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Twitter Chat Encourages Women to Find Their Roots for Women’s History Month
March 18, 2016 | 0 Comments

National Geographic Traveler of the Year shares her journey of turning pain into purpose

ComeBackHome FlyerWASHINGTON, DC For Women’s History Month, NativSol Kitchen Founder and African Ancestry President co-host a Twitter Chat on  March 23, 2016 at 7:00pm EST entitled “Women Finding Their Roots: From Pain to Purpose.” The 60-minute live interactive session will give online users an opportunity to gain insight and inspiration in tracing their African lineage by following the hashtag: #comebackhome.

African Ancestry, Inc., the DC-based company that pioneered genetic DNA- ancestry tracing for people of African descent inspires all to make a connection to their identity through genetic ancestry testing and research.

“This Women’s History Month is a time to reconnect to our origin.  Genetically, black women hold the key to so much of ancestral information.  It is time that she claimed her place as the mother to all living things.  We must birth and nurture the future.” said Gina Paige, President & Co-founder of African Ancestry, Inc. “Women are the glue that holds the family and community together.”

In 2014 National Geographic selected NativSol’s founder Tambra Raye Stevenson as one of the “Traveler of the Year” for finding her African roots through food. Since then she had yet to travel to her ancestral land until this year in late April to Nigeria.

“Between the Ebola epidemic, terrorists’ attacks by Boko Haram and presidential elections, I had kept delaying my travel,” says Tambra Raye Stevenson, founder of NativSol Kitchen. “I was reminded even by Nigerians of safety in the north [of Nigeria]. But I had to trust my instinct and decide that it was now or never to complete my journey of coming back home not for me but for my ancestors.”

While in Nigeria this May, Stevenson will launch a new initiative called WANDA: Women Advancing Nutrition, Dietetics and Agriculture to empower women and girls in sustainable agriculture and nutrition. WANDA serves as an extension of NativSol’s work in promoting the African heritage diet with women and girls as the leaders in the movement.

Gina Paige

Gina Paige

In the Michael Twitty’s “Cooking Gene,” upcoming book, Stevenson shares her story of discovering her roots and passion for African heritage foods.  “By tracing my roots back to Africa, I became grounded in my identity and inspired to transform the path of my profession by incorporating my heritage,” says Stevenson. “Ultimately I realized I was search of my purpose. With WANDA we change the narrative of our female ancestors held captive to till foreign land to now leading a women’s movement in agriculture bridging the Diaspora and Africa.” Stevenson has kick started a crowdfunding campaign to support WANDA initiative in Nigeria and people can support at iamwanda.org.

Featured in the Washington Post, NativSol Kitchen provides culturally-centered and faith-based nutrition education programming to both youth and adults. Based in Washington, DC, NATIVSOL is on a mission to reclaim the health and spirit of the African diaspora by creating a movement to restore heritage foods into people’s daily lives. Led by trained culinary nutrition experts, NATIVSOL has the passion and talent to equip the community to cook, shop and eat their way back to health.

Tambra Raye Stevenson

Tambra Raye Stevenson

Founded in 2003 on years of research, African Ancestry, Inc. is the ancestry tracing company that pioneered African lineage matching in the United States utilizing its proprietary DNA-database of more than 25,000 African DNA lineages to more accurately assess present-day country of origin for people of African descent. Since its inception, African Ancestry’s lineage reveals have impacted the lives of more than 100,000 people in the U.S. from communities at large to global leaders such as Oprah Winfrey, Tom Joyner and the Reverend Jesse Jackson. African Ancestry has been featured across the globe in outlets such as CNN’s Black in America series, 60 Minutes and Essence Magazine; and was the centerpiece to the ground-breaking PBS special “African American Lives 1 & 2” with Skip Gates. African Ancestry is African-American-owned and operated and headquartered in Washington, DC.

Headquartered in Washington, DC, WANDA: Women Advancing Nutrition, Dietetics and Agriculture is leading a pan-African women’s movement from farm to fork. Founded in 2016, WANDA is on a mission to develop the next generation of women and girls as leaders in agriculture, nutrition and dietetics through education, advocacy and innovation as a means to alleviate poverty, build healthy communities and improve self-sufficiency.

join the event here

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AAI Conversations on Africa Seeks to Set Direction for the Next U.S. President
March 16, 2016 | 1 Comments
President & CEO of The Africa-America Institute Amini Kajunju

President & CEO of The Africa-America Institute Amini Kajunju

NEW YORK CITY – March 15, 2016 – As the U.S. presidential election gears up for the November election, AAI will host its next Conversations on Africa (COA) forum on April 21 on Capitol Hill, where congressional leaders, U.S. Government officials, policy experts and Members of the African Diplomatic Corps will take stock of the White House’s legacy on engagement with Africa and propose U.S.-Africa policy priorities for the next Administration.

The Conversation, Looking Ahead: Setting American Policy in Africa for the Next U.S. President”, will take place at Capitol Hill’s B338 Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C.

The two-term Obama Administration will come to a close in less than a year. The full-day Conversations on Africa offers a platform for reflections and panel discussions on the White House and the Congress’ strategy and engagement with sub-Saharan Africa.

The Obama Administration laid out overarching pillars for U.S.-Africa policy to: strengthen democratic institutions; spur economic growth, trade, and investment; advance peace and security; and promote opportunity and development.

The White House signature initiatives and high-level events include Power Africa, the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), and the first U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit with sitting African Heads of State in 2014. President Obama also became the first U.S. president to visit the African Union in Addis Ababa in 2015.

During President Obama’s tenure, U.S. Congress passed a 10-year extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the U.S.-Africa trade law, and the Electrify Africa Act, which aims to expand access to affordable and reliable electricity in sub-Saharan Africa.

“AAI’s Conversations on Africa forum offers an opportune time for us to look back and reflect on Obama Administration’s legacy on U.S.-Africa policy,” said AAI President Amini Kajunju. “It also is a time to identify what more needs to be accomplished before the end of the congressional session, and hear perspectives in moving forward on future Africa engagement from foreign policy advisors to the top presidential candidates.”

Moderated by Witney Schneidman, Senior Nonresident Fellow at The Brookings Institute, the panel“Africa: What Should the Remaining Priorities for the 114th Congress Be?”, with congressional staffers of the House and Senate Subcommittee on Africa, will review the Administration’s key priorities and give an update on progress to date. Staffers will share where Congress stands on proposed U.S.-Africa policy legislative bills.

The panel “Reflections: The Obama Administration’s Approach to Promoting Education in Africa”, moderated by The Honorable Vivian Lowery Derryck, President & CEO of The Bridges Institute, will offer insight into the White House’s focus on education. Confirmed panelists include Julie Hanson Swanson, Deputy Chief, Education Division, Bureau of Africa, USAID and Her Excellency Mathilde Mukantabana, Rwanda

The Honorable Reuben E. Brigety II, George Washington University’s Dean of Elliott School of International Affairs, will deliver a Fireside Chat on “Identifying Best Practices for U.S. Engagement in Africa” during the Policy Luncheon.

(L) Amini Kajunju and Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma attend Africa-America Institute 60th Anniversary Awards Gala at New York Hilton on September 25, 2013 in New York City. (Sept. 24, 2013 - Source: Bennett Raglin/Getty Images North America)

(L) Amini Kajunju and Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma attend Africa-America Institute 60th Anniversary Awards Gala at New York Hilton on September 25, 2013 in New York City.
(Sept. 24, 2013 – Source: Bennett Raglin/Getty Images North America)

Prior to taking the helm of the Elliot School, Ambassador Brigety was the U.S. representative to the African Union and U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. He also previously served as a deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of African Affairs and in the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, among other positions.

Carol Pineau, award-winning producer, writer, director and journalist will moderate what is expected to be a spirited panel “Beyond the Obama Administration: What Can We Expect for Africa?” with U.S. presidential candidate representatives. Candidate representatives will offer the presidential candidate’s perspective on U.S.-Africa policy and their vision for U.S. strategy for sub-Saharan Africa.

COA panels are still in formation and will be updated accordingly, leading up to the event.

*AAI .For more information, visit the Conversations on Africa event page

To RSVP to cover the event, please contact Shanta Bryant Gyan at email, shanta@sbgcommunications.com or call (202) 412-4603.  

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Ghana is about to make travel in Africa easier for Africans
March 8, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Yomi Kazeem*

On Sunday (March 6), Ghana celebrated its 59th year of independence and John Dramani Mahama, the country’s president, came bearing gifts. During his speech, Mahama announced that the country will begin tooffer visas on arrival to citizens of all 54 African Union (AU) member states starting in July.

qz-ghanaGhana’s new visa policy is big news in Africa where, according to the African Development Bank, only 25% of the countries offer visas on arrival to nationals of other African nations. Put another way, it iseasier for North Americans to travel within the continent than it is for Africans. Only the Seychelles is known to have an open access visa policy applicable to citizens of all AU member states. (Ghana currently offers visa free entry for citizens of 15 countries within the Economic Community of West African States.)

As part of his independence day speech, Mahama also advocated more unity across the continent by urging his countrymen to learn French, the official language of more than half of the countries in Africa. English is the official language of Ghana, but it is bordered by francophone countries like Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, and Togo.

Opening its doors to other African nations could be crucial for Ghana. The travel and tourism industry accounts for 5.9% of its GDP. Mahama did not say whether the new policy would include business visas, but at a time when foreign direct investment on the continent is falling, the country could benefit from opening its doors.

*Source Quartz

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Nigerian killed in Messi-Ronaldo row
March 8, 2016 | 0 Comments

-Lionel Messi v Cristiano Ronaldo row leads to stabbing death

Is Cristiano Ronaldo (left) better than Lionel Messi? The debate has divided many football fans for years

Is Cristiano Ronaldo (left) better than Lionel Messi? The debate has divided many football fans for years

A man was killed after arguing with a friend over whether Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo was the best footballer in the world.

Nigerian national Michael Chukwuma, 21, stabbed 34-year-old compatriot Obina Durumchukwu in a Mumbai suburb, Indian police said.

The incident took place following a party on Saturday night.

“They were discussing football players. One is a fan of Messi and the other was for Ronaldo,” a police inspector said.

“During the conversation a quarrel has taken place. The deceased threw a glass into the face of the accused person. The glass broke and caused small injuries.

“After that the accused took the broken glass and assaulted the deceased person who died due to heavy bleeding.”

Argentina international Messi, 28, is a five-time winner of the Ballon d’Or – the annual award given to the world’s best player by the governing body Fifa.

Portugal captain Ronaldo, 31, has won the accolade three times.

*BBC

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Why Are These Gitmo Detainees in Ghana?
February 26, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Philip Obaji Jnr*

Some 57 countries have accepted Guantanamo detainees, but most Ghanaians wish their country wasn’t one of them.

WARRI, Nigeria — Maybe you’ve heard about the two Guantanamo Bay detainees from Yemen who were shipped out to the West African nation of Ghana. Or, well, maybe you haven’t.

48548064.cachedDespite the debate raging once more about U.S. President Barack Obama’s efforts to closethe infamous facility and the refusal of Congress to let him do so, not much attention is paid to the hundreds who’ve been shipped out over the years, and even less attention is given to what happens in the countries that agree to receive them.

In Ghana, in fact, the arrival of two Guantanamo detainees who originally hail from Yemen has brought on a political crisis that makes Obama’s problems pale by comparison.

Since news broke at the beginning of the year that these two would be coming to one of the region’s most peaceful and least controversial nations, Ghana has been wracked by fears it will be drawn into the terrorist vortex, and the fragile government has been struggling to cope with growing outrage.

Khalid al-Dhuby and Mahmoud Omar Bin Atef—now the most infamous men in Ghana—had been held at the U.S. prison in Cuba since 2002 without being charged. Both are fighters from Yemen who went to Afghanistan to join the ranks of the Taliban. International coalition forces detained them a year after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in retaliation for the Sept. 11 attacks. Both men are suspected of participating in hostilities against U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, but their attorneys have denied the accusations.

Atef was deemed a high-risk threat to the U.S. and its allies in a 2006 Department of Defense detainee assessment, which also noted that he had an extensive record of threatening and attacking his guards.

The Yemeni nationals were the first of some 16 prisoners penciled for release in January, but because of the ongoing war in Yemen, coupled with the fact of a strong al Qaeda presence there, the men were not eligible for release to their home country.

Over the years, 57 countries have agreed to take Guantanamo detainees, usually their own nationals. Thus the Obama administration has whittled the prison population at the U.S. Navy base from 242 when he took office down to 91 today.

Ghana’s parliamentarians, church groups, civil society organizations, civil servants, and students have all criticized the decision to get Ghana involved. If President John Mahama had to run for re-election right now, instead of this November, he wouldn’t have a prayer. Indeed, this government decision may be the most unpopular in Ghana’s history.

“What equipment, instrument, and logistics does Ghana have to monitor the activities of the detainees to prevent trouble?” asked Ken Ohene Agyapong, a member of parliament from Ghana’s central region. “President Mahama has disappointed me. We are better off under corruption than being involved in this world crisis.”

The overarching fear around the country is that the former prisoners will attract or inspire Islamist violence, which already is a major problem in other parts of West Africa.

Mahama is a huge admirer of Obama and has strongly defended the government’s decision to allow the Yemenis to live in the West African state for two years, saying Guantanamo Bay was a “blot on the human rights record of the world.” The embattled Ghanaian leader suggested that a citizen of his country was more likely to die in a road accident than at the hands of the Yemenis, a remark that only served to heighten public anger.

“Ghanaians in the main are not happy and my government did not handle the process well, however well intentioned,” Fritz Baffour, a member of parliament from the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), wrote on his Facebook page. “We heard about the Guantanamo Bay too from an outside source, Fox News, who revealed it before our government told us about it.”

Mahama has many people in Ghana saying he received a large amount of money from the U.S., but a Ghanaian official told The Daily Beast that the country received no money for taking the ex-detainees. It would benefit, however, from information supplied by the U.S. about people looking to enter Ghana who might pose a security threat.

With elections looming in November, Mahama’s decision has cost him a number of allies. Most notably, he has lost the support of the majority of Ghana’s large and influential Christian community and has been frustrated to the point of making Bible references to justify a decision he can’t reverse but which his people want to be taken back.

“So where is our Christian passion or where is our faith-based compassion for people?” he asked during a press conference in Accra last week. “The Bible teaches us to be compassionate even to prisoners—that is, even persons who have been convicted. These people were not convicted.”

“The argument for compassion does not hold,” said Rev. Joseph Osei-Bonsu, president of the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference (GCBC), in reaction to Mahama’s comments. “These people are not refugees. They are people who have been accused of being terrorists.”

Ghana’s very powerful Catholic bishops have been the most vocal of all Ghana’s Christian groups. In a strong statement in January, the GCBC called on “parliament, religious leaders, chiefs, opinion leaders and civil society organizations interested in the security of Ghana to speak against this unilateral decision.”

One priest close to the GCBC told The Daily Beast privately that the body is considering reaching out to Ghana’s more than 3 million Catholics to organize some kind of protest, a decision that, if taken, could further diminish Mahama’s chances of reelection on Nov. 7.

“It may not take the form of a street protest,” the priest said. “But the clergy and the laity will make their voices heard.”

Ghanaian Foreign Minister Hannah Tetteh appeared before Parliament in a closed-door session on Friday to brief the House about the agreements in relation to the acceptance of the two Yemenis. Details were not released because the case is in the courts.

But opposition legislator Mathew Opoku-Prempeh on Saturday accused Tetteh of withholding information about the government’s decision to shelter the two detainees.

Opoku-Prempeh told a local television station that Tetteh was unable to disclose details of the agreement, adding that she did not respond to most of the issues raised about the detainees.

The minority in Parliament last week held a press conference on the same issue accusing Mahama of breaching the constitution of the country and announced their intention to impeach him.

As for the two former detainees themselves, they are no longer detained and say they are looking forward to rebuilding their lives in Ghana. By way of showing their warmth toward their new home, they recalled a quarter-final match at the 2010 World Cup between the West African nation and the U.S. that ended in a victory for the Ghanaians.

“When Ghana beat America, we were very happy,” said Atef, speaking to Uniiq FM, a local radio station. “We made some celebrations. We also told the guards that ‘We’ve won!’”

“We have suffered, but we are not looking for revenge,” Atef said. “We want to live in Ghana quietly and peacefully. And we want to put our lives together.”

*The Daily Beast

 

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Meet the young CEO launching Teach For Ghana
February 20, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Jeff Tyson*

Students in Ghana. Teach For Ghana, part of the Teach For All global network, was officially launched in Accra in January 2016. Photo by: Jennifer Aldridge / U.S. Army Corps of Engineers / CC BY

Students in Ghana. Teach For Ghana, part of the Teach For All global network, was officially launched in Accra in January 2016. Photo by: Jennifer Aldridge / U.S. Army Corps of Engineers / CC BY

As a biomedical engineering graduate student at Cornell University, Daniel Dotse had a vision — he wanted to build an African pharmaceutical company run by African scientists that could rival giant multinationals like Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer.

But the young Ghanaian soon realized there was one big obstacle in the way of achieving his goal: The quality of education in Africa wasn’t high enough to adequately prepare the staff he envisioned.

More than half of children not enrolled in school live in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the United Nations. And on average, there is one reading textbook for about two students and one math textbook for about three students in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a 2015survey carried out by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics and its partners.

So Dotse made a plan. After starting his career working at a pharmaceutical company in New York, he quit his job and moved home to Ghana with the aim of improving his country’s education system. Today, the 29-year-old is poised to bring the model of one of America’s largest — and most controversial — teacher training and education programs to his home country.

Teach For Ghana — part of the Teach For All global network, which includes the multimillion dollar organization Teach For America — officially launched last month in Accra. It is the first Teach For All partner organization on the African continent. As CEO and co-founder, Dotse is working to place the program’s first cohort of teachers in rural communities across Ghana’s Volta Region in September.

Teach For All partner organizations, such as Teach For America, Teach For India and now Teach For Ghana, are bound together by the philosophy that recruiting top talent from diverse backgrounds into the teaching profession for at least two years fosters high quality leadership in education and contributes to ending educational inequity. Proponents of the model stress that it provides an avenue for motivated and high potential candidates to start careers in teaching.

In Ghana, as in many developing countries, education champions like Dotse are particularly worried about quality of teaching. Ghana ranked lowest in student performance on math and science out of 76 countries according to a 2015 ranking from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Teach for Ghana, Dotse hopes, can help bring about systemic change.

As a child growing up in northern Ghana, Dotse was immersed in his country’s underperforming public school system. In elementary school he crammed into a classroom with about 80 other students. They sat together on the floor without any chairs. Dotse remembers his teacher drawing a line of chalk down the middle of a room to separate the first graders from the second graders. The same teacher taught both grades, alternating between sides of the room.

“That’s what I knew education to be,” Dotse told Devex.

It also wasn’t uncommon for Dotse’s teachers not to show up for school. In fact, for 41 deprived districts in Ghana, overall teacher attendance is about 79 percent, according to a 2013 performance report from the Ministry of Education. Long commutes, traffic and “poor commitment and dedication to work” were among the reasons cited for teacher absences.

After his family moved south, Dotse’s parents placed him and his older brother in another public school that struggled to prepare students for success. His older brother, whom Dotse called “one of the smartest individuals that I ever met in my life,” took an entrance exam for a prestigious high school in Accra, and failed it.

That’s when Dotse realized his country’s public school system wasn’t going to help him get very far. He was about 12 years old at the time.

“I literally forced my parents and told my mom, ‘you have to take me out of here’ … and that led me to the private school system,” he explained.

Dotse struggled to catch up to his peers in private school, but “that was the beginning of my educational trajectory,” he said.

From there, Dotse was accepted into the very high school from which his older brother had been rejected, and eventually he went on to earn a scholarship to study in the United States. He studied as an undergraduate at Arcadia University in Pennsylvania, then went on to Cornell, where he began dreaming about pharmaceutical entrepreneurship.

In 2012, when Dotse decided to dedicate himself to educational improvement in Ghana, he and two friends — one a Teach For America alumnus — contacted Teach For All about bringing their model to the West African country.

In January 2014, Dotse quit his job and moved back home to build his organization. But building a nongovernmental organization from scratch and introducing a new model of recruiting and hiring teachers doesn’t come without its challenges.

“Whenever you bring an idea which is quite disruptive, you always get backlash,” Dotse said.

Critics of the Teach For All model suggest teachers recruited into these programs don’t get sufficient training before entering the classroom and since they can be cheaper to hire, take the jobs of potentially more qualified teachers who come from traditional education backgrounds. And beyond fresh faces from nontraditional backgrounds entering the job market, there can be animosity within schools between existing teachers and new recruits, who often require the support of teaching veterans in the classroom.

In Ghana specifically, there is a range of new teacher training programs aimed to bolster the skill sets of existing teachers, which raises the question: Is the solution to hire new teachers or better train existing ones?

For instance, in January, the Varkey Foundation launched a new distance learning teacher training program called Train for Tomorrow, which uses satellite-equipped schools and solar powered computer technology to train teachers across Ghana from a TV studio in Accra. Through the program, the Varkey Foundation aims to train 5,000 teachers over the course of two years.

And the Global Partnership for Education is supporting an Untrained Teachers’ Diploma in Basic Education, which trains underqualified teachers who are already teaching in classrooms in deprived districts of the country.

But by introducing a competitive program that brings top talent from a variety of sectors into the teaching profession, Dotse hopes to add to the quality of teaching in his country, rather than simply allow the government to recruit the mass numbers of teachers needed to fill schools and lower unemployment.

Daniel Dotse, CEO of Teach For Ghana. Photo by: Teach For All

Daniel Dotse, CEO of Teach For Ghana. Photo by: Teach For All

Beyond facing critics of the model, fundraising has been a major hurdle. Dotse said philanthropy is not part of the culture in Ghana and there is a lot of skepticism of NGOs, making it particularly difficult to raise money. His team has yet to raise its budget for 2016.

Despite these challenges, Dotse hopes Teach For Ghana will operate in every region in Ghana by 2020, with about 500 teaching fellows. The team is targeting around 30 fellows for September 2016 in Ghana’s Volta region and hopes to grow at a rate of 60 percent, bringing on 45 more fellows next year and adding two regions year by year.

“If Teach For Ghana is very successful … we would generate different calibers of individuals who will go out there and build the next Pfizers and the Johnson & Johnsons and the Apples right in Africa,” Dotse said. “I strongly have that hope. But for us to achieve that we need to change our educational system.”

And beyond Ghana — across the African continent — Dotse hopes other Teach for All partner organizations will emerge. He hinted that we may soon see a Teach For Nigeria, a Teach For Kenya or a Teach For Uganda, and that there are already entrepreneurs in those countries working to develop those programs.

*DEVEX

 

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African leaders urge passage of Electrify Africa Act
January 28, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Tony Elumelu and Aliko Dangote*

Dangote, Elumelu at World Economic Forum Davos

Dangote, Elumelu at World Economic Forum Davos

In the next week, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on the Electrify Africa Act, passed by the Senate under unanimous consent late last year. This bill directs the President to establish a multiyear strategy to assist countries in sub-Saharan Africa implement national power strategies and develop an appropriate mix of power solutions, including renewable energy, to provide access to reliable, affordable, and sustainable power in order to reduce poverty and drive economic growth.

On behalf of the African Energy Leaders Group (AELG), a high-level public-private partnership launched last year, we welcome the leadership of the U.S. Congress on this issue. It is our view that the Electrify Africa Act will provide a durable strategic framework to address the challenges of energy poverty on the continent by leveraging a private sector-led, market-based approach which is essential to the sustainability of this effort over time. If passed, Electrify Africa will be the most significant legislation to advance U.S. commercial relations with the continent of Africa since the initial passage of AGOA, 15 years ago.

A wide range of energy sources exist on the continent. Yet, more than 600 million Africans lack access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services. Hundreds of millions are also denied access to basic nutrition, quality education, medical services and sanitation due to lack of adequate energy supply. Recent surveys of African businesses reveal that energy costs account for 40-60 percent of operating expenditure (more than 10 times what it is in the United States), dramatically increasing the cost of doing business in Africa. The effect of the power deficit on our economies is damaging and tangibly constrains development.

Africa has the largest rates of extreme poverty and the fastest population growth of any region. The rapid industrialization and sustained economic development necessary to provide jobs for this growing population simply cannot be achieved on a weak power base

We have been encouraged by the increasing awareness among both African and U.S. political leaders on these issues, and by the willingness of the private sector to invest alongside governments in meeting the growing demand for power on the continent. Through the much-lauded Power Africa Initiative, the United States is helping to provide assistance for policy reforms and transactions which expand infrastructure and strengthen regulations in the power sector. This is not only good for Africa, as these initiatives benefit U.S. companies seeking access to new and rapidly expanding markets for their equipment, expertise and products.

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) is another critical development instrument which supports U.S. investments in Africa’s energy sector. However, it is hampered by well-intentioned yet counterproductive restrictions on carbon emissions for projects financed even in the lowest emitting countries of the world.  In order to better leverage U.S. resources towards implementing the objectives of the Electrify Africa Act, we encourage Congress to follow this legislation with a strong reauthorization of OPIC that includes the flexibility to align with the national realities and priorities of the countries you wish to help and considers the full range of energy options available to them. In this regard, we must work together to identify an appropriate balance between poverty alleviation and environmental protection.

We applaud the efforts of all those who have championed the Electrify Africa Act, and urge the House of Representatives to pass this legislation without delay. From our perspective, this bill would codify access to electricity in Africa as a long-term U.S. foreign policy priority, for the benefit of millions of Africans and for U.S. companies doing business on the continent.

*The Hill.Dangote is president of the Dangote Group. Elumelu is chairman of Heirs Holdings and founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation. Both are co-founders of the African Energy Leaders Group.

The African Energy Leaders Group, launched at the World Economic Forum in January 2015, is a working group of high-level African business leaders and heads of state. In line with the targets of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative (SE4All), one of the group’s primary goals is guaranteeing access to reliable, affordable energy services for all Africans by 2030, through regional power pools and innovative public-private partnerships

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Dear Africa, presidential term limits is not democracy
January 25, 2016 | 0 Comments

By *

Photo: Ndimby Andriantsoavina

Photo: Ndimby Andriantsoavina

It is has become obvious that the discussion on democracy in Africa has become solely about presidential term limits. Going a step further, it seems power grabbing and bad leaders are an African problem. Shall Africa accept this false characterization? What is our responsibility?

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to speak on RFI’s Appel sur l’actualité on the referendum on presidential terms limits happening the next day in Rwanda. I didn’t get a chance to say what was on my mind, so I decided to write instead. Dear Africans, do not be duped, presidential term limits is not democracy.

What do I mean? Having a president who has a limit of two terms is not a guarantee that he or she will accomplish anything worthwhile in power. If the sole gauge of a successful term in office is respecting term limits, why is Europe not following its own advice?

Africa is not the bedrock of bad governance, dictators or corruption. On RFI, host Juan Gomez asked, “How can we put an end to this ‘African’ tendency of power grabbing…” And all the Africans on the call chimed in, “Yes, we must stop these African leaders…” I felt like I was reliving the partition of Africa. Does Africa have bad leaders? Yes, we have had some incompetent, corrupt leaders. So has Italy, Greece, Japan, Brazil, Canada, the US, Germany, France etc.

There is nothing that bothers me more than Africa accepting to be told who we are, what we should do, and what our limits are. The last time that happened, we were being colonized. Should African leaders be held accountable for their leadership? Absolutely. Should citizens rise up to demand the leadership they deserve? Most certainly, in fact, those examples are rarely spotlighted – like what happened in Burkina Faso or Senegal before that. Even Burundi, as complex as the situation has become, is about the people rejecting a self-proclaimed incompetent president.

I feel like we need a monthly lesson in African history given from [independent] African voices. Has the West brain washed us into thinking we didn’t have highly structured, efficient governance systems before they “discovered” us. In Rwanda, we certainly did. And using the Church, the German then Belgian colonizers convinced us (forcefully) that ours was a primitive system needing saving and the consequences of this are buried in graves across the country.

Beyond term limits

The issue isn’t how many terms but what you do with those terms. Like one Facebook commentator said, “What is the point of serving two terms, everyone claps for you for leaving and then you leave the country in billions of dollars of deficit that you and your cronies have carved up and stolen, with the support of the West?” Yes it is not always the case, but I think it is time that as Africans, individually and collectively, we ask ourselves, what is our responsibility in all of this? And what can we do going forward?

Protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza. Photo: AFP

Protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza. Photo: AFP

I don’t buy the argument that we can’t do anything about it. Thomas Sankara was a man like us. Even colonialism seemed impossible to overcome and some days, I wonder if we will ever get over the mountain of neo-colonialism, but the point is, we are not helpless.

In Rwanda, we have taken off the shackles of helplessness. I have said this before, we have many challenges but we reject being lectured to about things we know better than anyone else. Our President and his government have succeeded in rebuilding the nation under impossible circumstances. I was in a meeting a year ago, and a local leader said that everything was fine in his area and it wasn’t. Children were severely malnourished. After the statement, President Kagame showed pictures that had been taken without the knowledge of the local leader and I will never forget his words, “Shall we boast about progress when our children are hungry?” That is leadership. Africa needs leadership.

What is democracy?

I could give you a hundred examples but let me quote a young man who called into a radio program the day before the referendum, “My relationship with government starts and ends with service provision, if President Kagame’s government has done this, even beyond our expectations, why should we not be allowed to vote for him again. Shall the US dictate to us how to live? Shall France tell us what to do? That time has passed.”

Democracy is governance by the people for the people and for the last two centuries, everyone but Africans has decided what this means. Don’t get me wrong, we share some of that responsibility but now is the time, we are that generation that should define who we are not in response to stereotypes but drawing from history and looking to the future.

President Paul Kagame joins residents in Umuganda to build homes for the needy. Photo: Paul Kagame Flickr

President Paul Kagame joins residents in Umuganda to build homes for the needy. Photo: Paul Kagame Flickr

Rwandans are not being duped, they are exercising strategic wisdom. I actually wanted the new draft constitution to completely take off term limits, which have become a tool for manipulation and distraction, but Parliament decided to keep the two term limit with a seven year transition.

I want you to think for a minute, say term limits are not an issue like in Germany or Canada, what then are the checks and balances to power? Decentralization, inclusive economic policies, accountable governance mechanisms like performance contracts, robust civil service, independent judicial system, an empowered Parliament, an active civil society, media etc. Where are the discussions about this? Because these are the areas where Rwandans have spent most of their energy in the last twenty years, albeit imperfectly, and where much more effort has to be spent.

In this globalizing world, where Africa is the last frontier of exploitation, only leaders and countries focused on inclusive, strategic policies and interventions will survive. Africa, please don’t drown in poisoned poetic rhetoric about the democracy of others that we can’t seem to have; we need action, we need leaders.

Choose leaders who will better your life, speak against inequality (African resources are feeding the whole world while we go hungry) and who owe nothing to neo-colonialists. Hold those leaders accountable and if there aren’t any, then it is time for you to run for office. This is the Africa I want.

It is not utopia, it will take sacrifice – even death. Are we willing to pay the price?

*This Is Africa

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Age cheating holding back African teams – CIES report
January 15, 2016 | 0 Comments

Despite fielding the youngest players in A national teams in 2015, Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon continue to remain underachievers due to endemic age cheating, a CIES report has stated.

The Switzerland-based Football Observatory says African teams have remained underachievers due to cheating at youth level

The Switzerland-based Football Observatory says African teams have remained underachievers due to cheating at youth level

In its January 2016 report, the Swiss-based Football Observatory cast doubt on the declared ages of African footballers which it claims is responsible for the untapped potential of African teams in senior football.

Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon are listed as having fielded the youngest players among 50 sampled A national teams in 2015 – 24.7, 25.1 and 25.3 years respectively.

“However, this result must be analysed carefully insofar as footballers born in Africa tend to be older than they claim to be,” stated the report.

With the immense talent on the continent, only three teams – Ghana, Senegal and Cameroon – have ever reached the quarter finals of the World Cup.

However, both Nigeria and Ghana have regularly won world titles at youth levels, with Nigeria winning a record fifth Under-17 world title last October.

“Lying about one’s age is a common practice that implies a competitive advantage in youth categories,” said the report.

“However, in the long term, this strategy is counterproductive as it does not provide optimum conditions for the full development of talent.

“This is one of the reasons for which the real potential of African squads remains untapped.”

Fielding young players has its advantages as the report highlighted the impact of youth in the England national team that qualified seamlessly for the 2016 European Championship.

However, the Netherlands were let down by youth as they failed to qualify for the same tournament despite fielding players with an average age of 25.6 years, the same with England.

“In the first case, the bias towards youth has not been a success as the Dutch failed to qualify for Euro 2016. For the English, on the other hand, the results have been more positive.

“The youthfulness of the players available to Roy Hodgson is the sign of a renaissance which suggests a promising future,” the report said.

The remaining teams in the top 10 are Korea Republic, Algeria, Switzerland, Germany and Belgium.

See our gallery of the 20 youngest senior teams of 2015

*Source Goal/Yahoo

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Africa: Hope As African Leaders Reduce Terms
January 12, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Ciugu Mwagiru*

As some African leaders are going all out to increase their terms in office, it is gratifying that several are calling for reduced ones.

Macky Sall of Senegal

Macky Sall of Senegal

Manoeuvres to prolong presidential terms have included holding referendums aimed at changing constitutions to legalise incumbents’ bids to hold onto power, as happened Congo and Rwanda.

Ironically, Rwanda’s constitutional change that allows President Paul Kagame to stand again next year also shortens the presidential term from seven to five years from 2024.

It also allows Kagame two more terms, extending his rule to 2034.

Gratefully, leaders like Liberia’s President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson have come out strongly calling for laws to cut presidential terms. She wants the term reduced from six to four years, with the presidential terms limited to two.

The call by President Sirleaf did not surprise Liberians.

In 2014, delegates of the country’s national constitution conference voted in favour of the reduction of the presidential term limit from six to four years, while also reducing the terms for senators from nine to six years and those of MPs from six to four.

Ironically, the new presidential terms are the same ones the country had before 1986, when a Constitution Review Committee headed by Dr Amos Sawyer increased it from two four-year terms to two six-year ones.

In the meantime, Senegal President Macky Sall last week honoured a promise he made on his election in 2012 by unilaterally announcing the reduction of his term from seven years to five.

The statement said the reduction would take effect immediately, meaning the next presidential election will be in 2017.

The seven-year term that Senegal inherited at independence from France in 1960 has been controversial.

There were hopes of its reduction in 2000, when incoming president Abdoulaye Wade promised to make it five years.

He, however, did not do so throughout his 12-year-rule, which ended in 2012 after he failed to win a third term.

The announcement by President Sall came just months before an April referendum that was expected to resolve the issue.

A statement from the presidency said the announcement was expected to end the confusion among politicians over holding of the referendum.

Benin's Yayi Boni

Benin’s Yayi Boni

The developments in Liberia and Senegal came months after Benin’s President Thomas Boni Yayi announced in November that he would step down after two terms.

He said his decision came out of respect for his country’s constitution, which barred him from seeking re-election during the country’s polls next month.

The 63-year-old Beninois leader was elected in 2006 and voted in again five years later.

He has been hailed by his French counterpart François Hollande as a paragon of democracy in Africa, and his announcement came at a time when there were mounting concerns about leaders like Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni and the Republic of Congo’s Denis Sassou-Nguesso, all of who have been in power for decades and have shown no signs of stepping down.

Towards the end of last year, President Sassou-Nguesso, who has been in power since 1979 provoked opposition protests when he pushed through a new constitution allowing him seek a controversial third term this year.

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Transfer of Two Guantanamo Detainees to Ghana
January 7, 2016 | 0 Comments
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and President of Ghana John Dramani Mahama

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and President of Ghana John Dramani Mahama

The U.S. Department of Defense announced on January 6, 2016, the transfer of Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay to the Government of Ghana.

The United States is grateful to the Government of Ghana for its humanitarian gesture and willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. The United States coordinated with the Government of Ghana to ensure these transfers took place consistent with appropriate security and humane treatment measures.

The decision to transfer a detainee is made only after detailed, specific conversations with the receiving country about the potential threat a detainee may pose after transfer and the measures the receiving country will take in order to sufficiently mitigate that threat, and to ensure humane treatment.

As directed by the president’s Jan. 22, 2009, executive order, the interagency Guantanamo Review Task Force conducted a comprehensive review of these cases. As a result of those reviews, which examined a number of factors, including security issues, Atef and Al-Dhuby were unanimously approved for transfer nearly six years ago by the six departments and agencies comprising the task force.

The United States is taking all possible steps to reduce the detainee population at Guantanamo and to close the detention facility in a responsible manner. While our policy preference is to repatriate detainees to their home countries where we can do so consistent with our national security and humane treatment policies, under certain circumstances the most viable transfer option is resettlement in a third country. Of the 133 detainees who have been transferred from Guantanamo during this Administration, 82 have been resettled in third countries.

We remain very appreciative of the assistance of our friends and allies who have stepped up to accept detainees for resettlement. We appreciate this generous humanitarian action by our partner, the Republic of Ghana. The closure of Guantanamo is a goal shared by many governments around the world. Today, 105 detainees remain at Guantanamo Bay.

*APO/State Department

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Oxford statue row stirs ghosts of British colonialism
January 3, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Dario Thuburn*

A popular movement at the University of South Africa forced the removal of a statue of British colonialist Cecil Rhodes (AFP Photo/Rodger Bosch)

A popular movement at the University of South Africa forced the removal of a statue of British colonialist Cecil Rhodes (AFP Photo/Rodger Bosch)

London (AFP) – The toxic legacy of colonialism in Africa has stirred up a heated debate in Britain involving a prestigious Oxford University college, some high-powered alumni and a student campaign boosted by social media.

The focus of the debate is an unremarkable limestone statue looking down on Oxford’s High Street of Cecil Rhodes, the Victorian-era tycoon who founded the De Beers diamond company and what is now Zimbabwe.

“To put someone so literally on a pedestal is to tacitly condone their legacy,” said Daisy Chandley, a student and organising member of the Rhodes Must Fall in Oxford campaign.

Smudged by passing traffic on a busy thoroughfare and soiled by pigeons, the Rhodes statue is still in a stunning location surrounded by Oxford’s dreaming spires in the heart of the university’s college community.

An inscription underneath pays homage to Rhodes — a white supremacist like many builders of the British empire — for his donation to Oriel College.

Inspired by the popular movement that forced the removal of a statue of the famous colonialist at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, campaigners have been asking the British college to do the same.

– ‘Wider racism’ –

The campaigns are distinct but supporters in Oxford use the same hashtag #RhodesMustFall as the Cape Town campaign and their actions have fuelled a political debate in South Africa as well as soul-searching in Britain ranging well beyond the statue itself.

“There have always been those who have questioned the statue as well as the wider racism within the university but the movement in South Africa brought debate over similar problems in Oxford to the forefront and triggered collective action,” Chandley told AFP.

The university rejects accusations of racism but Oriel College promised to be “more diverse and inclusive of people from all backgrounds” in a response to the campaign earlier this month.

It said it would take down a Rhodes plaque on the wall of another college building and agreed to a six-month “listening exercise” on whether to remove the statue.

The college said Rhodes’s values “stand in absolute contrast to the ethos of the scholarship programme today and to the values of a modern University”.

It said it would put up a sign in an antique window below the statue saying that “the College does not in any way condone or glorify his views or actions”.

But it also talked up the positive contribution of the Rhodes Scholarships, which have allowed 8,000 students from around the world to study at Oxford, including former US president Bill Clinton and former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott.

One of the organisers of the campaign, South African Ntokozo Qwabe, was himself named a Rhodes Scholar last year and has defended himself against charges of hypocrisy by saying that he is taking back some of the money that Rhodes took from Africa.

“I’m no beneficiary of Rhodes. I’m a beneficiary of the resources and labour of my people which Rhodes pillaged and slaved,” he wrote on Facebook.

– ‘A man of his times’ –

Academics, politicians and famous Oxford alumni have waded into the row, heatedly debating the rights and wrongs of honouring a man who was a major driver of British territorial expansion in southern Africa and a key player in the Boer Wars that left thousands dead.

One opponent of the campaign even compared it to the monument-destroying Islamic State group.

In a letter to The Times newspaper, South Africa’s last white president F. W. de Klerk, who shared a Nobel Peace Prize with anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, dismissed the campaign as “folly”.

“If the political correctness of today were applied consistently, very few of Oxford’s great figures would pass scrutiny,” wrote de Klerk, who was key in ending racial segregation in South Africa.

The Economic Freedom Fighters, a radical left-wing party in South Africa, expressed “disgust” at de Klerk’s comments and called for his Nobel to be revoked.

“All apartheid and colonial statues and symbols must fall, not just here in South Africa, but the world over,” it said in a statement.

But in an open letter to Britain’s Independent daily, Abbott said Rhodes was “a man of his times”.

“The university should remember that its mission is not to reflect fashion but to seek truth and that means striving to understand before rushing to judge.”

*Source AFP/Yahoo

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