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Access Power launches 2018 edition of the $7 million Access Co-Development Facility (ACF) competition powering Africa & Asia
March 27, 2018 | 0 Comments
The winners of ACF 2018 will be announced during a live final evaluation panel on June 19th 2018 during the Africa Energy Forum in Mauritius
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, March 27, 2018/ — Access Power (www.Access-Power.com), a developer, owner and operator of power projects in emerging markets, today announced the launch of ACF 2018, the third edition of the highly successful funding and support platform for renewable energy projects in Africa and Asia. For this third edition, Access has included Asia for energy projects and invite entrepreneurs across both Africa and Asia to compete.

Now in its fourth year, the ACF is an innovative US$7 million financial support programme designed to provide local power project developers and originators with project development support, technical experience, expertise and funding required to bring their renewable energy projects to life.

ACF 2018 aims to further build on the success of the previous three years where a total of 234 projects have been considered for the prize with several winning projects now benefiting from the mix of funding and technical expertise provided by Access Power. This year’s finalists will once again be evaluated and scored by an independent panel of industry experts, similar to last year’s which comprised of senior representatives from Power Africa, InfraCo Africa, Proparco, and the Dutch Development Bank (FMO) .

The winners of ACF 2018 will be announced during a live final evaluation panel on June 19th 2018 during the Africa Energy Forum in Mauritius. The top three finalists from Africa and Asia will subsequently enter into direct Joint Development Agreement (JDA) discussions with Access Power.

Reda El Chaar, Executive Chairman, Access Power commented; “This year we are delighted to welcome projects across Asia too to compete. By introducing new markets, we hope this will enable us to reach a bigger network of innovative and pioneering entrepreneurs across Africa and Asia with the opportunity to develop their ambitious ideas into tangible projects.”

The ACF 2018 application form and guidelines are available on Access Power website www.Access-Power.com

The ACF 2018 is a financial support mechanism designed to provide local developers and entrepreneurs with the technical expertise and funding required to bring their renewable energy projects to life.
• Applications for the ACF 2018 will open in March 19th  2018
• The submission period runs from March 19th to May 10th 2018.
• An independent judging panel will include industry experts as well as representatives from multilateral development banks.
• Following a pre-selection process, a shortlist of applicants will be chosen to present their projects to a panel of judges at the Africa Energy Forum in Mauritius,June 2018 (www.Africa-Energy-Forum.com).
• Applicants must present their projects to the judging panel during the Forum within a given time and take questions from panel members.
• Panel members will score each project based on the evaluation criteria, using weighted percentages.
• The winners will negotiate and enter a Joint Development Agreement with Access Power, which will take an agreed equity stake in the winning projects and fund all third-party development costs. Access Power will also provide technical support, financing and development process management

About Access Power 
Access Power (www.Access-Power.com) ‘Access’ is a developer, owner and operator of power plants in emerging and frontier markets. Access today is one of the fastest growing independent power producers in emerging markets and is currently developing renewable energy projects worth over US$1 billion in 23 countries across Africa and Asia Our development team has a depth of experience in developing and building large portfolios of renewable energy projects, with a collective track record of financially closing 30 GW of power projects across the globe.

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Why Africa’s free trade area offers so much promise
March 27, 2018 | 0 Comments

By *

African leaders meet in Kigali to sign the continent’s free trade agreement. Paul Kagame/Flickr

African leaders meet in Kigali to sign the continent’s free trade agreement. Paul Kagame/Flickr

African leaders have just signed a framework establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area, the largest free trade agreement since the creation of the World Trade Organisation.

The free trade area aims to create a single market for goods and services in Africa. By 2030 the market size is expected to include 1.7 billion people with over USD$ 6.7 trillion of cumulative consumer and business spending – that’s if all African countries have joined the free trade area by then. Ten countries, including Nigeria, have yet to sign up.

The goal is to create a

single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments.

The agreement has the potential to deliver a great deal for countries on the continent. The hope is that the trade deal will trigger a virtuous cycle of more intra African trade, which in turn will drive the structural transformation of economies – the transition from low productivity and labour intensive activities to higher productivity and skills intensive industrial and service activities – which in turn will produce better paid jobs and make an impact on poverty.

But signing the agreement is only the beginning. For it to come into force, 22 countries must ratify it. Their national legislative bodies must approve and sanction the framework formally, showing full commitment to its implementation. Niger President Issoufou Mahamadou, who has been championing the process, aims to have the ratification process completed by January 2019.

Cause and effect

Some studies have shown that by creating a pan-African market, intra-Africa trade could increase by about 52% by 2022. Better market access creates economies of scale. Combined with appropriate industrial policies, this contributes to a diversified industrial sector and growth in manufacturing value added.

Manufacturing represents only about 10% of total GDP in Africa on average. This falls well below other developing regions. A successful continental free trade area could reduce this gap. And a bigger manufacturing sector will mean more well-paid jobs, especially for young people. This in turn will help poverty alleviation.

Industrial development, and with it, more jobs, is desperately needed in Africa. Industry represents one-quarter to one-third of total job creationin other regions of the world. And a young person in Africa is twice as likely to be unemployed when he or she becomes an adult. This is a particularly stressful situation given that over 70% of sub-Saharan Africa’s population is below age 30.

In addition, 70% of Africa’s youth live on less than US $2 per day.

The continental free trade area is expected to offer

substantial opportunities for industrialisation, diversification, and high-skilled employment in Africa.

The single continental market will offer the opportunity to accelerate the manufacture and intra-African trade of value-added products, moving from commodity based economies and exports to economic diversification and high-value exports.

But, to increase the impact of the trade deal, industrial policies must be put in place. These must focus on productivity, competition, diversification, and economic complexity.

In other words, governments must create enabling conditions to ensure that productivity is raised to international competitiveness standards. The goal must be to ensure that the products manufactured in African countries are competitively traded on the continent and abroad, and to diversify the range and sophistication of products and services.

Drivers of manufacturing

Data shows that the most economically diverse countries are also the most successful.

In fact, diversification is critical as “countries that are able to sustain a diverse range of productive know-how, including sophisticated, unique know-how, are able to produce a wide diversity of goods, including complex products that few other countries can make.

Diverse African economies such as South Africa and Egypt, are likely to be the drivers of the free trade area, and are likely to benefit from it the most. These countries will find a large continental market for their manufactured products. They will also use their know-how and dense industrial landscape to develop innovative products and respond to market demand.

But the agreement on its own won’t deliver results. Governments must put in place policies that drive industrial development, particularly manufacturing. Five key ones stand out:

Human capital: A strong manufacturing sector needs capable, healthy, and skilled workers. Policymakers should adjust curriculum to ensure that skills are adapted to the market. And there must be a special focus on young people. Curriculum must focus on skills and building capacity for entrepreneurship and self-employment. This should involve business training at an early age and skills upgrading at an advanced one. This should go hand in hand with promoting science, technology, engineering, entrepreneurship and mathematics as well as vocational and on-the-job training.

Policymakers should also favour the migration of highly skilled workers across the continent.

Cost: Policymakers must bring down the cost of doing business. The barriers include energy, access to roads and ports, security, financing, bureaucratic restrictions, corruption, dispute settlement and property rights.

Supply network: Industries are more likely to evolve if competitive networks exist. Policymakers should ease trade restrictions and integrate regional trade networks. In particular, barriers for small and medium-size businesses should be lifted.

Domestic demand: Policymakers should offer tax incentives to firms to unlock job creation, and to increase individual and household incomes. Higher purchasing power for households will increase the size of the domestic market.

Resources: Manufacturing requires heavy investment. This should be driven by the private sector. Policymakers should facilitate access to finance, especially for small and medium enterprises. And to attract foreign direct investment, policymakers should address perceptions of poor risk perception. This invariably scares off potential investors or sets excessive returns expectations.

Increased productivity

The continental free trade area facilitates industrialisation by creating a continental market, unlocking manufacturing potential and bolstering an international negotiation bloc.

Finally, the continental free trade area will also provide African leaders with a greater negotiating power to eliminate barriers to exporting. This will help prevent agreements with other countries, and trading blocs, that are likely to hurt exports and industrial development.

*Culled from The Conversation.is a Distinguished Fellow at Stanford University’s Center for African Studies, David M. Rubenstein Fellow at the Global Economy and Development and Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution, and Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum, Stanford University

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IGAD Decided to Lift South Sudanese Rebel Leader Machar House Arrest, Proposes Relocation
March 27, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Deng Machol

Rebel leader Machar is a de facto prisoner in a farmhouse outside of Johannesburg

Rebel leader Machar is a de facto prisoner in a farmhouse outside of Johannesburg

Juba – The regional bloc of Inter –Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Council of Ministers has decided to release South Sudan’s exiled rebel leader Dr. Riek Machar from house arrest in South Africa.

Rebel leader Machar is a de facto prisoner in a farmhouse outside of Johannesburg. He is isolated from his friends and family, and has been frozen out of South Sudan’s peace process and the future of his country.

 The IGAD’s communique issued following its 61st Extra-Ordinary Session held on Monday in Addis Ababa, said it would release Dr. Machar as soon as possible if he would agree to renounce violence, not obstruct the peace process and relocate to any country “outside the region not neighboring South Sudan.”

Meanwhile, the wife of Dr. Machar told the VOA that the family is disappointed in a decision made by IGAD calling for a conditional “lifting of house arrest.”

“If you read it carefully, actually, there is no lifting of any house arrest. Because what they said is very clear that they will transfer him from where he is now, which is South Africa, to another location that is not in the region, and that would not be in any proximity with South Sudan,” Angelina Teny, Machar’s wife said, who is also senior opposition member.

The statement said that IGAD ministers would decide on a possible location for prominent South Sudanese rebel leader Machar, something his wife said the ministers of the regional bloc are not being fair to her husband.

Dr. Machar, who ended up in South Africa, came in aftermath of a new outbreak of fighting in July 2016 destroyed a tentative peace deal that had restored Machar to his government post, and forced him to flee the country.

The opposition groups say they are upset by the government demand to exclude Machar from the SPLM reunification process, peace revitalization forum, and the national transitional government.

President Kiir government made it clear since last year that Machar can only run for president at the end constitutional process, insisting that he should remain away from the rest claiming he would obstruct the whole operation.

Over the weekend, the government Chief Negotiator for the peace process said they have rejected the opposition proposal at the High Level Revitalization Forum talks to reinstate 1st Former Vice President Riek Machar to his former position, describes as problematic.

 “This of course is problematic and we don’t want to repeat that tragic history if that formula could work but we tried it could not work,” Chief Negotiator Nhial Deng Nhial said at the party rally, SPLM in Juba. “It’s an obstacle we hope that the SPLA/IO of Dr. Riek focus more on the representation of position as an institution rather than in the person of Riek SPLM/IO is fully entitled in key position in the government in keeping in its political weight that is something that we are already to consider.”

However, the observers said this new condition may obstruct the peace process as the third round of revitalization process is at doorstep.

Machar, who has long dominated South Sudanese politics, though he was rebelled against former SPLM leader Dr. John Garang De Mabior, was an instrumental figure in South Sudan’s fight for independence from Sudan, and has served as vice president twice in the very short history of the world’s newest nation. It became independent in 2011.

However, power struggling between Dr. Machar and President Salva Kiir sparked the civil war that began in 2013, leaving the country devastated in its wake.

The regional bloc also called upon the Transitional Government of National Unity and the nine opposition groups not to squander the opportunity for ending the suffering of the people of South Sudan.

IGAD did not set new dates for the resumption of the peace talks. Its special envoy, South Sudan Ambassador Ismail Wais, will consult various South Sudanese stakeholders to reconcile the position of the parties on power sharing and permanent security arrangements before the next talks.

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Louis Vuitton names Ghanaian-American as new creative boss
March 27, 2018 | 0 Comments

Virgil Abloh, the founder of streetwear brand Off-White and Kanye West’s creative director, has been named the new menswear designer for French fashion label Louis Vuitton.

“I feel elated,” the 37-year-old , saying the opportunity was “always a goal in my wildest dreams”.

The news site says Abloh is one of the few black designers at the helm of a major French fashion house.

Others include Olivier Rousteing – the creative director at Balmain, and British designer Ozwald Boateng who led Givenchy men’s wear from 2003 to 2007.

Abloh will present his first menswear collection for Louis Vuitton in June at Paris Fashion Week.

Louis Vuitton chief executive Michael Burke praised the designer’s “sensibility towards luxury and savoir-faire” adding he would be “instrumental in taking Louis Vuitton’s menswear into the future”.

*BBC

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Morocco top ranked investment destination in Africa for 2017
March 26, 2018 | 0 Comments
Egypt, Algeria, Botswana and Cote d’Ivoire amongst top five investment destinations
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, March 26, 2018/ —

  • Quantum Global Research Lab releases new 2018 Africa Investment Index
  • Top five investment destinations attracted a combined net FDI of $12.8 bn in 2016
  • Egypt, Algeria, Botswana and Cote d’Ivoire amongst top five investment destinations
Prof. Mthuli Ncube, Managing Director, Quantum Global Research Lab

Prof. Mthuli Ncube, Managing Director, Quantum Global Research Lab

Morocco is the most attractive economy for investments flowing into the African continent, according to the latest Africa Investment Index 2018 (AII) by Quantum Global’s (http://QuantumGlobalGroup.com) independent research arm, Quantum Global Research Lab.

According to the AII, Morocco ranks first on the Index based on its increasing solid economic growth, strategic geographic positioning, increased foreign direct investment, external debt levels, social capital factors and overall favourable business environment.

Prof. Mthuli Ncube, Managing Director, Quantum Global Research Lab commented:

“In spite of the improvements to oil production and prices, African economies are turning their attention towards diversification to stimulate industrial development, and to attract investments in non-oil strategic sectors. Morocco has been consistent in attracting an inward flow of foreign capital, specifically in banking, tourism and energy sectors and through the development of industry.”

Top 10 and Bottom 10 countries

Rank Top 10 (best to worst) Bottom 10 (worst to best)
1 Morocco Central African Republic
2 Egypt Liberia
3 Algeria Somalia
4 Botswana Eritrea
5 Cote d’Ivoire Equatorial Guinea
6 South Africa Gambia, The
7 Ethiopia Sierra Leone
8 Zambia Guinea
9 Kenya Sao Tome and Principe
10 Senegal Zimbabwe

 

According to recent data by the Moroccan Exchange Control, Morocco attracted nearly $2.57 bn of foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2017, up from 12 percent compared to 2016. The country is being recognised as one of the best emerging markets for overseas investment. International investors are looking at wide range of sectors for investments including in areas such as energy, infrastructure, tourism, and ICT amongst others.

According to AII, the top five African investment destinations attracted an overall FDI of $12.8 bn in 2016. Cote d’Ivoire ranks 5th while being the fastest growing economy in Africa and scores relatively well in liquidity and risk factors such as real interest rate, exchange rate risk and current account ratio. The improved risk profile, combined with strong liquidity, business environment, demographics and the social capital record has rendered Algeria a rise to the 3rd position in the second edition. Botswana, previously ranked as Africa’s top investment destination in the first edition, ranks 4th scoring well in risk factors as well as the business environment.

Prof. Ncube further commented: “Continued FDI inflows will continue to drive the much-needed capital to develop Africa’s primary sectors to meet the demands of the continent’s rapidly growing middle-class, and into manufacturing sectors to create more jobs, enhance economic growth and support structural transformation.”

In terms of improvements in the ranking over the last 3 years, countries such as Swaziland, Angola, Rwanda, Chad, Comoros, Seychelles, South Sudan and Sierra Leone registered strong upward movements as shown in AII three-year rolling rankings.

Quantum Global (www.QuantumGlobalGroup.com) is an international group of companies active in the areas of private equity investments, investment management as well as macroeconomic research and econometric modelling. Quantum Global’s private equity arm manages a family of funds targeting direct investments in Africa in the sectors of Agriculture, Healthcare, Hotels, Infrastructure, Mining and Timber – as well as a sector agnostic Structured Equity fund. Our team combines a solid track record and proven expertise to identify and execute unique investment opportunities with focus on Africa. Quantum Global works in close partnership with key stakeholders to maximise investment value and returns through active management and value creation. For more information, visit www.QuantumGlobalGroup.com.

The AII is constructed from macroeconomic and financial indicators and the World Bank Group’s Ease of Doing Business Indicators (DBI). The DBI ranks countries in terms of a regulatory environment conducive to business operation. The AII focuses on 5 pillars or factors from a wider range of investment indicators, which include the share of domestic investment in GDP, the share of Africa’s total FDI net inflow, GDP growth rate forecast, population augmented GDP growth factor, real interest rate, the difference of broad money growth to the GDP growth rates, inflation differential, credit rating, import cover, the share of the country’s external debt in its GNI, current account ratio, ease of doing business and the country’s population size (Figure 1). The AII indicators are based on secondary data collected from World Bank Development Indicators, IMF World Economic Outlook, UNCTAD Data Centre and own estimates.

The AII is a combination of individual indicator’s rank into a single numerical ranking. It averages the country’s macroeconomic and financial indicators rankings on the five different factors. Each indicator, and hence factors, receives an equal weight.  Their rank score is then averaged to produce the total average score, which is consequently ranked from 1 to 54. The higher the value of the ranking, the lower the implied business investment climate.

To produce an index score that captures medium-term changing aspects, individual country’s ranking is scaled relative to a benchmark or reference value (i.e., the past 3-year rolling average ranking). In addition to the intended measurement, this approach enables us to avoid periods of structural changes (which may compromise the index) that may be present in a longer time span, whether we consider a change from a reference average value or a historical reference period.

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Bill Gates tells Nigerian leaders to ‘face facts’ so they can make progress
March 26, 2018 | 0 Comments

David McKenzie and Brent Swails*

Bill Gates tells Nigerian leaders to 'face facts' so they can make progress

Bill Gates tells Nigerian leaders to ‘face facts’ so they can make progress

(CNN)Bill Gates traveled to Nigeria to publicly give its leaders some tough talk. It was a highly unusual move but the tech billionaire believes the country is facing a critical moment.

“While it may be easier to be polite, it’s more important to face facts so that you can make progress,” the philanthropist told a room of Nigeria’s government elite that included the president.
In an exclusive television interview with CNN, Gates said he wanted to speak out to implore Nigerian politicians to focus on human capital and its large youth population.
“The current quality and quantity of investment in this young generation in health and education just isn’t good enough. So I was very direct.”
The tech billionaire and founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation feels that he has earned the right to speak.
Gates says he has traveled to Nigeria for more than a decade and the foundation is spending $1.6 billion on programs here — most of it his own money.
Their primary focus is health and their work has been incredibly successful in mitigating the threat of polio, particularly in the crisis hit northeast of the country.
Gates feels, along with many others, that it is time for Nigeria’s government to do better. The continent’s largest economy is moving out of a recession caused by a tanking oil price and moving towards a closely watched presidential election in 2019.
In many ways, the country is transforming, with gleaming hotel towers on Lagos Island competing for real estate and the wealthy fighting in the notorious traffic in ubiquitous black SUVs.
But dig a little bit deeper and the statistics are alarming. As Gates points out, Nigeria is still one of the most dangerous places to give birth and the country’s very young face chronic malnutrition.
University of Washington modeling, commissioned by Gates, estimates that if investment isn’t increased in health and education, then the per-capita GDP, rising steadily for decades, will flatline.
Gates says he wanted to spark action and debate and he certainly has.
Predictably, some see the tough talk as a rebuke of Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s president, who has been struggling to get the economy on its feet and stamp out the persistent threat of Islamist group Boko Haram in the northeast.
On the street, many just want support from their government — whoever is in charge — because right now there often isn’t much.
“These people are just trying to survive, they aren’t being helped,” said banker Moses Uchendu, while grabbing lunch at the popular Obalende market in Lagos.
It’s a bustling market where vendors sell delicacies such as efo riro, a spicy Yoruba stew. Power outages are frequent and the only contact with officials is when they visit for bribes, say residents and traders.
Nigeria is routinely rated as one of the most corrupt nations on the globe. Although the country recently moved up 14 places on the World Bank’s ease of doing business ranking, most of its businesses remain in the informal sector where there is little help and loans are hard to come by.
Few businesses pay their taxes and all these factors have hindered Nigeria from meeting its true potential, says Gates.
Uchendu hopes Nigerians are listening.
“I told my friends… that Bill Gates is saying the truth. It is better we are told the truth about Nigeria’s economy. It is better we say the truth.”
But Gate’s message isn’t a new one. Activists say they have been making frequent calls to invest in people, and end rampant corruption, all which have been ignored.
“These are not new topics. These are the issues that we have been discussing with the government. We have been engaging with them for so many years now,” says Timothy Adewale, a human rights lawyer with one of Nigeria’s largest NGOs.
“Nobody will listen. You know, actually, if they are sincere about the best interest of the people, they should listen. It has always been said that the greatest test of your commitment is your actions.”
But Gates believes, together with Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man and a close partner of the Gates Foundation, that if the Nigerian government does a few things differently, then the country is poised for lift off.
“I really think that of all the countries I have seen, it really hangs in the balance. If they can get health and education right, they can be an engine of growth, not just for themselves but for all of Africa,” said Gates.
*Courtesy of CNN
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Paul Biya: Cameroon’s ‘absentee president’
March 26, 2018 | 0 Comments

Cameroon’s President Paul Biya has been in power for 35 years. But while his longevity in office is a talking point at home, the time he spends out of the country has stirred international comment – as Paul Melly, an associate fellow of Chatham House, explains.

Criticised by some for a supposedly “hands-off” style of rule, Cameroon’s President Paul Biya recently held a cabinet meeting for the first time in more than two years.

Presidential elections are scheduled for October and Cameroonians are waiting to hear if the 85-year-old will seek a further term. But no such announcement was made at the meeting.

Mr Biya has been in power since 1982, making him one of Africa’s longest serving leaders. Under his rule, Cameroon has survived an economic crisis and moved from being a one-party state to multi-party politics.

But it has also been marked by endemic corruption and reversal of democratic gains, leading to the abolition of term limits in 2008, which allowed the octogenarian to run for re-election in 2011.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) accompanies President of Cameroon Paul Biya (R) to view an honour guard during a welcoming ceremony inside the Great Hall of the People on March 22, 2018 in Beijing, China.Image copyrightAFP
Image captionPresident Biya has been in China this week

Today’s Africa is changing. The era of decades-old presidencies is slipping away. Satellite TV and the internet tell a growing urban audience about democratic changes of power in other sub-Saharan countries.

Some 60% of Cameroonians are under 25 and so were not even born when President Biya first came to power. There is massive demand for jobs and viable livelihoods.

The opposition Social Democratic Front has now recognised these generational realities. Earlier this year, the party’s leader, John Fru Ndi, 76, stepped aside to make way for a new presidential candidate, 49-year-old businessman and former pilot Joshua Osih.

Swiss hotel

This is the challenge that confronts Mr Biya as he decides whether to stand for a further term that could take him into a fourth decade in power in a country hungry for change.

His repeated absences from the country have riled critics.

His foreign travels have been the subject of an online spat between the state-owned Cameroon Tribune newspaper and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), which calculated the amount of time the president spent abroad using reports from the daily newspaper.

The OCCRP estimates that the president spent nearly 60 days out of the country last year on private visits.

It also alleges that he spent a third of the year abroad in 2006 and 2009. The Intercontinental Hotel in Geneva is said to be his favourite destination.

The state-owned Cameroon Tribune called their investigation “a clear electoral propaganda”.

President Paul Biya (L) and his wife Chantal Biya in YaoundeImage copyrightAFP
Image captionCameroon football players bow before President Biya and his wife Chantal to mimic an obsequious greeting

Back home, President Biya adopts a low-key style, staying out of the limelight and sometimes retreating to his home village.

He entrusts the day-to-day running of the government to the Prime Minister, Philemon Yang, who holds monthly gatherings of a “cabinet council”.

The prime minister is accorded wide latitude to manage the work of his ministerial team, while the head of state meets senior figures in private at the presidential palace in the capital, Yaoundé.

President Biya’s hands-off approach has led critics to talk of an “absent president”.

However, this relationship at least partly reflects Cameroon’s unusual dual heritage of both British and French colonial rule. President Biya, like his predecessor Ahmadou Ahidjo, is from the Francophone regions, while the premier is always an Anglophone.

The president has to be seen to leave the head of government to get on with the job, says one non-partisan Cameroonian analyst.

So when President Biya does summon ministers to a rare formal cabinet gathering, it is usually for a special reason.

The most recent one was the official first meeting of a new ministerial team after a reshuffle earlier in the month. It is similar to the last cabinet meeting, in 2015, which had come soon after the previous government revamp.

This time there was speculation that Mr Biya would announce whether or not he would stand in this year’s election, to seek yet another term in office – but in fact he gave no hint of his thinking on that.

Yet the surprise cabinet meeting did matter in another way.

Language matters

For more than a year, Cameroon’s Anglophone regions in the North-West and South-West have been mired in crisis.

This started as a protest by lawyers and teachers demanding better provision for the use of English.

Media captionCameroon’s English-speaking region protests explained

But tensions rose, leading to confrontation between the security forces, a 93-day blackout of internet services across Anglophone Cameroon, and separatist militants fighting for an independent “Ambazonia”, with a rising death toll on both sides.

The government took steps to address the language issues, but the situation still looks dangerous. Both the UK and France have discreetly pressed for dialogue.

President Biya responded with a cabinet reshuffle on 2 March, signalling a carrot and stick approach: firmness on security and law and order was balanced with the creation of a ministry for decentralisation, holding out the promise of greater local control over development and public services.

Map of Cameroon
Image captionNorth-West and South-West are Cameroon’s two English-speaking regions

He used this rare cabinet meeting to show his full backing for his ministers as they pursue this twin-track strategy – a firm stance on security in the troubled Anglophone region, but, at the same time, decentralisation, to give local people more control over their own affairs.

So, the so-called absent president had to show a firm hand while also preparing to loosen his grip.

*Source BBC

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Carolyn Kennedy Bags Leadership and Service Award In Washington, DC
March 26, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Carolyn Kennedy receiving the award from Therapeutic Interventions Inc

Carolyn Kennedy receiving the award from Therapeutic Interventions Inc

Carolyn Kennedy, Executive Director of the Silver Spring, MD, based Brotherhood and Sisterhood International-BSI, is the 2018 recipient of the Therapeutic Interventions Inc. Leadership and Service Award.

The award was presented to Carolyn Kennedy at recent event organized by Therapeutic Interventions Inc. at the Historic Fraser Mansion in Washington, DC as part of the Women’s History Month Celebration 2018.

With a career span of 30 years in civil rights and providing services to the disabled, it was with a standing ovation that Carolyn Kennedy received the award from the management of Therapeutic Interventions Inc. led by Fatmata Koroma.

For some thirty years Carolyn Kennedy has put in her all for civil rights and serving people with disabilities

For some thirty years Carolyn Kennedy has put in her all for civil rights and serving people with disabilities

Accepting the honor , Carolyn Kennedy shared motivational experiences on the long and windy road she has traveled to get to where she is.Stick to your dreams and remain steadfast in the midst of all odds said Carolyn Kennedy, who was accompanied  to the event by her husband Dr. Kofi Agyapong -Founder of Sons and Daughters of Africa,SADA.

The event was graced with musical performances, presentations by Miss Culture USA Pageants, video presentations and more.

The women from Miss Culture USA 2018 answered present at the event

The women from Miss Culture USA 2018 answered present at the event

Therapeutic Interventions Inc. was founded to enhance the quality of life for all people and empower the community to develop habits and techniques that promote a healthy lifestyle, positive self-esteem, positive self-image, interpersonal skills, ethical values, character, and entrepreneurship  and leadership abilities.

Wellness Professional Candice Camille (in yellow) spoke at the event while Christine White thrilled the audience with some exquisite West African dance moves

Wellness Professional Candice Camille (in yellow) spoke at the event while Christine White thrilled the audience with some exquisite West African dance moves

Its vision is to develop career skills and opportunities for the minority and the African Diaspora community by providing career development courses, programs in health and human services, youth engagement initiatives and education, promotion of arts, culture and the humanities. Therapeutic Interventions Inc. creates a platform to celebrate the creative and innovative lifestyle of the community.

Next on the hectic agenda of the organization is the Miss Culture USA 2018 pageant in April.

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Annual Meetings of the Boards of Governors of the African Development Bank Group: “Accelerating Africa’s industrialization”
March 24, 2018 | 0 Comments
21 – 25 May 2018, Busan Exhibition Conference Center, Busan, Republic of South Korea
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, March 23, 2018/ — The 53rd Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the African Development Bank and 44th Meeting of the Board of Governors of the African Development Fund (http://www.AfDB.org/am), the concessional arm of the Bank Group, are scheduled to take place from May 21-25, 2018 in Busan, Korea.

While Africa has enjoyed strong economic growth for almost two decades, the continent has not seen a commensurate rise in industrialization. On average, African industry generates merely US$700 of GDP per capita, which is barely a fifth in East Asia (US$3,400). In addition, African exports consist of low technology manufactures and unprocessed natural resources, which represent more than 80 percent of exports from Algeria, Angola or Nigeria, for example.

Africa’s rapid industrialization holds the potential for a win-win scenario – for the world, and certainly for the continent. It would also help raise productivity by spurring technological progress and innovation while creating higher-skilled jobs in the formal sector; promote linkages between services and agricultural sectors; between rural and urban economies; and among consumers, intermediates and capital goods industries. Industrialization will also make the prices of manufactured exports less volatile or susceptible to long-term deterioration than those of primary goods, as well as help African countries escape dependence on primary commodity exports.

The theme is generating a lot of interest at a time when Korean and Asian companies are increasingly active in Africa. What lessons can Africa learn from Korea’s development experience? Can relations between both regions, built on a win-win formula, enable Africa claim a more significant share of world trade? Can Afro-Asian commercial and financial ties favor the development of the African private sector? What are the most effective policy levers that could foster structural transformation on the continent? How can the continent learn from the experiences of Korea and leading African nations such as Mauritius, Morocco, Ethiopia, and Rwanda in the industrialization process? These and other questions will be debated during the Busan Annual Meetings.

The Annual Meetings are one of the largest economic gatherings on the continent. Thousands of delegates, Heads of State, public and private sectors stakeholders, development partners and academics, will reflect on Africa’s industrialization − one of the Bank’s High 5 strategic priorities (https://www.afdb.org/en/the-high-5) and an avenue to improve the living conditions of Africans.

During the meetings, the Bank will organize a series of knowledge events to generate new ideas for developing and financing Africa’s industrialization. Highlights of the meetings will include a high-level presidential panel on Accelerating African Industrialization: Bringing the future to the present. The panel will be a platform for political leaders from Africa and Korea to present their visions and strategies for industrialization as well as ideas for overcoming implementation challenges.

The Bank will launch the updated version of the African Economic Outlook (AEO) 2018 – the Bank’s flagship economic publication. Several knowledge events are on the programme such as Pathways to Industrialization, where panelists will deliberate on the various trajectories African countries can follow towards sustainable industrialization. A panel on Future of Work and Industrialization will examine how Africa can adapt its educational systems and workers’ skills to suit new economic realities, particularly for industrial development of the continent, among other sessions.

Journalists willing to take part in the Meetings are requested to send to the Bank a designation letter from their news organization at the following address: (media@afdb.org). Upon receipt of the letter, the Bank will send a personal code that will allow online registration. Online registration will close on 13th May 2018. Journalists from countries without Korean diplomatic representation should register early enough in order to get assistance from the Bank in obtaining a visa should they need one.

The African Development Bank will not cover transport and subsistence costs for journalists travelling to Busan.

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Today’s technology offers financial institutions in Africa countless opportunities to improve their business
March 24, 2018 | 0 Comments

KIGALI, Rwanda, March 23, 2018/ — Speakers at the International Conference on Responsible and Inclusive Finance (ICRIF) (http://www.amir.org.rw) held in Kigali on 21 March urged Rwandan microfinance institutions (MFIs) to embrace new-age technology to streamline their operations and to enhance their ability to extend financial inclusion among the country’s unbanked and underbanked population.

Straton Habyalimana, senior programme manager for responsible financing at the Small Enterprise Education and Promotion Network, told the 400 delegates at the conference that MFIs should adopt digital platforms to enhance their interactions with their customers. Kigali-based digital financial services expert, James Kwezi, said that MFIs should use technology to become more efficient and profitable.

This aligns with the National Bank of Rwanda’s (BNR) call to Rwandan financial sector firms to embrace automation to reduce their operating costs and their rate of bad loans. “Many microfinance institutions in East Africa still depend on paper-driven processes or Excel spreadsheets to manage their businesses,” commented Vedran Lescan, business development manager at Oradian, a global financial inclusion company that delivers a cloud-based toolset for financial institutions.

“But with the latest advances in financial technology (fintech) and cloud software, Rwandan MFIs now have access to powerful, affordable tools that can help them transform inefficiencies into operational excellence, scale their businesses for rapid growth and get better visibility into the performance of their portfolios. This, in turn, can boost their profitability and enable them to better serve the needs of their financially excluded customers.”

At the conference, Lescan took part in a panel discussion about finding ways to overcome the challenges that financial institutions face when it comes to adopting new technology and implementing it across an entire business with multiple branches.

He said: “Data migration is an important step in digital transformation, but organisations often overlook it or underestimate how time-consuming and complex it can be. Even though an MFI’s workforce can quickly learn a new system, the software wont add value if data isn’t migrated from the previous legacy system or from spreadsheets in a consistent manner.”

As part of Oradian’s toolset, Oradian’s in-market teams provide data migration training and support to ensure the financial institution’s data is treated as an asset that enables better decision-making and better client service. Lescan also advised MFIs to seek out toolsets that offer robust security and data protection features, including audit trails, user permissions and other functions to combat data leakages, fraud and user error.

“Today’s technology offers financial institutions in Africa countless opportunities to improve their business,” Lescan said. “However, financial inclusion leaders are promoting partnerships with fintech providers (https://goo.gl/iSjsG6), rather than vendor relationships, to drive truly successful implementations. “

Fintech partnerships provide financial institutions with the resources and global best practice they need to rapidly overcome the common challenges of digital transformation.

“Strategic partnerships within the digital ecosystem are proving to be the most effective way to enable our customers to provide better service to their end-clients,” Lescan said. “We are eager to work with the central bank, MFIs and other members of the value chain to drive financial inclusion in Rwanda.”

Oradian is a financial inclusion company serving financial institutions in remote, hard-to-reach communities. Using insights from our community of customers, we build a cloud-based toolset that smart financial institutions plug into to access best practice and efficiency. Oradian’s global community is made up of over 50 financial institutions in seven countries with a concentration in the Philippines and Nigeria. Collectively, Oradian’s partnering financial institutions provide access to financial services for over one million end-clients.

 

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Kenyatta, Uhuru détente: Time for African politics to reinvent itself
March 23, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Prince Kurupati

President Uhuru Kenyatta shakes hand with Raila Odinga when they met at Harambee House, Nairobi. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE

President Uhuru Kenyatta shakes hand with Raila Odinga when they met at Harambee House, Nairobi. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE

On August 8, 2017, Kenya held its presidential election. The election was conducted in a tense environment and since then, the two main candidates going into the elction (Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta) had been at loggerheads. However, Kenyans woke up to a surprise on 16 March, 2018 as the two held a press release where they stated their new found desire to move on a reconciliation path as ‘brothers’.

The news came as a surprise to virtually everyone especially considering that it had barely been a month since Odinga had inaugurated himself as the ‘People’s President’ in a move which prompted Kenyatta to retaliate by charging some of Uhuru Kenyatta’s supporters with criminal nuisance and even issued arrests for some including the lawyer who inaugurated Odinga.

While the path of reconciliation taken by Odinga and Kenyatta is commendable, it is a bitter taste for those that were involved in the political violence and disturbances that saw over a 100 people dead and hundreds of others injured and displaced in the aftermath of the August 8, election. It is against this background that this article calls for Africa to reinvent itself.

Shifting from the culture of violence

From Cape to Cairo, African politics suffer from the culture of violence. Be it, sponsored violence induced by politicians or the random desire by one group (ethnic/tribal/race/social class etc.) to dominate another, African countries at one point or the other experience disturbing acts of violence that are politically motivated.

While the top hierarchy rarely suffers from this violence, it’s the total opposite when it comes to those at the bottom. True to the proverb, “when two elephants fight, it’s the grass that suffers” the general African populace has been affected and suffered the most from political disturbances. This, therefore, means that if any reinvention is to come, it is imperative that it starts from the bottom up for it to be effective.

Conscientization

One of the many memories that the legend Bob Marley left us is his wisdom and this wisdom is perfectly embedded in this saying, “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but our selves can free our minds.” The first and probably the only step that Africans need to take in order to overthrow the culture of political violence is for them to become aware of the political, economic and social conditions that lead them to engage in acts of violence. Such conditions which among other things include race, ethnicity, tribalism, and inferiority complex are so enmeshed in the hearts and minds of most Africans such that they subconsciously dictate how Africans think and act.

In order for Africans to emancipate themselves from these terrible conditions, it’s imperative that first, they become conscious of the conditions that exist within their minds which blindly leads them to engage and commit in terrible acts. Only when the people become conscious can there be a shift from the culture of violence to a culture of peace in African politics.

Politics of personality

While the public possesses the power to force a shift from the culture of violence, the politicians themselves can also play a part in this shift. Often times, politicians prey on the vulnerabilities of the masses, they draw support from entrenching themselves in the politics of ethnicity, tribalism and in some cases religion and gender.

By identifying with one group, they become the hero or saviour of that group and the result is that it ends up creating politics of personality; the problem with politics of personality is that it blinds people, instead of following the objective path they become subjective. They blindly follow even when the politician goes on a wrong path and when another group tries to highlight his/her flaws, those blindly following feel like they and their ‘hero’ have been attacked and find a justification for defending themselves in often times a violent manner. It’s important therefore that African politicians move past politics of personality to politics of substance.

Africans need conscientization and African politicians need to desist from politics of personality to politics of substance, then and only then can Africans see each other as friends in the political arena even when disagreeing just like the newfound friendship of Kenyatta and Odinga.

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Nicolas Sarkozy: French ex-president says funding probe is ‘hell’
March 22, 2018 | 0 Comments
Mr Sarkozy clinched big trade deals for France with Libya's Gaddafi in 2007 when he was president

Mr Sarkozy clinched big trade deals for France with Libya’s Gaddafi in 2007 when he was president

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy says allegations he received campaign funding from late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi are making his life “hell”.

“I am accused without any physical evidence,” Mr Sarkozy told magistrates, Le Figaro newspaper reports.

He has been placed under formal investigation for illicit election campaign financing in 2007, misappropriation of Libyan public funds and passive corruption.

Mr Sarkozy, 63, denies any wrongdoing.

The centre-right politician, who was in police custody being questioned for two days this week, says his Libyan accusers are seeking vengeance for his decision to deploy French warplanes during the uprising which overthrew Gaddafi in 2011.

On Thursday, Le Figaro published what it said was the full court statement made by Mr Sarkozy to French investigators (in French).

In it, he says that he is aware the allegations against him are “serious”, but that they amount to “slander” and have made his life “hell” since 11 March 2011, when the claims were first made by Gaddafi.


Hammer blow for ex-leader

Analysis by Hugh Schofield, BBC News, Paris

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy enters his car as he leaves his house in Paris, 21 March 2018Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionMr Sarkozy has been questioned in police custody

These accusations against Nicolas Sarkozy are in a different realm from all those other judicial problems that he has faced. The others are classic allegations of illegal party funding and abuse of influence.

This one is about taking money from a foreign dictator.

In each case, presumption of innocence has to prevail. Mr Sarkozy’s key argument is that he is the victim of a left-wing vendetta: judges out to get him.

On Libya, he points out that his accusers – henchmen of Gaddafi and sleazy middlemen – are not exactly paragons of veracity.

But the truth is that this is a hammer blow to the former president. The judges believe there are “serious and coherent” indications that he did indeed take money from the Libyans, and on that basis they will now conduct their investigation.

The implications are devastating. If the charges are true, then the whole story of Sarkozy’s presidency will have to be re-assessed. More importantly, what would it say about the French-led campaign to topple Gaddafi in 2011? A campaign in which the UK was persuaded by France to take part.

Big questions – if the charges are true. But don’t expect any quick answers. This case could drag on for years.


What is the Libya case about?

In 2013, France opened an investigation into allegations that Mr Sarkozy’s campaign had benefited from millions of euros of illicit funds from Gaddafi.

He failed in his bid to return to power in 2012, however, losing to Socialist candidate François Hollande.

The claims came from a French-Lebanese businessman, Ziad Takieddine, and some former Gaddafi regime officials.

In November 2016, Mr Takieddine told the French news website Mediapart that in 2006-2007 he had handed over three suitcases stuffed with 200- and 500-euro notes to Mr Sarkozy and Claude Guéant, who was his chief of staff.

Mr Takieddine alleged the cash came from Gaddafi and totalled €5m (£4.4m; $6.2m).

Mr Sarkozy was detained in 2014 in a separate investigation into alleged campaign funding abuses – the first time this has happened to a French ex-president.

Mr Guéant, who was managing Mr Sarkozy’s presidential campaign in 2007, told the franceinfo website on Tuesday that he had “never seen a penny of Libyan financing”.

He was placed under formal investigation earlier this year over a €500,000 bank transfer in 2008. He has denied wrongdoing and claimed the money came from the sale of two paintings.

Does Sarkozy face other charges?

Criminal proceedings have been launched against Mr Sarkozy in one other case of alleged illicit campaign financing.

It is alleged that he engaged in accounting fraud to overshoot the ceiling for campaign expenditure in 2012, which was €22.5m.

Mr Sarkozy denies he was aware of the overspending.

The affair is known as the Bygmalion scandal.

In connection with his 2007 campaign, Mr Sarkozy was previously cleared over claims that he had used secret funding from L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt and that he had tried to influence investigating magistrates.

*BBC

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