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Historic Slavery Site to Host The Launch of Africans Rising Movement
May 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

Muhammed Lamin Saidykhan

Muhammed Lamin Saidykhan

A site internationally renown as a symbol of enslavement will host the launch of an emerging Pan-African movement determined to build a new future for the peoples of Africa.

As part of its continent-wide launch on 25 May 2017, Africans Rising for Justice, Peace and Dignity will hold a programme of activities on Gorée Island, off the coast of Senegal. This will be one of scores of activities in more than 32 countries, comprising the launch.

A UNESCO World Heritage site, Gorée Island is known as an infamous symbol of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. It was from this point of no return, that millions of enslaved Africans were forced onto European ships, bound for plantations in the Americas in the 18th century.  Gorée represents horrific crimes against humanity stemming from an economic model based on extreme exploitation and systemic oppression.

But the site also symbolizes the resilience of a people that rise in spite of structural repression.  And it is a pivotal place to confront the modern day forced migration of Africans to distant lands.

Gorée Island is a sacred space where Africans Rising will bring together leaders from the continent and the diaspora to launch a movement for justice, peace and dignity.  This Pan-African movement is intentionally forging alliances that unite the continent and engage the diaspora.

Said Muhammed Lamin Saidykhan, Africans Rising Coordinator: “Africans from the continent and the diaspora, it is significant that we gather at a site that is a symbol of our brutal past in order to affirm our commitment to peace, justice and dignity and to build the future we want.”

Africans Rising is a de-centralized, self-selecting people’s movement committed to a citizen-led future that builds support and solidarity for local struggles, empowers local leadership and bolsters activists in the grassroots work of building and sustaining movements for change.

The movement was formally validated in August 2016 by hundreds of representatives of civil society, trade unions, women, young people, men, people living with disabilities, parliamentarians, media organizations and faith-based groups from across Africa and the African diaspora gathered at a conference in Arusha, Tanzania.

A broad range of participants from the continent and its diaspora are expected to participate in the launch on Gorée, including government officials, civil society representatives, women leaders and rights activists as well as members of the Black Lives Matter movement, Dream Defenders, the Hip Hop Caucus, the UN Decade on People of African Descent and African Diaspora personalities.

The #AfricansRisingGorée Launch event begins on the Island at 11am UTC on #25May2017.  The programme will include music, slam poetry, and the dedication of a commemorative mural, which will remain a permanent symbol of Africans Rising.

Said Africans rising Ambassador CoumbaToure: “Gorée has also become a symbol of resilience of people of African descent, where, despite the crimes of humanity across the centuries, we return, not to mourn but to celebrate ourselves, our history and the survival of our people.”

Mireille Fanon-Mendes -France, with the UN Working Group on People of African Descent, affirmed Africans Rising stating that, “the Kilimanjaro Declaration is in congruence with the programme of activities of the UN Decade for People of African descent and to be linked with the declaration of the African Union concerning the diaspora as the 6thregion…it is the work to be done.”

To join the movement, click here and sign The Kilimanjaro Declaration.

 

To participate in the launch of Africans Rising on #25May2017, we ask that you:

 

  • Wear an item of RED clothing or clothing accessory to signify the blood that was shed for African liberation, the bleeding of the continent’s resources and wealth and that no matter where we come from we all have the same red blood in our veins.
  • Gather in a group between 12 noon and 2pm, read out the Kilimanjaro Declaration and a list of demands for changes you would like to see happen.
  • Turn off your lights between 8pm and 9pm in solidarity with the millions of Africans with no access to electricity and light a candle to light the way for brighter leadership and governance.

 

#AfricansRisingGoree #25May2017 #AfricansRising #AfricaWeWant

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African and Global Business Leaders Convened for IGD Frontier 100 Forum to Mobilize Action on Job Creation and Inclusive Growth in Africa
May 14, 2017 | 0 Comments

Frontier Leaders called for greater advocacy with governments in creating an enabling business environment, boosting energy access, strengthening markets in growth sectors like agriculture, and encouraging youth economic participation. 

 DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA – May 11, 2017 – Accelerating private sector action to create jobs in key sectors to promote business growth and absorb the millions of African young people entering the workforce in Africa topped the agenda of the Initiative for Global Development’s Frontier 100 Forum, held on May 5-6, 2017, in Durban, South Africa.

Dr. Mima S. Nedelcovych

Dr. Mima S. Nedelcovych

Some 100 African and global corporate leaders convened for the invitation-only Frontier 100 Forum, which offered insight and business-driven solutions on delivering jobs through investments in Post-Harvest Loss reduction, innovations in skills development, unlocking regional growth, and industrialization.

“African companies create more than 80 percent of the jobs in Africa,” said Dr. Mima S. Nedelcovych, IGD President & CEO. “Our Frontier 100 Forum brings the voice of Africa’s private sector to the forefront on how to drive job creation to tackle the youth bulge and boost inclusive growth.”

Alarming statistics from the African Development Bank reveals that some 10 to 12 million young people are entering the labor market across Africa each year, yet only 3 million formal jobs are created annually.

Economic activity in emerging markets and developing economies is expected to pick up pace in 2017 and 2018, after a lackluster performance in 2016, projected KPMG, an IGD Frontier Leader.

Rene Awambeng, Director of Client Relations of African Export-Import Bank delivered a keynote address on the forum theme, “Driving Sustainable Economies: Private Sector Action to Spur Job Creation and Innovation for Inclusive Growth in Africa”, where he spoke about long-term sustainable economic transformation in Africa.

“Job strategies should focus on those sectors that are most promising job creators, taking an end to end approach that removes the many barriers to growth along specific industry value chains and puts in place the infrastructure, financing, business environment, and workforce skills needed for the target industry to survive,” said Awambeng.

Panelists on the session, Unlocking the Door for Agribusiness Job Growth and Entrepreneurship through Investment in Post-Harvest Loss Reduction, explored how to generate jobs by making agriculture a first career choice for youth, instead of a backup plan. The panel also put forth strategies on boosting investments in Post-Harvest Loss reductions to create new jobs and entrepreneur opportunities.

Agricultural transformation can drive economic transformation in Africa, according to an upcoming report by the African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET). The preliminary report stated that many African governments are prioritizing the agriculture sector in economic planning.

To build a globally competitive workforce, the private sector needs to inform university curricula about the skills necessary for today’s jobs as well as provide apprenticeship opportunities, said Matt Essieh, President & CEO of EAI Information Systems on the Igniting Innovations in Skills Development for Job Creation panel.

Lutz Ziob, Dean of Microsoft’s 4Afrika Skills Academy sounded the alarm on the Fostering Innovation and Job Creation through Digital Transformation in Africa panel that the real disruption is coming in the African workforce when 30-60% of existing jobs will be automated or dramatically transformed.

The Delivering Jobs through Regional Growth session drew attention to the fact that the success and sustainability of global business is linked to Africa; therefore, it is critical for companies to expand intra-Africa trade. “For any multinational, your biggest risk is not being in Africa,” said Emad Bibawi, New York Advisory Office Leader & US/Africa Corridor Leader at KPMG.

Larry Riddle, Director of Group Corporate and External Affairs at Illovo Sugar Limited emphasized: “We need to create and develop African products for African markets.”

Forum sessions also explored the present and future of industrialization in Africa, especially in moving from exporting commodities to the production of goods.

“Why do industries fail in Africa?” questioned Abdu Mukhtar, Group Chief Strategy Officer at the Dangote Industries Limited on the Powering Industrialization to Drive Job Growth session. “It’s the lack of power and governments’ inconsistency in business decisions.”

Lead organizational partners featured the Rockefeller Foundation for the panel session on agriculture investments in PHL, KPMG on the regional growth session, and African Technology Foundation on the digital transformation session.

African and global corporate leaders from the IGD Frontier Leader Network agreed on the urgency in fueling job creation and skills development. Session outcomes included a call for greater advocacy with governments in creating an enabling business environment, boosting energy access, strengthening markets in growth sectors like agriculture, and encouraging youth economic participation.

A special breakfast discussion with officials from the Millennium Challenge Corporation outlined how the MCC determines country eligibility and assesses policy performance on its scorecard. In rapid-fire presentations with Africa Today TV anchor Carol Pineau, U.S. and African private sector leaders discussed improving country scorecard performance and highlighted “investment readiness” of MCC eligible countries.

An evening reception on May 6 kicked off the IGD Africa Investment Rising campaign’s  “Making Farming Cool!” podcast series, in partnership with Afropop Worldwide, to inspire African youth to explore careers in the agriculture sector.

A luncheon sponsored by FairPlay Movement highlighted how illegal dumping of poultry products in South Africa has cut jobs in the industry, and outlined solutions to promote trade competitiveness.

The African Development Bank and African Export-Import Bank (Afeximbank) were Collaborating Partners and forum sponsors included Dangote Group, Illovo Sugar Group, KPMG, Orrick, Chevron, and Contour Global as Platinum sponsors; UPL, Endeavor Energy and Fair Play Movement as Gold sponsors; and Hollard Business Insurer and EAI Information Systems as Silver sponsors.

*Shanta Bryant Gyan, IGD Communications Director, at sbryant@igdleaders.org; 202-412-4603

 

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JASON LOVES AFRICA
May 14, 2017 | 0 Comments

-With Wheel to Africa, a young American and his friends highlight the importance of people-to-people engagement in US-Africa relations.

Support for a noble cause:Ambassador Arouna with Jason and his young friends collecting bikes to send to Africa

Support for a noble cause:Ambassador Arouna with Jason and his young friends collecting bikes to send to Africa

Today Saturday, May 13, 2017, I pulled up into Bethesda Library Parking lot on Arlington road.  Bethesda is an affluent Maryland town in the suburb of Washington DC the nation capital.  I am here to meet Jason a college rising sophomore in African studies who spent summers in Africa, mainly Tanzania and Ghana. Jason and his friends under the guidance of his parents are collecting bikes to ship to Africa as part of the Wheel To Africa Initiative.

As soon as entered the parking lot I was greeted by a jubilant and grinning group of kids happy to see the two bikes attached on the back of my car. I could not help but to reminisce, back to the day… I mean, way back when I received my first bike as a child and how happy it felt then. Thinking about it, I am sure it is probably a fair statement to say that, these kids look as happy as the people who will soon be receiving these bikes in the continent of Africa.

Upon getting out of my vehicle, I met and greeted Jason Kohn the young men who initiated today’s event, his parents, and a few of his friends, all passionate about Africa. I introduced myself and we talked about their initiative and their passion for Africa while some of the kids unloaded the two bikes I donated and stacked them against dozens of others bikes neatly arranged on the asphalt. I spent few more minutes’ chit-chatting before saying goodbye, and got into my car.  While I was putting the key in the ignition to start the car, I murmured to myself, “Jason loves Africa… so does America” before driving off…

In today’s America where most in the international development community are wondering about the Trump administration stance on Africa, Jason and his friends with their good deeds remind us, this simple fact; before there was a government, there are people and there lies the answer.

A strong and stable relationship between the United States and Africa is undoubtedly at the center of the Trump overall foreign relations. Washington’s support to the security of the continent, especially as part of the global war on terrorism is probably an essential part of “making America great again” US foreign policy, however many non-governmental or “people-to-people” interactions such as trade and cultural exchanges as well as initiatives such as Jason’s are paramount. This dependence is expected to remain unchanged in the foreseeable future.

As history teaches us, whether it be slavery, the rise of African Nationalism, or the Cold War, America and the African continent have a complicated history full of contradictions, but ultimately the strength of the relationship lies in people-to-people engagement on both continents.

About Wheel To Africa:

During a vacation in Africa with his mother, 10-year-old Winston Duncan was struck by the distances that people had to walk to find food, water, and medical care. It was then that he decided that he needed to find a way to help

His answer: Collect bikes, because “everyone has an old bike”!

In Africa, a bike is a lifeline to survival for many people. It is often their only means to access food and water, markets, education, and jobs. Winston’s passion has motivated family, friends, neighbors and acquaintances to organize annual drives across three states

*Omar Arouna is the immediate past Ambassador of the Republic of Benin to the United States of America. He answers regularly present to initiatives that touch on US-Africa Relations and is President & CEO GlobalSpecialty, LLC.

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#GambiaHasDecided: Reflections on a dramatic transition
May 12, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Muhammed Lamin Saidykhan*

Adama Barrow

Adama Barrow

Without the courage and determination of the Gambian people, it is unimaginable that dictator Yahya Jammeh could have been forced out of power at the ballot box and into exile. The Gambia now does feel like quite a different country to the one many oppressed citizens always knew. No effort should be spared to consolidate the gains of democracy for the good of the people.

On 6 April 2017, I drove around the Gambian capital, Banjul, with a sense of historic déja-vu as I watched people queue at polling stations to cast their ballots in legislative elections. Just over four months earlier, I had watched them form long lines from the crack of dawn to vote out a dictator who had ruled us for 22 years.

The parliamentary poll was the first time in a generation that Gambians were voting in a climate free of fear and repression. A record 238 candidates from nine political parties ran for 53 parliamentary seats and as in December presidential elections, when the results were announced, democracy won. For me, and many others who put everything on the line for change in our nation, these two events were not only the fruits of our labour but a resounding affirmation of the power of collective action and of the vote.

Chasing away a sit-tight despot

I was a 10-year-old kid when Yahya Jammeh seized power in a military coup in 1994. I have grown up without some of the fundamental freedoms many take for granted; in a country where discussions on the state of affairs and on one’s rights were held behind closed doors and in hushed tones and with nervous glances – in fear that the fruit hawker or taxi driver or even beggar within earshot on the street could be a regime informant to land you in trouble. The shrinking of civil space happened gradually but the culture of fear of regime seeped deep into the fabric of Gambian society.

The world watched anxiously as Jammeh refused to accept electoral defeat or the urging of other leaders to step down and then celebrated as that longtime dictatorship finally ended and a new day dawned for Gambia. But for activists like myself, it was a long, hard and dangerous journey to those crossroads.

Both the regime’s threats of arrest, detention, torture and even death and the public’s fear of these actions made organising for change challenging. But the state’s repressive actions, and the anger it provoked, ultimately brought young Gambians to the realization that they had to do something, galvanizing action.

As we traveled the country, through towns and villages, organising youth and women particularly to get out to vote in the December 2016 presidential elections, I realized that people were finally ready to act. They had had enough.

Gambia is a small nation in Africa with less than 2 million people – more than 63% of them under the age of 25. The future of the youth was, literally, at stake.

As I monitored polling stations on the day of the presidential elections on December 3, 2016, it was clear to me that Jammeh would lose. Voter turnout was low in previous elections. Voters didn’t feel the ballot box offered a chance for real change – that no matter what, Jammeh would always win. But now we had given people reason to come out. That day, in the historically long voting queues, people talked openly about the need for new leadership. I had never seen anything like that. A shift had occurred. The outcome was the first transfer of power by popular election in The Gambia since our independence from Britain in 1965. The BBC called it “one of the biggest election upsets West Africa had ever seen.”

There was naturally surprise when the incumbent conceded defeat right away. We weren’t really expecting that. But there was no surprise, a week later, at his U-turn and the security crackdown that followed. For those of us who had spent years playing cat-and-mouse with national intelligence agents as we organised people, we realised there was no turning back. We had to launch a campaign on the streets and online to resist the attempted power grab.

The #GambiaHasDecided social media campaign was a hugely successful tool in emboldening and mobilizing Gambians to take a stand.

The Jammeh regime sent the military out onto the streets, declared a State of Emergency and had security forces start arresting people associated with the protests. Tens of thousands fled to neighboring Senegal but many of us decided we’re not going anywhere, and were prepared to fight. While African leaders put pressure on Jammeh to step down, we stepped up the #GambiaHasDecided campaign as the constitutional crisis deepened.

African leaders’ attempts to let Jammeh know he would not get away with this, is an example of the value of solidarity. As activists, we received expressions of solidarity – one of the most impactful, from a solidarity mission to Gambia at the height of the crisis, by Africans Rising for Justice, Peace and Dignity.

More than just offering solidarity, this emerging pan-African movement played a critical role in bringing civil society groups together to create cohesion. It was at a heated meeting of a number of civil society organizations, convened by the Africans Rising delegation in Banjul, that we agreed on a course of action together. Gambian civil society had not been well organised during the crisis and lacked the confidence to come out and join young people in protests. Africans Rising’s engagement gave us the opportunity to work out our positions, find consensus and decide on our next steps together.

On January 21, with Gambians out on the streets and Senegalese troops headed for Banjul, Yahya Jammeh boarded a one-way flight to Equatorial Guinea. Watching him leave, I had mixed feelings. We had hoped that he would have been arrested and dragged into court to account for all he had done. It felt like he was escaping. But many others felt they would not be safe – and free – until he was physically gone. Today, Jammeh has yet to answer for his actions.

A new future with Adama Barrow

Before assuming office, President Adama Barrow promised to set up a truth and reconciliation commission, along the lines of South Africa’s after apartheid. But there has been no word on that yet. Without justice, real healing and restitution cannot happen.

In the almost three months since Jammeh’s departure, Gambia does feel like a different country to the one I’ve always known. There is freedom of expression now and the Barrow administration is working to undo the structures that held Jammeh’s repression in place.

While the new administration is off to a good start, we know the struggle is far from over – it goes on, to ensure that our freedoms and democracy are safeguarded. Indeed, on the morning of President Barrow’s inauguration, we organized a huge demonstration inside the venue, reminding our new leaders that #GambiaHasDecided for justice and accountability, that #GambiaHasDecided against police brutality, arbitrary arrests and detention without trial. We called out new ministers by name to send a message that we would not stand any transgressions. We were testing our newfound democracy from the very outset.

Some Gambians believe that it is too early to criticize the new administration. But I believe it is vital that we question government’s actions to build a healthy democratic culture of checks and balances and civil engagement. I was disappointed that President Barrow did not appoint any youth to his cabinet, given our role in the political transition and the nation’s demographics. Ahead of the parliamentary elections, our hashtag campaign #NotTooYoungToRun served to remind voters and leaders of the need to include youth in leadership.

One of the biggest challenges is economic. Jammeh reportedly looted state coffers of at least $50 million on his way out, leaving the economy in bad shape. So there is a pressing need for progressive socio-economic development.

Another is justice – we need to see members of the former regime, including Jammeh, held accountable for their actions. At the moment we are in the process of gathering evidence of human rights violations committed under Jammeh.

Tribalism – another enduring legacy of Jammeh’s rule – remains a major problem, having become entrenched in Gambian politics.

As Gambia get down to the challenging and often messy business of re-building a culture of democracy, Africans can draw valuable lessons about the power of movements like #GambiaHasDecided and #AfricansRising to galvanize and support struggles, defend rights and bring about positive change.

What happened in Gambia has been witnessed in many other African countries, with the same resounding issues and lessons. That was the point of departure of Africans Rising’s solidarity mission in February – that efforts to subvert the will of the people in Gambia directly affects Africans everywhere because of the interconnected world we live in.

* Pambazuka.Muhammed Lamin Saidykhan is a Gambian human rights activist and coordinator of the emerging pan-African movement, Africans Rising for Justice, Peace and Democracy.

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We Will Champion Case For Stronger US-Africa Business Ties With Trump Administration- Florizelle Liser, President & CEO Corporate Council on Africa
May 6, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

When it comes to business relations and trade between Africa and the USA, there are few people around with depth of knowledge and wealth of experience of Florizelle Liser, President & CEO of the Washington, DC, based Corporate Council of Africa-CCA.

For over ten years, she served with the office of the US Trade Representative including a stint as its representative for Africa prior to departure from Government last year. Appointed by the Bush Administration, she served through the Obama years and even out of government, her professional life continues to circle around issues of Trade with Africa as she serves as the first female President of the CCA.

Though she served in the Asia Pacific Region, and Latin America, in the course of her career, it is not until I moved to the African Region that I thought my true calling had been found, said Florizelle in a recent interview at the CCA headquarters. With a combination of her experience, and the great work done by her Predecessor Steve Hayes, Florizelle Liser is confident that the CCA is on course to write the next great chapter of US-Africa Trade relations.

The start of Florizelle’s leadership of the CCA coincided with the arrival of the Donald Administration whose African policy is still in a state of flux, but if there is one thing she is bent on doing, it is to make sure that the momentum on US-Africa Trade relations is sustained. Citing a litany of programs from the Bush and Obama Administrations that facilitated growing business ties, Florizelle said the CCA will be leading the charge in making the case to the Trump Administration on why corporate ties between the US and Africa should be a priority.

While the corporate background of President Trump may help him see the great opportunities and partnerships that abound in Africa, the broader perceptions Americans have about Africa need to change, Florizelle said.  For a continent with all sorts of negative stereotypes, people will be surprised to know that in South Africa alone, there are over 800 U.S companies, there will be surprised to know that there are African companies doing so well in the continent to the extent that there are also setting up shore in the US as well , said Florizelle.

The Administration and the broader American public needs to get the message that if businesses are going to Africa, it is because of profit, it is because of a more enabling environment, and the growing interest of Africans to partner with US businesses, Florizelle said.

In her new role as CEO of the CCA, one of her first major events will be the 11th biennial US-Africa Business Summit that takes place in Washington, DC, from June 13-16. The Forums alternate between the US and Africa, said Florizelle and Washington is excited to host it again after the 2015 summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This will be a great opportunity for the CCA membership to interact with Trump Administration Officials. We have invited Officials from the most senior levels of the US Administration, Florizelle said, as she expresses optimisms for positive interactions between CCA members, African leaders and those who could be key actors in shaping the Administration’s policies on Africa.

 It has been 5-months now, since your appointment as CEO of the Corporate Council on Africa.  In what shape did you meet the CCA, and what has changed so far under your leadership?

Florie Liser: First of all, I have actually been here 3-months, and I was telling people up until probably this week that I have been here 6-weeks, 10-weeks.  When I got too far, I had to change it to months.  So, now I am saying that I have been here 3-months.  I started on January 23rd and I am delighted that I had the confidence of the full board that unanimously made me the CEO.  I am the first woman CEO of the Corporate Council on Africa, but I do not think that they chose me for that.  I think that one of the things that I bring to the table is my long-standing expertise and experience in terms of US-Africa trade and investment and I think the second thing that I bring to the table is the array of relationships that I have both here in the United States and across the continent.  And I’ve been very, very fortunate; very blessed to have been exposed to many, many stakeholders who have shared the vision that I have, which is that the economic relationship between the US and Africa is an important one, a vital one.  And that in this new job, the Corporate Council on Africa, is going to build on the 17-years that Steve Hayes was here.

I   commend him for the excellent leadership that he had of CCA.  But now, I believe that we want to build on CCA’s strengths.  I think that we are one of the most successful organizations focused on US-Africa business engagement.  We are the only ones in my view that are focused solely on Africa.  Other organizations have Africa as one of the areas that there are focused on, but we are solely focused on Africa.

In addition, we have, I think in terms of our successes, also been able to bring together numerous businesses from across the continent.  We have African members first, and we have not only large members of companies that are mega companies, but over 50% of our members are small and medium-size businesses as well.  And I think that, that sort of breadth of engagement also makes us a bit unique, because we are not solely focused on what is best for US businesses.  And of course, we are strong advocates for US businesses, but I think we are probably well-suited and best situated to promote mutually beneficial relationships between US and African businesses.

We held last year I think you know; a US-Africa business summit where we had more than 1400 participants and over 600 companies that attended.  This was in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  And actually, I was there.   I was there wearing my previous hat.  In addition, last year we had 6-trade missions, we hosted a range of very senior officials from Africa who came here, including the president of Mozambique, high-level trade delegation from Nigeria and so again, I think that we stand on our past and our history, but we also have a vision for the future.

And one of the things that we will be faced with now as I’m coming into leadership here, is how we work with the new US administration to make sure that the issues of US-Africa economic engagement are a priority for them.  We hope that we can make the case for expanding and enhancing the US-Africa business relationship.  And so, the issues will not only be, for example, Peace, Security, Counterterrorism, which are all very important, and in fact security is one of our core issues here.

We have 10-issue areas, as you know, which go from agribusiness, to health, security, trade, infrastructure, finance, energy, and power, etc.  But, one of the things that we will definitely want the new administration to recognize is that US businesses are in Africa because it’s profitable.  Because it is a critical part of their bottom lines as businesses.  And CCA is, and plans to be a very strong voice for US businesses who are engaged in the Continent, and also for African businesses which are expanding regionally and also some of them who are investing in the United States.  You know, it’s not one way and a lot of times people lose sight of or lose track of the fact that there are African businesses that are so successful that they are investing in the United States.    We have our upcoming US-Africa Business Summit in June and it will be our 11th biennial meeting.  We see that upcoming summit as one of the first opportunities for high-level officials from Africa, as well as CEOs, and US CEOs to meet with various people from the Trump administration.  And we have a theme which sort of reflects part of what I was saying.

We will get back to specifics of some the issues you raised as the interview proceeds.  Prior to your appointment, you serve with the office of US assistant trade representative for what?  Over 10-years?

Yeah.

Including a stint as Assistant as Assistant US Trade Representative for Africa?

Right.

How is this background helping you at the CCA?

So, you know; it’s such a natural progression to come from there, because the major role of the Assistant US trade representative for Africa was for us to promote US-Africa trade and investment.  That was my major responsibility and I did it for 13-years actually.  From 2003 until I left the US government at the end of December of 2016. Though I had worked in other regions of the world like the Asia-Pacific region, and Latin America, when I moved to the African region, I thought, wow, this was my dream job. I had studied Africa, when I was in graduate school, and visited Africa, a number of times, even in other positions.  And so, this was really an incredible opportunity for me, on a hands-on basis, to promote US-Africa trade and investment.  So, I worked with African heads of state, and ministers of trade and finance and those in charge of investment promotion on the African side as well as US businesses that will come in to ask questions about where they should go and issues that they had working in different countries.  I worked with members of Congress, and I had the privilege of working under a number of administrations. I was actually put in that position under the Bush administration, and then continued through succeeding administrations.  And I think that job was a perfect platform for me to come now and work here at CCA to continue doing really a lot of things that I’ve been passionate about for so long.

With this unique experience, in the government and now with the CCA, which is a private entity, you are in a good position to offer an assessment of business ties Between the USA and Africa.  At what point are we?  Where are things at the moment?  What is working?  And what is not working and what needs to be done to make things better?

First, I think, the average American citizen would be surprised at the number of US companies that are operating in Africa.  There are thousands and thousands of them there.  I think, in South Africa alone, there are almost 800 US companies that are there.  And so, we are all across the continent.  Our business is all across the continent in a range of sectors.  We are not just in extractive.  Although obviously, we have a huge stake in the extractive industries, we are also in telecommunications, manufacturing, and retail. We could go down the list of CCA members and beyond who are there.

Now, what has changed?  Even though many US companies have been in Africa for some time, the landscape has changed and is changing in Africa.  You know, where there were many conflicts in the past – there are only a small handful of conflicts today.  Where in the past there were governance and leadership issues, today, there are only a small number of countries where we could say that we have concerns about governance.  Where it was difficult to identify where opportunities were maybe more than a decade ago, I think today, many more US companies are aware of the opportunities in Africa.  It has the highest rate of return on investment there and the opportunities for joint ventures are probably endless.

These are economies that are growing more rapidly than most economies in the world, they have a burgeoning middle class, and disposable income is rising rapidly.  They have a youth bulge, which also has implications for the kinds of products and services that are desired on the continent, and there is a strong interest on the part of Africans to actually partner with Americans.  Therefore, a lot has changed.

Now, what is not working?  What is still difficult in many countries, is the doing business atmosphere.  The environment for quickly getting into a country, getting your operating licenses, being able to get access to the right partnerships.  These are things, which again, a number of countries in Africa are working on.  There are some who have done great in terms of the World Bank doing business scores that are rapidly rising.  But, I think anyone who goes to Africa also knows that there are some difficulties in navigating the African market.  Whenever US businesses would come in to talk to me before a trip, and they think, “well, we’re going to go there for a week and we’re going to close X deal!”  And I think, emm… I do not think that is going to happen.  And so, US businesses will still find sometimes that it takes a little bit too long to get things moving and solidify some of these partnerships.

But, because the benefits are so great, because the opportunities are so wide.  I think many of them realize, “okay, it’s going to take more than one trip.”  It may actually take me numerous trips and it might even take up to a year or more, but I am not going to run away, I am not going to lose this opportunity because I am impatient.   So, yes, I think there are ways that things could operate more smoothly, more efficiently, more effectively in Africa, and I think many US businesses would say that.  But again, the opportunities are enormous and so I think businesses are buckling down and trying to find a way forward.  Even if it is a little bit tough sometimes, even if it takes a little longer sometimes than they want.

 As we speak, there is a new administration in the USA, the Administration of President Donald Trump and people do not yet know the direction of its African policy.  From your experience in government, and signals you have seen, what should Africa expect?  Could his business background be a silver lining for business ties between USA and Africa? 

I mean, clearly it could.  Obviously, he is a businessman, he understands the benefits of doing business, not just here in the US, but across the world.  Because he is not just operating in the US.  He has operated in many places.  In fact, I was in Lesotho in November and someone was sharing with me that they thought there was a factory there that was even producing some products for one of the Trump product lines, yeah.  I did not get a chance to visit the factory, so I cannot definitively say it is true, but I had heard that.

So, what could this mean for the US-Africa business relationship – to have a businessman in the White House?  It could mean a lot.  But right now, it appears that those who our new President is looking to are largely in the area of military expertise, and people who when they look through the particular lens that they have-I’m not saying that’s a Bad lens, but, when they look through the lens that they have, they see Africa in a particular way.  And those issues such as security issues, counterterrorism issues, issues of peace, and conflict resolution; because that’s their sort of area of expertise, I think whenever they put on their lenses to look at Africa as well as other parts of the world, they see it through that lens.

I think one of the things that will be very important to do will be to help Trump Administration Officials and the President himself to take that lens off, and to put on the lens that many of our businesses and members of CCA have.  Which as I said earlier, is there are in Africa because Africa is a profitable place to be.  Everybody else in the world is scrambling to be first in Africa and to have access to what that market provides. we hope that with a strong voice from CCA as well as our members, that we can push that point, and hopefully have a Trump Administration which in short order will be talking about progress in pursuing on the business relationship with Africa.  And again, as a businessman, we are hopeful that President Trump and his Administration will do that.

I think some of them may already be leaning in that direction.  I know Secretary Ross of the Department of Commerce, mentioned Africa in his confirmation remarks, I believe, he talked about the fact that you really could not ignore Africa as a continent, and opportunities there. I understand last week, just last week that a number of the Finance Ministers and Energy Ministers that were here met with Secretary of Energy Rick Perry.  So, I was very encouraged by that and we are hoping for a robust US -Africa economic and business relationship.

As you mentioned in your last answer, “there is a growing competition for business opportunities in Africa,” you have the Chinese, you have Japanese, Indians, in addition to the traditional European countries all expressing interest.  How do you make the case for US business in Africa?  Why should African countries prefer or pick US businesses as partners as opposed to all these other partners trying to get in?

I actually do not think they should just choose us.  I think that the Africans are fairly savvy now.  This is not like the olden days where people just moved in and told Africans what to do, and treated them as if they were children.  The Africans are mature, they should not allow countries to just come in, or businesses from different countries just come in and sort of dictate.  I think that there is so much to be done there and so many opportunities that the key I think, will be to manage who can work with them most effectively, in which areas.

Just as an example, it could be that you know, to actually physically build out the hard infrastructure in Africa, perhaps which is something that the Chinese can do best.  But then, if you look at the engineering side of it, maybe that’s something that US businesses actually can provide for or someone was telling me of an example of where in a particular country, they were saying that the locomotives were being provided by the Chinese, but the engines were being provided by the US.

What you’re finding is that Africans are not, I think been forced to choose should I pick the Chinese or the American, should I pick the Americans or the French, should I pick the Indians or you know, I think what they’re doing and I think it’s a wise thing to do, is looking at what are the different partnerships we can have with different countries?

I think, what the US business brings to the table about why Africans really like working with Americans is first, I think many Americans go in with high-quality products and services.  Therefore, the value for dollar is there. You may get something cheaper from someone else that is fine.  And I’m not just speaking of Chinese, but you may get a product cheaper, but what do you get with the US is in terms of the quality of the product.

The second thing is, I think US companies are also valued for the fact that we are working with people on maintenance.  We are not just going to come in initially sell you a product or provide a service and then not build in to that relationship, what it is, what’s required to maintain it, you know.  So, what is the point of a road and three years later, it is falling apart, or getting equipment that would not last? What is the point of having, equipment and you know two years later, it is breaking down.  Maybe you would have been better off buying what would last for longer.  I think we do that.

The other thing is the partnerships.  I think that we; our US companies, we are very interested in transferring skills and technology to our African partners.  That is not to say that others do not do it, but I think we are particularly good at those transfers of skills and technology.   The kind of partnerships we then have with our African partners are a reflection of that.  So, those are some of the reasons actually, we hear back from the Africans about why they like working with us.  We treat them as partners; we do not bring them in at the lowest levels of the business and leave them there.  And to be frank, I visited a lot of factories built and run by others, we won’t say who, where if they left, even though the majority of the workers in the factory were African, the Africans actually would not know what to do to keep the business going.  They were not brought in to understand the entire value chain and what has to happen from point A to point Z to keep the business running.  And I think that, that is something that I think Americans; when we come in, we bring people in and we have them as full partners in knowing all the aspects of the businesses that we partner with.

From June 13-16, the CCA will be hosting the 2017 US-Africa Business Summit; can you shed some light on this?

 CEO Florizelle Liser with PAV's Ajong Mbapndah L at the CCA Office in Washington,DC

CEO Florizelle Liser with PAV’s Ajong Mbapndah L at the CCA Office in Washington,DC

Yes, this will be our 11th Summit.  We have been having these summits both here in the US and in Africa.  In fact, we alternate back and forth.  So, we have them every other year.  They are biennial, the last one was in Ethiopia, we had over 1400 participants over 600 companies, I think over 37 countries represented there from across the continent, and it was quite successful.  This year it is going to be in the US and we wanted it here.  We were glad it was our turn to host.  Because, we thought with the new US Administration coming in, this was going to be an excellent opportunity to bring together all of our stakeholders, our members, and many beyond our members to actually come together and to talk about the US stake in Africa, and the partnerships working with Africa.

Over the years, we have had probably over 40 heads of state.  We hope we will get a few; these are tough times because you know there are a lot of competing interests.  The G-20  is coming up.  I think the Africa program it actually happens almost on the same time frame in Berlin, but you know, we are hoping we will.  However, if we do not, we will have lots of high-level Officials, Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Trade, Energy, Health, Agriculture, and so forth. We will also have some doing business in whatever country as a part of it.  Some sessions will be on doing business in Ghana, doing business in Ethiopia, or wherever as a part of it.

We are also planning to have an event on the Hill.  We have been invited to have an event on the Hill, where we will be having a dialogue with key members of Congress, both from the Senate and the House and from both parties. The hill is so important especially right now.  They have always been important, and will always be important. We hope to have a good turnout of both US and African businesses, and CEOs covering a wide range of issues, core issues, all of CCA’s core issues will be touched on during the summit.  So, we’re inviting, I hope all those who read this article will hear about this summit and will register, and come and be a part of it.  Be that active voice that is needed right now, so that the US Administration can hear from all of us.

You mention the new US administration, and this will be the first summit that is taking place under the new leadership.  First, what level of participation do you expect from them?  Secondly, it was reported in March that there was an African Trade meeting out in California, where there were no Africans because of visa issues.  The Africans who were supposed to turn out were never granted visas to come for the summit.  Is the CCA concerned about this development?

Well, I think first of all, you asked who has been invited; we have invited practically all of the highest-level people from the Administration, who we think have a stake in Africa. So, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of Energy, we’re still waiting though for some other people to come into key positions throughout the Administration.  So, again, at the lower levels, or some of the more prominent folks that we would normally engage with are not even there yet.  But, we expect to have participation from a number of US Agencies.  We are also having a session that will be about engagement with Agencies of the US Government.  And we’re getting all of the highest-level people that are there, from the Department of Commerce, to OPIC, EXIM Bank, the US Trade Representative’s office where I came from; to come and be on a panel that will talk about our programs across those different government agencies and institution.  MCC will be a part of it, people who do work on power Africa will be there as well.  So, we think we’ll have a very good discussion of what the US ship brings to the table under this Administration, as well as others.

In terms of the visa issue, of course, you know we have to be a bit concerned that, that happens.  I don’t know the particulars of why that happened with the California conference, but what we’ve done is, we’ve talked to State Department and we’re going to be working with the State Department to let them know which Africans have been invited and also you know, as people register for the conference from different African countries, we will be sending that information to State Department so that they are aware of these people who will need visas.

And then CCA for our African partners who are coming from the private sector, we will be providing them with visa letters.  So, a letter of invitation, which is often needed for getting your visa. We will do that, and we have kind of broadly let people know that.  And as I said, we’re just going to work with the powers that be here to facilitate getting our African delegations into the summit.  That is the best that we can do, and we are going to hope for the best and hope that it will be positive.

Prior to leaving the USTR, you work with two Presidents one Republican, one Democrat. How have you seen the evolution of US-Africa business relations over the years? Who did more? Was it the republicans or was it the democrats?  

Well you know, that’s a great question and I love that question.  Now, my experience you know is that under President Bush, a lot of really incredible programs were launched. so we can talk about PEPFAR, to work on HIV-AIDS,  we can talk about the Millennium Challenge Corporation, that was set up and provides grants to build infrastructure in Africa, there was a program on malaria and girls’ education and so forth.  Then you get to the Obama administration, and he also launched some really effective programs like Power Africa, Trade Africa, YALI, and so on, but here is what I would say that distinguishes them.  I think that the trend has been more to move from initiatives the US has with Africa that are more, could more be described as aid, and development assistance to initiatives that are really more focused on trade and business engagement.  And so, I very much think that is the trend.  My expectation under the Trump Administration is, it will continue moving in that direction.

Another Program that I did not mention, that was very important under President Obama, was the President’s Advisory Council on doing business in Africa; we call it the PAC – DBIA.  Very focused on the doing business relationship, the economic relationship, and that one had CEOs from different US businesses there. We are looking to see now, whether under the Trump Administration that would continue, one would hope it would.

He gets it, he is a businessperson, and we expect that to continue that way.  But, I think the major sort of trend has been that we recognize that yes, aid is important, development assistance is important, but what is most important, what has probably more of a sustainable impact on Africa is private sector driven partnerships and relationships.  Public-private partnerships pushed by and supported by the private sectors on both sides. Power Africa is a good example of that, Trade Africa is a good example of that.

So, that is my experience and let me just say, that’s not to say that we should not give aid.  We definitely should, we have some countries in Africa right now that are facing famines , we want to make sure that we provide that kind of assistance and relief, but I remember from many years ago, they talked about how if Africa was able to increase its share of world trade by just one percentage point; at the time, they had 2% of world trade  Now, they have about 3%, but the movement of 1% additional trade would actually generate every year, three times the amount that Africa gets in aid from everybody in the world.  Just 1 percentage point of trade.

And I use that example, it is an old one.  It came from the old Blair report that came out, Oh, my gosh!  More than a decade ago.  But, the reason I use that is, because it shows you the power of trade and economic engagement.  That no matter how much aid you have, if you are generating your economic growth through private sector investment, through greater trade, the production of value-added products on the continent, the creation of jobs that come from investment and from trade, you can do way more with that, than you can with the aid – yeah.

Last question Ms. Florie, you have spent a huge part of your career working on Africa, and I believe that you have done a lot of travel, different countries, and different people

I have! I have!

What are some of the changes that you have seen? 

Yeah, well, even when I first started going to Africa, and it wasn’t a surprise to me, but you know, the pictures that you see of Africa here in the United States, the ‘Image’ I should say, of Africa here in the United States, is definitely not what is going on in the continent.

I went to cities that were vibrant, or growing metropolises even a decade, decade and a half ago, but you do not see those pictures on TV.  You see children with big bellies and flies in their eyes and, so Americans typically don’t have the vision of Africa that it is.I’ve been to factories that are producing everything from eyeglasses, and toys, and an apparel and footwear and you know, inputs for automobiles and automobiles themselves that are being produced in Africa.

African countries have the potential to do what China has done says Forizelle Liser

African countries have the potential to do what China has done says Forizelle Liser

When I see those thousands and thousands of workers in factories all across Africa, producing pepper sauces and all sorts of value-added agricultural products.  And I’ve been to cut flower farms, and just you know, it’s incredible places where they’re packing green beans and shipping them to the US and Europe.  The image I get is of an Africa that is a part of the global economy, that plays an important role in global value chains and how that Africa is critical to how everybody else is developing in the world too.  We need Africa to be a manufacturing floor, we need Africa’s labor.  Africa is going to contribute more to the global workforce in the next 20 years than any other region of the world.  And you know, FDI into Africa is increasing rapidly.

As I said earlier, the rate of return on investments is increasing rapidly.  Africa is a place now where people who are institutional investors you know, from the state of California or you know, people with pension plans here in the US, where firefighters and policemen and their money is being invested in Africa to their benefit.  And that’s an Africa that I see today and the potential of an Africa today that even 10 years ago, we did not see.  People were not putting their 401(k)s investments into Africa that kind of way 10 years ago, so the potential of Africa to be a fully integrated partner into the global economy is something that I can actually see it.  And you know, or read about it and so you know when I hear you know different fans talking about.  Oh yes, you know were to be investing these hundreds of millions or we have a call out and you know, the call has been filled in terms of you know, the investment bonds and so forth that are being issued.  You’re like wow!

This is what Africa is about today, I’ve been to stock markets in Ghana, in South Africa, in Botswana, and so I look at Africa and I see an Africa which, and let me end on this note, you know; “they are now where China was maybe 30 years ago,” And, if they continue in this direction, to me they have the potential to, not as one single economy because clearly they’re not, but then you know we have the concept of free trade area that’s been launched and where you know, 10 years from now, for sure, maybe we will be looking at it all as one large African market and economy.

I see them as having the potential in individual countries to do what China has done in terms of manufacturing, in terms of investment, in terms of business partnerships, companies that are present there, South Africa, Boeing just opened up an office in South Africa and Kenya, GE has an office in Kenya.

I mean we are seeing a lot of US business engagement there. There is a reason why they are going there.  They are not just going to Africa and setting up offices and businesses and investing there because they want to do good.  And they do, do a lot of good things, a lot of for corporate social responsibility in Africa, but are actually there to do well.  And so, the opportunity for mutually beneficial relationships between US and African businesses in all sorts of sectors and is a part of the global economy is really kind of the vision that everyone has for Africa now.  It is certainly not my vision, but I can personally attest to it.

Ms. Florie Liser, thank you very much for talking to Pan African visions!

Thank you for having me!

 

 

 

 

 

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“Do more, speak less”: The imam who stood up to Jammeh reflects on a New Gambia
April 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

BY MAHAMADOU CAMARA*

Human rights defender and imam, Baba Leigh, was one of the few who dared to speak out under the previous regime.

Imam Baba Leigh back in The Gambia. Credit:  Mahamadou Camara

Imam Baba Leigh back in The Gambia. Credit: Mahamadou Camara

One of the defining characteristics of Yahya Jammeh’s 23-year rule over The Gambia was a widespread fear of speaking out. Those that dared to criticise the repressive regime knew they would likely be intimidated, arrested, or even disappeared.

This was enough to persuade most to keep their mouths shut. But not all. Baba Leigh, the chief imam of Kanifing East central mosque, refused to stay silent when he saw human rights abuses being committed. For his troubles, the renowned imam and activist faced arrest and torture.

The worst abuses he endured were in 2012 when Leigh was detained in one of Jammeh’s notorious prisons for six months. After his release in 2013, the imam went into exile in the US where he continued to speak out.

He only returned after Jammeh’s regime finally came to an end this January. Jammeh had lost the December 2016 elections and, amidst sustained regional pressure, he eventually stepped down the next month. A new coalition government led by Adama Barrow took over the reins.

Three months on from this momentous transition, African Arguments caught up with Baba Leigh to reflect on his experiences under Jammeh and outline his hopes and fears for the new administration under a New Gambia. 

 Why and when did you start speaking out against former President Jammeh?

I have been speaking since 1994 when the military junta took over. I always speak truth to the power. That is what put me in jeopardy.  I have been condemning the bad deeds of previous regimes and I am determined to continue speaking out.

How many times have you been arrested?

The first was when I condemned the unnecessary expenditure of public funds by Jammeh’s regime. That was in 2002. I was also detained in 2012 when the president decided to execute inmates [on death row].  I advised him not to do that because he will not gain anything if he executes them, but he went ahead to execute nine of them in August 2012.

I denounced the executions. In subsequent months, I was receiving anonymous calls asking me to leave the country because my life was in danger, that the regime will eliminate me or I will be killed. But I decided not to go anywhere. Many international organisations advised me to leave the country.

Can you recall the day you were then arrested?

I was picked up around 11.30pm at night by two men from the National Intelligence Agency. I was put in the cell, then eleven men from the so-called “Black Team” came and started torturing me, asking questions like why I hated President Yaya Jammeh and why should I be the only imam going against him.

On the ninth day of continuous torturing, some advised me to rewrite my police statement stating that I was misquoted by the journalist so that they can set me free. But I told them I could not do that because the journalist didn’t misquote me.

They transferred me to the so-called Bulldozer [a detention camp], then to the old Jeshwang prison where I ended up spending six months.

Why were you released from there all of a sudden? Was there a change in your stance?

No. I had not changed anything. I believe they had no choice as the local and international pressure was too much on them.

Did they tell you why you were being released?

No. On the evening of 10 May 2013, they picked me up from my cell. One of them told me that I was going to meet the president. I was received by the then Secretary General Njogu Bah. He told me that the president pardoned me out of his generosity and sympathy for my family. He also said that I have to keep quiet and thank him for his show of mercy and forgiveness.

I responded that I was not asking him to forgive me because I have not done anything. There was a team of mediators and religious elders trying to convince me to comply to keep quiet when released. I could not accept the terms.

They got fed up of my stubbornness and I was subsequently released. No sooner did I reach home than I saw on the news on state TV the same incident, with my voice muted, saying that I thanked the president for releasing me. It was all a lie.

Did you ever regret speaking out against Jammeh?

I have never regretted it because I believe the longest day must come to an end. The Quran also teaches that the truth should prevail no matter what. Great men are singled out in history because they sacrificed more than anybody. I knew the consequences would be severe, but I believed it was worth it. It’s not easy to fight a dictator. It has never been easy to speak truth to power.

Will you continue to speak out publicly against the new president, Adama Barrow?

I only speak publicly against leaders when I have no access to them. When a leader opens his door for you then, under Islam, you are not advised to denounce him in public no matter what he does.

I might not easily have access to the president because he is a very busy person. He is not a president of one person alone but a whole country. But as we all know, this new civilian government is made up by Gambian ministers who are colleagues and easily accessible. This is the beauty of democracy and civilian government as one will have access to all.

What are your expectations of the new government?

I am expecting to have a very hard working government of the people. We all know Adama Barrow became president as a result of the coalition, which means he is the people’s choice. That’s why we will keep reminding them of their responsibilities and the expectations of electorates. Otherwise, we will be heading back to where we came from. There is a saying: “power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

What’s your advice to the new government?

My advice to them is to be more transparent and not to forget about their responsibilities, especially putting to memory Yahya Jammeh’s brutal regime and his team of criminals who tortured, embezzled and killed. The moment that memory is being renewed, there will be more concern for our future. Leaders should be doers. Do more and talk less, like Macky Sall, the president of Senegal.

What’s your advice to Gambians with regards to the new government?

My advice to Gambians is to be more patient. This is a new regime. Most of them have never had any experience in their positions before. We need to pray and offer guidance to them where necessary, not be praise singers for them.

Let us know that Gambia is one nation. You can be Mandinka, Fula, Jola, Manjago, Aku, Serahule but know that you are also a Gambian. The Gambia does not belong to one single tribe. Let us not also think we can make this country an Islamic Republic or Christian Republic.

What’s your opinion of Gambia’s religious leaders who stayed silent under Jammeh?

The imams of Gambia have learned their lesson as they allowed Yahya Jammeh to control and manipulate their religion. The imams are also citizens and they will take up their responsibility to guide this country, not just for worshipping but also to pursue social justice in their sermons when necessary.

Do you have any final comments?

I cannot complete this interview without sending a message across the diaspora and the media. Their collective efforts paid dividends. They contributed a lot to the democratisation of the New Gambia. We are now harvesting the seeds we planted. One Gambia, one nation, for a better future for all.

*African Arguments

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Tillerson snubs African Union chair: report
April 26, 2017 | 0 Comments

BY MARK HENSCH*

Permanent AU Representative to the United States, Dr. Arikana Chihombori Quao with stakeholders from the Diaspora in Washington

Permanent AU Representative to the United States, Dr. Arikana Chihombori Quao with stakeholders from the Diaspora in Washington

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson invited the African Union chairperson to a meeting in Washington only to drop out at the last minute, according to a new report.

Tillerson’s proposed meeting with A.U. Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki fell apart last week, Foreign Policy said Tuesday.

Sources told Foreign Policy that Tillerson invited Faki to Washington the week of April 17 after Faki finished meetings at the United Nations in New York City.

Faki reportedly scheduled a trip to D.C. for April 19 and 20 while waiting for details of his visit with Tillerson to be finalized, Foreign Policy reported.

Tillerson’s office then went silent, Foreign Policy’s sources added, leaving Faki frustrated by the turn of events.

Faki, the head of a 55-nation bloc, canceled his visit to D.C. entirely over the misunderstanding.

Foreign Policy said Tillerson’s team offered Faki a chance to see lower level State Department officials instead, but that meeting never materialized.

“African officials were incensed,” said Reuben Brigety, a former U.S. ambassador to the A.U. who was familiar with the circumstances surrounding to Faki’s visit.

“This is ridiculous, particularly at a time when Africans are increasingly becoming more and more aware of their choices in partners around the world,” he said, calling the mishap “the dumbest thing in the world.”

Arikana Chihombori, the African Union’s ambassador to Washington, confirmed to Foreign Policy that Tillerson’s invitation to Faki did not end in a successful visit.

“The people I dealt with at the State Department were very attentive and did the best they could,” she said.

“We tend to rise above situations like this,” Chihombori added, noting the incident would not likely harm relations between the U.S. and A.U.

*The Hill

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Africa: Presidents Kagame, Deby, Conde and AU Commission Chair Call for Urgent Reforms
April 25, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Collins Mwai*

Presidents Kagame, Alpha Conde of Guinea (second-right) and Idriss Deby of Chad (right), and African Union Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat in Conakry, Guinea, yesterday, during their meeting on the implementation of the AU reforms. The leaders jointly called for urgency in the implementation of the African Union reforms adopted in January this year in readiness for the rapid changes in the global context. Photo: Village Urugwiro/The New Times

Presidents Paul Kagame, Alpha Conde of Guinea, and Idriss Deby of Chad, and African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, yesterday, called for urgency in the implementation of the African Union reforms adopted in January this year in readiness for the rapid changes in the global context.

The Heads of State and AU Commission chairperson were meeting in Conakry, Guinea, to discuss the institutional reform of the African Union, at the invitation of President Conde the current Chairperson of the African Union.

President Kagame has been leading the reform process following the mandate given during the African Union Summit held in Kigali last July.

Speaking on the need for implementation, Kagame said the reforms were urgent, especially at a time when the African continent ought to be united in the face of changes on the global level.

“The basis for the urgency of these measures is clear. The global context is changing rapidly. Standing united, with a common vision of our continent’s interests and aspirations, we can bend the trail of history in Africa’s favour,” he said.

In the build-up to the next summit, Kagame said the priorities include implementation of the decision to finance the union with a levy on imports.

 “First, we need to accelerate the decision to finance the African Union with a levy on eligible imports. Everything else flows from this and we cannot afford to get bogged down. The second priority is to move quickly with those reforms which can be implemented right away,” he said.

While sitting in Kigali in July last year, the African Union summit adopted a new formula to finance the African Union.

How it is planned

Under the formula, countries are to make their contributions through a 0.2 per cent levy on eligible imports, which would raise about $1.2 billion every year.

The levy will be collected by tax collection authorities of member states and channeled through their central banks.

For the continent to walk the talk in the implementation of the reforms, Kagame said it needs to have a common viewpoint when engaging with external partners.

“One example is speaking with one voice when Africa as a whole engages with external partners. Nobody benefits from the confusion inherent in the current method of doing business,” the President said.

Kagame also pointed to a mechanism to ensure that countries comply with decisions adopted by the Union as a key reform that can be implemented without delay.

“Another example is to agree on a binding mechanism to ensure that member states are held accountable for respecting key African Union decisions, such as the ones on financing and institutional reform,” the President said.

He called on nations to capitalise on the mood for change and prioritise the reforms.

“The mood for change is already there and we have a clear roadmap. Let’s capitalise on it, prioritise the next steps, and keep up the good momentum,” he said

Another reform adopted is for the African Union to focus on key priorities with continental scope and to empower Regional Economic Communities to take the lead on regional issues.

Other key reforms emphasised by the President include realigning AU institutions to deliver on its key priorities, connecting the African Union more to citizens for them to have a stake in its work, and managing the business of the AU more efficiently and effectively with particular focus on how summits are conducted and how personnel are selected.

Next month, officials from the AU Commission, led by the Chairperson, as well as Foreign Affairs ministers and permanent representatives of member states are expected to convene in Kigali for an extensive briefing on the reforms implementation.

*Allafrica/The New Times

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Aliko Dangote & Bill Gates:-Why We are Hopeful About Improving Health in Africa
April 25, 2017 | 0 Comments
Bill Gates with Aliko Dangote

Bill Gates with Aliko Dangote

An Opinion Piece by Aliko Dangote and Bill Gates

NEW YORK, United States of America, April 25, 2017/ — This week, more than 138,000 vaccinators will fan out across five African countries in the Lake Chad area in a push to eliminate polio in Africa and rid the world of this terrible disease forever.

They will take boats across fast-flowing rivers, ride jeeps along sandy ravines, walk crowded street in towns and cities and navigate cramped quarters of refugee camps to ensure that every child is immunized. Traveling for hours a day, these dedicated women and men will visit children in homes, schools, train stations, and transit points across Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, and the Central African Republic.

This also marks World Immunization Week, a coordinated effort to make sure that people everywhere understand the importance of getting immunized to protect against vaccine-preventable diseases.
And by coincidence, it was almost seven years ago that the two of us first met in a hotel conference room in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. We were there as part of a diverse group—public officials, religious leaders, business people, polio survivors, and journalists—to discuss how we could work together to stop polio in Nigeria.

At the time, Nigeria had done an amazing job tackling polio—reducing reported cases by 95 percent in just one year. But it was still circulating in six Nigerian states. While 95 percent might seem like success, as long as a single child remains infected, children across Africa and around the world are at risk.

Thanks to the effort of so many, Nigeria’s Borno State is now the only place in Africa today where polio is still circulating. It will take ingenuity to end polio there, and it will take persistence to continue reaching children in the surrounding area with vaccines to protect them from the disease until it is eradicated. But we’re confident it can be done. And when that happens, Africa will celebrate one of the biggest victories ever in public health.
Since our first meeting in 2010, the two of us have worked together on a range of other projects to help improve health in Nigeria and across Africa.

We supported the establishment of emergency operations centers in Nigeria and other countries to keep polio from spreading. This turned out to be a blessing during the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. When the disease first appeared in Nigeria—an international travel hub that is home to more than 180 million people—the staff of an emergency operations center set up in Lagos jumped into action and stopped the disease in its tracks. It’s almost unimaginable to think what would have happened without them.

In the state of Kano, we are working with the government to ensure that children can get essential childhood immunizations against tetanus, pneumonia, liver cancer and measles. And when parents bring their children into a clinic for vaccinations, health workers can address other health issues, too, like nutrition, care for pregnant mothers and newborns and malaria prevention and treatment. We have since widened the program to several other states.
Vaccines are also one of the best tools to save lives in an epidemic, such as the meningitis C outbreak happening now in Nigeria and other West African countries.

And because of the devastating impact malnutrition has on Nigeria’s children –  leading to 300,000 deaths annually and causing stunted growth and development in millions more – we have expanded our partnership to include nutrition programs across 12 states.

Earlier this year, we also helped launch the End Malaria Council, a group of influential public and private sector leaders committed to ensuring that malaria eradication remains a top global priority.
Underlying all these efforts is our belief that strengthening health systems is the key to breaking the cycle of extreme poverty and disease—and kick-starting a virtuous cycle of health, productivity, and prosperity.

In our work together, we have learned a few important lessons.
First, improving the health of communities depends on a successful partnership between government, communities, religious and business leaders, volunteers, and NGOs. This ensures that everyone is rowing in the same direction. And it is essential to building trust so parents have the confidence that vaccines are safe and will protect their children from life-threatening diseases.

Second, we must keep innovating to speed up progress. This month, for example, vaccinators will test a new vaccine carrier that keeps the temperature of vaccines stable for up to five days, even in blistering heat. This breakthrough will enable vaccinators to finally reach children in extremely remote areas with life-saving vaccines.

Last, accurate and reliable data is central to any effort to improve health. Data can tell a health officer which communities are running low on vaccine supplies, where there are gaps in vaccination coverage, and which new mothers need reminders to take their babies to the health clinic to be immunized.

An Africa without polio is within reach. So is the vision of getting life-saving vaccines to every child. Success will generate more enthusiasm and support from across different sectors – government, business, civil society, the media – to tackle other killer diseases and the underlying conditions that affect people’s health, including fixing broken health systems.

We know that strengthening health systems takes time and diligence. We are optimistic that Africa can achieve the future it aspires to. That future depends on people working together—across national borders and across socioeconomic strata—to build the better world we all want.

*Distributed by APO on behalf of Aliko Dangote and Bill Gates.

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‘English was used to undermine Zimbabwe’s native languages’
April 25, 2017 | 0 Comments
Information, Media, and Broadcasting Services Minister Dr Chris Mushohwe

Information, Media, and Broadcasting Services Minister Dr Chris Mushohwe

ENGLISH is a colonial language that was used to undermine the country’s native languages and destroy the culture of Zimbabweans, Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Dr Chris Mushohwe has said.

Dr Mushohwe, who will be officially launching the 16 constitutionally recognised languages bulletins at ZBC in Bulawayo today was in Binga, Matabeleland North yesterday to meet content producers who will participate in the digitalisation programme. He was accompanied by his Deputy Thokozile Mathuthu, Permanent Secretary George Charamba and officials from the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, Transmedia Corporation and Zimbabwe Film and Television School of South Africa.

Dr Mushohwe told Binga artistes that while the country attained independence in 1980, the minds of Zimbabweans were not yet psychologically free from colonial bondage.

“English is a colonial language. Foreign languages were the most useful weapons used to colonise African countries. Right from Algeria to South Africa, they were used in the destruction of native languages. We drank too much colonial poison and we must correct that. We want to clean that contamination in our mindset and have all languages being read in the news,” said Minister Mushohwe.

The minister said unless Zimbabweans restored their culture and languages, they will forever be slaves of colonisers.

“Learning of languages has to be reciprocal. There is no language that is superior than the other. We have to learn to appreciate and respect our own culture. It’s embarrassing that some of our children go overseas and refuse to identify with us when they come back. We all have a job to clean this mess,” said Minister Mushohwe.

The digitalisation project, he added, and the Government’s 75 percent local content policy will help the nation rediscover itself.

“This mobilisation tour is meant to encourage our artistes and make them realise that they have a big role to play in helping the country reclaim its identity. It’s going to be an exciting process where we have different content producers showing us the different cultures we have in Zimbabwe through our own languages,” said Minister Mushohwe.

Minister Mushohwe, who started his tour in Victoria Falls on Thursday before proceeding to Hwange on Friday and Binga yesterday said he was excited about the overwhelming response by content producers.

“The reception is amazing. The content producers are natural artistes and I’m happy about the excitement they are exhibiting about the digitalisation project. I’m certain that it will be followed by action to sustain this project. Traditional leaders have also exhibited maximum support and I appreciate that,” said Minister Mushohwe.

He, however , said he was feeling guilty that Binga was one of the areas that was not receiving Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation signals, making it difficult to disseminate information to them.

“Binga is one of the places that makes me feel guilty on behalf of the Government. I’m the spokesperson for the Government and I can’t say I’ve succeeded in disseminating information when there’s no ZBC television here. I’m actually humbled by the response because people in Binga are not privileged to see our advertisements on television. They associate more with news from Zambia,” said the minister.

Government, he added, would soon remedy the gap so that people in Binga receive signals.

“When I joined the ministry I insisted that digitalisation must start in Binga. That position will not change because we have a debt to pay,” said Minister Mushohwe.

Charamba said Government had installed a tower in Binga, with a batch of transmitters already in the country to cater for the tower.

“The tower still needs to be equipped with transmitters. A batch of transmitters are already in the country and these will cater for the Binga tower. This will be done expeditiously,” said Charamba.

He said Government was also working on establishing public viewing centers in the district as part of the digitalisation project.

Yesterday’s meeting was also attended by veteran artist Cont Mhlanga, who is assisting film producers in the area to improve their skills. The local leadership, Zanu-PF officials, Government officials and were also part of the meeting.

Meanwhile, ZBC general manager News and Current Affairs Mr Tazzen Mandizvidza told the Sunday News that the broadcaster places high value on local languages.

Some of the languages that were already on air before are Tonga, Venda, Nambya and Sotho.

“We are introducing five more languages to make them nine and the Minister of Media and Broadcasting Services Dr Christopher Mushowe will officially launch the whole project of bulletins in vernacular. The languages were on radio before on National FM but we are saying they deserve the same priority as other languages. It is in line with the Constitution but we feel as the national broadcaster we want to be seen giving them the priority that they deserve,” said Mr Mandizvidza.

He added that they have been on the hunt for qualified personnel to air the programmes. “When we introduced these programmes on radio, the first challenge was that we did not have qualified people. Most people who could speak the languages did not have journalism qualifications, some were teachers, and court interpreters while others had various qualifications. The first process was to say let’s introduce them on radio then train the people. We taught them radio broadcasting and now they have the requisite qualifications. We then moved to have the languages on television and we looked to see if we had qualified people to read and write them,” he added.

Mr Mandizvidza said the language bulletins were being done in phases. Mr Mandizvidza said it was a plus that the languages were now on radio and television.

“We want Montrose studios to champion the growth of Zimbabwean culture, when you bring in the language you are incorporating culture and this place will lead in the preservation of culture and language.”

*Sunday Mail

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AAI Takes Third State of Education Conference To Kenya
April 19, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

AAI CEO Kofi Appenteng

AAI CEO Kofi Appenteng

In furtherance of one of its core missions of building the capacity of Africans through education and training, The Africa-America Institute is hosting the Third State of Education Conference in Nairobi, Kenya. Taking place from May 3-4, the Conference is expected to bring together educators and innovators from around the world to help advance the progress of primary, secondary, tertiary, technical, vocational and post-graduate higher education in Africa.

With a galloping youth population, the AAI seeks through the Conference to elevate and mainstream the conversation on education as a key component of the economic development narrative of Africa. According to information from the AAI website, The State of Education In Africa Conference aims to have a solution-driven conversation with policy-makers, educators, administrators, philanthropists and those interested in capacity building about the challenges and opportunities in education on the African continent

Education is crucial in helping Africa decide its future says Ghanaian-born Kofi Appenteng, who has served as President and CEO of the AAI for the last six months. Interviewed in Washington, DC, recently on his return from a trip to Kenya, Mr. Appenteng said with the rapidly growing youth population, it was important to take regular stock of new approaches to education and training.

Started by his predecessor Aminu Kajunju with the Ford Foundation as leading partner, the conferences have helped to foster greater collaboration between African countries and global partners. Considering the challenging context that African countries find themselves, there are still a number of good stories, said Kofi Appenteng in describing the current state of education of in Africa. While resources may be an issue, Mr. Appenteng sees in the strength and genius of the African youth a reason to be optimistic about the future.

Education is crucial in helping Africa decide its future says Kofi Appenteng

Education is crucial in helping Africa decide its future says Kofi Appenteng

In existence for the last 63 years, makingAAI Alumni are found in virtually every part of Africa, including two sitting Presidents in Hage Geingob of Namibia and Alassane Ouattara of Ivory Coast. The AAI stays in close touch with its Alumni and is proud of their efforts to make an impact on their communities, said Kofi Appenteng.

On the future of U S-African ties under the Trump Administration, Mr Appenteng said it was too early say. There is no expectation that it is any one government policy that will change the fortunes of Africa, he said, citing fresh perspectives from other private sector actors, and NGO’s in creating new opportunities for Africa.

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ITFC supports the textile and garment industry through its first African-Asian Cotton B2B meeting in Bangladesh
April 15, 2017 | 0 Comments
ITFC furthers its commitment to promoting sustainable intra-trade relationships by organizing its first Cotton B2B meetings between African cotton suppliers and Bangladesh Cotton Importers
ITFC supports the textile and garment industry through its first African-Asian Cotton B2B meeting in Bangladesh

ITFC supports the textile and garment industry through its first African-Asian Cotton B2B meeting in Bangladesh

DHAKA, People’s Republic of Bangladesh, April 10, 2017/ — In its continuous efforts to promote and foster intra-trade development, the International Islamic Trade Financing Corporation (ITFC) , member of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) Group, organized its first African-Asian Cotton B2B Meeting event as part of its Cotton Development and Partnership Program. The Meeting took place in the Westin Hotel, Dhaka, Peoples’ Republic of Bangladesh.

The event was inaugurated by H. E. Mr. Abul Maal Abdul Muhith M.P, Minister of Finance, Government of the Peoples’ Republic of Bangladesh and Chairman of the IDB Board of Governors and Eng. Hani Salem Sonbol, Chief Executive Officer, ITFC. The meeting also witnessed the attendance of West African cotton producers, the African Cotton Association, the Bangladesh Textile Mills Association, the Bangladesh Cotton Association, and Bengali Spinning/Textile Mills.

The Meeting supports in the first place the Bangladeshi textile industry, which is the source of employment and export earnings for Bangladeshi economy. ITFC was able to bridge between the Asian countries, specifically Bangladesh and Indonesia, to reach out and develop new business partnerships with African cotton suppliers.

Eng. Hani Salem Sonbol, CEO ITFC expressed his special thanks to the President of African Cotton Association, Mr. Baba Berthe and CEOs, representatives of West African Cotton Ginning companies for being part of this B2B Meeting, which ITFC is co-hosting with the Bangladesh Textile Mill Association and Bangladesh Cotton Association. He went on to say, “ITFC is very thankful to its strategic partners for co-hosting this important business development event for OIC’s cotton industry. ITFC, as the trade finance and trade development arm of the IDB Group, brings businessmen together from its member countries and provide them with the platform as such today to develop new business partnership to benefit from direct trade linkages between cotton exporting countries and Bangladeshi textile industry.”

From his part, H. E. Mr. Abul Maal Abdul Muhith M.P, Minister of Finance had expressed his confidence in the impact of this meeting to the Bangladeshi’s to the textile and garment industry, which is the backbone of the Bangladeshi economy and stimulator of its economic growth. “This meeting opened doors to our cotton importers to build new opportunities with the African suppliers. With the current challenging economic environment and the increasing competition, ITFC had given us the chance to reach out to new destinations.”

Calik Cotton, sponsored the meeting as the event’s strategic partner. Calik Cotton supplies cotton of different origins grown both in Turkey and abroad and serves major local and international textile industrialists. Moreover, this event serves as a platform for networking and business partnerships, and provides an opportunity for discussing ideas, industry trends and market updates.

On the sidelines of the B2B meeting, Eng. Hani held one to one meetings with H.E. Mr. Abul Maal A Muhith, Minister of Finance, H.E. Mr. Fazle Kabir, Governor & Chairman of the Board, Bangladesh Bank and H.E. Mr. Nasrul Hamid M.P., State Minister, Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources. The meetings focused on the longstanding and strategic partnership between ITFC and the Peoples’ Republic of Bangladesh, especially in supporting Bangladesh’s energy sector in addition to the opportunities in supporting the agricultural sector.

ITFC is recognized as the leading trade financier for cotton in West Africa. As such, it is mandated to facilitate and promote intra-trade among Member Countries of Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), and assist them in developing the competitiveness of their strategic products.

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