The African Union building in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, was also a gift from China. It cost $200 million to build and was handed over in 2012.
(CNN)China raised eyebrows this month by announcing it will give the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) a $31.6 million grant to build a new headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria.
African, right, and Chinese workers, left, build railway track sections for the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) line in Tsavo, Kenya.
Accepting the grant, the president of ECOWAS Jean-Claude Brou thanked China, and confirmed the organization’s commitment to promoting future ECOWAS-China cooperation. A press release said that Mr Brou called this a mark of goodwill from China.
But critics questioned the Asian economic powerhouse’s motives for the donation, which positions it at the center of West African politics.
Earlier this year, a published report in the French daily, Le Monde, alleged that Beijing spied on the African Union through the computer systems it helped install. Citing anonymous sources, Le Monde reported that data was transferred from the AU systems in Ethiopia to its servers in Shanghai. China’s foreign ministry called the Le Monde report “groundless accusations.” The AU called the report “baseless.”
“People will interpret this as a symbolic expression of China’s growing presence in Africa,” says Ian Taylor, professor in international relations and African political economics at the University of St Andrews, in Scotland.
“But the real question is 60 years after independence (for most member states), why does ECOWAS think it’s acceptable for a foreign power to build its headquarters?”
ECOWAS and the Chinese Ministry for Foreign Affairs did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment.
Why did ECOWAS accept?
ECOWAS was established in 1975 to foster economic integration and collective self-sufficiency in West Africa.
Its 15 member states include one of Africa’s biggest economies by GDP Nigeria, causing Taylor and others to ask why ECOWAS isn’t self-funding the facility. Had the members split the bill, it would have cost just over $2 million each.
Philip Olayoku, project manager at the Abuja-based Information Aid Network, says the official numbers are misleading and many countries in the grouping don’t have cash to spare for such projects.
“For me, reliance on GDP is the wrong way to determine how well a country’s economy is doing,” he says. Corruption in many West African governments, he explains, means “funds that are accrued for national growth are often not where they need to be,” impairing a country’s ability to contribute effectively to bodies such as ECOWAS.
Gambia’s President Adama Barrow with China’s President Xi Jinping at the end of a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on December 21, 2017. The two countries re-established diplomatic relations in 2016.
Currently, ECOWAS’ operations are spread across three buildings in the Nigerian capital, which both Taylor and Olayoku say are “outdated” and not fit for purpose. The China Development Bank Corporation will work with “an ECOWAS designated authority” to “verify records of account payments at regular intervals” throughout the construction process, according to ECOWAS.
That foreign supervision is necessary, Taylor says, shows “a general failing of the ECOWAS leadership.” “They can’t even be bothered to contribute to ECOWAS’ budget,” he says. In 2016, six nations had outstanding contribution arrears to ECOWAS. “What that means is either the organization will stop working or it will have to rely on foreign donors.”
‘No such thing as a free gift’
It’s not the first time China has constructed buildings at the heart of Sub-Saharan African politics for free.
In 2012, it handed over the ultra-modern African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. With a price-tag of $200 million, it was China’s largest aid construction project since the 1970s. In 2017, China broke ground on a fully-funded $58 million parliament in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo.
“Obviously, the (ECOWAS) building itself doesn’t mean that China is going to extend its influence, but it does send a signal that China is positioning itself as a trusted friend of African presidents,” says Taylor. “That influences all sorts of decision making processes … there’s no such thing as a free gift.”
While Beijing defends its aid practices on the grounds they are neutral and respect recipient nations’ sovereignty, Chinese money is not wholly unpolitical.
Furthermore, in 2016 the president of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma, confirmed that the Communist Party of China (CPC) had agreed to build his ruling All People’s Congress party a six-story headquarters in the capital of Freetown.
Chinese employees of the new railway which will link Addis Ababa to Djibouti take pictures in front of the Chinese-made Ethiopian trains in Addis Ababa on September 24, 2016.
China becoming an aid power?
As China grows as a world power, its aid programs in general are expanding globally, too. A study published last year by AidData, a research lab at the College of William & Mary, found the size of Chinese aid assistance to be much larger than previously believed.
Earlier this month, China announced plans to form an international development cooperation agency to coordinate its global aid program. Previously China had no dedicated agency devoted to foreign aid, despite giving tens of billions of dollars in overseas assistance since 2000.
“The Chinese government actually considers the details of its overseas development programs to be a state secret,” AidData executive director Brad Parks told CNN.
The AidData study found that at least 70% of China’s overseas aid was sent to Africa from 2000-2014. While the report noted that “Chinese aid substantially improves economic growth,” it also deemed the majority of spending less than effective and warned it may undermine Western efforts to use aid to promote democracy and political reform, at a time when the US is pulling back on overseas spending.
Giving developing nations buildings designed to help their political institutions prosper is part of that expanded aid program, says Aaron Tesfaye, a professor in political science at William Paterson University, New Jersey.
“We are now seeing China being a responsible nation, with peacekeeping forces in Darfur and Mali,” he says. “So I can see where financing ECOWAS is a step forward in that responsibility.”
Taylor agrees that in some African nations, such as Ethiopia where China has built a metro in the capital city and connected the land-locked country to the ocean via the Addis-Ababa-Djibouti Railway, as well as built the AU headquarters, most people see Chinese construction projects such as “positive.”
“The cultural power of China in the world today is a reality and something that is being embraced, given its economy cannot be ignored,” says Olayoku. “I don’t see anything wrong with China building the ECOWAS headquarters, as long as it does not impose its values.”
*Source CNN.CNN’s James Griffiths also contributed to this report.
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – Ethiopia’s ruling coalition named a chairman set to become the country’s new prime minister late Tuesday amid the latest state of emergency in Africa’s second most populous nation.
Abiy Ahmed is poised to take power, as the ruling coalition and its regional affiliates hold all parliament seats. A vote by lawmakers is expected on Wednesday.
The announcement followed months of the most severe anti-government protests in a quarter-century and the surprise decision by then-Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn early this year to release prominent politicians, journalists and others from prison to free up political space.
But Hailemariam later announced his intention to resign and a new state of emergency was imposed in one of Africa’s fastest growing economies.
Abiy is the first person from Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo, to hold the post of prime minister since the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front came to power in 1991.
Ethiopians had eagerly awaited news of their new leader for days. This will be the third prime minister since the current ruling coalition came to power close to 30 years ago after overthrowing the Derg military regime by force.
Many hoped the development would bring calm after the months of protests demanding wider freedoms.
“I believe that the Oromia region president, Dr. Abiy Ahmed, is the answer to Ethiopia’s youths’ questions,” Yonas Alemayehu, an activist in the restive Oromia region, told The Associated Press. The Oromo people, the largest ethnic group among Ethiopia’s population of 100 million, have long felt marginalized.
The outgoing prime minister at times had been labeled as weak and under the shadow of former strongman Meles Zenawi, who died in 2012. Others argued that Hailemariam successfully continued the late leader’s core policies, of both economic transformation and repression.
In a 2016 interview with the AP, the outgoing prime minister acknowledged that good governance was in decline in Ethiopia and people were asking the government to correct it.
“That is the main reason why people are protesting,” he said at the time. “This is really a positive sign. I have recently apologized in front of the parliament for our mismanagement and lack of responsibility that have generated these dissents. We are now taking measures to address those grievances.”
-Marrakech will host the second edition of AWA “The African Women in Agriculture Congress” May 8-10, 2018
-More than 300 delegates will discuss the role of women in Africa’s agricultural development.
Believe in Africa has chosen Morocco to organize its second international conference on the subject: “Women and Agriculture“.
The congress “African Women in Agriculture 2018“, will take place in Marrakech from May 8 to 10, 2018 at the Mohammed VI Museum of Water Civilization in Morocco – AMAN, with the support of the Moroccan Agency for International Cooperation (AMCI) , UN Women, Initiative for Global Develop (IGD) US Africa Foundation (USADF), Forbes Africa, Africa Agriculture, and AllAfrica Magazine.
The main purpose of AWA“African Women in Agriculture” is to create a grid of influencers based on an exchange between high-ranking personalities and small scales producers. AWA’s aspiration is to boost women’s empowerment in agriculture, in rural areas particularly, by empowering them to become self-reliant, productive and competitive. AWA covers the four agricultural sectors, which are: agriculture, livestock, fisheries/fish farming and agro-forestry and handicrafts.
Angelle Kwemo, Founder and President of Believe in Africa
For Angelle Kwemo, Founder and President of Believe in Africa; “AWA is a unique place to share knowledge and experience where personal success stories are honored and analyzed and shared. “
Furthermore “The 2018 edition wants to take tangible actions and develop a roadmap for resource mobilization, training and optimization of production capacity, processing and marketing of agricultural products.“
AWA 2018 will be an opportunity to highlight the collective commitment of this network put in place for the empowerment of African women, and above all allow participants to find investors and partners for the marketing of their products on the African and global market.
*For more information at http://www.believeinafrica.org/, email: Believeinafrica1@gmail.com
The winners of ACF 2018 will be announced during a live final evaluation panel on June 19th 2018 during the Africa Energy Forum in Mauritius
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, March 27, 2018/ — Access Power (www.Access-Power.com), a developer, owner and operator of power projects in emerging markets, today announced the launch of ACF 2018, the third edition of the highly successful funding and support platform for renewable energy projects in Africa and Asia. For this third edition, Access has included Asia for energy projects and invite entrepreneurs across both Africa and Asia to compete.
Now in its fourth year, the ACF is an innovative US$7 million financial support programme designed to provide local power project developers and originators with project development support, technical experience, expertise and funding required to bring their renewable energy projects to life.
ACF 2018 aims to further build on the success of the previous three years where a total of 234 projects have been considered for the prize with several winning projects now benefiting from the mix of funding and technical expertise provided by Access Power. This year’s finalists will once again be evaluated and scored by an independent panel of industry experts, similar to last year’s which comprised of senior representatives from Power Africa, InfraCo Africa, Proparco, and the Dutch Development Bank (FMO) .
The winners of ACF 2018 will be announced during a live final evaluation panel on June 19th 2018 during the Africa Energy Forum in Mauritius. The top three finalists from Africa and Asia will subsequently enter into direct Joint Development Agreement (JDA) discussions with Access Power.
Reda El Chaar, Executive Chairman, Access Power commented; “This year we are delighted to welcome projects across Asia too to compete. By introducing new markets, we hope this will enable us to reach a bigger network of innovative and pioneering entrepreneurs across Africa and Asia with the opportunity to develop their ambitious ideas into tangible projects.”
The ACF 2018 application form and guidelines are available on Access Power website www.Access-Power.com
The ACF 2018 is a financial support mechanism designed to provide local developers and entrepreneurs with the technical expertise and funding required to bring their renewable energy projects to life.
• Applications for the ACF 2018 will open in March 19th 2018
• The submission period runs from March 19th to May 10th 2018.
• An independent judging panel will include industry experts as well as representatives from multilateral development banks.
• Following a pre-selection process, a shortlist of applicants will be chosen to present their projects to a panel of judges at the Africa Energy Forum in Mauritius,June 2018 (www.Africa-Energy-Forum.com).
• Applicants must present their projects to the judging panel during the Forum within a given time and take questions from panel members.
• Panel members will score each project based on the evaluation criteria, using weighted percentages.
• The winners will negotiate and enter a Joint Development Agreement with Access Power, which will take an agreed equity stake in the winning projects and fund all third-party development costs. Access Power will also provide technical support, financing and development process management
About Access Power
Access Power (www.Access-Power.com) ‘Access’ is a developer, owner and operator of power plants in emerging and frontier markets. Access today is one of the fastest growing independent power producers in emerging markets and is currently developing renewable energy projects worth over US$1 billion in 23 countries across Africa and Asia Our development team has a depth of experience in developing and building large portfolios of renewable energy projects, with a collective track record of financially closing 30 GW of power projects across the globe.
African leaders meet in Kigali to sign the continent’s free trade agreement. Paul Kagame/Flickr
African leaders have just signed a framework establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area, the largest free trade agreement since the creation of the World Trade Organisation.
The free trade area aims to create a single market for goods and services in Africa. By 2030 the market size is expected to include 1.7 billion people with over USD$ 6.7 trillion of cumulative consumer and business spending – that’s if all African countries have joined the free trade area by then. Ten countries, including Nigeria, have yet to sign up.
single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments.
The agreement has the potential to deliver a great deal for countries on the continent. The hope is that the trade deal will trigger a virtuous cycle of more intra African trade, which in turn will drive the structural transformation of economies – the transition from low productivity and labour intensive activities to higher productivity and skills intensive industrial and service activities – which in turn will produce better paid jobs and make an impact on poverty.
But signing the agreement is only the beginning. For it to come into force, 22 countries must ratify it. Their national legislative bodies must approve and sanction the framework formally, showing full commitment to its implementation. Niger President Issoufou Mahamadou, who has been championing the process, aims to have the ratification process completed by January 2019.
Cause and effect
Some studies have shown that by creating a pan-African market, intra-Africa trade could increase by about 52% by 2022. Better market access creates economies of scale. Combined with appropriate industrial policies, this contributes to a diversified industrial sector and growth in manufacturing value added.
Manufacturing represents only about 10% of total GDP in Africa on average. This falls well below other developing regions. A successful continental free trade area could reduce this gap. And a bigger manufacturing sector will mean more well-paid jobs, especially for young people. This in turn will help poverty alleviation.
The continental free trade area is expected to offer
substantial opportunities for industrialisation, diversification, and high-skilled employment in Africa.
The single continental market will offer the opportunity to accelerate the manufacture and intra-African trade of value-added products, moving from commodity based economies and exports to economic diversification and high-value exports.
But, to increase the impact of the trade deal, industrial policies must be put in place. These must focus on productivity, competition, diversification, and economic complexity.
In other words, governments must create enabling conditions to ensure that productivity is raised to international competitiveness standards. The goal must be to ensure that the products manufactured in African countries are competitively traded on the continent and abroad, and to diversify the range and sophistication of products and services.
Drivers of manufacturing
Data shows that the most economically diverse countries are also the most successful.
In fact, diversification is critical as “countries that are able to sustain a diverse range of productive know-how, including sophisticated, unique know-how, are able to produce a wide diversity of goods, including complex products that few other countries can make.
Diverse African economies such as South Africa and Egypt, are likely to be the drivers of the free trade area, and are likely to benefit from it the most. These countries will find a large continental market for their manufactured products. They will also use their know-how and dense industrial landscape to develop innovative products and respond to market demand.
But the agreement on its own won’t deliver results. Governments must put in place policies that drive industrial development, particularly manufacturing. Five key ones stand out:
Human capital: A strong manufacturing sector needs capable, healthy, and skilled workers. Policymakers should adjust curriculum to ensure that skills are adapted to the market. And there must be a special focus on young people. Curriculum must focus on skills and building capacity for entrepreneurship and self-employment. This should involve business training at an early age and skills upgrading at an advanced one. This should go hand in hand with promoting science, technology, engineering, entrepreneurship and mathematics as well as vocational and on-the-job training.
Policymakers should also favour the migration of highly skilled workers across the continent.
Cost: Policymakers must bring down the cost of doing business. The barriers include energy, access to roads and ports, security, financing, bureaucratic restrictions, corruption, dispute settlement and property rights.
Supply network: Industries are more likely to evolve if competitive networks exist. Policymakers should ease trade restrictions and integrate regional trade networks. In particular, barriers for small and medium-size businesses should be lifted.
Domestic demand: Policymakers should offer tax incentives to firms to unlock job creation, and to increase individual and household incomes. Higher purchasing power for households will increase the size of the domestic market.
Resources: Manufacturing requires heavy investment. This should be driven by the private sector. Policymakers should facilitate access to finance, especially for small and medium enterprises. And to attract foreign direct investment, policymakers should address perceptions of poor risk perception. This invariably scares off potential investors or sets excessive returns expectations.
The continental free trade area facilitates industrialisation by creating a continental market, unlocking manufacturing potential and bolstering an international negotiation bloc.
Finally, the continental free trade area will also provide African leaders with a greater negotiating power to eliminate barriers to exporting. This will help prevent agreements with other countries, and trading blocs, that are likely to hurt exports and industrial development.
*Culled from The Conversation.Prof. Landry Signé is a Distinguished Fellow at Stanford University’s Center for African Studies, David M. Rubenstein Fellow at the Global Economy and Development and Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution, and Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum, Stanford University
Rebel leader Machar is a de facto prisoner in a farmhouse outside of Johannesburg
Juba – The regional bloc of Inter –Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Council of Ministers has decided to release South Sudan’s exiled rebel leader Dr. Riek Machar from house arrest in South Africa.
Rebel leader Machar is a de facto prisoner in a farmhouse outside of Johannesburg. He is isolated from his friends and family, and has been frozen out of South Sudan’s peace process and the future of his country.
The IGAD’s communique issued following its 61st Extra-Ordinary Session held on Monday in Addis Ababa, said it would release Dr. Machar as soon as possible if he would agree to renounce violence, not obstruct the peace process and relocate to any country “outside the region not neighboring South Sudan.”
Meanwhile, the wife of Dr. Machar told the VOA that the family is disappointed in a decision made by IGAD calling for a conditional “lifting of house arrest.”
“If you read it carefully, actually, there is no lifting of any house arrest. Because what they said is very clear that they will transfer him from where he is now, which is South Africa, to another location that is not in the region, and that would not be in any proximity with South Sudan,” Angelina Teny, Machar’s wife said, who is also senior opposition member.
The statement said that IGAD ministers would decide on a possible location for prominent South Sudanese rebel leader Machar, something his wife said the ministers of the regional bloc are not being fair to her husband.
Dr. Machar, who ended up in South Africa, came in aftermath of a new outbreak of fighting in July 2016 destroyed a tentative peace deal that had restored Machar to his government post, and forced him to flee the country.
The opposition groups say they are upset by the government demand to exclude Machar from the SPLM reunification process, peace revitalization forum, and the national transitional government.
President Kiir government made it clear since last year that Machar can only run for president at the end constitutional process, insisting that he should remain away from the rest claiming he would obstruct the whole operation.
Over the weekend, the government Chief Negotiator for the peace process said they have rejected the opposition proposal at the High Level Revitalization Forum talks to reinstate 1st Former Vice President Riek Machar to his former position, describes as problematic.
“This of course is problematic and we don’t want to repeat that tragic history if that formula could work but we tried it could not work,” Chief Negotiator Nhial Deng Nhial said at the party rally, SPLM in Juba. “It’s an obstacle we hope that the SPLA/IO of Dr. Riek focus more on the representation of position as an institution rather than in the person of Riek SPLM/IO is fully entitled in key position in the government in keeping in its political weight that is something that we are already to consider.”
However, the observers said this new condition may obstruct the peace process as the third round of revitalization process is at doorstep.
Machar, who has long dominated South Sudanese politics, though he was rebelled against former SPLM leader Dr. John Garang De Mabior, was an instrumental figure in South Sudan’s fight for independence from Sudan, and has served as vice president twice in the very short history of the world’s newest nation. It became independent in 2011.
However, power struggling between Dr. Machar and President Salva Kiir sparked the civil war that began in 2013, leaving the country devastated in its wake.
The regional bloc also called upon the Transitional Government of National Unity and the nine opposition groups not to squander the opportunity for ending the suffering of the people of South Sudan.
IGAD did not set new dates for the resumption of the peace talks. Its special envoy, South Sudan Ambassador Ismail Wais, will consult various South Sudanese stakeholders to reconcile the position of the parties on power sharing and permanent security arrangements before the next talks.
…Says ZIP represent evidence of Federal presence in most rural communities of Nigeria
By Olayinka Ajayi
The Nigeria’s House of Representatives has said no amount of blackmail from any quarters will force the National Assembly to abandon Zonal Intervention Projects ZIP because it is the tool with which they ensure equity in project allocation nationwide.
Speaking at a public hearing organised by the Joint committee on Appropriation of the Senate and the House of Representative in Abuja, Speaker of the House of Representative Hon.Yakubu Dogara said, “Over the years, the efforts of legislators, especially at the National Assembly to inject equity in budget patronage nationwide through the instrumentality of zonal intervention projects has been grossly misunderstood and terribly maligned mostly by those who are deliberately ignorant and have concocted their own concept of constituency projects which they apply as their yardstick of measurement.
“I make bold to state that, but for Zonal Intervention Projects, many communities in Nigeria would never have enjoyed any form of Federal Government patronage. Put differently, zonal intervention projects represent the only evidence of Federal government presence in most rural communities of Nigeria.
“Consequently, as representatives of the people, no amount of blackmail from any quarters will force us to abandon our resolve to ensure even development across all federal constituencies.”
He implored Nigerians showing interest in the budget making process, to pay greater attention to the implementation of approved budget
and not the size because only effective budget implementation determines its quality.
“Demand strict accountability from all elected officials on this matter. Jacob Lew captured the issue succinctly when he said, ‘The budget is not just a collection of numbers, but an expression of our values and aspirations.’ The citizen must therefore insist on the total realisation of these values and aspirations rather than merely the collection of figures,” he charged.
Current APC Chair John Oyegun and President Buhari
Following the controversy generated by the decision of the National Executive Committee NEC of the ruling All Progressives Congress APC to grant a one year tenure extension to its National Working Committee NWC have been laid to rest as President Muhammadu Buhari described the action of NEC as an infringement on not just the party constitution but the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Speaking at at the 5th NEC meeting of the All Progressive Congress party which is currently underway at its national secretariat in Abuja, Nigeria’s President said he took the decision based on advice from his Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami.
It was however reveal that while the all the leaders of the party were present at the meeting. Leader of the party charge with the reconciliatory responsibility Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was absent at the meeting.
President Akufo Addo and President Ouattara after the signing of the Declaration
Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire have resolved to address the challenges of the cocoa sector, within the framework of the implementation of the Strategic Partnership Agreement which links the two countries, by signing the “Abidjan Declaration.”
With the two countries responsible for 60% of the world’s cocoa output, fluctuations of cocoa prices on the international market, marked by a fall of around 20% in 2017, have impacted negatively on the revenues of millions of cocoa farmers, as well as on the budgetary revenues of the two countries.
It is for this reason that President Akufo-Addo and His Excellency Alassane Ouattara, President of Cote d’Ivoire, on Monday, 26th March, 2018, held a consultation devoted to the cocoa economy, and, subsequently, signed the “Abidjan Declaration.”
Reading out the communiqué, the Minister for Trade and Industry, Alan Kyerematen, who accompanied President Akufo-Addo to the bilateral discussions, stated that the Declaration is aimed at “better defending the interests of cocoa producers, as well as the economies of both countries.”
To this end, President Akufo-Addo and President Alassane Ouattara have reaffirmed their commitment to define a better, common strategy and a sustainable solution for the improvement of prices for cocoa producers, in their respective countries.
They also committed themselves to harmonizing their cocoa marketing policies, and agreed to announce, every year, in a concomitant manner, and before the beginning of the campaign, the price to cocoa producers.
Additionally, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire have also agreed to intensify collaboration, in the field of scientific research for the production of cocoa plants, the improvement of plant varieties, and also to adopt and implement a regional programme to fight against the swollen shoot disease.
A commitment by the two countries to process a major part of cocoa, and the invitation of the private sector, notably the African private sector, to invest massively in cocoa processing in Africa, was also reached.
In concluding, President Akufo-Addo and President Alassane Ouattara reaffirmed their commitment to promote jointly the consumption of cocoa on local, regional and emerging markets, and agreed that consultation between Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, on the management of their cocoa sectors, should be done on a regular basis.
Ghana has recorded a trade surplus of US$584.5 million, according to provisional trade data for the first two months of 2018, the governor of the Central Bank has announced.
The figure which represents 1.1% of Ghana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) according to Dr Ernest Addison was a result of higher export receipts from the country’s crude oil.
“This compares with a trade surplus of US$494.3 million (1.1% of GDP) recorded over the same period in 2017,” he stated at a press conference.
The trade surplus, Dr Addison noted, is expected to translate into a current account surplus in the first quarter of 2018, and further into a strong external position.
The governor continued that due to a drawdown in international reserves largely reflecting seasonal foreign exchange flows, planned sovereign bond coupon payments and Energy Sector Levy Act (ESLA) related payments, Ghana’s Gross International Reserves (GIR) stood at US$6.9 billion (3.8 months of import cover) as at March 20, 2018 compared to US$7.6 billion (4.3 months of import cover) as at December 2017.
On the foreign exchange market, he said it has remained calm over the first quarter of 2018 on the back of subdued demand pressures alongside improved foreign exchange liquidity and that cumulatively, the local currency has appreciated by 0.2 percent against the US dollar, in the year to March 23, 2018, compared with a depreciation of 5.0 percent during the same period in 2017.
2017 growth momentum dovetails into 2018
According to the governor, since the last MPC (Monetary Policy Committee) all of the Bank’s core measures of inflation broadly declined, suggesting subdued underlying inflation pressures. The Bank’s main measure of core inflation, which excludes energy and utility he said declined from 12.6 percent in December 2017 to 11.3 percent in February 2018.
“Also, the weighted inflation expectations by businesses, consumers and the financial sector derived from the Bank’s surveys continued to decline indicating that inflation expectations remain well anchored towards the medium term target of 8±2 percent,” he observed.
He thus noted that “initial evidence from high frequency indicators show that the growth momentum experienced in 2017 has continued into 2018” with the Bank of Ghana’s Composite Index of Economic Activity (CIEA) growing by 3.1 percent year-on-year in January.
He further pointed out that the Bank’s confidence surveys conducted in February also indicated positive sentiments on growth prospects, realization of business expectations and general improvements in the economy.
“The pace of growth in key monetary aggregates has continued to moderate consistent with contained aggregate demand pressures. Annual growth in total liquidity slowed to 12.5 percent in January 2018 from 26.7 percent a year ago (also partly reflecting the reduction in the number of banks in the monetary survey from 34 to 32).
“There is also a gradual downward migration of all money market interest rates, as well as re-alignment of the yield curve in line with the monetary policy stance since March 2017.”
The interbank rate, the rate at which commercial banks lend to each other, he disclosed declined further to 18.3 percent in February 2018 from 19.3 percent in December 2017 and 25.2 percent a year ago as the interest rates on money market instruments also declined, especially at the short-end of the market.
In February 2018, rates on the 91-day Treasury bill instrument dropped to 13.3 percent from 15.9 percent in February 2017. Similarly, the 182-day instrument declined sharply to 14.9 percent from 18.5 percent, while the 1-year note also fell to 15.0 percent from 19.0 percent over the same period.
Reforms in the Banking sector to promote stability
The recovery in the private sector credit is still slow according to the governor as credit to the private sector grew by 11.7 percent in January 2018 compared with 15.2 percent a year earlier.
He explained that in real terms, private sector credit expanded by 1.2 percent against 2.1 percent growth in January 2017.
“The latest credit conditions surveys also showed overall net tightening in credit stance to enterprises. This was attributed to banks’ current and expected capital positions as well as changes in the share of adversely classified loans. The credit stance on loans to individuals also tightened as banks continue to repair their balance sheets,” he said.
The ongoing regulatory reforms in the banking sector, he said are to promote stability of the financial system and to properly position it to support the economic growth agenda.
“The banking sector as a whole continues to be liquid, profitable and solvent with some modest gains in asset quality. However, there remain few vulnerabilities and the Bank of Ghana expects banks to continue to implement their recapitalization plans in line with the new minimum capital requirement,” he stated.
Bank’s total asset increase
The total asset base of banks, according to the Central Bank increased to GH¢95.1 billion in February 2018 indicating an annual growth of 13.7 percent compared with the 15.3 percent recorded in December 2017.
He said the asset growth was mainly funded by deposits which went up by 12.6 percent on a year-on-year basis with the industry’s average Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) improving to 19.2 percent in February 2018, reflecting efforts by banks to recapitalize.
Egypt, Algeria, Botswana and Cote d’Ivoire amongst top five investment destinations
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, March 26, 2018/ —
Quantum Global Research Lab releases new 2018 Africa Investment Index
Top five investment destinations attracted a combined net FDI of $12.8 bn in 2016
Egypt, Algeria, Botswana and Cote d’Ivoire amongst top five investment destinations
Prof. Mthuli Ncube, Managing Director, Quantum Global Research Lab
Morocco is the most attractive economy for investments flowing into the African continent, according to the latest Africa Investment Index 2018 (AII) by Quantum Global’s (http://QuantumGlobalGroup.com) independent research arm, Quantum Global Research Lab.
According to the AII, Morocco ranks first on the Index based on its increasing solid economic growth, strategic geographic positioning, increased foreign direct investment, external debt levels, social capital factors and overall favourable business environment.
Prof. Mthuli Ncube, Managing Director, Quantum Global Research Lab commented:
“In spite of the improvements to oil production and prices, African economies are turning their attention towards diversification to stimulate industrial development, and to attract investments in non-oil strategic sectors. Morocco has been consistent in attracting an inward flow of foreign capital, specifically in banking, tourism and energy sectors and through the development of industry.”
Top 10 and Bottom 10 countries
Top 10 (best to worst)
Bottom 10 (worst to best)
Central African Republic
Sao Tome and Principe
According to recent data by the Moroccan Exchange Control, Morocco attracted nearly $2.57 bn of foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2017, up from 12 percent compared to 2016. The country is being recognised as one of the best emerging markets for overseas investment. International investors are looking at wide range of sectors for investments including in areas such as energy, infrastructure, tourism, and ICT amongst others.
According to AII, the top five African investment destinations attracted an overall FDI of $12.8 bn in 2016. Cote d’Ivoire ranks 5th while being the fastest growing economy in Africa and scores relatively well in liquidity and risk factors such as real interest rate, exchange rate risk and current account ratio. The improved risk profile, combined with strong liquidity, business environment, demographics and the social capital record has rendered Algeria a rise to the 3rd position in the second edition. Botswana, previously ranked as Africa’s top investment destination in the first edition, ranks 4th scoring well in risk factors as well as the business environment.
Prof. Ncube further commented: “Continued FDI inflows will continue to drive the much-needed capital to develop Africa’s primary sectors to meet the demands of the continent’s rapidly growing middle-class, and into manufacturing sectors to create more jobs, enhance economic growth and support structural transformation.”
In terms of improvements in the ranking over the last 3 years, countries such as Swaziland, Angola, Rwanda, Chad, Comoros, Seychelles, South Sudan and Sierra Leone registered strong upward movements as shown in AII three-year rolling rankings.
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The AII is constructed from macroeconomic and financial indicators and the World Bank Group’s Ease of Doing Business Indicators (DBI). The DBI ranks countries in terms of a regulatory environment conducive to business operation. The AII focuses on 5 pillars or factors from a wider range of investment indicators, which include the share of domestic investment in GDP, the share of Africa’s total FDI net inflow, GDP growth rate forecast, population augmented GDP growth factor, real interest rate, the difference of broad money growth to the GDP growth rates, inflation differential, credit rating, import cover, the share of the country’s external debt in its GNI, current account ratio, ease of doing business and the country’s population size (Figure 1). The AII indicators are based on secondary data collected from World Bank Development Indicators, IMF World Economic Outlook, UNCTAD Data Centre and own estimates.
The AII is a combination of individual indicator’s rank into a single numerical ranking. It averages the country’s macroeconomic and financial indicators rankings on the five different factors. Each indicator, and hence factors, receives an equal weight. Their rank score is then averaged to produce the total average score, which is consequently ranked from 1 to 54. The higher the value of the ranking, the lower the implied business investment climate.
To produce an index score that captures medium-term changing aspects, individual country’s ranking is scaled relative to a benchmark or reference value (i.e., the past 3-year rolling average ranking). In addition to the intended measurement, this approach enables us to avoid periods of structural changes (which may compromise the index) that may be present in a longer time span, whether we consider a change from a reference average value or a historical reference period.
President of the republic of Ghana, Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo has said his government is keen on building a business-friendly economy. The President, at the 6th Africa CEO Forum assured potential private sector investors of the security of their investments.
In his address at the Forum, held in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, President Akufo-Addo stressed that “Ghana is endowed with great potential, where security and the rule of law are upheld, where investments are secure.”
The Ghanaian leader noted that over the last 14 months, his administration has focused its energies on trying to build a resilient economy, and put in measures aimed at helping move Ghana to a situation beyond aid. With some degree of success, President Akufo-Addo told the Forum that “we have put in place, in Ghana, since I took office, a monetary policy that has stabilized our currency, and has reduced significantly inflation and the cost of borrowing.”
President Akufo-Addo stated that the Ghanaian economy, whose growth rate stood at 3.6%, in 2016, the lowest in two decades, grew by 7.9% in 2017, and is expected to grow, in 2018, by 8.3%, which, according to the IMF, would make it the fastest growing economy in the world this year.
He added that “we have implemented a raft of tax cuts which has brought relief to businesses, and, at the same time, reduced substantially our fiscal deficit. These interventions are lowering the cost of doing business, and are shifting the focus of our economy from an emphasis on taxation to an expansion of production.”
In order to create a Ghana that is “able to mobilize our own material and human resources to develop a strong economy, capable of generating prosperity for the mass of our people, and construct a Ghana no longer dependent on handouts and charity”, the President stated that the rapid growth of the private sector is an essential ingredient in realizing his government’s vision of a Ghana Beyond Aid.
“There are many projects in roads, railways, water transport, industry, manufacturing, agriculture, petroleum and gas, renewable energy, the exploitation of our mineral wealth of bauxite, iron ore and gold, and ICT, amongst others, which, if properly structured, can attract private sector financing,” he said.
President Akufo-Addo continued, “Key to attracting private sector investment is not only creating a conducive, business friendly and peaceful environment, but, also, fashioning a state machinery fit to provide strong, regulatory support for private enterprise to thrive. That, for us, is the heart of the private-public-partnership that can fast-track our development.”
He further indicated that the aim of his government is to create a state machinery that can manage efficiently its fiscal and monetary responsibilities that can reform its tax administration to ensure that all private sector operators discharge their full tax obligations to enhance domestic resource mobilization, and that can promote the rule of law.
“It is important that all of us make systematic efforts to turn our backs on the sad history of massive flights of capital out of our country and continent from unconscionable inter-company pricing and other practices, and lay the conditions for fairness in the administration of our economies,” he added.
He told the Forum, comprising African CEOs, bankers and investors that Ghana wants to participate in the global market place “not on the basis of the exports of raw materials, but on the basis of things we make. We want to bring greater dignity to the lives of millions of people in Ghana. We want to build a Ghana Beyond Aid.”
Rector of Pentecost University College, Apostle Dr. Daniel Walker, has said it is too early for pastors and other religious leaders in Ghana to comment on the controversial military agreement between the West African country and the United States.
He said it is important for Ghanaians to understand that the nation does not live in isolation thus the need to assist other nations when they are in need.
The comment comes on the back of concerns by some Ghanaians over the seeming silence of the clergy, who were deemed very active under the erstwhile Mahama administration. Terms of the military agreement which was approved by a one-sided
Apostle Walker nonetheless said it is important that the interest of the nation will be put first by government as they go into agreements of this kind.
“I think it is early days yet, I’m sure they’ll come out at the appropriate time. Let’s not forget that we live in an international community therefore we can’t live in isolation, we help each other. As to whether the agreement is right or wrong, that’s another thing. The debate will continue and we’ll see the outcome by praying that every decision we take as a country should be to the benefit of our people.
“We have one country and I think that our sovereignty is crucial when we come to such matters. Any decision that government takes they should put the will of the people first, the comfort and peace of the country as a priority. I believe at the appropriate time the Christian Council or whoever is responsible will come out,” he said.
Meanwhile, former President John Mahama has described the Ghanaian clergy as hypocrites.
“Now today look at it, that’s the new standard and yet civil society is quiet, religious and traditional leaders are quiet. When NDC comes the next time and Alabi or Bagbin or who is the President and they appoint their relatives into government are they now coming to come out and say it? Must the standards of measuring standards differ because of who is in the presidency? That is the hypocrisy of our politics, that’s the height of hypocrisy we have in Ghana,” Mahama told the NDC gathering in the United Kingdom where the party is on a rebuilding tour.
Bill Gates tells Nigerian leaders to ‘face facts’ so they can make progress
(CNN)Bill Gates traveled to Nigeria to publicly give its leaders some tough talk. It was a highly unusual move but the tech billionaire believes the country is facing a critical moment.
“While it may be easier to be polite, it’s more important to face facts so that you can make progress,” the philanthropist told a room of Nigeria’s government elite that included the president.
In an exclusive television interview with CNN, Gates said he wanted to speak out to implore Nigerian politicians to focus on human capital and its large youth population.
“The current quality and quantity of investment in this young generation in health and education just isn’t good enough. So I was very direct.”
The tech billionaire and founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation feels that he has earned the right to speak.
Gates says he has traveled to Nigeria for more than a decade and the foundation is spending $1.6 billion on programs here — most of it his own money.
Their primary focus is health and their work has been incredibly successful in mitigating the threat of polio, particularly in the crisis hit northeast of the country.
Gates feels, along with many others, that it is time for Nigeria’s government to do better. The continent’s largest economy is moving out of a recession caused by a tanking oil price and moving towards a closely watched presidential election in 2019.
In many ways, the country is transforming, with gleaming hotel towers on Lagos Island competing for real estate and the wealthy fighting in the notorious traffic in ubiquitous black SUVs.
But dig a little bit deeper and the statistics are alarming. As Gates points out, Nigeria is still one of the most dangerous places to give birth and the country’s very young face chronic malnutrition.
University of Washington modeling, commissioned by Gates, estimates that if investment isn’t increased in health and education, then the per-capita GDP, rising steadily for decades, will flatline.
Gates says he wanted to spark action and debate and he certainly has.
Predictably, some see the tough talk as a rebuke of Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s president, who has been struggling to get the economy on its feet and stamp out the persistent threat of Islamist group Boko Haram in the northeast.
On the street, many just want support from their government — whoever is in charge — because right now there often isn’t much.
“These people are just trying to survive, they aren’t being helped,” said banker Moses Uchendu, while grabbing lunch at the popular Obalende market in Lagos.
It’s a bustling market where vendors sell delicacies such as efo riro, a spicy Yoruba stew. Power outages are frequent and the only contact with officials is when they visit for bribes, say residents and traders.
Few businesses pay their taxes and all these factors have hindered Nigeria from meeting its true potential, says Gates.
Uchendu hopes Nigerians are listening.
“I told my friends… that Bill Gates is saying the truth. It is better we are told the truth about Nigeria’s economy. It is better we say the truth.”
But Gate’s message isn’t a new one. Activists say they have been making frequent calls to invest in people, and end rampant corruption, all which have been ignored.
“These are not new topics. These are the issues that we have been discussing with the government. We have been engaging with them for so many years now,” says Timothy Adewale, a human rights lawyer with one of Nigeria’s largest NGOs.
“Nobody will listen. You know, actually, if they are sincere about the best interest of the people, they should listen. It has always been said that the greatest test of your commitment is your actions.”
But Gates believes, together with Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man and a close partner of the Gates Foundation, that if the Nigerian government does a few things differently, then the country is poised for lift off.
“I really think that of all the countries I have seen, it really hangs in the balance. If they can get health and education right, they can be an engine of growth, not just for themselves but for all of Africa,” said Gates.
Cameroon’s President Paul Biya has been in power for 35 years. But while his longevity in office is a talking point at home, the time he spends out of the country has stirred international comment – as Paul Melly, an associate fellow of Chatham House, explains.
Criticised by some for a supposedly “hands-off” style of rule, Cameroon’s President Paul Biya recently held a cabinet meeting for the first time in more than two years.
Presidential elections are scheduled for October and Cameroonians are waiting to hear if the 85-year-old will seek a further term. But no such announcement was made at the meeting.
Mr Biya has been in power since 1982, making him one of Africa’s longest serving leaders. Under his rule, Cameroon has survived an economic crisis and moved from being a one-party state to multi-party politics.
But it has also been marked by endemic corruption and reversal of democratic gains, leading to the abolition of term limits in 2008, which allowed the octogenarian to run for re-election in 2011.
Today’s Africa is changing. The era of decades-old presidencies is slipping away. Satellite TV and the internet tell a growing urban audience about democratic changes of power in other sub-Saharan countries.
Some 60% of Cameroonians are under 25 and so were not even born when President Biya first came to power. There is massive demand for jobs and viable livelihoods.
The opposition Social Democratic Front has now recognised these generational realities. Earlier this year, the party’s leader, John Fru Ndi, 76, stepped aside to make way for a new presidential candidate, 49-year-old businessman and former pilot Joshua Osih.
This is the challenge that confronts Mr Biya as he decides whether to stand for a further term that could take him into a fourth decade in power in a country hungry for change.
His repeated absences from the country have riled critics.
His foreign travels have been the subject of an online spat between the state-owned Cameroon Tribune newspaper and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), which calculated the amount of time the president spent abroad using reports from the daily newspaper.
It also alleges that he spent a third of the year abroad in 2006 and 2009. The Intercontinental Hotel in Geneva is said to be his favourite destination.
The state-owned Cameroon Tribune called their investigation “a clear electoral propaganda”.
Back home, President Biya adopts a low-key style, staying out of the limelight and sometimes retreating to his home village.
He entrusts the day-to-day running of the government to the Prime Minister, Philemon Yang, who holds monthly gatherings of a “cabinet council”.
The prime minister is accorded wide latitude to manage the work of his ministerial team, while the head of state meets senior figures in private at the presidential palace in the capital, Yaoundé.
President Biya’s hands-off approach has led critics to talk of an “absent president”.
However, this relationship at least partly reflects Cameroon’s unusual dual heritage of both British and French colonial rule. President Biya, like his predecessor Ahmadou Ahidjo, is from the Francophone regions, while the premier is always an Anglophone.
The president has to be seen to leave the head of government to get on with the job, says one non-partisan Cameroonian analyst.
So when President Biya does summon ministers to a rare formal cabinet gathering, it is usually for a special reason.
The most recent one was the official first meeting of a new ministerial team after a reshuffle earlier in the month. It is similar to the last cabinet meeting, in 2015, which had come soon after the previous government revamp.
This time there was speculation that Mr Biya would announce whether or not he would stand in this year’s election, to seek yet another term in office – but in fact he gave no hint of his thinking on that.
Yet the surprise cabinet meeting did matter in another way.
For more than a year, Cameroon’s Anglophone regions in the North-West and South-West have been mired in crisis.
This started as a protest by lawyers and teachers demanding better provision for the use of English.
But tensions rose, leading to confrontation between the security forces, a 93-day blackout of internet services across Anglophone Cameroon, and separatist militants fighting for an independent “Ambazonia”, with a rising death toll on both sides.
The government took steps to address the language issues, but the situation still looks dangerous. Both the UK and France have discreetly pressed for dialogue.
President Biya responded with a cabinet reshuffle on 2 March, signalling a carrot and stick approach: firmness on security and law and order was balanced with the creation of a ministry for decentralisation, holding out the promise of greater local control over development and public services.
He used this rare cabinet meeting to show his full backing for his ministers as they pursue this twin-track strategy – a firm stance on security in the troubled Anglophone region, but, at the same time, decentralisation, to give local people more control over their own affairs.
So, the so-called absent president had to show a firm hand while also preparing to loosen his grip.
Carolyn Kennedy receiving the award from Therapeutic Interventions Inc
Carolyn Kennedy, Executive Director of the Silver Spring, MD, based Brotherhood and Sisterhood International-BSI, is the 2018 recipient of the Therapeutic Interventions Inc. Leadership and Service Award.
The award was presented to Carolyn Kennedy at recent event organized by Therapeutic Interventions Inc. at the Historic Fraser Mansion in Washington, DC as part of the Women’s History Month Celebration 2018.
With a career span of 30 years in civil rights and providing services to the disabled, it was with a standing ovation that Carolyn Kennedy received the award from the management of Therapeutic Interventions Inc. led by Fatmata Koroma.
For some thirty years Carolyn Kennedy has put in her all for civil rights and serving people with disabilities
Accepting the honor , Carolyn Kennedy shared motivational experiences on the long and windy road she has traveled to get to where she is.Stick to your dreams and remain steadfast in the midst of all odds said Carolyn Kennedy, who was accompanied to the event by her husband Dr. Kofi Agyapong -Founder of Sons and Daughters of Africa,SADA.
The event was graced with musical performances, presentations by Miss Culture USA Pageants, video presentations and more.
The women from Miss Culture USA 2018 answered present at the event
Therapeutic Interventions Inc. was founded to enhance the quality of life for all people and empower the community to develop habits and techniques that promote a healthy lifestyle, positive self-esteem, positive self-image, interpersonal skills, ethical values, character, and entrepreneurship and leadership abilities.
Wellness Professional Candice Camille (in yellow) spoke at the event while Christine White thrilled the audience with some exquisite West African dance moves
Its vision is to develop career skills and opportunities for the minority and the African Diaspora community by providing career development courses, programs in health and human services, youth engagement initiatives and education, promotion of arts, culture and the humanities. Therapeutic Interventions Inc. creates a platform to celebrate the creative and innovative lifestyle of the community.
Next on the hectic agenda of the organization is the Miss Culture USA 2018 pageant in April.
21 – 25 May 2018, Busan Exhibition Conference Center, Busan, Republic of South Korea
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, March 23, 2018/ — The 53rd Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the African Development Bank and 44th Meeting of the Board of Governors of the African Development Fund (http://www.AfDB.org/am), the concessional arm of the Bank Group, are scheduled to take place from May 21-25, 2018 in Busan, Korea.
While Africa has enjoyed strong economic growth for almost two decades, the continent has not seen a commensurate rise in industrialization. On average, African industry generates merely US$700 of GDP per capita, which is barely a fifth in East Asia (US$3,400). In addition, African exports consist of low technology manufactures and unprocessed natural resources, which represent more than 80 percent of exports from Algeria, Angola or Nigeria, for example.
Africa’s rapid industrialization holds the potential for a win-win scenario – for the world, and certainly for the continent. It would also help raise productivity by spurring technological progress and innovation while creating higher-skilled jobs in the formal sector; promote linkages between services and agricultural sectors; between rural and urban economies; and among consumers, intermediates and capital goods industries. Industrialization will also make the prices of manufactured exports less volatile or susceptible to long-term deterioration than those of primary goods, as well as help African countries escape dependence on primary commodity exports.
The theme is generating a lot of interest at a time when Korean and Asian companies are increasingly active in Africa. What lessons can Africa learn from Korea’s development experience? Can relations between both regions, built on a win-win formula, enable Africa claim a more significant share of world trade? Can Afro-Asian commercial and financial ties favor the development of the African private sector? What are the most effective policy levers that could foster structural transformation on the continent? How can the continent learn from the experiences of Korea and leading African nations such as Mauritius, Morocco, Ethiopia, and Rwanda in the industrialization process? These and other questions will be debated during the Busan Annual Meetings.
The Annual Meetings are one of the largest economic gatherings on the continent. Thousands of delegates, Heads of State, public and private sectors stakeholders, development partners and academics, will reflect on Africa’s industrialization − one of the Bank’s High 5 strategic priorities (https://www.afdb.org/en/the-high-5) and an avenue to improve the living conditions of Africans.
During the meetings, the Bank will organize a series of knowledge events to generate new ideas for developing and financing Africa’s industrialization. Highlights of the meetings will include a high-level presidential panel on Accelerating African Industrialization: Bringing the future to the present. The panel will be a platform for political leaders from Africa and Korea to present their visions and strategies for industrialization as well as ideas for overcoming implementation challenges.
The Bank will launch the updated version of theAfrican Economic Outlook (AEO) 2018– the Bank’s flagship economic publication. Several knowledge events are on the programme such as Pathways to Industrialization, where panelists will deliberate on the various trajectories African countries can follow towards sustainable industrialization. A panel onFuture of Work and Industrialization will examine how Africa can adapt its educational systems and workers’ skills to suit new economic realities, particularly for industrial development of the continent, among other sessions.
Journalists willing to take part in the Meetings are requested to send to the Bank a designation letter from their news organization at the following address: (firstname.lastname@example.org). Upon receipt of the letter, the Bank will send a personal code that will allow online registration. Online registration will close on 13th May 2018. Journalists from countries without Korean diplomatic representation should register early enough in order to get assistance from the Bank in obtaining a visa should they need one.
The African Development Bank will not cover transport and subsistence costs for journalists travelling to Busan.
KIGALI, Rwanda, March 23, 2018/ — Speakers at the International Conference on Responsible and Inclusive Finance (ICRIF) (http://www.amir.org.rw) held in Kigali on 21 March urged Rwandan microfinance institutions (MFIs) to embrace new-age technology to streamline their operations and to enhance their ability to extend financial inclusion among the country’s unbanked and underbanked population.
Straton Habyalimana, senior programme manager for responsible financing at the Small Enterprise Education and Promotion Network, told the 400 delegates at the conference that MFIs should adopt digital platforms to enhance their interactions with their customers. Kigali-based digital financial services expert, James Kwezi, said that MFIs should use technology to become more efficient and profitable.
This aligns with the National Bank of Rwanda’s (BNR) call to Rwandan financial sector firms to embrace automation to reduce their operating costs and their rate of bad loans. “Many microfinance institutions in East Africa still depend on paper-driven processes or Excel spreadsheets to manage their businesses,” commented Vedran Lescan, business development manager at Oradian, a global financial inclusion company that delivers a cloud-based toolset for financial institutions.
“But with the latest advances in financial technology (fintech) and cloud software, Rwandan MFIs now have access to powerful, affordable tools that can help them transform inefficiencies into operational excellence, scale their businesses for rapid growth and get better visibility into the performance of their portfolios. This, in turn, can boost their profitability and enable them to better serve the needs of their financially excluded customers.”
At the conference, Lescan took part in a panel discussion about finding ways to overcome the challenges that financial institutions face when it comes to adopting new technology and implementing it across an entire business with multiple branches.
He said: “Data migration is an important step in digital transformation, but organisations often overlook it or underestimate how time-consuming and complex it can be. Even though an MFI’s workforce can quickly learn a new system, the software wont add value if data isn’t migrated from the previous legacy system or from spreadsheets in a consistent manner.”
As part of Oradian’s toolset, Oradian’s in-market teams provide data migration training and support to ensure the financial institution’s data is treated as an asset that enables better decision-making and better client service. Lescan also advised MFIs to seek out toolsets that offer robust security and data protection features, including audit trails, user permissions and other functions to combat data leakages, fraud and user error.
“Today’s technology offers financial institutions in Africa countless opportunities to improve their business,” Lescan said. “However, financial inclusion leaders are promoting partnerships with fintech providers (https://goo.gl/iSjsG6), rather than vendor relationships, to drive truly successful implementations. “
Fintech partnerships provide financial institutions with the resources and global best practice they need to rapidly overcome the common challenges of digital transformation.
“Strategic partnerships within the digital ecosystem are proving to be the most effective way to enable our customers to provide better service to their end-clients,” Lescan said. “We are eager to work with the central bank, MFIs and other members of the value chain to drive financial inclusion in Rwanda.”
Oradian is a financial inclusion company serving financial institutions in remote, hard-to-reach communities. Using insights from our community of customers, we build a cloud-based toolset that smart financial institutions plug into to access best practice and efficiency. Oradian’s global community is made up of over 50 financial institutions in seven countries with a concentration in the Philippines and Nigeria. Collectively, Oradian’s partnering financial institutions provide access to financial services for over one million end-clients.
The Ghana Police Service has blocked members of the Economic Freedom Fighters, who are campaigning against Parliament ratifying the Ghana – US defense cooperation agreement, from entering the premises of the Lawmaking House.
The group, is threatening a showdown with the law enforcement agents at the main gate of Ghana’s Parliament.
The pressure group is storming Parliament as part of moves to reject the military pact as the legislators debate the details before going on recess. The group is demanding a withdrawal of the agreement by government despite assurances by Ghana’s Defense minister, Dominic Nitiwul.
“We’re going to respect the Ghana Police for the time being. We didn’t come with knives and guns. We’ll hold on patiently for some time,” Mr. Yeboah, leader of the group told the media outside the gate.
He added: “We’ll exercise what the constitution says. We’re going to resist oppressors’ rule. We’ll resist and you’ll see the results. There won’t be any bloodshed. We’re no longer prepared to allow ‘misleaders’ to rule this country. Our strength lies in our commitment to make Ghana work again.”
The Government of Ghana, according to a leaked document, has approved the agreement with the US to set up a military base in Ghana and also allow unrestricted access to a host of facilities and wide-ranging tax exemptions to the United States Military—a claim the government of Ghana and the US denied.
Ghana’s Parliament is due to ratify the agreement today before it rises by close of Friday, March 23, 2018.
President Uhuru Kenyatta shakes hand with Raila Odinga when they met at Harambee House, Nairobi. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE
On August 8, 2017, Kenya held its presidential election. The election was conducted in a tense environment and since then, the two main candidates going into the elction (Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta) had been at loggerheads. However, Kenyans woke up to a surprise on 16 March, 2018 as the two held a press release where they stated their new found desire to move on a reconciliation path as ‘brothers’.
The news came as a surprise to virtually everyone especially considering that it had barely been a month since Odinga had inaugurated himself as the ‘People’s President’ in a move which prompted Kenyatta to retaliate by charging some of Uhuru Kenyatta’s supporters with criminal nuisance and even issued arrests for some including the lawyer who inaugurated Odinga.
While the path of reconciliation taken by Odinga and Kenyatta is commendable, it is a bitter taste for those that were involved in the political violence and disturbances that saw over a 100 people dead and hundreds of others injured and displaced in the aftermath of the August 8, election. It is against this background that this article calls for Africa to reinvent itself.
Shifting from the culture of violence
From Cape to Cairo, African politics suffer from the culture of violence. Be it, sponsored violence induced by politicians or the random desire by one group (ethnic/tribal/race/social class etc.) to dominate another, African countries at one point or the other experience disturbing acts of violence that are politically motivated.
While the top hierarchy rarely suffers from this violence, it’s the total opposite when it comes to those at the bottom. True to the proverb, “when two elephants fight, it’s the grass that suffers” the general African populace has been affected and suffered the most from political disturbances. This, therefore, means that if any reinvention is to come, it is imperative that it starts from the bottom up for it to be effective.
One of the many memories that the legend Bob Marley left us is his wisdom and this wisdom is perfectly embedded in this saying, “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but our selves can free our minds.” The first and probably the only step that Africans need to take in order to overthrow the culture of political violence is for them to become aware of the political, economic and social conditions that lead them to engage in acts of violence. Such conditions which among other things include race, ethnicity, tribalism, and inferiority complex are so enmeshed in the hearts and minds of most Africans such that they subconsciously dictate how Africans think and act.
In order for Africans to emancipate themselves from these terrible conditions, it’s imperative that first, they become conscious of the conditions that exist within their minds which blindly leads them to engage and commit in terrible acts. Only when the people become conscious can there be a shift from the culture of violence to a culture of peace in African politics.
Politics of personality
While the public possesses the power to force a shift from the culture of violence, the politicians themselves can also play a part in this shift. Often times, politicians prey on the vulnerabilities of the masses, they draw support from entrenching themselves in the politics of ethnicity, tribalism and in some cases religion and gender.
By identifying with one group, they become the hero or saviour of that group and the result is that it ends up creating politics of personality; the problem with politics of personality is that it blinds people, instead of following the objective path they become subjective. They blindly follow even when the politician goes on a wrong path and when another group tries to highlight his/her flaws, those blindly following feel like they and their ‘hero’ have been attacked and find a justification for defending themselves in often times a violent manner. It’s important therefore that African politicians move past politics of personality to politics of substance.
Africans need conscientization and African politicians need to desist from politics of personality to politics of substance, then and only then can Africans see each other as friends in the political arena even when disagreeing just like the newfound friendship of Kenyatta and Odinga.
Pressure group, Economic Freedom Fighters, says it is mobilizing people to Ghana’s house of Parliament today as the law makers begin debate on the controversial military pact between the West African country and the United States.
The group is demanding a withdrawal of the agreement by the government of Ghana despite assurances by Defense minister Dominic Nitiwul.
Leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, Ernesto Yeboah said they will explore all means to ensure that Parliament does not pass the agreement.
“It’s a call to national duty that all of us make ourselves available to remind our members of parliament and indeed our political leadership that power belongs to us. When the Burkinabe people found that their members of Parliament had become insolent and were taking them for granted, they simply converged and burnt down parliament.
“We are simply converging at Parliament to send a message to our parliamentarians that the power they wield in terms of representing us actually comes from us. We are not converging to burn down parliament. Of course if we are pushed into the wall under certain circumstances, certain drastic actions could be taken,” he warned.
The Government of Ghana, according to a leaked document, has approved the agreement with the US to set up a military base in Ghana and also allow unrestricted access to a host of facilities and wide-ranging tax exemptions to the United States Military—a claim the government of Ghana and the US denied.
Mr Sarkozy clinched big trade deals for France with Libya’s Gaddafi in 2007 when he was president
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy says allegations he received campaign funding from late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi are making his life “hell”.
“I am accused without any physical evidence,” Mr Sarkozy told magistrates, Le Figaro newspaper reports.
He has been placed under formal investigation for illicit election campaign financing in 2007, misappropriation of Libyan public funds and passive corruption.
Mr Sarkozy, 63, denies any wrongdoing.
The centre-right politician, who was in police custody being questioned for two days this week, says his Libyan accusers are seeking vengeance for his decision to deploy French warplanes during the uprising which overthrew Gaddafi in 2011.
In it, he says that he is aware the allegations against him are “serious”, but that they amount to “slander” and have made his life “hell” since 11 March 2011, when the claims were first made by Gaddafi.
Hammer blow for ex-leader
Analysis by Hugh Schofield, BBC News, Paris
These accusations against Nicolas Sarkozy are in a different realm from all those other judicial problems that he has faced. The others are classic allegations of illegal party funding and abuse of influence.
This one is about taking money from a foreign dictator.
In each case, presumption of innocence has to prevail. Mr Sarkozy’s key argument is that he is the victim of a left-wing vendetta: judges out to get him.
On Libya, he points out that his accusers – henchmen of Gaddafi and sleazy middlemen – are not exactly paragons of veracity.
But the truth is that this is a hammer blow to the former president. The judges believe there are “serious and coherent” indications that he did indeed take money from the Libyans, and on that basis they will now conduct their investigation.
The implications are devastating. If the charges are true, then the whole story of Sarkozy’s presidency will have to be re-assessed. More importantly, what would it say about the French-led campaign to topple Gaddafi in 2011? A campaign in which the UK was persuaded by France to take part.
Big questions – if the charges are true. But don’t expect any quick answers. This case could drag on for years.
What is the Libya case about?
In 2013, France opened an investigation into allegations that Mr Sarkozy’s campaign had benefited from millions of euros of illicit funds from Gaddafi.
He failed in his bid to return to power in 2012, however, losing to Socialist candidate François Hollande.
The claims came from a French-Lebanese businessman, Ziad Takieddine, and some former Gaddafi regime officials.
Mr Guéant, who was managing Mr Sarkozy’s presidential campaign in 2007, told the franceinfo website on Tuesday that he had “never seen a penny of Libyan financing”.
He was placed under formal investigation earlier this year over a €500,000 bank transfer in 2008. He has denied wrongdoing and claimed the money came from the sale of two paintings.
Does Sarkozy face other charges?
Criminal proceedings have been launched against Mr Sarkozy in one other case of alleged illicit campaign financing.
It is alleged that he engaged in accounting fraud to overshoot the ceiling for campaign expenditure in 2012, which was €22.5m.
Mr Sarkozy denies he was aware of the overspending.
The affair is known as the Bygmalion scandal.
In connection with his 2007 campaign, Mr Sarkozy was previously cleared over claims that he had used secret funding from L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt and that he had tried to influence investigating magistrates.
African leaders pose for a group photograph as they meet to sign a free trade deal that would create a liberalized market for goods and services across the continent, in Kigali, Rwanda March 21, 2018. REUTERS/Jean Bizimana
KIGALI (Reuters) – African leaders agreed on Wednesday to form a $3 trillion continental free-trade zone encompassing 1.2 billion people, but its two biggest economies, Nigeria and South Africa, did not sign up, diminishing its impact.
The African Union started talks in 2015 to establish a 55-nation bloc that would be the biggest in the world by member states, in a bid to increase intra-regional trade, which sits at a measly 15 percent of Africa’s total commerce.
Rwandan president Paul Kagame, host of an AU summit called to conclude the initial negotiations, declared the meeting a success after 44 African nations signed up to establish the free trade bloc within 18 months.
It was not immediately clear why South Africa and Nigeria stayed on the sidelines. Others staying out of the bloc were Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zambia, Burundi, Eritrea, Benin, Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau.
“It would have been great if the two biggest economies on the continent, Nigeria and South Africa, had signed, but the most important is that the rest of the continent is sending a right message to these two biggest economies that we are moving ahead without you,” said Michael Kottoh, an analyst at Confidential Strategies in Ghana.
The project needed a minimum of 22 countries signing up to get off the ground and Kagame hailed the effort so far.
“What is at stake is the dignity and well-being of Africa’s farmers, workers and entrepreneurs,” he said.
AU trade commissioner Albert Muchanga also put a positive spin on the absence of the top two African economies, telling Reuters they would soon join in.
“They are still doing national level consultations and so when they finish they will be able to come on board,” he said.
Economists point to Africa’s low level of intra-regional trade as one of the reasons for the continent’s enduring poverty and lack of a strong manufacturing base.
It is blamed on a host of factors, from colonialism, to high internal tariffs to poor road and rail links to excessive border bureaucracy and petty corruption at frontier checkpoints.
The relatively small size of many African markets – only Nigeria and Ethiopia have populations estimated at 100 million people or more – also inhibit private sector investment.
Africa already has an alphabet soup of competing and overlapping trade zones – ECOWAS in the west, EAC in the east, SADC in the south and COMESA in the east and south – although only the EAC, driven mainly by Kenya, has made significant progress towards a common market in goods and services.
Analysts said governments needed to do more to ensure goods and people flowed freely across borders.
“If they just sign the agreement without opening the borders, without getting rid of non-tariff barriers and if they don’t work on free movement of people, it is not going to work,” analyst Kottoh said.
Even the six-nation EAC has its sticking points – Tanzania has been known to kick out Kenyan executives and impound Kenyan imports at the border, in violation of EAC rules.
Businessmen said the current set-up forced them to look outside the continent, particularly Asia for manufactured goods.
“It is easy and cheaper to buy in Asia than to buy in the sub-region because of less-flexible rules of origin and non-tariff barriers that are not clear,” said Meriem Bensalah-Chaqroun, head of the Moroccan Confederation of Businesses.
Sudden changes in rules and impromptu checks on goods also held up supply chains.
“Some countries all of a sudden decide they are going to do a quality check on goods but they don’t really know what they want to check. That slows the trade,” said Thomas Schafer, CEO of Volkswagen Africa.
“We are not able to bring a vehicle from South Africa into Zimbabwe in a cost-efficient and fast way. That needs to change.”
Aims to enable 30 million African youth to secure jobs by 2030
Photo credits: Intersect for Mastercard Foundation
KIGALI, Rwanda, March 22nd, 2018 -/African Media Agency (AMA)/- Today, the Mastercard Foundation announced a commitment to enable 30 million African youth, especially young women, to secure dignified and fulfilling work by 2030. The Foundation also announced two new programs in Rwanda that will directly contribute to the overall goal of increasing economic opportunities for young people in Africa.
Today’s announcements are part of the Foundation’s ambitious new strategy, Young Africa Works, which aims to reduce poverty on the continent by tackling youth unemployment. The strategy is the result of extensive consultations with leaders of African governments, the private sector, educational institutions, civil society, and young people.
Africa has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world, particularly for young people. By 2030, there will be more than 375 million people under the age of 35 in the labour market. Population growth on the continent means that by 2035, there will be more young people entering Africa’s workforce each year than the rest of the globe combined. In 2050, one quarter of the world’s working age population will be African, making it the largest workforce in the world.
“Youth unemployment in Africa is the issue of our time. Together, we have an extraordinary opportunity to shape the future and increase prosperity for all,” said Reeta Roy, Mastercard Foundation President and CEO. “In fact, young people are leading the way. Let’s support their aspirations for their communities and their countries.”
The Young Africa Works strategy builds on what the Foundation has learned from a decade of working in Africa, expanding access to education and financial inclusion. The new strategy puts an emphasis on working with African organizations and designing solutions specific to a country’s economic needs and goals. Collaborating with governments and the private sector to identify priority areas for growth, the Foundation’s programs will prepare young people with the skills they need for employment through relevant training and education, use technology to connect employers and job seekers, and enable entrepreneurs and small businesses to expand through access to financial services.
“Every day I see young Africans whose potential is going untapped,” said Angela Nzioki, Co-Founder and Manager of Pluspeople Kenya Limited and a youth panelist at an event launching the strategy. “They are innovative, passionate, and talented, and they want a chance to prove themselves. For Africa to prosper, young people need to be at the heart of the policies and strategies of governments, universities, employers, and donors.”
Prime Minister Édouard Ngirente and other ministers and dignitaries also attended the event, where the Foundation marked the occasion with a commitment of US$100 million to two new initiatives in Rwanda, including:
1) Hanga Ahazaza, which aims to increase employment and enterprise opportunities for young Rwandans while expanding the country’s burgeoning tourism and hospitality sector and contributing to poverty reduction; and
2) Leaders in Teaching, which will support the delivery of high quality, relevant secondary education and will establish the pan-African Centre for Innovative Teaching and Learning in ICT that will explore new approaches to improving educational outcomes.
Hanga Ahazaza, meaning “create the future” in Kinyarwanda, will equip 30,000 young men and women with customer service, ICT, and digital literacy skills, and provide on-the-job training and opportunities for employment. The initiative will also support small businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector through increased access to financial services and business development skills so they can create more employment opportunities for young people. It is a consortium of partners from the education, development, and private sectors.
The Leaders in Teaching initiative focuses on training, motivation, and professional development for teachers and school leaders. In Rwanda, at least 250,000 secondary school students will benefit as the initiative aims to improve Science, Math, and ICT knowledge and teaching skills for new and experienced teachers, improve the capacity of head teachers to create positive instructional environments, and recruit young people into the profession.
About the Mastercard Foundation
The Mastercard Foundation seeks a world where everyone has the opportunity to learn and prosper. The Foundation’s work is guided by its mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion for people living in poverty. One of the largest foundations in the world, it works almost exclusively in Africa. It was created in 2006 by Mastercard International and operates independently under the governance of its own Board of Directors.
South Sudan President Salva Kiir meets U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley in Juba
Juba – the United States is taking action against 15 South Sudanese oil-related companies whose revenues have allegedly contributed to the ongoing crisis in South Sudan.
The State Department said in statement on March 21, seen by Pan African Visions that South Sudan’s government and “corrupt official actors” are using the revenue to purchase weapons, fund militias and undermine peace, which prolong a civil war in the East Africa youngest nation.
The United States government said the names of these specific entities will be published in the Federal Register on March 22.
This also comes after the Enough Project and Global Witness named some individuals in the government use oil money to fuel conflict.
According to the President Trump’s administration, this action will force the government and companies to show that the country’s oil will benefit its people and not enrich corrupt elites or fuel violence.
The US said the listed entities are a source of substantial revenue for the Government of South Sudan.
“Unfortunately, the South Sudanese Government, and corrupt official actors, use this revenue to purchase weapons and fund irregular militias that undermine the peace, security, and stability of South Sudan rather than support the welfare and current emergency food needs of South Sudanese people,” the US said in a statement on Wednesday.
“We call on the region and broader international community to join us in limiting the financial flows that fuel the continuing violence in the country,” it read in part
The oil companies that have been listed by the US Bureau of Industry and Security, Commerce includes, Ascom Sudd Operating Company; Dar Petroleum Operating Company; DietsmannNile; Greater Pioneer Operating Co.Ltd; Juba Petrotech Technical Services Ltd; Nile Delta Petroleum Company; Nile Drilling and Services Company; Nile Petroleum Corporation; Nyakek and Sons; Oranto Petroleum; Safinat Group; SIPET Engineering and Consultancy Services; South Sudan Ministry of Minning; South Sudan Ministry of Petroleum and Sudd Petroleum Operating Co.
The U.S. and other companies will now need a license to export, re-export, or transfer exports of any U.S.-origin goods or technology to the listed entities.
“By placing these entities on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Entity List, the United States will impose a license requirement on all exports, re-exports, and transfers of any U.S.-origin items to those entities,” US Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in the statement.
In February this year, the Trump administration imposed an arms embargo on South Sudan.
This is the latest attempt to hold accountable those accused of spoiling peace and commit human rights violations in South Sudan.
The Sentry, a group co-founded by actor George Clooney, accused South Sudan’s government in a recent report of funneling cash from the state-owned oil company Nilepet to militias accused of committing atrocities.
The move, it explained, would now mean U.S., as well as non-US companies, will now need a license to export, re-export, or transfer exports of any US-origin goods or technology to the listed entities.
“By placing these entities on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Entity List, the United States will impose a license requirement on all exports, re-exports, and transfers of any U.S.-origin items to those entities,” said US Department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert in a statement.
South Sudan government is not yet responding to US statement, but the observers said the move is an important step in the search for peace in South Sudan as the next round of the South Sudan peace talk’s approaches.
South Sudan got the lion’s share of the oil when it split from Sudan in July 2011, but it’s only export route is through Sudan, giving Khartoum leverage and leading to ongoing pricing disputes.
Oil production in South Sudan has been affected by the conflict that erupted in 2013 after a political disagreement between President Salva Kiir and his then deputy, Riek Machar, triggered war.
The war in South Sudan, which has featured the use of child soldiers, rape as a weapon of war, and mass atrocities, has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and has left over 2 million people displaced.
It said it expects the government, as well as the armed opposition, to fulfill their commitments to IGAD and the people of South Sudan by ceasing “hostilities, allow unimpeded humanitarian access, and pursue a negotiated peace in good faith”.
“The government of South Sudan must not squander that generosity and should take concrete steps to provide for the vast needs of the South Sudanese people,” statement said in part.
According to the statement, this action reflects the U. S commitment to doing all it can to protect the innocent people of South Sudan.
Africa has not been well served by the Trump administration, and prospects are not good that things will change soon says Johnnie Carson
When it comes to Africa, don’t expect much from the changes taking place at the US State Department. The White House is not interested in Africa.
The Trump Administration has not made Africa a priority and the White House has failed to set out a comprehensive strategy or introduce any new policy initiatives regarding the continent.
The appointment of CIA Director Michael Pompeo to replace former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will not lead to an uptick in interest or engagement.
If anything, this change will reinforce America’s focus on security and counter-terrorism. This emphasis could end up taking US policy further backwards. It could align the US with increasingly corrupt and autocratic governments. It could ensnare Washington in longstanding conflicts that cannot be won by military means alone. And it could undercut US influence and integrity more broadly on the continent.
The abrupt dismissal of Tillerson following his abridged five-nation trip to Africa is not good news. Although his ouster had nothing to do with the continent, he was probably the only cabinet official with any interest or prior experience in Africa. His departure underscores the senior level policy void. Even now, key Africa posts in the State Department remain unfilled, including that of Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.
Pompeo’s nomination to replace Tillerson is probably bad news for those who want to see the US energise its engagement and lay out a comprehensive set of policies and programmes regarding Africa’s economic, social, health and trade challenges. It is probably good news for all those who believe America’s priority in Africa should be to expand security alliances to combat threats in Somalia, the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin.
Mike Pompeo has been named as Rex Tillerson’s successor as US Secretary of State. Credit: Gage Skidmore.
A West Point graduate and hawkish conservative, Pompeo’s limited comments about Africa have focused on Libya and counter terrorism. As a member of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, he was strongly critical of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s handling of the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya and the tragic death of Ambassador Chris Stevens.
On security issues across the continent, Pompeo has said “there’s a big counter-terrorism threat there” and claimed the US can do more. Although he has supported food aid for countries in need, his first priority is likely to be bolstering security collaboration with states participating in the African Union’s military operations in Somalia as well as countries in the Sahel and Lake Chad region fighting Boko Haram and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
If Pompeo pursues this security first agenda, he will continue a short-sighted approach that devalues many of America’s programmes that prioritise economic development, good governance and rule of law. The emphasis on security will give the appearance of militarising the US’ role in Africa. It will diminish America’s influence and create a larger political, economic and development void for other countries to fill. Armed conflict and counter-terrorism are not at the top of the agenda for most of the 49 states in sub-Saharan Africa.
Pompeo’s strong support for Trump’s “America First” approach does not auger well for Africa either. The US president’s global agenda runs counter to many of the bipartisan policies and programmes that have anchored American policy in Africa for the past 25 years.
Although the administration professes to support many of the policies put in place by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, its actions often move in a different direction.
The administration’s proposed 30% cut to USAID’s budget, for example, will have a heavy and disproportionate impact on activities in Africa. Its draconian re-imposition of the Mexico City rule, which bars US funding to groups that provide information on family planning, stops money going to many organisations and programmes that provide anti-retroviral treatments under PEPFAR, President Bush’s widely praised HIV/AIDS prevention programme. Meanwhile, the US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Change Agreement will end its $3 billion contribution to the Green Climate (Change) Fund, a move that will particularly hurt Africa, the continent most vulnerable to climate change.
The administration’s spending decisions have already reduced the size of the Young African Leaders Initiative, spending on democracy and governance efforts, and programmes that support expanded trade and commercial activities. The Trump administration’s actions are already having a negative impact across the continent.
The appointment of an Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs might be able to stabilise the US’ Africa policies, slow down some of the more negative decisions being made, and begin to put into place a more comprehensive and forward-looking framework. However, Pompeo’s Senate confirmation will probably slow down the appointment of a new Africa Secretary as well as the appointment of new ambassadors for critical posts in the likes of South Africa, Tanzania and Somalia.
(L-R) Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, Guinea’s President Alpha Conde, US President Donald Trump, African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina, Vice President of Nigeria Yemi Osinbajo and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn pose following a family photo of G7 leaders with African leaders after an expanded session at the Summit of the Heads of State and of Government of the G7, the group of most industrialized economies, plus the European Union, on May 27, 2017 in Taormina, Sicily. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / JONATHAN ERNST (Photo credit should read JONATHAN ERNST/AFP/Getty Images)
It was widely rumoured that a respected former diplomat, Tibor Nagy, would be nominated shortly for the top Africa position in the State Department. But that nomination will probably not move forward in advance of Pompeo’s confirmation. Those hearings are not scheduled until early-April and the process could drag on for several months.
Africa has not been well served by the Trump administration, and prospects are not good that things will change soon. As Africa policy languishes and important bipartisan programmes wither, the administration will probably at some point dispatch Pompeo to the continent to talk up the American security agenda. Perhaps even presidential adviser and daughter Ivanka Trump will be sent as a token reflection of White House interest, but these visits would only be putting a glossy face on what is pretty gloomy policy.
*Culled From African Arguments.Johnnie Carson was Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs during the first Obama Administration and is a former US Ambassador to Kenya. He is currently a Senior Advisor at the United States Institute of Peace.
Africa is hoping to create a free trade area stretching across the continent
The European Union and its free trade agreement took decades to establish. Africa is now hoping it can achieve the same in a fraction of the time.
But with Nigeria pulling out, questions are being raised over just how achievable it really is.
The vision is a free trade deal encompassing 1.2 billion people stretching from Cape Town to Cairo.
Goods, services and perhaps labour, flowing freely in and out of more than 50 African countries.
It could create tens of thousands of jobs and significantly reduce unemployment among the continent’s youthful population.
It’ll boost trade between African countries and would be instrumental in moving the whole continent away from the narrative of simply being a place where the powerhouse economies of the West and East come to get their raw materials.
Many African governments, naturally, are keen. So, expect lots of fanfare when African leaders gather in the Rwandan capital, Kigali this week to sign the agreement.
The South African department of trade and industry says it’s “committed to a co-ordinated strategy to boost intra-Africa trade and to build an integrated market in Africa that will see a market of over a billion people with a GDP of approximately $2.6 trillion (£1.85tn) “.
And Kenya’s trade ministry says it’ll not only create a massive liberalised market, but will also “enhance competitiveness at the industry and enterprise level, enhance value addition of products and exploit economies of scale and optimum utilization of resource”.
But the deal has already hit its first hurdle, before it’s even been signed.
Nigeria announced at the weekend that President Muhammadu Buhari will not attend the ceremony in Kigali. In a statement, the Nigerian government said that “certain key stakeholders in Nigeria indicated that they had not been consulted, for which reasons they had some concerns on the provisions of the treaty”.
Those key stakeholders are both Nigeria’s business community and its trade unions. The trade unions are thought to be particularly concerned about a free trade area, given that it could develop into a much more integrated body, which would see the free movement of workers across borders, providing a possible threat to Nigerian jobs.
The fact that Africa’s largest economy won’t be at the launch has placed a dampener on proceedings and a question mark over the entire project’s viability.
Even if all parties do eventually agree to sign a free trade treaty, that is simply where the real work begins. After the ink dries and the officials have all gone home, how quickly can such an agreement to put into practice? When will it make a difference on the ground? Until a business can move its goods from any country in the Free Trade Area to any another almost as if borders don’t exist the proclamations on paper will count for very little.
Under a free trade area agreement, all the African signatory countries would have to agree to reduce the trade tariffs and import quotas between each other and boost intra-African trade.
Generally speaking, it’s the first stage of closer economic co-operation with a view to possible integration. The next stage would be a customs union, where each country would have the same tariffs with the outside world and low or no tariffs between each other.
Then comes a common market, where goods, services and labour move tariff and quota-free between the countries and the bloc has a common trade relationship with the rest of the globe. Further integration involves political union and a unifying single currency.
A big ask
All of this took the European Union more than 50 years to establish following the Second World War. Some integration already exists in Africa – the East African Community and the Southern Africa Customs Union are examples.
But for a continent-wide free trade area to really work there has to be significantly more cross-border trade within Africa. This is currently a challenge, as most African countries tend to trade more with the outside world than they do with their fellow African states. Indeed, intra-African trade accounts for about 16% of the total – in Asia that figure is 51% and in Europe it rises to 70%.
Another challenge is the sheer size of Africa – not just geographically, but also in terms of the number of countries that need to sign up and ratify the free trade area agreement. When the European integration process started in the early 1950s, just six countries were involved.
More than 60 years later, the European Union has 28 members. Africa has 54 countries. So, implementation and co-ordination are key. For a start, the parliaments of the all the countries need to ratify it. How long those political wheels take to turn is anybody’s guess.
The African Free Trade Area is a big task and, in a way, a big ask. But if it’s the first tentative steps toward greater economic ties and trade within Africa, the continent’s citizens will feel its benefits.
How quickly that happens depends on the enduring enthusiasm, focus and determination of the leaders who pen the deal.
MAN lauds Buhari’s stand on AfCFTA, says FG should not sign the agreement
ABUJA, Nigeria, March 21, 2018/ — The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) (www.ManufacturersNigeria.org) on Wednesday strongly supported the move by the Federal Government on its refusal to sign the agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The Manufacturers Association frowned at the contents of the agreement, noting that it will lead to gross unemployment in the country as most manufacturing companies in the country will be made to die a quicker death.
The Association President, Dr. Frank Jacobs said his association would not support Federal Government’s adoption and ratification of the agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) until issues of market access and enforcement of rules of origin are addressed.
According to MAN, the agitation from the private sector was a result of lack of consultation and inclusion of inputs of key stakeholders before Nigeria’s position was presented at the meetings of the African Union-Technical Working Group on CFTA in the build-up to AfCFTA negotiation by Nigeria.
The AfCTA is expected to create a trade bloc of 1.2 billion people with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of more than $2 trillion. The agreement commits countries to removing tariffs on 90% of goods and to liberalize services.
MAN President, Dr. Frank Jacobs
Addressing journalists yesterday, Association of Manufacturers President, Dr. Frank Jacobs explained that the issues of market access that allows only 10 percent of products to be protected as well as government’s enforcement mechanism in the area of enforcement of rules of origin need to be clearly defined before local producers can support the agreement.
Noting that MAN is not oblivious of the benefits inherent in installing a continental trade agreement like AfCFTA that could improve intra-African trade and enhance economic growth and sustainable development, Jacobs said that Nigeria’s national interest should however be the primary consideration in the decision to sign-on to such an arrangement.
In his recommendations, Jacobs urged the government to set in motion a process that will enable all stakeholders on the international trade value chain in Nigeria to quickly review the text of the draft AfCFTA agreement and come up with comments on areas that are not in the best interest of the Nigerian economy and sectors.
“Government should, as matter of urgency, convene a special meeting of the relevant stakeholders, including experts on trade policy to consider tariff lines rates along the line of efficiency, sectoral and sub-sectoral preferences that would be most beneficial to Nigerian businesses under the AfCFTA dispensation as well as reconsider the national position on EPA vis-a-vis the AfCFTA especially on tariff lines of products on the sensitive/exclusion list, with a view to ensuring that the EU-EPA is not reintroduced through the AfCFTA’s back door.
“Review presentations and prepare a detailed submission for the Government on ways and means of participating in the AfCFTA in a manner that our national interest and that of the budding manufacturing sector are effectively protected”, he added.