AfDB Board approves US120 million financing for Nairobi’s outer ring road
November 20, 2013 | 0 Comments
AfDB Board approves US120 million financing for Nairobi’s outer ring road
Project to take 4 years; starting 2014; Complete road will reduce travel time from 45 to 15 minutes
NAIROBI, Kenya, November 19, 2013/ — The Board of the African Development Bank (http://www.afdb.org) on Wednesday November 13th approved US$120 million financing for the Nairobi Outer Ring road project which involves the improvement of the existing single carriageway road to a 2-lane dual carriageway complete with service roads, grade separated intersections, pedestrians–foot-over bridges, walkways and cycle tracks over the entire length of the road.
The 13-kilometer project, on completion is expected to directly enhance the traffic circulation and eliminate traffic bottlenecks to various economic activity centers such as the industrial zone, and the vast populous residential areas of Eastlands.
AfDB Regional Director for Eastern Africa, Mr. Gabriel Negatu confirmed the financing as a mix of grant and loan from the Africa Development Fund (ADF), with the Government of Kenya as the counterpart financier of the project whose total cost in US$130million.
“The Africa Development Bank Group will provide 89.8% financing for the total project through Africa Development Fund (ADF) loan of US$115.9million and a grant of US$5million. We believe that this road will not only reduce the travel time from the current 45 minutes to 15 minutes, but will also transform the socio-economic welfare of the people living along the transport corridor,” the Director said.
The road traverses Nairobi’s East and North districts serving an estimated population of at least 2.2 million representing some 70% of the Nairobi County population. Other beneficiaries include users of major city connecting arterial roads of: Nairobi-Thika highway, Eastern Bypass, Northern Bypass, Mombasa Road, and onto the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).
Negatu pointed out that the key outcomes of the project will include improved property values arising from reduced congestion, and improved business environment for informal traders owing to access to new market facilities and improved sanitation.
Other complementary civil works elements include: 250 market stalls and associated sanitary facilities, planting of 4,500 trees along the corridor, children’s traffic safety park, and 3 Wellness centers for HIV/AIDs and related illnesses.
It is further estimated that by improving the existing road, the annual vehicular GHG emission rates in tones in the corridor would drop by at least 70% due to improved average traffic operating speeds along the project corridor particularly, with the integration of the Bus Rapid Transit System as envisaged by the year 2022.
“Our approach to this and every project that we have undertaken is guided by our commitment as a Bank to realize inclusive and green growth in Africa. Under this project, at least 500 disadvantaged youth from the informal settlements will gain from artisan training program aimed at enhancing their skills to assure long-term gainful employment thereafter.” Negatu added.
The Africa Development Bank previously financed the successful completion of the 50km Thika Superhighway, which was jointly financed by the Republic of China and Government of Kenya. Outer Ring Road project brings to 63 the kilometers of roads financed by the Bank within the Nairobi metropolitan.
Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of the African Development Bank (AfDB).
About African Development Bank
The African Development Bank (AfDB) Group (http://www.afdb.org) is a multi- lateral development finance institution established to contribute to the economic development and the social progress of African countries. The Bank Group comprises three entities: the African Development Bank (AfDB), the African Development Fund (ADF) and the Nigeria Trust Fund (NTF).
As the premier development finance institution on the continent the AfDB’s primary objective is to assist African countries – individually and collectively in their efforts to achieve economic development and social progress. The Bank Group finances projects, programs and studies in multiple sectors such as infra- structure, agriculture, health, education, higher education and training, public utilities, environment, climate change, gender, telecommunications, industry and the private sector.
contact: Mercy Randa Tel: +254 771 048 558 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Extraordinary Ethiopia – ancient, booming but undemocratic
November 20, 2013 | 0 Comments
By Richard Dowden*
That is the trouble with the modern media. Faraway places of which we know little are only shown to us when something bad happens. In the case of Ethiopia, the 1984 famine and subsequent hungers have fixed its image in the global mind. It is as if the image of the collapsing Twin Towers in 2001 typified America. But of course we have other, more positive, images of America but none of Ethiopia. So I tell them: “Ethiopia? It’s great. It’s Booming!”
Addis Ababa is being transformed as if by monstrous engines boring through the heart of the city. A new motorway flows into town sweeping aside all before it and an urban rail system is smashing through buildings, roads, gardens – everything accompanied by cranes and trucks, noise and dust. All along its path the traditional one-storey homes of mud, wooden planks and rusted corrugated iron roofs are bulldozed into heaps and replaced by six or more stories of concrete and brick. Hammering, grinding and showers of glittering acetylene sparks proclaim the arrival of armies of Chinese workers and the rise of mighty steel and glass constructions.
The lesser building sites are full of Ethiopian workers; some newly arrived from the rural areas. Addis used to feel like a timeless city. People hung around talking or walked slowly as if on a long stroll. Now they march the streets with speed and urgency. All seem to have watches and mobile phones. Even the poor seem to have purpose. I watched one man sitting by the roadside carefully stitching the seams of his disintegrating trousers with string. For the better off the vast market quarter,Mercato, is seething with bustle and business.
Ethiopia has one rich asset that much of sub Saharan Africa has lost or never developed. It has been a state for a very long time, longer than Britain and most of Europe. Its people, language, culture are all rooted more than two thousand years ago and further back the first humans and their hominid ancestors walked here. Ethiopians’ connections to the Semitic world go back thousands or years through migration and trade. Its Coptic Christian rituals and ceremonies came from Egypt in the 3rd century A.D.
When Europe took over much of Africa at the end of the 19th century Ethiopia was already a state, capable of raising an army that defeated the invading Italians in 1896. It then made an alliance with the invading Europeans which gave it new territories. The Emperor Haile Selassie cooperated with the European powers, but in 1936 Italy seized the country. Only seven years later it was free again and, unlike its northern part, now Eritrea, never colonised. All this gives Ethiopians a special self-confidence in who they are, where they come from and where they are going.
Its recent history is also extraordinary. In 1974 Emperor Haile Selassie was overthrown by the army. But a group of Marxist students from the Tigray region at Addis Ababa University who had fought to overthrow the Emperor, saw the revolution hijacked by an army coup led by Major Mengistu Haile Mariam. Led by Meles Zenawi, these intellectuals formed the Marxist Leninist League of Tigray, left Addis and took the long march to the mountains in the far north. Linking up with their Eritrean neighbours and cousins who had already been fighting for years for their independence from Ethiopia, the Tigrayan Peoples Liberation Front started a new war against the military regime.
12 years later Mengistu fled as the TPLF and the Eritreans arrived at the gates of Addis Ababa. It was an astounding achievement, especially since they had no regional supporter. But the truth was that, for all their bravado, the TPLF leaders had not expected the Soviet Union to collapse so suddenly and with it the Mengistu regime. They may have hoped that a long struggle might nibble away and gain greater independence for Tigray. Suddenly they found they could eat the whole cake.
How could they claim legitimacy? As their army approached Addis Ababa Meles came up with a brilliant solution. The TPLF would find allies among Ethiopia’s other ethnicities and create a national umbrella body, the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front. They also created parties for Ethiopia’s other ethnic groups; the Amhara, Oromo, Somalis and ethnically mixed southerners (who were traditionally regarded as slaves). Like the Eritreans, all these ‘nationalities’ were given the constitutional right to secede from Ethiopia by referenda. In theory.
In this way Ethiopia took the opposite direction to other African countries. The rest all tried to create nationalism by suppressing ethnicity and even banning ethnic-based political parties. Ethiopia based its political system on its constituent parts. It was an extraordinary gamble. It works at the moment but of course no referenda have ever been organised or even discussed.
At the time Meles said his movement’s model was Albania. The Americans and Europeans who felt they had just engineered the total defeat of global communism, gulped. After all, Mengistu may have been a Communist but he wasn’t a looney. Then it became clear that this model simply meant that, like Albania, the TPLF was independent socialist, not aligned to Moscow or Beijing. It was not at all committed to the economic policies of Enver Hoxa.
Like any good socialist who wins the jackpot, Meles Zenawi was not going to squander his winnings. While the state retained close control over land, the economy and key state-owned companies, Ethiopia was to allow capitalism to flourish and have the best of both worlds. Key sectors are state-controlled but the buccaneer capitalists are given free rein.
With the Soviet Union gone, Meles engineered good relations with the United States and Europe. When he and Isias Afwerke, his former ally in the revolution who became President of independent Eritrea, went to war – twice, the West backed Ethiopia. It won both rounds of the war but did not press home its victory, another counter intuitive but brilliant decision by Meles although it nearly cost him his job. The Ethiopian army wanted to carry on to Asmara and change the government there. Now the two armies face each other along the border; landlocked Ethiopia open to the world, coastal Eritrea – like its president – a reclusive, closed and difficult state.
When Meles appointed Hailemariam Desalagne, a southerner and a Protestant to boot as Deputy Prime Minister, many saw this as a token gesture to the southerners and a manoeuvre to prevent a rival emerging from one of the powerful highland ethnic groups. But when Meles died in July last year, the succession fell to Hailemariam. Although he sounds more like a technocratic civil servant than a national leader, he is beginning to consolidate his power and appoint his own people in top jobs. Ethiopians are beginning to realise the deeper meaning of his appointment.
Meles’ successor could not be another Tigrayan. Nor could it be an Amhara because Ethiopia has almost always been ruled by Amharas and the Oromo, a larger group, would be up in arms. The choice of an Oromo would upset the Amhara. A Somali? Since Ethiopia invaded Somalia in 2006 and again in 2010 and is still interfering there, that is unthinkable. In the past a southerner could no more have ruled Ethiopia than an Arab could rule in Israel. But Hailemariam, hardworking, technocratic, continuing to deliver the economic boom and not part of the traditional Ethiopian power struggle, was the perfect choice. It will work as long as the economy keeps growing at a good clip.
But make no mistake, parliamentary democracy as we in the West understand it, has no role in today’s Ethiopia. Out of the 547 elected members of the country’s lower chamber only one is from an opposition party. I met him. Girma Seifu Maru is a nice man but a lonely one. As Meles Zenawi said: “There is no connection between democracy and development”.
And whose picture hangs in every government office in Ethiopia? Not President Muluta Teshome, whose name and face few Ethiopians would recognise. Nor Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalagne. It is Meles Zenawi.
*Source African Arguments.Richard Dowden is Director of the Royal African Society and author of Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles published by Portobello Books
Innovative Project Improving Food Value Chain to be Launched in Monrovia
November 19, 2013 | 0 Comments
An innovative project aimed at reducing rural poverty and household food insecurity will be launched on November 19 in Liberia
MONROVIA, Liberia, November 18, 2013/ — An innovative project aimed at reducing rural poverty and household food insecurity will be launched on November 19 in Monrovia. The Smallholder Agricultural Productivity Enhancement and Commercialization (SAPEC) project is jointly financed by the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) (http://www.gafspfund.org) and the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) (http://www.afdb.org). SAPEC project is managed and administered by the AfDB.
The four-day event, to be launched by the Vice-President of the Republic of Liberia, Joseph N. Boakai, will bring together around 200 participants, including Government officials, Members of Parliament and the Senate, representatives from the donor community, agriculture organizations as well as farmers’ associations and beneficiaries from similar projects.
The SAPEC project will increase income for smallholder farmers and rural entrepreneurs particularly women, youths and the physically-challenged, thus empowering the rural communities and setting the scene for a transformation of agriculture from subsistence activities into revenue-generating business.
“We are excited that GAFSP’s contribution will enable Liberia to rebuild and implement their own food and agricultural strategy, which we believe will have a huge, sustainable impact on the livelihoods of smallholders around the country,” said Geeta Sethi, Program Manager, the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program. “This project will help Liberia set an example for other post-conflict countries on how to build a food secure, stable state with a vibrant agricultural sector that contributes to economic growth, increased incomes, and food and nutrition security, and poverty reduction. Congratulations to Liberia,” she said.
“Indeed, the SAPEC addresses Liberia’s fragility following 14 years of civil conflict that devastated the economy, decimated institutions, destroyed infrastructure and triggered massive rural-urban migration,” said Chiji Ojukwu, Director, Agriculture and Agro-Industry, AfDB. He further highlighted that “the project promotes pro-poor growth by investing in smallholder agriculture to reduce food insecurity, and fosters equity and inclusiveness by ensuring the participation of women, youth and the physically-challenged in agricultural activities. The SAPEC project thus contributes to the peace- and state-building goals of the country as it transitions from conflict and fragility to recovery and resilience.”
The project is expected to improve the food value chain through market development and access through the rehabilitation of 270 km of all-weather feeder roads. Twelve market centres are also expected to be rehabilitated, nine agribusiness centres constructed and three technology transfer centres refurbished.
The project will also increase the productivity of 4,000 ha and 1,000 ha of uplands that will be dedicated respectively to cassava and rice cultivation. The project will also make more land and water available for cropping with the rehabilitation of 1,000 ha of community-owned lowland.
GAFSP is a global effort to aid vulnerable populations afflicted by hunger and poverty. It takes up where emergency and recovery assistance leaves off, targeting transformative and lasting change in agriculture and food security within poor countries. Following commitments by G8 leaders at the L’Aquila Summit in July 2009 and reaffirmed by the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh in September 2009, GAFSP was established in April 2010.
To date, GAFSP expects to improve the incomes and food security of over 10 million beneficiaries, mainly smallholder farmers and their families and has allocated $912 million in grant funds to 25 countries and $50 million in financing packages to agribusinesses.
The World Bank manages the public sector part of the program and IFC manages the GAFSP private sector window. For more information, visit http://www.gafspfund.org.
For the AfDB, strengthening agriculture and food security through an integrated value chain approach can improve the livelihoods of Africans who live in rural areas. By continuing to invest in rural infrastructure (such as rural roads, irrigation, electricity, storage facilities, access to markets, conservation systems and supply networks), the AfDB will help countries increase agricultural productivity and competitiveness.
By investing in regional infrastructure and engaging in policy dialogue to remove trade barriers to importing food and inputs such as fertilizers, it will help restrict food price volatility and reduce food insecurity.
DHL and Engen announce major African retail partnership
November 19, 2013 | 0 Comments
· Engen service stations across Africa to serve as DHL Service Points
Two significant multinationals join forces to increase consumer access in Africa
CAPE-TOWN, South-Africa, November 18, 2013/ — DHL Express (http://www.dhl.com), the world’s leading international express services provider and Engen, Africa’s leading multinational fuel retailer and provider of convenience services, have signed a retail partnership, in a bid to provide customers with better access to global express services.
A consumer looking to send documents or parcels overseas can simply walk into an Engen service station to send their shipment, ensuring greater convenience and accessibility to the powerful global network which DHL offers. This includes all domestic and international shipments to major centres across over 220 countries worldwide.
The project, which will pilot at four Engen service stations in the Namibian capital Windhoek, will then be rolled out in phases. Botswana, Ghana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Tanzania are earmarked for the second phase.
Consumers will also be able to take advantage of DHL’s new product offering, Express Easy, at the Engen outlets. Express Easy provides an easy way to send documents or parcels, as consumers can choose an envelope or one of seven box sizes and enjoy a fixed price for that size, rather than paying a rate based on the weight of the parcel. Consumers are simply able to pick their box, pay the fixed rate and send their document or parcel to any of DHL’s global destinations.
Sumesh Rahavendra, Head of Marketing for DHL Express Sub-Saharan Africa, welcomed the news, saying that it would have a great impact on consumers across the continent.
“The express logistics industry, and specifically retail services for consumers and small and medium enterprises, are becoming hugely important in Africa. For us to better service this market and open up global opportunities for students, small business owners and general consumers, we needed to both increase access to our express products but, simultaneously, make it easier and more affordable to use them. Engen is therefore an obvious partner for us – they are not only a solid African business but have an extensive retail network across the continent, which can benefit consumers. ”
“As one of Africa’s leading energy companies, we consistently look for ways to deliver on our brand promise of ‘With us you are Number One’,” said Nangula Hamunyela, Managing Director of Engen in Namibia “Partnering with DHL means that we can extend our capabilities and give our valued customers the access and affordability around express services that they need.”
The Namibian pilot includes four sites – Jan Jonker, Bonsmara, Eureka and Klingenberg.
Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of Deutsche Post DHL.
Lee Nelson. Head: Advertising and Public Relations, Sub-Saharan Africa
Tel +27 21 409 3600 Mobile +27 72 361 0178
Engen Petroleum Limited, a subsidiary of Malaysian national oil and gas company PETRONAS, is an African energy company that refines crude oil, markets petroleum products and provides convenience services through an extensive retail network. Engen has a significant presence in 18 countries in Sub Saharan Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands. The company also exports its products to various other territories.
DHL – The Logistics company for the world
DHL (http://www.dhl.com) is the global market leader in the logistics industry and “The Logistics company for the world”. DHL commits its expertise in international express, air and ocean freight, road and rail transportation, contract logistics and international mail services to its customers. A global network composed of more than 220 countries and territories and about 285,000 employees worldwide offers customers superior service quality and local knowledge to satisfy their supply chain requirements. DHL accepts its social responsibility by supporting environmental protection, disaster management and education.
DHL is part of Deutsche Post DHL. The Group generated revenue of more than 55 billion euros in 2012
Transcorp is delivering on promise to give Nigerians access to country’s growth potential
November 19, 2013 | 0 Comments
Elumelu reports to shareholders on significant progress in power, hospitality, agriculture and oil and gas
LAGOS, Nigeria, November 18, 2013/ — With interests from hotels, agriculture, and real estate to power generation and oil exploration, Transcorp, the rapidly transforming conglomerate is providing ordinary shareholders a uniquely diversified opportunity to share in Nigeria’s burgeoning economy.
Following major acquisitions in power and agribusiness, new initiatives in its hotel and tourism business and the commencement soon of production from its existing oil block, Transcorp shareholders are already reaping rewards, with the stock one of the strongest recent performers on the NSE. The extraordinary turnaround in the Company’s business was highlighted in a recent letter to shareholders by the Chairman of Transnational Corporation of Nigeria (Transcorp) Mr. Tony Elumelu, CON.
Giving an update on the recent rights issue by Transcorp, Elumelu noted that the company has already made significant progress in key sectors of its business; a development that is already impacting positively on the company’s share price which closed at N3.00 on Friday last week, up from 50 kobo not more than two years ago.
According to Elumelu, Transcorp, has since the conclusion and listing of the rights issue, made several important business decisions which will have significant impact on its fortunes. Some of the strategic initiative outlined by the Chairman, include the completion of the acquisition of 100% equity stake in the 1000MW capacity Ughelli Power Plc through its subsidiary – Transcorp Ughelli Power Ltd (TUPL). TUPL paid $300m (N48.3 billion) for the complete ownership of the plant. On November 1, 2013, TUPL successfully took over ownership and physical possession of the plant and plans to raise the output from the current 160MW to at least 1,500MW over the next 3 to 5 years.
“With a dedicated pipeline supplying gas to the plant and an existing off-take agreement with the Bulk Electricity Trader, the returns profile of this investment is compelling. The potential impact of the investment on Transcorp’s fortunes is also significant” he said. “Perhaps most importantly, Transcorp will become one of the leading providers of a robust and sustainable electricity supply into the Nigerian domestic market.”
Further significant progress was shown with the signing of an agreement with Hilton Worldwide to commence the development of a 300 room five-star hotel in Ikoyi, Lagos. This project, which will commence in Q12014 and complete in 30 months, according to Elumelu, will be undertaken through Transcorp’s subsidiary, Transnational Hotels and Tourism Services Limited. The hotel is the first of eight new internationally-branded hotels Transcorp plans to build over the next few years.
Just as the Ikoyi project is getting off the ground, Transcorp, he revealed, has also completed the acquisition of a site in Port Harcourt for the development of another 300 room five star hotel. “We expect to sign the management agreement in first quarter of 2014 and commence construction by the second quarter,” Elumelu stated in the letter.
Whilst targeting expansion, Transcorp is not forgetting flagship hotel brand, the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja. The company has commenced the renovation and upgrade of Nigeria’s premier five-star hotel. The exercise will include; “a dramatic transformation of our existing facilities, the addition of a 5,000 seat capacity conference facility and 200 serviced luxury apartments to the hotel, firmly cementing our position as the destination venue in the Nation’s capital, Abuja.”
In agribusiness, Transcorp is producing orange, mango and pineapple concentrates from the Teragro-Benfruit plant in Makurdi, Benue State. The plant in October 2013, received the ISO 9001:2008 (Quality Management System) and FSSC 22000:2005 (Food Safety Management System) certifications indicating that its products and processes meet the highest global standards.
“We plan to significantly increase the size and scope of this business. Teragro is the only juice concentrate producer in Nigeria and we are creating a fully integrated agro-allied business, ensuring that value added processing occurs here in Nigeria.”
Another important highlight of the Elumelu communication to shareholders is the news of the production date for Transcorp’s existing oil block, OPL 281, which he said will be expected to begin production before the end of 2014. “This marks a significant progress in the company’s oil and gas strategy” he stated.
Elumelu thanked Transcorp’s more than 300,000 shareholders for their support and assured them of further opportunities ahead, stressing that that the Board and Management will not relent in positioning Transcorp as a true vehicle for popular participation in Nigeria’s bright future and prosperity. “We have put in place a world class management team and are committed to developing the synergies between our natural resources portfolio and our power interests, creating an integrated energy approach that directly links Nigeria’s natural resource wealth to the daily needs of our people”.
Transnational Corporation of Nigeria plc (Transcorp) was incorporated on 16 November 2004, with the objective of creating a truly Nigerian conglomerate with the ability to compete successfully on a global scale. Its portfolio of businesses are in the hospitality, agriculture and energy sectors of the Nigerian economy include Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja; Transcorp Hotels, Calabar; Teragro Commodities Limited, operator of Teragro Benfruit juice concentrate plant- Nigeria’s first-of–its-kind juice concentrate plant; Transcorp Ughelli Power Limited and Transcorp Energy Limited, operator of OPL281.
Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of Heirs Holdings.
Tony Elumelu: The ‘Africapitalist’ who wants to power Africa
November 17, 2013 | 4 Comments
By Earl Nurse and Jill Dougherty*
It’s the term created by Nigerian entrepreneur Tony Elumelu, one of Africa’s most successful businessmen, to describe what he believes holds the key to the continent’s future well-being.
According to Elumelu, Africapitalism is the economic philosophy “that the African private sector has the power to transform the continent through long-term investments, creating both economic prosperity and social wealth.”
Elumelu champions the idea that long-term focus on key sectors such as infrastructure and power does not only offer high returns but, in the process, can also help Africa deal with pressing problems such as unemployment and food security.
“The information people have about Africa in America and the western world is one of aid, one of squalor, one of poverty, one of religious crisis,” says Elumelu, who first found success after turning a struggling Nigerian bank into a global financial institution. “They need to begin to see that Africa is a continent of economic opportunities — a lot of potential and the returns on investment in Africa is huge.”
Backing his words with actions, Elumelu, the former chief executive of the United Bank for Africa, who went on to create investment company Heirs Holdings in 2010, has pledged $2.5 billion to U.S. President Barack Obama’s“Power Africa” initiative — a campaign aiming to double access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa.
CNN’s African Voices spoke to Elumelu about Africapitalism, doing business in Africa and his goals for the future. An excerpt of the interview follows.
CNN: What is Africapitalism and how does it work?
Tony Elumelu: From interacting with customers, with communities, with local governments, state governments and national governments, I started to see a pattern that indeed we can as a private sector help to develop Africa in a manner that’s truly sustainable. I also, as a good student of economic history, have observed the development of the African continent and come to realize that despite all the aid inflows into Africa and despite our sovereign government commitment to develop in the continent, not much was achieved.
But … if we can mobilize the African private sector and non-African private sector operating in Africa to think long-term, to invest long-term in Africa in key sectors, then we might end up creating economic wealth, economic prosperity and social wealth. That is Africapitalism.
CNN: Which areas does the private sector in Africa focus on?
TE: The private sector in Africa was largely dependent on government patronage, government contracts. But today, it has changed significantly. You have the private sector in Africa today that is adding real value to the economy through engagements in payment systems; through engagement in key infrastructure projects; through engagement in manufacturing and processing of raw materials in Africa and exporting this within the continent.
So it’s a significant shift from where the private sector was before to where it is today and we’re beginning to see a new crop of private sector people in Africa who believe under the sun that they have a role to play in the development of the continent.
CNN: Why did Heirs Holding decided to commit $2.5 billion to the “Power Africa” initiative?
TE: Because we understand as Africapitalists the importance of power, access to electricity, in unleashing the economic potential of Africa. Because of that, we felt since we preach that the private sector should do long-term investment in Africa in key sectors, there is no sector at this point in time to us that is as strategic as power sector in dealing with the issue of economic empowerment, democratization of economic prosperity across the continent than power.
CNN: Looking ahead, what do you think is going to be the most important source of power?
TE: Africa is coming from a deficit position — only 20% of 1.2 billion people have access to electricity. So we need to think of the kind of projects that will help us create the quantum leap we need in power. And I think that that is what should guide the options that we take.
So for me, I believe that we need five years of sustained, massive billion dollar investments (in the) power sector in Africa before we come to the level where we need to discriminate, is it this kind of power or that type of power? But let there be light first in Africa.
CNN: What are your goals for the future?
TE: My goals for the future are twofold — one is personal and two is about the continent. For my personal goal I would like to continue to impact my team. Because you get to a certain level where you wake up in the morning not necessarily because you want to earn a living — you wake up in the morning I think about impact, about legacies, what impact am I going to leave behind?
And so I decide to look at the African continent and I tell myself this is a continent that is about to explode but lacks certain vital ingredients. And so what role can I play in making sure that some of those challenges are addressed in my lifetime, so that my children will not as a kind of question I asked of my parents and grandparents, where were they when the war started?
So that’s important to me. And that is why we invest in power. Not just because I want to make more money, which is good, but because we touch lives significantly making that money.
Insight: African tech startups aim to power growing economies
November 17, 2013 | 0 Comments
BY BATE FELIX AND MATTHEW MPOKE BIGG*
When Abasiama Idaresit started a digital marketing firm in Nigeria’s bustling economic capital three years ago, he quickly learned how brutal life can be in a market where tech startups are in their infancy.
No-one would lend him money to hire staff or pay for office space, so Idaresit spent eight months hustling the streets of Lagos, trying to convince clients his plan to help them develop online campaigns was a winner.
“During those first eight months, I didn’t make a dime … I was demoralized. At some point I wondered if it was worth it,” Idaresit told Reuters by telephone from his Lagos office.
It took a money-back guarantee before a baby products retailer gave Idaresit a break with a $250 contract to develop the shop’s online presence. Within two months, the retailer’s revenue began growing by $1,000 per month. Then it hit $100,000.
Idaresit’s firm, Wild Fusions, is now a Google Adwords partner valued at $20 million, with revenues doubling year-on-year. It helps brands like Samsung, Unilever, and Ecobank develop online marketing strategies for African audiences.
Wild Fusion’s struggles are typical for startups in Africa, as the world’s poorest continent wakes up slowly to the opportunities of technology.
Business leaders and investors said the sector in Africa is held back by lower internet penetration as well as scarcity of early stage capital and a lack of management expertise.
Many startups in the region are caught in a Catch 22 situation, said Churchill Mambe Nanje, who launched an online job search engine in Cameroon called Njorku.
“To hire the best talent to develop a startup, you need capital. Finding capital is hard because you need to have a track record and a viable product but to get those, you need capital,” said Nanje, whose company has been profiled by Forbes Magazine as one of Africa’s best startups.
INTERNET USE LOW
Part of the problem for African tech startups is that internet use, despite mushrooming in the past decade, is low. Only 16 percent of Africa’s 1 billion people use the Internet, half the rate in Asia Pacific and below a global average of 36 percent, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) says.
The information and community technology sector contributed just 7 percent to the continent’s GDP last year, according to an African Development Bank report.
Economic gains from rising internet usage are likely to be strong. For every 10-percentage point rise in broadband internet penetration, economic growth increases by 1.4 percentage points, according to the World Bank.
Experts say information and communication technology could help Africa overcome infrastructure inadequacies, satisfy rising consumer demand, boost regional trade and diversify economies, ending reliance on raw materials.
But the problem is affordability. In its 2013 report, the ITU said that, though Africa has one the highest mobile broadband growth rates, services cost between a fifth and half of average income compared to just two to five percent in other developing countries.
In South Africa, the strength of the tech sector reflects the country’s relative affluence. It has produced several billion-dollar companies, some of which have been snapped up by international tech giants.
In East Africa, Kenyan tech has also seen rapid growth. One highlight is mobile money transfer system M-Pesa, launched by the country’s largest telecoms operator Safaricom.
M-Pesa has enabled 67 percent of Kenyan adults to access banking. Its transactions total about $1 billion per month. Revenue from M-pesa rose 20 percent to 12.50 Billion Kenyan shillings ($145.99 million) in the first half of 2013.
West Africa’s tech sector lags in terms of prominence and investment, experts say. It needs better and cheaper internet access and broader adoption of smartphones.
In Ghana, a booming regional economy, the number of mobile phone subscriptions roughly equals the population but only 3.5 percent of the population is online, according to Kwaku Sakyi-Addo, CEO of the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications.
Venture capital firms like Intel Capital, JPMorgan, Summit Partners and Rocket Internet have occasionally financed African ICT firms but business leaders said the sector needs much broader sources of finance.
In Silicon Valley, startups can receive up to $2 million from a range of funders including venture capital firms, ‘angel’ investors and private equity houses, according to Marcin Hejka, a regional managing director for Intel Capital. Such a financial ecosystem does not yet exist in Africa, he says.
Ghana’s Rancard, which distributes Gmail SMS services on 55 mobile networks in Africa and beyond, received funding from Adlevo Capital and Intel Capital but its CEO recognizes it was one of the lucky few.
“There are not enough early-stage tech venture capital funds available for Africa,” Kofi Dadzie said.
One reason for the lack of funding is the risks investors face, said Maurizio Caio, founder of UK venture capital firm TLcom Capital.
Few tech entrepreneurs in Africa have a long track record to attract investors, said Caio. Crucially, there are hardly any examples of investors successfully exiting via an IPO or a sale, partly due to underdeveloped capital markets across the region.
One exception is Fundamo, a mobile financial services provider in Cape Town bought by Visa in 2011 for $110 million.
Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria have companies that could be ready for investment, Caio said: “It’s earlier stage. It’s smaller stuff, which means riskier, which means even less capital for these guys and even more of a gamble.”
Experts say it is too soon to tell if African tech will rival other emerging markets but a concerted effort is being made to build an infrastructure to facilitate expansion.
Kenya’s iHub started in 2010 with backing from Hivos, Google and Omidyar Network as a meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors. It has spawned around 50 companies.
Another East African example is the Savannah Fund which offers $25,000-$500,000 to startups in exchange for equity.
In Ghana, the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology gives students one year of training by professionals from around the world who volunteer to teach software development and entrepreneurship. The best graduates get an extra year at a tech incubator in a house linked to the main campus by a rope bridge.
“The vision of the institution is to create jobs and wealth locally here in Africa,” said its CEO Jorn Lyseggen.
When the right idea with the right backing meets a hungry market, a start-up can grow fast, as the experience of Nigerian online retailers Jumia shows.
Founded by two Nigerian Harvard Business School graduates, the business has benefited from Internet penetration in Nigeria of nearly 30 percent and a dearth of middle class retail outlets in the continent’s most populous nation.
Jumia is growing at 20 percent per month, orders have jumped from $50-$100 per day to millions of dollars per month and it plans to expand beyond Nigeria, said Sacha Poignonnec, Co-CEO of Africa Internet Holding, one of Jumia’s backer.
“The same way the mobile companies came in to leapfrog landlines, the same way mobile banking in East Africa is leapfrogging traditional banking, we see e-commerce as a way to leapfrog traditional brick and mortar retail here,” said Tunde Kehinde, one of Jumia’s founders.
*Source Reuters (Additional reporting by Chijioke Ohuocha in Lagos and Kevin Mwanza in Nairobi; editing by Philippa Fletcher)
AfDB to co-host ‘Africa Day’ in Washington
November 17, 2013 | 0 Comments
WASHINGTON, November 15, 2013/ — The African Development Bank Group (AfDB) (http://www.afdb.org) in collaboration with the World Bank Group will host the first ever ‘Africa Day’ during the Law, Justice and Development (LJD) Week 2013, on November 20th, at the World Bank Group Headquarters in Washington DC. Every year, the LJD Week is organized to provide a forum for legal and development practitioners, scholars, governments and civil society to discuss the critical role the law and judicial mechanisms can play in furthering development outcomes.
The aim of “Africa Day” is to bolster knowledge on key and emerging legal issues on the African continent. Participants of Africa Day will explore how law and justice can help translate voice, social contract, and accountability into development impacts in Africa.
For decades, a number of African countries have grappled with developing and implementing effective legal regimes so as to promote sustainable economic development. The results have been mixed. Because law is an essential tool for promoting economic growth and development, the Bank’s legal experts will be joining a panel of fellow specialists, judicial officers, and senior government officials in key relevant ministries, local and international institutions, to offer a global perspective on Africa and the key development and legal challenges it faces.
This year’s “Africa Day” would be opened with an address by the AfDB President, Dr. Donald Kaberuka, setting the tone for an in-depth focus on critical legal issues in Africa’s development process.
The themes for the day are in three main areas namely:
(a) Economic opportunities in extractive industries (mainly in the oil and gas sectors) and meaningful engagement with BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and South/South cooperation;
(b) Emerging issues with a focus on the Africa 50 Fund which seeks to unlock private financing sources and to accelerate the speed of infrastructure delivery in Africa, thereby creating a new platform for Africa’s growth and prosperity; and
(c) Emerging issues relating to illicit financial flows and the recent constitutional developments in a number of countries.
Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of the African Development Bank (AfDB).
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Lighting up Africa: Can DR Congo’s Inga dam project power Africa?
November 15, 2013 | 1 Comments
By Maud Jullien*
It has been a long-held continental dream to harness this renewable energy, but given the Democratic Republic of Congo’s chequered past, it seemed likely to remain just that.
However, thanks to a recent deal signed by South Africa promising to buy electricity from a planned hydroelectric project, in eight years’ time it may start to become a reality.
The Bundi valley, which lies parallel to the Congo River and where some 30,000 villagers live, will be flooded with water and dammed to become a giant lake.
The whole project is known as Grand Inga – and when fully completed will be the world’s largest hydroelectric plant with more than twice the power generation of the Three Gorges Dam in China.
The site for the project is in Bas Congo, a province at the extreme south-west of DR Congo, about 50km (30 miles) from the mouth of the river where there are powerful rapids and waterfalls.
“There will only be one dam wall,” Bruno Kapandji, DR Congo’s minister of hydraulic resources and electricity, told the BBC.
“But there will be six different hydroelectric power stations around it to produce up to 40,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity.”
Each of these power stations will represent a separate phase in the project, but the electricity is supposed to come online by 2020 when the first, Inga 3, is due to be completed.
It will produce 4,800MW of electricity, 2,500MW of which will go to South Africa and 1,300MW to Katanga, where it will be used in the region’s rich mines.
Mr Kapandji says there are such huge needs across the continent that DR Congo is guaranteed to find customers when the other sections of the dam are built.
“We already have a deficit of more than 300MW today in Katanga,” he says.
“In 2020 we’ll have a deficit of more than 2,000MW in the main mining province, if we stay in this situation, but there is also the deficit in South Africa, the deficit in Nigeria.
As well as building the dam wall and Inga 3 hydropower plant by 2020, two new power lines will also be laid.
One will go to South Africa and another to the capital, Kinshasa, as existing cables do not have sufficient capacity to carry the huge volumes of power expected.
The construction works for the first phase of the project will be funded by the World Bank, the African Development Bank and private investors yet to be found.
“Now that we have a credible customer, South Africa, finding investors to build the dam won’t be a problem,” says Mr Kapandji.
The total cost of about $11bn (£6.8bn) for the first phase is under DR Congo’s annual revenue of $17bn.
As for the following phases of Grand Inga, there are no confirmed customers yet, but the minister says Nigeria has already expressed interest in buying 3,000MW.
The 145m (475 ft) tall dam will be adjustable, and as the project reaches its next phases, the wall will be adjusted to let more water flow in.
Preliminary feasibility studies done by Canadian firm AECOM and France’s EDF have been positive.
But trying to provide for the whole continent seems ambitious for a country where barely 10% of the population have access to electricity.
In the capital only wealthy families have power generators at home, and for the vast majority of people, electricity is a luxury.
“We have power a few hours a week, never in the evenings,” says Armel, a student who lives in one of the poorest areas of the capital.
His neighbourhood, Camp Muganga, looks like a huge village.
There are small stands with noisy generators where you can charge your mobile phone battery for a few hours at the cost of a few hundred Congolese francs, the equivalent of a few cents.
“You organise your life around the power shortages,” says Armel.
“We do as much as we can during the day and in the evening we use flashlights and candles.”
Following President Jacob Zuma’s visit to Kinshasa last month when he signed the electricity deal, many of the city’s residents have been questioning why electricity produced by the Congo River will go south when there are such huge needs at home.
The Congolese government says it aims to avoid repeating past mistakes – it wants to make sure the Inga project can be a viable business.
In the 1970s and 1980s, when former President Mobutu Sese Seko oversaw the construction of the Inga 1 and 2 dams, most of the electricity produced was for domestic consumption.
But 10 years after they were built, both dams were dilapidated because of a lack of funding.
“If things didn’t work out the way we wanted them to, it’s because we didn’t have money,” Daniel Yengo, the former head of the public electricity company, Snel, told the BBC.
“Our only source of income was electricity sales, and our biggest customer was the state, which consumed about 40%,” he said.
“But the state never paid its bills. So I knew what needed to be done to ensure a proper maintenance of the dams, but I just couldn’t do it because we didn’t have the necessary means.”
Even today, Mr Yengo says the government only pays about two thirds of its bills to Snel.
During Mobutu’s time in power, corruption was endemic and inflation was so high that prices in shops could change several times a day.
Inga was only one of several of the former president’s ambitious projects to fall prey to mismanagement.
Today the country is still estimated to be one of the most corrupt in the world, but the economy has stabilised.
Mr Kapandji says the new venture will be completely different.
“Grand Inga will be privately managed and privately funded, it won’t be a public company with all the risks that that would comprise,” he said.
But several local non-governmental organisations are sceptical about the government’s intentions.
“All they would have to do is renovate Inga One and Two. That would be enough to provide electricity for the whole country,” says Jean Marie Muanda from the rights association Action for Development and Life.
“Why start this project when there are already so many management problems with the existing ones?”
He is also worried about the social impact such a project could have on the people who live near the dam.
When construction begins in two years’ time, a transfer canal will be built from the river to the valley which will be flooded.
The village of Mvuzi Three is one of the closest to the future site of Inga Three.
“I remember when they told us Inga One and Two would be built,” recalls the village chief, Joseph Mvuzi.
“They promised us jobs, and we thought things would get better – but we got nothing. We don’t even have electricity and running water.”
Now he does not expect anything positive from the new project and he worries for the future.
The villagers have not yet been told where their new home will be, although the government says it has identified a site for them and they will be financially compensated.
“How will we live? Will we have farmlands, will our children be able to go to school?” Mr Mvuzi said.
Mr Kapandji says he is aware of the scepticism, but he is adamant that this time President Joseph Kabila’s political leadership will make the difference.
For Mr Yengo, failing to take advantage of this opportunity would be a mistake for all of Africa.
“Inga is an exceptional site and it has to be used,” he says.
“The electricity demands are always growing in the country and in the region.
“The country’s development and the continent’s development depend on it.
“I think if everyone pays their bills, if the maintenance is properly done and the machines are not overused, there’s no reason it shouldn’t work.”
Orange announces winners of the Orange African Social Venture Prize
November 15, 2013 | 0 Comments
- § Orange (http://www.orange.com) announced the three winners of the Orange African Social Venture Prize during the AfricaCom Awards ceremony held in Cape Town last night
- § The three winners will receive financial assistance along with management and technical support from Orange specialists. The first prize winner will also benefit from a patent application.
PARIS, France, November 14, 2013/ — This prize, which has enjoyed considerable success since its launch in 2011, aims to support the development of entrepreneurs and start-ups offering solutions that use information and communication technologies (ICT) to meet the needs of people living in Africa.
Over 450 candidates responded to the call for projects, which ran from May to September 2013, clearly demonstrating the underlying entrepreneurial vitality that exists on the African continent. Proposed projects spanned a variety of fields such as healthcare, agriculture, education, energy, industry and commerce illustrating the high potential of telecommunications for development in Africa.
The panel of judges, consisting of Orange specialists, the media and institutions that promote development, chose three prizewinners from among 12 nominated projects that were presented on Orange’s pan-African web portal,www.starafrica.com.
The awards ceremony was held yesterday in Cape Town, South Africa, during the AfricaCom Awards, an annual event that recognizes the most significant innovations and achievements of the telecommunications industry in Africa.
The winning projects are:
- The first prize was awarded to QuickDo, a startup founded in 2011 by a French–Cameroonian entrepreneur. The company provides readers in Cameroon with affordable access to books in digital format, providing them with a complete ecosystem developed by QuickDo and its partners (including the distribution server, the e-book readers and the network). Based on a responsible and sustainable approach, it provides an all-in-one solution for local publishers, readers and institutions such as universities, libraries and cultural centers.
- The Ivoire Job project was awarded second prize. This project aims to facilitate access to employment opportunities in Côte d’Ivoire through an online platform that is also compatible with mobile devices through an SMS-based system. The portal provides a forum that facilitates discussion and sharing of experiences between young job seekers, workers and recruitment agencies.
- The third prize was awarded to the Tunisian company Chifco, which offers a system for saving energy when using high-consumption devices both at home or in a workplace environment. The system aims to reduce spending on energy by remotely monitoring and controlling the use of such devices in real time. By tracking data such as production rates or the weather, users can reduce energy consumption.
In addition to funding of up to 25,000 euros, Orange will provide support to the three projects for six months through its local subsidiaries as well as expert advice from business and telecoms professionals. This year, for the first time, Orange will also provide a patent application for the first prize winner in the country of deployment.
Finally, a “favourite project” was also selected by visitors of the Group’s web portal StarAfrica. Over 24,000 visitors voted for the Kenyan project “Dukalangu”. This online shop offers customers a wide range of products at competitive prices. The site also provides Kenyan entrepreneurs and designers with an excellent development opportunity by enabling them to market and sell their products online.
“Entrepreneurs in Africa have always shown an ability to harness technology for the development of lasting, socially-responsible innovations that stimulate growth. Through this prize, Orange is proud to be able to contribute to this dynamic, particularly by providing active support to the prize-winners,” said Marc Rennard, Orange’s Senior Executive Vice President for Africa, the Middle East and Asia. “This year’s jury was impressed by the overall quality of the projects submitted. We can clearly see that technology is a relevant tool for driving social development, and this gives us an added stimulus in our commitment to Africa.”
Orange operates in 20 countries in Africa and the Middle East and has a total of over 84 million customers. To contribute to the social and economic development of these countries, the Group has put together the “Orange for Development” programme, which is based on three central themes:
– the development of its networks to maximize the number of people who are able to benefit from digital services;
– innovation to meet the needs of populations through value-added services in essential fields such as healthcare, education, agriculture and banking services; and
– contributing to the local development of ICT markets and innovation ecosystems.
It is to meet this last goal, which is aligned with both its innovation strategy as well as its Corporate Social Responsibility policy, that the Group decided to launch the Orange African Social Venture Prize in 2011.
See the presentation of the competition on www.starafrica.com.
StarAfrica.com is Orange’s pan-African web portal, which combines content from all sub-Saharan countries in its six channels – news, soccer, more sports, music, education and jobs – with a special focus on young talent. The portal is also the online store that provides expatriate communities with access to innovative communications services that allows them to stay in touch with their contacts.
Orange (http://www.orange.com) is one of the world’s leading telecommunications operators with sales of 43.5 billion euros in 2012 and has 166,000 employees worldwide at 30 September 2013, including 102,000 employees in France. Present in 32 countries, the Group has a total customer base of more than 232 million customers at 30 September 2013, including 175 million mobile customers and 15 million fixed broadband customers worldwide. Orange is also a leading provider of global IT and telecommunication services to multinational companies, under the brand Orange Business Services.
Orange is listed on the NYSE Euronext Paris (symbol ORA) and on the New York Stock Exchange (symbol ORAN).
Orange and any other Orange product or service names included in this material are trade marks of Orange or Orange Brand Services Limited.
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Pioneering energy project to bring relief to Mano River Union countries
November 14, 2013 | 0 Comments
Tunis, November 7, 2013 – The Board of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) approved on Wednesday, November 6 in Tunis the Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea (CLSG) electricity networks interconnection project. The total financing by the African Development Bank Group (African Development Fund, Fragile States Facility and Nigeria Trust Fund) amounts to EUR 145 million, representing roughly 40 per cent of the total project cost. The project will secure power supply for the four Mano River Union member countries, and will be implemented between 2014 and 2017.
The CLSG project involves the construction of about 1,400-kilometres of high voltage (225 kV) line to connect the national networks of the four countries. It will see the building of 11 sub-stations and two regional control centres. It is a structuring project, which, in its first phase, will enable Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea to import electricity from Côte d’Ivoire.
“The Bank is happy to have played such a pivotal role in the generation of this ground-breaking project. The AfDB leveraged its deep knowledge of the electricity sector in West Africa and rich experience in the definition and implementation of regional projects. Thanks to our involvement right from the feasibility study stage, we were able to guide the technical choices and consider all aspects of the project, especially environmental and social. Our intervention also facilitated the mobilization of huge resources from other donors,” explained Alex Rugamba, Director of the AfDB’s Energy, Environment and Climate Change Department.
The electricity sector in the Mano River Union countries faces major constraints, namely: (i) low access to electricity, (ii) a structural deficit in the supply of electricity, (iii) a preponderance of thermal generation in the energy mix, and (iv) low financial and institutional capacities of national electricity companies. The CLSG project will increase the average rate of access to electricity in the four countries from 28 per cent to 33 per cent, electrifying 125 locations along the transmission line as well as 70 schools, 30 health centres and nearly 1,500 small commercial and industrial craft enterprises, of which 25 per cent are held by women. Directly benefiting from the project are the 24 million inhabitants of its impact area who will enjoy reliable electric power at a competitive cost.
The construction of this line will form the backbone of the Mano River Union countries and is one of the priority projects of the West African Power Pool (WAPP) Master Plan, a cooperation initiative linking national electricity companies in Western Africa. CLSG is the first actual project included in the Mano River Union initiative. As an early project, it has been very instrumental to the design of the initiative itself. The idea of a power “backbone” has been replicated with the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) Trans-African Highway. As well, the CLSG project introduced the concept of a booster fund to compensate fragile states’ weak capacities to prepare projects in a reasonable time.
The CLSG project will include a capacity-building component to ensure the transfer of knowledge to national structures so as to improve the management of future interconnections in West Africa. It also involves various planning and feasibility studies on hydropower plants that could enhance energy exchange.
The Mano River Union countries are fragile and emerging from long sociopolitical crises. Owing to the low levels of investment in the sector in recent years, power infrastructure has become obsolete with the attendant outcome of extremely poor service. The cost of electric power production per kWh remains very high in these countries where the electricity access rate is among the lowest in the world (two per cent in Liberia and Sierra Leone; 10 per cent in Guinea). The construction of the power line will foster the development of the huge hydroelectric potential of the sub-region by offering the possibility of electric power trade between the countries within the larger West African market, thus contributing to regional integration.
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“Africa has big opportunities for small and medium size US companies.”
November 14, 2013 | 9 Comments
–Jordan Garcia Honorary Consul of Guinea in California
By Ajong Mbapndah L
It is a mistake to think of USA investments in Africa only in terms of mega million projects says Jordan Garcia the Honorary Consul of Guinea in California. Making the case for investments in Guinea, Garcia says US small and medium size companies will be amazed at the business opportunities available to them. Appointed in 2012 by the Government of Guinea, Jordan Garcia offers talks about the investment climate in Guinea, his functions, the Alicante Group he heads and more in an in an interview with Ajong Mbapndah L
May we know how you became honorary consul of Guinea Conakry and what your functions entail?
The Government of the Republic of Guinea Conakry in February 2012 appointed me. I have good relationship with many governments in West and Central Africa. I am the official representative of the Republic of Guinea to California, I assist the Guinean citizens, I facilitate trade and friendship between the peoples of the US and Guinea Conakry.
As Honorary Consul what is it you can tell people about Guinea as it stands today?
Guinea is back to the international scene after decades of silence. We have very good relationship with the US Government. We have a young democracy and the entire country wants to move forward. We are ready for business. There are more opportunities in Guinea Conakry and Africa now than in Europe and in the US.
In terms of achievements are there any that standout since you started your functions?
People talk again about Guinea in Los Angeles and California, one of my main goals was to promote Guinea here in the State and to tell officials and business people we are ready for business.
The First Lady of Guinea her Excellency Mrs. Djene Kaba Conde came to Los Angeles in April, it was a great moment for our two countries.
More delegations and high officials will come to California and we are working on developing some partnerships. I have regular meetings with officials and business leaders in California. We went with the Ambassador of Guinea to Washington DC Blaise Cherif to promote Guinea Conakry through cultural events in the US, we are talking about expo and cultural fairs but like you know we need to get help and sponsors.
You are also head of the Alicante Group; can you tell us more about the Group?
Alicante group is a consulting company specializes in Sub-Sahara Africa, we help companies who want to do business in Africa and we promote some countries here in the US.
The difference with our group and others is that we have an African background and vision.
We are probably one of the few consulting companies in the US which have direct access to Presidents and Ministers around Africa. Our contacts are in Africa.
With your corporate or business background, what are some of the most lucrative sectors that you may recommend for companies both in the U.S and Africa to invest in?
I will say energy, agriculture, infrastructure and new technology. Africa is also a place where we can find “real” organic product. It is a good time to partner with some local farmers. We now have a middle class looking for new products, better restaurants and luxury items like cars,Porsche for example is looking to develop is business in West Africa.
Each time we talk in the US about opportunities in Africa we always talk about mega million projects, I think it is a mistake; there are also big opportunities for small and medium size US companies.
And the investment climate in Guinea how is it, what are some challenges interested investors should expect to face?
Like you know Americans don’t know Africa very well, I think for American investors the first challenge is to know how to do business in Africa, to understand the culture to know its history, to know its people. You need to love this continent first.
One of the major challenges in Guinea Conakry it is a lack of infrastructure, poor roads, bad access to Internet, everything take much more time there than here. It is a different way to do business but things are changing.
The investment climate in Guinea Conakry is getting much better, we just open our first 5 Stars Hotel in Conakry the Hotel Palm Camayenne, Emirate Airlines just open an office in the Capital. Many investors from Asian and the Middle East are coming every month and are interested in Guinean business opportunities.
To those in the USA who are still nervous about Africa what can you tell them based on your experiences about Guinea and the rest of the continent?
I will tell them opportunities are now in Africa, China, India, Brazil and Turkey understand this. If you wait here for business you are going to wait a long time. In Africa business is face to face. It is like everywhere you need to find good partners and it is not via Internet you will find them.
I think the US now needs Africa to keep growing. Africa is a huge market and the US for many years completely ignore it, we are just slowly waking up, it is new for US companies and most of the companies don’t know how to approach it.
The only way for US firm to compete in Africa is to establish win-win partnership. The times when firms only thought of Africa in terms of raw materials are over.
There is no reason to be nervous we all come from Africa (joke).