monday, observers from the EU and the African Union again praised the way the second round was carried out.

“Malians should be congratulated because it seems to me they are regaining control of their democratic destiny, which is in fact nevertheless a tradition that exists in Mali,” said Mr Michel.

“It is an election that allows Mali now to start finishing the process that it has begun: The return to a normal democracy,” Reuters news agency quotes him as saying.

*Source BBC

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AfDB Approves US$45 Million Grant for Creation of Pan African University for Science, Technology and Innovation
August 1, 2013 | 0 Comments

Donald KaberukaThe African Development Bank’s (AfDB) Board of Executive Directors approved on Wednesday, July 24 an African Development Fund (ADF) grant of US$ 45 million to support the creation of a Pan African University (PAU). The new university consisting of fivePan African Institutes will focus mainly on science, technology and innovation.

The new universitywould bea groundbreaking step in strengthening higher education and building human capital in Africa. Africa has been slow to develop its science and technology sectors and commercialize its innovations. Currently the best African university ranks just 113th globally. Of the 400 top universities worldwide, only fourare in Africa, all of which are in the Republic of South Africa.Also, while Africa accounts for 13.4 per centof the world’s people, it produces only 1.1 per centof world scientific knowledge

The PAU will establish an academic network of already existing post-graduate and research institutionsintended to serve all African countries. Consistingof fivethematic institutes based in East, West, Central, North and Southern Africa the PAU will deliver programs in:

  1. Basic sciences, technology and innovation (East Africa)
  2. Earth and life sciences including health and agriculture (West Africa)
  3. Governance, humanities and social sciences (Central Africa)
  4. Water and energy sciences including climate change (North Africa)
  5. Space sciences (Southern Africa)

“Thousands of students all over Africa will benefit from this project. This is truly an amazing regional effort to help African universities achieve world-class status. It will increase the pool of African scientists and researchers not only to serve the needs of the continent but to help youth become competitive in international labour markets,” said Agnes Soucat, Director of the Human Development Department, AfDB.

The project will contribute to the skills needed by African countries to add value to their natural resources and enhance competitivenessand youth employment contributing to the AfDB’s overall objectives of inclusive and green growth.The PAU is also major step towards establishing the African Higher Education and Research Space by contributing to: (i) Efficient regional higher education governance system; (ii) Improved quality of higher education at the regional level creating strong links with the labour market; (iii) equitable access to quality higher education in science, technology and engineering fields; and (iv) increased number of institutions achieving world-class status.

This project will also help set up the governance structure of the PAU at central and country levels as well as academic and research capacity. The first three threePAU thematic institutes will be based in Kenya, Nigeria and Cameroon:

  1. PAU Institute for Basic Sciences, Technology and Innovation (Kenya)
  2. PAU Institute for Life and Earth Sciences (Nigeria)
  3. PAU Institute for Governance, Humanities and Social Sciences (Cameroon).

This important operation is a response to a request from the African Union for technical assistance and financial resources for the design and operation of a network of hubs of excellence in higher education to help meet the need for education, training and research in five key areas of African development.

Background 

Africa has only 35 scientists and engineers per million inhabitants, compared with 168 for Brazil, 2,457 for Europe and 4,103 for the United States. Shortage of skills has been a major constraint to Africa’s progress in science, technology and innovation. Due to low investment in research and development, Africa ranks low in global competitiveness and productivity. African students tend to opt for economics, business, law and social sciences rather than science, engineering and technology, hampering the continent’s competitiveness and growth. The result is a mismatch between skills produced and private sector jobs.

This project is in line with the Bank’s newly approved Ten Year Strategy for 2013-2022and responds to the Regional Integrationand Skills and Technology Core Operational Priorities of the Bank’s 2013-2022 Strategy. It also addresses the strategy’s areas of special emphasis such as Gender and Food Security. It is also fully in line with the Bank’s draft Human Capital Strategy and New Education Model in Africa (NEMA).

*Source AFDB

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Use Africa’s $60bn remittances to power industrialisation
July 19, 2013 | 0 Comments

Remittances from Africans in the diaspora are now estimated at around $60bn annually. While these help millions of Africans in their day-to-day needs, a proper harnessing of this resource could well see the continent on its next development stage – industrialisation.

As the world wakes up to the idea of Africa as a centre for economic growth, it is considered, in many ways, the final frontier for investment opportunities. Industrialisation is widely seen as the next phaseof Africa’s development, an imperative on the path towards sustained wealth creation.Successful industrialisation requires ambitious entrepreneurs that are willing to take up the challenge. It is therefore important not only to have favourable regulatory and business environments, but also a stable po-litical landscape.

The African continent has increased its competitiveness in the global marketplace in recent years, primarily as a result of nation states decreasing country risk.Business and investment is driven by confidence. As investors feel more comfortable with stability across the region it has, and will continue to, increase prospects for sustained investment – as we have already seen with Chinese and Middle Eastern interests.Africa’s diaspora communities sit in a very promising position, having played such a crucial role in the continent’s development, thus far.

The diaspora are not only well informed about the opportunities existing in their communities of origin, they are willing to invest in fragile markets when others will not.Diaspora finance has been one of the main drivers of Africa’s surge over the past 20 years helping sustain not only families but, within many countries, trade and industry as well. A recent report by Send Money Africa, an initiative of the World Bank-partnered African Institute for Remittances (AIR) Project, estimated that Africa received a total of $60bn in remittances last year.

According to the same report, these funds were sent by Africa’s 30m-strong diaspora to around 120m recipients. Remittances to Africa exceed official development aid (ODA) by around 50%, while for most African countries the amount sent home by migrants surpasses foreign direct investment.

With limited official data, such figures are only estimates, but what is certain is that remittance flows to Africa have grown remarkably over the last two decades. Indeed, there is a broad consensus that they have more than quadrupled in that time to account forapproximately 3% of Africa’s overall GDP.

Harnessing potential

It is no surprise therefore that policy makers are looking at ways to harness the development potential of diaspora remittances. A paper released in March following a conference in Abidjan of the Economic Commission for African (EAC) and the African Union Commission (AUC) highlighted the growing importance of remittances as a source of external financing, and drew special attention to their potential in driving Africa’s industrialisation and helping to fill its persistent infrastructure gap.

Despite significant progress across the continent, many communities within Africa’s 54 states are considered amongst the ‘bottom billion’, a term coined to describe the poorest of the poor. Diasporan remittances play a vital role in boosting household incomes and keeping millions of people above the poverty line.

The average amount of most remittance transfers is between $200-$300, which can support an average family for a month. Once the basic needs of survival are met, recipients with cash to spare often spend it on healthcare and education. Beyond that, a rising trend of investment in land, construction and small enterprise indicates that remittances have become an important tool for sustainable growth. In short, they are a valuable resource for efficient, bottom-up economic development.

Our business, Dahabshiil, is Africa’s largest money transfer company, serving customers across the continent and enabling them to send and receive money to and from locations all over the world. Dahabshiil’s story is closely bound up with that of the Somali diaspora, which grew rapidly during the late 1980s and early 1990s as the state collapsed, and later expanded into the Horn of Africa and beyond. Since then, remittance income has in many ways underpinned the Somali economy, maintaining consumption and providing the necessary capital for private sector growth. This demonstrates the power of remittances in sustaining communities without access to a formal banking system.

Africa’s diversification towards a more industrial economy has already begun, with sectors such as manufacturing and telecoms in particular flourishing in many parts of Africa. In the Somali territories, a deregulated business environment led to a rapid expansion of the mobile industry and the entry into the market of a number of dynamic firms. One of these, Somtel, went on to be acquired by Dahabshiil. The early growth of the Somali telecoms industry was marked by intense competition as private operators vied for market share. Intra-regional trade needed African economies are among the fastest growing in the world, yet intra-regional trade accounts for only 10% of the continent’s commerce – significantly less than in other regions.

Many constraints impede trade expansion in Africa: obsolete infrastructure, fragmented economic space, low production capacities, limited investment financing and high transaction costs. Eliminating these obstacles is a prerequisite to fully realising Africa’s economic potential and helping to address the continent’s socioeconomic and developmental challenges. Healthy intra-African trade can free the continent from its reliance on international aid and improve its resilience to macroeconomic and other external shocks.

Industrialisation can benefit the expansion of intra-African trade by supporting a more diversified export economy. In particular, the development of rural and food processing industries could help to lift significant numbers from poverty. But, to facilitate trade in goods and services, it is essential to reduce distribution costs by improving and expanding road, rail and other communication infrastructure. At present, however, many of Africa’s national economies are still largely agrarian.

Early attempts at urban-based industrialisation collapsed as a result of economic liberalisation programmes. Meanwhile, resource extractive industries have provided little in the way of urban employment. In order to develop more capable indigenous manufacturing capabilities, Africa is reliant on its infrastructure development, which remains its Achilles heel. Furthermore, the continent still faces serious human capital deficiencies. Schools, governments and the private sector need to work together to close skill gaps, particularly the need for more engineers and technicians.

While diaspora finance alone cannot be expected to achieve such a huge undertaking, it can help provide stable economic foundations on which to build. While these latest figures for remittance volumes give reason to be optimistic, more needs to be done at government level for diaspora money to be the kind of catalyst for growth from which the Asian powerhouses such as China and India have benefited.

It goes without saying that comparisons between the two continents must take into account the fact that Africa’s past left it heavily dependent on extractive, commodity industries while Asia was able to industrialise and to emerge as the dominant manufacturing base, but that certainly does not mean diversification is beyond Africa’s grasp.

With millions of African migrants arguably at the peak of their skills and earning potential, now is the time for active engagement to lure human and financial capital back to Africa. Diaspora bonds such as Ethiopia’s make debt available to entrepreneurs who need it.

The recent announcement by the AUC of plans for three new financial institutions – the African Investment Bank, the African Monetary Fund and the African Central Bank – is a hugely encouraging one and sends a strong message of intent to investors: Africa is being readied to complete its industrial revolution.

*Source African Business

 

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Africa ‘ripped off big time’ by foreign resource firms, says bank chief
June 25, 2013 | 3 Comments

Donald Kaberuka, president of the African Development Bank, tells the international community to press for more transparency

By David Smith,

Donald Kaberuka, president of the African Development Bank. Photograph Reuters“The reality is, Africa is being ripped off big time,” was the unusually blunt assessment by Donald Kaberuka, president of the African Development Bank (AfDB), in an interview with Reuters on Sunday.

Kaberuka was addressing the perennial question of foreign corporations extracting Africa’s mineral resources at huge profit for shareholders with scant reward for local populations.

Speaking a day after meeting British and African leaders in London before the G8 summit, Kaberuka told the news agency: “Africa wants to grow itself out of poverty through trade and investment – part of doing so is to ensure there is transparency and sound governance in the natural resources sector.”

Africa loses an estimated $62.2bn (£40bn) in illegal outflows and price manipulation every year, much of it exported by multinationals. The Africa Progress Panel under former UN secretary general Kofi Annan recently highlighted how the Democratic Republic of the Congo lost at least $1.36bn in potential revenues between 2010 and 2012 due to knock-down sales of mining assets to offshore companies.

The UK has pledged to put its “own house in order” by pressing overseas tax havens into a transparency deal and drawing up new disclosure rules for British companies. It hopes that G8 partners will follow suit.

Kaberuka raised the issue at a meeting on Saturday at London’s Lancaster House attended by the presidents of Ghana, Guinea, Senegal, Somalia and Tanzania, and the Nigerian finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who made a failed bid to lead the World Bank.

He told the gathering: “The international community must do its part to ensure balanced contracts, minimise tax avoidance – let alone tax evasions – and bring light and transparency in the natural resource sector, [which is] at the moment often very opaque.

“It is only in this way that our countries will be able to find the financial resources they need to fund infrastructure, to fund the trade corridors, which are now very dependent on donor funding.”

Kaberuka, a Rwandan who has been president of the AfDB since 2005, praised the cancellation of African debt at that year’s G8 summit in Gleneagles for removing barriers to the continent’s economic growth, which the AfDB predicts will reach 4.8% this year.

Sub-Saharan African GDP has multiplied in 10 years, he noted, from about $600bn at the turn of the millennium to $2.2tn last year. Adjusted for inflation, this is a doubling of economic size in a decade.

But aid to Africa from the developed world had been cut for the first time in 10 years. “It’s important we begin to use aid smartly,” Kaberuka told Reuters.

He highlighted projects such as the AfDB’s planned infrastructure fund, designed to use donor funding along with African savings as a base for debt issuance to finance regional infrastructure projects.

At Saturday’s Lancaster House meeting, David Cameron praised the AfDB for its work on both investing in infrastructure and slashing the red tape that hampers cross-border trade in Africa.

“Let’s back African countries in achieving their goal of doubling intra-African trade by 2022,” the British prime minister said. “Let’s back Africa in ending the crazy bureaucracy that means a trucker taking goods from Cape Town to Kigali has to carry up to 1,000 documents.

“And let’s back Africans on infrastructure – where they have a point when they say it was largely designed in another era and primarily focused on getting products out of the continent rather than promoting trade within it.”

Cameron added: “Let’s get behind president Kaberuka’s work through the African Development Bank to secure the private finance that can deliver the infrastructure that is so badly needed.”

In a recent speech in Pretoria, Britain’s high commissioner to South Africa, Dame Nicola Brewer, set out the country’s “triple-T” agenda of trade, transparency and tax.

“In our changing world, a G8 summit is an opportunity for some of the world’s leading economies to demonstrate that we are putting our own house in order,” she said.

“That means supporting growth and prosperity around the world by helping open and fair societies to thrive. It means G8 nations adopting the rules which characterise a fair and open global economy. That’s an ambitious agenda which benefits everyone – in the developed and developing worlds.”

She added: “As the recent Africa Progress Panel report made clear, it is unacceptable that foreign direct investment and aid flows into Africa combined ($62.2bn) are worth less than the losses flowing out of Africa through illicit finance and the manipulation of international trade prices ($63.4bn). We need to ask how we in the G8 can come together around fairer global rules which don’t disadvantage developing countries.”

*Source Guardian Newspaper

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Microsoft’s Offer and Risk Factor for Kenya
June 25, 2013 | 0 Comments

By James N. Kariuki*

UhuruSeven months ago, Kenya banned importation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) foods because of their potential risks to public health. That move sparked a fierce war of words between local anti-GMO activists and their pro-GMO rivals. The Government stood firm and has so far prevailed over the influential and well-resourced pro-GMO faction. Has Kenya unwittingly walked into the volatile, global GMO controversy?

On June 4, 2013, Microsoft International pledged to support President Uhuru Kenyatta’s spirited project of free laptops for primary school pupils. At that stage of the game the GMO issue probably did not arise; Kenyans had moved on to new frontiers. But, had we really managed to sneak past the GMO issue?

Last year Kenya’s anti-GMO crusade was spearheaded by Beth Mugo as the Minister of Public Health and Sanitation. This year, Uhuru Kenyatta is the torchbearer for the computer-skills quest. Uhuru is now Kenya’s Head of State and he conceived and articulated the free computer skills idea as his 2013 campaign pledge.

Coincidentally, Uhuru and Beth are first cousins. Their point of convergence is Jomo Kenyatta, father of the nation! Could computer skills and GMO issue drive a wedge between two of Mzee Kenyatta’s public offspring? It gets more involved: computers and GMOs are also akin.

The Microsoft International’s gift to Kenya was in form of training the trainers to implement the computer-to-schools programme by January 2014. That attractive offer was conveyed to Uhuru by Jean-Philippe Courtois, President of Microsoft International. Courtois’ official assignment is to guide global sales, marketing and services everywhere outside the US and Canada.

The GMO issue was probably never mentioned when computer skills offer was discussed. In any case, what Kenyan would resist the appetite to acquire computer skills for Kenyan youth from Microsoft, the mother of computer know-how? After all, what matters in contemporary world is not what you own; it is what you know. What do GMOs have to do with computers anyway?

On reflection, enough connectedness crops up to trigger alarm. Microsoft International is a subsidiary of US-based giant computer multinational (MNC), Microsoft Corporation. Ultimately, Courtois reports to the Chairman of Microsoft Corporation, Bill Gates. To service his $1.5 million annual income, Courtois must peddle Gate’s will.

The world knows Bill Gates as a computer wizard and the richest man in the world, but he more than that. He is deeply involved in GMOs; indeed he is now a major shareholder in the world’s biggest biotech MNC, Monsanto Company. Additionally, Bill and Melinda Gates’ Foundation underwrites numerous GMO projects in Africa, including Nairobi-based Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA.) For all practical purposes, he is the face of the GMO universe. GMOs and computers converge on Bill Gates.

GMO enthusiasts are said to envision a GMO world-without-borders. Hence, the obsession to control food production everywhere in quest for the world dominance which that would imply. For the same reason, Monsanto seeks to own seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and food markets worldwide. Meanwhile, the company is hell-bent on destroying food competition around the world, including its American home base.

Most unsettling of the GMO drive is that Barack Obama is now squarely part of it and he has sucked Africa into it. In May 2012, the American President launched the New Alliance for Food and Nutrition Security (NAFNS), ostensibly to save sub-Sahara Africa from hunger in a decade.

Dissenters objected loudly and clearly. They accused Obama of opening up Africa for domination by ruthless American multinationals and pushing controversial GMOs down their throats, literally. Suggestions of “saving” the continent were a smoke-screen; MNCs are profit seekers not NGOs. They are neither equipped nor inclined to engage in humanitarianism, least of all in Africa.

Prof-James-KariukiImagine a ‘misunderstanding’ arising over Kenya’s current GMO policy. Suppose, for example, that it is Bill Gate’s will is to have Kenya’s 2012 anti-GMO importation decision revoked. The opponents would be the Government of Kenya plus a few local anti-GMO voices. The supporters would be Monsanto, Microsoft Corporation, Microsoft International, AGRA, NAFNS and local GMO-enthusiasts. In addition to their deep pockets, the GMO-believers would also have the White House on their side. This would be a genuine David versus Goliath confrontation.

For several years, the pro-GMO forces have had their heydays. But anti-GMO voices, principally the US Organic Consumers Association, have recently also gathered steam. They are angry and have vowed to squash Monsanto to oblivion.
The above is the complex-mix in the sealed package that Courtois presented to Uhuru on June 4, 2013. It would be reckless to underestimate the might of the heartless global corporate capitalist system behind it, its power to seduce and to corrupt. Meanwhile, it is well to remember the American unveiled threat to Kenyans in the last election: choices have consequences.

*James N. Kariuki is Professor of International Relations (emeritus) and an independent writer. He is based in South Africa. The views expressed in the blog Global Africa are his.

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JOINT PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OFFICE OF HIS EXCELLENCY PRESIDENT CONDÉ, RIO TINTO, CHALCO AND IFC CONCERNING THE GUINEA SIMANDOU PROJECT
June 18, 2013 | 0 Comments

President  Alpha CondeLondon, June 17, 2013 – Leaders from the Republic of Guinea, Rio Tinto, and IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, met in London on June 16, 2013 to discuss their project to develop Guinea’s Simandou Blocks 3 and 4 project. The meeting coincided with President Alpha Conde’s participation in the G8 proceedings hosted by Prime Minister David Cameron. Present at the meeting were President Conde, Sam Walsh, CEO of Rio Tinto and Jin-Yong Cai, Executive VP and CEO of IFC. Mr. Walsh and Mr. Cai also spoke for the Aluminium Corporation of China Limited (CHALCO) the project’s fourth partner.

The meeting was hosted by Mr. George Soros as part of his ongoing support to the Government of Guinea.

The partners affirmed their commitment to the Simandou Project and recognized the Project’s importance to Guinea and to the other partners. They emphasised the importance of transparency and good governance in the development and operation of the Project.

Continuing the current focus on developing an investment framework for the financing, construction and operation of the transportation link needed for the Project was emphasised by all partners. The partners agreed on the importance of a transportation link that is open to other users and designed to encourage broad-based economic development in Guinea.

The partners have previously established a working group to design the investment framework which will be the basis for seeking financing for the project. The partners lauded the progress made so far by the working group and agreed to resolve outstanding issues as quickly as possible.

 About the Simandou Project

Simandou is a world-class iron ore mining project located in the south-east of Guinea. Rio Tinto develops the project in partnership with the Government of Guinea, Chalco and IFC, a member of the World Bank Group. The concession licence-holder and project company is Simfer S.A., which is currently owned 50.35% by Rio The Simandou iron ore project in Guinea, a partnership between Rio Tinto, the Government of Guinea, Chalco and the International Finance Corporat... - See more at: http://www.riotinto.com/ourbusiness/simandou-4695.aspx#sthash.P1aPNRsk.dpufTinto, 44.65% by Chalco and 5% by IFC. The Republic of Guinea will have the right to take a stake of up to 35% in Simfer S.A. (the mine) and a 51% stake in a Special Purpose Vehicle to own the Project Infrastructure (rail & port). Simandou will be the largest integrated iron ore mine and infrastructure project ever developed in Africa, with the potential to transform the Guinean economy and transport infrastructure.

The Simandou Project comprises three principal components:

  • an iron ore mine of 95 million tonnes per year at full production;
  • a Trans-Guinean railway of approximately 670 km to transport the ore from the mining concession to the Guinean coast; and
  • a new deepwater port south of Conakry in the Forécariah prefecture

 

For further information, please contact:


Press Office of the President of Guinea

Bureau de Presse de la Présidence

Office: +224 664 87 96 59

+224 628 18 15 57

Email: moussa.cisse@presidence.gov.gn

aboumaco2000@yahoo.fr

abdoulaye.sankara@presidence.gov.gn

IFC

Desmond Dodd, Head of Communications

Sub-Saharan Africa – IFC Corporate Relations

Office: +27 11 731 3053

Mobile:+2783 448 9873

E-mail: ddodd@ifc.org

Rio Tinto

 Media Relations, EMEA / Americas

David Outhwaite

Office: +44 20 7781 1623

Mobile:           +44 7787 597493

Christina Mills

Office: +20 7781 1154

Mobile; +44 7825 275605

Media Relations, Australia / Asia

David Luff

Office: +61 3 9283 3620

Mobile:           +61 419 850 205

Bruce Tobin

Office: +61 3 9283 3612

Mobile:           +61 419 103 454

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Is Rwanda the next big thing in Africa?
June 18, 2013 | 0 Comments

BY MOHAMMAD AMIN*

kigali-rwanda Over the last few years, a lot of optimism has been built around Rwanda being the next big thing in Africa. I guess one reason for this optimism is Rwanda’s impressive list of business friendly reforms and its equally impressive growth performance. Between 2006 and 2011, per capita income in Rwanda grew at an average rate of 5.1 percent per annum, fifth highest in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) region and much better than the regional average rate of 2.4 percent. Moreover, Rwanda currently ranks third in the region in the quality of the business environment as measured by the World Bank Group’s Ease of Doing Business index. So, is Rwanda really the next big thing in Africa?

A comprehensive survey of non-agricultural private sector firms in Rwanda tells a mixed story.  The survey, conducted by the World Bank Group’s Enterprise Surveys team in 2011, confirms that in some important aspects of the business climate such as access to finance, power supply, etc., Rwanda does much better than the rest of the region. However, in other business climate measures such as labor laws, transportation, tax rates, etc., Rwanda is no better or sometimes worse than the rest of the region. Let me provide examples to illustrate the point.

aminblogPower supply seems to be much better in Rwanda than elsewhere in the region. For example, losses due to power outages amount to 2.2 percent of firms’ annual sales which is lower than the rest of the region’s average of 6.4 percent.  Percentage of firms using e-mail is much higher in Rwanda (76.5 vs. 47.4 percent) and the same holds for firms having own website (34.2 vs. 19.1 percent). Moreover, crime faced by businesses such as theft, robbery, vandalism and arson seems to be less severe in Rwanda. For example, the percentage of firms that experienced an incident of crime during the last year was much lower in Rwanda (18.3 vs. 29.1 percent), and the same holds for losses due to crime as percentage of firm’s annual sales (0.7 vs. 1.7 percent).  Additionally, Rwandan firms seem to enjoy better access to finance than their regional peers and are also less likely to be financially constrained. The figure below illustrates the point.

Inspections by tax officials are less common and corruption is lower in Rwanda than elsewhere in SSA. About 54.1 percent of the firms were inspected by tax officials last year, which is significantly lower than the rest of the region’s average of 72.6 percent. Further, among firms that were inspected, the percentage required or expected to pay gifts or informal payments is much lower in Rwanda (4.5 vs. 17.8 percent). Based on firms’ response, the amount firms typically pay government officials to get things done averages a mere 0.1 percent of firms’ annual sales which is a much lower figure than the rest of the region’s 2.5 percent.  The level of severity of corruption as obstacle to firm’s operations (on 0-4 scale) is also much lower in Rwanda than elsewhere in Africa (1.0 vs. 1.8).

However, exporting activity is less common when compared with the rest of Africa or the landlocked countries in Africa. This holds in terms of both the percentage of firms that export (directly or indirectly) and the percentage of typical firms’ annual production that is exported (directly or indirectly). Specifically, prior to the survey, 6.1 percent of the firms in Rwanda were involved in exporting activity during the year. This is significantly lower than the average of 10 percent in the rest of Africa. Similarly, averaged across all firms (exporting plus non-exporting) in the country, a typical Rwandan firm exported 1.6 percent of its annual output which is much lower than 4.1 percent average among the remaining African countries.

The Enterprise Surveys data seem to confirm that by regional standards, Rwanda is doing well in quite a few important areas of the business climate. However, in some of the other aspects of business environment, Rwanda’s performance is just about at par with the regional average or worse than the frontier or best practice countries. These areas, such as exporting activity, labor issues, skill availability, tax rates and tax administration as obstacles to firms, transportation, etc., present an important opportunity for Rwanda to mimic its neighbors thereby to further improve its business climate.

* worldbank.org. . Mohammad Amin is a Senior Economist with the Enterprise Analysis Unit at the World Bank Group. His current research interest includes work on gender, informality and international trade. His previous work includes research related to international migration and services trade. Mohammad Amin holds a Ph.D in Economics from Columbia University.

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Statement: Major victories for transparency
June 14, 2013 | 0 Comments

GENEVA, June 12, 2013 – The Africa Progress Panel welcomes Canada’s announcement today that it will establish new mandatory reporting standards for Canadian extractive companies.

The APP also applauds today’s plenary vote in the European Parliament approving EU Transparency and Accounting Directives.

Canada, which is home to some of the world’s largest mining companies, has long been seen as reluctant to embrace the trend to improve transparency in extractive industries. Canada’s announcement that it will now establish new mandatory reporting standards brings the country in-line with the direction taken by the US and the EU.

The vote in the European Parliament creates a binding legal requirement for EU-listed and large privately owned oil, gas, mining and logging companies to publish all payments over €100,000 to governments in every country where they operate. This brings the EU in line with similar extractive industry transparency rules in the United States, under the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, that will take effect this year.

“This is a good day for transparency and is a major step towards a world where developing countries are paid fair prices for their mineral resources,” says Caroline Kende-Robb, Executive Director of the Africa Progress Panel. “These developments, coming only days before the G8 Summit in Lough Erne in Northern Ireland next week, increase the chances that the G8 Summit will provide agreements for strong action to improve rules to fight tax avoidance an evasion, and ensure transparency in extraction deals. It has become increasingly clear that governments and business understand very well the benefits of transparency for political and social stability”.

 

Chaired by Kofi Annan, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Africa Progress Panel (the Panel) includes distinguished individuals from the private and public sectors, who advocate on global issues of importance to Africa and the world.

These complex, high-impact issues include global governance, food security, sustainable economic development, and the Millennium Development Goals, which all require engagement from a wide range of stakeholders within and outside the continent.

For further information, please contact

Edward Harris, Head of Communications
Office: + 41 22 919 75 36
Mobile: +41 79 873 8322

Or

Alinka Brutsch
Bureau: +41 22 919 75 38
Mobile: +41 78 944 71 15

www.africaprogresspanel.org and www.facebook.com/africaprogresspanel
@africaprogress and #APR2013

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Rwanda and the New Lions of Africa
May 20, 2013 | 0 Comments

Economic growth and improved governance have changed the lives of citizens across the continent.

By PAUL KAGAME*

Paul KagameAs the world economy continues to stagnate, a story of hope is unfolding on my continent. Nine out of 15 of the world’s fastest growing countries today are African. Over the past decade, the continent’s economies have grown at an average 5% per annum. Foreign direct investment, which stood at $9 billion at the turn of the millennium, last year exceeded $80 billion. Far from being a flash in the pan, this is the result of a sustained period of increasingly sophisticated economic management and stable politics.

This improvement in governance has changed the lives of citizens across the continent. In Rwanda alone, more than a million people have overcome poverty in the past six years. Ten years ago, Rwandan villagers would ask the government for food and basic necessities; today they demand better roads, improved electricity access and fast broadband. From Sierra Leone to Ethiopia to Malawi, the story is the same: an emerging middle class, growing in confidence and ambition, that seeks the same educational, economic and social opportunities that Americans and Singaporeans enjoy.

That’s not to say the picture in Africa is perfect. Far from it.
Poverty levels are still too high and energy production is too low. Infrastructure still needs more investment, and access to capital and savings remains problematic. But in our pursuit of development, Rwandans will not allow ourselves to stray from the path of fiscal prudence. Rather, we will continue to focus on building robust and reliable legal and regulatory frameworks.

Downtown-KigaliWhen Rwanda issued its first international bond last month, we stood true to these values. The $400 million in 10-year bonds, sold at a yield of 6.875%, were a sign that Rwanda is now firmly on the path to economic maturity, having retreated from the edge of the abyss after the 1994 genocide. It also showed our intention: to build a modern economy, with a vibrant private sector that is connected to international markets. We want to be a nation less dependent on aid and fully engaged in a globalized economy.
That investors are pursuing high yields is perhaps one unintended consequence of the global financial crisis. But that should not diminish how encouraging it is that investors also embraced the chance to seek returns beyond the usual commodity-growth story. While Africa is a continent rich in resources, with 12% of the world’s oil reserves and 42% of its gold, we cannot follow too narrow a path to development.

Yes, we need to keep liberalizing our economies and pursuing greater global integration. But governance reforms and social development, propelled by economic growth that delivers tangible improvements in the lives of citizens, must also continue.
This has been our approach in Rwanda. We have decentralized the state, reformed our business sector and strengthened our institutions. But we have also invested in health care, agriculture and education. As a result, the World Bank this year ranked Rwanda as the eighth easiest place in the world to start a business. A recent index in Foreign Policy magazine named the country the fifth best investment destination world-wide.

There is a view that development is a marathon, not a sprint. We do not agree. Development is a marathon that must be run at a sprint. In our pursuit of progress, we have of course looked to East Asia’s so-called “tiger” economies for inspiration. But Africa’s experience is unique, and we must now define our own destiny.
So while being described as an “African tiger” is a welcome recognition of how far Rwanda has come, perhaps it isn’t quite right. After all, our continent has its own big cat. Step forward the new lions of Africa.

*Source The Wall Street Journal.Mr. Kagame is president of Rwanda.

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