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President Uhuru Kenyatta says Kenya ready to sign Free trade Agreement with U.S. as long as deal does not affect Africa Continental Free Trade Area
June 19, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Amos Fofung

Kenya President in a handshake with U.S. President during a 2018  Washington DC meeting (Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Kenya President in a handshake with U.S. President during a 2018 Washington DC meeting (Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta has reiterated the desires of his country to sign a Free Trade Agreement, FTA with the United States of America but maintains that this will only happen when he is fully convinced that the agreement will not affect his country’s engagement in Africa Continental Free Trade Area, AfCFTA.

 AfCFTA seeks to accelerate intra-African trade, boosting Africa’s trading position in the global market by strengthening Africa’s common voice and policy space in global trade negotiations and eliminating barriers and blockades thus ensuring free trading between African states. Kenya is a signatory to the agreement that went into force in May 2019 together with the other African countries.

 Its negotiations with the United States will be the first of its kind the U.S. has with an African country and will strengthen trade ties that already exist between the two states. Kenya currently benefits from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) which ensures that most of its exports to the US are tariff-free.

Speaking June 18, 2020, in a live chat hosted by the Atlantic Council’s African Center, Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta emphasized that the deal between his country and America will have a significant impact not only for Kenya but Africa at large. To him, though the agreement is the first of its kind, many African countries will have the opportunity to follow in Kenya’s footsteps.

During the session hosted by Fedrick Kempe, president and chief executive officer of the Atlantic Council who identified Kenya as a vital U.S counter-terrorism and trade partner and moderated by Katrina Manson Foreign Times US foreign policy & defense correspondent, Uhuru Kenyatta first took out time to present the enormous business-friendly potentials his country brags of. 

Reiterating that Kenya is opened for business, Uhuru Kenyatta currently serving his second and last mandate at the presidency pointed to some successful international business ventures that already exist between his country and the US saying “come partner with us – they are great opportunities in Africa, we have a vibrant youthful population and they are dying for business.”

Talks for the trade deal date back to February 6, when President Trump and President Kenyatta announced their intent to elevate the bilateral relationship between the United States and Kenya by opening negotiations on a free trade agreement. 

The announcement was made only a day after Kenyatta last addressed a captivated audience at the Atlantic Council. Since then, the United States Trade Representative has moved the ball forward by outlining the administration’s ambitious goals for the FTA, including that this historic agreement should serve as the model for all future US trade deals with Africa. 

Criticism toward Kenya

When news of talks between Kenya and US on the FTA was made public, Africa received the news with mixed feelings. This came at a time when negotiations for the AfCFTA was in high gear. The announcement triggered criticism from member states of the AfCFTA and East African Community (EAC), who feel frustrated by Kenya’s decision to negotiate alone.

Most African states as well as the top personalities at the African Union, AU are increasingly concerned that the U.S. attempt to use Kenya as a “model” will not reflect the needs of other AU members and could upset regional integration.

Shortly after Kenya decided to move forward on negotiations with the United States, former deputy chairperson of the African Union Commission and the first secretary-general of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa Erastus Mwencha remarked, “Under the AU, the African heads of state have discouraged member States from entering into bilateral free trade negotiations with third parties because they jeopardize the AfCFTA.” Mwencha has also argued that Kenya would be able to negotiate a far better deal if it coordinated with other members

Kenya has downplayed these regional risks, forging ahead with talks geared at furthering its economic ambitions.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies, CSIS, a U.S think tank believes that Kenya’s decision to go ahead with talk towards the FTA is not unconnected to China’s move to sign a free trade agreement with the entire EAC bloc. A move that dates back till 2016. Kenya had refused to engage in the agreement that was embraced by other African countries.

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All 54 African countries call for UN human rights investigation into racism on African Americans and elsewhere
June 19, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Amos Fofung

UN council in session (photo credits: Don Emmert/AFP via Getty Images)
UN council in session (photo credits: Don Emmert/AFP via Getty Images)

In a rare united effort toward achieving a common objective, all 54 African countries have united, speaking in one voice as they request a formal United Nations led prob into police brutality and acts of racism against Africans in America and the world over.

In a penned letter, the 54 countries that make up the African continent requested the UN Human Rights Council to urgently debate racism and police violence as protests over George Floyd’s death grows around the world for the third week now.

Burkina Faso’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva wrote the letter on behalf of the 54 African countries, asking the UN’s top human rights body for an “urgent debate” on “racially inspired human rights violations, police brutality against people of African descent and the violence against the peaceful protests that call for these injustices to stop.”

The letter requests for the debate to be held next week when the council’s 43rd session resumes, after being stalled by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

For such a request to be considered by the council, or for any pertinent issue to be discussed at the gathering, it needs to be backed by at least one state. 

With the call now coming from a large group of countries, “that increases the chances” it will take place, a council spokesperson told AFP. This will be the first time such an elaborate report on rights violation against Africans will be recorded in recent times.

Mbom Sixtus, internationally acclaimed journalist who has covered human rights violation across several borders for over a decade now advocates that when conducted, the full reports of the rights abuses and racial injustice be made public and those responsible be sanctioned accordingly.

DW Africa reports that UN Council President Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger is expected to announce a proposed day for the debate on Monday and unless there are any objections, the debate is likely to go ahead.

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“Times of Unprecedented Crisis present Unique Opportunities for Unprecedented Action”
June 18, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Graça Machel, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Dr. Vera Songwe, Maria Ramos

Mrs Graça Machel, Founder, Graça Machel Trust and the Foundation for Community Development
We have been presented the opportunity to reimagine and redesign our society into a vibrant and equitable one.

COVID 19 has unearthed massive inequalities within our societies and brought to glaring light the unique burdens which women carry the world over. Allocation of response resources should be targeted towards the immediate needs of managing the virus as well as future-looking to simultaneously dismantle the structural, systemic barriers which reinforce inequality and disenfranchisement. We have been presented the opportunity to reimagine and redesign our society into a vibrant and equitable one. We must place women and women’s leadership at the core of the response and beyond.

COVID-19 has caused massive shocks to both the informal and formal economies in Africa. World Bank estimates that the Sub-Saharan Africa region will see significant economic decline, and plunge to as low as -5.1% this year.

Women have been hit particularly hard by this economic downturn. Emerging evidence from the ILO on the impact of COVID-19 suggests that women’s economic and productive lives will be affected disproportionately. They have less access to social protections and their capacity to absorb economic shocks is very low.

As the economic toll of the crisis is felt, there is also an increased risk that female children will be forced into early marriages, and the number of child marriages and early pregnancy may increase as girls are turned into a source of quick income for families.

Given these shocks to society at large, it is no surprise that our food systems will be dealt a significant blow resulting in the dangerous exacerbation of food insecurity and nearly doubling current levels of widespread hunger.

COVID 19 has disrupted supply chains and thrown the global food economy into disarray. As border closures, production stoppages, and export restrictions limit supply, demand has surged, inflating prices and impacting the world’s poorest and most marginalized people, and Africa is no exception.

Women are central players in the food chain and key to agricultural output on the continent. 50% of the agricultural activity on the continent performed by women, who produce about 60-70% of the food in Sub Saharan Africa.

Studies reveal that the cost of malnutrition has a tremendous impact on a country’s economic growth. A lack of adequate nutrition is a key contributor to unacceptably high levels of both maternal and child mortality as well as stunting– and therefore to the loss of human capital for the overall economic, social and political development of the continent.

The fragility of African health systems is revealing itself and women and children are most vulnerable to the lack of attention and adequate specialized services the diversion COVID 19 is causing resulting in an anticipated surge in child and maternal mortality.

Domestic violence has increased by upwards of 25% in some countries as a result of lockdowns. Victims face limited access to protective services during periods of quarantine.

A Call to Bold Action:
All Responses Must Take into Account Gendered Impacts of COVID and Be Informed by the Voices of Women:  Women and women’s organizations should be at the heart of the COVID-19 response decision making and designing health and socio-economic policies and plans. An intentional focus on the lives and futures of women and girls is an essential part of breaking structural practices which have been marginalizing them. A system for collecting and disaggregating data needs to be put in place to ensure that the impact of the crisis on women is informing the redesign of fragile and inequitable socio-economic and health systems into fully inclusive, equitable ones.
Government and Development Partners Must Implement Gender Lens Economic Policies and Sharpen the Capacity of Women as Engines of Economic Growth: Give women and female businesses direct access credit, loans, tax and social security payment deferrals and exemptions, and preferential procurement. Structural barriers to access to finance, inheritance, and land rights must be removed. Create and support the enabling environment for ICT infrastructure so rural and urban women are able to contribute to the digital economy and access online platforms to facilitate e-commerce and e-health/education/social exchanges.
Invest in Women Along the Local Food Chains to Improve Food Security: Response resources should target female SMMEs and rural women associations to increase productivity in both formal and informal economies, eradicate hunger and malnutrition. Boost local food production and confront head on the indignity of Africa importing its food. Food security is a fundamental investment in the building of healthy societies.
Recognize and Implement Equal Rights in the Workplace: Provide equal pay for equal work.
Narrow Gender-based Education Gaps: Build ICT infrastructure for online learning to bridge the inequality divide and retrain teachers on virtual curriculum so every African child, especially the girl child, has access to quality education. Efforts to protect girls from child marriage and early pregnancy, and provision of safety net resources for households to keep girls in school are also needed.
Strengthen Health Systems, Gradually Implement Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and Provide Mental Health Services needed as key strategies to the improvement of health systems and citizen wellbeing.
Comprehensively Strengthen the Criminal Justice System and Increase Efforts Around Survivor Support and Protection: Prevention/protection efforts must be deemed as essential services and intentional mass media efforts to spur a fundamental change of mindset whereby GBV is rejected and deemed socially unacceptable and intolerable.
COVID-19 presents us with unprecedented opportunities for the regeneration of the African socio-economic landscape and the movement towards a just, equitable and sustainably prosperous continent. Let us dare not squander this opportunity for a rebirth.

Signed

Mrs Graça Machel
Founder, Graça Machel Trust and the Foundation for Community Development

Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
Board Chair, Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, AU Special Envoy to Mobilize International Economic Support for the Fight Against COVID-19, Former Finance Minister, Nigeria

Dr Vera Songwe
Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa

Ms Maria Ramos
Co-Chair of the UN Secretary-General’s Task Force on Digital Financing of the Sustainable Development Goals and former Chief Executive Officer of Absa Group Limited

*SOURCE .Graça Machel Trust (GMT)

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Second Term For Adesina At AFDB Will Deepen Ties Between Brazil and Africa- IBRAF President João Bosco Monte
June 17, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Prof. Joao Bosco and Dr. Adesina
Prof. Joao Bosco Monte says he looks forward to stronger and more diverse cooperation between Brazil and Africa during Dr. Adesina’s second AFDB Term.

The re-election of Dr Akinwumi Adesina to  second term of office as the President of the African Development Bank-AFDB will greatly deepen and broaden ties between Brazil and Africa says Prof João Bosco Monte ,President of the Brazil African Institute- IBRAF .

In an interview with Pan African Visions, Prof João Bosco Monte lauded the great achievements of Dr Adesina including his whole hearted endorsement of partnership with the IBRAF on  hugely successful exchange programs on Agriculture that have benefited many African countries.

“I am optimistic about the possibility of Adesina being re-elected to the presidency of the African Development Bank, especially when we see Brazil as a country that can work very closely with Africa, not only at the government level, but also with the private sector,” says Prof João Bosco Monte in the interview which also discusses the IBRAF, racism , and the future of relations between Brazil and Africa.

Prof Joao Monte thanks for granting this interview, could we start this interview with an introduction of the Brazil -Africa Institute that you lead?

The Brazil Africa Institute, when was founded, I had the idea to put together Brazilians and Africans from many perspectives. The collaboration and the partnership that we can see between Brazil and some African countries are very obvious. But Brazil doesn’t know much about Africa, on the other hand, Africa doesn’t know everything about Brazil. So, the genesis of the Brazil Africa Institute, when we created it, was to put together both sides of the Atlantic and have mutual and respectful Knowledge and understanding about each other.

And now, after ten years of the conception of IBRAF we can see many opportunities that we can put together between the two sides, African and Brazilian. Not only the government, and I could say mainly the private sector can understand the potential of collaboration and opportunities that we can see from both regions.

The agenda of the Brazil Africa Institute brings many possibilities for interactions. One of the activities that we have annually is the Brazil Africa Forum, which brings leaders, Heads of States, Ministers, diplomats, private sector, the civil society, in order to discuss one important topic for Brazil, Africa, and for other regions. And this gives me the opportunity to emphasize that when we talk about Brazil and Africa, we should include all the latitudes on the agenda.

Could you also shed some light or put historical perspective on relations between Brazil and Africa, how important are the ties between your country and Africa?

Since 2006, when I started to visit Africa, I saw clearly, a very important connection between Brazil and some African countries. Actually, when I visit Africa, in many countries I feel just as I am in Brazil. On the other hand, whenever I see Africans in Brazil they say “Well, this is just like home. This is just like Africa”. In this regard, there is a very particular relationship between the two sides of the Atlantic.

And it’s important to emphasize the historical ties that Brazil has with Africa. Not because of slavery, and I can say, very sadly, Brazil is one of the places that had many slaves from Africa. But besides this, Brazil has a historical connection with Africa, and now we can see the roots of Africa in Brazil, in the gastronomy, in the music, in the clothes and the  way that we dress, and I can see that Brazil is very connected with the continent.

We are doing this interview at a time when racism has also taken centre stage with world protests following the killing of Floyd Georges in the USA…what are race relations like in Brazil?

The killing of George Floyd in the US brought to the international arena a discussion about racism and how countries, how organizations, how governments, how people are acting about this theme. It’s a bit very unique. We can see demonstrations in many parts of the world, not only in the US, against racism, that are asking the governments to bring the new policies to eradicate racism from the face of the world.

In Brazil, we do have problems with racism, and some demonstrations, some protests, also came to this discussion here essentially to highlight that historical inequalities are behind the great disparities faced by black people in the labor market. Less access to education is one of them, as well as more precarious living conditions. The governments of Brazil, I’m talking about Federal and State governments, should start to discuss what kind of argument we can bring to the table, to bring to poor people, and also black people as well, the possibility to have a better life. So, the agenda that we have to include now in Brazil, and also in some parts of the world, should include the discussion about racism, but also how can we bring dignity to people who don’t have the eyes of the state.





Under Prof João Bosco Monte IBRAF has been a vital link between Brazil and Africa

One of the partner institutions that the Brazil -Africa Institute works with is the African Development Bank, what do you make of the recent standoff between with external partners notably the USA? How has it been like working with current AFDB President Dr Akinwumi Adesina, and what do you think a second term for him is deserved?

We have many partners around the world. One of the key partners of the Brazil Africa Institute is, indeed, the African Development Bank, and this was emphasized in the last years, and I’m very proud to say that this partnership is because of the confidence and the vision of President Adesina. I had the opportunity to discuss with him, in many occasions the potential of collaboration between African countries and Brazil, and he’s very familiar with the possibilities of collaboration. Now, when we see countries like the US bringing issues about the leadership of President Adesina, we should understand what, specifically, are the reasons that the bank is being attacked by the US Government. We need to see the details, but we also need to see a concrete reason and the objective that the government of the US is bringing to damage the reputation of president Adesina. My personal opinion is that he’s doing a very good job, and this is important for the bank and for Africa.

Watching the situation from outside I can see that many African leaders, many former Head of States, are now supporting Adesina and what he’s doing at the bank. This is important to emphasize because the leaders who are dealing with him, who had the opportunity to deal with him, are bringing to the table a very strong message that he’s doing the job very well. And this emphasized that he needs to have the opportunity to have a second turn. My feeling is that, in five years, is not possible to change the whole situation, and what he was doing in the last five years was bringing a discussion, a dialogue, among many people, many organizations, and bringing the flag of the bank, and the demands of the continent to partners around the world, including Brazil. That’s why I emphasize and defend the possibility of President Adesina to be reelected.

What did you make of the allegations levied against him and were you satisfied with the defense he put up to deny any wrongdoing?

It is very relevant to mention that the Ethics Committee of the African Development Bank received the response from President Adesina in a very positive way. So, I don’t think we need to go any further to make this clear and I particularly feel very satisfied with the answers given by him.

In 2017 the AFDB and the Brazil Africa Institute launched the Youth Technical Training Program to train young African professionals in research and technology, how is the program working out?

Three years ago, the Brazil Africa Institute started a very important program, bringing young Africans to Brazil to receive training in areas that the country achieve great results. And the African Development Bank actually was the first door that we knocked to start the talks, to show the evidence, and the possibilities of bringing these young Africans boys and girls to Brazil. This was a valuable moment for us, and the Bank received it very well, and the voice of President Adesina, followed by his team, was very helpful and proactive. And we started with agriculture, which is related to the mind of President Adesina. This was in 2017, and after this activity that we have launched with the bank, we started to develop other initiatives with some other international organizations. I’m sure that the beginning of this program, with the African Development Bank, was a crucial moment for us to reach other areas, other activities and to amplify our partnerships around the world.  

I am sure that the start of the Youth Technical Training Program in partnership with the African Development Bank, was a crucial moment for us to reach other areas, other activities and expand our connections around the world.

After 3 years of the program, we are very pleased to identify that many young Africans – now with more knowledge and skills – are applying some successful Brazilian experiences in many parts of the African continent, which clearly demonstrates the importance of south-south cooperation.

After 3 years of the Youth Technical Training Program in partnership with the AFDB   we are very pleased to identify that many young Africans applying some successful Brazilian experiences in many parts of the African continent ,says Prof João Bosco Monte

What expectation would you have for a second Adesina term at the AFDB especially with regards to prospects of more projects and partnerships with IBRAF and Brazil as a whole?

I am optimistic about the possibility of Adesina being re-elected to the presidency of the African Development Bank, especially when we see Brazil as a country that can work very close to Africa, not only at the government level, but also with the private sector. And I see President Adesina’s vision as something that we can have coincidences with the activities of the Brazil Africa Institute.

How is the agenda of IBRAF going to look like for the rest of the year especially with the challenges posed by COVID-19? We will like to end this interview with your perspective on the future of ties between Brazil and Africa, in what areas or sectors do you see potential for additional cooperation and what needs to be done on both sides to make the bonds stronger?

Like all organizations in the world, we are adapting to this situation of isolation and remote work, which of course is not an easy task. As an international organization, it is very necessary to be close to people in many parts of the world, participating in meetings or activities organized by us or our partners.

I think the Brazil-Africa agenda for next year is very positive and I am very optimistic about the future of these relations. Many areas can be addressed, and Brazil is already doing things with Africa in various activities, in many fields. I see agriculture, again, as a possibility for Brazil to become more and more involved with Africa, especially in the context of transfer of technology. But it is important to emphasize that Africa must know more about Brazil and African leaders must be open to seeing Brazil as a potential partner. On the other hand, Brazilians must look for the possibilities to get involved with Africans, and we need to understand more and more the potential that we have before us.

The role of the Brazil Africa Institute is to emphasize that the moment that we have now is very appropriate for Brazil and for Africa. Not only because we see the market potential to sell and buy things, but also because the partnership we see between the two sides is very unique and can last for a long time.

For the second half of 2020, we are still planning some activities, such as the YTTP, with an edition in September and the other in October. We are bringing Africans, from West Africa, to receive training in Brazil, as we have done in the last 3 years. In addition, we are starting the IBRAF Fellowship Program for South-South and Triangular Cooperation, with the objective of facilitating the dialogue between African researchers and local professionals, enabling the exchange of knowledge in various fields, through a platform for expanding contact with the top sustainable development practices in Brazil.

Certainly, our desire is that the result of all the activities that we are developing can somehow contribute so that Brazil and Africa are better prepared for the post-COVID era.

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From Lost Boy To Beacon Of Hope For Global Refugees- Manyang Reath Kher On The Sharing Award
June 17, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

734 Coffee exists to level the playing field for the often-forgotten refugee population that hails from East Africa, says Manyang Reath Kher
734 Coffee exists to level the playing field for the often-forgotten refugee population that hails from East Africa, says Manyang Reath Kher

From the wreckage of the South Sudan civil, a new generation has emerged with fresh hope on how to better the lot of refugees across the globe. One of the perfect epitomes of this new generation is Manyang Reath Kher who was part of the 4,000 Lost Boys who was fortunate enough to land a ticket to the United States in 2001.

A University Lecturer at George Mason University today, Manyang Reath Kher is better known for using the social enterprise 734 Coffee to advocate and conscientize the American population on the plight of refugees. Working with others under the aegis of the NGO Humanity Helping Sudan, Manyang Reath Kher has partnered with some other organizations to come up with the Sharing Award to understand and support the most vulnerable in society-refugees.

In an interview with Pan African Visions, Manyang says the Awards are intended to support individuals and organizations that work on sustainability, social inclusion, and diversity to recognize the humanity and hard work of refugees.

“My advice to successful citizens and especially those considered lost boys, is to invest in South Sudan. The country will not move forward if those of us who have learned and excelled in our respective professions or ventures do not return to invest our time and financial resources,” Manyang says.

Thanks for granting this interview to talk about 734 Coffee and the Sharing Awards, first could we start with an introduction and your journey from South Sudan where you hail from to the United States?

I currently teach Human Rights at the George Mason University (Virginia). I also steer the social enterprise 734 Coffee, as we take the lead on human rights advocacy for refugees and distribute conscious consumer goods to educate the broader American population. When I, Manyang Reath Kher, was three years old, my village was attacked and destroyed by unspeakable violence. My uncle was killed while trying to help me escape.  I managed to survive and lived in three different refugee camps for the next 13 years. Blessed by the hands of parishioners, I am one of the 4,000 Lost Boys who was fortunate enough to land a ticket to the United States.

How was the adaptation process like for you and what motivated you to come up with 734 Coffee and how long has it been running now?

I have a burning desire to help my fellow refugees who are forced to make their new homes in a foreign land. During my senior year in high school, I began working to develop my nonprofit, the Humanity Helping Sudan Project, and recruited others to help me with this effort. Founded in 2008 in Richmond, Virginia, my award­-winning NGO seeks to provide aid and assistance to the Sudanese Diaspora in the Gambella region of Ethiopia. HHSP’s mission is to create sustainable solutions to help alleviate suffering in the region by providing over 40,000 displaced people in refugee camps with materials and resources to battle famine, agricultural training and cultivation of indigenous crops, and clean drinking water through expansion of water wells and springs.  Within the past 8 years we have gained national recognition and top sponsor dollars to do just this as well as further enriching thousands around the world with my story, and the plight of the Sudanese refugees.  

Manyang says the Awards are intended to support individuals and organizations that work on sustainability, social inclusion, and diversity to recognize the humanity and hard work of refugees
Manyang says the Awards are intended to support individuals and organizations that work on sustainability, social inclusion, and diversity to recognize the humanity and hard work of refugees

There is coffee from so many countries, what makes 734 coffee unique and how has it fared in the USA market?

In the world today, racial injustice continues to be prevalent, however, when we couple that injustice with another factor, it becomes a heightened situation that needs immediate attention. Refugees already experience unimaginable social injustices and human rights violations, especially during the current political climate in the United States, that impacts the entire world. However, when refugees (especially those of African descent) do make their way to the United States, they are met with yet another desperate circumstance, that is the racial divide in America that systemically leads to racial injustice. 

734 Coffee exists to level the playing field for the often-forgotten refugee population that hails from East Africa. 734 Coffee uses America’s most popular beverage as a gateway to introduce Americans to the world refugee crisis and how the U.S government’s actions play a part. The 734 Coffee project distributes Arabica coffee from the Ethiopian and South Sudan region of Gambela; it caters to over 250,000 refugees, many of whom historically have been relocated to the United States. New policies in the U.S have not allowed for many refugees to find refuge here in America, this puts a burden on neighboring countries that already struggle to maintain an economy.

Coffee is Ethiopia’s number one source of export revenue generating about 30% of the country’s total export earnings yearly. Using Fair Trade coffee, to create opportunities, educate and build the local economy.    

In terms of distribution, how wide is your network in the USA and considering that it has become a brand of its own, are there plans for expansion beyond American shores?

734 Coffee currently distributes coffee to commercial and residential complexes including Hosteling International, The WhyHotel (Tysons Corner and Arlington Campus), The Warner Building (D.C) and The Louis at 14th by Greystar (D.C); specialty coffee shops, TimGad Cafe (Reagan Center and F. st., D.C), Porter’s House (D.C) and Z-Zoul Cafe (San Francisco, CA) ; retail stores, Takoma Park Co-op (Takoma, MD).

Commercial and residential complexes and specialty coffee shops:

Commercial and residential complexes, specialty coffee shops and retail stores currently make up 70% of revenue. These accounts were obtained primarily through in-person events. To retain these existing accounts and compete for new accounts, 734 Coffee will invest in equipment for them. Providing equipment for these accounts guarantees a minimum of a year-long contract and consistent and reliable purchasing of coffee beans from 734. These investments will be secured through contracts that detail the terms of use, including machine maintenance and exclusivity. This will be the most cash intensive investment that 734 Coffee makes in 2020. 


734 Coffee plans to expand distribution to South America, Europe, the middle east and Asian in the future, but the next couple of years are focused on North America. 

What are some of the challenges that you faced in the course of taking 734 coffee to where it is today?

Of the many challenges that 734 Coffee has faced on its journey to where it now stands, we have noticed two developing trends. The first, the bigger players in the space are undoubtedly ready to defend their market-share like any business would, regardless of our mission and the positive output that we have on the world. Second, establishing partnerships and deals at the intersection of social good and profit has been a daunting task. 

We understand you are working on a very important project dubbed the Sharing Award, could you shed some light on this?

The Sharing Award is the result of a partnership between Humanity Helping Sudan, 734 Coffee, The Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship and One Journey Festival. It was inspired by the generosity of The Tides Foundation following the spotlight placed on HHSP by the refugee-focused film THE GOOD LIE, and the advocacy of its award-winning producers, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Karen Kehela Sherwood and Molly Smith. The purpose of the award is to support innovative individuals and organizations that work on refugee sustainability, social inclusion and diversity in order to build communities that welcome refugees, recognize their humanity, value their hard work, offer them a path to dignified work and have respect for their cultural differences, religious ideals and political beliefs.

The Sharing Award was launched earlier in June — World Refugee Month — to shed as much light as possible on the many organizations that are moving the needle on refugee issues.

With 734 coffee, the creative genius of Manyang Reath Kher is not just bringing dignity and hope to refugees but also contributing to the economic growth his host country and region of origin
With 734 coffee, the creative genius of Manyang Reath Kher is not just bringing dignity and hope to refugees but also contributing to the economic growth his host country and region of origin

Who is eligible to benefit from the awards, what is the application process, what exactly will you be looking for in successful applicants?

  • The Sharing Award Winner (individual or organization) will be awarded our prestigious Vision Development Package: 
    • A cash prize of US $5,000, 
    • Acceptance to the world-renowned Atlas Corps Fellowship, 
    • Invitation to attend the exclusive 2021 Nexus Youth Summit, a global community founded to bridge communities of wealth and social entrepreneurship, where the most innovative social entrepreneurs gather to discover new ideas and collaborate on world changing projects (choose to attend in New York City or Washington, DC – virtually or in person).
    • Applications will be reviewed by a select committee from Ashoka. Ashoka is known for its transformative program that supports the world’s leading social entrepreneurs.
  • 1st Runner Up will be awarded: 
    • 3 Months of business mentoring support through the highly regarded Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship Jumpstart accelerator program.
    • Invitation to attend the exclusive 2021 Nexus Youth Summit.
    • Applications will be reviewed by a select committee from Ashoka.
  • 2nd Runner Up will be awarded: 
    • Invitation to attend the exclusive 2021 Nexus Youth Summit.
    • Applications will be reviewed by a select committee from Ashoka.
  • All Finalists (top 20):
    • Thanks to an innovative co-review partnership with Unfunded List, all of the Finalist applications will also be independently reviewed by an experienced evaluation committee. Each finalist will receive helpful and candid feedback regardless of whether or not they win.
  • Special Nomination(7):
    • Additionally, 7 applicants will also be nominated to receive an Ashoka review.
    •  

Individuals and organizations that submit an application for The Sharing Award must fulfill each and every one of the following criteria to be deemed eligible:

  • Individuals and organizations must have fully developed conceptual ideas or existing projects that focus on tackling challenges faced by migrants and refugees. Examples include projects in the areas of: entrepreneurship, job opportunity, education, leadership development, capacity building, interfaith dialogue, integration, developing welcoming communities and civic engagement.
  • Applicants must have a valid mailing address where postal mail can be shipped.
  • Applicants must have a bank account (eligible financial institution account) in the name of the organization or individual (special circumstances will be considered).
A worthy Ambassador for Refugees at United Nations Foundation event with  Senior Officials. Manyang says the lost boys must continue to contribute their quota towards the emergence of  a better Southern Sudan
A worthy Ambassador for Refugees at United Nations Foundation event with Senior Officials. Manyang says the lost boys must continue to contribute their quota towards the emergence of a better Southern Sudan

What do you make of the political and economic developments in South Sudan, and what is it “lost boys” who have eventually turned out to be amazing success stories could do to help build or contribute your home country forward?

The political and economic landscape in South Sudan is an ever improving one with the people’s voice slowly but surely making a dent in actions taken by the government. With new appointees that have fresh ideas, I think that there is a lot of hope that we can look forward to. 

My advice to successful citizens and especially those considered lost boys, is to invest in South Sudan. The country will not move forward if those of us who have learned and excelled in our respective professions or ventures do not return to invest our time, financial resources and key partners. 

Yours has been a tale of resilience in the face of great odds, what message can you send the millions of refugees across Africa and the world going through experiences similar to what you went through?

Accept that Life is NOT “Supposed to be Fair”: Know that there is no single way that life is “supposed” to be. Demanding that life meet our expectations is a sure fire recipe for a miserable existence. Life is a game with no rules. Life just happens to us regardless of our best intentions. Our only path to happiness lies in being open to receiving whatever life throws at us with Gratitude.

*For more information on the awards and how to apply visit here

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KE International awarded US $6 Billion construction contract for Akon City, Senegal
June 16, 2020 | 0 Comments
Photo credit Getty Images Hussein /Bakri /BAD Consultant/Semer Group

KE International, a U.S. Based engineering and consulting firm, was awarded the contract to build and Execute US $6 Billion Akon City, Senegal

Akon City has awarded the contract for building and executing the city to KE International, a US based Consulting and Engineering firm. The US $6 Billion futuristic-cryptocurrency themed City is founded by Senegalese-American superstar and philanthropist Akon.

With the awarding of the contract, KE International has secured US $4 Billion from investors for the first and second Phases of execution of Akon City, and will have Dubai based Bakri & Associates Development Consultants lead the architectural designs under KE International guidance.

KE International is known for the design and execution of the US $2 billion Mwale Medical and Technology City (MMTC), a green City based in Western Kenya, which began in 2014 and is expecting completion in December 2020.

MMTC, which is 85% complete, was founded by a US based Kenyan entrepreneur and Investor, Julius Mwale. MMTC is anchored by Hamptons Hospital, a large 5000 bed referral hospital which opened to the public in 2019, and recently partnered with the AKOIN platform for its blockchain based digital transactions.

The entire Hamptons Hospital will be completed by end of 2020 and is currently a reference center for COVID-19 prevention and treatment in the 14 County Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREB) of Kenya, a region with a population of 16 million.

MMTC has 35,000 community residents served with a new supermarket, new and upgraded residences, Mall, Golf, thousands of solar streetlights, and is powered by 100% renewable off-grid energy. A large Artificial Intelligence Cluster to run the hospital is currently under development.

Akon City’s Phase 1 is expected to complete by end of 2023, and will see the construction of roads, a Hamptons Hospital campus, a Hamptons Mall, residences, hotels, a police station, a school, a waste facility and a solar power plant.

Akon City Phase 2 will run from 2024 to 2029 and will end with a complete cryptocurrency City running exclusively on AKOIN cryptocurrency.

The initial US $4 billion investment secured by KE International for Akon City, is led by leaders in healthcare and technology infrastructure and include MMTC’s Julius Mwale. Mr. Mwale’s Hamptons Hospital, Mall, supermarket, solar power group, and data centers will be part of phase 1 of Akon City.

Another Co-development partner is Senegal’s state tourism agency SAPCO, which will fit the City into the country’s tourism vision. The government of President Macky Sall of Senegal has earmarked Akon City as a special tax zone with tax breaks to be given to the City to encourage investment.

Akon City is located on 2000 acres on the ocean, less than an hour drive South of the new International airport in Dakar.

KE International will build Akon City to be ‘Leader in Energy and Environmental Design’ (LEED)-certified, the second such City in Africa with this certification after MMTC in Kenya.

Akon City will also have parks, universities, schools, a stadium, hotels, and an industrial complex and will be fully completed by 2030.

*Cision PR Web

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Morocco:His Majesty King Mohammed VI Steps Up Big With Donation to 15 African Countries For Covid-19 Fight
June 14, 2020 | 0 Comments

The aid  from His Majesty King Mohammed VI is intended to provide protective medical equipment to support  brotherly African countries in their efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic

Covid-19: Very High Royal Instructions For Sending Medical Aid To Several African Countries

His Majesty King Mohammed VI, May God Assist Him, gave his very high instructions for sending medical aid to several brotherly African countries. The aid is intended to provide protective medical equipment to support the brotherly African countries in their efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.


It is composed of nearly 8 million face masks, 900,000 visors, 600,000 hygiene caps, 60,000 coats, 30,000 liters of hydroalcoholic gel, as well as 75,000 packs of chloroquine and 15,000 packs of Azithromycin.


This aid will benefit 15 African countries, belonging to all the sub-regions of the continent, namely: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Comoros, Congo, Eswatini, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Malawi, Mauritania, Niger, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal, Tanzania, Chad and Zambia.


This solidarity action is part of the implementation of the Initiative launched by His Majesty, The King, May God Assis Him, on April 13, 2020, as a pragmatic and action-oriented approach, intended to the brotherly African countries, enabling the sharing of experiences and good practices and aiming to establish an operational framework in order to support their efforts in the various phases of the pandemic management.


All the protective products and equipment making up the medical aids sent to brotherly African countries are produced in Morocco by Moroccan companies and comply with the World Health Organization’s standards.

*Courtesy of Kingdom of Morocco Foreign Ministry

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African Development Bank COVID-19 response: moving from commitment to action
June 13, 2020 | 0 Comments

AFDB President Akinwunmi Adesina has led a robust response to COVID-19 in Africa
AFDB President Akinwunmi Adesina has led a robust response to COVID-19 in Africa

The African Development Bank has responded swiftly to the needs of its member countries during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The Bank’s operations have continued to run smoothly since the first cases appeared in early March, despite the wide range of lockdowns and measures imposed by governments to flatten the curve.

The COVID-19 pandemic is forecast to cause Africa’s GDP to drop by between $22.1 billion and $88.3 billion.

African countries, with the experience of having fought off Ebola, are working to adapt to this new threat and looking to the Bank for an effective, multilateral response to the crisis.

As of June 12, the Bank’s COVID-19 emergency packages have reached the continent’s five geographic regions.

West Africa

Before the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, West Africa was home to at least four of the continent’s fastest-growing economies, and it has felt the impact of the disease hard, as borders remain closed and economic and social distress deepens.

Gambia, Mali and Niger will benefit from an ECOWAS support package to bolster national health systems in response to the pandemic. Much of the funds to this region will seek to address shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators and other emergency equipment. The support will also enable governments to provide shortfall cash to the millions of people who have been affected by mass layoffs or are unable to work because of lockdowns.

North Africa

The North African region is the worst hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with over 60,000 cases as at 12 June. The disease has already triggered a sharp drop in household incomes in North Africa, as export and tourism earnings suffer. The region will be assisted with a series of emergency operations to boost containment measures and help to ensure the supply and distribution of laboratory tests and reagents. The package will also support national and regional coordination mechanisms.

East Africa

East Africa, the continent’s fastest-growing region economically, has been simultaneously struck by the coronavirus outbreak and an infestation of desert locusts, a double whammy for the region’s farmers and economies.

In a region of climate change and water scarcity, post-harvest losses and poorly developed agricultural markets could threaten the promise of economic reforms and investment.

Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda are the top-performing countries, which have all seen a sharp fall in tourism revenue.

  • Kenya – 188 million euros

Southern Africa

A decisive lockdown has been effective in stemming the spread of COVID-19 in the region’s economic powerhouse, South Africa. The spread of the virus is by no means curtailed. Measures taken across the region to contain the pandemic have affected millions of people, many of whom work in the informal economy.

Assistance to this region comes in the form of preventive and protection measures as well as financial assistance to the vulnerable beyond the end of the epidemic.

Central Africa

In Central Africa, Cameroon has reported over 8,000 cases as at 12 June and significant community transmission.

The package approved for this region, $13.5 million, will target the provision of PPEs, testing kits and healthcare and laboratory facilities, for Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic, which is among the countries with the least number of ventilators on the continent.

Timeline of COVID-19 support:

The Bank’s rollout of emergency response support to assist African countries began in March and has provided a package of financial relief and preparedness and response assistance.

March 27: The Bank raised $3 billion from the Fight COVID-19 Social Bond, the largest dollar-denominated social bond ever launched in international capital markets. Proceeds from the bond, with a three-year maturity, will help alleviate the impact of the pandemic on livelihoods and Africa’s economies.

April 2: The Bank provided $2 million in emergency assistance to the World Health Organisation (WHO) to bolster the capacity of member countries on infection prevention, testing and case management. WHO Africa will also boost surveillance systems, procure and distribute laboratory test kits, and support coordination at national and regional levels.

April 8: The Bank announced a COVID-19 Response Facility that will provide up to $10 billion to African governments and the private sector to tackle the disease and mitigate suffering that results from the economic downturn and job losses.

*AFDB

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Malawi to hold elections on June 23
June 12, 2020 | 0 Comments

By James Mwala

President Mutharika is in the political fight of his life.Photo credit AFP

Malawians will head to the polls for the ordered fresh presidential race on June 23, it has now been confirmed.

This puts to rest months of uncertainty over when the election would take place despite the order for the elections to be held within 150 days from February.

Earlier in the week, parliament approved the resolution to have the elections on June 23 and not the initially slated July 2.

The order for the election followed a subsequent nullification of the 2019 results in which President Peter Mutharika was declared the winner.

Now, Mutharika faces his fierce rival Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party, who is trading under the Tonse Alliance, a coalition which has about nine parties.

The race also sees the return of Peter Kuwani of the Mbakuwaku Movement who also took part in the 2019 polls.

Meanwhile, opposition parliamentarian have shot down a Constitutional Amendment Bill which was meant to have the provision to hold the elections on June 23.

The events come after President Mutharika has now appointed a new electoral commission which has however see the retaining of two commissioners, Linda Kunje and Jean Mathanga.

The commission will now be led by Dr. Chifundo Kachale who replaced Jane Ansah who resigned weeks ago.

The other people in the commission are activist Steve Duwa, Anthony Mukumbwa, Arthur Nathuru and Olivia Liwewe.

The commission has since said it will publish the June 23 day in the gazette as when the polls will be held.

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African Development Bank approves $20 million to contain spread of COVID-19 in G5 Sahel nations
June 11, 2020 | 0 Comments

The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank on 9 June 2020 approved $20 million in grant funding from the African Development Fund, to build capacity to curb and stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad.

The operation will provide funding for the project which will also boost resilience of vulnerable communities, including internally displaced persons, refugees and their host communities, in the countries, also known as the Sahel zone’s Group of 5 (G5).

The Project will support epidemiological surveillance and case management capacity; make available medical products for COVID-19 prevention, control and treatment; ensure the deployment of social protection measures in targeted communities, especially,  internally displaced persons, refugees and their host communities; and strengthen food and nutrition systems. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) will provide operational support for the project.

“This operation will complement  the development and humanitarian actions of the huge partnership of the Sahel Alliance Initiative and will support the most vulnerable,”  said Yero Baldeh, Director, Transitions States Coordination Office.

An additional $1.372 million of grant funding from the Bank’s Transitional Support Facility, will also be deployed in  G5 countries to strengthen the delivery and coordination capacity of the G5 SAHEL Permanent Secretariat and support training on biosecurity and biomedical waste management in the concerned countries.

This extension of grant funding to the G5 Sahel zone countries falls under the framework of the Bank’s COVID-19 response facility of up to $10 billion, which is the institution’s main channel to provide assistance to African countries to cushion the economic and health impacts from the crisis. Recent CRF assistance packages have been directed to a group of Economic Community of West African states as well as to countries in the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa zone and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The region has been hit by COVID-19, if less hard than some other regions of Africa. As of June 6, Niger had recorded 966 cases, Burkina Faso 885, Mali 1,485, Mauritania 883 and Chad 836, for a total of 5,055 cases in the five countries. G5 countries have begun to lift emergency measures that had been put in place to halt and contain the spread of  the disease. The entire continent has seen 175,423 cases and 4,862 fatalities.

*AFDB

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Nigerian elites rise up to the COVID-19 occasion
June 9, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Kole Ade Odutola *

To those who study Nigeria and the elites, frustration is the first indicator you need to learn how to deal with. This is because there is no method to how they choose to intervene in social change. The poor of course are the binary opposite to the tiny minority of highly comfortable elites. It did not take very long to understand that if one wants to study the poor in Nigeria one must constantly pay attention to the activities (or inactions of) the economic elites. These bloc try to stay out of politics but they are king makers who refuse to show their faces in public unlike the political elites. A good case study is when Bill Gates a well known Billionaire the world over encountered Nigeria’s Dangote, he was surprised at the shorter distance to power a Dangote has to those governing the different states in Nigeria. The story has been told too many times to merit a re-telling here again. As it is known Dangote is a brilliant mind but he never pretends to be an intellectual. He can perfectly read the direction of funds globally and his ability to place himself and his conglomerate in the path of good business has never been in doubt.

To those who have been following how Nigerian elites have tried to lead the way in the area of funding and ideas, you will know that Dangote started the COVID Coalition and his friends parted with Billions of Naira. They built make shift hospitals and helped with testing kits. Apart from their collectively efforts, there are also a series of actions they have been embarking upon individually that should go on the records.  

Funding was not all the elites supplied. This brief report intends to single out three Bankers who in the last 20 years have shown the temperament of daring to run where intellectuals without financial muscles feared to crawl. These three men have been running with ideas using the instrumentality of information technology and a captive audience to send their own messages and signals.

(1). Atedo Peterside, Chair of the ANAP foundation and founder of Stanbic IBTC Bank was the first of the trio to hold a webinar (combination of web based seminar) in conjunction with Business Day about what the government can do about containing the novel corona virus. The webinar titled: The National Economic Emergency (Nigeria; the economy, governance and citizenship in the time of COVID-19). Prior to the webinar, he had formed an eighteen-member committee from across the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria and the diaspora (USA & Germany). They are said to be volunteers ‘with decades of expertise in medicine, logistics, e-commerce, economics, finance, law, communications, religious knowledge, academia, mobilization, advocacy, sustainability, governance, accountancy, actuarial science, health management organisations, grant making and international disaster management” There is a lot to be said about his composition. The link up with Business Day, to my mind ensured maximum media exposure of the ideas they were generating.

I am not sure if his association with Stanbic IBTC Bank  was pressed into service in any way but his bank was invisible during the webinar.

The take-away during the very well organized webinar was the reinforcement of the five initial mistakes the government made.

“a. Underestimating the coronavirus threat and having an Ebola mindset.

b. Allowing international flights to come in and not shutting the  country’s airspace on time.

c. Limited testing ability

d. Having a large informal and disorganized society, which makes it difficult to track people.

e. Inability to look after the poor and handicapped in society. Which is estimated at 80million people.”

For further information on the alert the committee created see https://www.thecable.ng/anap-foundation-covid-19-think-tank-presents-coronavirus-alert

(2). If the Bank, Atedo Peterside has interest in was not visible, the same cannot be said of Tony Elumelu of UBA. He pressed into service all the resources of the Bank and ensured that his ideas or person is not upstaged in any way. The Bank has also capitalized on our email registrations to send us occasional emails (just a couple in fact). I guess nothing goes for nothing. During the webinar, his team ensured he was the moderator of the first part of the two part series. Moderation is not a new thing to Tony Elumelu. He did the same last year when Wole Soyinka and Femi Kuti were invited to speak about History in schools. You will give him a pass mark for that but this year around we only got to see his global connection and I as a critical listener did not get much out of that all male segment that included one president (if I am not suffering from memory lapse). If you had to bear the not too coherent segment, the second segment sort of rescued the day. Here Mrs. Euginia Abu, brought in all her years of broadcasting experience to give listeners a robust conversation. There is no need bothering you all with a summary of the segment. I think it is still on Youtube for you to watch.

(3). “A Global Pandemic: Local Realities and Peculiarities- A View from the Frontlines”

The last but never the least is the whiz-kid (or whiz-grand pa) of Banking of the 80s/90s, Hakeem Belo-Osagie (everyone called HBO). How can a brief “what is on my mind” do justice to this man. The good things I heard about him came from an Old Girl of Queens College who needed sponsorship for one of those TV series that took Nigerian Television by storm. HBO himself is one of those well connected Kings men. His friendship with El-Rufai and Mallam Sanusi is not a secret at all.

During his own version of COVID-19 webinar, he brought in three Governors and a fast talking Dr. Alero Robert, who had a lot to same in the very short time she had. There is no repeating the fact that El-Rufai scored very high grades in public speaking while he was at school. You may not agree with this style of governance but he speaks like someone who knows what he is talking about. He presented the situation in his state (Kaduna State) with so much grace. During his presentation he let a few “state secrets” slip out. Now we know that with the permission of National Communication Commission, states can use cell phone data for contact tracing. He presented his case in such a systematic way you almost will think that Kaduna state knows something that other states do not know and they are not asking him.

When it was the turn of Sanwo Olu of Lagos, he let us know as usual that he was taking copious notes. I have known about his idea of taking notes from the time of the debates.

I am saving money to buy those notes off him for my private collection. He gave a good account of how Lagos was tackling the situation. Yes, a lot has been done but the results and the efforts are not tallying for the simple reason that the Governor and his team think Lagos is one. As a geo-political, it may be one on paper but you cannot deal with crisis communication in the same way.

The third governor, from Edo State was not to prepared for the webinar and the IT guys were not helpful at all.

If there was a star of this show, it was HBO himself. I did not expect less from a King’s man. He ended the session with a mini-lecture on leadership. Ha! Lest I forget this webinar was at the instance of a Bank HBO has interest in. The FSDH Merchant Bank based in Lagos, Nigeria while Mr. Belo-Osagie himself is probably based somewhere close to Harvard.

Conclusion: By the time science and systematic management delivers us from the menace of this novel virus, I hope Nigerian will not forget their capitalists who brought out their purses and ideas to help manage the situation. If anyone who is reading this is a friend of Professor Pat Utomi, please let him know I am not unaware of his COVID-19 information coalition, the pity is that there are hardly any digital footprints to help me reflect on his activities. He will not be forgotten when the long list of Nigeria’s COVID-19 freedom fighters is compiled.

I am sure there are non-elites in Badiya, Bodija and other difficult spaces to get to, who are doing wonderful things as well. When this documentation is continued the Daily PTF will be reviewed too. These folks are working hard; I am just not sure they fully understand the diverse nature of Nigeria they are working for. Let us leave matters for now

*(Diary of a Lagos Bobo, June 2 2020) .Kole Odutola is a university teacher based in Gainesville, Florida. He is the author of Diaspora and imagined Nationality (Carolina Academic Press, 2012)

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AFDB: Supporting Adesina for second term in US Interest-Former U.S Exec Dir to the AFDB Mima Nedelcovych
June 8, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

I am fully convinced with the responses provided by Dr Adesina to the accusations of the whistleblowers , says Dr Mima Nedelcovych  Former U.S. Exec Dir to the AFDB.
I am fully convinced with the responses provided by Dr Adesina to the accusations of the whistleblowers , says Dr Mima Nedelcovych Former U.S. Exec Dir to the AFDB.

Unless the US government  is holding some secret that the American public is not aware of, I see absolutely no reason why it should  not wholeheartedly support the re-election of President Akinwumi Adesina for a second term at the   helm of the African Development Bank, says Dr Mima Nedelcovych  Former U.S. Exec Dir to the AFDB.

In an exclusive interview with Pan African Visions, Dr Nedelcovych says “If competing with the Chinese in Africa is primordial to the US, then supporting the position of our African fellow shareholders in the AFDB and supporting President Adesina is in our own interests.”

Adesina has established the framework for furthering the critically important role that the AfDB is playing in the development and inclusive growth of the continent, says Dr Nedelcovych. With his vision and execution of the “High 5s” for Africa, Dr Adesina has contributed tremendously to the development of the continent, and President Obasanjo and other former African Presidents have every reason to come out in public support of the champion that the current AFDB President is, Dr Nedelcovych says.

On the whistleblower allegations that triggered the current tensions between AFDB partners, Dr Mima Nedelcovych says the internal inquiry did its job fully in line with statutory guidelines. “ For me, those accusations that were made public and investigated by the Ethics Committee, have been responded to in great detail by President Adesina to my full satisfaction,” says Dr Nedelcovych

Dr Adesina  and the AfDB have stepped up  when most needed for an African institution to lead the way in the responses to the Covid-19 pandemic ,says Dr Nedelcovych who also shares his take on expectations for a second Adesina term, and  how U.S -African relations have fared under the first term of President Donald Trump.

Dr Mima Nedelcovych served as the 1989 to 1993 as the U.S. Executive Director to the African Development Bank (AfDB) may we start this interview with some historical context on the relationship between the USA and the African Development Bank?

The US is the largest non-regional shareholder of the AfDB, and one of the major contributors to the African Development Fund, the concessional window.  The AfDB has always had strong support from the US and that continues to be the case.

What was your working relationship like with the AFDB leadership at the time, what are some of the pleasant and less pleasant experiences or souvenirs that come to mind?

The pleasant experiences were seeing the AfDB take up its role as the major development institution on the continent under the visionary guidance of then President, the late Babacar Ndiaye.  It was during the time I sat on the Board that the Private Sector Department was officially set up (previously the bank did not make non-sovereign loans) the African Export Import Bank was established, the African Business Roundtable was formed, and generally speaking the realization that the private sector was going to be the engine of growth was finally accepted.  On the unpleasant side are memories of certain African countries falling in arrears to the very bank they should have been championing while keeping current on other MDB engagements.

In a recent letter, USA Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin expressed misgivings about the outcome of an internal inquiry that cleared AFDB President Akinwumi Adesina of any wrong doing and called for the appointment of an outside investigator, what did you make of the letter and the US position?

The US Governor, as does every shareholder, has the right to question management’s application of policies and guidelines as established by the shareholders themselves.  Upon receiving the letter from the US Governor, the Ivoirian Governor, as the Chair of the Governing Board this year, in my mind did the exactly right thing.  She took into consideration the supposition made by the US Treasury Secretary, reviewed it in the light of the formal procedures and guidelines, and concluded that the policies were followed and that the Ethics Committee cleared the President beyond any doubt. 

Furthermore, she has asked that the whole whistleblowers statute be formally reviewed, so that it may remain effective, but not become abusive to the proper conduct of the bank.  She has asked that an external well-respected individual be recruited to provide an outside unbiased perspective within the next six weeks, so that this matter is cleared up and does not smear the Annual Meetings and the election of the President.  The full review of the whistleblower statues and its applications will take a longer period and should not impede the normal functioning of the bank.  It is at this point that the shareholders should come to agreement as how to treat similar accusations in the future, balancing the need for such a statute for proper governance with the assurances that serious charges can be properly documented and not be issued lightly or frivolously.

President Adesina, in his vision and execution of the “High 5s” for Africa, has contributed an awful lot to the development of the African continent, says Dr Nedelcovych

Beyond your stint at the Bank, we know you continue to monitor developments closely, have frictions of this nature or such stark contrast in positions been common between the USA and the AFDB?

Frictions are always to be found in international organizations; it is the nature of the beast as every shareholder has the right to their own opinion.  Having said that, I must admit that this “disagreement” is the starkest of any I have seen in the past between the US and the AfDB.

What were your impressions after reading the whistleblower report, were you convinced with the responses from Dr Adesina and do you think the internal inquiry did its job in line with statutory provisions that guide the resolutions of incidents of that nature at the AFDB?

I have known President Adesina for quite some time, including in his previous positions as Minister of Agriculture in Nigeria and at the Rockefeller Foundation, and I am fully convinced with the responses provided by him to the accusations of the whistleblowers.  And yes, the internal inquiry did its job fully in line with the statutory guidelines.  If there is something that the USG or other shareholders know and/or that the whistleblowers know, then that should be presented to the external individual that will be appointed to conduct the review.  For me, those accusations that were made public and investigated by the Ethics Committee, have been responded to in great detail by President Adesina to my full satisfaction.

Considering that Dr Adesina was literally endorsed by all African countries and was on course to get a second term since there was no challenger, some see in the U.S position a form of opposition to Dr Adesina, what information are  you getting from your networks, does the US have an issue with a second term for Dr Adesina?

That question is better posed to representatives of the USG.  I have been out of government for over 25 years now and happily since in the private sector, where the African continent is finally and truly becoming a very promising market for investors.

What do you make of reactions from people like former President Obasanjo, the Nigerian Minister of Finance and others who have come out forcefully to speak in support of Adesina?

President Adesina, in his vision and execution of the “High 5s” for Africa, has contributed an awful lot to the development of the African continent.  He and the AfDB have stepped up also when most needed for an African institution to lead the way in the responses to the Covid-19 pandemic.  So, President Obasanjo and the large number of former African Presidents that came out in support of President Adesina have every reason and right to come forward and publicly support their champion.

In a recent open letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Ambassador Harold E. Doley, Jr, the first ever U.S Representative to the AFDB called on the US to support Adesina, may we have your views on the letter, and do you share his call for the US to back Adesina?

I am in total alignment with my good friend Harold Doley, Jr’s accolades for all that President Adesina has achieved to date, and I would add that Adesina has established the framework for furthering the critically important role that the AfDB is playing in the development and inclusive growth of the continent.  As for the US backing Adesina, unless the USG is holding some secret that the American public is not aware of, I see absolutely no reason for the US to not wholeheartedly support the re-election of President Adesina.

What is your assessment of the way Dr Adesina has managed the AFDB in his first term, in what areas have you seen progress and what would you like to see from him in a second term?

President Adesina came in with a very big vision and mission embodied in the High 5s that I very much supported from day 1.  This was and is the necessary vision to bring the African continent into the mainstream of the world economy.  The basic tenets of the high 5s that I certainly experience every day as a business person in Africa, those being that farming is a business and a growth sector, that without power you cannot industrialize, that without industry you cannot create inclusive growth and wealth, that without integration you cannot scale and be competitive, and that without those 4 you cannot achieve the 5th of improving the quality of life of Africa’s people are at the core of that mission.

Big visions take time to implement and are often not easy to execute.  They required structural changes in the body of the bank, which included both the reorganization and the strengthening of the professional cadre and morale in the bank.  As an outside observer, champion and client of the bank, I see these changes taking root and the results beginning to give fruit.  What I would like to see in his second term is to give him and the AfDB the time to ripen those fruits to full fruition and in consonance with the fruition I see of the African continent as a whole in today’s world economy.

To Mima Nedelcovych ,If competing with the Chinese in Africa is primordial to the US, then supporting the position of its African fellow shareholders in the African Development Bank and supporting President Adesina is critical .

When we last interviewed you in December 2016, you opined that the Trump Administration will discover the reality of good deals in a rapidly changing Africa, what changes have you seen in US-African relations in the first term of President Trump?

The best thing that has happened is the passing of the US Build Act that has created the US Development Finance Corporation with all it new tools and authorities that could make it a major player on the continent.  Furthermore, the Prosper Africa Initiative that recognized that prosperity is a two-way street, is good for American business as it is good for African business and the uplifting of the African population.  The reauthorization of the US EXIM Bank is another very important element.  Taken as a whole, and especially as evidenced by the goal of having “Deal Teams” at each US Embassy, coordinating all the arms and tools of the USG, will be a big boon for US businesses entering or already operating in Africa.

What do you make of the fact that President Trump has not visited Africa in his first term, does this not send the wrong message to the kind of US-African relations that people like you and many others have been advocating for?

As an American doing business in Africa, whether President Trump visits Africa or not is of no particular concern to me.  What is of concern is to get the full-blown support of the USG through the Deal Teams and that those teams and the vision of that support is effectively executed.  And that is why all those new instruments are important.

A very astute African business colleague once remarked that the African business train is leaving the station.  The Chinese have clearly gotten on board, now it is up to Americans to decide whether to board and participate in that economic growth or not. I would add that simply bashing the Chinese is not the answer, the answer for our mutual benefit is providing our African colleagues an alternative option, a solution to their problems and turning them into opportunities.

We end with a last word from you on how you see this standoff between the U.S and the AFDB eventually playing out and if you do not mind a word on your company Africa Global Partners as well.

The way I look at it, the African Development Bank is the continent’s most prominent and influential multilateral player and is one of the few such institutions that the US has a commanding say over the Chinese.  If competing with the Chinese in Africa is primordial to the US, then supporting the position of our African fellow shareholders in the African Development Bank and supporting President Adesina is in our own interests.

Two years ago, I turned over my mantle as President of the Initiative for Global Development, and returned to Chairing the two companies I have been associated with since departing the AfDB in 1993, AfricaGlobal Partners in DC and Schaffer International in Louisiana.  We are both advisers and developers of projects, and our sweet spot is the nexus of agro-industry, clean energy and infrastructure.  I also proudly sit on the Boards of the US owned Vista Bank Group (focused on SME lending) in West Africa, Fayus International, a Sacramento, CA based food processor and distributor operating throughout Africa, and the Niger Delta Partnership Initiative in Nigeria.

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