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Africa’s Hospitality Industry To Create 136,000 Jobs In 2014
March 16, 2014 | 0 Comments

Marriot-150x150No fewer than 136,000 new jobs will be created by the hospitality (hotel) sector in Africa this year, a new research by consultancy W Hospitality Group, which specialises in the hotel business in Africa has revealed. According to the consultancy firm, about 87,000 will be added in 2015, 70,000 in 2016 and 27,000 thereafter based on current signed contracts from international brands with regional brands and non-branded developments to come. Additional jobs may also come from new deals signed and other development, it said. While hotels like Hilton Worldwide, Accor, Carlson Rezidor as well as Starwood and Marriott have been touted to lead continental recruitment; the report said growth in demand for hotel workers varies substantially from country to country. In North Africa – where the hotel industry is more developed and growth is relatively slower – about 115,000 jobs will be created across five countries, while Sub Saharan Africa will see 165,000 jobs provided across 23 countries. The five North African countries are in the top 10 in Africa, while Nigeria leads the way in Sub Saharan Africa with 53,000 jobs. It is followed by Ghana with 11,000, Angola with 9,000, Ethiopia with 8,800 and Uganda with 8,500, the report said. “The main reasons for the slower growth in North Africa include the opening of hotels in the 2012 pipeline, particularly in Algeria, a reduced investment focus on North Africa due to political concerns and a greater emphasis on development in sub-Saharan markets,” said Trevor Ward, MD of W Hospitality: “It is very good for the hospitality sector that so many major international brands are blazing a trail, because they will bring a requirement to meet international service standards,” he added. *Source Ventures Africa]]>

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African Oils, Exotic and in Demand
March 13, 2014 | 0 Comments

Magatte Wade uses oils and other ingredients from Africa in her Tiossan line of fragrance and bath products, which she sells in Hudson, N.Y. Credit Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times Magatte Wade uses oils and other ingredients from Africa in her Tiossan line of fragrance and bath products, which she sells in Hudson, N.Y. Credit Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times[/caption]

Working with a chemist and a French perfumer, Magatte Wade sought to incorporate ingredients traditionally used by healers from her native Senegal into Tiossan, a line of fragrance and bath products.

“The cream my healer makes is muddy and pasty and has a weird smell,” said Ms. Wade, 37, who opened her first store in Hudson, N.Y., in 2012. “You wouldn’t want to put it on your skin.”

As part of an industrywide shift from chemical formulations to those based on botanical ingredients, many beauty companies are turning to Africa to find buzz-worthy ingredients. Among them are Clarins, which uses katafray, a tree extract from Madagascar, in its Double Serum ($85); Patyka, which added prickly pear oil from Morocco to its Supreme Defense Fluid ($90); and Colbert M.D., which relies on yangu, argan and marula oil for its Illumino Face Oil ($125).

Perhaps the biggest cosmetics success story to come out of Africa is Moroccanoil, a hair- and skin-care company that features argan oil, a now-ubiquitous ingredient on drugstore and department store beauty shelves. Though the brand gets its argan oil from all over the world, not just Morocco, where the argan tree is indigenous, its success has helped ignite interest in other raw materials found in Africa, such as baobab-tree extract (in Korres Wild Rose and Face and Eye Serum, $41) and moringa seed oil (in DryBar 100 Proof Treatment Oil, $35), and shea nut butter.

The last is nothing new to Western salves, but Jergens, a unit of the Kao Corporation, has been playing up its use, pledging a donation to the Global Shea Alliance, a nonprofit organization active in West Africa. It has also created a video about the women of Ghana who collect the shea nuts used in Jergens products.

Lush, a beauty brand in Britain known for its handmade products, released a YouTube video about getting its shea butter from the 400-member Ojoba Women’s Collective in northern Ghana. Simon Constantine, the head perfumer and so-called ethical buyer for Lush, said: “People ask questions. They want to know what they are using and where it comes from.”

The beauty world is following in the footsteps of programs like Toms Shoes and Lauren Bush’s FEED bags, the purchase of which include donations to needy children in Africa. According to a Nielsen study, the number of American consumers willing to pay more for products from socially responsible companies jumped from 36 percent in 2011 to 44 percent in 2013.

“This is not just a fad, this is a global trend,” said James Russo, a senior vice president for global consumer insights at the Nielsen Company.

L’Occitane en Provence, the beauty products company, was recently honored by the United Nations Development Program for its work in Burkina Faso. Neal’s Yard Remedies of London, which works with the Samburu community of Northern Kenya, harvests frankincense resin according to “fair wild” protocols set by the Institute for Marketecology, a Swiss accreditation body.

“Fair wild ensures that the crop is being both fairly traded and sustainably harvested,” said Susan Curtis, director of natural health at Neal’s Yard.

Many extracts are found in the wild, said Dr. Calestous Juma, the director of the science, technology and globalization project at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Dr. Juma urges companies working with collectives in Africa to “build up the scientific capacity for identifying cosmetic properties in wild plants,” thereby promoting their conservation and cultivation.

Others advocate partnering with African entrepreneurs. Kanshi, an aromatherapy and body-care brand coming to the American market this year, is owned by Dzigbordi Dosoo in Ghana and Lydia Sarfati, the chief executive of Repêchage, a skin care line in New Jersey. Ms. Dosoo said she wished more companies would truly collaborate with African entrepreneurs rather than “fly into the country, talk to a few of the local people and take a picture.” Ms. Wade, who referred to the use of such photos as “pity branding,” intends to move her company’s production to Senegal.

But Dr. David Colbert, the New York dermatologist who selected several African ingredients for his Colbert M.D. skin care line, is not focused on the politics of his enterprise.

“These particular oils just happened to be the best thing out there,” he said.

*Source NY Times

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AU Launches Internet Exchange Point in Namibia: “Keeping intra-country internet traffic within the country”
March 11, 2014 | 0 Comments

The African Union Commission (AUC), through the Infrastructure and Energy Department, in collaboration with the Ministry of Information Communication Technology of Namibia today launched the Internet Exchange Point in Namibia. The Internet Exchange Point in Namibia will contribute to bringing efficiency in the routing of intra-country internet traffic and hence faster exchange of intra-country internet traffic. Through the African Internet Exchange System (AXIS) project, the African Union Commission has so far extended capacity building support to facilitate the establishment of internet exchange points in 22 Member States including Namibia. The AU has also donated equipment and services with the value of USD20,000 to the Internet Exchange Point in Namibia. “With this development, the ICT Sector in Namibia has every reason to celebrate for a new era of localized, cost effective and secure internet traffic, has dawned. That notwithstanding, we are called upon to safeguard this infrastructure for the betterment of the livelihood of the users. I however hasten to state that today’s historic event would not have been possible without the invaluable support provided by the African Union Commission.” Said Hon. Stanley Simataa, Deputy Minister of ICT The Internet in Africa has been growing steadily over the past several years and is beginning to play a significant role in Africa’s development, creating employment, providing opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship, as well as acting as an enabler in the digital delivery of government services, education, and healthcare among others. “All of us will agree that living in a modern society without ICT is difficult if not impossible. Think about how many times and how often we are using the internet, mobile phones and computers. ICT has been integrated in every aspect of our business activities and daily lives. Looking to the future, ICT for development is not about computers, mobile phones, and the internet, but about using them to empower communities for communication, learning, and accessing services. This will lead to improved well-being, increased work productivity, support for innovation, and impetus for inclusive growth.” Said H.E. Dr. Elham Ibrahim, Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy.” The launch was officiated by Hon. Stanley Simataa, Deputy Minister of ICT of Namibia and H.E. Dr. Elham Ibrahim, African Union Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy and attended by Senior Government Officials, Leaders of the Industry and the Internet Society. For more information on the African Internet Exchange System Project of the African Union, visit http://www.au.int/axis . Source African Union/APO  ]]>

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All eyes on $1 trillion:African agribusiness is set for a huge leap, according to a World Bank report
March 8, 2014 | 0 Comments
[caption id="attachment_8756" align="alignleft" width="300"]Workers plucking tea from plants growing on a hillside on the Mata tea estate. As Rwanda’s biggest export earner, tea is a very important part of the country’s development process. - Workers plucking tea from plants growing on a hillside on the Mata tea estate. As Rwanda’s biggest export earner, tea is a very important part of the country’s development process. –[/caption] Imagine for a moment the impact of a $1 trillion African agribusiness sector on the lives of Africans. Currently worth about $313 billion, the sector already provides jobs for 70% of the poorest people on the continent. An increase greater than threefold will bring jobs to lift millions out of poverty; most stomachs will be filled with nutritious meals, Africa’s agricultural exports will dominate global markets, and the continent’s farmers, who have borne the brunt of harsh economic conditions, will get a new lease of life as they become competitive in the global marketplace. This is not an unreachable dreamland, a World Bank report published in March 2013 argues that it could soon be a reality. The report, Growing Africa: Unlocking the Potential of Agribusiness, projects that African agribusiness could be worth $1 trillion by 2030. It’s the latest in a string of positive reports about the continent’s socioeconomic development prospects, despite political instability in a handful of countries. No magic wand But no magic wand will cause a $313 billion agribusiness sector to grow into a $1 trillion behemoth. The World Bank cautions that everyone will have to work hard—governments, the private sector, farmers, and so on. However, the elements for a pole-vault jump are in place. For example, in addition to huge, untapped water resources, Africa has more than 50% of the world’s fertile and unused land—that’s a whopping 450 million hectares. The continent uses only 2% of its renewable water resources, while the global average is 5%. The steady and increasing private sector interest in African agribusiness is just the icing on the cake. Also, while global prices of agricultural commodities are rising due to increasing demand, supply of these commodities is slowing due to factors like land degradation and water scarcity in many countries, especially in Asia. “Water scarcity has become a major constraint because of competition from rapidly growing industrial sectors and urban populations,” states the Word Bank. Yet Africa has both water and land in abundance. At first glance, the World Bank report paints a glowing—even celebratory—picture of African agribusiness prospects. But the report also rigorously highlights many stubborn and recurring obstacles in the path of development progress. It states that “to generate the jobs, incomes and food so badly needed for Africa’s growing population over the next 20 years, agro-industries need to undergo a structural transformation,” and it calls for more concerted investment in the sector. Infrastructural needs African agribusiness desperately needs improved infrastructure. “Infrastructure is a high priority for jump-starting agribusiness throughout Africa. Best bets for infrastructure are irrigation, roads, and markets,” according to the report. In 2010, for instance, Africa produced 1,300 kilograms of cereals per hectare of arable land, which was about half of what South Asia produced per hectare, according to the World Bank. A major reason for that low production is the African countries’ low percentage of irrigated arable land, only 3% on average compared to a 47% average for Asian countries, states the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). On top of that, a lack of rural roads impedes farmers’ access to markets and increases post-harvest losses. Although increased financing is needed in the agribusiness sector, there have been improvements lately, notes the report. Even so, only 7% of Africa’s agriculture comes from foreign direct investments, compared to 78% for Asia. The good news is that due to rising commodity prices, “the appetite is growing among investors, private equity, and investment and sovereign funds to tap into Africa’s agriculture and agribusiness markets.” Partially because of the lack of infrastructure and investment, a continent with half of the world’s fertile land spends $33 billion on food imports annually, including $3.5 billion on rice imports. Gone are those years, in the early 1990s, when sub-Saharan Africa was a net exporter of agricultural products. Currently, imports are as much as 30% greater than exports. The report suggests it should be astonishing that developing countries such as Brazil, Indonesia and Thailand export more food products than all of sub-Saharan Africa combined. “The value of agricultural exports from Thailand (a country of 66 million people) now exceeds that of all sub-Saharan Africa (a region of 800 million people).” This situation is not sustainable, says Gaiv Tata, the World Bank director for financial and private sector development in Africa. “African farmers and businesses must be empowered through good policies, increased public and private investments and strong public-private partnerships.” African leaders face the challenge It’s not as if African leaders need any convincing about the need for more investments in agriculture, but more actions must match their words. In 2003, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), an African Union framework for the continent’s socioeconomic development, launched the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) “to eliminate hunger and reduce poverty through agriculture.” By signing on to CAADP, most African governments agreed to invest at least 10% of their national budgets in agriculture and to raise agricultural productivity by at least 6%. Through CAADP, Africa is slowly but steadily moving forward. Countries such as Ghana, Ethiopia, Rwanda and others have placed agriculture at the top of their development priorities list. Martin Bwalya, the head of CAADP, says that over the past years, 40 countries have either signed the compact or finalized investment plans while 13 others have yet to sign up to CAADP. However, the NEPAD 2014 report highlights that just nine out of Africa’s 54 countries have met the target of 10% of budget allocation, while another group of nine are currently spending between 5% and 10%. To commemorate 10 years of CAADP, African leaders declared 2014 “the Year of Agriculture and Food Security in Africa.” With African agriculture growing at 4%, the leaders hope to build on that momentum in the coming years. Even these modest gains are commendable, analysts believe. They are a “strong contrast to what many acknowledge to be inadequate or even nonexistent national strategies that previously governed Africa’s agricultural sector,” according to the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank. Hennie van der Merwe, CEO of the South Africa–based Agribusiness Development Corporation, adds that “Africa is currently experiencing a revival in terms of its focus on agribusiness, not only to increase food self-sufficiency, but also to create jobs and economic activity, specifically in rural areas.” The World Bank concurs: “Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya and Zimbabwe all have been successful exporters in terms of market share.… Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique and Zambia stand out as African success stories in terms of significant increases in export market shares since 1991.” Land problems Political commitment and investment aside, another lingering problem is land allocation and acquisition. Farmers in many countries cannot expand their farming because they have limited access to land, and discriminatory laws sometimes prevent women from gaining ownership. The World Bank report addresses the need for judicious and equitable land allocations, stressing that such allocations shouldn’t threaten people’s livelihoods. Land purchases also need to follow ethical standards for example, buyers should pay fair market rates after consultation with local communities. In 2011, the Oakland Institute, a US-based think tank, reported unfair land deals in South Sudan, under which foreign companies bought up fertile and mostly uncultivated land. Such deals did not clarify land tenure and usage, and worse, even threatened the land rights of rural communities. “Governments and investors must also put in place effective environmental and social safeguards to reduce potential risks of agribusiness investments, especially those associated with large-scale land acquisitions by investors,” the institute advised. Taking the ICT route Experts generally agree that technology, particularly information and communication technology (ICT), will boost agriculture. In an earlier report titled ICT for Agriculture in Africa, the World Bank listed ways in which ICT could support agriculture at every stage: pre-cultivation (crop and land selection, access to credit, etc.) crop cultivation and harvesting (land preparation, management of water, fertilizer and pest control, etc.) and post-harvest (marketing, transportation, packaging, food processing, etc.). Geographical information systems (GIS) can be used for land-use planning and climate change adaptation, for example, the Bank stated. Already farmers in Kenya and Zimbabwe have deployed ICT in ways that have increased their income and productivity. Charles Dhewa, a Zimbabwean communication specialist, in 2012 launched eMkambo, an integrated virtual market where farmers and buyers share knowledge and transact business by means of mobile phones (See Africa Renewal December 2013 edition). Farmers are also using ICT in other ways: to share new production processing and marketing skills in Burkina Faso to trace mangoes via a system that connects Malian farmers to global consumers to garner important information that improves forest governance in Liberia to provide SMS-based services developed by Zambia’s National Farmers Union. The World Bank says such ICT initiatives have been successful in part because “real economic value was added either because of savings resulting from the use of ICT or an increase in revenue or profitability.” Such is the importance of ICT to agriculture that in 2011 the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the UN agency dedicated to poverty eradication in developing countries, called for policy innovations to make technology the main driver of African agriculture. There is still some distance to cover to realize the dream of a $1 trillion agribusiness. But many hands are already on deck. Ghana and Senegal are forging ahead with rice production Zambia’s 88 million hectares of available land are said to be quite suitable for maize and Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria already account for two thirds of the world’s cocoa. There is abundant water and land, increasing private sector investment and political commitment, all of which provide flickers of hope for a sector under revival. The World Bank says that an African agribusiness sector is not just important for the sake of Africa but “essential for ensuring global food security.” *Source Africa Renewal
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Swaziland king opens 'white elephant' airport
March 8, 2014 | 0 Comments

Swaziland's King Mswati III Swaziland’s King Mswati III[/caption] Mbabane (Swaziland) (AFP) – Swaziland’s King Mswati III on Friday inaugurated a new $280-million airport in the tiny nation even though the project is years away from being operational and has been dubbed a “white elephant” by critics. It has taken 11 years to build the airport, at a cost equivalent to almost 10 percent of the impoverished mountain kingdom’s 2012 Gross Domestic Product. Authorities in the sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarchy hope the airport will help attract tourism and foreign investment. But it has yet to be granted an operating licence by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and no airlines are expected to make use of the airport for years to come, prompting concerns about the viability of the project. Swaziland’s ruler however defended the airport, which was built under the name Sikhuphe International Airport but was on Friday renamed King Mswati-III International Airport. “This airport is not a tool to make a circus show but to advance the country’s development,” the monarch said at the opening ceremony. Swaziland is currently serviced by South Africa’s SA Airlink which plies only the 45-minute route to and from Johannesburg and operates from a smaller airport in the commercial hub of Manzini. The new airport, built 70 kilometres (44 miles) away from the capital Mbabane, will eventually be able to handle 300 passengers per hour and its runway can accommodate jumbo jets, officials said. Swaziland does not have its own national airline but aviation authorities announced earlier this year that a new national carrier is in the pipeline and will fly to 10 destinations in Africa and the Middle East. Locked between Mozambique and South Africa, Swaziland remains one of the world’s poorest countries, though its monarch is estimated to have a fortune of around $200 million. *Source AFP]]>

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Music star Akon unveils plan to light up 1m African homes
March 3, 2014 | 0 Comments

By KEMO CHAM * [caption id="attachment_8714" align="alignleft" width="300"]African American artiste Akon speaks at a press conference in Nairobi in this file photo. The celebrity has rolled out an ambitious plan to power one million African homes by the end of 2014. African American artiste Akon speaks at a press conference in Nairobi in this file photo. The celebrity has rolled out an ambitious plan to power one million African homes by the end of 2014.[/caption] Music superstar Akon has embarked on an ambitious energy project to electrify one million households in nine West and Central African countries by 2014.

The Senegalese American celebrity’s project, ‘Akon Lighting Africa’, involves installing solar equipment in rural households and public places.
The artiste-cum businessman was in Sierra Leone on Monday after flying from neighbouring Guinea where he held talks with President Alpha Conde and addressed university students on his inspiration to develop the continent.
Akon, who is real name is Aliaune Badara Thiam, is on a tour of the beneficiary countries, according to information on a special website dedicated to the project.
The ‘Akon Lighting Africa’ is set for official launch in March, in Senegal.
The ‘9 days, 9 Countries, 9 Presidents’ tour, which also takes him to Mali, Gambia, Burkina Faso, started last week in his native Senegal where he met President Macky Sall.
Other countries reported to be on the list of the artist`s mega energy plan are Equatorial Guinea, Congo and Cote d’Ivoire.
All these countries are battling crippling energy deficits, particularly in the rural areas. Akon has been meeting their heads of state and key officials.
“We wanted to focus the project on rural areas because we often forget that our parents in these remote areas need electricity,” he was quoted saying after meeting Burkinabe President Blaise Campore.
In Burkina Faso, it was disclosed that 200, 000 households will benefit at the initial stage, with plans to expand.
  Energy ‘a challenge’
At a press conference in Bamako, Mali, Akon said that energy was a challenge to quality education, industries and sustainable infrastructure.
He said his project would allow millions of children to access to electricity and improve their opportunities through extended hours of study.
The artiste initiated the project but is working with an alliance of partners, with names including SOLEKTRA International, Byd Solar Technologies, Azuri technologies, NARI [[an affiliate of China Grid], ADS Global Corporation, and the NGO Give1 Project.
The team is expected to complete the project through a public-private partnership. Akon was however quoted saying it would take both the form of business and charity.
In Guinea, local media reported that he was also seeking, alongside this energy project, investment opportunities across the health and education sectors.
His delegation also includes a Chinese partner.
  ‘Also a businessman’
Akon has since cemented his interests in Africa with fairly sizeable investments that include interests in the Senegal International Airlines and a diamond mine in South Africa.
“I’m also a businessman, but I want to do business that benefits Africa,” he was quoted during his stay in the Guinean capital, Conakry.
The artiste told students at the Gamal Abdel Nasser University in Conakry that all the resources needed to develop Africa were at the disposal of the continent, and that all Africans needed to do was to take the driving seat.
Akon also preached nationalism, calling on Guineans students, whom he reportedly met at the request of President Conde, to think first as Guineans before their individual ethnic groups.
Guinea was recently marred by violent ethnic clashes after a widely disputed poll that brought Prof Conde to power. President Conde, according to local media reports, wanted the artiste to serve as inspiration to the youth and future leaders of his country.
*Source African Review
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Côte d’Ivoire: 24 million hectares made available to private investors
March 3, 2014 | 0 Comments

PALMCI plantation, operation and plant at Toumanguié, Côte d’Ivoire. (Photo: Camille Millerand/JA) - PALMCI plantation, operation and plant at Toumanguié, Côte d’Ivoire. (Photo: Camille Millerand/JA) –[/caption] The Ivorian government has developed the National Agricultural Investment Program (known by its French acronym, PNIA) for 2012–2016 to support balanced and comprehensive development of the agricultural sector. At an estimated cost of 2 trillion CFA francs (about €3 billion), this plan has the ambitious goal of making up for the shortfall in financing for this sector over the last ten years.

Private investors

“The PNIA will create 2.4 million jobs and bring 6 million people out of hunger and poverty for good,” said Mamadou Sangafowa Coulibaly, the Minister of Agriculture. The government intends to rely heavily on private investors to find the funding necessary to achieve 9% annual growth in the agricultural sector. In this connection, it will make some 24 million hectares of arable land available to large international groups.
Of the eleven projects planned, seven – for the production of cashews, oil palm, dessert bananas, coffee, and cacao – are already operating. Throughout 2013, representatives of large agroindustrial concerns made regular trips to Côte d’Ivoire to persuade the authorities of the need to finance their projects. Multinationals such as the Louis Dreyfus group, Novel Côte d’Ivoire, and Export Trading Group have taken positions in the rice sector. Côte d’Ivoire produced 1 million tonnes of rice in 2013 and, with massive investment, intends to triple this volume by 2016.

Tree crops

In coffee, cacao, oil palm, and rubber, multinationals such as Nestlé, Olam, Cargill, and Cémoi are developing numerous projects around the country. Abidjan is trying to regain the lead among African coffee producers, which it lost over ten years ago, and expects to triple the volume of coffee produced in the next two years, after producing 100,000 tonnes in 2013. The country also wants to consolidate its position as the world’s leading producer of cacao. The Nestlé group plans to invest 35 billion CFA in plantation renewal by 2020 in order to improve the stability of its supply in these two sectors. So far, nearly 513 billion CFA has been raised to finance the PNIA.

Three hungry giants

Olam

With 20 years of activity in Côte d’Ivoire, the Singapore-based Olam group is a major player in the country’s agricultural sector. Its crop portfolio includes coffee, cacao, oil palm, cashews, and cotton. In 2012, the company inaugurated the continent’s largest cashew processing facility – annual capacity 30,000 tonnes – with an investment of17 billion CFA (€25.9 million). Simultaneously, Olam built a cacao bean processing plant for 30 billion CFA in San Pedro. Thanks to its joint oilseeds venture with the Sifca agroindustrial group, it is developing several oil palm projects. Over the next three years, Olam plans to invest more than 100 billion CFA in Côte d’Ivoire.

Cargill

Operating in the country since the late 1990s, Cargill West Africa has been ramping up its development of cacao projects. From 2011 to 2013, the American giant, partnering with the country’s National Rural Development Agency (Anader), invested 1.8 billion CFA to train 60,000 cacao producers who are members of 100 cooperatives. Cargill also plans to distribute over 600,000 high-yielding cacao plants in order to renew the country’s plantations. The unchallenged leader in cacao, Cargill is now looking into oil palms as an investment opportunity. Its five-year development plan, valued at around 200 billion CFA, would see the creation of industrial oil palm plantations over an area of 50,000 hectares, along with a new processing plant. But while the investments were to have been green-lighted at the end of 2012, they have been delayed by various factors, particularly the lack of available land. Cargill has not given up on this project, which could create 50,000 jobs.

Louis Dreyfus

Having specialised in rice and fertiliser in Côte d’Ivoire for over 50 years, the French-Swiss Louis Dreyfus Commodities group (LDC) knows the local context intimately. On 31 January 2013, Margarita Louis-Dreyfus, President of LDC, went to Abidjan to sign an agreement with the government that will provide for new rice paddy development in the northern regions of Poro, Tchogolo, and Bagoué. In the context of this agreement, LDC has committed to investing 30 billion CFA in rice growing. The agreement also provides for 100,000–200,000 hectares of irrigated land to be made available for the annual production of 300,000 tonnes of paddy rice, a project slated to benefit 60,000 producers working under the aegis of this company. Though the agreement was signed in 2013, the project is still on hold, with LDC awaiting final government approval. *Source farmlandgrab
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'The winds of change are massive!' Tech innovator calls African diaspora to come back and make a difference
February 21, 2014 | 0 Comments

Lillian Leposo, Nima Elbagir and Lauren Said-Moorhouse* What do the Apollo space missions, laser eye surgery and sustainable cocoa have in common? These are just some of the historic breakthroughs that IBM research labs across the world have helped become a reality over the years. But the prestigious tech firm had a glaring omission on their global map. Africa is now the fastest growing continent in the world, according a recent report from the African Development Bank. And yet IBM didn’t have a single hub there — until recently. Last year, IBM opened its 12th research facility in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, its first in the continent. Spearheading this innovation center is Uyi Stewart, a Nigerian scientist who has spent more than 20 years overseas working on software answers to real-world problems. Armed with this international experience, the researcher has now returned to the continent to help create innovative solutions for African everyday challenges. “It’s easy to talk about giving back but when the opportunity presents itself — such as IBM Research Africa that allows you to create innovations in science and technology to begin to make a proper impact in the lives of more than a billion people — I don’t know what more can stop anybody,” says Stewart. Conquering the “new world” As a teenager Stewart was interested in computer sciences. But his country’s lack of infrastructure prompted him to look abroad as a way of” intellectual escape.” The bright Nigerian managed to secure a scholarship at the University of Cambridge in England and with only a plane ticket and bus fare he set off for, what he called, “the new world.” After completing his education in England, Stewart moved to the U.S. where he began his career in software and services research. Stewart went on to work in IBM’s Services Innovation Lab — an international program where he was responsible for the technical strategy at eight global facilities. Today, having returned to the continent, he wants to leverage the strong growth of Africa’s emerging markets and continue IBM’s longstanding tradition in research breakthroughs. “As I build and design I have got to understand that the majority of my people live [on] under less than two dollars a day,” he says. “[The] majority of my people only speak one language — so think about those things — that whole holistic view allows technological innovation to be relevant to the community. That is what we’re calling Africanized solutions.” “Let’s come back” That approach is central to Stewart’s work. “All innovators in the continent of Africa should be problem centric,” he says. “What problems are we trying to solve and ask yourself, at the end, ‘who is going to use it?’ If you ask those two questions then we can begin to talk about sustainability.” In recent years the Kenyan government has actively encouraged ICT development in the country. Christened the “African Silicon Savannah,” the $9.2 billion project known as Konza City is an ambitious undertaking that could help Kenya become a technology and innovation hotspot. The country’s technological boom has also been spurred by a rise in the number of innovation centers, where young coders and aspiring entrepreneurs join forces, network and work on their trailblazing ideas. Similar hubs have also mushroomed across the continent in recent years — from Nigeria to Tanzania and Egypt to Madagascar. But while there is a boom in tech spaces across Africa, many of the apps created there often fail to take off. Stewart says tech entrepreneurs need to be cautious about starting businesses without any commercial foresight. “Sustainability of innovation comes from commercial viability,” he says. “If you innovate for fun, then we wouldn’t be where we are today and I think that is the kind of ecosystem we see right now.” After more than two decades abroad, Stewart is committed to reverse the continent’s so-called “brain drain,” the exodus of brilliant minds relocating to countries outside Africa. “I am part of the diaspora and I am home,” he says. “And I am saying ‘let’s come back, there is just so much’; the winds of change [are] massive — let’s come back and make a difference,” adds Stewart. “There is a tremendous potential for skill of impact when you innovate.” *Source CNN]]>

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‘The winds of change are massive!’ Tech innovator calls African diaspora to come back and make a difference
February 21, 2014 | 0 Comments

By Lillian LeposoNima Elbagir and Lauren Said-Moorhouse*

What do the Apollo space missions, laser eye surgery and sustainable cocoa have in common? These are just some of the historic breakthroughs that IBM research labs across the world have helped become a reality over the years.

But the prestigious tech firm had a glaring omission on their global map. Africa is now the fastest growing continent in the world, according a recent report from the African Development Bank. And yet IBM didn’t have a single hub there — until recently.

Last year, IBM opened its 12th research facility in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, its first in the continent. Spearheading this innovation center is Uyi Stewart, a Nigerian scientist who has spent more than 20 years overseas working on software answers to real-world problems.

Armed with this international experience, the researcher has now returned to the continent to help create innovative solutions for African everyday challenges.

“It’s easy to talk about giving back but when the opportunity presents itself — such as IBM Research Africa that allows you to create innovations in science and technology to begin to make a proper impact in the lives of more than a billion people — I don’t know what more can stop anybody,” says Stewart.

Conquering the “new world”

As a teenager Stewart was interested in computer sciences. But his country’s lack of infrastructure prompted him to look abroad as a way of” intellectual escape.”

The bright Nigerian managed to secure a scholarship at the University of Cambridge in England and with only a plane ticket and bus fare he set off for, what he called, “the new world.” After completing his education in England, Stewart moved to the U.S. where he began his career in software and services research.

Stewart went on to work in IBM’s Services Innovation Lab — an international program where he was responsible for the technical strategy at eight global facilities. Today, having returned to the continent, he wants to leverage the strong growth of Africa’s emerging markets and continue IBM’s longstanding tradition in research breakthroughs.

“As I build and design I have got to understand that the majority of my people live [on] under less than two dollars a day,” he says. “[The] majority of my people only speak one language — so think about those things — that whole holistic view allows technological innovation to be relevant to the community. That is what we’re calling Africanized solutions.”

“Let’s come back”

That approach is central to Stewart’s work.

“All innovators in the continent of Africa should be problem centric,” he says. “What problems are we trying to solve and ask yourself, at the end, ‘who is going to use it?’ If you ask those two questions then we can begin to talk about sustainability.”

In recent years the Kenyan government has actively encouraged ICT development in the country. Christened the “African Silicon Savannah,” the $9.2 billion project known as Konza City is an ambitious undertaking that could help Kenya become a technology and innovation hotspot.

The country’s technological boom has also been spurred by a rise in the number of innovation centers, where young coders and aspiring entrepreneurs join forces, network and work on their trailblazing ideas.

Similar hubs have also mushroomed across the continent in recent years — from Nigeria to Tanzania and Egypt to Madagascar. But while there is a boom in tech spaces across Africa, many of the apps created there often fail to take off. Stewart says tech entrepreneurs need to be cautious about starting businesses without any commercial foresight.

“Sustainability of innovation comes from commercial viability,” he says. “If you innovate for fun, then we wouldn’t be where we are today and I think that is the kind of ecosystem we see right now.”

After more than two decades abroad, Stewart is committed to reverse the continent’s so-called “brain drain,” the exodus of brilliant minds relocating to countries outside Africa.

“I am part of the diaspora and I am home,” he says. “And I am saying ‘let’s come back, there is just so much’; the winds of change [are] massive — let’s come back and make a difference,” adds Stewart. “There is a tremendous potential for skill of impact when you innovate.”

*Source CNN

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IBM to support Universities Across Africa with IT Skills
February 21, 2014 | 0 Comments

IBM-Research-Africa-700x466IBM has announced new IT knowledge-building initiatives that will enable the existing and future workforce to develop new analytics, cloud and data skills crucial to the continent’s economic growth and social development. Today’s technology based services in many African countries are often insufficient or merely addressing point-problems. The continent’s challenges, stemming from a lack of key infrastructure, keeping pace with rapid urbanization and other factors, are impediments to developing a cohesive technology base across Africa.

Leaders in business, education and government agree that enabling the  existing and future workforce to perform at the cutting edge of technology trends such as big data, analytics and cloud computing is key to Africa’s growth,” said Takreem El Tohamy, General Manager IBM Middle East and Africa  “This type of investment will help boost regional economic development across Africa and drive industrial innovation for the global economy.
Big Data and the derived technology solutions that create insight and actionable knowledge need to be an integral part of economic development and part of the social fabric. Advancing science and technology by developing skills across Africa to build a talent pipeline for future IBM, business partner and client hirings, are essential to fostering this economic growth.  The IBM programs below are a key first step to making that a reality. Through new delivery models, such as SaaS, IBM is dramatically increasing its reach across the African continent.

IBM Africa Technical Institutes

  • This initiative delivers technical education to the IBM ecosystem of clients and potential clients, business partners and academia to build the knowledge and skills base of IBM IT users
  • The Africa Technical Institute has been rolled out in 11 countries and will create further demand for deeper training and certification within the African IT community
  • In total 400 clients, 200 Business Partners and 30 IBMers participated in 2013

Software Skills Enablement

  • This program expands the technical talent base in Africa by offering training and academic skills certification on leading edge technology solutions such as Big Data, cloud computing and mobile services
  • Using channels such as mobile-enabled education delivery and SaaS, the goal is to create a pool of prospective new hires in Africa for clients, business partners and IBM subsidiaries
  • A personalized education portal presents clear roadmaps and provides tests and tracking towards certifications for next generation technologies
  • Piloted in 2013, this skills enablement delivery model will reach 3500 African faculty and students

University Relations and Faculty Awards

  • IBM has deep relationships with universities across Africa and is working with faculty to develop data-driven degree programs, coursework and specialization tracks
  • IBM will award grants to faculty to drive curriculum development and research that will deliver business and technical solutions to advance the key industries of Africa such as banking, telco and natural resources
  • Collaborating with universities across Africa on topics such as sensor-based precision agriculture, renewable energy technologies, energy forecasting, real-time Big Data analytics, and nanotechnology. Many of the research activities will be geared towards having transformational impact on developing economies

LEADing to Africa internship program

IBM’s global internship programs provide assignments for students to become familiar with IBM’s organization, work style, culture and global reach. The LEADing to Africa internship program builds an important recruitment channel across our business in Africa by providing a short-term real, world experience in other IBM markets Students will foster real-world skills in the fields of Big Data & analytics, cloud, business, economics, math, engineering and computer science.  Students in this program have expressed interest in working in Africa upon graduation and will have access to channels to stay connected to IBM and Africa while in their internship assignment, during their studies and for their future career paths. Recruitment is currently open:  http://www-05.ibm.com/employment/emea/africa/ These programs are examples of a set of investments that IBM is making to support IT skills development in Africa. IBM continues to expand our presence across Africa working with local businesses, partners, clients and communities in building Africa’s innovation, skills, IT capabilities and talent.
*Source Tech City
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An awakening giant
February 17, 2014 | 0 Comments

If Africa’s economies are to take off, Africans will have to start making a lot more things. They may well do so   LESS than an hour’s drive outside Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, a farmer walks along a narrow path on a green valley floor after milking his cows. Muhammad Gettu is carrying two ten-litre cans to a local market, where he will sell them for less than half of what they would fetch at a dairy in the city. Sadly, he has no transport. A bicycle sturdy enough to survive unpaved tracks would be enough to double his revenues. At the moment none is easily available. But that may be about to change. An affiliate of SRAM, the world’s second-largest cycle-components maker, based in Chicago, is aiming to invest in Ethiopia. Its Buffalo Bicycles look ungainly but have puncture-resistant tires, a heavy frame and a rear rack that can hold 100kg. They are designed and assembled in Africa, and a growing number of components are made there from scratch, creating more than 100 manufacturing jobs. About 150,000 Buffalo bikes are circulating on the continent, fighting puncture-prone competition from Asia. F.K. Day, a SRAM founder, says he set up his first African workshop in South Africa and is looking at Addis Ababa and Mombasa in Kenya as possible next sites. Landlocked Ethiopia has only partially shed its Marxist heritage yet is attracting industrial companies. Huajian, a Chinese shoemaker (pictured above), has built an export factory not far from Mr Gettu’s farm Those who cast doubt on Africa’s rise often point to the continent’s lack of manufacturing. Few countries, they argue, have escaped poverty without putting a lot of workers through factory gates. Rick Rowden, a sceptical development pundit, says, “Apart from a few tax havens, there is no country that has attained a high standard of living on the basis of services alone.” Yet a quiet boom in manufacturing in Africa is already taking place. Farming and services are still dominant, backed by the export of commodities, but new industries are emerging in a lot of African countries.

Thandika Mkandawire, a Malawi-born expert, and Dani Rodrik, a Princeton economist, argue that growth is bound to fizzle because of a dearth of factories. But they may be too pessimistic. Manufacturing’s share of GDP in sub-Saharan Africa has held steady at 10-14% in recent years. Industrial output in what is now the world’s fastest-growing continent is expanding as quickly as the rest of the economy. The evidence, big and small, is everywhere. H&M, a multinational Swedish retail-clothing firm, and Primark, an Ireland-based one, source a lot of material from Ethiopia. General Electric, an American conglomerate, is building a $250m plant in Nigeria to make electrical gear. Madecasse, a New York-based chocolatier, is looking for new hires to add to its 650 workers in Madagascar already turning raw cocoa into expensively wrapped milky and nutty bars. Mobius Motors, a Kenyan firm started a few years ago by Joel Jackson, a Briton, is building a cheap, durable car for rough roads. Domestically owned manufacturing is growing, too. Seemhale Telecoms of South Africa is planning to make cheap mobile phones for the African market. Angola says it is to build its own arms industry, with help from Brazil. African craftsmen are making inroads in fashion. Ali Lamu makes handbags from recycled dhow sails on the Kenyan coast and sells them on Western websites. Many of these businesses are beneficiaries of growth outside the manufacturing sector. The spread of big retail shops encourages light industry. In Zambia a surprising number of goods in South African-owned supermarkets are made locally; it is often too expensive to transport bulky stuff across borders. A construction boom is fostering access to high-voltage power. The spread of mobile telephony, including mobile banking, helps small suppliers struggling with overheads. IBM, an American computer giant with an eye on Africa, goes so far as to say that “software is the manufacturing of the future”. Consumers will still want to buy hardware, but growing local demand is creating a market for African app and software developers. Make them learn Underpinning all this is a big improvement in education. Charles Robertson, the chief economist of Renaissance Capital, a financial firm founded in Russia, has argued that for the first time in its history Africa now has the human capital to take part in a new industrial revolution. In the 1970s Western garment-makers built factories in places like Mexico and Turkey, where a quarter of children went to secondary school. Africa, then at 9%, has caught up. Another spur for African manufacturing is investment by Chinese workers who stay behind after completing their contracts for work in mining and infrastructure projects. Many thousands of them have set up workshops to fill the gaps in local markets. The African Growth and Opportunity Act, signed by America’s Congress in 2000, has also boosted trade in African-made goods. The World Bank has been suggesting for several years that Asian manufacturing jobs could migrate to Africa. Obiageli Ezekwesili, a vice-president of the bank, says that more than 80m jobs may leave China owing to wage pressures, not all to neighbouring countries with low costs; if African labour productivity continues to rise, many could go to Africa, especially if corruption and red tape, still major scourges of the continent, are curbed. In contrast to China, business in parts of Africa is becoming cheaper as infrastructure improves and trade barriers are lifted. The average cost of manufacturing in Uganda, for instance, has been falling. Can cheetahs beat tigers? This could mark a sea change. The rise of Asian manufacturers in the 1990s hit African firms hard; many were wiped out. Northern Nigeria, which once had a thriving garments industry, was unable to compete with low-cost imports. South Africa has similar problems; its manufacturing failed to grow last year despite the continental boom. This is partly the fault of governments. Buoyed by commodity income, they have neglected industry’s needs, especially for roads and electricity. But that, too, may at last be changing. Wolfgang Fengler, a World Bank economist, says, “Africa is now in a good position to industrialise with the right mix of ingredients.” This includes favourable demography, urbanisation, an emerging middle class and strong services. “For this to happen,” he adds, “the continent will need to scale up its infrastructure investments and improve the business climate, and many [African] countries have started to tackle these challenges in recent years.” Kenya is not about to become the next South Korea. African countries are likely to follow a more diverse path, benefiting from the growth of countless small and medium-sized businesses, as well as some big ones. For the next decade or so, services will still generate more jobs and wealth in Africa than manufacturing, which is fine. India has boomed for more than two decades on the back of services, while steadily building a manufacturing sector from a very low base. Do not bet against Africa doing the same.
*The Economist ]]>

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Lonrho to Start $600 Million Ghana Port to Lure Oil Rig Business
February 14, 2014 | 0 Comments

Lonrho Plc will start building a $600 million port in Ghana as a hub to service oil rigs in West Africa, where Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell Plc pump 60 percent of Africa’s crude, in the second half of the year. The port will be built in 25 months and the government will take a 10 percent stake in the Atuabo Freeport, Steven Gray, development manager, said in an interview on Feb. 10. Ghanaian companies will own about 35 percent and Lonrho and other foreign companies will have a 55 percent stake, he said. London-based Lonrho, which operates hotels and ports, hired Africa Finance Corp. to secure financing before the end of the first half of the year, he said. “It’s strategically located to be able to support the growing oil and gas industry in the West Africaregion to as far as Mauritania,” he said. The port “will help cut the cost of repairs to rigs which takes up to 20 days to travel from West Africa to ports in South Africa.” Exploration and production activity is rising in West Africa, where Gabon, Nigeria, Ghana and other countries produce more than 3 million barrels of oil daily. Companies have increased the number of rigs being used in the Gulf of Guinea and nearby waters 20 percent in the past year, according to Baker Hughes Inc., the Houston-based field services company said in its monthly report of rigs. Ghana plans to boost oil production fivefold to 500,000 barrels a day within 10 years and its neighbor Ivory Coast has said it will drill about 10 wells this year as part of a plan to boost output to 200,000 barrels daily through 2019. Tullow Oil Plc, which operates Ghana’s offshore Jubilee field, is exploring for oil in Guinea and Mauritania. *Source Bloomberg]]>

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