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Africa on the Rise
July 6, 2012 | 0 Comments

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF*

MASERU, Lesotho

GENERATIONS of Americans have learned to pity Africa. It’s mainly seen as a quagmire of famine and genocide, a destination only for a sybaritic safari or a masochistic aid mission.

So here’s another way to think of Africa: an economic dynamo. Is it time to prepare for the African tiger economy? Six of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies between 2001 and 2010 were in Africa, according to The Economist. The International Monetary Fund says that between 2011 and 2015, African countries will account for 7 of the top 10 spots.

Africa isn’t just a place for safaris or humanitarian aid. It’s also a place to make money. Global companies are expanding in Africa; vast deposits of oil, gas and minerals are being discovered; and Goldman Sachs recently issued a report, “Africa’s Turn,” comparing business opportunities in Africa with those in China in the early 1990s.

I’m writing this column in Lesotho, a mountainous kingdom (it was snowing the day I arrived!) in southern Africa, on my annual win-a-trip journey. The winner this year, Jordan Schermerhorn, an engineering student at Rice University, and I visited garment factories that make clothing for American stores. This country is Africa’s biggest apparel exporter to America.

One set of factories we visited, belonging to the Nien Hsing Textile Company, a giant Taiwanese corporation, employs 10,000 people in Lesotho, making this its biggest operation in the world. Workers turn out bluejeans for Levi’s and other American companies, and Alan Han, a senior company official, said quality is comparable to that of factories in Asia.

While America may largely misperceive Africa as a disaster zone, China does get the promise on the continent. Everywhere you turn in Africa these days there are Chinese businesspeople seeking to invest in raw materials and agriculture. But American businesses seem to be only beginning to wake up to the economic potential here.

Why does that matter? Because trade often benefits a country more than aid. I’m a strong supporter of foreign aid, but economic growth and jobs are ultimately the most sustainable way to raise living standards.

The American Congress has badly bungled the picture this year by delaying renewal of a provision of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA. This promotes trade by providing duty-free access to the American market. It’s one of the best aid programs you’ve never heard of — except that it isn’t an aid program but an initiative to help Africa lift itself up and create jobs through exports.

Some 300,000 jobs in Africa have been created because of AGOA, according to the Brookings Institution, but, in the last few months, countless Africans have been laid off because of the delay in renewal. American importers don’t want to place orders unless they are sure that the provision will be renewed and the clothing can enter duty-free. In Lesotho alone, about 5,000 garment workers have lost their jobs because of this maddening Congressional delay.

Granted, African countries themselves have botched trade because of corruption, onerous rules and uncompetitive minimum wages. The minimum wage for garment workers is about $37 per month in Bangladesh, compared with about $120 in Lesotho.

Or consider infuriating red tape. In Swaziland, it takes 12 procedures and 56 days to start a company, according to the World Bank’s superb “Doing Business” report for 2012. In Niger, it takes 326 days to build a warehouse. In Senegal, it takes 43 procedures and more than two years to enforce a legal claim.

Some of the otherwise most impressive countries in Africa, like Rwanda, also undermine themselves with their political repression. Ethiopia’s dictator, Meles Zenawi, is doing an excellent job of raising health and living standards, but he also presides over a security service that kills and rapes with impunity — and imprisons journalists who report on abuses. Last week, a sham trial in Ethiopia found one such brave journalist, Eskinder Nega, guilty of terrorism.

All in all, though, Africa is becoming more democratic, more technocratic and more market-friendly. Yet Americans are largely oblivious to the idea of Africa as a success story.

One of the problems with journalism is that we focus on disasters. We cover planes that crash, not those that take off. In Africa, that means we cover famine in Somalia and genocide in Sudan, terrorism in Nigeria and warlords in Congo. Those are important stories — deserving more attention, not less — but they can also leave a casual reader convinced that all of Africa is lurching between genocide and famine.

So that’s why I decided to start this win-a-trip journey in a delightful country like Lesotho that just had a democratic change of power. Its streets are safe, and it is working on becoming one of the first countries in the world with an electric grid 100 percent reliant on renewable energy.

It’s a symbol of an Africa that is rising.

* comment on Kristof’s column on his blog, On the Ground.  join him on Facebook and Google+, watch his YouTube videos and follow him on Twitter.A version of this op-ed appeared in print on July 1, 2012, on page SR11 of the New York edition with the headline: Africa On the Rise.

 

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Africa Rising: when will the West join Africa?
July 6, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Eliot Pence & Bright Simons*

Discussions about Africa’s evolution tend to measure the continent’s ‘gradual’ assimilation into the global mainstream. This may have been understandable in the mid-1980s when by every indicator African economies were seen as hopelessly distorted and needed to be salvaged with what became known as ‘structural adjustment’. But African countries today appear more aligned with the Washington Consensus and Globalization’s ‘best practices’ than the West. On many of the macroeconomic indicators

Luanda, capital of Angola, is now exporting capital and human resources to Europe's embattled economies.

Luanda, capital of Angola, is now exporting capital and human resources to Europe's embattled economies.

used to judge conformity with the mainstream – debt to GDP ratio, current account balance, fiscal balance, inflation – Africa is situated closer to the mainstream, while key OECD countries drift away. Data tracking other kinds of flows – in cultural, innovation, and labour flows – point to a continent becoming a key player in the Global South – not just assimilating into the global mainstream, but helping to shape it.

  • Population flows – Stories of African migrants struggling to find a route to Europe contrast with recent reports that Europeans are struggling to find working permits in Africa. According to NYU’s Development Research Institute, between 2006 and 2009 the number of visas issued for Portuguese entering Angola increased from 156 to 23,000. In 2012, there were nearly 100,000 Portuguese living in Angola, more than triple the number of Angolans living in Portugal. Spaniards, too, have fled high unemployment looking for work in Algeria, where many Spanish companies have relocated. No longer seeing the US as their best opportunity for professional development, waves of Nigerian-Americans (the most educated Diaspora group in the country), vie for top spots in the new Lagos offices of JPMorgan, McKinsey and Blackrock.
  • Financial flows – Though largely still the recipient of foreign direct investment, Africa is gobbling up distressed assets in the West. Gatwick, the United Kingdom’s second largest airport, was recently purchased by a Nigerian and Africa’s richest woman, Isabel dos Santos (daughter of Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos), is the new majority shareholder in Portugal’s leading pay-TV and Internet provider Zon Multimedia. More traditional financial flows, such as remittances from Africans working abroad, are also changing. Already larger than official development assistance by a substantial margin, reports suggest remittances are now flowing to Europe from Africa. Underscoring these trends is reduced dependency on multilaterals (China alone lends more to Africa than the World Bank) and research by Standard Bank estimates that BRIC-Africa trade increased from $20bn to more than $250bn in the past 10 years.
  • Cultural flows – A Financial Times editorial recently warned that the West would lose out on Africa’s ‘wave of creativity’ if it doesn’t reorient itself. To be sure, Africa’s cultural place in the larger world has always been evident, even if its recent recognition suggests it hasn’t. Nollywood, Nigeria’s answer to Hollywood, is a half billion dollar a year business and, according to UNESCO, puts out twice as many movies as Hollywood. Its growth also belies assumptions about the importance of intellectual property rights — something it largely exists without — in development. The continent’s cinematic creativity is paralleled by the emergence of its fashion industry, which is increasing in vogue — literally; an entire issue of the magazine was devoted to the continent recently. African-inspired cuisine also stands at the cusp. The “African Food Inevitability Thesis,” a phrase coined by a recent Wall St. Journal article, called Africa the foodies’ frontier and predicted a thriving commercial future for continental cuisine.

Even as a major western newspaper openly wonders how Africa will ‘join the larger world on its own terms,’ across virtually all indicators, evidence suggests it’s doing so largely on its own terms. If the West is stuck in low-growth and political paralysis, while Africa enjoys an economic renaissance, a more pressing question for Western observers might be: When will the West join Africa?

*Eliot Pence is a director at the Whitaker Group, a corporate strategy firm focused on sub-Saharan Africa. Bright Simons is the founder of the mPedigree Network (www.mPedigree.Net), and a Senior Fellow at think tank, IMANI.Previously published in African Arguments

 

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How mobile puts business at the tip of Africa’s fingers
July 5, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Meredith Baker BBC News, Johannesburg

Across the African continent, internet penetration is low, computers are often too expensive to purchase, and online business transactions can be logistically complicated to execute.

But the surge in mobile phone use – there are currently 695 million mobile phone subscribers in Africa – has given Africans a simple and pervasive means of sharing

The-Mimiboard-software-allows-users-to-search-and-purchase-local-products-using-text-messaging.

The-Mimiboard-software-allows-users-to-search-and-purchase-local-products-using-text-messaging.

information and conducting business.

In recent years, a few innovative African companies have found ways to harness the e-potential of mobile commerce and information sharing, changing the way in which Africans communicate and conduct business

SlimTrader, founded by Nigerian-American Femi Akinde, is an e-commerce firm that is meant to ease the exchange of goods and widen the online markets for Africans.

Mr Akinde and the SlimTrader team created Mobiashara, a mobile technology that allows users to search for and purchase products via text message.

This technology provides retailer’s information and inventory, and also partners with mobile payment providers such as M-PESA and MTN so someone can make a purchase with a press of a button on their mobile device.

With partners such as Aero Airlines, SlimTrader even facilitates once complicated transactions such as buying plane tickets.

Umuntu Media is another African-based host website that caters to the mobile world. Umuntu was founded only one and a half years ago by Johan Nel, a native of Namibia.

The idea of Umuntu, Mr Nel explains, is to “close the local content gap, to provide users with information that is useful to them.”

Umuntu provides local news, job listings, and directories specific to each country and region in which it operates.

After only 18 months of operation, Umuntu has portals in nine countries, and its Namibia portal, iNamibia, is already the largest local website in Namibia.

Brainchild

After Umuntu took off in web and mobile form, Mr Nel had a vision to use it as a springboard to further tap into mobile e-commerce with the creation of the mobile site, Mimiboard, which has been live for a month.

Mimiboard (‘mimi’ means ‘I’ in Swahili) is Mr Nel’s brainchild to deliver hyper-local content in the form of a traditional notice board.

First, a mimiboard is created for a specific area. People in each community can post a notice to Mimiboard about wanting to buy or sell something, and then someone else can purchase the service posted through mimiboard.

“For example,” Mr Nel explains, “a fisherman in Mombasa can post about his catch of the day to mimiboard, then other users in the area can go buy the fish.”

It uses the same technology that radio and TV stations use to feed live streams of texts from listeners and viewers and can be accessed through text, android phones, and online.

Not only is mimiboard linked to the Umuntu sites of each country, but students from four big universities in Kenya have already started using Mimiboard as a platform to buy and sell textbooks – and a university dean in Canada has also inquired about using the product.

Mimiboard is creating a space for local mobile notices while also creating new ways for users to earn money.

The Mimiboard team has created its own currency, mimibucks, which incentivizes mobile transactions for users.

In Mr Nel’s words: “If someone wants to sell their car through a specific mimiboard, the person who created that mimiboard will receive a micropayment for the transaction.”

He anticipates that Mimiboard will have a million users in the next ten months with the help of mobile bank and mobile advertising collaborations.

Mobile demographic

One such collaboration of Umuntu/Mimiboard is the relationship the company has with Primedia Online, which represents Umuntu in the digital ad business.

Primedia Online supplies tailored news content in portals across the southern continent, in addition to providing technology and ad business to local publishers wanting to tap into the mobile market.

Primedia business development manager Susan Hansford explains that advertising on mobile phones is more competitive now amongst companies.

“E-commerce shouldn’t be in desktop form for Africa, I think the focused efforts on the mobile side of e-commerce will change the way business is done in this continent,” she says.

“It should be noted however that the mobile demographic is a little different than e-commerce on computers, which would be more middle and upper class.”

Mimiboard-allows-users-to-pay-others-using-mobile-powered-microtransactions

Mimiboard-allows-users-to-pay-others-using-mobile-powered-microtransactions

The mobile demographic is expanded to consist of people in small villages, and so it wouldn’t make financial sense for an advertiser of high-priced consumer goods to advertise to this demographic.

Ms Hansford notes that the mobile environments in Africa are better suited to financial services, citing cheap funeral insurance and student loans as some of the top mobile advertisers.

Although problems arise in the mobile e-commerce world such as product delivery, Africa has made great strides in conducting business online and on handhelds.

Companies like Umuntu and SlimTrader have seen the opportunity for Africa on mobiles, an opportunity unique to Africa because of the importance of business at the micro-level, and the lack of other forms of technology.

As Mr Nel puts it: “This type of technology we are working to develop is one that we hope will solve African problems while putting Africa on the map for innovative solutions.”

*Courtesy of BBC Africa

 

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In Zambia, Bush Joins Fight Against Cervical Cancer
July 4, 2012 | 0 Comments

Brian Padden*

LUSAKA — Former President George W. Bush is in Africa this week to promote cervical cancer detection and treatment programs for women, many of whom are living with

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In-Zambia-Bush-Joins-Fight-Against-Cervical-Cancer

HIV.  While Bush’s tenure in office was marked by unpopular wars and what critics say were failed economic policies, since leaving office he has been quietly building upon his success as president in fighting AIDS in Africa.

In Kabwe, Zambia’s second largest city, former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura opened of a new health clinic that specializes in the early detection and treatment of cervical cancer in women.

“We care because we believe that to whom much is given, much is required,” said Bush. “And those of us who live in America, live in the most blessed nation ever and therefore when we see suffering, we ought to act.”

Through his George W. Bush Center and other partner organizations, the former president has raised more than $85 million for cervical cancer programs.

He says his goal is to build upon one of the great bipartisan achievements of his presidency.

His 2003 AIDS initiative that initially funded $15 billion-worth of anti-retroviral drugs and treatment to extend the lives of millions of Africans with HIV and AIDS.

Zambia now has the second highest number of cervical cancer cases in the world, in part because many of the women infected with the disease are also living with HIV and have weakened immune systems.

“But the saddest thing of all is to know a lady’s life has been saved from AIDS but died from cervical cancer,” said Bush. “And so starting in Zambia, the Bush Center, along with our partners, are going to put on a cervical cancer crusade to save lives.”

Jane Chanda, who is HIV positive, is one of the first women at the center to undergo the screening.  The health worker applies vinegar to the cervix area – to turn any cancerous nodes white – and then uses a digital camera to locate any potential problems.  The screening shows Jane to be cancer-free and she says she is grateful to former President Bush.

“He’s a very nice person,” said Chanda. “I thank him and I am wishing you [him] a happy life, a good life.”

At home Bush’s presidency remains a controversial subject, dominated by the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, prolonged wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and a deep global recession.

But in Zambia and much of Africa, he is remembered for saving lives.  A mother in Kabwe who just gave birth named her baby George in honor of his visit.

J. Stephen Morrison, director of the Health Policy Center at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says. Bush deserves the credit.  He says in 2003,  Bush saw AIDS in Africa as a humanitarian disaster – that if left unchecked could destabilize the entire continent.

“When the president came forward and said, ‘HIV/AIDS – we can save lives,” said Morrison. “We can enhance lives. We can stabilize societies.’  It was with a very powerful ethical and moral rationale as much as it was about a security rationale.”

In his post-presidency Mr. Bush says he will continue to advocate for global health issues. For him, he says, it is a labor of love.

*Courtesy of VOA Africa

 

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Nigeria Teams Up with US Firm to Build Six Oil Refineries
July 4, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Ricci Shryock*

Nigerian officials announced a $4.5 billion deal that will see the country partner with US company Vulcan Petroleum Resources to build six oil refineries in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer.

Vulcan said its goal is to build the first two facilities within one year and complete all six within the next 30 months.  It said the various refineries will be located at different sites

An-aerial-view-of-the-oil-hub-city-Port-Harcourt-in-Nigerias-Delta-region-May-16-2012

An-aerial-view-of-the-oil-hub-city-Port-Harcourt-in-Nigerias-Delta-region-May-16-2012

throughout the country.

Umaru Dembo, a former Nigerian energy minister, said the announcement was a welcome development for the country.

“It means quite a lot…because, up to now, we seem to be dependent on refined oil from somewhere else…the three or four refineries that we have now do not supply the needs of refined products that Nigeria needs at the moment,” Dembo said.

Though Nigeria produces more crude oil than any other nation on the continent, it relies heavily on oil that is refined abroad in order to fulfill domestic energy demands.  Nigeria exports more than two million barrels of crude oil a day.

Dembo added that the current refineries in the country produce more than 400,000 barrels of oil a day, and the reported 180,000 barrels a day that the six new refineries would produce is a surprisingly low number.  But, he added, it was better than the alternative.

“It is better to get the refineries and have them working then have no refineries at all…than [to have to] depend upon refineries outside Nigeria,” he said.

According to Dembo, the new refineries, which are slated to all be finished in about two and a half years, could have additional benefits for the local economy.

“Definitely, it will mean more jobs for Nigerians if this comes to fruition,” he said.  “There’ll be very many things that will be available for the people…we hope there will actually be electricity.”

In January, mass protests were staged throughout the country when the government said it was going to remove the oil subsidy, which was the only benefit many Nigerians said they enjoyed from the nation’s oil wealth.

After a nationwide strike and continued protests, the government later announced a partial rollback of the price hikes.

President Goodluck Jonathan has said Nigeria can no longer afford the $8 billion fuel subsidy.  He promised to use the money saved for needed infrastructure and social programs.

*Courtesy of VOA Africa

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Apps4Africa: Winners in Southern Africa Contest
July 4, 2012 | 0 Comments

The U.S. Department of State is pleased to announce the Southern Africa winners of the Apps4Africa: Climate Challenge, a regional competition to address local climate change challenges through the development of web-based and mobile applications.  Marieme Jamme, CEO of private sector partner SpotOne Global Solutions, announced the winners on June 15 at the annual Africa Gathering event in London, England.

First place was awarded to MyHealth, a mobile application developed by a team from Botswana.  MyHealth provides climate information, early warning alerts, and health monitoring features to its users to help them adapt to shifting patterns of disease and other health emergencies as the climate changes.  Second place was awarded to Service Anti-Cyclone, which alerts users in Madagascar to pending cyclones, and collects data on cyclone patterns and impacts, including injuries, deaths, and property damage caused by storms.  The application will also provide information to help communities prepare for future cyclones.  Third place was awarded to unsApp, a web forum for improving food security in Zimbabwe where users can access climate change information and adaptive management techniques that match the needs and customs of their communities.

Through programs such as Apps4Africa and the global Adaptation Partnership, the United States is working with partners to bring together practitioners, policy-makers, and African technology innovators in order to highlight country-driven solutions to climate change adaptation in Africa.

The Apps4Africa: Climate Challenge consisted of three African regional competitions.  Winners from the West and Central Africa contest were announced in December, and winners from the East Africa competition were announced in January.  These contests built on the outcomes of regional climate change adaptation workshops organized by the Adaptation Partnership, which includes the United States and more than 20 other countries.

Winners will receive cash prizes.  Private partners, including TED and Indigo Trust, are contributing follow-on support.

For more information please visit http://apps4africa.org.

 

 

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U.S. Committed to Expanding Trade and Investment with Africa
July 4, 2012 | 0 Comments

By MacKenzie C. Babb*

Washington — The United States is committed to continuing to expand trade and investment in sub-Saharan Africa, a region that “represents the next global economic frontier,” according to Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson.

Johnnie-Carson-says-the-United-States-is-working-with-African-leaders-to-overcome-barriers-to-trade-with-Africa-such-as-poor-infrastructure-and-high-finance-costs

Johnnie-Carson-says-the-United-States-is-working-with-African-leaders-to-overcome-barriers-to-trade-with-Africa-such-as-poor-infrastructure-and-high-finance-costs

“In addition to hosting six of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world, a recent McKinsey study documented that Africa offers the highest rate of return on foreign investment of any developing region, and has for some time,” Carson said in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Africa June 28.

He said consumer spending also continues to rise, and 43 percent of Africans currently have discretionary income, or could be considered middle-class consumers.

“Over the past decade, Africa’s growth was widespread across sectors including wholesale and retail trade, transportation, telecommunications and including manufacturing,” Carson said. “Foreign direct investment, or FDI, in Africa has also seen tremendous growth.” FDI projects in Africa have more than doubled from 339 in 2003 to 857 in 2011, according to Carson, with inter-African investment growing sharply from 27 projects in 2003 to 145 in 2011.

Combined with natural resource exports that have continued to generate significant revenues, Carson said, this steady growth has helped Africa to weather the global economic crisis more successfully than any other region in the world.

“In short, Africa is a trade and investment destination that cannot be ignored,” the assistant secretary said. “This is a continent on the move, and there are enormous opportunities for U.S. companies to enter the market, make money and create jobs” for both Americans and Africans.

“Greater U.S.-Africa trade is in the interests of both America and Africa, and we are determined to work to strengthen it,” Carson said.

Earl Gast, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) assistant administrator for Africa, said in testimony following Carson that foreign direct investment is approaching $80 billion a year and trade figures have tripled during the past decade.

“This fortune is not the result of good luck,” he said. “It’s the result of years of hard work and better management, governance, capital inflows and business climate.”

To translate this growth into transformational development in poverty reduction, Gast said, President Obama’s recently unveiled strategy for engaging with Africa promotes opportunity and development while spurring economic growth, trade and investment.

The cornerstone of U.S. engagement with Africa will continue to be the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), he said.

“Since 2001, exports under AGOA have increased more than 500 percent, and the African Coalition on Trade estimates that as many as 1.3 million jobs have been created indirectly by AGOA, supporting upwards of 10 million persons throughout the continent,” Gast said. He added that many of these jobs are held by women, “a vital building block for development given that African women are more likely to invest job-related income into food security, health and education of their families.”

Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Africa Florizelle Liser said Obama’s new strategy intends to “encourage economic growth, enhance trade and investment, support more jobs in the United States and help realize the full potential of the U.S.-sub-Saharan African economic partnership.”

The strategy was unveiled at the start of the June 14–15 AGOA Forum in Washington.

The 2012 forum brought together more than 600 participants, including top U.S. and African government officials, private-sector leaders and civil society representatives. It was preceded by a two-day civil society program June 12–13 in Washington and complemented by the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program. The Corporate Council on Africa hosted its infrastructure conference June 18–20 in Washington, and the U.S.-Africa Business Conference was held in Cincinnati June 21–22.

AGOA, signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton in 2000, was designed to promote U.S. trade and investment ties with sub-Saharan Africa. It provides trade preferences to the 40 participating African countries through the removal of nearly all tariffs on their exports. It has broken down many trade and customs barriers in an effort to stimulate economic growth, encourage economic integration and help bring sub-Saharan Africa into the global economy.

Carson, Gast and Liser each emphasized the importance of the pivotal economic development program, and said Obama’s new Africa strategy keeps AGOA at the heart of U.S. engagement with Africa.

*culled from: http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/st/english/article/2012/06/201206298359.html#ixzz1zdJ5g3PS

 

 

 

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USAID, Western Union Boost African Business
July 4, 2012 | 0 Comments

Washington — African entrepreneurship received a boost June 25 at the second African Diaspora Marketplace (ADM II) when 17 U.S.-based entrepreneurs were awarded grants to fund innovative business plans and promote economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa.

The grants will match ADM winners’ own funds to support growth of their businesses.

USAIDs-Shah-said-the-African-Diaspora-Marketplace-will-strengthen-and-help-satisfy-demand-for-locally-produced-products-and-services

USAIDs-Shah-said-the-African-Diaspora-Marketplace-will-strengthen-and-help-satisfy-demand-for-locally-produced-products-and-services

Nearly 500 entrepreneurs submitted business plans to compete for a grant as part of the ADM II competition, a collaboration of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Western Union Company and the Western Union Foundation.

“The African Diaspora Marketplace will strengthen and help satisfy demand for locally produced products and services,” said USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah.

ADM has harnessed the knowledge and resources of the U.S.-based African diaspora and entrepreneurs since its launch in 2009.

The competition addresses economic opportunity and advances the ability of small- and medium-sized enterprises in North and sub-Saharan Africa to obtain capital.

In the 2012 competition, 44 finalists competed for the top awards with business plans addressing high-priority, high-impact sectors in Africa. Finalists presented plans in agribusiness, information and communications technology and renewable energy.

Winning proposals include:

• A Kenyan agribusiness implementing sustainable practices through production of high-efficiency organic fertilizer.

• An alternative power generator using agricultural waste in Liberia.

• An online medical information delivery system in Nigeria.

Each awardee can receive a total investment of up to $70,000, which includes up to $50,000 in matching cash grants and/or up to $20,000 in technical assistance.

Each winning project will be monitored for up to 24 months, USAID said. Grant payments will correspond to achievement of key milestones identified in each winner’s proposal.

Entrepreneurs also will have the opportunity to connect with winners of the first ADM competition to share best practices and learn from their experiences.

ADM II is jointly funded by USAID, the Western Union Company and the Western Union Foundation. Other contributing partners include Ecobank, African Capacity Building Foundation, George Washington University Center for International Business Education and Research, the Tony Elumelu Foundation, the U.S. Department of State and Irv Barr Management.

The marketplace competition showcased promising and innovative ideas for businesses that can create employment and strengthen trade in emerging markets in sub-Saharan Africa.

Leaders at the United Nations, USAID and other organizations have said establishing innovative, sustainable business initiatives and promoting entrepreneurship generate jobs and capital and create the potential to improve the fortunes of generations to come.

“At Western Union, we have the privilege of witnessing how diaspora communities are fostering positive change in their home countries every single day,” said Aida Diarra, a regional vice president at the Western Union Company. “The African Diaspora Marketplace is an incredibly powerful example of their efforts.”

Expanding on the success of the first African Diaspora Marketplace, Western Union and USAID invited small business investment funds and technical assistance mentors to participate in ADM II.

A full list of winners and additional information about the ADM is available on the USAID website.

*Read more:

http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/st/english/article/2012/06/201206278231.html#ixzz1zdKE5ihV

 

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Africa’s tallest skyscraper set to be taller than Empire State Building
June 30, 2012 | 0 Comments

BY Claude Harding*

South Africa could soon be home to one of the world’s tallest buildings, if the mayor of the City of Tshwane is to be believed. At 447 metres with 110 floors, the proposed building, set to be constructed in Centurion, will be Africa’s tallest structure and taller than New York’s Empire State Building.

The planned Centurion Symbio-City development will comprise two office buildings and one residential tower. The tallest tower will be 447 metres high, reaching 110 storeys. It will be flanked by two towers of 80 and 60 floors.

The City of Tshwane, the municipality under which Centurion falls, describes the project as a modern, technologically advanced, cutting edge development.

Centurion is situated in South Africa’s Gauteng Province, close to the country’s administrative capital Pretoria.

So how will the proposed Symbio-City’s tallest tower compare to the world’s tallest buildings? Not taking into account buildings that are currently under construction, such as the One World Trade Centre building in New York, the Symbio-City tower will be the 14th tallest freestanding structure in the world, only 5 metres shorter than the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Tshwane is home to 132 embassies and four universities. According to Kgosientso Ramokgopa, executive mayor of the City of Tshwane, “the development is a reflection of the range of economic opportunities, cultural experiences, safety and a quality physical environment that Tshwane offers.”

It is unclear when the proposed development will be completed.

*Courtesy of http://www.howwemadeitinafrica.com

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Africa – home to world’s leading entrepreneur
June 30, 2012 | 0 Comments

BY Kate Douglas*

CEO and managing director of Kenya’s Equity Bank, James Mwangi, was this month awarded the Ernst & Young World Entrepreneur of the Year for 2012.

Mwangi was picked from 59 finalists, each of whom had already been awarded the E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year in their home countries.

“This is a global recognition for Africans who are embracing the power of entrepreneurship to change the economic and social state of Africa,” said Mwangi.

With the Chinese finalist owning the largest ship building company in the world and the Canadian finalist from the biggest pharmaceutical firm, How we made it in Africa looks at why Kenya’s Mwangi walked away with the title of entrepreneur of the year.

Equity Bank – from insolvency to banking giant

James Mwangi

James Mwangi

Equity Bank is renowned for being the bank with the largest customer base in east Africa, and is based in Kenya with regional operations in South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania. It is home to nearly 8 million accounts, with nearly 50% of all bank accounts in Kenya.

Mwangi has led the bank from a technically insolvent building society with an asset base of Ksh. 28 million in 1993 to become a leading all inclusive commercial bank with an asset base of over Ksh. 220 billion and listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange and Uganda Securities Exchange.

In a conversation with students at Stanford Business School in 2007, Mwangi said that Equity Bank’s strong commitment to its mission statement was significant to its success. “Focus on your vision,” he advised students. “Most of us get distracted and make our core business reacting to competitors. Focus on the customers. Ultimately, the competition is about the customers. It is not about the technology.”

From 2009 to 2010 the bank’s turnover increased by 32%, with its assets increasing by 42%.

Through strategic capitalisation, Equity Bank also managed to attract the largest capital injection (US$180 million) in the history of eastern and central Africa from Helios EB, an Africa-focused private investment firm.

Mwangi and entrepreneurship in Africa

Ernst & Young are not the only ones to notice Mwangi’s entrepreneurship skills. In 2010, the Financial Times identified Mwangi as one of the top 50 emerging market business leaders.

“An entrepreneurial spirit is very important in the world,” said Mwangi. “Entrepreneurs create jobs, entrepreneurs create wealth and, consequently, entrepreneurs compliment the thoughts of government in creating order and prosperity in the world.”

One of Mwangi’s many achievements is Equity Bank’s investment in an IT platform that can accommodate 35 million accounts, including a level four data centre which is the only one of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa. This means that Equity Bank is at the forefront of creating synergy between banking and mobile telephones. Other innovations include M-Kesho, the world’s first mobile centric bank account; Orange Money, a mobile money transfer platform for Orange Telecom subscribers; and agency banking.

Mwangi hopes that being recognised as the E&Y World Entrepreneur of the Year will inspire young Africans to take up entrepreneurship and show the rest of the world that there are plenty of investment opportunities and potential in Africa. “Having won this award from Africa, I want to tell the international community that Africa is ready for investment,” stated Mwangi. “Africa has the opportunities and is the fastest growing continent and consequently the remaining frontier for those that want to succeed in entrepreneurship.”

“Over the past 26 years, entrepreneurs have done more than any other group to stimulate innovation, job creation and prosperity during both periods of growth and in challenging economic conditions,” said Jim Turley, global chairman and CEO of E&Y. “James epitomises the vision and determination that set entrepreneurs apart and is very worthy of the title Ernst & Young World Entrepreneur of the Year 2012.”

*Culled from http://www.howwemadeitinafrica.com

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Nigerian President’s Call for Birth Control Sparks Debate
June 30, 2012 | 0 Comments

Anne Look*

DAKAR, Senegal — Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has sparked intense debate by saying Nigerian families should have only the children they can afford.  In remarks to the newly created National Population Commission Wednesday, the president said it may be time for “birth control legislation.”

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country with about 162 million people. The United Nations says the population could reach 400 million by 2050.  That’s a growth rate of 2.5 percent annually that economists say is unsustainably high for such a densely populated country plagued by poor infrastructure, poverty and unemployment.

The World Bank says a Nigerian woman has, on average, five or six children.  It is not unusual for couples to have as many as 10.

President Goodluck Jonathan has called on Nigerians “to only have the number of children they can manage.”  Managing population growth, the president said, is essential to economic planning and the government could adopt policies aimed at curbing rapid population growth and encouraging birth control use.

The president, himself a Christian, said the topic of population control is “sensitive” in Nigeria, where people, he said, are “extremely religious” and children are seen as “God’s gift to man.”

His comments have sparked religious debate.

Muslim leaders say Islam only allows family planning methods to space a woman’s pregnancies for health reasons, but not to control the number of children she has.

Sheikh Ibrahim Umar Ibrahim Kasuwar, a senior member of the Supreme Council of Sharia in Nigeria, says he was unhappy to hear of the president’s speech.  He says nowhere in the Bible or the Quran does it say that people can be discouraged from having children.  He says this is not the first time Nigerian authorities have talked about such measures but what they forget is that the people they serve are loyal first to God.

He says he has three wives and 16 children and plans to have and care for as many more as God gives him.

A local Christian leader in Kaduna state, Reverend Esra’a Kafaiza, said the Bible encourages procreation, but adds that parents have a responsibility as well.

“It is not right to give birth to more children that you can able to control – how are you going to educate them and guide them and lead them to the way of God,” asked Kafaiza. ”

Reverend Kafaiza said population growth is not the problem in Nigeria – it’s leaders are.

“The population of Nigeria cannot stop the progress of Nigeria,” said Kafaiza. “If our leaders can stand on their obligations and apply the wisdom of God and the fear of God, we can make it and succeed also in Nigeria.”

President Goodluck Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan

President Jonathan pointed to the example of China, which has a one-child policy and whose population growth has slowed sharply in recent years.

Politicians and community leaders said the government would be overstepping its bounds by attempting to regulate family size.

Sociologist at the University of Abuja Umar Kari says tradition and religious values make birth control a “hard sell” in Nigeria.

He says attempts to link a reduced birth rate with poverty reduction are met with disbelief.

“The ordinary people are not impressed,” said Kari. “In their own opinion, Nigeria’s major problem is not overpopulation or high rate of population increase.  Rather it is the inability of the Nigerian state to properly harness the resources – mineral, natural and human resources – of the country for the benefit of the people.”

Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil producer.  However, corruption and mismanagement mean that little of that wealth trickles down to the average person.

*Culled from VOA News

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Five African ‘boom towns’ that should be on every investor’s radar
June 30, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Jaco Maritz

South Africa’s economic hub Johannesburg is often cited as a classic example of the ‘boom town’ effect. The discovery of gold in the 1880s led to a gold rush that transformed the dusty settlement into South Africa’s largest city in a matter of 10 years.

Across Africa there are towns experiencing rapid development, largely off the back of newfound resources such as minerals, crude oil and natural gas. To produce this list of African boom towns How we made it in Africa sought the insight of Brett Abrahamse, a director at Johannesburg-based real estate consultancy Terrace Africa.

Abrahamse says that the towns below offer attractive opportunities from a property development perspective – especially for hotel and retail developments. While the challenges and expenses of working in Africa’s more remote locations may eat away at profit margins, these towns should be on the radar of investors and developers looking for a first-mover advantage.

Tete (Mozambique)

The remote town of Tete, situated in the centre-west part of Mozambique, is the heart of the country’s new coal mining industry. The area around the town has some of the world’s richest coal reserves.

Rajat Kohli, Standard Bank’s global head of mining and metals, called it the world’s last substantial untapped coal reserve. “About 100 million tons per annum of coal could be produced within the next five years, and that figure could even go further,” he said at a conference last year.

Mining companies operating in Tete Province’s Moatize basin include Rio Tinto as well as Brazil’s Vale.

The coal mines are linked via rail to the port of Beira. Brazilian mining giant Vale has also announced plans to build a railway line from its Moatize mine to the north-western port of Nacala to export coal.

Tete is booming due to mining activity in the area. However, according to Abrahamse, the town has very few formal supermarkets and hotels, creating significant opportunities for more developments. Carlson Rezidor has announced that it will soon launch its new Park Inn by Radisson hotel in Tete.

             Solwezi (Zambia)

Solwezi is the core town in the ‘new’ Zambian copper-belt and is also the capital of the North-Western province. From humble beginnings as a trading station servicing the nearby mines and employees, the town has now mushroomed into an important node. Solwezi has seen significant growth in recent years, driven by copper and nickel mines, which are run by First Quantum and Barrick Gold.

Abrahamse says that Solwezi has also experienced an increase in mining-related services and business activities. In addition, trade on the Congolese border 12 kilometres away is further boosting development and business activity in the town. The current airport is being upgraded, and will soon be able to accommodate Boeing 737s, which should see an increase in flights to Solwezi.

According to Abrahamse, there is a strong demand for more retailers and hotels in Solwezi. “There is a dire shortage of formal hotel accommodation in the town and this is evident by the US$200-plus room rate for a two-star room. The current hotel operations at Royal Solwezi Inn and Kansanshi Hotel are running at more than 90% occupancy with extremely high room rates,” he says.

The only formal supermarket in Solwezi is a Shoprite, which cannot alone cater for the growing demand. Abrahamse reckons that Solwezi is in need of small to medium sized commercial property developments with a retail anchor, a hospitality partner, numerous line shops and banking facilities.

First Quantum has also recently begun a new US$1 billion investment in a project called Trident. This consists of three new mines and will have an annual capacity of 300,000 tons of copper per year. The closest town to Trident is Solwezi.

Takoradi (Ghana)

Towards the end of 2010 How we made it in Africa reported that Takoradi, a small coastal town on Ghana’s west coast, was emerging as one of the new hot spots for African property developers. At the time there was considerable enthusiasm about the twin city of Sekondi-Takoradi because it was set to be home to Ghana’s emerging oil industry. Takoradi is the nearest commercial port to the country’s offshore oil fields.

Since then commercial oil production has started in all earnest, but developers and retailers have still not fully capitalised on the opportunities.

A few days ago it was announced that the International Finance Corporation (IFC) has provided a loan of US$5.45 million to Alliance Estates Limited, to build the first Protea Hotel in Takoradi. The 132-room, three-star hotel will help meet demand for business infrastructure as more investors are venturing into the oil producing region of Takoradi. “Ghana’s economy has been expanding at a high level, with growth touching 13.6% in 2011. In Takoradi, international hotels are limited, despite increased business traffic from investors interested in developing the oil and gas industry. The Protea Hotel will be amongst the first to provide international-standard rooms, rates and conference facilities,” said the IFC in a statement.

Juba (South Sudan)

“Juba, the capital of South Sudan, is one of those penny stocks, those risky ones where it could become the next Nairobi, or it could just muddle along and stay as it is forever,” says Abrahamse.

Last year South Sudan became Africa’s newest country after the region voted in favour of secession from Sudan. The referendum was a core component of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended decades of conflict between the Southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the Khartoum government.

At independence there was much optimism that the South Sudanese economy would finally take off. The region has few industries outside the oil sector and almost non-existent infrastructure. Lately, however, there has been renewed fighting between Sudan and its now independent neighbour, South Sudan, sparking fears of an all-out war.

Although the recent fighting took place far from Juba, Abrahamse notes that the city’s fortunes are heavily dependent on peace between the two countries. He says that political risk is the major issue prospective investors in South Sudan should consider and that each business opportunity should be analysed on its merits. Juba’s potential for development is, however, certain. The city is South Sudan’s main commercial hub and one of the world’s fastest growing urban areas due to oil money.

Last year the South Sudanese government announced that the capital would move to Ramciel, some 250 kilometres away from Juba, closer to the border of north Sudan. It is unclear when this will happen.

 Pemba (Mozambique)

Pemba is a port city in northern Mozambique. It is traditionally known as a tourist destination, but these days Pemba is an important centre for northern Mozambique’s offshore natural gas fields in the Rovuma basin.

US-based Anadarko Petroleum and Italian oil & gas company Eni, have both recently announced significant gas discoveries in their respective blocks. These discoveries are important because of the size of the reserves as well as Mozambique’s relative proximity to markets in Asia. “This is rather close to the largest potential market for liquefied natural gas (LNG), which is Asia. It is easier to export from offshore Mozambique to Asia than it is from many other places,” Adi Karev, global oil & gas leader at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, told How we made it in Africa in an interview earlier this year.

Abrahamse says that Pemba, as is the case with the other towns mentioned in this article, has a lack of accommodation and retail facilities. “An example of the problem with Pemba is there is one five-star lodge that is booked out by the oil companies. The interesting story there is that post the 2008/2009 financial crisis the resorts were struggling, but since they found gas there, these hotels and lodges have been booked out by people working on the gas fields.”

*Culled from http://www.howwemadeitinafrica.com

 

 

 

 

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