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AU Chair condemns violence in Nigeria, urges Buhari’s administration to open investigation into atrocities
October 23, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Amos Fofung

AU Chair Moussa Faki has openly expressed his dissatisfaction with the handling of #endsars protest by Nigerian government (photo: diplomaticwatch)
AU Chair Moussa Faki has openly expressed his dissatisfaction with the handling of #endsars protest by Nigerian government (photo: diplomaticwatch)

The Chairperson of the African Union, AU, Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat has in very strong terms condemned the violence that erupted on 20 October 2020 during anti SARS protests in Lagos, Nigeria.

In a press statement earlier this week, Moussa Faki Mahamat called on the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari  to open up an investigation into the protest that has resulted in multiple deaths and injuries.

While extending his condolences to the families of those who lost their lives during the protest that pushed for the discontinuation of the country’s special anti-robbery squad (Sars), the chairperson urged for the adoption of conflict de-escalation technics in a bid to proffering a solution to the crisis that has crippled economic activities in most states across the country.

“The Chairperson appeals to all political and social actors to reject the use of violence and respect human rights and the rule of law. He further urges all parties to privilege dialogue in order to de-escalate the situation and find concrete and durable reforms,” a section of the release read.
he also went ahead to welcome the decision by the federal government to disband the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) describing it as an important step in this direction.

Reiterating the African Union’s commitment to accompany the government and people of Nigeria in support of a peaceful solution, the AU chair pushed for the Nigerian authorities to conduct an impartial investigation to ensure the perpetrators of acts of violence are held to account.

US Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, the UK foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, and the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, also joined in the condemnation of the killings and violent protest in Nigeria “The Nigerian government must urgently investigate reports of brutality at the hands of the security forces,” Raab said, adding that he was “alarmed by widespread reports of civilian deaths”.

Several international actors have taken to social media to condemn the repressive measures of the Nigerian government stating that the #endsars protest would not have gotten here if not for the state forces violent clamp down on demonstrators.

In his address Thursday night, Buhari dismissed the international condemnation as hasty insisting that “the international community should seek to know all the facts available before taking a position or rushing to judgment and making hasty pronouncements”, he said.

Twenty-four-hour curfews have been announced in 10 Nigerian states hence shutting down many protests across the country.

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Corruption Is Robbing Nigerians Of Democratic Dividends-Okey Sam Mbonu
August 13, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

The absence of a strong vision and rampant corruption impede Nigeria from reaping the dividends of democracy, says Okey Sam Mbonu
The absence of a strong vision and rampant corruption impede Nigeria from reaping the dividends of democracy, says Okey Sam Mbonu

No party that sells primary tickets to the highest bidder deserves to be in power in Nigeria, says Okey Sam Mbonu President of the Nigerian American Council. A seasoned player on African policy circles in the USA, Mbonu says the pervasive corruption culture in Africa’s most populous country is making it difficult for the country to meet its development obligations.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Pan African Visions, Mbonu who mounted a presidential bid in the 2019 elections says a year after the re-election of President Buhari, the lack of a strong vision and rampant corruption are preventing Nigeria from reaping the dividends of democracy.

On the upcoming US elections, Mbonu says the US-Nigerian council is undergoing critical structural reforms with a view to broadening its tent, and playing a more impactful role on US-African ties. While the current Administration has taken a laid-back approach to Africa, Mbonu believes that it is in the interest of the next administration irrespective of party to step up its game in Africa to curb the marauding Chinese presence.

It has been over a year since President Buhari started his second term of office, what assessment do you make of his leadership?

President Buhari’s current and final term has been bedeviled by some major problems, including:

-Lack of vision, which manifests through the limited delivery of democratic dividends, such as economic growth via a diversified economy.

-Lack of a broad view of national governance issues, because his core inner-circle is of one mindset, thereby robbing the President of the diversity of thought necessary for progress, in a highly diverse country like Nigeria, especially on security and the economy.

-Finally, the President has had to deal with economic uncertainty occasioned by COVID-19, and the collapse of the Oil Industry.  The COVID-19 is nobody’s fault, but the collapse of the Oil economy should have been anticipated way before now.

What do make of the way his government has handled the coronavirus pandemic?

Well, Buhari’s government has adapted well with existing public health protocols in other countries.  However, the COVID-19 has revealed the under-belly of the Nigerian economy, which is that a huge chunk of the economy, perhaps more than 75% is unregulated and informal.  Most Nigerians basically survive by going out on the streets every-day to “hustle”.  Thus if they don’t go out, for a week or two, they may die of hunger.  Many people essentially went berserk out of hunger and deprivation, during the state mandated lockdowns.

May we have your take on the suspension and subsequent detention of Ibrahim Magu former Chair of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission – EFCC ?

 My recent extended exposure to Nigeria showed how corrupt the country really is, especially among the political leadership.  We have witnessed former state governors who essentially plundered their states beyond recognition, walk away from jail (maybe temporarily), thus giving everyone a license to plunder.

 However, what is so troubling is that an entity like EFCC could also be mired in the very essence of their existence, corruption within a corruption fighting agency. 

If the allegations are proven, it erodes the trust of all international partners who depend on the credibility of their crime-fighting partners, to maintain sanity and economic stability via standards rooted in the “rule of law” in the world.  A situation where every entity and everyone becomes beholden to corruption, will eventually lead to a chaotic “everyman for themselves” doctrine. 

There isn’t, and won’t be enough police to contain all out corruption in the country, thus ultimately leading to a complete grounding of the country.

No party that sells its primary tickets to the highest bidder deserves to be in power anywhere ,says Okey Mbonu
No party that sells its primary tickets to the highest bidder deserves to be in power anywhere ,says Okey Mbonu

What is your take on the National Assembly hearings on the misappropriation of funds in the Niger Delta Development Commission?

The NDDC saga, is another showdown that the problem of Nigeria is really the thieving elites versus the masses.  If serious prosecutions do not happen, then the executive branch would have failed to get a grip on the evil of corruption. 

It is really sad, because, if you think about the mind-boggling figures involved, you wander, why public officials need to steal in an unconscionable manner like that.  However, if you take a look at the physical appearances of these people, you know they won’t live very long.  It’s obvious from their distended stomachs from excessive consumption of alcohol and the like, organ failures, high-blood-pressure, obesity, heart problems, etc.  So what is all the stolen loot for?

Nigerians have now had the opportunity of comparing leadership and governance from the APC and the PDP which are the dominant parties, which of these two parties has responded more to the expectations of Nigerians?

 None.  It’s the same people going back and forth in different color-painted buses.  President Buhari could have done a better job of reining in some excesses, and setting some examples, by signaling intolerance of corruption from his own party members, as well as prosecute members of other parties.  However, Buhari still has a chance to set some example before his term is over.

On the other hand, the first of these two parties (APC and PDP), to open up their primaries, without excessive nomination fees to new-generation candidates, and a corruption-free nomination process, will ultimately prevail in the moral battle for the soul of Nigeria. 

No party that sells its primary tickets to the highest bidder deserves to be in power anywhere, because that candidate who “bought” the ticket, does not owe the electorate anything, except to recoup their money, and empower their family to their heart’s content.  That is why you frequently see a governor who plundered their state and failed to pay salaries walk the streets of Nigeria without outrage.

Do you agree with those who think that a third major force or party will be a healthy development for democracy in Nigeria?

A third major party is a viable route, but that third party may ultimately have to ally with one of the big two, in order to pull-off a national victory.  There are many other intricacies to address, but it is doable.

You did get into the 2019 Presidential race, but dropped out, could you share some of the lessons that you learned from the experience and any plans for 2023?

 Yes, my Campaign team calculated that the Labour Party, which is technically the third largest party, with existing structures in all 36 States, was a good vehicle to challenge the status quo.  However, it turned out that the Labour Party needed substantial internal reforms, in order to float a national candidate.  We came close to clinching the party’s nomination, but met resistance from the party’s national leadership who did not see the vision we saw.

The shocking end was that the party actually did not present a presidential candidate after I dropped out, because there was no other candidate of caliber like myself to fly the flag of the party.  However, there are a few good people at the party leadership level, and maybe they learned enough lessons to get it right in the future.

As we do this interview, the US is bracing up for elections in November, how is the Nigerian American Council that you lead preparing for this?

Well, we have actually commenced an evolution at the Council, which is now veering off in a new direction, to embrace the entire African Diaspora via a new “National Council for African Diaspora (NCAD)”, which you’ll be hearing about very soon (August/September 2020).  The new NCAD vehicle will encompass the entire African Diaspora, and is poised for more impact in US and Africa in the near future.

May we know what changed negatively or positively for US-African relations in the first term of the Trump Presidency?

While the current US Administration has not placed a lot of strategic interest on Africa at the moment, however, the traditional US institutions and organs like the State Department, continue to perform their traditional roles of engagement with Africa. 

However, most of us in the policy-circles expect that the US beyond 2020, regardless of who wins the election, will as matter of necessity engage more with Africa, because to disregard Africa, is to capitulate to the Chinese, who are now having a field day in Africa.

If care is not taken, the Chinese will take charge of strategic sources of African input in the global economy, especially in the area of expendable natural resources.

Young and dynamic with a strong vision, Okey Sam Mbonu remains a player to watch in the future of Nigerian politics
Young and dynamic with a strong vision, Okey Sam Mbonu remains a player to watch in the future of Nigerian politics

What is at stake for Africa in the elections and what are some of the recommendations that should guide the choice of voters especially those of African origin?

Politics is consistently about protecting or preserving one’s interests.  The African Diaspora should not be guided by emotions, but by a clear strategy of preserving their interests in the US and beyond.  Once the community determines what those interests are, then they should invest in candidates or programs, or movements that will protect those interests.

Could we also get a word from you on the reaction of African countries on the murder of George Floyd, when the same African countries remain silent on flagrant atrocities that take place across the continent daily?

George Floyd opened the eyes of Africans to racism in the US, in ways they never knew existed.  It has also forced continental Africans to begin to evaluate how their own police enforce the status quo in their law and order.

Africans within the continent actually need to make greater efforts to cultivate and maintain cordial effective and cooperative relations, with their African-American cousins.  African-Americans are the most prominent black Diaspora on the world stage; their struggles should garner strong solidarity across Africa.  However, in reality we find that because of colonial mentality, and a profound lack of enlightenment, many Africans inside the continent, do not see the struggles of African-Americans as their struggle as well.

This is where the continentals who migrated in the past 20, 30, or 40 years effectively come in, as the bridge between the continent of Africa, and the West, especially the US.

About 70% of current African leaders, from Buhari to Biya, etc, do not have a clear understanding of the need to raise the stakes, in the Africa versus the rest of the world dynamics, which could be a win-win situation for all.  I believe only newer generation continentals with exposure to Africa, Europe, the America’s and even Asia can address the gap.

*Culled from August Issue of PAV Magazine

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Tribute: Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly
July 11, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Akinwumi A. Adesina*

AFDB President Akinwumi Adesina with Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly
AFDB President Akinwumi Adesina with Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly

July 8 was all like every normal day, focused on work. I had no inkling there would be a storm, even though we have weathered many storms and floods in Abidjan in recent times. Like a jolting bolt of thunder, everything changed when my wife, Grace, called my attention to a news item that the Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly had died. I told her this couldn’t be true as he just came back and as far as I knew he was fine.

I quickly went to look at the news. I had not seen any official confirmation. I made frantic calls. Alas! Amadou Gon had died indeed. What a tragedy! This was a storm with massive lightening like no other. I couldn’t control my sadness. This man who had served his nation so loyally and with such dignity has passed on, while at work.

My thoughts went to his dear wife and family who have been thrown into sorrow, suddenly. My mind went to President Alassane Ouattara, to whom he was a beloved son, a loyal partner and confidant for some 30 years. My mind went to the government of Côte d’Ivoire, and the nation where I lived for 5 years in the 1990s and now for another 5 years so far as President of the African Development Bank. A beautiful nation whom Amadou Gon served dutifully, diligently, passionately and faithfully until his last breath.

Amadou Gon was an exemplary leader. He was my friend. I remember calling him while in Paris. I was concerned about him and although we had exchanged messages, I still was not satisfied. I wanted to hear his voice. We spoke. I was very happy he was well.

Amadou Gon deserved to be well. He was such a great champion of programs to accelerate the development of his country. He carried the vision of the President and the government wholeheartedly into every meeting, into every discussion. We met very often, and every time I was always amazed at how this very humble and serious minded public servant always put the development of his country first.

He worked very closely with the African Development Bank. He visited the Bank several times and took great interest in all matters that affect the Bank. He worked so hard with the Bank and several development partners to bring life to the social development policy of the government.

A humble man. A selfless man. A faithful man. A shining light. We met and spoke together on several forums around the world: on the plane, at airports, in high level forums and summits. My impression of him was the same: calm; wise; insightful. A man of few words, whose every word was always well honed for impact. He spoke always from his heart. An he had a heart of gold.

My heartfelt condolences go to his dear wife and family, and his aged mother. May God comfort them. My heartfelt condolences go to President Alassane Ouattara, President of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire. Mr. Président, you have lost your closest ally and confidant, who served you and his nation faithfully until his last breath, working for the good of Côte d’Ivoire. May God comfort you, the government and good people of Côte d’Ivoire.

My dear brother, Amadou Gon, thank you for your friendship. I was looking forward to us meeting again, in our usual warm brotherly embrace, to chat on your favorite topic: development of Côte d’Ivoire. But Alas! That is no longer to be. I guard emotions and memories of your life – your great life; and dedication and contributions to your nation. Thank you Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly. Thank you my dear friend and brother, Amadou Gon. Rest well. You will be sorely missed.

*Président, African Development Bank

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A Second Term for a Champion of African Energy, Entrepreneurs and Everyday Africans
April 19, 2020 | 0 Comments
Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina
The President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, is running for a second term.

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, April 19, 2020/ — The African Energy Chamber (www.EnergyChamber.org) supports the re-election of Dr. Akinwumi Adesina for a second term as President of the African Development Bank; Under his leadership, electricity access and sustainability have been key to the bank’s financing and development strategy; AfDB must understand that it is a free enterprise system based on the values of individual initiative, hard work, risk innovation and profit that will build our continent and help us achieve economic empowerment, become self-sufficient and walk away from aid. Mr Adesina represents the future.

The President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, is running for a second term. The African Energy Chamber has from time to time disagreed with the AFDB, but we believe it is a force for good in Africa and we have seen a lot of changes under Dr Adesina. The African Energy Chamber endorses and supports the candidacy of this champion for energy in Africa, based on a sterling record in his first term, and his prioritizing of electricity access as a pillar of the bank’s activities. Energy poverty is a challenge and he is the best suited person to confront this challenge.

Dr Adesina brought strong experience of private-sector led growth and wholesale reform from his successful tenure as Nigeria’s minister of agriculture from 2011 to 2015. As president of AfDB from 2015, he led comprehensive much needed reform programs and new initiatives that have put the bank at the forefront of African development financing on the global stage. Dr. Adesina has worked hard to bring an independent voice to the African Development Bank that believes in free markets principles and good governance. His fight for accountability and responsibility in all facets of the AFDB have brought positive changes not only to the AFDB but to everyday Africans and the results are impressive.

Key initiatives have included the decentralization of AfDB’s activities to regional offices, the launch of the Africa Investment Forum in 2018, and significant progress towards meeting the African Union’s 2063 goals through the bank’s High 5 strategic priorities – one of which is ‘Light Up and Power Africa’. Through its work in this area, AfDB has helped bring power access to 18 million people.

The Africa Investment Forum, held for the first time in 2018 in Johannesburg, mobilized $38.7 billion of investment into Africa, and $40.1 billion in its 2019 edition.

“Dr. Akinwumi Adesina’s achievement is twofold. He has positioned and firmly established the African Development Bank as the primary actor in development financing in Africa, with a huge emphasis on energy and a reform-based, private-sector led approach. He has matched this with a commitment to putting people first.,” said NJ Ayuk, Chairman of the African Energy Chamber.

“For many years, the AFDB did not mean much to everyday Africans, the energy sector and African businesses.  Dr Adesina changed that and over the last few years, his uncanny ability to transcend and embrace Africa’s diversity has been a huge plus to the continent. The coalitions he has built with Americans, Europeans, Asians have all been for the benefit our continent and improving quality of life in a huge way for millions of people through investments in electricity access and its advocacy for energy sustainability.” Added Ayuk

Under Dr Adesina’s leadership, the AfDB has supported the building of renewable energy facilities. It has been a steady voice in promoting the responsible use of Africa’s energy resources and action on mitigating the impact of climate change on African economies.

“Africa should use what it has and not what it doesn’t have. We have limitless sunshine and great potential for wind, hydro and geothermal,” he said on the sidelines of the COP22 climate change conference in 2016. “We need a balanced energy mix. Some African countries have gas and coal, which can be used in a clean way, and they should use it.”

The challenges facing millions of Africans with from Covid 19, infrastructure deficit, energy poverty, transparency and economic diversification are greater than ever before, and Africa needs individuals like Dr Adesina in leadership positions to help the AFDB better serve this continent that many of us call home.

It is with careful consideration that the African Energy Chamber and the private sector supports another term for Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, a man of compassion, integrity, and action as President of AfDB for a healthier and a more hopeful Africa

God Bless Africa
*African Energy Chamber
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The U.S. is wronging Nigeria and the Energy Industry with Travel Ban
March 11, 2020 | 0 Comments

Tanzania and Nigeria, particularly, are named by Washington as having failed to meet U.S. security and information sharing standards

By NJ Ayuk*

NJ Ayuk

Including Nigeria in the U.S. travel ban is a political and economical mistake for Trump.

It is difficult to come to terms with the United States’ decision to include Nigeria in the extension he made a few weeks ago to the infamous “Muslim Travel Ban”, which already restricted movements of  people from Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria and Yemen. Alongside Nigeria, Tanzania, Myanmar, Eritrea, Sudan and Kyrgyzstan were also added to the list of countries with entry restrictions. Effectively, with the struck of a pen, or a whim, President Trump barred a quarter of the 1.2 billion people living in Africa from applying for residence in the United States.

Officially, the extension made to these nations is based on security concerns. Tanzania and Nigeria, particularly, are named by Washington as having failed to meet U.S. security and information sharing standards. Further, Nigeria is singled out for fears that the country harbors terrorists that could pose risks if they entered the U.S.

Much and more of this is difficult to reconcile with the U.S.-Nigeria long-standing allied relations and particularly with recent programs designed to bring the two nations closer together, but before we go there, let’s look at what the reality shows.

Since 1975, not a single incidence of a Nigerian, or for that case Tanzanian or Eritrean, being involved in a terrorist attack on American soil has been recorded. Boko Haram, the extremist group that has terrorized parts of the North of Nigeria (a region from which few migrants come from) in recent years, has never shown any signs of wanting to expand its territory, much less to open remote branches in North America. In fact, the American and Nigerian forces have worked closely together to address that and other challenges, and the Trump administration itself has recognized Nigeria as an “important strategic partner in the global fight against terrorism.”

Further, while Tanzanians and Eritreans have been excluded from what is known as the green card lottery system, Nigerians have been barred from applying for permanent residence visas in the United States. In 2018, 14 thousand such visas were issued to Nigerians, making it by far the most affected by the ban from all the new entrants to the list.

Beyond the sheer pain that fact must cause to the thousands of Nigerian families that have been waiting for years to be reunited in the U.S., from a security point of view, the decision makes no sense. Only permanent visas have been suspended. Tourist and work visas remain as usual. How does barring access to the most strict and difficult to obtain visas but maintaining the less restrictive short-term ones prevent terrorists from entering the U.S.? It is nonsensical. Even the fact that the announcement of the extension was made by the media before these countries’ authorities were even notified is telling of how lacking in protocol the process seems.

The whole thing is perplexing, but beyond the issues of principle, this decision has the potential to hurt the relations between these countries and the U.S., and when it comes to Nigeria, that risks hurting the U.S. too. Afterall, Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy, is the U.S.’s second biggest trade partner in sub-Saharan Africa, is Nigeria’s second biggest export destination and is its the biggest source of foreign direct investment. American companies have extensive investments particularly in the energy and mining sectors in Nigeria, which risk being affected by a breakdown in bilateral relations. Some companies, like ExxonMobil, have been operating in the country for nearly 70 years, since even before the country became independent from colonial rule, and Chevron has also been an active and central participant in the country’s oil industry for over forty years. Both these companies are partners in Nigeria’s mid and long-term strategies to curb gas flaring, develop a gas economy, expand oil production, improve its infrastructure network, raise its people out of poverty, etc.

Nigeria and the U.S., under a bilateral trade and investment framework agreement, sustain an annual two-way trade of nearly USD$9 billion. When the president of the U.S. makes a decision like this, it can affect the relations the country and these companies uphold with Nigeria. Further, it directly clashes with the U.S.’s strategy to counter Russia’s and China’s growing influence in Africa by expanding its relations with the continent.

How does closing the door to Africa’s biggest powerhouse accomplish that?

The policy established under the 2019 Prosper Africa initiative, that was designed to double two-way trade between the U.S. and Africa, seems difficult to reconcile with this latest decision. Over the last couple of years, president Trump has made several statements, at varying levels of political correctness, about how he would like to restrict immigration to the U.S. to highly-skilled highly educated-workers. If that is one of the reasons behind the inclusion of Nigeria, again, it fails completely.

Nigerians represent the biggest African community in the U.S., numbering around 350 thousand, and one of the communities with the highest level of education in the US globally. According to the American Migration Policy Institute, 59% of Nigerian immigrants have at least a bachelor’s degree. That is higher than the South Korean community (56%), the Chinese community (51%), the British community (50%) or the German community (38%), and it is tremendously higher than the average for American born citizens (33%).

More than 50% of Nigerians working in the U.S. hold white color management positions, meaning they have access to considerable amounts of disposable income and contribute greatly to the American economy. Those are the immigrants the U.S. wants, the ones that built the American dream! Which only makes this decision ever harder to grasp, unless of course, if we consider that this might have nothing to do with security concerns, and all to do with a populist decision designed to please the president’s most conservative support base as we approach the presidential campaign. If that is the case, then American foreign policy has truly reached a dark age.

From his side, President Buhari’s government has done what is possible to appease the situation, setting up a committee to address the security concerns with U.S. officials and INTERPOL, and restating its commitment to “maintaining productive relations with the United States and its international allies especially on matters of global security”, Femi Adesina the Spokesman for the Nigerian Presidency said.

Last week, the Nigerian government requested the U.S. administration to remove the country from the travel ban, and also announced a reduction in visa application fees for visiting Americans from $180 to $160, in a symbolic gesture meant to reinforce relations between the two nations.

In the meantime, Nigeria’s and other economies risk suffering from this unexplainable decision, and immigrant Nigerians in the U.S. that had been waiting so patiently for the dream of being reunited with their families in the “land of the free” await a resolution for a problem they did not know existed until a month ago.

*NJ Ayuk is Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber, CEO of pan-African corporate law conglomerate Centurion Law Group, and the author of several books about the oil and gas industry in Africa, including Billions at Play: The Future of African Energy and Doing Deals.

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“You have been in the trenches with us,”Ghana Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia tells African Development Bank
March 6, 2020 | 0 Comments

The African Development Bank’s support for the west African nation Ghana has boosted its government’s efforts to consolidate the economy, the country’s Vice President, Mahamudu Bawumia said on Monday.

Bawumia, welcoming a team of Executive Directors and senior officials of the Bank on an official visit, cited various Bank-supported projects, especially in the areas of infrastructure, agriculture and technical innovation, as examples of interventions that have helped to boost the government’s efforts to consolidate the economy.

“Those are areas very critical for us and we are happy to have the African Development Bank helping us. You have been in the trenches with us and things are now going well,” Bawumia said.

The Bank delegation, led by Bright Okogu, Executive Director for Nigeria and Sao Tome & Principe, will meet local authorities, the private sector, civil society and other development collaborators.

Bawumia said Ghana’s economy has begun to show great potential following three years of bold fiscal policy reforms, which included the adoption of a law capping fiscal deficit at 5% of Gross Domestic Product as part of measures to enhance debt sustainability and win investor confidence.

“These are not easy to do but it had to be done and we’re seeing the benefits…. All the indicators are in the right direction; macroeconomic conditions have stabilised, agriculture is doing well, interest rates have come down, while inflation has also come down to its lowest since 1992,” Bawumia said.

Ghana is looking to the Bank for investment in  an integrated aluminium industry, using the country’s large bauxite deposit as raw materials. The Bank should also consider supporting Ghana to tackle climate change in line with the Group’s crosscutting interventions, the vice-president said.

The Executive Directors commended the country for its newly constructed Terminal 3 facility at the Kotoka International Airport, which was partly financed by the Bank.

“We flew in through the airport and we are pleased about what we saw,” said Okogu, who is also the Dean of the Bank Group’s Executive Directors.

Later Monday, the Bank delegation met with Bank of Ghana Governor Ernest Addison,  who briefed them on the country’s assessment of the likely impact of the coronavirus on Ghana’s economy. The group also had a briefing by Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta, a Governor of the African Development Bank Group.

The Bank’s current portfolio in Ghana is channelled through various projects aimed at job creation, economic inclusiveness, macroeconomic stability and industrialization.

Key financing for development to the country includes mobilizing a seven-year $600 million syndicated receivables-backed loan for Ghana Cocoa Board to improve productivity and domestic value addition; approval of the first phase of the Easten Corridor Road Project estimated at $102 million; and an urban transport project entailing the construction of a three-tier interchange.

The other members of the Bank Group delegation are Kenyeh Barlay, Executive Director, representing The Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Sudan, Ahmed Zayed for Egypt and Djibouti, and David Stevenson, representing Canada, China, Korea, Turkey and Kuwait. Director-General for West Africa, Marie-Laure Akin-Olugbade and Acting Country Manager Sebastian Okeke also travelled along.

*AFDB

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We must not jeopardize Africa’s future in the name of fighting Climate Change
March 3, 2020 | 0 Comments
NJ Ayuk
Organizations ranging from the World Bank to the European Investment Bank (EIB) have dropped support for African fossil fuel production

By NJ Ayuk*

Pressure is building to phase out fossil fuels in Africa to fight climate change.

Organizations ranging from the World Bank to the European Investment Bank (EIB) have dropped support for African fossil fuel production in hopes of encouraging a transition from oil, gas and coal to sustainable energy sources like wind and solar power.

Now there are legitimate concerns that investor support for oil and gas production will dwindle as well. Blackrock, which controls $7 trillion in investments, and the Royal Bank of Scotland have said they’ll be moving away from investments that support fossil fuel production.

The anti-fossil fuel fervor is being demonstrated in what may seem like surprising ways: the Bank of England was criticized for having an oil company executive its board of directors.

Pressure is coming from within the African continent, as well. Lobbies from Kenya and the surrounding region, for example, recently petitioned the African Union to put a stop to coal usage and look into phasing out oil and gas usage over the next three decades in hopes of eliminating emissions that contribute to global warming.

I agree that climate change should be taken seriously, but we cannot accept knee-jerk responses. We must not rob our continent of the significant benefits it can realize from oil and gas operations, from the economic opportunities of monetized natural resources to critically important gas-to-power initiatives.

I am not, by any means, calling for a stop to sustainable energy programs. They are being implemented, and I hope to see more. I’m simply saying it’s too soon for an either-or approach to green energy sources and fossil fuels.

What’s more, it should be Africans, not well-meaning outsiders, who determine when the timing is right to phase out fossil fuels in Africa, if ever. Pressuring Africa to do otherwise is insulting, no better than throwing foreign aid at us with the assumption that Africans are incapable of building a better future for ourselves. It’s also hypocritical for countries and people who enjoy the security, greater life expectancy, comforts and economic opportunities associated with plentiful, reliable energy to say, “Time’s up, Africa. No more fossil fuels for you. Desperate times call for desperate measures.”

What about the desperation that the 600,000-plus Africans without power live with every day?

Is it reasonable to expect them to wait for green energy to evolve while domestic natural gas and crude oil reserves can be exploited to create electricity and heating fuel far more quickly?

Addressing Energy Poverty

We cannot move forward with phasing out fossil fuels in Africa before we address the huge swaths of our continent existing in energy poverty. I strongly agree with OPEC Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo, who said in a recent speech: “The almost one billion people worldwide who currently lack access to electricity and the three billion without modern fuels for cooking are not just statistics on a page. They are real people . . . Nobody should be left behind.”

Closer to home, more than two-thirds of the population of sub-Saharan Africa, more than 620 million people, lack access to electricity. Even more infuriating, that number is likely to increase. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has predicted that by 2040, approximately 75 percent of sub-Saharan Africa will lack access to electricity. Why? Surging populations are far outpacing the spread of infrastructure.

As I wrote in my 2019 book, Billions at Play: The Future of African Energy and Doing Deals, living without electricity is much more than an inconvenience. It keeps people from modern health care, and it exposes them to toxic air pollution caused by burning unsafe fuels indoors. It also reinforces poverty and contributes to economic stagnation: Businesses, factories and schools need electricity to function and grow.

I’m convinced that one of our continent’s best chances of eliminating energy poverty is to strategically exploit our abundant natural gas resources instead of exporting and flaring it. Africa had 503.3 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves available to us as of 2017. Natural gas can be used to fuel electricity generation: It’s available; it produces less carbon dioxide emissions than diesel, gasoline or coal; and it’s affordable. In fact its price recently fell to its lowest February level in 20 years. What’s more, natural gas can be integrated with wind and solar power to produce energy that’s both sustainable and reliable.

While gas-to-power will require effort, from the creation of intra-African trade agreements that make natural gas available to countries without it to cooperation from power producers, it represents a very doable way for Africans to resolve one of the continent’s greatest challenges.

With that in mind, this is a horrible time to stop producing and using natural gas in Africa.

African Companies, Monetization and Economic Growth

Phasing out fossil fuels in Africa also would be harmful to the many international and indigenous oil and gas companies that contribute to the continent’s revenues and make a positive social impact here.  I’ve written extensively about companies that do real good for African communities, such as Atlas Oranto Petroleum, Sahara Energy Group, Aiteo,  Seplat, Sonangol, Shoreline Power Company Limited and many, many more. These indigenous companies create jobs for Africans, buy from African suppliers, and do business with other African companies, in addition to their extensive community outreach efforts. We have, and need, foreign companies that do the same—and share their technologies.

And that’s only part of the picture. Africa has not fully capitalized on a game-changing opportunity: monetizing our oil and gas resources. This starts with using oil and gas as a feedstock to create other value-added products. Natural gas, for example, can be used to make liquid transport fuels, base oils, paraffin, and naphtha. The resulting revenues can be used to build infrastructure and diversify economies. This is not an abstract, pie in the sky idea. In Equatorial Guinea, for example, initiatives aimed at monetizing the country’s massive natural gas reserves has led to the creation of new infrastructure. It is helping the government build a natural gas mega hub that could make Equatorial Guinea a major player in the global liquified natural gas market and bring in $2 billion in revenues. There’s no reason that other African countries can’t do the same.

Our Opportunities, Our Timing

I realizing that fully capitalizing on Africa’s oil and gas resources poses significant challenges, but it is doable. Both of my books, Billions at Play and Big Barrels: African Oil and Gas and the Quest for Prosperity, provide practical steps for realizing the African Oil dream. They show there are ways to strategically harness our oil and gas resources, create economic growth and promote stability, the kinds of changes that impact everyday people throughout the continent.

Our view on oil and gas is not about greed or lining the pockets of a select few. If we work to use these resources wisely, they really can power a better future for Africa. And we’re not ready to toss them aside.

*NJ Ayuk is Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber, CEO of pan-African corporate law conglomerate Centurion Law Group, and the author of several books about the oil and gas industry in Africa, including Billions at Play: The Future of African Energy and Doing Deals.
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President of The African Development Bank Receives 8th African Leadership Magazine African of The Year Award
March 1, 2020 | 0 Comments

Over 200 leading African political, business, and diplomatic leaders gathered in Johannesburg for the 8th African Leadership Magazine Persons of the Year Award dinner. They witnessed Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank, being honored as the African of the Year 2019. 

 Themed ‘Africa for Africans – Exploring the Gains of a Connected Continent’, the evening brought together dignitaries including South African Deputy President, David D Mabuza, South African Ministers Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Lindiwe Zulu, and Dr. Ken Giami, Publisher of African Leadership Magazine.

The highlight of the event was the keynote speech delivered by Dr. Adesina. His passion for the continent was palpable, connecting with the attentive audience throughout his speech. Dr. Adesina expressed his humility in being “recognised for my very modest achievements and contributions to Africa. Humbled to be nominated by what I gather to be the 60% of the votes cast by some 1 million people, humbled to be at the helm of an organisation that is making a tremendous difference across Africa – the African Development Bank. An organisation that is daily making prosperity a reality.”

He dedicated the award to his wife, Grace, the Board, staff, and colleagues at the bank, his mother, and “to the young mothers, struggling to bring up a child, to the farmer in search of a better tomorrow, to the youth of Africa longing for a better future, and to Africa’s journalists who risk their lives in helping to tell Africa’s true story.”

Dr Adesina, the visionary behind the African Development Bank’s High 5 strategy, explained that primary focus of the African Development Bank is “to light up and power Africa, to feed Africa, to industrialise Africa, to integrate Africa, and to improve the quality of life of the people of Africa. Five simple, strategic, and highly focused objectives.”

South African Deputy President, David Mabuza, delivered the second keynote speech. Accepting the Award on behalf of South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit and his First Vice President, Dr Riek Machar Teny, Mabuza said: “the struggles of our people and their development aspirations remain fundamentally intertwined with those of fellow Africans elsewhere on the Continent.” 

He added: “these are the values that President Oliver Tambo and President Nelson Mandela taught us. Our commitment to the cause of a prosperous and better Africa is unwavering. It is in that spirit that as a country, we have placed our resources both human and financial, to the resolutions of conflicts.”

The African Leadership Magazine Persons of the Year Awards is now the most popular vote-based third-party endorsement in Africa. 

Dr. Adesina was elected the 8th President of the African Development Bank in 2015. He has been a leader in the African agricultural innovation space for over 30 years. He has contributed to Africa’s economic growth by helping to strengthen the continent’s food security and promoting a workable agribusiness model.

Under his leadership, in the past four years, the bank has helped 18 million people get electricity, 141 million people get agricultural technologies, 13 million people get finance through private sector investee companies, 101 million people get improved transport services, and 60 million people get better water and sanitation.

In his remarks, Adesina urged Africans to rise, be bold and determined.

 “Africa does not need anyone to believe in her or to affirm her place and position in history. Africa will and must develop with pride. For right on
 the inside of us, as Africans, lies our greatest instrument of successes:
 confidence!” Adesina said.

Dr Adesina is in good company joining some notable previous winners of the African of the Year Award:

  • Former Liberian President and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (2011)
  • Sudanese businessman, Mo Ibrahim (2012)
  • Former Vice President of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar (2013)
  • Former President of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete (2014)
  • Former President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan (2015)
  • Tanzanian businessman and philanthropist,Mo Dewji (2016)
  • President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame (2017)
  • Prime Minister of Ethiopia and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Abiy Ahmed (2018)
  • *AFDB
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Gambia: Foreign Minister Tangara receives UK’s Envoy to the Commonwealth
March 1, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

Dr. Mamadou Tangara, Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad, on Friday 28th February 2020 received the United Kingdom Envoy to the Commonwealth, Mr. Philip Parham CMG, at his office in Banjul.

Mr. Parham was accompanied to the Foreign Ministry by the High Commissioner of the United Kingdom to The Gambia, Her Excellency Sharon Wardle. The Foreign Affairs Minister welcomed the Commonwealth Envoy and thanked Mr. Parham for the diplomatic engagement. Minister Tangara highlighted that the Commonwealth is not an organisation that imposes values on member states. However, the Minister suggested the need to reorganise and close ranks within Commonwealth.

Minister Tangara further emphasised the need for increased presence of Commonwealth activities in The Gambia so that ordinary Gambian can feel the benefit of the organisation’s presence.

Dr. Tangara highlighted that the Foreign Affairs Ministry will use the forthcoming Commonwealth meeting in Kigali to strengthen cooperation with Rwanda with a view to learn from the success story of Rwanda. He indicated that Rwanda represents hope in terms of their experience and where the country is today.

For his part, Mr. Parham used the opportunity to remind the Honourable Minister of commitments made by leaders at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London in April 2018. He hailed The Gambia as a great partner delivering on sustainability while calling for strong solidarity among Commonwealth member states.

It may be recalled that The Gambia that the previous Government unilaterally withdrew The Gambia from the Commonwealth on 3rd October 2013.

However, following change of Government in January 2017, the new democratic dispensation of President Adama Barrow facilitated the re-entry of The Gambia to the Commonwealth on 8 February 2018. Since then The Gambia has been partaking in all major events and activities of the organisation.


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Ghana:President Akufo-Addo Named “Champion Of The African Union Financial Institutions
February 13, 2020 | 0 Comments

The 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Governments of the African Union has appointed President Akufo-Addo as “Champion of the African Union Financial Institutions.”

The decision of the Assembly was made on Monday, 10th February, 2020, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, by the Chairperson of the AU, His Excellency Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa.

The creation of African Union Financial Institutions is one of the flagship projects of Agenda 2063, aiming at accelerating integration and socio-economic development of the continent.

The agreed timeframes in the first 10-Year Plan of Agenda 2063 were for the African Investment Bank and Pan African Stock Exchange to be established by 2016; the African Monetary Fund by 2018; and the African Central Bank and Single African Currency by 2034. 

Whilst thanking the Assembly for the honour of the appointment, President Akufo-Addo stated that the “establishment of the AU Financial Institutions has always been at the centre of our agenda for continental integration, and that is why, over the years, we have adopted a treaty and several legal instruments to that effect.”

Currently, only twenty-two (22) Member States have signed the African Investment Bank (AIB) charter, with only 6 ratifications obtained, whilst twelve (12) countries have signed the African Monetary Fund charter, with only one (1) ratification.

At least, nine (9) more countries are needed to ratify the AIB charter for it to enter into force, and, in the case of the African Monetary Fund, fourteen (14) ratifications.

“The task to ensure these are done will be one of my immediate priorities. I will see to it that Ghana ratifies these charters promptly upon my return to Accra,” the President said.

He continued, “the establishment of the African Union Financial Institutions is critical for not only enhancing resource mobilization on the continent, but also for providing the necessary impetus for growth and jobs creation. Their establishment are crucial for the effective implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), and for achieving Agenda 2063: ‘The Africa We Want’. Financing our own development agenda remains our primary goal, and will require bold commitments from us.”

Amongst others, President Akufo-Addo pledged to ensure the prompt ratification of the various charters establishing the Financial Institutions; help take, under the direction of the Assembly, all necessary steps to facilitate the creation of the continental financial architecture essential for the realisation of AU Agenda 2063 and the integration process of the continent; and work with the host countries, i.e. the Republic of Cameroon for the African Monetary Fund, the Federal Republic of Nigeria for the African Central Bank, and Libya for the African Investment Bank towards their establishments.

Background

The Article 19 of the Constitutive Act of the African Union provides for the creation of three institutions namely the African Central Bank, the African Monetary Fund and the African Investment Bank. Furthermore, in January 2006, in Khartoum, Sudan, the Commission was requested by the Assembly of the African Union (Assembly/AU/Dec.109), to conduct a feasibility study on the creation of a Pan-African Stock Exchange (PASE). The three financial institutions and the PASE, constitute the African Union Financial Institutions (AUFIs).

In January 2005, the Assembly decided, in Abuja, Nigeria, decision No. Assembly/AU/Dec.64 (IV), that the African Central Bank should be located in West Africa, the African Investment Bank in North Africa, and the African Monetary Fund in Central Africa. Following this decision, the Northern Region decided that the African Investment Bank should be located in Libya, the Central Region designated Cameroon as the host country of the African Monetary Fund, while the Western Region designated the Federal Republic of Nigeria as the host country for the African Central Bank.

Source: Presidency of Ghana 

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Rwandan named UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for 2021 Food Systems Summit
December 17, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Maniraguha Ferdinand

Agnes Kalibata

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres has appointed Agnes Kalibata of Rwanda as his Special Envoy for the 2021 Food Systems Summit.

In 2021, the Secretary-General will host a Food Systems Summit with the aim of maximizing the co-benefits of a food systems approach across the entire 2030 Agenda and meet the challenges of climate change.

As a key contribution to the Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals, the objectives of the Food Systems Summit are to generate momentum, expand the knowledge and share experience and approaches worldwide to help countries and stakeholders unleash the benefits of food systems for all people.

The Summit will also offer a catalytic moment for global public mobilization and actionable commitments to invest in diverse ways to make food systems inclusive, climate adapted and resilient, and support sustainable peace.

The Special Envoy, working with the United Nations system and key partners, will provide leadership, guidance and strategic direction towards the Summit.

According to the UN announcement,  Ms. Kalibata will be responsible for outreach and cooperation with key leaders, including governments, and other strategic stakeholder groups, to galvanize action and leadership for the Summit. She will also support the various global and regional consultative events focused on food system transformation, planned during 2020 and 2021.

Currently  Kalibata is the President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) since 2014. She leads the organization’s efforts with public and private partners to ensure a food secure and prosperous Africa through rapid, inclusive, sustainable agricultural growth, improving the productivity and livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers in Africa.

Prior to joining AGRA, Ms. Kalibata was Rwanda’s Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources from 2008 to 2014, where she drove programs that moved her country to food security, helping to lift more than a million Rwandans out of poverty.

She has records of accomplishments as an agricultural scientist, policy maker and thought leader, awarded the Yara Prize, now the Africa Food Prize, in 2012. She was the 2019 recipient of the National Academy of Sciences prestigious Public Welfare Medal for her work to drive Africa’s agricultural transformation through modern sciences and effective policy, thereby improving livelihoods of stallholder farmers.

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Africa and South Africa’s Xenophobia: a Prognosis
December 11, 2019 | 0 Comments

By James N. Kariuki*

Roots of South Africa’s Inequality

Last year the World Bank proclaimed South Africa to be the most unequal country in the world. A decade earlier in 2008, the world’s attention had been drawn to South Africa’s xenophobic behavior. Is there a kinship between inequality and xenophobia?

South Africa’s bewildering inequality originated from apartheid. The system dedicated the second half of the 20thcentury to grabbing the state’s resources for the benefit of its comparatively small white community. By design, it reduced the country’s non-white majority to ‘hewers of wood and drawers of water,’ distinctly removed from the formal economy.

In early 1990s, Blacks’ economic irrelevance was consolidated by a weakness in the strategy to dismantle apartheid. Clearly not by design Blacks’ head negotiator, Nelson Mandela, erred by accepting political power for the black majority without corresponding economic power, especially in land ownership. In Professor Ali Mazrui’s view the consequences were dire, “…the white man said to the Blacks ‘You can take the crown and we’ll keep the jewels.” Of what value was a crown without jewels? Was Mandela duped into cursing post-apartheid South Africa to eternal inequality?

Finally, freedom in post-apartheid South Africa placed public coffers within the reach of hitherto non-existent black bureaucratic elite. Especially during Jacob Zuma’s presidency (2009 – 2019) the ‘rainbow nation’ was subjected to staggering economically-draining monster, the ‘state capture.’ On the whole, black communities were further sidelined from the nearly-crippled national economy.  

Missing Basic Services

Given the ‘disabled’ state of the economy, lack of service delivery became central to the xenophobic eruptions that have bedeviled democratic South Africa since 2008. Unfortunately, various governments have been short of funds to adequately address basic social needs; public coffers have been illegitimately depleted. How were the governments of the day to explain to its citizens freedom without jobs and life’s necessities? This was a classic case of a crown-without-jewels in action.

To its credit South Africa’s ruling party has never overtly endorsed xenophobic or Afro-phobic behavior. Indeed the ANC has consistently emphasized indebtedness to post-colonial Africa for unwavering support during the anti-apartheid campaign.  In this context, it would be dishonest for the party to engage in discriminatory behavior toward fellow African immigrants after 1994. Where others see xenophobia or Afro-phobia, ANC continues to detect criminality.

South Africa’s officialdom istoo astute not to be aware that lack of service delivery is the central driver of xenophobic discontent. Leaders of the violent outbreaks are mostly the ‘born-frees,’ the youthful post-apartheid generation.  Their facts of life bind them to the black communities.  They are hungry and agitated.  Joblessness reigns supreme where the national unemployment is at 29 percent.

The township dwellers are angry with everybody, including the government and ‘foreigners.’ They cannot vent their anger on the government in fear of overwhelming reprisals; memories of the Marikana tragedy linger.  Immigrants become the available and sitting ducks: distinct, defenseless and reachable. Political agitators easily convert them into xenophobic scapegoats. 

Self-Inflicted Wounds of Xenophobia

Ironically, attacking ‘immigrants’ in South Africa is becoming increasingly unfashionable; it is hurting South Africans and their interests more than the original targets. Of the 12 deaths in the 2019 mayhems, 10 were South African. Additionally, while immigrants lost their property, locally-owned properties were similarly looted and damaged.

The violence has also tarnished South Africa’s image, prompting reprisals against its interests. In 2019 thriving South African businesses in Nigeria were damaged by enraged mobs, emphasizing the old diplomatic maxim: protect what is ours in your country and we will spare yours in ours. To South Africa’s recurring incidents of xenophobia, Africa responded in unison: enough is enough.

The New Dawn and the Way Forward

More than his predecessors, President Cyril Ramaphosa seems to realize that xenophobic sentiments are charged by the domestic unholy alliance of poverty and inequality.  Domestically, his political slogan of the New Dawn, aspires to halt and reverse internal abuse of public funds and jumpstart the economy. Hence, the current corruption probes and unrelenting bid to cleanse state-owned enterprises.

Regarding xenophobia, the New Dawn stipulates that South Africa will work in context of Africa, particularly Nigeria, to extract the ‘cancer’ from Africa once and for all. In mid-September 2019, therefore, Ramaphosa dispatched ‘special envoys’ to seven African countries to apologize for the violence.  

Globally, Africa tops Ramaphosa’s agenda. Mindful that South Africa is geographically in Africa, the President insists that it must work closely with the fellow giant-of-Africa, Nigeria. Accordingly in 2019 he welcomed Nigeria overture of a give-and-take-dialogue rather than engage in counter-productive exchange of accusations. Victimized Nigerians in South Africa expected more, including compensation for their lost property.

Nigeria was diplomatic but not necessarily defensive in the bilateral talks. Subtly but firmly, it insisted on one non-negotiable condition. Henceforth, South Africa will treat xenophobia as a crime; perpetrators must be prosecuted. Otherwise, the scourge will be transformed into an African continental problem.  And collective Africa is capable of punishing its offenders. Just ask the now extinct apartheid regimes.

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