How African innovation can take on the world
August 7, 2013 | 0 Comments
By Calestous Juma*
In this period of gloomy economic forecasts, Africa’s rise has become a widely discussed international policy topic. The sweeping optimism about Africa’s economic prospects has been reinforced by 2013 projections that the continent will grow faster than the world average.
Africa’s ability to sustain its current growth will depend largely on how quickly it will be able to shift from reliance on traditional commodity markets to modern economic structures that focus on technology-driven development. The focus on innovation is emerging as a key theme in the Africa Union’s long-term strategy, Agenda 2063.
The African Union appointed a high-level panel on science, technology and innovation to provide proposals on how the continent can leverage the world’s fund of technological knowledge for economic transformation. The paper is chaired by myself and Professor Ismail Serageldin, director of the Library of Alexandria in Egypt.
Building on emerging trends across the continent, the panel’s draft report, “On the Wings of Innovation: Africa 2024,” makes key recommendations related to harnessing emerging technologies, constructing basic infrastructure, investing in higher technical training, and promoting entrepreneurship.
As a latecomer Africa has the benefit of tapping into vast quantities of technological knowledge available worldwide. The continent’s leapfrogging into the mobile revolution illustrated the power of latecomer advantages. Africa is now the origin of new industries such as mobile money transfer. The mobile revolution is still in its infancy and is already being extended to other sectors such as health, education and agriculture.
Another important area that promises to transform Africa isagricultural biotechnology. To date, only four African countries (South Africa, Burkina Faso, Egypt and Sudan) have adopted transgenic crops. African scientists in additional countries such as Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana are at the forefront of leveraging biotechnology to address local agricultural challenges. They are focusing on problems such as pests, disease, drought and low nutritional content of staple crops.
In addition to technical work, policy makers across the continent are starting to review the laws that govern the same development of biotechnology to create freedom to innovate. This is akin to past efforts to liberalize the telecommunications market to create space for the entry of mobile phones.
Biotechnology is already a multi-billion dollar industry and the associated technical knowledge can be adapted to other sectors, such as health, industry and environment management. The experience gained in adopting mobile technologies and biotechnology will make it easier for Africa to move into other fields, such as nanotechnology and new materials. The debate over biotechnology is therefore a strategic battle to position Africa as a global player in the field of new technologies.
The draft report focuses on the urgent need to invest in basic infrastructure, such as energy, transportation, irrigation and telecommunications. The World Bank has estimated that the continent will need to invest nearly $93 billion a year in the next decade to meet its infrastructure targets.
African countries are already starting to respond to the challenge. For example, last year South Africa allocated $97 billion to infrastructure projects over the next three years. This magnitude of investment will require considerable creativity that will involve the participation of sectors such as the military. In addition, it offers a new opportunity for building up the much-needed capacity in engineering by creating new research and technical training institutes to support national infrastructure backbones.
“On the Wings of Innovation” pays particular attention to the importance of technical training of the youth and recommends the creation of a new generation of universities that combine research, teaching and product commercialization. There is a prototype for universities: The Nelson Mandela Institute of African Science and Technology in Arusha, Tanzania. The institute is located in the Ministry of Telecommunications, Science and Technology.
Africa’s technology-based line ministries have a wide range of research and technical institutes that can be upgraded to create a new family of universities that promote innovation for economic development. Their success will also inspire traditional universities to adjust their missions, syllabi and teaching methods to become more relevant to the challenge of human improvement.
Finally, the report stresses Africa’s need to foster technology-based business incubation. There are two areas that require attention. The first is supporting start-ups. There are good examples of this across Africa, which include initiatives such as iHub in Nairobi and InnovateLagos in Nigeria. The next frontier of policy focus should be scaling up new businesses.
Flying on the wings of innovation will require long-term vision, policy focus and change-management capacity among African leaders at the continental, national and sub-national levels. Much of the practical action will occur in sub-national regions such as cities, provinces and counties. It will demand smarter governance styles that are supported by evidence rather than political rhetoric.
Creating technology-driven economies will demand greater investment in smart government than is required in the age of extractive industries. Countries that fail to upgrade their governance systems to reflect the competitive challenges of modern global markets will fall by the wayside.
* Source CNN.Calestous Juma is professor of the Practice of International Development and faculty chair of Innovation for Economic Development Program at Harvard Kennedy School. He co-chairs the African Union’s High-Level Panel on Science, Technology and Innovation, and is author of The New Harvest: Agricultural Innovation in Africa. Twitter @calestous
Burkina Faso: With or Without Compaoré, Times of Uncertainty
July 27, 2013 | 0 Comments
For the first time since 1987, succession is being openly discussed in Burkina Faso. Under the current constitution, President Blaise Compaoré, in power for more than a quarter century, is not allowed to contest the presidency in 2015. Any attempt to amend the constitution for a fifth-term bid could provoke a repeat of the 2011 popular uprisings. However, even if Compaoré abides by the constitution and leaves power in 2015, his succession may still prove challenging as he has dominated the political scene for decades, placing severe restrictions on political space. International partners must encourage him to uphold the constitution and prepare for a smooth, democratic transition.
Preserving Burkina Faso’s stability is all the more important given that the country is located at the centre of an increasingly troubled region, with the political and military crisis in neighbouring Mali possibly spilling over into Niger, another border country. Burkina Faso has been spared similar upheaval so far thanks to its internal stability and robust security apparatus, but deterioration of the political climate in the run-up to 2015 could make the country more vulnerable. A presidential election is also due in 2015 in Côte d’Ivoire, a country with which Burkina Faso has very close ties. This special relationship and the presence of a significant Burkinabe community in the country mean that a political crisis in Ouagadougou could have a negative impact on a still fragile Côte d’Ivoire.
Burkina Faso also holds significant diplomatic influence in West Africa. Over the past two decades under Blaise Compaoré’s rule, the country has become a key player in the resolution of regional crises. The president and his men have succeeded, with much ingenuity, in positioning themselves as indispensable mediators or as “watchdogs” helping Western countries monitor the security situation in the Sahel and the Sahara. A crisis in Burkina Faso would not only mean the loss of a key ally and a strategic base for France and the U.S., it would also reduce the capacity of an African country in dealing with regional conflicts. The collapse of the Burkinabe diplomatic apparatus would also mean the loss of an important reference point for West Africa that, despite limitations, has played an essential role as a regulatory authority.
There is real risk of socio-political crisis in Burkina Faso. Since coming to power in 1987, Blaise Compaoré has put in place a semi-authoritarian regime, combining democratisation with repression, to ensure political stability – something his predecessors have never achieved. This complex, flawed system is unlikely to be sustained, however. It revolves around one man who has dominated political life for over two decades and has left little room for a smooth transition. In fact, there are few alternatives for democratic succession. The opposition is divided and lacks financial capacity and charismatic, experienced leaders; and none of the key figures in the ruling party has emerged as a credible successor. If Compaoré fails to manage his departure effectively, the country could face political upheaval similar to that which rocked Côte d’Ivoire in the 1990s following the death of Félix Houphouët-Boigny.
Another threat to Burkina Faso’s stability is social explosion. The society has modernised faster than the political system, and urbanisation and globalisation have created high expectations for change from an increasingly young population. Despite strong economic growth, inequalities are widespread and the country is one of the poorest in the world. Repeated promises of change have never been fulfilled, and this has led to broken relations between the state and its citizens as well as a loss of authority at all levels of the administration. Public distrust sparked violent protests in the first half of 2011 that involved various segments of the society, including rank-and-file soldiers in several cities.
For the first time, the army appeared divided between the elites and the rank and file, and somewhat hostile to the president, who has sought to control the defence and security apparatus from which he had emerged. The crisis was only partially resolved, and local conflicts over land, traditional leadership and workers’ rights increased in 2012. Such tensions are especially worrying given the country’s history of social struggle and revolutionary tendencies since the 1983 Marxist-inspired revolution.
Blaise Compaoré’s long reign is showing the usual signs of erosion that characterises semi-autocratic rule. Several key figures of his regime have retired, including the mayor of Ouagadougou, Simon Compaoré – not a relative of the president – who managed the country’s capital for seventeen years; and billionaire Oumarou Kanazoé, who until his death was a moderate voice among the Muslim community. In addition, the death of Libya’s Muammar Qadhafi, a major financial partner, was a blow to Compaoré’s regime.
President Compaoré has responded to these challenges with reforms that have not met popular expectations and have only scratched the surface. Further, he has remained silent on whether he will actually leave office in 2015. He has concentrated power, in the country and within his Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP) party, in the hands of a small circle of very close allies and family members, including his younger brother François Compaoré, who was elected to parliament for the first time on 2 December 2012. The president’s silence and his brother’s political ascent continue to fuel uncertainty.
President Compaoré has less than three years left to prepare his departure and prevent a succession battle or a new popular uprising.
He is the only actor capable of facilitating a smooth transition. By upholding the constitution and resisting the temptation of dynastic succession, he could preserve stability, the main accomplishment of his long rule. Any other scenario would pave the way for a troubled future. Similarly, the opposition and civil society organisations should act responsibly and work to create conditions for a democratic process that would preserve peace and stability. International partners, in particular Western allies, should no longer focus exclusively on Compaoré’s mediation role and the monitoring of security risks in West Africa; they should also pay close attention to domestic politics and the promotion of democracy in Burkina Faso.
Dakar/Brussels, 22 July 2013
*Source International Crisis Group
Cameroon:Unpredictable President and Weak Institutions Call For Concern
July 21, 2013 | 5 Comments
-Prof T.Asonganyi on the Twin Elections and the Political Climate in Cameroon
By Ajong Mbapndah L
He may be out of partisan politics but Prof Tazoacha Asonganyi remains one of the most articulate voices of reason in Cameroon. The former Secretary General of the Social Democratic Front-SDF has continued to offer insightful reading into political developments with luminary proposals on alternative paths to the change that has eluded Cameroonians for decades. As the country is caught in the frenzy of another ill prepared elections with predictable results, Prof Asonganyi opines that though the opposition has lost so much credibility, the elections are a choice between bad and worse and if the electoral system had a modicum of credibility, Cameroonians will prefer the opposition which is bad to the regime that has fared worse. With the unpredictability of President Biya’s mind and the weakness of Institutions to withstand any unforeseen shocks, there is every reason to be nervous says Prof Asonganyi.
Prof Asonganyi, President Biya recently announced Legislative and Municipal elections on June 30 to be held on September 30 and the decision seems to have taken people both in the ruling party and the opposition by surprise, why so considering that mandate of the present officials had long expired?
Yes, the mandate of Parliament and Councils had since expired. You know the twin Legislative and municipal elections that brought in the outgoing parliamentarians and councilors was held on July 22, 2007. Their 5-year mandate was supposed to expire in 2012, but it was extended twice to have them stay beyond the mandate up to mid 2013. Law No. 91/20 0f 16 December 1991 to lay down conditions governing the election of Members of Parliament, provided that a substantive candidate and the alternate would both pay a caution of 50.000 FCFA into the state treasury for their candidature. Law No. 2006-9 of 29 December 2006 modifies this amount to 500.000 FCFA. Parliament amended this to 3.000.000 FCFA in the bill of the Electoral Code that was debated and voted in March 2012 but I think before the bill was signed into law, it was modified to 1.000.000 FCFA (for candidate and alternate together). In general, it is usually the substantive candidate that coughed out this amount. The opposition and the grassroots of the CPDM have been complaining that this amount was too high. Therefore, people were caught unprepared to cough out this huge sum. I think it was more a feeling of financial unpreparedness than surprise.
Elections over the years have suffered from persistent flaws, with the computerization of voters’ registration any remote prospects of fairness and transparency in the September 30th elections?
You know the biometric system of registration of voters which was instituted is good but it is very delicate. It is only as good as you want it to be. The standard approach for setting up a credible electoral roll using the biometric system is that the first phase of general registration of voters in the field provides what would be called a “raw” – preliminary – list of voters. Following the first phase, the “raw” list is published in the various areas for verification and corrections. This second phase provides a “raw” corrected electoral roll. The “raw corrected” roll is then screened centrally with multi-biometric identification technology containing a matching server to automatically detect and delete multiple registration to clean up the register. It is this cleaned up register that constitutes a national electoral register that can be used for free, fair and credible elections. Indeed, it is this last phase that should tell us how many eligible voters have been actually registered by ELECAM using the biometric voter registration system. Unfortunately, the ELECAM chair is still talking about the 5.5 million voters that were registered in the raw, preliminary list of voters. This means that there has been no screening to remove double and multiple names entered in the roll. It is known that some people registered at their places of residence, and then went to their villages and registered again; or some people registered in their places of residence more than once.
The general expectation was that some 8 to 9 million voters would be registered. Since ELECAM could come up with a figure of only 5.5 million they must be shy of carrying out an editing process that would reduce the numbers even further. So it is now clear that ELECAM did not edit the raw list. The ELECAM chair is telling the press that “there are spelling errors in some card…..but these will not debar anyone from voting…” This is also an indication that the raw register was never sent to the field for corrections.
I kept reminding ELECAM during the registration phase that those with entrenched interests – the spoilers who made nonsense of past electoral registers: political thugs-cum-bandits-cum-party bigwigs – were still active in the field to re-enact their fraud exploits. They obviously succeeded. Therefore I do not think that as far as the electoral roll is concerned, much has changed: there are still multiple entries for some voters.
There are reports that only about five million voters were registered, and should the distribution of voters cards be mired with the deliberate cacophony we know, it means the number which actually votes may even be lower, what kind of legitimacy will those “elected” have?
Yes, as we have just said, there were some 5.5 million names in the raw list brought from the field. The standard practice for biometric registration is that a voter is issued a voter’s card upon registration. Since the raw list is usually edited as we have indicated above, those who registered more than once would not find their names in the final electoral roll; the cards they carry would therefore not permit them to vote. The responsibility for not voting would be theirs since they committed the crime of registering more than once. In the situation as it is now, unfortunately the receipts that were issued when people were registered did not show their polling stations where they will cast their votes; where they would have gone and collected their cards on polling day, if they did not find it now. So the distribution process will still be mired with the cacophony that has mired past processes. Those that win will enjoy only the type of legitimacy that others in the past enjoyed.
Looking at the bigger picture, just like the Senatorial elections, some analysts see the September 30th elections in the context of a post Biya era with the decision of the CPDM leader to shun primaries a sign that he wants to maintain absolute control in the transition process, what is your reading of the political situation?
Yes. The CPDM seems to prefer people they know – incumbents that actively supported the amendment of Article 6 (2) which provided that the president shall be elected for a term of office of 7 years; he shall be eligible for re-election once. The amendment allowed Paul Biya to stay beyond two seven-year terms. Those people who helped him to obtain the amendment need to be maintained as compensation for such positive contribution to the regime, without any consideration for any other candidate sent forward by the grassroots. If the incumbents succeed to send a list to the Central Committee, however they come by it, they are assured of being selected over more popular candidates from the grassroots. These people the regime knows better are the preferred persons to have around during this end-of-reign period.
I wonder what criteria was used, but there is disenchantment from people on the way the parliamentary seats were distributed across the country, it is curious to see that it is CPDM militants like Ateba Eyene voicing out frustration at the arbitrary distribution of seats and not the opposition what is going on?
Well, Ateba Yene is a different kind of CPDM militant. You know the last population census in Cameroon was in 2005 but the results were only published in 2010, after some five years of manipulation of the figures. Indeed, the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks recently provided evidence that such manipulation took place to inflate population figures in places that support Paul Biya, or places that Paul Biya can easily manipulate and control. It is such manipulated figures that guided his creation of “special” constituencies in preparation for the September 30 twin elections. There is no reason why Tiko and Muyuka together should have one seat while there are two seats in Buea. There is no reason why a place like Lebialem, expected to have at least two seats should have only one while small areas in the South and other regions have multiple seats. The population distribution per seat in the country varies considerably, from an average per region of some 70.000/seat to over 100.000/seat. Incumbents usually gerrymander for personal political reasons; however, it is usually not as fragrant as the one we are witnessing in Cameroon. As for the opposition speaking up, the opposition has changed a lot over the last few years. It is usually said that those who have food in their mouths do not speak.
Looking at the opposition the way it is at the moment, can it win if the elections were free and fair, we wish the CPDM and its leader could take the risk and for once try free and fair elections, will the opposition fare any better in such a scenario today?
You know the overwhelming majority of Cameroonians would like to have a regime change in Cameroon. The present regime has lasted too long, and has very little to show for its longevity. So, most Cameroonians would vote against it if they had the opportunity to do so. The opposition has lost a lot of credibility but it is a choice between the bad and the worst. The devil we know is so bad that most Cameroonians will prefer the devil they do not know. So, yes, the opposition will fare better in such a scenario.
Is there anything that the opposition can do to register better results; one understands the level of mistrust but may mergers, zoning, or rallying behind specific parties based on strength in particular areas?
No, all that is impossible. It can occur in limited areas where a party’s list is rejected or the party did not have a list and therefore decided to support another opposition party. Otherwise, the parties have become like a source of self-enrichment for the leaders and they would hardly let their source of enrichment go! They want to remain the alpha and omega of their parties so mergers, zoning, rallying behind other parties is out! The reason why the parties have failed to field a single candidate to face Paul Biya since the experience of 1992 is because the parties have become a wealth-generating machine for the leaders.
One of the things that stood out during the Senatorial circus was President Biya’s obsession with older folks; a CPDM cadre blamed this on the inability of the younger generation to make use of their numerical strength, what is your advice to them and to others across Cameroon who will vote on Sept 30?
The youth want to have a say through primaries but they are refused that option. The youths usually want to see their decisions through from start to finish. When they are excluded from the start, they are demobilized. There was a national youth forum that was formed, that we all thought would become a voice for the youths, but it looks like the whole idea was hijacked by politicians and it fell apart. Otherwise, that is the type of structure that the youth can use to flex their muscles. It is from such structures that they can articulate the politics of youths across parties, and mobilize to make their voice heard at elections. Without such collective mobilization with clear aims and objectives, I doubt that there is much that one can advise the youth to do on September 30 that can have any serious impact.
Sometimes people think the generational shift that is needed pertains only to the CPDM and the ruling elite, should it not also be the case within the ranks of the opposition parties especially the leading ones like the SDF,CDU,UNDP ,etc?
Of course it is a problem across all parties. The parties are structures that serve the personal interests of the entrenched leadership of each party. That is why the same faces are still there since 1990, tending what has slowly become their source of nourishment. To succeed, the generational shift may pass through the creation of different centres of power, rather than depending on what individuals consider as their “thing.” This requires mobilization by people of vision that put general interest first. Such people definitely exist in the country, and need to rise to the challenge.
Last question Prof, as the country moves forward, what should make us nervous and what should make us hopeful?
What makes us nervous is that we do not know what is in Paul Biya’s mind, and the institutions we have are too weak to resist any unforeseen shocks. So we are nervous about what the future holds for us as far as Cameroon-after-Biya (or Cameroon-without-Biya) is concerned. What should make us hopeful? I think the fact that Cameroon has continued to stand on its feet in spite of the several errors of commission and omission, the several misdeeds of the present regime, over a period of over 30 year…
Thanks very much for granting this interview.
It has been a great pleasure. Thank you very much too.
Game Changing Mission? African Americans Could Invest $230 Billion In Africa By 2017
July 12, 2013 | 30 Comments
-Jerome Almon shares his vision of getting African-Americans to Bank on Africa
By Ajong Mbapndah L
U.S Businessman Jerome Almon says it is time for African-Americans to bank more on Africa and matching words with actions, he is launching a venture that will attract hundreds of billions of new investments in the continent. Almon, a veteran who also runs a successful entertainment company says investing in the continent will create wealth and opportunities for Africans and will also be economically beneficial to Africans in the U.S. Countries like India and China have made great progress in part because of strong ties and it is time for African Americans to have the same level of engagement with Africa said Almon in an interview to discuss his initiative with Ajong Mbapndah L
Mr Almon, you have been in the news recently with an ambitious plan to get African Americans invest about $230 billion by 2017, can you break down the vision in very simple terms for us?
It is a simple plan that ask a simple question, “Why should we have to ask others for help when we can help ourselves as Africans. African Americans spend well over a trillion dollars annually, and it does us no good, however investing in Africa through tourism, business ventures, and so on makes Africa financially independent while increasing the wealth and opportunities of Africans on the Continent and in America and it creates a cycle of economic growth for every country and its people in Africa and it makes all Africans everywhere more financially wealthy. It’s just common sense that we do it. We have complete power and control to do as we want with our money and resources-let’s do what’s best for us.
How did you conceive the idea and from the initial reactions you have got, how receptive is the public to your vision?
I looked around and saw nothing but opportunity for the African diaspora to help-especially African Americans with the huge amount of hard currency we spend every year and said to myself it’s time for us to do our share. Africans in every other region of the world were and are doing more than their share. Bottom line it works. The reaction to the plan at first was shock, but when the information was reviewed the people saw how reasonable and workable the plan was and really liked it. The amount of money is less than 8% of African American’s consumer spending. We were once on top of the world economically from Zimbabwe to Timbuktu to Egypt, let’s get back where we belong.
Definitely much could change in Africa with that kind of money, how do you think the money can be raised especially with the economic challenges that many African Americans are facing now?
It is very important that Africans in America not accept whatever they hear in the corporate media. African Americans are constantly told they are poor even though we spend more money than the GDP of all the countries on Earth with the exception of 15 (out of 229 ranked). We are as poor as Bill Gates is-which is not at all. If we spent our money among ourselves as Africans the way the Chinese, Europeans, and Indians, we would create more jobs than there are Africans in America. Equally we are not experiencing an economic downturn in the African American community, we are experiencing the lack of basic economic literacy and the lack of maximizing our potential in this area. For example, my hometown Detroit is bankrupt, but it is not bankrupt due to the lack of money as my website www.detroit1st.com shows. Africans in Detroit spend $30 billion a year, which would make Detroiter’s wealthier than over half the countries on Earth. If you convince someone that they are poor, they will behave as if they are poor. That is why the economic relationship with Africa is so important, think of what would happen if we as Africans followed such a common sense system with all of Africa’s natural resources?! The huge population of young people that can be the next innovators that produce the next Apple or Google, the large amount mineral wealth and natural resources that Africa has puts us as a people in a unique position. It is a matter of just seeing what is right in front of our eyes. The money is there, that cannot be disputed, it is a matter of consolidating it for African advancement. Through a basic media education program with 10 simple facts will allow us all to have a blue print to work from. The biggest issue is not that people don’t have the money and don’t want to help, they don’t know how to help and where to send the money. African Americans give away $12 billion annually to charities that don’t help Africans-American or otherwise. I say let’s spend and invest that $12 billion amongst Africa and Africans. Once you get the truth it compels you to act, it is impossible not to. Look at the fact that Africans from the Continent send more money back to Africa than all the foreign aid combined! There is endless potential if the North American, Caribbean, European, Australian, and South American Africans join in. Actually, it is normal for a society to invest 10% of its GDP into the economy, so we can do it-it happens every day. Any economic distress African Americans have is caused by our lack of doing business with Africans and Africa period. If Africans in America invested in Africa, there would be no poor African Americans-economically this is indisputable.
We have seen a few celebrities with projects in Africa like Oprah Winfrey and a school in South Africa, Isaiah Washington with a foundation in Sierra Leone etc, but many will agree there is still a strong disconnect between African Americans and Africa, why is it that the bonds are not as strong as those between Indian Americans and India or Latinos and South America?
The answer to that question is simple-we haven’t tried. A simple PR and marketing campaign from the African Union and its 54 members directed to African Americans saying “come back home-see what we can do as a people for ourselves, let’s talk, let’s do some things that benefit us all. African Americans should initiate a similar program of gaining membership in the African Union, adopting an African country to visit and work with, and most importantly right now reaching out to the 54 African embassies in America and finding out what Africa needs from us. We will find out that we can do so much together- we have to think big not small. African Americans should also learn an African language, this is a bond that the Chinese, Indians, and Latinos have-a common language. It is natural that we do this, so let’s do it. Our fate in America is the same as Africans everywhere else. It’s a matter of leadership, we need new leadership to compliment current leadership and move Africa and Africans to the next level.
We understand this idea is new, so what is the road map, the plan of action, beyond the first step to get word out there when do we see the first concrete steps towards the realization of the vision?
We must control our own message, currently most news on Africa is filtered through the non African media. We have enough money and the human talent to have an African Al Jazeera with branches in Africa and America. This also allows us to educate and end misconceptions we have of Africa and other Africans, which also provides great business opportunities in advertising and business ownership globally. Next we need to set time tables and specific goals in regards to the funds and projects. This can be easily done with a diaspora conference in Africa and in America and making maximum use of the internet and social media. The most important thing in this area is SHOW the people what great results come from the cooperation. We need to set a top 10 list of priorities such as education, economic literacy, infrastructure projects, GDP goals, and so on. We have to look at this as a grand project with grand results which requires a grand executable plan. These simple steps are 90% of the solution. African Americans are spending the money anyway, why not in Africa, why not on African goods and services? We can all be wealthy together or poor together, I say let’s be wealthy as a people. Let’s help fund projects such as The Great Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia. The dam cost around $5 billion dollars
Are there partners you have identified besides African Americans especially in the continent?
I have been contacted by the office of the President of Sierra Leone, the South African government, African Canadian groups, Ugandan, Kenyan, the office of the President of Rwanda through a journalist in East Africa, the government of Tanzania, Nigerian, Angolan, and Namibian businessmen and dozens of other Africans from as far away as Hong Kong. The key is working with the leadership and people in Africa to partner them with Africans in the West and getting lines of communication open and resources to the needed area as efficiently as possible.
As much as things are changing in the continent, there are still leaders in power for over thirty years and counting, corruption is still too rife for comfort and there are countries where democratic values are not respected, how can such realities affect your project?
Democracy is a powerful thing-it automatically changes a lot of things. And one of things it does is create a middle class by its very nature, and that ends the chance of such prolonged rule. At a certain stage in development it is not viable, nor acceptable. Presidents and Prime Ministers come and go, but the country and the people still need power plants, roads, bridges, and technology. The concentration has to be on improving the average African’s life, and the rest will take care of itself. The West, China, India all faced the same issue and concentrated on the economic and infrastructure issues at hand and the democracy came along with the progress in these areas. All of my research and experience in this area shows that poverty creates dictators, and prosperity creates transparency and freedom.
Personally are there any countries that you have visited or some you consider as the kind of models of development and progress you will like to see across the continent?
Ironically, it is Germany, Canada, and China. Germany is a very efficient country. It was the world’s largest exporter up until 5 years ago. When you consider that the country has less than a third of the population of the US and 7% of China’s population, it is amazing. I always saw this as a model for Africa-especially South Africa. With Canada you have nearly as much efficiency and you have a very modern country in terms of infrastructure and human rights. Also with Canada you have a country the size of the US with 1 tenth of the population, which is very similar to most African countries. Canada is also a great model to borrow from in terms of its modern infrastructure and facilities such as hospitals. The country also mirrors African American economically, with our consumer spending being almost identical to Canada’s GDP. This allows for us to see what we SHOULD have with the amount of money we spend. Finally, there are more Africans in America than there are Canadians on Earth, look what they do with their resources and look what we Africans in America do with ours. We should have everything Canada has in America, but also each African country. We can easily do this. With China we see where we should be as a whole. China and the Chinese diaspora are moving as one economically and have been really seriously since the 1980’s-look at the result. If we adopt such a philosophy for Africa with its unmatched mineral and natural wealth we can be where China is in a relatively short period of time. China went from and agrarian society in the 1950’s to dominating the world economically today through its 5 year plan economic system. In these countries we see our potential and future, the keys are having the right vision, efficient execution of a workable plan, and constant monitoring of the feedback data and progress to make the plan more efficient.
With such a great vision, people will love to know who Jerome Almon, we see there is information about music labels you are, involvement in show biz etc, can you tell us who Jerome Almon is and the kind of experiences he has that should make people believe that this is a serious vision and this is something he can provide the right leadership for?
My background is in economics and political science, I have worked on the UN Delphi Project out of Belgium, I have attended America’s best Universities, and I have the real world experience-which is most important. I have managed one of the busiest retailers in the world. I speak working Zulu, German, Arabic, and English. I am a paratrooper and own a successful entertainment company that produces events that have 1.5-2.5 million fans per event. But what I am most proud of is my studying the history, geography, and culture of Africa. I have spent countless hours talking to Africans from university, African military officers, and African academics about Africa. My heroes were and are mostly continental Africans such as Jerry Rawlings, Haile Selassie, Thomas Sankara, Jomo Kenyatta, Nelson Mandela, Kwame Nkrumah, Samora Machel, Julius Nyerere, Jose Dos Santos, Kenneth Kaunda, Anwar Sadat and on and on. I have studied Africa since I was 8 years old. It is Africa FIRST for me always.
After reading this interview if people got interested what should there do, how can they get involved, support or find out more information?
Obama in Africa: ‘Let’s do business’
July 4, 2013 | 0 Comments
In Senegal last week, Mr Obama had visited Goree Island; until the mid-19th Century it was from there that slaves were shipped across the Atlantic to America, bound in chains.
In Tanzania on Tuesday, the focus was on more recent events.
In a rare joint appearance, President Obama and his predecessor, George W Bush, bowed their heads as a marine laid a wreath at a memorial for the 11 victims who lost their lives in the bombing of the US embassy in Dar es Salaam in 1998.
The brief ceremony was a reminder of the challenge still faced by the US and its allies, 15 years later, from Islamist militants in East Africa.
In Somalia, al-Shabab, a group with links to al-Qaeda, continues to battle the US-funded Somali government and African Union forces.
But the focus of this six-day tour was not on security, nor on the past.
In 2009, during Mr Obama’s first term in the White House, China overtook the US as the world’s biggest investor in Africa.
So now, as he made his first extended visit to the continent, President Obama’s message was in essence: “Let’s do business.”
The centrepiece of the visit was the announcement of a new initiative, dubbed “Power Africa”.
Mr Obama used an address to students at Cape Town University in South Africa on Sunday to pledge $7bn (£4.6bn) of US government money to bring “light where currently there is darkness”.
“Access to electricity is fundamental to opportunity in this age,” Mr Obama said on Sunday.
“It’s the light that children study by, the energy that allows an idea to be transformed into a real business.
“It’s the lifeline for families to meet their most basic needs, and it’s the connection that’s needed to plug Africa into the grid of the global economy.
“You’ve got to have power.”
Two days later, at a power plant in Tanzania, Mr Obama had the opportunity to test an innovative bit of new technology: the “soccet ball”.
“It’s an airless, energy-generating soccer ball,” explained Jessica Matthews, a Nigerian-American inventor, as she gave the BBC a sneak preview before handing her creation over to the US president to kick around.
“As you play with it, it basically harnesses that kinetic energy that’s generated during play.
“So then you can use it as a power source to power small appliances like lamps or cellphones.”
Ms Matthews plugged a light into the socket in the ball, and it lit up like magic.
But Mr Obama’s ambitions go way beyond small appliances.
“This plant represents the public-private partnership we want to replicate across the continent,” the president said at the US-owned Ubungo plant on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam.
“This is a win win. It’s a win for Africans: Families get to electrify their homes; businesses can run their plants; all this will make economies grow.
The visit to South Africa was overshadowed by the news of the ailing health of Nelson Mandela, Mr Obama’s “personal hero” and the man who, we learned, inspired him to make his first political speech at the age of 19.
One of the most poignant images is surely that of Mr Obama standing alone at the gateway to Goree Island off the coast of Senegal.
He stares out to sea, contemplating presumably the arc of history that saw a black man become president of the United States.
There is no doubting Mr Obama’s popularity in Africa.
His personal connection to the continent makes him an automatic hero for many.
But there are plenty here who believe that, in his first term at least, Mr Obama failed to engage with Africa.
This trip may have gone some way to overcome that sense of disappointment.
But when it comes to investment, America’s businessman-in-chief is still playing catch-up with China.
Professor Ali Mazrui on A Century of Colonialism and Fifty Years of Pan-Africanism
May 25, 2013 | 2 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
On The Transition of Organization of African Unity T0 African Union
I was on a committee to consider the change of name from Organization of African Unity to the African Union. I was against changing the name, but I was out-voted. The United Nations had changed enormously since 1945 when it was created. And yet the UN had not changed its name. I also argued that South Africa was changing with the abolition of apartheid. And yet South Africa was not changing its name. I also argued that the name “African Union” sounded like an imitation of “the European Union,” but all my arguments against the change of name fell on deaf ears.
On The African Union
On the other hand, I was fully in favor of the proposed new agenda (expanded) of the new organization. I supported the African Union’s new jurisdiction over its member-states in case of a crisis. I also supported such new institutions as the legislature based in South Africa. I was also in favor of expanding the African Union’s role towards promoting a Common Market, a future Common Currency, and an eventual Central Bank of Africa.
The original agenda of the Organization of African Unity had been primarily to struggle against colonialism and apartheid, and to protect the territorial integrity of African states. In those three endeavors (anti-colonialism, anti-apartheid and pro-territorial integrity), the O.A.U. was supremely successful while it lasted. Fifty years of continental unity did include putting an end to colonialism, mobilizing world opinion against apartheid, and preventing African conflicts from breaking up African states.Exceptions were subsequently made when Eritrea was allowed to secede from Ethiopia with the approval of Addis Ababa. A later exception gave South Sudan a referendum in which they decided to secede from the colonial boundaries of the bigger Sudan.
Kwame Nkrumah was an eloquent voice for Pan-Africanism. He regarded Ghana’s independence as inadequate without the independence of the whole of Africa. Nkrumah spent more time supporting African objectives than he spent being President of Ghana. Because of that, I have argued that Nkrumah was a great African, but not a great Ghanaian.
The first generation of post-colonial leaders were more highly motivated on African issues than are the present crop of African politicians. The most towering political figures of the second half of the twentieth century included Nnamdi Azikiwe of Nigeria, Léopold Senghor of Senegal, Julius K. Nyerere of Tanzania, and Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia.
Even the earlier military leaders had a greater sense of purpose than have the more recent ones. The earlier military nation-builders included Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Murtala Muhammed of Nigeria, Mobutu Sese Seko of the Congo [Zaire], and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya.
On Short comings of the AU and Partnership
It is true that the African Union has not yet adequately fulfilled its own objectives. There is no Africa-wide Common Market, or continental trading community, or region-wide financial institutions. It is a learning process, and the next generation of African leaders may become more sophisticated and more committed.Sharing African resources with Chinese, Japanese and Americans makes sense. But Africa should protect its interests and promote its primary objectives.
*Perspectives are based on responses to a questionnaire Prof Mazrui answered from PAV. Prof James N.Kariuki who runs the Global Africa blog at www.panafricanvisions.com was most resourceful in helping get the questionnaire across to Prof Mazrui.
Pan-Africanism is more important than ever – Dlamini-Zuma
May 20, 2013 | 0 Comments
By Elissa Jobson and Parselelo Kantai in addis ababa*
The continent cannot wait until the African standby force becomes operational in 2015 to be able to resolve conflicts like Mali, says the AU Commission chair. Inequality – at the root of these crises – must also be addressed.
The three issues – pan-Africanism, sustainable development and the empowerment of women – loom the largest in Nokosazana Dlamini-Zuma plans for the African Union.
Like many South African activists, Nokosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s attachment to pan-Africanism is more practical than ideological.
It was the African National Congress’s ability to mobilize diplomatic and military support across the continent that enabled it to pressure the nationalist government in south Africa.
The pan-African spirit, says Dlamini-Zuma, started as a means to define Africa’s identity and fight against racial oppression.
It then assumed a vital organisational function. It got Africans to speak with one voice during the anti-colonial struggle and in subsequent diplomatic and economic negotiations.
“Now pan-Africanism is even more important, we’ve got a huge population, over a billion.
But if you divide us into individual countries, we are not significant,” Dlamini-Zuma argues. “You can’t ignore a billion plus people, but you can ignore five million people.”
For her, the founding vision of a borderless Africa with a single market, freedom of movement for labour and capital must underpin the continent’s development strategy.
The struggle has now moved on, she says, to organising the ports, the continental highways and power plants that will change people’s lives but require unprecedented cooperation.
In all this, it is Dlamini-Zuma’s determination that women should play a leading role in the African Union’s development, diplomacy and security work.
It was the women’s rights activists that pressured the authors of the AU’s constitutive act to include “the effective participation of women in decision-making” as one of the central objectives of the AU.
Now at least 50 percent of the AU commissioners must be women.
Those provisions helped women’s organisations such as Binta Diop’s Femmes Africa Solidarité to lobby more effectively for Dlamini-Zuma’s election as chair of the AU Commission last July.
The Africa Report: Is pan-Africanism relevant in the 21st century?
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma: Pan-Africanism is still very relevant and even more important in a way. We have reserves of arable land. We have natural resources that – if we are able to turn them into wealth – can make a very prosperous continent. But if you divide us into individual countries, we are not significant. So it’s very important that we integrate, and integration is an expression of pan-Africanism.
Will Africa have abolished all national borders within 50 years?
I am quite sure that by 2063 there should be free movement of people within our continent. The free movement of people plus goods and capital is critical.
We should be able to drive from Cape to Cairo, go by train from Djibouti to Dakar. Even if you’re borderless, if you can’t drive from one place to another it means nothing.
How can the African union (AU) help make the current economic upturn into sustained development?
I think the AU should be a catalyst. The AU should work with member states, finding partnerships within the continent and externally.
We should be able to mobilise resources within the continent and diversify our partnerships. We’ve had partnerships with Europe and that should continue, but there are other partners in the Americas and Asia.
With the African Development Bank and with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa we should look at an audit of the continent to see which skills are critical to implement the priorities.
We should look at [African renaissance] as a process not as an event. It had to start with liberation because you can’t have a renaissance of people who are repressed. Now it has to be liberation in terms of human development, sustainable development and modernisation.
What about liberation from aid dependency?
This is very important. If you look at the important documents like the Lagos Plan of Action, part of the reason we’ve not been able to implement all these great initiatives was because we thought we could implement them through aid.
No country can have donor aid as the mainstay of its development. Donor aid is welcome, but it should be contributing to what we are already doing. We cannot wait for the first dollar to come from outside. Our mindset needs to change.
How can Africa tackle its own security crises without the need for foreign interventions in places such as mali and libya?
We should first be looking at why are these crises taking place. If we were to address truly the issue of inclusive development and participative democracy, we will get fewer of these crises. The equitable distribution of wealth, participative democracy and inclusive economic development are going to be key to sustaining peace and stability.
We also have to look at what can we do in the short term as Africans to be able to have a rapid response to these crises.
If you recall in my opening [statement] at the [January] summit, I did say that we need to look at that because this issue of the standby force – which is going to be operationalised in 2015 – does not help [in the] problems [we are having] now.
As we celebrate the 50th anniversary [of the Organisation of African Unity/AU], we should be reflecting on that●
*Source African Report.Follow Africa Report @theafricareport on Twitter | theafricareport on Facebook
Stop the Plunder of Africa
May 10, 2013 | 4 Comments
By Kofi Annan*
With Africa’s economies riding the crest of the global commodities wave, there is an unprecedented opportunity to convert the region’s vast resource wealth into investments that could lift millions out of poverty, create jobs, and bring hope to future generations.
Seizing that opportunity will require strengthened governance backed by international cooperation to stem the hemorrhage of revenues associated with tax evasion, secret deals and illicit financial transfers.
Natural resource exports have propelled Africa into the world’s high-growth league. Around one-third of the region’s economies grew by more than 6 percent in 2012. Strong demand in emerging markets is set to drive another decade of high prices for Africa’s natural resources, and foreign investment is on the rise. Mozambique and Tanzania are poised to emerge as major exporters of natural gas. Guinea and Sierra Leone stand to reap windfall gains from iron ore exports. Demand for Zambia’s copper and the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s cobalt is booming.
Unfortunately, the rising tide of wealth is not lifting all boats. Poverty has been falling far too slowly, and in some countries — including Zambia and Nigeria — it has increased. Few governments have used the increased revenues generated by resource exports to counteract rising inequality, build better health care and education systems or strengthen smallholder agriculture. Moreover, corruption remains endemic.
African governments themselves must step up to the plate and address these issues. They need to recognize the urgency of converting their country’s resource wealth into the human capital and investments in infrastructure on which sustained and inclusive growth depend. And they should follow the example of countries like Liberia and Guinea that are combating corruption by posting all mining contracts online for public scrutiny.
In other areas, action by African governments alone will not succeed. As we highlight in this year’s Africa Progress Report, no region has suffered more from tax evasion, aggressive tax planning and plunder of national wealth through offshore-registered companies. These are global problems that demand multilateral solutions.
The scale of the losses sustained by Africa is not widely recognized. Transfer pricing — the practice of shifting profits to lower tax jurisdictions — costs the continent $34 billion annually — more than the region receives in bilateral aid. Put differently, you could double aid by cutting this version of tax evasion. The extensive use made by foreign investors of offshore-registered companies operating from jurisdictions with minimal reporting requirements actively facilitates tax evasion. It is all but impossible for Africa’s understaffed and poorly resourced revenue authorities to track real profits through the maze of shell companies, holding companies and offshore entities used by investors.
There have been some encouraging recent developments in the multilateral response to these challenges. Under the Dodd-Frank Act in the United States and comparable measures in Europe, extractive companies are now required to meet higher standards of disclosure. (In what is surely an act of strategic folly, many of these companies are swimming against the tide of reform by mounting a legal challenge to the Dodd-Frank Act.) Meanwhile, the British government has taken the lead in putting international cooperation on taxation at the center of the agenda for next month’s Group of 8 summit.
This is an area in which the G-8 can make a real difference. The summit should serve as a launch-pad for the development of a rules-based global system on transparency and taxation.
It is time to draw back the veil of secrecy behind which too many companies operate. Every tax jurisdiction should be required to publicly disclose the full beneficial ownership structure of registered companies. Switzerland, Britain and the United States — all major conduits for offshore finance — should signal intent to clamp down on illicit financial flows. And the G-8 and the G-20 should work together to expand the scope and reach of the Dodd-Frank legislation.
It is also critical that the G-8 helps to empower African governments. The region’s revenue authorities are hopelessly ill-equipped to tackle problems such as transfer pricing or to counter illicit transfers. That is why the Africa Progress Panel has called on the G-8 to provide the technical, financial and administrative support to build capacity.
More than 50 years ago, as African states emerged into independence, Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president, commented: “Never before have a people had within their grasp so great an opportunity for developing a continent endowed with so much wealth.”
With political leadership at home and strengthened international cooperation we can seize the opportunity that Kwame Nkrumah identified.
“Empowering Africa Through the Diaspora”
May 4, 2013 | 0 Comments
By Amini Kajunju*
AAI President Amini Kajunju Delivers Speech on “Empowering Africa Through the Diaspora”
Good evening. It is such a pleasure and honor to be here with you tonight to serve as the keynote speaker for The Africa Now: Policy Series discussion on the theme, “Empowering Africa through the Diaspora” .
I would like to congratulate the African Development Institute and the Institute for Multicultural Communications, Cooperation and Development, Inc. for organizing The African Policy Series to bring together and strategically engage the Africa Diaspora and civil society groups for the empowerment of Africa. It’s truly refreshing to see these collaborative partnership happening.
And I’d like to thank Dr. Kwame Akonor, Director of African Development Institute and Seton Hall University’s Center for Africana Studies, for reaching out to me to speak on this important topic.
The theme of tonight’s keynote address is quite timely and comes at a momentous time for Africa. Indeed, the African continent is experiencing a renaissance. The continent boosts one of the world’s fastest growing economic regions. Six of the 10 fastest growing markets in the world are in Sub-Saharan Africa. And Africa’s fast emerging middle class now comprises over 300 million people.
With enormous progress taking root across the continent, Diasporians are uniquely positioned to contribute to boosting the economic growth and prosperity in Africa. The African Diaspora is not a monolithic group – some of you were born and reared in the United States; many came to the States at a young age; while others, like me, arrived here to attend college. No matter how you arrived here, as Diasporians, you bring a distinct perspective to the discourse on Africa because in some way you have experienced both worlds – Africa and the United States – and can serve as a bridge in fostering greater understanding between the continent and the Western world.
The organization that I lead, The Africa-America Institute, or AAI, has served in a very similar role for nearly 60 years. AAI’s core mission is to promote engagement between Africa and America through education, training and dialogue. Our focus has been on education for Africans, and about Africa. Empowering talented Africans has always been central to this mission.
As African nations were gaining independence from colonial rule, AAI was founded in 1953 to build human capacity on the continent. With funding from the U.S. State Department, AAI assisted African students in pursuing academic degrees at top universities in the United States. After receiving their degrees in the U.S., more than 90% of our alumni returned to Africa to become business and political leaders, entrepreneurs, scientists, health care professionals and educators where they contributed to strengthening the foundation for African development.
With 23,000 AAI alumni worldwide, we proudly count prominent alumni such as Wangari Maathai, the late Kenyan environmental and women’s rights activist and Nobel Laureate; Prime Minister H.E. Nahas Angula of Namibia; and President Joyce Banda of Malawi; among other African leaders.
Today, we offer non-degree education and professional training programs to women and men from across the African continent who exhibit talent and leadership in key fields – ranging from business and entrepreneurship, to agriculture and natural resource conservation to health – and who display a deep commitment to advancing to Africa’s development.
Through AAI’s programs, we are building an educated and skilled workforce of African professionals and playing a vital role in bringing a new generation of Africans into a knowledge-based global economy.
So, what can YOU as Africans in the Diaspora do to empower Africa? Tonight, I would like to offer 10 things that you can do….
Now, take out your pen and paper!
Number 1. Diasporians can help dispel myths and stereotypes about Africa to change the storyline about the continent.
All Diasporians can serve as “brand ambassadors” to bring a new vision and inspiring ideas for Africa. It’s hard to believe that in this day and age many still hold very negative perceptions about Africa – but it’s true. You can become the face of a “new Africa” – young, educated, optimistic, and actively working to transform and shape Africa’s future. We are a new generation of African leaders. There are endless possibilities of how we can make an impact on Africa!
Number 2. Diasporians can help shape U.S. foreign policy priorities and international policy. Since many in the African Diaspora still maintain strong connections to the continent, Diasporians can help shape U.S. foreign policy priorities by offering informative analysis of on-the-ground realities in African nations and sharing underreported success stories of progress taking place, as well as the challenges.
Most importantly, we need to expand and strengthen a constituency for Africa in the United States. We hope all of you will become engaged in forums and other events hosted by AAI and others to weigh in on critical issues impacting Africa.
Number 3. Africans in the Diaspora can help bring reforms to the continent. We are at the vanguard of fostering positive changes and reforms in Africa through our deep connections across continents, especially the on-the-ground and personal relationships with individuals, business leaders and officials in the respective countries. The power of technology and social networking can strengthen the connections with other like-minded members of the Diaspora who want to bring needed reforms to accelerate progress on the continent.
And Diasporaians shouldn’t shy away from obtaining government jobs to reform that sector. Bringing their management skills, resources and expertise to government, Diasporaians can help transform that sector by assisting governments in improving their transparency, accountability and service delivery to create a conducive environment for development progress to thrive and flourish. Now — no one is saying reforming the government sector will be an easy task or will happen overnight, but there are some real opportunities to make a difference.
Number 4. Diasporians can serve as a “bridge” between our home country and the U.S. Just as Diaspora communities can help shape U.S. and international policies and bring about reforms, you can also serve as a “bridge” to advance better communications and stronger, deeper relationships between your home country and resident country. In many ways, we have a “transnational identity” and can easily move back and forth culturally and physically between our resident and home countries. We are able to share, interpret, and understand both points of view, and provide insight and expertise on a broad range of issues relevant to each country.
Number 5. Diasporaians can quickly mobilize resources for humanitarian disasters. When a humanitarian disaster strikes or an outbreak of conflict, an organized Diaspora can assist in quickly raising funds for the relief effort and in rebuilding countries. The Diaspora can also assist in channeling updates on what’s happening in-country and how real lives are impacted by the disaster or conflict.
Number 6. As the African continent progresses on an upward path, continue to make remittances to your family back home – for now. I know many of you are doing this now. The World Bank estimates that African immigrants living abroad send home between $32 and $40 billion a year. This figure is far more than official global development assistance from the international aid community. While remittances alone will not promote sustainable development in African nations, it can help to provide for the immediate needs of individual households and greatly improve the quality of life for families. Because of your remittances, younger family members may be able to go to school to earn an education, achieve gainful employment, and eventually increase the family’s economic potential.
Number 7. Diaspora can lead in investing in Africa’s emerging markets.
Explore opportunities to invest in and launch successful African-led businesses and enterprises in Africa to create well-needed jobs and spur economic growth. The continent offers some of the highest return on direct foreign investment in the world. Increased investments are needed to expand local capacity and bolster economic growth.
As Diasporaians, we understand the local economy and culture, and are willing to take on greater risks on the business and investment opportunities that others may opt to pass on.
You can join in launching home-grown thriving African businesses like:
- Ecobank, a pan-African banking conglomerate with operations in 30 African countries;
- Zain, one of Africa’s most successful telecoms founded by Mo Ibrahim;
- The Dangote Group, established by Nigeria’s business mogul, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, is West Africa’s largest industrial conglomerate, with manufacturing interests in sugar, flour and cement;
- Iroko TV, called the ‘Netflix of Africa’, is a Nigerian-based company that streams African movies online. Today, it is the world’s largest digital distributor of African movies.
- SoleRebels, founded by Ethiopian-born Bethlehem Tilahun, is an eco-friendly shoes and sandals company that has blossomed into a multimillion-dollar enterprise. The SoleRebels footwear is sold in over 30 countries around the world.
Number 8. Diasporas can spark innovation and technological know-how in their home countries. Historically, AAI brought talented Africans to the U.S. to earn higher education degrees. Our alumni returned home where they applied their world-class education to their country’s development and have made remarkable achievements.
Today, Africans in the Diaspora are continuing this “brain gain” trend. Skilled professionals are recognizing the tremendous opportunities that exist in Africa and are returning home in greater numbers, bringing new technologies, knowledge and ideas to drive innovation in their home countries.
Number 9. Become Mentors to Young Professionals in Our Home Country.
We can empower young African professionals on the continent – as well as in the U.S. — by sharing our knowledge and expertise. Diasporians can nurture professional growth in young professionals and narrow the existing “skills gap” by exposing them to new careers and fields of study, expanding their horizons to wider opportunities in their profession.
Number 10. Diasporians can bring our talent, energy, and skills to furthering economic progress in Africa.
Many Africans in the Diaspora want to eventually go back home after living abroad. However, one of the biggest challenges is finding suitable employment once they return.
An educated and skilled workforce is essential to fill top positions at Africa-based multinational corporations and organizations and to ensure that the continent can effectively compete in a global economy.
For this reason, we are launching the 1st Annual Africa-America Institute Career Roundtable in late-September. The purpose of the roundtable is to bring together talented and professional Africans living in the U.S. with private companies, NGOs and African governments for jobs, internships or volunteer opportunities.
AAI’s Career Roundtable seeks to promote African talent as well as to solve the human resource needs of the institutions and companies working in Africa. The roundtable will match participating companies and institutions with highly qualified African professionals in one place with the goal of finding the right candidates to meet their human resources needs.
We’re in the planning stages now for the Career Roundtable. We hope you will visit AAI’s website at aaionline.org in the coming weeks for more information. And be sure to become a Facebook “fan” and Twitter “follower”. We also hope that you join us, as we celebrate our 60th anniversary by tapping into the anniversary activities and attending our Annual Awards Gala. Stay tuned for more details….
So, there you have it! Ten ways for Africans in the Diaspora to empower Africa….
Thank you again for the opportunity to speak to you this evening. I’ll now take questions.
*Source AAI . Amini Kajunju is president and CEO of The Africa-America Institute
Making Sense of Sudan
April 14, 2013 | 0 Comments
Celebrating the bureaucratisation of peace: the Addis implementation matrix
By Aly Verjee*
March 2013: another Addis negotiating marathon, another document heralded as the ‘breakthrough’ agreement between Sudan and South Sudan. The 68-point implementation matrix (not counting sub-points), signed on March 12 by Idris Mohamed Abdel Gadar for Sudan and Pagan Amum for South Sudan, follows the meeting on March 8 of the defence ministers of both states, who agreed again to withdraw their forces from the previously defined Safe Demilitarized Border Zone (SDBZ).
Or as South Sudan’s negotiating team put it, with a first sentence tongue-twister for bored diplomats and journalists covering the next meeting in Addis: “On March 8, 2013, after months of negotiations, the Republic of South Sudan and the Republic of Sudan’s Joint Political and Security Mechanism (JPSM) came to an agreement on the content of a framework for implementing the commitments made in the bilateral September 2012 security arrangements agreement. This important development should result in the creation of a safe demilitarized buffer zone along the two countries’ shared border. Both sides have already ordered their armed forces to withdraw to their side of the buffer zone.”
Point seven of the March 8 document tells of the delays suffered after the last supposed breakthrough agreement, the cooperation accords of September 2012. It subtly ignores that failure of implementation and just says: “the original D-Day for the implementation plan matrix was 19 December 2012. The matrix has been reviewed and the JPSM have set D-Day at 10 March 2013.”
Three months delay could be forgiven if the intentions of the parties were now honourable. Unfortunately, there is reason to be sceptical of that being the case. Orders by Khartoum and Juba to withdraw their troops from the border are encouraging, but are just as easily reversed. Resuming oil production is welcome, until the next crisis comes. We celebrate the matrix, because even modest progress is better than the alternative. Our faith is in this new bureaucratisation of peace: the idea that if only there are or were enough technical benchmarks, processes, committees, mechanisms and modalities, on paper and on the ground, all that underlying emotional antipathy and mistrust and suspicion could be controlled if not eradicated entirely.
Turning on the oil taps averts economic annihilation for both sides. But having initially shut down production in a bold attempt to show Khartoum that seizures of oil cargoes would not be tolerated, Juba has no guarantee of future good behaviour. That, for example, there will be an end to aerial bombardment by the Sudanese Armed Forces on South Sudan’s territory; that Khartoum will lose interest in the various rebel militias of Jonglei; that Khartoum’s share of oil revenue isn’t used to finance future military action against South Sudan. For its part, Khartoum hasn’t ensured that South Sudan will really expel the SPLM-N officials who frequent Juba, cut off access to South Kordofan from Unity State, or stop exploring alternatives to the Port Sudan pipeline through Kenya and/or Ethiopia.
Plenty of official allegations of bad behaviour have been made by both sides. For the most part these fall to the JPSM to address. In almost every case, the security modalities document says one of the following: “refer to Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mission (JBVMM) for investigation,” “refer to Ad-hoc Committee for investigation,” or, “on receipt of evidential detail it is recommended JPSM form Committee…to determine veracity of the concern/complaint.” In the unlikely event a thorough investigation is conducted, neither side is likely to be satisfied with the findings: each side believes it is the victim of the other.
With no end in sight to the war in the Nuba Mountains, South Kordofan makes a guest appearance in discussion of border arrangements. More than a year and a half after UNMIS left South Kordofan, and a decade after the successes of the Joint Military Commission (JMC), international monitoring returns to Kordofan: the JBVMM will move from Assosa, Ethiopia, to Kadugli, the capital of Sudan’s presently most troubled state.
As the meeting minutes state: “Kadugli was accepted as a suitable temporary JBVMM HQ before moving to final location in Abyei. There was acceptance that there would be no move of the JBVMM HQ to Abyei until the Temporary Arrangements were implemented and accommodation provided by UN.”
The JBVMM borrows the successful joint monitoring team concept from the JMC. Teams made up of SAF, SPLA, and police and NISS personnel from both sides are joined by international monitors to investigate agreement violations, report on security in the border zone, arbitrate local disputes and report unlawfully held weapons. But whereas in 2002 the JMC monitored violations of a genuine ceasefire in South Kordofan while the war continued in southern Sudan, today’s JBVMM deals with the inverse: international border management between two states legally at peace while civil war continues in the Nuba Mountains, a few towns away.
In the aspirational matrix, where three of the 68 points are marked ‘complete’, and work on most other issues is yet to start, there are the usual bugbears:
“1.4 Obligation: Determination of the final status of Abyei and consideration of formation of the Abyei Referendum Commission (Art 4.2). Timing: Date to be agreed. Responsible: The Presidents.”
“5.4.3. Obligation: Completion of non-binding opinion of the AU Team of Experts (AUTE) on the status of the 5 Disputed Areas. Timing: 5.4.1 [D-Day + 66] + 60 [translation: 126 days from March 10, or July 14]. Responsible: AUTE. Remarks: Parties have commenced cooperation with the Experts in line with draft Terms of Reference for the AUTE. Timeline subject to change by Parties pursuant 5.4.2.”
Indeed, nothing sums it up better: ‘responsible: the Presidents’, and ‘subject to change’. The end of matrix modifications has not yet arrived. But spreadsheets are better than embargoes and air strikes. One hopes the need for urgent breakthroughs does not return too soon.
Mbeki On Mbeki.
April 9, 2013 | 0 Comments
Former South African Leader opens up on personal life experiences in an interview with Sunday Times.
Below is a full version of an interview which former President Thabo Mbeki (TM) did with Sunday Times journalist, Ziphezinhle Msimango (ZM), earlier in March. An edited version was published on the newspaper’s edition of March 31, 2013.
ZM: What are some of your most treasured childhood memories?
TM: It is difficult to answer your question because I can only remember my childhood mainly in the context of the politics of the day. Before this, one of the things I really treasure is the fact that especially my mother taught me to value education. In addition, I can also say that I grew up in political families. In this context, I can talk to you about two events that happened in Queenstown in 1952 when I was 10 years old. At that time I was staying with my uncle and his family, the musician Mike Moerane, my mother’s brother. In this regard, whereas my parents were members of the ANC and the Communist Party of South Africa, (CPSA), which later became to SACP, the South African Communist Party, my Uncle Mike Moerane was a supporter of the Non-European Unity Movement (NEUM). If we had time I would discuss with you what this meant in terms of how this impacted on us at home in Queenstown in 1952. That year white South Africa celebrated the 300th Anniversary of the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck and therefore the beginning of the colonisation of our country. But this was also the year of the historic ANC-led Defiance Campaign. I participated in both these events, in the first as a curious spectator, and in the second as a failed volunteer. Malome Mike punished me for even daring to run to the then Queenstown ‘Agricultural Showground’ to watch the spectacle white South Africa mounted to celebrate the Van Riebeeck tricentenary, but happily did absolutely nothing to obstruct my fruitless attempt, as a 10-year-old, to volunteer to defy the unjust apartheid laws. The following year, I went back to the Transkei, specifically to Butterworth. Here I was confronted with different politics. The ‘headman’ in our area, who was in fact an important political regional leader, C.W. Monakali, and a friend of my father, invited me to his house – then an 11 year old – to discuss matters that were agitating the Transkei population at the time. These were government-decreed cattle culling, evidently to protect the health of the pastures in the region, and the enforcement of a system of instituting contours on the peasant farms, evidently to reduce soil erosion. C.W. sought my views with regard to both these measures, around 1953, to see what could be done to resist both. Accordingly what I can tell you about what I remember most are these political experiences. The exception to this is my two-year experience at Malome Mike’s house in Queenstown when I learnt to play the piano and the flute, and to read classical musical notation. My greatest regret, to this day, is the fact that in time I lost all these musical skills, basically because in those young years, after the age of 10, I could not find a piano on which I could play! When I arrived at the Lovedale Institution boarding school as a 12-year-old, and much to my anger and disappointment, I found that the only piano at this famous and historic school was a mere wooden upright frame whose strings had over many years of neglect been completely destroyed by all manner of rot. The things I have said describe a childhood of learning as required of a pupil, an introduction to the liberation struggle, and an introduction to the creative arts, especially music. In this regard you must understand that I am merely summarising some parts of my childhood which contributed to the making of who I am today.
ZM: What motivated you to enter politics? Was it an inevitable path for you?
TM: As you can see from what I have said, I grew up in political families during the apartheid years. It was therefore inevitable that I would be involved in the struggles of the day. Accordingly I believe that the issue never occurred to me to take a decision about whether or not to be involved in the liberation struggle. Both the family circumstances of my upbringing and the fact of apartheid oppression which impacted in us as young people made it inevitable that like others of my generation, I would have to be involved not in politics, but in the liberation struggle.
ZM: If you went back in life, would you take the same path?
TM: Inevitably, yes!
ZM: Who are some of the people who influenced you in your life and why?
TM: Given my age, of course you will know that I have interacted with very many people. I think the central issue with regard to your question is not so much who influenced me as the ideas which impacted on what I became as an adult. You must therefore understand what I will say in this context, that what was important was not so much the persons as the ideas they represented. I will give you some examples in this regard. During my first year at Lovedale, in 1955, I was a member of SOYA, the Society of Young Africans. This was the youth wing of the NEUM. The following year, a much older member of the ANC, and fellow student, Themba Mqotha, spoke to me to explain why I would make a more effective contribution to the liberation struggle as a member of the ANC Youth League than as a member of SOYA. I understood and accepted what he said and therefore joined the ANCYL in 1956. I can therefore say that I owe my membership of the ANC to Themba Mqotha. Years later, in Johannesburg, I was privileged to meet Mike (Mick) Harmel, then a leading member of the SACP. I was very fortunate that I had the possibility further to interact with him during our years of exile in London, in the UK. It was in good measure because of his intellect, his palpable non-racialism, his humanity and his obvious respect for all human beings that I became convinced that the whites involved in our struggle were truly genuine comrades. In addition, he, originally of Irish origin, introduced me to the Irish liberation struggle, including my favourite poet in the English language, W.B. Yeats. I have also had the privilege to stay in the then Soviet Union and to study the writings of the revolutionaries, Karl Marx, Frederick Engels and Lenin. The writings of these renaissance and revolutionary intellectuals have taught me important lessons about the intellectual imperative to understand social development in all its complexity, the requirement of respect for objective and dynamic empirical reality, and the challenge to understand and write about this reality in an intellectually honest and disciplined manner. As a university student in England, I also had the privilege to study under the progressive and renowned Economics Professor, Tibor Barna. He insisted that in the end Economics, even as an academic discipline, had to do not with any abstruse theories, but the transformation of society and providing a better life for the people. Because of my exposure to the ideological left movement, including here at home, which insisted on the need to access all human knowledge, I was exposed, even as a student in Economics, to the wider world of literature and therefore all human thought. Because of this I became familiar with all manner of ideas presented by world-famous thinkers from all countries, including scientists, poets, novelists, playwrights, philosophers and others. It is therefore impossible for me to identify particular persons who might have impacted on my formation as a human being. What I can say in this regard is that I feel very privileged that I have had the opportunity throughout my life to access the entire spectrum of human knowledge, regardless of the originators of this knowledge. In this context I hope you will understand the impact on us as young South Africans of the clause in the Freedom Charter – the doors of learning and culture shall be opened to all!
ZM: Who is your favourite author and which is the most thought provoking of their work?
TM: Given what I have said, you will understand that for me there cannot exist such a person as a favourite author. Obviously there are particular authors I would respect, depending on the particular area of human thought and action we would be discussing.
ZM: When did you learn how to drive?
TM: I learnt to drive a car in 1961. This was because the then ANC Secretary General, the late Duma Nokwe, and particularly also his late wife, Sis Tiny, insisted that, to assist him to do his work, I had to learn to drive the ANC cars to which he had access – a 1947 Chevrolet, a 1948 Dodge, and a much more modern Zephyr station wagon.
ZM: When did you get your driver’s licence?
TM: I must confess that I have never had a driver’s licence. This was because to get one here at home, I had to get a “pass”, the Reference Book. I was determined not to do this especially in the aftermath of the Anti-Pass Campaign. The best or worst I did was to get a piece of paper which said that I had been to a “pass office” to apply for a “pass”. I used this piece of paper to pass through all police road blocks. I have therefore not driven a car since we returned home in 1990.
ZM: Have you ever had an accident and what were the circumstances?
TM: The only car accident in which I was involved occurred in Swaziland in 1975/1976. The learner-driver, the late Albert Dhlomo, could not control the car he was driving on a gravel road when the car went into a skid. The car capsized. Fortunately both of us, the only passengers, did not suffer any serious injuries.
ZM: Do you miss driving yourself?
TM: No, especially given the very poor quality of driving by many drivers in our country, which results in too many deaths and injuries on our roads.
ZM: What music do you listen to?
TM: All music, including European classical music, all South African and African popular music, all jazz, US blues, all gospel and church music, old and new pop, and so on. I would like to believe that I do not suffer from any prejudice about the musical form, as a result of which I would come to the conclusion, both spiritually and intellectually, to close my ears to one expression of music as opposed to any other.
ZM: What is your favourite sport? When last did you watch a game at a stadium and where?
TM: I am a fan of all sports codes, exactly, again, because involvement in sports and sports competition is about the expression of healthy human achievement, whatever the particular discipline. The last time I was at a stadium was at the home of the Nashua Titans, the Centurion Cricket Grounds, I think in 2011, to watch a T20 game between the Proteas and the English.
ZM: You spent 30 years of your life in exile. What struck you the most about the South Africa of 1990 and the one you left behind as a young man when you left the country in 1962?
TM: What was most striking in this regard was how much the value system in the country had changed for the worse. We got an indication of this even before we returned from exile. Accordingly, when we returned, we could not avoid noticing how much the personal acquisition of material wealth had become entrenched as an important social value. This included the ostentatious display of this personal wealth, regardless of how it was acquired, through the wearing of designer clothes, driving expensive cars, owning sumptuous houses, organising costly parties, and so on.
It seemed clear that the personal acquisition of material wealth had become the accepted standard in terms of which one would be judged by society as a successful citizen, and therefore a role model.
ZM: You became South Africa’s Executive Deputy President after the 1994 elections. What was your first impression of the Union Buildings when you stepped foot in your office?
TM: My personal office, excluding the staff offices, was merely two or so rooms, with some furniture, a functioning telephone, and nothing else. This told the message, practically, that we had to build something new, starting from what you might call a new slate.
From inside, the building was not as imposing and therefore as intimidating as a centre of power as it had looked from the outside when we used to sing, during the liberation struggle – siyay’ ePitoli! Nothing suggested that it should not be easily accessible to the people who had elected the new President and Deputy Presidents who occupied the East Wing of the Union Buildings. I would like to believe that from the very beginning of our democracy we did nothing to sustain the belief that the Union Buildings were holy territory in terms of access by all our people.
ZM: The statement you delivered on behalf of the ANC on the occasion of the adoption of the Constitution, commonly known as the “I am an African” speech, is rated by many as one of your best. What were your considerations when you wrote it?
TM:What informed me as I wrote this speech was that it was not every day that any country had the possibility and privilege to adopt a Constitution.
In addition, it seemed obvious that in our case, given that our diverse nation, through its democratically elected representatives, would for the first time together make a definitive and defining statement about its future, it was important to speak about this reality in words and images that extended beyond the ordinary.
TM: I thought that it was imperative that the ANC, a central architect of the perspective that would be spelt out in the new Constitution, should, on the historic day of the adoption of the Constitution, speak in a manner beyond what could amount to nothing more than an ordinary political speech.
Briefly, it seemed clear to me that the unique occasion of the adoption of the Constitution demanded a unique address which, among other things, would affirm the statement that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, confirm that as a nation we had agreed to live according to a particular value system, and make the unequivocal statement that we are part of the African Continent and not a European outpost.
ZM: Do you still subscribe to the same vision of South Africa’s future as you contained in the speech?
TM: Yes and absolutely!
I am certain that South Africa will not succeed in its efforts to rebuild, reconstruct and develop herself if she does not inspire all our people, black and white, to accept that they share an equal and shared responsibility and opportunity to work together to ensure a happy future for all. Equally, we will not succeed in our efforts if we do not sustain the values and vision which inspired millions of our people to engage in the costly and protracted struggle whose fundamental objectives are reflected in our Constitution. Similarly, we will not succeed as a country if the rest of our Continent, Africa, also does not succeed to address the common challenges we all face as Africans.
ZM: What were some of the toughest challenges during your Presidency?
As you would know, the toughest challenge for Government was driving the process to achieve visible progress in terms of eradicating the legacy of colonialism and apartheid in all their elements. These include poverty reduction, the reduction of the racial and gender inequalities in terms of wealth, income and opportunity, and radically raising the skills levels among the people to reduce the number of the unemployed, within the context of a growing economy. Of course and fundamentally, the latter, as it relates to sustained skills development, includes the sustained improvement of the educational system as a whole, starting with Grade R.
One of the most difficult moments was when we took the decision to relieve the then Deputy President of the Republic, our current President, of his position in Government.
ZM: What in your view are the qualities of a good leader and a good leadership?
TM: I think that to provide proper leadership certainly as this relates to Government, one has to have a very good understanding of one’s country and its challenges, including the global setting; work on the basis of a clear programme to address these challenges; always act on a principled basis; listen constantly to, and respect the views of the people; and conduct ones’ self within the context of a value system at whose centre must be the obligation always and only to serve the people.
ZM: You have been out of public office for five years now and involved in the Sudan peace process. How far is that process and how do you spend your free time?
TM: The Republics of Sudan and South Sudan have finalised almost all the required Agreements. Essentially only two remain outstanding. One concerns an element of relations between the two countries. The other is about ending some of the internal conflicts in Sudan. In reality the major task facing the two countries now is the implementation of the Agreements they have concluded.
With regard to your question about how I spend my free time, I am afraid I still do not any free time.
ZM: What are you reading at the moment?
TM: Currently I am reading two books. These are “The Tamil Eelam Liberation Struggle: State Terrorism and Ethnic Cleansing. (1948-2009)” by Dr Murugar Gunasingam and “On China” by Dr Henry Kissinger.
ZM: What is your message to the youth of South Africa?
TM: I think our youth should understand the serious reality it faces that it will inherit the country. It will therefore have the enormously challenging responsibility to answer the question practically – what will it do with this inheritance? Accordingly, one of the main tasks it faces even today is to answer the related question, honestly – how well prepared is it to discharge its responsibilities in this regard? I would therefore say that our youth has the solemn task seriously to prepare and position itself to take over as our new leadership, a critical echelon within the nation in terms of what South Africa will be tomorrow, and even perhaps today.
ZM: What is the one thing that you’ve never done before that you still want to do?
TM: I would very much like to re-learn how to play the piano and learn to speak, read and write in Tshivenda, seTswana, Afrikaans and French.
ZM: When are you publishing your memoires?
TM: Precisely because I have not had ‘free time’, it is impossible to answer this question. We will see!
*Source Thabo Mbeki Foundation
‘Appoint all 100 Senators Now and Save State Coffers’– Chris Fomunyoh to Biya
March 27, 2013 | 0 Comments
By Innocent Chia*
Other than the silly rumor of the improbable escape of First Lady Chantal Biya, allegedly and uncharacteristically disappearing from the national spotlight for a jiffy last year, little else has in recent times, sparked as much conversation as Biya’s precipitated Senatorial Elections in April. Without any rhyme or rhythm for such a short calendar, the President Decreed an election less than 60 days from his announcement. Whilst most observers are still scratching their heads over this decision, there are those who see no value in the exercise and are making calls for any legitimate opposition to refrain from it.
But there are those who say not-participating is not an option because the Biya regime has never lacked takers (fake “Opposition” that it creates) to fill up seats in the Parliament when the “real” opposition seats out. The problem for proponents of participating is that the record of achievements for the “real” opposition over the last two decades has been abysmal. Their greatest failure was strategic foresight because they underestimated the resilience of the CPDM; did not factor the capacity of their own leadership to withstand corruption; and overestimated the tenacity of the general population. In this exclusive interview with The Chia Report, Chris Fomunyoh, Ph.D – Senior Associate for Africa at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) in Washington DC and Cameroonian – delves into the why’s and why not’s of this charade.
Chia Report (CR) – Dr. Chris Fomunyoh – For those that have little familiarity with Cameroon’s political landscape, President Paul Biya recently announced on February 27th that there will be Senatorial Elections this coming April 14th, 2013. You care to contextualize the decision?
Dr. Chris Fomunyoh: Article 14 of the constitution of our country as adopted in 1996 provides that Cameroon shall have a bi-cameral legislature or parliament made up of the National Assembly and the Senate. Article 20 stipulates that that second body or upper chamber will have 100 Senators, 10 from each region of the country, seven of whom would be elected and three others appointed by the Head of State. The same constitution and subsequent laws stipulate that the seven Senators shall be elected by indirect balloting through regional electoral colleges constituted of local councilors and regional councilors. These instruments also lay out that regional councilors derive from divisional councilors who are designated to represent administrative divisions (or prefectures) in their respective regional councils.
The outcry that you hear today across the country arises from questions about the legality of today’s electoral college and the fact that the legitimacy of Senators elected under these circumstances may be tarnished beyond repair: regional councils have not yet been created, and current local councilors are serving on bonus time as their fixed five year term mandates expired last year. Moreover, the electorate of 2013 is definitely different from that which participated in the local elections of 2007, and there are legitimate reasons to question the representative mandate of the councilors that will cast ballots on April 14.
CR: Presidential Decree N° 2013/056 is some 17 odd years late in application of the 1996 Constitutional provision that created an Upper House Chamber in Cameroon. From the date of his announcement to the date of elections there are 45- 46 days. Is there an urgency, you think, that has caused the convening of the Electoral College and almost immediate application of Decree?
Dr. Chris Fomunyoh: It is a shame that in our country, the population is ambushed at every election, including that for the Senate which under normal circumstances should be a very easy exercise given the small size of those called upon to vote. First, ELECAM (the lection administration body) was conducting voter registration outside of the January to August period stipulated in the election law, and Cameroonians were told that this was in anticipation of the election of local councilors and members of the National Assembly whose extended mandate would be ending soon.
Then comes the decree on Senatorial elections which forces political parties to scramble to meet deadlines for identification of candidates and submission of lists. This limited time frame does not allow any of the political parties, including the CPDM, enough time to organize public and transparent candidate selection activities with grassroots input, which means that this decree, like many others signed by President Biya, inflicts collateral damage on internal democracy within Cameroonian political parties. I do not see the urgency that a tainted Senate would address in the immediate term.
CR: Biya supporters are praising this initiative as another example of his stewardship and leadership as far as strengthening democracy in Cameroon. You care to say why they may be wrong or right?
Dr. Chris Fomunyoh: Unfortunately, over the past 30 years we have seen and heard the most unimaginable declarations from supporters of this regime. Cameroonians have become accustomed to such praise singers by day and critics by night. To extrapolate somewhat, the emperor could be standing naked in the street and his supporters would sing his praises for his new dress code, even as the rest of the world sees clearly that the emperor has no clothes.
Lest we forget, in the early 1990s, as other African countries were opening up their political systems and Cameroonian democrats were advocating for more freedoms and liberty, some of these same individuals marched in the streets of the capital saying “no to democracy and political pluralism.” The Cameroonian people will remember.
CR: Talk to the concerns that about 90 percent of the Electoral College of Municipal Councilors – 9032 of 10636 – are from Paul Biya’s ruling CPDM. Will this have an impact on the quality and quantity of representation in the Senate and how?
Dr. Chris Fomunyoh: The concerns are more serious than just a number’s game. The issue is that the demographics of the country and the electorate have shifted between 2007 and 2013, so much so that one couldn’t tell in advance whether credible local elections in 2013 would give the CPDM more or less local councilors. What about new political parties that have emerged or gained strength and increased membership since 2007? The main question is: if the country is this close to holding new local elections, why not hold those elections first in order to have councilors of irrefutable legitimacy and more equitable representation who would then be called upon to participate in the election of Senators?
CR: According to the same Decree of application, President Biya will be appointing 30 of the 100 Senators. What effect does this have on the national polity?
Dr. Chris Fomunyoh: The provision that allows the president to appoint 30 Senators is in the constitution, although many Cameroonians disagree with the concept of the head of the executive branch hand picking members of the legislative branch that are supposed to exercise oversight over his performance, as in every democratic society. With already so much power centralized in the hands of one individual in the Cameroonian context, giving that individual even more powers entrenches patronage and cronyism, and simply makes a mockery of the institutions and systems of checks and balances that every democratic society has, and that we as Cameroonians deserve.
CR: It has been said that the idea of a Senate was to mimic the US system. Why is this not a moment when the US is flattered that it is getting copied by Cameroon?
Dr. Chris Fomunyoh: Well, the United States can speak for itself, but for me as a Cameroonian who loves his country and cares about the future we need to build for our youth and future generations, this whole exercise about a Senate is a very bad joke at many levels. The United States has 100 Senators for a population of 300 million inhabitants and a GDP (gros domestic product) 600 times that of Cameroon; so our leaders hand pick their own 100 Senators for 20 million people, and we call that mimicking the US?
Perhaps some of our leaders think that by creating a Senate, they can brag about the democracy they practice just as they say unashamedly these days that Cameroon has more than 200 registered political parties, and therefore is freer and more democratic than countries such as the United States, France, Great Britain, Ghana, South Africa and Senegal that have less.
Many Cameroonians even question why have a Senate when the current National Assembly is understaffed and under-resourced to carry out fully its legislative and representative functions, and when we have other institutions such as the Economic and Social Council in existence for decades with no visible impact on governance and, worse still, no accountability for the annual budgets allocated to such institutions.
There is reason to be anxious about the future of our beloved country. We still have a long way to go and greater commitment needed to attain the appropriate democratic institutions and processes that many Africans now take for granted.
CR: The Law and Decree of Application both address Regional Representation. But they are both silent about demographic representation, including youth and women.
Dr. Chris Fomunyoh: To be honest with you, my feeling is that the current regime uses the words ‘women and youth’ as mere slogans. Besides getting women to wear party uniforms and dance at public events glorifying ‘the great leader’, I am still to identify specific government policies and actions that benefit the Cameroonian woman. Look at the placards carried by some women during the last March 8 ceremonies marking international women’s day.
We deny many young Cameroonians even the right to vote by crafting an artificial voting age at 20 years old whereas the age of maturity is 18 years; we create artificial statistics to hock wink young people into believing the government has their interest at heart: in 2011, Cameroonian youth were promised 25,000 jobs and for a long time it was unclear whether or how those jobs were all filled; then at year end 2012, youth were promised 300,000 jobs without stating clearly how that would be done in an economy that is stagnating and for which the regime itself promises economic emergence only in 2035, more than 22 years from now.
CR: Let’s talk some about the opposition in this process. What are the chances that the opposition stuns Biya and his cohorts and wins a majority?
Dr. Chris Fomunyoh: No chances for opposition parties at all! Zip! Zero! Left to its own devises, the regime that governs our country today seems intent on driving us back into the dark days of one party rule.
CR: Why do Fru Ndi and his nominal opposition not bear the credibility of yesteryears to pull it off?
Dr. Chris Fomunyoh: The deck is stacked against opposition parties in our country. The playing field is so tilted in many areas. Even then, and as I said during a public conference in Yaounde in November 2012, the opposition also needs to take stock of itself, recognize its strengths and weaknesses, size up its assets and liabilities, review its accomplishments and failures, in order to redefine the role its wants to play in shaping the country’s future.
The population has become disenchanted, apathetic and disrespectful of some of the opposition leaders and parties for good reason. In fact the frequent inconsistencies of some leaders deprive the people of the right to hope for change and a different and better tomorrow.
CR: Is it an accurate assessment that this Senatorial Body, if Cameroonians let the charade continue, is nothing but another rubber stamp masquerade for the Executive Branch, without a mandate to change the course of history for the development and prosperity of Cameroonians, and another foundation for the thriving plague of corruption?
Dr. Chris Fomunyoh: You captured it very well. I have even said, in dismay and disbelieve at the frivolous manner in which democratic institution building is handled in our country, that if the regime already has its list of 100 Senators, it should name them now and save us all the unnecessary expenditure from state coffers and further embarrassment before other Africans and the rest of the world. Thank goodness there’s precedence that in a country such as Senegal, President Macky Sall upon getting into office saw the futility of a Senate created under similar circumstances and scrapped it completely. Senegal’s democracy hasn’t lost a dent of its credibility.
CR: At the last Presidential Elections in 2011 there are many Cameroonians who strongly believed that your town hall meetings across North America were to explore the chances of running against Paul Biya. You care to explain why it was a no-go at the end?
Dr. Chris Fomunyoh: As I stated during a press conference in Douala on September 13, 2011, the town hall meetings across North America and Europe and the extensive consultations across the country were aimed at hearing from my fellow compatriots about their hopes and aspirations with regards to the political leadership of our country and the role we could play in bringing these expectations to fruition going forward. While some felt that one needed to take the bull by the hones, many others worried about being compromised by a flawed process that seemed pre-arranged for a predetermined outcome.
We therefore determined that we could not, in good conscience, become accomplices in the charade of an electoral process. Developments since then continue to prove us right; and when President Biya stated in Paris recently that his legitimacy could not be questioned because he won a competitive presidential election against more than 20 other candidates, whom by the way he treated with disdain as if they were stooges, many of our fellow compatriots were relieved that I was not one of them.
CR: Can you tell the disillusioned Cameroonian youth what, if anything, they can and should be doing to fend off this onslaught by the current generation of leaders?
Dr. Chris Fomunyoh: My piece of advice to the Cameroonian youth is ‘do not despair’! Leaders come and go, but countries leave on. So, the opportunity will come for our country to bounce back and regain its rightful place among the community of truly democratic nations. The clock turns in only one direction and, despite the challenges of the moment, that one direction keeps me hopeful for our youth and optimistic for the future of our resource-rich country. So, working with the youth, we must keep expanding and strengthening the networks of like-minded, committed and patriotic Cameroonians, so that once the opportunity arises and the stars align themselves, the youth will rise up and make their voices heard loud and clear, once and for all.
*Source Chia Report