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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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Ghana limits dollar transactions to protect cedi
February 11, 2014 | 0 Comments

The cedi has lost almost a quarter of its value over the past year The cedi has lost almost a quarter of its value over the past year[/caption]

Ghana has defended its decision to limit foreign exchange withdrawals in a bid to halt the slide in its currency the cedi.

Foreign currency account holders have been limited to withdrawals of $10,000 (£6,000), which must be supported by evidence of an overseas trip. The cedi has fallen to a record low in recent days. Central Bank governor Kofi Wampah has also raised interest rates to 18% to attract more investment. Ghana is the latest emerging markets whose currency has fallen recently. The value of the South African rand has hit record lows, while currencies in Turkey and India have also been hit.

Analysts say investors have switched away from emerging markets since the US Federal Reserve scaled back its stimulus programme.

Ghana has also been hit by falls in the prices of its two major exports – gold and cocoa. The cedi has lost about 23% of its value over the past year. Government critics say the problems have been exacerbated by high public spending and mismanagement – charges the government denies. It has started to earn money from offshore oil fields but analysts say much of this is being used to repay foreign loans. The BBC’s Sammy Darko in the capital Accra says the freefall of the cedi has led to desperate measures by government and even some of the clergy. Last week, renowned cleric Archbishop Duncan Williams prayed for the national currency to start rising in value. “I command the resurrection of the cedi,” he told worshippers at his Action Faith Chapel in Accra. Our correspondent says many Ghanaians are concerned about price rises, which will be made worse by Thursday’s interest rate hike. In addition to the limit of foreign exchange withdrawals, Mr Wampah said banks would not be allowed to grant loans in foreign currencies to customers who are only paid in cedis. “The main purpose of this regulation is to ensure that we continue to use the cedi as the legal tender,” he said. But one forex trader in Accra told our reporter that the limit would not be effective. “If someone brings in $20,000 to change, who would turn it down?” asked the trader, who wished to remain anonymous. But Mr Wampah warned forex traders they had to follow the new rules or be “dealt with”. “For the forex bureaux, the issues are bordering on anti money-laundering… Ghana was black listed in 2012 because of our laxity.” “We also require more identification when purchasing or selling to forex bureaux and we also request them to computerise so that it will be easier for our supervisors to verify what they are doing.” He said plain clothes inspectors would be sent to check on the bureaux. *BBC]]>

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A first in Africa: AfrAsia Bank launches a pioneering rewards program, ‘XtraMiles’, offering a world of possibilities to its MasterCard cardholders
February 11, 2014 | 0 Comments

XtraMiles is a new currency that clients can collect not only on everyday spending, but also on bank deposits and investments held with the Bank 021014_1420_afirstinafr1AfrAsia Bank (http://www.afrasiabank.com) introduces Africa’s first rewards program offering real time booking on over 450 airlines and at 200,000 hotels to its World and Titanium MasterCard cardholders. In collaboration with Infinia Services & Solutions and MasterCard, this rewards program enables cardholders to earn XtraMiles whenever they swipe their World or Titanium MasterCard credit cards. This innovative product underpins further the bank’s unremitting commitment to creating value for its niche market and differentiating itself through unique products with priceless privileges. XtraMiles is a new currency that clients can collect not only on everyday spending, but also on bank deposits and investments held with the Bank. With a secure, convenient and reliable live platform, customers can complete an entire transaction with just a few clicks of the mouse, searching for fares, choosing a trip itinerary, booking a flight or hotel, and pay using their XtraMiles. Besides a complete accrual engine attached with Customer Relationship Management and communication capabilities, there is no manual processing of rewards as the platform will be accessed by clients for automatic redemption. Cardholders have access to an extensive range of benefits including exclusive lifestyle experiences, local rewards and online merchandise among others. “At AfrAsia Bank, we believe that it is important to anticipate our customers’ needs and wants, and tailor the most rewarding experiences for them. We are thrilled to be the first bank not only in Mauritius but in the African territory to introduce this revolutionary rewards program and living up to the strides we have taken to become our clients’ financial partner of choice. The collaboration with MasterCard and Infinia to introduce the XtraMiles rewards program cements our position as the best private bank in Mauritius, which is also in line with our strategy to serve our valued clients locally and globally,” says James Benoit, CEO of AfrAsia Bank. “MasterCard and AfrAsia Bank have collaborated for more than six years to bring customers innovative products that complement their local and international lifestyles,” commented Daniel Monehin, Division President, sub-Saharan Africa, MasterCard. “We are thrilled that the bank has selected two premium MasterCard payment cards to introduce the first air miles rewards program in Mauritius.” [caption id="attachment_8469" align="alignright" width="300"](From left to right)- Didier Perrier – Manager at Scomat, Marie Agnes Legoff – Procurement Manager at MSM, Christophe Quevauvilliers – Finance Manager at UBP and Suneeta Motala, Head of Marketing and Public Relations at AfrAsia Bank) (From left to right)- Didier Perrier – Manager at Scomat, Marie Agnes Legoff – Procurement Manager at MSM, Christophe Quevauvilliers – Finance Manager at UBP and Suneeta Motala, Head of Marketing and Public Relations at AfrAsia Bank)[/caption] Prashant Khattar, Managing Director of Infinia Services and Solutions said, “At Infinia we put our customer’s customer at the forefront of our platform, offering them not only a wide range of products and services to choose from, but also a knowledge base to document behavioural spending.” On a concluding note, General Manager and Executive Director AfrAsia Private Banking Thierry Vallet pointed out that as a financial service’s market leader in Mauritius, AfrAsia Bank tailors innovative banking solutions for customers, and partners with like-minded organizations. He pointed out that partnerships with MasterCard and Infinia, two organizations able to share global insight and experience, allows the bank to meet the demands of its affluent customers. To learn more about XtraMiles, please log on: http://xtramiles.afrasiabank.com Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of AfrAsia Bank Limited. For media contact: Nthabiseng Magengenene Marketing Manager, Africa Tel: +2711 268 5780 Nthabiseng.Magengenene@afrasiabank.com About AfrAsia Bank Limited Headquartered in the Mauritius International Financial Centre, AfrAsia Bank Limited (http://www.afrasiabank.com) is a boutique private and corporate bank, with the ability to tailor innovative banking solutions for both the local and international markets focusing on: –    Corporate and Investment Banking –    Private Banking and Wealth Management –    International Banking Solutions In addition to Mauritian shareholder, GML, other strong strategic partners include PROPARCO (subsidiary of the AgenceFrançaise de Développement), Intrasia Capital and Asiabridge. The Bank’s core banking and transactional capabilities are bank representative offices in Cape Town and Johannesburg, its asset management arm, AfrAsia Capital Management and its investment banking arm, AfrAsia Corporate Finance as well as its banking holding company, AfrAsia Bank (Zimbabwe) Limited. *Source AfrAsia Bank Limited/APO]]>

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Fonio: the grain that would defeat quinoa as king among foodies
February 11, 2014 | 0 Comments

Nina Roberts* [caption id="attachment_8462" align="alignleft" width="300"]Pierre Thiam in his natural element. Photograph: Nina Roberts Pierre Thiam in his natural element. Photograph: Nina Roberts[/caption] “I don’t want Americans knowing about fonio,” says Fatoumata Fadiga, sternly shaking her head. Fadiga, an immigrant from Guinea in West Africa, stands in a matching flowered shirt and skirt in the back room of her New York beauty supply shop after a lunch of fonio with stewed chicken and okra puree. Fonio will be the next quinoa in America, if Pierre Thiam has his way. The chef and restauranteur has big plans for the little grain. In 2008 Thiam published a Senegalese cookbook – Yolele!, which translates to “let the good times roll” in the Wolof language – so that western cooks could easily prepare Senegalese dishes. He even battled celebrity chef Bobby Flay over papaya (and lost) on the garish, dry ice fog infused Iron Chef show, a show whose brashness is an odd fit for Thiam’s affable, calm demeanor. Since the late 1990s he’s been cooking high-end Pan-African influenced food for his catering company, serving a range of clients from the Clinton Foundation to Mos Def. His next project is fonio. Fonio is a kind of millet that has a nutty flavor – a cross between couscous and quinoa in both appearance and texture. It has been cultivated in West Africa for thousands of years, and is a favorite in salads, stews, porridges and even ground into flour. It’s gluten-free and nutritious because of two amino acids, cystine and methionine, which make it a favorite to be baked into bread for diabetics, those who are gluten intolerant or have celiac disease. It is, in short, the perfect new grain for juice-cleansing, diet-conscious yogis … if they can get their hands on it. Thiam, a chef and entrepreneur from Senegal living in New York City, is preparing to import fonio by the end of 2014 for mainstream US consumption, working with a women-owned and -operated collective in Senegal near the Mali and Guinea border. Fonio will start its US journey, as so many immigrants do, in New York. In the city’s Little Senegal neighborhood, you can order fonio á la sauce mafé, peanut beef stew with fonio. Fonio is currently for sale in New York’s West African shops, amid pungent smells and little baggies of mysterious-looking herbs with no labels; it costs about $6 for a 32oz bag. Fonio can also be purchased online from importers. But Thiam knows that in order for fonio to appeal to the average US consumer it needs to be rebranded and presented in an American-friendly context. He’s currently designing packaging that would look lovely sitting on a shelf in Whole Foods or selling on a gourmet food website. Branding and packaging are key to fonio’s American adventure. “You really realize how superficial people are,” says Thiam, with a laugh. Unlike quinoa, which is disappearing from South American diets to make way for western imports, fonio is a relative reject in Africa. “We thought everything that came from the west was better, that’s the tragedy of colonization,” explains Thiam. Many Senegalese would rather have a baguette at the table than fonio; some consider it an unsophisticated food from the countryside. Thiam knows what he’s up against in trying to get fonio to become popular. The average cosmpolitan American eats an array of foreign foods, from baba ganoush to burritos, but suggest a bowl of beef knuckle soup or thiebou jen, the classic Senegalese dish of fish with rice, and you’ll likely get a blank stare. “People just don’t realize that under the right circumstances, no one eats better than us,” says Thiam. With the exception of Ethiopian cuisine, he’s found that even most New Yorkers can’t conceptualize food from sub-Saharan Africa. It’s completely alien to many. It’s time for that to change, Thiam says. “Africa has so much to offer,” says Thiam, tall and slender with thick-framed glasses. In an accent tinged with Wolof, Portuguese Creole and French, he emphasizes it’s not just the cuisine. Africa’s cuisine sounds like the kind of thing that fits perfectly with the foodie movement in the US, particularly in places like Brooklyn and San Francisco. “It’s the ingredients, the technology, the techniques—fermentation, it’s so big in Africa.” Since his 1989 arrival in New York, Thiam, has devoted the majority of his culinary career to demystifying Senegalese foods for the non-Senegalese. Thiam generated some culinary buzz with his two trendy Senegalese restaurants, now closed, in Brooklyn, where he lives with his American wife. He served fresh fish stuffed with peppers, chicken with lime onion sauce, salads of black eyed peas or avocado and mango. Many Senegalese dishes have French, Vietnamese and Lebanese influences, vestiges of Senegal’s colonized past. “My goal was to introduce this cuisine to the community that adopted me, but make it accessible,” explains Thiam. Yet despite Thiam’s efforts, most New Yorkers who have not been to West Africa are still not familiar with Senegalese foods. Senegalese comprise a small immigrant group by the city’s standards, approximately 9,000, compared to over 350,000 Chinese for example, and five Chinatowns throughout the boroughs. There is an area nicknamed “Little Senegal”, on Harlem’s 116th Street, not far from Columbia University. The streets are full of West African shops and no frills eateries, but non-West Africans rarely go except for the tourists who found it in a guidebook or the occasional intrepid foodie. You can even purchase DVDs of Senegalese or Malian music, or traditional robes and skirt sets. There are grocery stores and cafes that serve heaping $10 plates, possibly stewed cassava leaves or spicy lamb stew, usually with rice or fonio. Thiam became frustrated that Senegalese cuisine was not quite catching on. He also wanted to make a positive economic and psychological impact within Senegal, so Thiam launched AfroEats in 2011 when he closed his second restaurant. The goal of AfroEats is to catapult Senegalese foods and products into the city’s culinary limelight harnessing the power of celebrity chefs, the need for the next culinary trend, and Americanized marketing. One facet of AfroEats takes well-known chefs to Senegal; they sample foods, visit markets and learn cooking methods from Senegalese chefs. Thiam hopes that at some point, a chef like Mario Batali will serve risotto made with fonio – and state it on the menu – instead of Arborio rice. Perhaps artisanal pink salt from Senegal’s Lake Retba will sit on a prestigious restaurant’s tables, as well as dishes of baobab ice cream or coffees favored with Selim pepper. AfroEats also aims to make Senegal a culinary travel destination, similar to what Peru has accomplished. That’s not easy either. [caption id="attachment_8463" align="alignright" width="300"]A the beach of the village of Doun Baba Dieye, in northern Senegal. Photograph: Seyllou/AFP/Getty Images A the beach of the village of Doun Baba Dieye, in northern Senegal. Photograph: Seyllou/AFP/Getty Images[/caption] “ I’m working on two fronts. There are a lot of biases in Africa, ” says Thiam. “There’s a stigma with everything that’s local” – a situation that’s difficult to imagine in New York, where anything locally -sourced is worshiped among locavore and foodie types. Thiam never thought he’d be extolling the virtues of fonio or organizing culinary exchange trips to Senegal when he arrived here. His short visit turned into a 24-year stay. While on a stopover from Dakar to Ohio, where he had intended to study physics and chemistry, Thiam visited a friend. He lived in an exceptionally seedy, rat-infested Times Square hotel, full of Senegalese immigrants, at a time when Times Square was dangerous and crime-ridden. On Thiam’s third day, all his cash was stolen. “From my transportation to Ohio, to like, my breakfast the next day,” recalls Thiam, who laughs about it now. He immediately jumped into bussing tables at a West Village restaurant where the kitchen captivated him. He was astounded to find men there. “It was very new. I was from a culture where the kitchen belongs to women,” says Thiam. Too embarrassed and proud to ask his family for help or return home to Senegal, Thiam remained in Manhattan. He meticulously studied his new textbook, The Joy of Cooking by Julia Childs, and worked his way up from dish washer to prep cook; salad person to line cook; finally chef and restaurateur. Thiam’s commercial kitchen, where he cooks for his catering company, is in Little Senegal. Nearby, a small group of men wearing a variety of robes, street clothes, kaftans and kufi caps socialize. When asked what they think of fonio selling in the mainstream US consumer market, they answer in a chorus of approval, slightly amused that a non-West African would ask. One man says it would be a tremendous economic boost for countries like Senegal, Mali and Guinea. However, not everyone in Little Senegal is happy about the idea of mass-fonio-ization of the American diet. Ms Fadiga, who is from Guinea, concedes large scale fonio exports would be profitable for Guinea’s farmers, but she’s apprehensive about massive market demands from abroad. It’s a concern that’s easy to understand given the history of Africa’s people, land and resources being exploited by the west. Fair Trade certification protects some farmers and communities in developing countries. There are now Fair Trade quinoa brands, as some in Andean communities were no longer able to eat it because of skyrocketing demand and price over the past 12 years. [caption id="attachment_8465" align="alignleft" width="300"]Can fonio be the quinoa slayer? Photograph: Paul Williams/Alamy Can fonio be the quinoa slayer? Photograph: Paul Williams/Alamy[/caption] Will Thiam’s fonio be certified Fair Trade? Thiam says his fonio is fair trade in the sense that he conducts his business fairly, simply put, “They trust me and I trust them.” Does Ms Fadiga have to worry about a fonio frenzy? Yes and no. It remains to be seen whether Thiam’s AfroEats can usher in a Senegalese food movement – and whether fonio can knock quinoa off its Whole Foods pedestal. But here’s one sign: two blocks north of Little Senegal, an upscale American-owned bistro featuring Afro-Asian-American cuisine serves an entree of wild bass with “African fonio” for $26. Serving fonio in a trendy Harlem restaurant to a mix of New York diners would be a definite nudge into the culinary limelight. But in an odd twist, it’s been revealed they are serving faux fonio; it’s just millet cultivated in the US. Imitation may be the highest form of flattery for fonio, which has now achieved enough modest recognition to be counterfeited. *Source The Guardian]]>

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M-Pesa Mystery Laid Bare in a New Tell-All Book
February 6, 2014 | 0 Comments

Dr. Tonny Omwansa signing the book for ICT Cabinet Secretary Dr. Fred Matiang’i Dr. Tonny Omwansa signing the book for ICT Cabinet Secretary Dr. Fred Matiang’i[/caption] Launched in March 2007 by Kenya’s Safaricom, M-PESA has over 17 million customers and over 60,000 Agent outlets countrywide and is the most successful such service anywhere in the world.  However, questions have been raised over its origin, and to date, several of the questions remain unanswered, even to us. This is set to end. A new tell-all book about M-PESA titled “Money, Real Quick- The story of M-PESA” co-authored by Tonny Omwansa, a lecturer at the university of Nairobi and Nicholas Sullivan, a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Emerging Market Enterprises with funding from Rockefeller wants to tell it all. Using case studies, the book chronicles the evolution of M-PESA from its original concept as a micro finance tool to a complex financial transactions platform that is leading Kenya’s cash-lite agenda.  The book features the accounts of those who worked on the service and how it grew to become the most successful mobile money solution in the world. “M-PESA has earned its place as the most disruptive mobile money innovation and to date none other has come close. M-PESA has changed people’s lives in ways that could not have been envisaged by the people who created it and that is what we have captured in this book,” said Dr. Omwansa. With 18.2 million customers, M-PESA is the world’s first and indeed, most successful mobile money transfer service. The platform moves KES 77.3 billion a month in peer to peer transactions. A further KES 9.9 billion is moved in person to business transactions while person to business transactions account for KES 7.6 billion a month. Launched as a simple money transfer service, M-PESA has evolved to a full payment service which now includes payment services and the Lipa na M-PESA service which is targeted at SMEs. Since launch last year, Lipa na M-PESA has so far recruited 36, 749 merchants. “M-PESA has put Kenya and Africa at the forefront of ICT innovation and is a reference for many other countries that plan to implement a mobile money payment platform.M-PESA is indeed one of the ways that we have been able to fulfil our aspiration to Transform Lives,” said Safaricom’s GM of Financial Services, Betty Mwangi-Thuo. Launched last evening in Nairobi  and  available to the public via Amazon and Kindle, the book brings to light challenges which include the regulatory environment. Despite the banks’ reservations about the scheme, once it was successful banks were able to use it to offer financial services to a new customer base. It also follows the impact of M-PESA on the poor, and the dynamics in the Kibera slum, For instance: the average M-PESA balance has gone up fivefold since 2008. The poor are clearly using the service as an alternative to the mattress or the tin under the bed. It features use of M-PESA in ways that had not been part of the original business model. These include the national airline, the power utility and insurance companies. How Michael Joseph drove the team on to scale as well as building the agent network. Kenya’s ICT Cabinet Secretary Dr. Fred Matiang’i also highlighted the pivotal role M-PESA continues to play in supporting the financial inclusion agenda. “By crystallising the M-PESA journey, this book will allow us to share with the rest of the world, this phenomenal innovation which has redefined the local financial landscape. M-PESA is a case study in the key roles that relevance and access have in resolving societal problems. Indeed, M-PESA has propelled Kenya to the pinnacle of global innovation and we as a country are proud of this landmark product,”he explained. *Source Techmoran.com]]>

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Agenda 2063 will be a peoples’ document’ says the Commissioner for Economic Affairs
February 4, 2014 | 0 Comments

The Commissioner while emphasizing the ‘bottom-up’ approach of Agenda 2063 as the feature that distinguishes it from previous developmental frameworks, highlighted the important role member states, stake holders, and more importantly the African People have to play in determining the direction of Agenda 2063 so as to truly take ownership of the developmental framework of the continents next 50 years. The already identified stakeholders are the private sector, African academics, think tanks, planning experts and development specialists, civil society organizations, the Diaspora, Regional Economic Communities (RECs), AU organs and sections of society such as women, youth and the media. Reporting the outcome of the consultative process in developing Agenda 2063, Commissioner Maruping presented the wish for a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development, the wish for an integrated continent that is politically united and based on the ideals of Pan Africanism, the wish for an Africa of good governance, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law, the wish for a peaceful and secure Africa, the wish for an Africa with a strong cultural identity, values and ethics, the wish for an Africa whose development is people-driven, relying on Women and its youthful composition, and the wish for a strong Africa that is an influential global player and partner as the consolidated aspiration of the continent. The consultative process involved establishing a technical support team for the continental level discussion on Agenda 2063, providing the forum for participants to share the vision, propose goals, milestones, key drivers, and priority actions, undertaking technical analysis and review of national plans, regional and continental frameworks and the identification of the preliminary indicators and base line information as well as the development of guidelines for national and regional level consultations. Commissioner Maruping announced the plan to submit the final draft Agenda 2063 document to the AU Summit in July 2014 and urged the media to encourage citizens to participate fully in the development of the agenda. *AU/APO  ]]>

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MULK OGI – Oasis Gulf Investment, FZC wins Multimillion USD contract in Sierra Leone
February 4, 2014 | 0 Comments

he Solar Park in Freetown, with a capacity of 6 MW, will be one of West Africa’s largest solar parksSierra Leone, February 3, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ – Mulk OGI – Oasis Gulf Investment, FZC, a company of the Sharjah-based diversified conglomerate affiliated to Mulk Holdings (http://www.mulkholdings.com), has recently won a multimillion USD contract to provide Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) expertise for the pioneering USD 18 million project, based in Freetown, Sierra Leone, and to become one of West Africa’s largest solar parks. The EPC part of the project will be spear headed by Mr. Khurram Nawab founder of MULK Renewable Energy and inventor of its broad and innovative patented Solar Technologies portfolio. The Solar PV panels will be sourced through a partnership with Masdar PV, a 100% subsidiary of Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s multifaceted initiative for innovative renewable energy technologies, launched and owned by Mubadala Development Company. The Solar Park in Freetown, with a capacity of 6 MW, has been selected from over 80 competitive project applications and countries for the first funding cycle of the prestigious International Renewable Energy (IRENA/ADFD) project facility. All the selected projects contribute towards helping address energy security, improving energy access as well as creating a broad socio-economic impact. Further, each project will inspire and enhance the development of renewable energy projects across the globe. The proposal and implementation of the project in Sierra Leone is going to be carried out by an AED 2 Billion consortium coordinated and initiated by Mr. Bahige Annan – The Consul General of Sierra Leone in Dubai, UAE and IRENA Focal Point, Mr. Siray Timbo – Special Envoy of The President of the Republic of Sierra Leone and Mr. Filip Matwin, General Manager of Advanced Science and Innovation Company (ASIC) LLC, who will also act as the manager of the overall project. “I feel glad that our effort to get this clean energy project to the forefront has been successful. From the start, I have been constantly driven to change this thought into reality and now I’m definite thatwith our joint technology expertise and support of The Ministry of Energy of Sierra Leone andAdvanced Science and Innovation Company(ASIC), we will be able to successfully deliver thislandmark project in the best possible way” says Mr. Bahige Annan. The solar park will produce sufficient energy so as to provide electricity to approximately 3000 households on average in Sierra Leone. The overall performance complies with 8.5% of Sierra Leone’s total energy consumption and ensures the supply of energy on a more renewable, affordable and sustainable basis in the future. The goal is to achieve 25% of the country’s energy generation from renewable sources by the year 2015. Mr. Nawab Shaji Ul Mulk, the Founder and Chairman of Mulk OGI – Oasis Gulf Investment, FZC and Mulk Holdings says, “This venture is a big step towards helping us strengthen our base further in the African market and at the same time it has given us a great opportunity to implement our in house patented solar technology in the PV space.” *About Mulk Renewable mulk_slMulk Enpar Renewable Energy provides patented systems for both CSP (Deep Parabolic trough) Technology and PV (Booster Mirror PV Platform)for on grid and off grid solar power generating systems. The organization provides turnkey services which include site selection, engineeringdesign, manufacturing, fabrication, installationand commissioning for solar power projects. The Mulk Enpar Renewable Energy Solar Thermal System is a revolution in trough technology started by its inventor Mr. Khurram KNawab.  He has received considerable worldwide attention for his development and patents on solar light weight metallic composite mirrors for both high concentration and low concentration mirrors under brand Alubond Solar Collector Mirrors & Alubond Booster Mirrors.]]>

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Kenya to Host African Institute for Remittances Secretariat: Institute to be fully operational in 2015
February 4, 2014 | 0 Comments

The African Union Commission resolved in 2010 to create AIR in the framework of the Africa-European Union partnership on Migration, Mobility and Employment, to leverage the untapped development potential of remittance flows to the African continent. The magnitude of remittances to and within Africa has grown remarkably in recent years, gaining the attention of the international development community due to their positive impact on the living standards of beneficiaries. However, the precise volume of these remittances is unknown and presumed undercounted. Their transfer cost remains unacceptably high by international standards, and their full potential for economic and social development is largely unexploited. The AIR Project was launched with funding from the European Commission while the World Bank was responsible for overall implementation and execution of the project, in collaboration with the African Development Bank and the International Organization for Migration. The primary objective was to facilitate the AU Member States and the African Union Commission in establishing the Institute of Remittances. The AIR will be anchored within AUC. *Source World Bank/APO  ]]>

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Equatorial Guinea commits to a co-investment fund of 500 billion FR CFA (eq. US $1 billion) to fuel the country’s economic diversification
February 4, 2014 | 0 Comments

At the opening of “Emerging Equatorial Guinea” (http://www.emergingeg.com), the 2 days Symposium on the country economic diversification, the Equatoguinean government announced that it has committed to support foreign investments by allocating a Co-Investment Fund (CIF) of 500 Billion Francs CFA (eq. US $1 Billion). “This Co-Investment Fund allocation testifies of the country’s commitment to lay the bases for economic diversification to ensure sustainable growth and to create more jobs in our country. We have been blessed by an incredible oil wealth, which we aim to use to build the foundations of an emerging country, via a strong plan for economic diversification and industrialization plan”, explains Marcelino Owono Edu, Equatorial Guinea’s Minister of Finance and Budgets. In front of an assembly of over 700 entrepreneurs, investors and analysts, scholars and development agencies representatives, gathered for the occasion, the Equatoguinean Ministry of finance indicated that the fund aims at fuelling the state’s overall strategy to diversify the economy beyond oil and gas, on which its recent growth has been relying upon, to ensure a more balanced economic system, less vulnerable to global shifts in oil supply and demand. During the next 3 years, the fund will support the country’s development around key economic sectors which have been identified for industrial development together with the international private sector: agriculture and animal ranching, fisheries, petrochemicals and mining, tourism and financial markets. AGRICULTURE & RANCHING Over 100,000 hectares of available arable land; warm climate with high value tropical plant species; timber industry, following example of Gabon FISHING Extensive EEZ and territorial waters packed with commercially valuable marine species PETROCHEMICALS & MINING Leading petroleum producer in the CEMAC region, with opportunities to further develop untapped oil and natural gas fields; geographical positioning and a deep-water port TOURISM Unspoiled land and marine-scapes, high quality existing infrastructure, favorable climate, and consistent political stability FINANCIAL SERVICES Political will to establish a friendly environment and encourage the growth of financial services and offer broad range of products and instruments to a range of international clients. The Co-Investment Fund (CIF) has been affected over the next three years according to best growth potential reservoirs. With the Co-Investment Fund announcement, the Emerging Equatorial Guinea Symposium ignites the investment boom. It will take the form of the signing of concrete Memorandums of Understanding between global companies and local counterparties during the 2 days forum, as the event follows the whole investment process. About the EEG forum Located in Malabo, February 3-4 2014, the forum convenes representatives of business and investment groups from the national, regional and international communities. This aims at offering the most valuable opportunity for international investors to learn about Equatorial Guinea’s potential and strategize directly with government officials. *In Partnership with APO]]>

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