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Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson briefs journalists on the upcoming elections in Kenya.
February 8, 2013 | 0 Comments

Africa Regional Media Hub
Via Teleconference
February 7, 2013

"Since 2010, the United States government has contributed more than $35 million to support electoral reform, voter education, and elections preparation. The United States elections observation effort will complement domestic observation ..."

“Since 2010, the United States government has contributed more than $35 million to support electoral reform, voter education, and elections preparation. The United States elections observation effort will complement domestic observation …”

MODERATOR: Good morning and good afternoon to everyone from Johannesburg, from the Africa Regional Media Hub with the United States Department of State. A warm welcome to our participants calling from across the continent and to the media gathered in the room in Embassy Nairobi. Today, we are joined by Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson, who is speaking to us from Washington DC. We begin today with remarks from Assistant Secretary Carson and will then open it up to your questions. To ask a question press “star, 1” on your phone to join the queue. Today’s call is on the record and will last approximately 40 minutes. And with that I will turn it over to Ambassador Johnnie Carson.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Carrie, thank you very much for the introduction and good afternoon to all the participants in this call. I am extraordinarily pleased to have the opportunity to speak with you today about Kenya’s upcoming elections. These elections are vitally important to that country’s future. Kenya has been a long standing friend and partner of the United States and probably our closest partner in East Africa, in the Horn.

These elections are vitally important. The choices that Kenyans make on March 4 will affect the stability, prosperity and reputation of Kenya for many years to come. As President Obama said earlier this week in his message, Kenya must reject intimidation and violence and allow a free and fair vote. Kenyans must resolve disputes in the courts, not in the streets. Most importantly President Obama urged Kenyans to come together even further towards a true democratic Kenya defined by the rule of law, and strong institutions which respects the rights and dignity of all Kenyans.

President Obama clearly stated that the choice of who will lead Kenya is up to the Kenyan people, but it is also important to note that choices have consequences. We live in an interconnected world and people should be thoughtful about the impact that their choices have on their nation and on the world. All Kenyans, no matter their gender, ethnicity, or geographic affiliation, have the responsibility, through their own actions, to help ensure Kenya’s elections are free, fair and peaceful, and through the election process to select the country’s leaders.

National leaders are responsible for their actions before, during, and after the elections. Accountability for political violence, including that perpetrated during the 2007 / 2008 electoral crisis is an important part of building a peaceful and prosperous country. We know very well the negative economic impact that past violence has caused Kenya. Kenya needs successful elections to ensure a stable and secure environment that will continue to attract foreign investment and to fuel the country’s economic growth and prosperity. The United States support free, fair, and peaceful elections that will help ensure Kenya’s stability and prosperity.

Since 2010, the United States government has contributed more than $35 million to support electoral reform, voter education, and elections preparation. The United States elections observation effort will complement domestic observation and other international observation programs. With this election, Kenyans have a wonderful opportunity, an enormous opportunity to build positively on the recent constitutional reforms and demonstrate to the world the vitality of Kenya’s democracy. As the president said, to all that are willing to walk this path of progress, he will continue to have a strong friend and partner in the United States of America. I am going to stop right there and thank you for listening to my opening remarks. I will take a few questions.

MODERATOR: Thank you Ambassador. We are going to start today with some questions from journalists gathered in the room in Nairobi. A quick reminder to callers to press “star 1” if you have a question and that will put you in the question queue. So I will turn it over to Chris Snipes who is moderating questions in Nairobi. Go ahead, Chris.

MR. SNIPES: Thank you very much Carrie. We do have a few questions, and we will start with a question from The Star.

QUESTION: My name is Nzau Musau, from The Star newspaper. Ambassador, I just want a clarification. The message which came from the President was interpreted in some quarters, some section of the coalition of political players in Kenya, and they say that it is an endorsement from the President that they can actually run and there would be no action later. So you can expand on the fact if there would be sanctions after the election of the ICC suspects? If indeed the President endorsed any side of the coalition? Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Thank you very much. The President was absolutely clear that the choice of who Kenyans select as their leaders is up to the Kenyan people. We as the United States do not have a candidate nor a choice in this election process. But as I just said, choices have consequences. We live in an interconnected world and people should be thoughtful about the impact that their choices have on their nation, on their region, on the economy, on the society, and the world in which they live. Choices have consequences.

MODERATOR: Chris, we can take another one in Nairobi.

MR. SNIPES: Thank you, yes, we do have another one.

 

QUESTION: Mr Ambassador, please clarify what you mean by choices have consequences.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Let me say very clearly that individuals have reputations, individuals have images, individuals have histories, individuals are known for who they are, and what they do, what they have said and how they act.

MODERATOR: Chris, do you have another, one more question in Nairobi?

MR. SNIPES: We have one more at this time, yes.

QUESTION: My name is Antony. I am from The People. Mr. Ambassador, I want you to clarify, or to make it straight, what position the U.S. government is going to take if Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto [inaudible] in the ICC.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: It would be presumptuous of me to engage a hypothetical answer about an outcome about which we are not certain at this point. I don’t know who is going to win the election, and so I am not going to make any judgments about any actions that might be taken about a winner or winners who are not yet known.

MODERATOR: We are going to take a question now from callers. We are going take the first question from Peter Fabricious with Independent Newspapers in South Africa.

QUESTION: Secretary Carson, thanks very much for your briefing. Could you give me some sense of the U.S. assessment of the likelihood of peaceful or violent elections? There is a growing incidence of violence in various parts of the country and concern being expressed about the possibility that this could have an impact on the election.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Well, let me say that I think that we in the United States join with many, many across Kenya to do everything that we can to prevent a recurrence of the events that followed the 2007 elections and carried over into 2008. We have worked with groups across Kenya to reduce the prospect of violence in the forthcoming elections. We have worked with Kenyan groups to monitor, reduce, and eliminate hate speech on radio and in the print media. We have encouraged peace and reconciliation committees and communities in and across the nation. We have reached out to religious organizations, to civil society, to youth groups, to professional business groups, to women’s groups, and to local leaders, all encouraging them to discourage violence, to look at this as a peaceful process, and to avoid any kind of acts of intimidation.

There should be no place for violence in the democratic electoral process. And we are also encouraging all political leaders to foreswear violence, to sign pledges that they will not engage in violence, encourage or incite violence from their followers, and they will not tolerate it. The Kenyan justice system should not allow for impunity for those who commit violent acts or who encourage violent acts.

We have seen some local, regionalized incidents of violence in the Tana River area and around Mombasa. We look at these as a result of some longstanding political and land grievances. We hope that these things will not spill over into the political process, but it is incumbent upon all those who are friends and partners of Kenya as well as all of those who are citizens and politicians and civil society and religious and business leaders in Kenya to recognize that violence should be eliminated from the political process.

The violence that occurred after the 2007 elections into 2008 resulted in a significant loss of Kenyan GDP that resulted in a loss of tourism, tourism revenue, a loss of several billion dollars in earnings. And, because Kenya is a gateway, a hub to all of the East Africa region, when the roads between Nairobi and Kisumu were closed, it meant that there was no overland transportation into western Kenya, into Uganda, into Southern Sudan, into Burundi, Rwanda, and into the eastern Congo.

Kenya is a keystone state. It is an economic hub, a financial center, an agriculture giant, a communications node. Kenya is vitally important to every Kenyan, but it is also vitally important to the region and to the global community. Kenya’s politicians must not allow violence to dominate or interfere in this political process. It must be free. It must be fair. It must avoid ‘07 and .08, and I will say again choices have consequences. People should be thoughtful about the impact that their choices will have on the nation, and on the region, on their image, and on the country.

MODERATOR: The next question is from Channels TV in Nigeria, Amarachi Ubani.

QUESTION: Thank you so much Ambassador. You just answered my first question, so I will just go on to the second one. In the meantime, while the U.S. is helping Kenya to prevent electoral violence after the elections in March, what else is the United States doing to help strengthen the country’s democracy.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Let me say that we have been a proud participant in efforts to strengthen Kenya’s democratic institutions. Over a number of years we have worked very closely with the Kenyan parliament to help strengthen the committee system in parliament, to strengthen the ability of the parliamentary representatives to investigate and to review legislation, to look at budgets, to develop bills and to undertake their responsibilities as legislators.

We think that we have engaged significant efforts to strengthen the ability of the parliament to hold accountable the executive branch for its actions and responsibilities. We have also worked closely with the Kenyan judiciary. We have an enormous respect for the Chief Justice of the Kenyan court, and we have work with Kenyan jurists to help strengthen the judicial process and judicial procedures. We recently invited a number of Kenyan jurists to the United States to meet with members of our own federal judiciary, and also our Supreme Court. We believe that democratic institutions play a vital part of the democratic process. We have also worked with the media and with other trade associations as well.

MODERATOR: Thank you, we are going to turn it back over to journalists in Nairobi for a few questions, and just a reminder to callers, we will come back to you, but press “star 1” to join the question queue. Go ahead Chris.

MODERATOR: Thanks Carrie, we have a question from Nzau Musau from the Star.

QUESTION: Ambassador, some of the U.S. allies in Nairobi like the British, UK, have already announced they will adopt a policy of no contact with the ICC indictees in case they get elected. So, from the U.S., for example will you consider visa ban? Is there something along that line?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Let me just say again choice have consequences. Choices have consequences. Individuals have histories, individuals have images, individuals have reputations. When they are selected to lead their nations, those images, those histories, those reputations go along with them. They are not separated from them. Again, I am not going to speculate on what our actions will be, but we are not signatories to the ICC convention, but I underscore that we recognize and respect what the ICC is trying to do, and we try to adhere to what its main principles and goals are.

MODERATOR: Any more from the room?

MR. SNIPES: Yes, we have another question from the Nation.

QUESTION: Thank you, my name is Aggrey Mutambo from The Daily Nation. I would like to know how significant the U.S. sees Kenya in the region and the whole of Africa?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Thank you very much. Kenya is our most important partner in East Africa and the Horn of Africa. Our friendship has been strong and durable since Kenya’s independence in 1963. Today, Kenya houses our largest embassy in Africa, not just in sub-Saharan Africa but all of Africa. Our quarters at Gigiri are the most significant diplomatic establishment that we have in Africa. Full stop. That is in recognition of our longstanding friendship and partnership, but it is also in recognition of Kenya’s overwhelming importance to the region.

As I said before to you, Kenya is the financial and transportation hub of East Africa. It is a major agriculture producer and center. It is a major manufacturing centre. What goes on in Nairobi and in Mombasa not only affects the people of Kenya, it affects all of the surrounding states. What happens on the road from Mombasa to Nairobi and from Nairobi over to Lake Victoria and Kisumu, can have enormous impact on landlocked states in the region, on Uganda, its ability to move cargo in and out, its ability to move agricultural supplies and capital goods. On Burundi. On Rwanda. Mombasa is more important as a city and as a port of entry to Bukavu, to Kisangani, to Goma, than is Kinshasa. The same can be said of Juba. And the same can be said of many places in southern Ethiopia which have better access through Kenya.

Kenya is an important partner. It is an important state, and this is why we are focused on trying to do as much as we can, along with Kenyans, along with Kenya’s friends in the international community. To appeal to all of Kenya’s political class, all of the business and commercial elite, to take seriously the need to ensure that these elections do not turn out the way that the ’07, ’08 elections occurred.

This is not the time for violence. This is the time for reconciliation and for progress. This is the time to build upon Kenya’s constitutional reforms. This is a time to take a step, a positive step forward, to make Kenya an even greater place than it is today. But the decisions are in the hands of Kenya’s voters. In Washington we are looking at Kenya as a partner, as I said before we do not select rulers for other countries, but we do believe in the democratic process, we believe in democratic institutions, and we believe that there is no place for violence or intimidation or harassment in the democratic process. It is unacceptable.

MODERATOR: We are going to turn to our callers, and the next question is from Richard Lough from Reuters, calling from Nairobi. Go ahead, your line is open.

QUESTION: Ambassador, good afternoon. My understanding is that Washington already has an essential contact only stance with ICC indictees in general. I assume that includes Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto. Could you confirm that that is indeed the case, and is it therefore fair to assume that this stance would remain in place if Kenyatta won the election, if it was deemed free and fair. And secondly, if I can ask you a question on Mali. I just wondered if you are using, I understand that you are using drones that are based in Niger, but whether the U.S. is deploying drones that are based elsewhere over the Sahara region, whether these drones are armed and whether you have plans in place for the deployment of Special Forces.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Thank you. Let me take the first Kenya-specific question. We have, in respect to President Bashir, in individuals in Sudan who are ICC indictees, taken a position that we will not engage with them, and we have not. And I will not speculate here on what is not yet a fact. But I will say that it is clear that we have taken our distance, our diplomatic distance, certainly in the case of these individuals in Sudan who are ICC indictees, that we have not engaged with them directly. We believe that individuals who are accused of crimes against humanity should go before the courts to prove their innocence or suffer the consequences of the judgment of the courts if they are found guilty.

With respect to Mali and drones, drones are not part of the State Department’s diplomatic arsenal. I will not comment on drones, their use, or where they are located. This is not a question for public discussion by me or my office. I will say this about Mali, that we support the actions of ECOWAS, we support the actions of the French and the non-ECOWAS forces that are operating there. We believe that it is important to do everything that we can to help to eliminate the spread of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb in Mali and in other parts of West Africa.

But I will also say very clearly that Mali is a very complicated set of issues. It is absolutely imperative that that country move back to democracy through elections. It is important that the electoral roadmap and timetable be adhered to and that we see a return to democracy there. A military solution without a democratic solution is an imperfect solution. We must also seek negotiations with the moderate Tuareg, those who renounce violence. The Tuareg, many have longstanding political grievances, legitimate and longstanding. They must be dealt with, but we also must keep focus on the elimination of AQIM as a threat not only to Mali, but the region as a whole, and we should not forget the humanitarian concerns as well.

MODERATOR: Okay, we are going to take one question from a caller, then we are going to go to Nairobi and take the final question. The next question is from Jason Straziuso with the Associated Press, calling from Nairobi.

QUESTION: Hi Ambassador, you touched on this a little, but I want going to see if you can round it out a little bit. In general, you were just talking about Sudan, not only the reaction to the individuals who might be charged but what is the economic or military, security reaction as a whole, in terms of the U.S. relations to the country if it has a leader in place that is indicted or convicted by the ICC.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Jason, thank you for that question. I don’t want to make a comparison with Sudan in its totality because Sudan is a special case in many ways. We have comprehensive economic and commercial sanctions on Sudan. Some of our most rigid and tough sanctions in the world, but those sanctions are there as a result of actions that occurred in Darfur and also because of Sudan’s support in the past for terrorist organizations. Sudan is on our state sponsored terrorism list. It is against U.S. law for us to trade with Sudan, to have any financial transactions with Sudan, to fly any commercial airplanes into Sudan or have any American registered ships go into Sudanese ports. Many of those sanctions deal with the government’s mishandling of the situation in Darfur, and the government’s past support of terrorists and terrorist organizations. None of that, none of that applies to Kenya. Again, it is a different set of circumstances.

Let me just also add here, Jason, if I would, I am going to come back to this point, choices matter. Choices matter and they have consequences. We live in an interconnected world. People should realize that their choices have an impact, and this impact can be in terms of a country’s image, it can be in terms of how leaders and countries are perceived, and people make choices in a global community on the basis of images, and on the basis of past histories, of things that have occurred. These things are not in isolation.

MODERATOR: Thank you. We are going to take the last question from Nairobi. So Chris, I will turn it over to you.

MR. SNIPES: Thank you very much Carrie, we have one more question from The Standard.

QUESTION: Thank you, my name is Moses Njagi from The Standard. Ambassador, you have repeatedly said that choices have consequences. Is that to say that the U.S. for example would have the [inaudible] if they go ahead and elect persons who have tainted images?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Again I am not prejudging who Kenyan voters will select. That is a choice for Kenyans to make. It is a choice only for Kenyans to make. But we do live in a broad global interconnected community and as I said, it is difficult to separate a person or persons from their images and from their histories and from their actions. It’s inevitable, it’s around the world, it’s not one place but everywhere and every place.

MODERATOR: Thank you. That concludes today’s call. I would like to thank Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson, for joining us and thank all of our callers for participating. If you have any questions about today’s call, please contact the Africa Regional Media Hub at afmediahub@state.gov. Thank you so much.

 

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General Electric to invest $1 billion in Nigeria
February 6, 2013 | 0 Comments

BY HEATHER MURDOCK*

American conglomerate General Electric says it will invest US$1 billion in Nigeria, promising to more than triple the country’s electrical output over the next 10 years. This comes as Nigeria seeks to reform its dilapidated and corrupt power sector.

Nigeria is a country that runs on generators. Most people don’t have access to electricity and those that do have it sporadically. On CNN last week, President Goodluck Jonathan said by the end of the year, the country’s daily electrical problems will be more or less solved.

Clement Nwankwo, the executive director of the Policy and Legal Advocacy Center in Abuja, said that maybe the president just doesn’t realise how bad Nigeria’s electrical system is.

“It’s possible the sound of his generator is far away from his house and office, so he doesn’t know when the switch is made between generators and public power supply, but there is very poor power supply to the generality of homes in Nigeria,” Nwankwo said.

Battling corruption

Nigeria’s power sector is notoriously corrupt, he said, adding that every Nigerian leader claims to be able to stop the blackouts in a single year, and nothing changes.

However, Nigeria’s Minister of Trade and Investment Olusegun Aganga said this time will be different.
General Electric’s investment includes partnering with private Nigerian companies and taking over one of Nigeria’s major power plants, building turbines, a new factory and exploring Nigeria’s abundant natural oil and gas supplies.

Aganga said the plan will work because it not just about generating megawatts, it’s about boosting the national economy and encouraging investment.

“This is the beginning of much more to come. That is a clear message to the country, a clear message to Nigerians and a clear message to the international investor community. It’s not just about power. It’s more than that. It’s about manufacturing,” said Aganga.

Crucial investment

GE says $250 million will be invested immediately and the rest of the money will be spent on upkeep, training and salaries. In a speech Thursday in the capital, GE Chairman Jeff Immelt said the projects will create more than 2,000 jobs in Nigeria and nearly all of them will go to Nigerians.

“The time is now. The place is Nigeria. The how is the local team. Now the focus on everything is the execution,” said Immelt.

In the Nigerian development world, the “execution” of projects is usually where things can get stalled by corruption or violence.

Last year, legislators produced a report that detailed how public funds got stolen by oil officials and fuel companies. The money was intended to subsidise the cost of fuel for average Nigerians, but instead, $6.7 billion disappeared. Much of it went to companies that did not work in the fuel sector at all.

In the Niger Delta, where the oil is and where GE’s new plant will be, oil companies say they lose as much as a billion dollars in revenue a month to oil theft and sabotage. –

*Source VOA

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Angola: ample reward for investors who do their homework
January 28, 2013 | 0 Comments

By Stewart Kelly*

Whilst President dos Santos and close allies substantially control the Angolan economy, this should not preclude foreign companies doing business there.Talk to officials from the Angolan foreign investment promotion agency, ANIP, and they will express bafflement that (non-oil-sector) US and UK companies are reluctant to enter the market. After all, Brazilians, Chinese, Portuguese, South Africans, and, most recently, Russians are all actively engaged in the country’s booming construction and financial services sectors, and are also present in other high-potential industries such as mining and agribusiness. The government has welcomed these foreign contributions to the country’s effort to recover from its devastating civil war, but it craves the technical know-how of major UK and US companies, in addition to the validation their presence brings for a governing class that views itself as an enlightened, modernizing force.

For their part, wary potential Anglophone investors come back to the same themes when explaining their tendency to treat Angolan appeals for investment as a siren’s song: corruption risk, political interference, and bureaucratic challenges. The need for caution—as symbolized most recently in the ongoing investigation of Cobalt Energy under the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act—is clear and justified. But are British and US companies right to assume that the challenges of the Angolan market constitute insurmountable obstacles?

Those who cling to this assumption are choosing to forego the rewards offered by a country that has a seemingly unlimited set of needs and a willingness and ability to pay that surpasses perhaps all its African counterparts.

Key risk factors

There are undoubtedly significant political risks to consider. The President in effect controls the country’s commercial landscape: well-connected politicians, retired civil war generals, or members of the President’s immediate family are active in virtually all significant ventures in the country. It is extremely difficult for foreign investors to avoid such individuals entirely.

Given Angola’s oligarchic characteristics, local-partner selection is a major challenge. The government permits foreign companies to hold a 100 percent ownership stake in a local entity outside the oil sector, but in practice it strongly encourages local participation. The unofficial local-partner system acts as a substitute for overt corruption and is one of the means by which the President sustains the loyalty of confidants and potential political rivals alike. While the government may not always promote a specific individual or entity as a local partner, the limited viable options will most likely have ties to the regime. Such links may exist through military figures (so-called “business generals”), through entrepreneurs with strong ruling-party ties, or through the President’s family. It is also common for a nominal figure with no apparent political clout to represent the concealed interests of one of these groups in a joint venture.

The country also carries more overt corruption risks, but the situation has improved markedly—a development that snapshot rankings or indices do not reflect. In the recent past it was almost impossible to secure a permit or win a contract without paying bribes but within the current environment it is possible, with a sufficient understanding of the local context, to be successful while adhering to UK or US anti-corruption laws.

Managing risks

The government has a reputation for prickliness in its dealings with Western corporations, based in part on the fact that Angola is one of the few African countries that does not rely on foreign aid. But new entrants should not underestimate their own ability to influence the government and shape the terms of the engagement. To do so, they should develop a clear understanding of the local context and specific relevant risks, then craft a strategy to manage them. The following are five key points that potential investors should consider:

  1. Larger new entrants should recognize that their stature carries weight with the highly image-conscious regime and can potentially be used as a leverage tool. Investors should develop a deep understanding of where their commercial objectives align with Angolan strategic interests—local jobs and training being among the most important—and craft a messaging strategy that includes both Angola-centric goals and transparency commitments.
  2. Getting the local partner right is critical. By beginning the selection process long before any formal engagement with the Angolan government, investors can avoid the pitfalls of having one chosen for them. Robust due diligence is imperative given the potential risks associated with many prospective local partners. Foremost among these is the possibility that a partner, rather than contributing technical or other material support, may in fact be a proxy for senior regime figures, such as in the Cobalt example.
  3. The Angolan government mandates that all new entrants work closely with ANIP, a government agency that processes all foreign investment projects. The agency reports directly to the President and is headed by his ex-wife. ANIP can be a source of frustration given its relatively slow procedures and some issues with the quality of its staff, but it has improved significantly and operates in a relatively open manner.
  4. It is advisable to develop relationships with the ministers relevant to the specific project but the line ministries are generally weak and merely implement the Presidency’s policies and decisions. As implementers, however, they have the potential to aid or frustrate a new venture. The quality and clout of individual ministers varies widely, which will affect their ability and willingness to act as a partner and advocate.
  5. By clearly articulating standards at the outset and maintaining a steadfast commitment to them, a new entrant can be commercially successful in Angola while adhering to a strict set of anti-corruption principles. Petty corruption in the bureaucracy is pervasive, however, despite improvements at higher levels, presenting an operational challenge once a venture is established.

Investors that have chosen to forego the ample opportunity presented by Angola are right to be concerned about the level of risk involved. But an opaque market such as this favors those who are willing to develop a deep understanding of the operating environment and take proactive steps to manage risks where they exist.

*Source African Arguments.Stewart Kelly is a consultant at Veracity Worldwide, a New York-based political risk and strategic advisory consultancy.

 

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U.S. Africa Policy: A Second Term Pivot?
January 28, 2013 | 0 Comments

By J. Peter Pham*

Barack Obama’s second term may witness an American pivot to Africa—and not for the reasons you might have expected.

An-iconic-and-popular-figure-in-much-of-the-African-continent-Barack-Obama-did-not-openly-champion-intense-engagement-with-the-region-during-his-first-termAs the president of the United States publicly takes the oath of office for the second time, it is understandable why, in stark contrast to four years ago when Barack Obama’s unique personal history made his election to the White House the cause for intense pride and excitement across Africa, many Africans have shrugged off the event and carried on with their lives. To be fair, many Africans’ expectations of the then-new American president were wildly unrealistic and Obama had quite a number of pressing challenges demanding his immediate attention, not least of all a U.S. economy in meltdown.

Nevertheless, the sense of let-down acutely felt, both in African capitals and among the Africa constituency in Washington, over the lack of engagement during most of the administration’s first term, remains palpable. Even for the administration’s most reflexive defenders, there is no getting around the data.

While veteran diplomat Johnnie Carson was installed as assistant secretary of state for African affairs within four months of Obama’s first inauguration, an ambassador to the African Union was not on post until nine months after the president’s swearing in and, until just nine months ago, there was no permanent assistant administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for Africa. The U.S. Strategy toward Sub-Saharan Africa was not released until June of last year. As for the president himself, he has not set foot on African soil since his brief visits to Egypt and Ghana during his first year in office—and the latter a stopover lasting less than twenty-four hours.

Of course, the administration has scored some noteworthy successes, not least of which was helping see the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) to its fulfillment in the largely peaceful referendum and subsequent secession of South Sudan—although the continuing conflict between Africa’s newest independent state and the country it left behind remains a challenge the administration must tackle in its second term alongside the overall lack of economic development and general governance capacity in Juba. Likewise, the defeat of Somalia’s al-Shabaab as a military force, the improved security in and around Mogadishu, and the installation of a new parliament, president, and prime minister represent relatively big advances, even if the progress is still far from consolidated.

With this rather modest record of accomplishments, rendered all the more so when set next to the activist Africa agendas of Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, some Africa watchers have set fairly low expectations for the U.S. policy during the next four years of the Obama presidency, citing in addition the political gridlock in Washington that show little sign of abating. Such pessimism might well be justified, but it need not be dispositive. In fact, there are indications that a modest, but not insignificant, pivot toward Africa may well be in the offing.

Ironically enough, one reason for the optimism is precisely the current dysfunctional state of America’s divided government. Within Washington’s insular foreign policy community, the tiny Africa constituency has long been known for bipartisan comity—it could hardly be otherwise given how Africa has long been the stepchild of U.S. foreign policy—and has largely retained this pragmatic ethos, an achievement reflected in the broad continuity of policy through administrations of both parties. Moreover, even if specific measures will still have to be negotiated, current issues of concern on the continent lend themselves broad agreement between Democrats and Republicans—an important attribute given that polls indicate most Americans are increasingly frustrated with the inability of their elected leaders to get even the most routine business conducted.

Given the growth and spread across Africa of militant Islamist groups in general, and the French intervention in Mali against and the subsequent siege of the Algerian gas plant by security Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in particular, (both of which invited comparisons to an Afghanistan-like entanglement,) security may be the most immediate item on the administration’s agenda for Africa as President Obama begins his second term. Yet the U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM), the umbrella military structure responsible for implementing whatever military operations are eventually deemed necessary, whether training and equipping African forces or taking direct action against terrorist leaders and groups, has never been properly resourced, having been launched in 2006, a time when America was already deeply involved in two difficult wars.

Irrespective of what comes out of the upcoming debates over the federal debt ceiling and the Pentagon budget, Congress and the administration will have every incentive to strike a side deal that ensures that AFRICOM will be able to carry out the tasks assigned to it—including the strengthening of African capacities as well as conflict prevention and management so as to avoid the one course of action for which there is virtually no appetite for in Washington, direct American involvement in combat operations on the continent.

As important as security is and will probably remain for the next four years, the real focus of U.S. policy towards Africa will likely be trade and investment and involve strong public-private partnerships, with an emphasis on the latter. Part of the reason is simple arithmetic: given the parlous state of the American government’s accounts and the historical indifference, if not more than occasional outright antipathy, of the country’s electorate to all but the most modest foreign assistance programs, there is little expectation of initiatives requiring spending on any scale. Add to this calculus the recognition that there can be no fixing the sluggish American economy without bolstering trade and, in this respect, Africa, home of six of the world’s fastest growing economies over the last decade, beckons with its growing middle class and markets which have been delivering double-digit annual returns.

One engine that has driven increased US trade with Africa has been the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), enacted under the Clinton administration and expanded and extended under Bush. AGOA will be up for renewal during President Obama’s second term and while Congress does not need to take up the matter until 2015, an early extension would allow businesses a great deal more certainty with which to develop their plans. The legislation, however, focuses primarily on trade in goods; there is need to also encourage investments which would also strengthen America’s position vis-à-vis China, which in 2009 surpassed the United States as Africa’s biggest trading partner, and other countries which have expanded their presence in the service and manufacturing sectors of African economies.

During last year’s campaign, President Obama proposed the creation of a ‘secretary of business’ to oversee consolidated government agencies involved with firms doing business domestically. Whatever the merits of that suggestion, some sort of coordination of the disparate economic and commercial policies towards Africa, such as proposed last year by Senator Dick Durban, the number two-ranked Democrat in the upper chamber, would probably garner support from both sides of the aisle. This would also be the case for the proposed ‘U.S. Jobs Through Greater Exports to Africa Act’, sponsored by Republican Congressman Chris Smith, chair of the Africa subcommittee of the House of Representatives, and Democratic Congressman Bobby Rush.

Some ideas, such as the proposal advanced by Todd Moss of the Center for Global Development to consolidate the private investment facilitation functions currently spread across multiple agencies across the government, may not even require much by way of legislative action. The key in all of these measures is that they allow relatively easy wins for both the administration and Congress, whilst subtly transforming U.S. Africa policy from constant crisis management to the active promotion of peace and security through the expansion of trade, investment, economic growth, and development—on both sides of the Atlantic.

In his preface to the Africa strategy document, the president acknowledged that ‘as we look toward the future, it is clear that Africa is more important than ever to the security and prosperity of the international community, and to the United States in particular’. To her credit, outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton acted accordingly and made Africa a diplomatic priority during her tenure in office, visiting twenty-three of the continent’s fifty-four countries.

There is reason to be cautiously optimistic that Senator John Kerry, President Obama’s nominee to be Clinton’s successor, will continue the active engagement: not only has he been especially involved in Sudan policy, but his wife Teresa was born in Mozambique and graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. If, as expected, his colleagues in the Senate confirm Kerry as the sixty-eighth secretary of state, an early indication of where he intends to take Africa policy will be who he recommends to the president as a replacement for the retiring Carson as the daily steward of America’s diplomatic interests on the continent. Will it be a conventional appointee to ‘mind the shop’ or someone who might seize the opportunities offered by the current political and strategic constellations, domestic and foreign, to lead a real American pivot toward an Africa to which, as Carson noted in his valedictory address last week, ‘the twenty-first century will belong’? We will know soon enough.

*Source African Arguments.J. Peter Pham is Director of the Michael S. Ansari Africa Center at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC.

 

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Wealthy Gulf investors warm to Africa
January 3, 2013 | 0 Comments

By Mirna Sleiman*

A man walks in front of a plant of Ivory Coast power company Ciprel in Abidjan in this June 12, 2012 file photo.  REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon/Files

A man walks in front of a plant of Ivory Coast power company Ciprel in Abidjan in this June 12, 2012 file photo.
REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon/Files

Wealthy Gulf Arab companies are boosting their investment in Africa’s vast lands and untapped resources, marking a shift for investors who have traditionally directed their money towards assets in the United States and Europe.

One reason for the shift is negative: with government debt problems weighing on U.S. and European markets, those regions no longer look as attractive to some Gulf investors as they did just a few years ago.

But there are also a string of positive motives, including Africa’s fast economic growth, the rise of a free-spending African middle class, and a sense that much of the continent is becoming better governed and more stable politically.

Also, Africa has two special attractions for the arid desert countries of the Gulf: it is a source of food and arable land, and it is launching an infrastructure building boom that recalls the Gulf’s own construction spree in the past decade. The Gulf’s expertise in developing airports, ports and communications networks at breakneck speed can be used in Africa.

The result, corporate executives say, is a flow of Gulf money into Africa that has accelerated over the past year, and which could become an important contributor to African growth.

“I can see Gulf investors warming up to Africa. Any opportunity there grabs their attention,” said Ahmed Heikal, chairman of Citadel Capital (CCAP.CA), one of the Middle East’s largest private equity firms with $9.5 billion of assets under management.

“Africa is becoming more interesting because of the natural resources it has, its demographics and better governance.”

TIMING

The timing of Africa’s economic boom is fortunate for the Gulf: it is occurring just as high oil prices give Gulf countries plenty of money to invest in it.

The Middle East’s oil exporters posted a combined surplus in trade in goods and services of about $400 billion last year, the International Monetary Fund estimates. Much of that money is being ploughed back into foreign assets; while the bulk still goes into Western assets such as U.S. Treasury bonds, more is going to emerging markets such as Africa.

Although complete, timely data on Gulf investment in Africa is not available, analysts believe it follows the same general trend as bilateral trade, with a time lag.

Annual trade between the Middle East and Africa has grown fivefold to $49 billion over the past decade, from $10 billion in 2002, according to Standard Chartered Bank.

In the past, most Gulf investment in Africa has been in the north of the continent, because of linguistic, cultural and political ties. For example, Citadel Capital last year put together a $3.7 billion financing package for an Egyptian oil refining project, with Qatar Petroleum International becoming a key shareholder.

Increasingly, however, Gulf investors are venturing into sub-Saharan Africa – in some cases using North Africa as a base to do so.

Private equity firm Abraaj Capital invested $125 million last year in Morocco’s Saham Finances, which has interests in insurance operations across Morocco and francophone West Africa. It aims to tap into an anticipated pick-up in demand for insurance in Africa.

A woman walks past a branch of South Africa's biggest retail bank, Absa, in Cape Town, in this December 6, 2012 file photo.  REUTERS/Mike Hutchings/Files

A woman walks past a branch of South Africa’s biggest retail bank, Absa, in Cape Town, in this December 6, 2012 file photo.
REUTERS/Mike Hutchings/Files

In November Abu Dhabi-based asset manager Invest AD launched a fixed income fund that will focus on Africa as well as the Middle East. Along with Morocco’s Attijariwafabank (ATW.CS), it also said it would launch a fund to invest in African companies listed on stock markets.

Some of the Gulf’s big infrastructure operators have been players in Africa for years. Dubai port operator DP World DPW.DI, which has had a presence on the continent since 2000, now runs the port of Dakar in Senegal and port operations in Mozambique, Algeria and Djibouti.

In addition to investments in Egypt and Nigeria, the United Arab Emirates’ telecommunications giant Etisalat ETEL.AD has built sizeable stakes in Atlantique Telecom, which operates in about six countries in West Africa, as well as Tanzania’s Zantel and Sudanese fixed line operator Canar.

RISKS

Gulf companies have sometimes overestimated the attractions of doing business in Africa. Etisalat’s chief executive Ahmad Julfar said in October that his company had no plans to fully exit any of its foreign markets, but the record of its African investments has not so far been impressive, partly because of fierce competition from other operators.

Excluding Nigeria and Egypt, Etisalat spent around $522 million on its African investments, according to Reuters research, but those operations have made little contribution to its bottom line. They posted revenue of 689 million dirhams ($188 million) in the third quarter of last year but generated a net profit of just 4 million dirhams – a profit margin of about 1 percent, compared to 27 percent for Etisalat’s UAE operations.

Egypt and Nigeria are large, potentially wealthy markets which appear strategically important to the company’s long-term growth.

Another major focus of investment for Gulf firms is African agriculture; oil-rich, water-poor Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been buying large areas of farmland overseas to ensure access to food supplies.

Qatar’s Hassad Food, an arm of the country’s sovereign wealth fund, agreed in 2009 on a $1 billion farmland development joint venture with the government of Sudan.

Some other agricultural ventures, however, may risk involving Gulf States in the socio-political and water scarcity problems of African countries, if they displace local people from their land or disrupt local farming patterns.

“We are very concerned that the land deals will lead to increased violence at the local level, as we have seen already in several parts of Africa,” Henk Hobbelink, coordinator of GRAIN, an international, non-profit organization which supports small farmers, said last year.

In a research report published in late 2011, Standard Chartered said Gulf countries had tended to focus their agricultural investment on seven countries: Sudan, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, Mali and Senegal.

But it added that debate in those countries over the role of foreign investors was growing. “Transparency, sustainability, and a meaningful return for local communities will be fundamental elements,” it said.

As long as African economies continue to grow considerably faster than much of the rest of the world, however, the trend of increasing Gulf investment in them looks set to persist.

“Investing in Africa is like diving into dark waters. There’s an equal chance of finding pearls or getting stuck with empty shells and garbage,” said an executive at one of the Gulf’s biggest family-owned conglomerates, declining to be named because of the political sensitivity of his remarks.

“But there’s also high risk investing in the top European markets these days – so why not go to Africa where the return is higher?”

* Source reuters (With additional reporting by Matt Smith and Maha El Dahan; Editing by Andrew Torchia)

 

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The U.S. Pivots (Slightly) Toward Africa
December 14, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Michael Keating*

General-Carter-Ham-explains-that-the-US-does-now-have-some-sort-of-an-Africa-policy.There is an old saying, ‘if you’re a hammer, you will see everything else as a nail.’ Today there is no bigger hammer in the world than the U.S. military, and in one of its newest interests, the continent of Africa, nails are sprouting everywhere.

Just this week (as reported in the New York Times and elsewhere) General Carter Ham, Commander of AFRICOM, the United States Africa Command, speaking at the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University, said that “as each day goes by, Al Qaeda and other organizations are strengthening their hold in Northern Mali.”

He also suggested that the radical elements in Mali have joined forces with Boko Haram, the Nigerian terrorist network: “We have seen clear indications of collaboration among the organizations” with financing coming from a profitable portfolio of activities ranging from kidnapping to drug, gun and even tobacco running.

In the absence of a completed plan for the retaking of Mali, which Ham insisted would be undertaken solely by African troops with logistical and training support coming from the outside (the “Somalia” model, as some are dubbing it), Ham does not believe the operation will be smooth. Nor will it even necessarily prove successful, given the strength of the enemy and the ill-preparedness of the ECOWAS assault forces, which, as Ham noted, have been trained and equipped for peacekeeping missions, not offensive operations.

Last month, at a Chatham House presentation, General Ham laid out the foundation that underlies these remarks. Admitting that Africa has largely been an “afterthought” for the American military, he explained that recent events in the Sahel, Somalia, and Central Africa have brought America directly into the fight against Al Qaeda and other freelance terrorists whose defeat is the number one U.S. military objective. He went on to list the broader U.S. objectives of fostering security, assisting economic development, promoting democracy, and supporting humanitarian efforts where necessary.

While unremarkable in itself, General Ham’s talk was significant because it was one of the very few times that a high-ranking U.S. official, military or otherwise, has suggested that the United States government actually has a new policy on Africa. Past U.S. policy has certainly had very mixed results and some of it has caused more harm than good, most notably in the case of the Clinton administration’s bungling during the Rwandan genocide and its tepid response to the debacles in Liberia, Darfur and the Congo.

In any case, while the full inside story of U.S. Africa policy since the end of the Cold War remains to be written, the creation of AFRICOM and the remarks by General Ham seem to suggest that a new chapter is beginning. So what should this policy look like? In the case of Mali, as mentioned by Walter Carrington, former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, at a recent talk at the University of Massachusetts Boston, it was the U.S. that trained the military officers who staged the coup (undoubtedly without Washington’s backing) that toppled the freely elected government. This kind of support hardly seems like a promising fresh start for a policy aiming towards peace and stability. For Ambassador Carrington this ‘militarization’ of U.S. policy in Africa may have many more negative outcomes.

Nevertheless, if the United States is truly interested in a more robust engagement in Africa it needs to concentrate on the following:

Intelligence – Before doing anything in Africa, tacticians need to know what is happening on the ground, who are the key players, what are their motivations and capabilities, and what the risks may be. This will require a serious upgrading of human intelligence capabilities in regions like the Sahel, the Congo, Sudan, and Somalia. It will also require coordination among the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the State Department, along with African governments and other external partners.

Unlike the British and the French, the Americans lack long-standing networks for gathering and verifying information. Satellite and drone surveillance systems will not accomplish the essential mission of meticulously separating friend from foe, the innocent from the threatening. As long as African governments are going to ask for American assistance, there needs to be an independent intelligence-gathering operation in place so that American diplomats and soldiers will commit only when the risks are known and achievable goals have been established. This holds for development assistance as well as any kind of military action.

Integrity – When Americans say that promoting democracy is one of the key pillars of their Africa policy, they should mean it. That means no more uncritically supporting ersatz democrats like Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni. It means following up in South Sudan – an American instigated project if there ever was one- to make sure that the country does not descend into chaos. It means being very careful who gets weapons and training and making it very clear that serious consequences will follow if forces trained by Americans turn on legitimate governments, as was the case in Mali.

One of Susan Rice’s problems right now, as she positions herself as the next Secretary of State is her close (some say too close) relationship with Paul Kagame. It was Rice who tried to get the U.N. to back down from a report pointing out Rwanda’s support for the M-23 militias in Congo. To her credit, she has spoken out at times against Kagame’s undemocratic impulses. But in some ways Rwanda is becoming like Israel for U.S. policy makers: its leaders can act with impunity.

Investment – Americans talk a good game when it comes to investing in Africa, but the evidence of their enthusiasm is slim outside of South Africa and the various oil and ore patches. Right now there are tremendous opportunities throughout the continent in banking, telecoms, agriculture, construction, and retail. Nonetheless, when you drive around West Africa, you see mostly NGO logos rather than corporate ones. The consequences of this neglect include massive unemployment and a general feeling that the continent is being left behind.

Perhaps the best place for U.S. foreign policy to start would be to offer serious help in upgrading African universities, many of which are in shambles. Extension of favorable trade status, particularly in the agriculture section would also help along with massive increases in direct aid for infrastructure projects.

Without doubt, the risk factor is a major obstacle to increased U.S. investment. However, Americans need to put down their prejudices and go see what’s happening for themselves. The World Bank has a unit called the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency that provides business risk insurance to businesses investing in developing countries. American entrepreneurs ought to be lined up outside its door.

Semper Fidelis – This motto of the U.S. Marine corps, ‘always faithful,’ should be the motto of U.S. policy in Africa. Americans need to keep faith with their own principles of freedom and justice for all rather than ‘friends before facts.’ For too long, from Mobuto to Museveni, America has taken self-serving short-cuts on policies that have left African heads spinning.

Why send 100 Special Forces to hunt down Joseph Kony and none to save lives in the Congo? Some analysts believe it was a thank-you gesture to Uganda for its support of the military effort in Somalia. In the end there is nothing essentially wrong with this kind of quid pro quo, but what of countries that have little to barter with? Do they get no attention from Washington? Is our strategic assistance going to be dispensed as part of a giant patronage scheme? This seems more like Cold War policy than a reset policy.

Speaking of the Cold War, a new version of that competition, between China and the West, is emerging on African soil. And as many observers see it, China has captured the lead, largely because many African leaders find the Chinese more generous and a lot easier to deal with than Westerners. Moreover, they don’t particularly care about democracy or social justice.

Despite this, the U.S. is still fairly highly regarded in much of Africa. But that friendly capital will swiftly dwindle if the only things Africans get from the reset of U.S. policy are drone fly-overs and visible support of corrupt autocrats.

As Ambassador Carrington concluded at his UMass address: “Mali is a cautionary tale for any country seeking U.S. assistance.” Because the United States lacked real intelligence about what was going in Mali’s political circles, American actions helped to topple one of Africa’s oldest democracies. Unintended consequences, to be sure; but an undertaking deeply unworthy of – and damaging to – the kinds of outcomes the U.S. would like to see in Africa, and the principles it claims to stand for.

*Source African Arguments . Michael Keating is the Director of Operations of the Center for Peace, Development and Democracy at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He can be contacted at michael.keating@umb.edu

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China Daily newspaper launches Africa edition
December 14, 2012 | 0 Comments
The new paper hopes to build on China's close relationship with Africa

The new paper hopes to build on China’s close relationship with Africa

China Daily, China’s biggest English-language newspaper, has launched an African edition – the latest of several Chinese media initiatives in Africa.

The state-run weekly, which also comes in digital form, aims to explain “the relationship between China and the African continent,” its editor says.

China’s CCTV and Xinhua news agency already have operations in the region.

The country has a growing economic role in Africa, including telecommunications and infrastructure investments.

The newspaper is being published in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

“The relationship between China and the African continent is one of the most significant relationships in the world today,” said the paper’s publisher and editor-in-chief, Zhu Ling.

“It is growing and complex and not always understood… We hope to set that straight.”

Kenya Information Minister Samuel Poghisio was quoted by local media as saying that the paper would provide a platform for better understanding between China and Africa.

Earlier this year, China Central Television launched CCTV Africa, also headquartered in Kenya. Xinhua and Chinese radio are also expanding in the continent.

China has also implemented other innovative media projects, like giant news screens in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, and thousands of scholarships for African journalists, reports BBC Africa analyst Mary Harper.

Xinhua has also partnered with a Kenyan mobile firm to provide news service for mobiles.

China is now Africa’s largest trading partner and in July, Beijing pledged $20bn (£12.8bn) in credit for Africa over the next three years, in a push for closer ties and increased trade.

President Hu Jintao has also called for better co-operation with African countries on international affairs.

The expansion in Africa is part of China’s push to increase its international media presence, including in the US.

This year, Xinhua advertised heavily in New York’s Times Square to promote the news agency. Copies of China Daily have appeared as advertising supplements in the New York Times and Washington Post, and CCTV America has launched.
*Source BBC Africa

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African News Innovation Winners Focus on Citizen Engagement, Investigative Tools and Whistleblower Security
November 29, 2012 | 0 Comments
Twenty African media innovators will receive a total of $1 million to develop digital projects that improve the quality of news across the continent, as part of the first African News Innovation Challenge (ANIC). Many recipients concentrated on enhancing citizen journalism, investigative reporting and source protection.

ANIC is the largest fund for digital journalism experimentation in Africa. It is designed to spur solutions to the business, distribution and workplace challenges facing the African news industry. The contest was organized by the African Media Initiative (AMI), the continent’s largest association of media owners and operators, and managed by Knight International Journalism Fellow Justin Arenstein. The fellowships are administered by the International Center for Journalists.

A jury of 15 international media strategists, technology innovators and other experts evaluated more than 500 project plans before selecting winners from a shortlist of 40 projects. Arenstein announced the winners in Kigali, Rwanda, on November 28, at the African Editors’ Forum annual meeting.

“Each of our winners tries to solve a real-world problem facing African journalists,” said Arenstein. “This includes the public’s growing concern about the manipulation of online content as well as security for whistleblowers or journalistic sources.”

Some winners will develop mobile apps that allow citizens to report on corruption, he noted. Others will create improved infographics that use data to better explain complex issues. Several focused on improving access to information, with projects such as beaming content into buses and taxis, or using drone aircraft to provide coverage of isolated communities.

Some recipients will develop technology that improves newsroom workflow systems and boost revenue.

Winners will receive grants ranging from $10,000 to $100,000, plus additional technology support from a team of four full-time developers at AMI’s jAccelerator lab in Kenya. They will also get business development mentoring from top media strategists affiliated with the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). Ten of the winners will also be flown to the annual MIT-Knight Civic Media Conference in the United States, sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

All projects have the potential to be replicated by media organizations throughout Africa, or to be scaled up across the continent to create broad and sustained impact.

“Finding and supporting great ideas for improving news reporting was one of our chief aims,” said AMI Chief Executive Amadou Mahtar Ba. “But an equally important objective was to kick-start a pan-African community of news innovators and journalism technologists. We are thrilled that ANIC has accomplished this goal. Now, people across the continent can work on collaborative projects that raise the skills and knowledge in the media industry.”

ANIC’s founding partners include Google, Omidyar Network, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Knight Foundation, the U.S. State Department, the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) and WAN-IFRA.

“We want to see journalism flourish in the digital age in Africa,” said Peter Barron, Google’s director of external relations for Europe, Middle East and Africa. “The African News Innovation Challenge has helped spur some really exciting projects from across the continent. We’re looking forward to seeing these projects unfold and to working further with African journalists who are using technologies to gather and tell important stories.”

The 2012 winners are:
1.) actNOW – Ghana

A mobile application that empowers audiences to act on investigative reportage, by providing simple tools for citizens to organize themselves into civic action groups around issues reported by the media, or to petition government or corporations in response to journalistic exposés.
2.) AdBooker – South Africa

An open-source, streamlined workflow management system for planning and managing media advertising. It will generate ad rates and manage bookings, artwork production and ad placements.
3.) Africa Check – South Africa/Nigeria

A pan-African, non-partisan and crowdsourced fact-checking service that systematically verifies claims made in media reports. The project is intended to improve the accuracy and quality of reporting by exposing incorrect assertions by sources quoted in the media as well as errors in news stories.
4.) africanDRONE (renamed skyCAM) – Kenya/Nigeria

A pilot project that establishes Africa’s first newsroom-based “eye in the sky” drones and camera-equipped balloons to help media that cannot afford news helicopters cover breaking news in dangerous situations or difficult-to-reach locations.
5.) Africa’s Wealth (renamed NewsStack) – Nigeria/Namibia

A project to integrate a new generation of forensic data analysis tools such as DocumentCloud, Poderopedia, Overview and Mapa76, into a reusable journalist toolkit. The kit will be used in a yearlong, pan-African investigation by 10 media organizations into the continent’s extractive industries.
6.) Citizen Desk – Mozambique

This toolkit that allows news organizations to create a mobile-optimized platform for aggregating, verifying, publishing and rewarding citizen journalism. The platform will be integrated into the widely used Superdesk production management system and serve as a way to incorporate citizen journalism into a news organization’s core workflow.
7.) Code4Ghana – Ghana

This “kick-starter program” helps Ghanaian media experiment with data-driven journalism. It will provide access to data scientists and programmers, specialized training and a series of public “hackathons” designed to build news tools that take advantage of the new Ghana Open Data Initiative.
8.) ConvergeCMS – Kenya/Tanzania/Uganda

An open-source and data-optimized editorial content management system and technical support program designed specifically for African media houses. It will help newsrooms centralize and manage content creation, dissemination, archiving and workflows.
9.) CorruptionNET – South Africa

An open-source mobile platform that gives citizen reporters a step-by-step toolkit for filing journalistic reports to newsrooms about corruption or other abuses of public resources. The citizens can report using SMS or MXit, Africa’s largest social mobile network.
10.) DataWrapper – Nigeria/Senegal/Tanzania

An initiative that establishes a network of full-fledged data visualization desks in forward-thinking newsrooms across Africa. It will help improve the use of interactive infographics and data-driven visual news apps, using the open-source DataWrapper toolkit plus other powerful graphic tools.
11.) End-to-End (renamed LastMile Crowdmapping) – Liberia/Ghana/Kenya

A crowdsourced reporting tool built on top of the SourceMap.org platform to help African journalists and citizens tell complex investigative stories. This tool will visually map the people, places and events behind the “last mile” of supply chains, so that consumers can understand where goods originate in African industries such as cocoa or logging.
12.) FlashCast – Kenya

This platform will beam hyperlocal news to commuters in taxis and buses, using smart, location-aware LED displays. It also allows the audience to use their mobile or other digital devices to engage in conversation about news items with viewers in other taxis and buses.
13.) Green Hornet – South Africa

A plug-and-play toolkit for journalistic sources and whistleblowers, developed in collaboration with the Tor Project for use by investigative reporters in African newsrooms.
14.) ListeningPost – South Africa

Africa’s first social media-focused newsroom will produce actionable information from citizen reporters. It will establish a customized Storyful dashboard that aggregates social media posts and will include mobile apps that commission and sell crowdsourced photos and news.
15.) MoJo: Keeping media honest by monitoring online journalism – South Africa

A user-friendly toolkit of analytical software for African media-monitoring projects and other civic watchdogs. It will help improve media professionalism by keeping the media honest, detecting online censorship and exposing plagiarism.
16.) openAFRICA – Kenya/Nigeria/Rwanda/South Africa

A digital document and knowledge management toolkit, coupled with the creation of a pan-African online archive, to house and search documents for investigative pieces. This kit will streamline freedom of information (FOI) requests to government agencies and then use semantic search and analysis tools to help journalists and the broader public assess these documents.
17.) ODADI (renamed Code4SouthAfrica) – South Africa

An incubator for watchdog journalism that embeds data scientists and programmers into newsrooms to build new data desks and news APIs. The group will receive additional support from a local civic technology lab, which will provide trainers who help the reporters use data in stories.
18.) Oxpeckers – South Africa

A narrative mapping project that uses satellite imagery and geographic data analysis in stories to expose cross-border criminals and syndicates damaging the environment through logging, poaching and ecological degradation.
19.) Wikipedia Zero – Cameroon/Ivory Coast/Tunisia/Uganda

An initiative designed to boost original content from African news media for the new Wikipedia Zero mobile platform that is available free of charge to hundreds of millions of Africans, in 37 African languages, via either SMS or mobile phones.
20.) ZeroNews – pan-African

A simple tool for African news publishers to disseminate their content, free of charge, on mobile channels, including Facebook Zero and various Google platforms, so that they can reach a new generation of mobile news consumers in a cost-effective way.


The International Center for Journalists advances quality journalism worldwide. Our hands-on programs combine the best professional practices with new technologies. We believe that responsible journalism empowers citizens and holds governments accountable. For more information, go to  www.icfj.org.

The African Media Initiative is the continent’s largest umbrella association of African media owners, senior executives and other industry stakeholders. AMI’s mandate is to serve as a catalyst for strengthening African media by building the tools, knowledge resources and technical capacity for African media to play an effective public interest role in their societies. This mandate includes assisting with the development of professional standards, financial sustainability, technological adaptability and civic engagement.

 

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Kofi Annan: The world must tackle corruption in Africa’s oil, gas, and mining sectors
November 29, 2012 | 0 Comments

Private companies, civil society, government officials, and academics discuss the options for using Africa’s natural resource wealth to benefit its populations more fairly

Panel Members

Panel Members

GENEVA, November 28, 2012 – The world must do more to tackle corruption in Africa’s oil, gas, and mining sectors, said Kofi Annan, Former Secretary-General of the United Nations and Chair of the Africa Progress Panel, at a consultation meeting on Wednesday in Geneva.

Organised by the Africa Progress Panel and part of a methodical consultation for next year’s Africa Progress Report, the one day meeting brought together an unusual combination of representatives from the private sector, civil society, government, and academia. The annual report highlights key development issues for Africa together with policy recommendations, and next year’s report will be on oil, gas, and mining.

“Corruption and weak governance are critical issues for Africa’s oil, gas, and mining sector,” said Kofi Annan, Former Secretary-General of the United Nations and Chair of the Africa Progress Panel.

“These are human failings, but the world must do much more to tackle these issues not just within African governments but also in the foreign companies that pay the bribes and distort their accounts for profit at the expense of African peoples,” he said.

Africa’s natural resources represent tremendous opportunity for the continent, and African countries, foreign companies, and the world community must do more so that revenues from natural resources can be used to pay for health and education, participants agreed.

“Because we all need Africa’s immense resources, the continent now has an extraordinary opportunity to seize this century and use its natural wealth to build healthy, educated and dynamic societies,” said Bob Geldof, musician, businessman, advocate, and Member of the Africa Progress Panel, also present at the meeting.

“This will take three of Africa’s other great natural resources – patience, brains, and courage,” he said.

Riots in South Africa, US and European legislation, and the growing influence of China were among the other issues discussed by participants, who also included Botswana’s former President, Festus Mogae, and representatives from oil and mining companies, Oxford University, the African Development Bank, and the Africa Progress Panel itself.

“I’m happy to be a part of today’s consultations as a Member of the Africa Progress Panel and as a citizen of Botswana, a stable middle-income country which has benefitted tremendously over the years from its diamond wealth,” said Linah Mohohlo, Governor of Botswana’s Central Bank and a Member of the Africa Progress Panel.

“Everybody in Africa should be able to enjoy whatever natural resource wealth their country has, but citizens should expect the rewards to come only with responsibility, hard work, and patience,” she said.

Next year’s report builds on the 2012 Africa Progress Report, Jobs, Justice and Equity. The report warned that growing inequality in Africa was undermining its otherwise extremely impressive progress.

“Africa has some of the world’s fastest growing economies, but this growth needs to create more jobs and to reduce inequality more effectively,” Michel Camdessus, former Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund and Member of the Africa Progress Panel, said.

“We have come here today to find ways in which Africa’s oil and mining sectors can make much, much stronger contributions to the reduction of poverty and inequality,” he said.

Photographs available via Flickr:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/africaprogresspanel/sets/72157632124469254/with/8226472541/

*     *     *     *     *

Chaired by Kofi Annan, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Africa Progress Panel (the Panel) includes distinguished individuals from the private and public sectors, who advocate on global issues of importance to Africa and the world.

These complex, high-impact issues include global governance, food security, sustainable economic development, and the Millennium Development Goals, which all require engagement from a wide range of stakeholders within and outside the continent.

For further information, please contact

Edward Harris – edward.harris@africaprogresspanel.org

(m) +41 79 873 83 22 and (w) +41 22 919 75 29

 

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Risky Business? Kilimanjaro Capital Banks on Africa’s former “conflict zones” and “emerging states”
November 27, 2012 | 0 Comments

-Business accords signed with Cabinda and Southern Cameroons but limited information on specifics

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Dr Jonathan Levy

Dr Jonathan Levy

Yes Kilimanjaro Capital did sign business deals with the governments of Southern Cameroon and that of Cabinda, says Zulfikar Rashid President of Kilimanjaro Capital in response to a questionnaire sent to him via its Legal Counsel Dr Jonathan Levy. The issue is Southern Cameroons is still fighting from the restoration of its statehood from the Republic of Cameroon and Cabinda is doing same from the Republic of Angola. This is no problem at all to the folks at Kilimanjaro Capital as investing in troubled and distressed regions of the continent is part of their business strategy.

Pressed for more answers after the questionnaire was answered, Dr Jonathan Levy while confirming that the business accords were signed, would not provide specifics on who signed on behalf of Southern Cameroons or how much the business accords were worth.” Those who signed on behalf of Southern Cameroons are well known faces in its struggle and the public will come to know them at the right moment” Levy said. A partner in the Washington D.C Law Firm Brimstone & Co., Levy has represented Cabinda several cases before. More developments will be released in the weeks ahead with greater detail Levy said.

May we start by asking you to to introduce Kilimanjaro Capital to us, where it is based and what it does?

Zulfikar Rashid:Kilimanjaro Capital Ltd. is a private Canadian holding company based in Calgary. It invests in disputed and distressed African resources. It also support legitimate self-determination movements as a financial stakeholder in the future of these emerging nations. Both Southern Cameroons and Cabinda have legitimate and recognized claims to self-determination.

There is news that Kilimanjaro Capital has signed investment accords with the government of Southern Cameroons, true or false?

Zulfikar Rashid:Yes, this is what our press release states.

What are the major components of the investment accords and may we know where it was signed and who signed on behalf of the government of Southern Cameroons?

Zulfikar Rashid:That information is partially confidential. As to the Southern Cameroonian side, the information is under embargo until the SC Government makes it public due to certain issues with the Biya regime and ongoing retaliation by their operatives.

So how much did was given to the Southern Cameroons government from Kilimanjaro Capital?

Zulfikar Rashid:This is not disclosed but the payment was significant.

Considering that “Southern Cameroons” has no structural government on the ground and the lead organization which fronts its case the Southern Cameroons National Council has several people laying claim to leadership, what made you convinced that you were signing accords with a legitimate government?

Zulfikar Rashid:The individuals involved are well known leaders and have been part of SCNC, SCAPO, SCYL, and the Ambazonian movements.

If we may also ask, how did you get involved with what you call the Southern Cameroons government, were you approached with investment opportunities that are there or your company found out about the opportunities and approached the Southern Cameroons folks?

Zulfikar Rashid:This was an initiative by Kilimanjaro.

We also understand that similar accords were signed with the government of Cabinda; can you tell us more on that as well?

Zulfikar Rashid::We would refer you to the release that was issued after the signing of the accords with the government of Cabinda.

As legitimate as their cases maybe our understanding of the present context is that Southern Cameroons is currently part of the Republic of Cameroon, and Cabinda is part of Angola, are these accords a publicity stunt to let the world take serious two potential time bombs or how does Kilimanjaro Capital expect to reap the benefits of its investments?

Zulfikar Rashid:Both Southern Cameroons and Cabinda expect to achieve self determination in the near term. The Republic of Cabinda has been in existence since 1975 and the independence movement in Southern Cameroons at least as long. Self determination and civil society depend on business relationships, ideological movements in Africa are no longer viable. Economics and civil society not force of arms determine the future, in each case there is strong support for referendum on independence.

May we know other parts of the continent you operate in and what next for Kilimanjaro Capital accords with Casamance, Biafra…..?

Zulfikar Rashid:We have been contacted by groups from Biafra and Zimbabwe among others and are evaluating these opportunities.

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China and DR Congo reach communications satellite deal
November 20, 2012 | 0 Comments
Nigeria also has a satellite programme

Nigeria also has a satellite programme

China is to launch a communications satellite for the Democratic Republic of Congo within the next three years, Chinese state-owned media reports.

DR Congo will be the second African country after Nigeria to have such technology.

The satellite, known as CongoSat-01, will be launched from the Chinese province of Sichuan, Xinhua news agency reports.

It is expected to cover the whole of southern and central Africa.

DR Congo’s National Network of Satellite Telecommunications (Renatelsat) head Richard Achinda Wahilungula described the deal as historic.

“China has abundant experience in satellites and telecommunication. We came here because China can help us develop a satellite and telecommunication, and we never contacted anyone else for this project,” he said.

Renatelsat signed the deal with China’s Great Wall Industry Corporation in China’s coastal city of Zhuhai on Saturday, Xinhua reports.

China provided Nigeria with a satellite in 2004.

*Source BBC

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Africa: Going Farther By Going Together – Building Partner Capacity in Africa
November 16, 2012 | 0 Comments

BY MAJOR GENERAL CHARLES HOOPER, *

 

Marine operations officer mentors students from Uganda and Kenya at International Peace Support Training Centre, Nairobi U.S. Air Force (Christine Clark)

Marine operations officer mentors students from Uganda and Kenya at International Peace Support Training Centre, Nairobi
U.S. Air Force (Christine Clark)

Stuttgart, Germany — Building partner capacity is an essential military mission and an important component of the U.S. Government’s approach to preventing and responding to crisis, conflict, and instability. Demanding fiscal realities, the end of the Iraq War, the unfolding transition in Afghanistan, and a renewed focus on enduring interests in Asia and the Middle East are increasing the importance of burden-sharing.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s January 2012 strategic guidance, Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense, was clear on this point. Recognizing that building partnership capacity “remains important for sharing the costs and responsibilities of global leadership” with states that value “freedom, stability and prosperity,” Secretary Panetta directed that “whenever possible, we will develop innovative, low-cost, and small footprint approaches to achieve our security objectives, relying on exercises, rotational presence, and advisory capabilities.”1

Some may argue that changes in the strategic environment diminish the value of building partner capacity as a component of our nation’s overall defense strategy. It makes more sense, they say, to dedicate those scarce resources toward improving our own capabilities than to improve those of other partners. We disagree. Building the capacity of our willing and important partners is not a strategic indulgence but rather an enduring strategic imperative. We believe that a small investment now that enables our partners to address an emerging challenge is a bargain. This is exactly U.S. Africa Command’s (USAFRICOM’s) approach to the complex security challenges in its area of responsibility (AOR).

Threats, Challenges, and Opportunities

USAFRICOM’s AOR is huge, diverse, and complex–and so are the security challenges we and our partners face. The command’s AOR includes 53 African states, more than 800 ethnic groups, over 1,000 languages, and a diverse geography 3½ times the size of the continental United States, not to mention a diverse mix of political, economic, social, and security challenges. Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa, is a mere 20 miles across the Bab el-Mandeb waterway from Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula. Similarly, the eastern coastline of Africa is also the western shore of the Indian Ocean, sitting astride the sea lines of communication that link the continent and Europe to the rising powers of the Asia-Pacific region. In the north, Tunisia is less than 70 miles from Sicily, and only the Strait of Gibraltar separates Spain from Morocco. The point is that Africa is inextricably linked by geography, history, and commerce to not only the twin pillars of our new strategic guidance, but also to our enduring interests in Europe.

Africa’s security challenges are daunting: terrorism and growing violent extremist organizations, piracy, and the illicit trafficking of arms, narcotics, and people. Poverty and corruption in many regions contribute to an insidious cycle of instability, conflict, environmental degradation, and disease that erodes Africans’ confidence in national institutions and governing capacity. This, in turn, creates the conditions for a wide range of transnational security threats that can threaten America’s homeland and its regional interests.

That said, the flawed, one-dimensional stereotype of Africa as a place where bad people rule and good people suffer the consequences is inaccurate. Once labeled by The Economist as “the hopeless continent,” Africa now abounds with possibilities.2 It is a continent of progress and potential.

The U.S. Agency for International Development’s Chief Economist Steven Radelet identified 17 African countries with over a decade of sustained economic growth and falling poverty rates and further identified another half-dozen African states showing signs of similar progress.3 Radelet tracked five fundamental changes common to these emerging states: the rise of accountable democratic governments, governments implementing sensible economic policies, the end of the African debt crisis, the spread of new technologies, and the emergence of a new generation of policymakers, activists, and business leaders.4 These new leaders have a clear-eyed view of the stubborn economic and security challenges they face, what needs to be done, and how to do it. The United States is increasingly connected to these rising states and regional organizations through shared economic, political, and security interests, including commitments to consolidating the democratic and economic progress achieved in recent years. USAFRICOM’s capacity-building efforts are an integral part of a unified U.S. Government approach to Africa and are fully in line with Secretary Panetta’s January 2012 strategic guidance.

The foundation of USAFRICOM’s theater strategy is building the security capacity of our African partners. The strategy is guided by two principles:

A safe, secure, and stable Africa is in the U.S. national interest.
Over the long run, it will be Africans who will best be able to address African security challenges, and USAFRICOM most effectively advances U.S. security interests through focused security engagement with African partners.
Building the capacity of willing partners is central to achieving our goals and objectives. To realize success in our mission we must prepare, in cooperation with our partners and allies, to respond to future crises and contingencies; prevent future conflicts by continuing to strengthen our partners’ defense capabilities; and prevail in current and future operations.

Enabling our partners to meet common security challenges promotes the sharing of costs and responsibilities, supports our national interests, and–this is key–often provides a high return on modest investments. These capacity-building efforts are an integral part of a unified U.S. Government approach that promotes America’s overarching priorities in Africa: strengthening democratic institutions, spurring economic growth and investment, advancing peace and security, and promoting opportunity and development.5

The USAFRICOM Approach

The African proverb at the beginning of this article captures USAFRICOM’s approach to building partner capacity: “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” We at USAFRICOM choose to go together, with our African partners as well as our interagency partners, to better meet their security needs and to advance the interests of the United States.

Consistent with Secretary Panetta’s 2012 strategic guidance, USAFRICOM operates, and out of necessity has always operated, with a light footprint. With no permanently assigned forces, the majority of our security cooperation activities are conducted by small teams led by our Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine, and special operations components focusing on building the capacity of our partners to address their own security challenges. African militaries are receptive to this approach, which allows us to cultivate the personal relationships that are so important to our efforts to deepen institutional partnerships and build self-sustaining security capacity.

These military engagements comprise a small but critical element of U.S. Government activities in Africa. To illustrate this, compare the Department of State and USAFRICOM spending in Africa. In fiscal year 2012 (FY12), the Department of State spent approximately $7 billion on the 53 countries in our AOR on a wide array of health, development, and security programs under its Title 22 authorities.6 Approximately $3.3 billion of this $7 billion funded security-related programs such as peacekeeping, nonproliferation, antiterrorism, narcotics control and law enforcement, military education, and equipment financing.7

By contrast, USAFRICOM in FY12 controlled, influenced, and administered a modest $515 million in Title 22 and Title 10 security cooperation program dollars. The command directly controlled Department of Defense Title 10 programs such as the Combating Terrorism Fellowship Program, Military to Military Engagement, Air and Maritime Sector Development, and the Partner Military HIV/AIDS Program. USAFRICOM then supported and administered $130 million in traditional Department of State Title 22-funded programs such as Foreign Military Financing, International Military Education and Training, African Contingency Training and Assistance (ACOTA), Partnership for Regional East Africa Counterterrorism (PREACT), Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCP), and Africa Maritime Security Initiative.8

These numbers suggest three important points. First, they illustrate that USAFRICOM often plays a supporting role to broader U.S. Government efforts across Africa. Next, they demonstrate the requirement for our close collaboration with the State Department as well as other agencies. Finally, spending modest security cooperation dollars effectively across a complex AOR requires an analysis of the threats, prioritization of efforts, and an understanding of the willingness and capability of our partners.

Hard-nosed prioritization is an important aspect of our approach. The fact of the matter is that some regions and countries are more important than others. Current fiscal realities dictate that we prioritize regions in Africa to better focus our exercises, operations, and security cooperation activities. Our highest priority is the East Africa region, which is the nexus of terrorism and violent extremism that directly threatens our nation’s security. In prioritizing engagement with individual states, USAFRICOM considers our common concerns, compelling U.S. national security interests, and each nation’s role and capability in addressing these threats.

We conduct partnership capacity building along three interwoven lines of activity: fostering relationships, building operational capability, and developing institutional capacity.

Establishing and fostering security relationships built on mutual trust and respect is the foundation of our capacity-building efforts. The importance of the human dimension cannot be overstated. Senior leader engagements, conferences, exercises, workshops, education, the interactions of our junior leaders with their African counterparts, and the day-to-day work of Offices of Security Cooperation (OSC) all contribute to fostering lasting relationships. We build enduring and mutually beneficial relationships by acting as reliable partners. In short, we need to do what we promise and do it in a timely manner. Listening and learning skills are essential at every level of engagement. Impatience and a “we know best” attitude can stifle progress and trust.

Building operational capacity is about more than the number of troops and pieces of equipment. It is about aligning the right military capabilities–ground, maritime, and air–against a partner’s unique mission requirements. Not all solutions are material. The doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel, and facilities model that we use in the U.S. Armed Forces to think through our own force development issues is useful when assessing operational capacity requirements with our partners.

Over time we have developed, along with our African partners, a deeper appreciation of the importance of focusing on institutional capacity. To support the building of institutional capacity, we focus on resource allocation, command and control, expanding combat multipliers such as intelligence and engineers, and developing recruiting, training, and sustainment programs and policies. These functions help to ensure the readiness and independent sustainability of our partners’ forces. An underlying premise of our institutional capacity-building efforts is that military forces must be subordinate to civil authority and accepted as legitimate members of a civil society based on the rule of law.

Building partnership capacity is not without hazards and challenges. First, trying to do too much too fast can undermine relationships. Strategic patience is not an American strength. However, building capable partner forces that willingly embrace democratic values takes time and patience. Each willing African state must ultimately find its own way to security, freedom, and prosperity. Therefore, the return on our efforts and investments will often not be immediately evident. That said, there are near-term intangible benefits–improved soldier/leader confidence, better discipline, increased unit esprit de corps and cohesion, reduced suspicion, and strengthened individual and collective national will–that, while difficult to measure, are, to quote the popular credit card commercial, “priceless.”

Second, we must be prepared for setbacks. Many African governments remain fragile. The recent coup in Mali, despite significant multinational contributions to their armed forces and economic development, cannot be categorized in any other way than a huge setback. Finally, our outdated and often arcane partner-building capacity processes and policies create the risk that others, perhaps not those we would chose, may become the preferred security partners of African states.

Building Partner Capacity in Action

A prominent example of how building the security capacity of our African partners promotes the sharing of costs and responsibilities, supports our national interests, and provides a high return on modest investments is our sustained support to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Our direct and indirect efforts in USAFRICOM’s highest priority region contribute to an African Union organization increasingly capable of securing ungoverned space, defeating al-Shabaab, and creating the conditions for a functioning state of Somalia.

AMISOM was initially authorized under a United Nations Security Council Chapter VII mandate in February 2007 to fill the security vacuum created by withdrawing Ethiopian troops.9 The mandate was ambitious and wide-ranging and included ensuring the free movement and protection of those involved in the reconciliation process, protecting the institutions of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), reestablishment and training of Somali security forces, and creating the conditions necessary for the provision of humanitarian assistance. The principal obstacle to success was al-Shabaab. In the chaotic aftermath of the Ethiopian invasion and overthrow of the Islamic Courts Union, al-Shabaab rapidly emerged as a dangerous al Qaeda affiliate that recruited foreign fighters, to include Americans. In 2007, Uganda and Burundi were the only two countries to contribute troops to AMISOM.10 For the Ugandans, this marked their first deployment of a military force beyond their borders. Undermanned and inappropriately equipped and trained, AMISOM was not fully equal to the task.

Al-Shabaab employed improvised explosive devices (IED), suicide bombings, and ambushes against AMISOM and TFG forces within Somalia and demonstrated the capability to strike beyond Somalia’s porous borders when it carried out twin suicide bombings in Kampala, Uganda, during the August 2010 World Cup.11 This was a pivotal moment. The attack was intended to undermine the resolve of the primary AMISOM troop contributor, but it had the opposite result. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni stood by his commitment to AMISOM and declared, “It would be a historic mistake to expect the war-weary Somali people to tame this global menace on their own.”12

Al-Shabaab poses a direct threat to Americans and American interests. The scenario that keeps us up at night is an American with a U.S. passport receiving indoctrination, training, and support in East Africa and returning to an American city to conduct a terrorist attack. That would be mission failure. Therefore, one of our primary focuses is support to African nations that are willing and able to provide forces to AMISOM. We work extensively with Uganda and Burundi since they provide the majority of forces to AMISOM. If our efforts are successful, and we believe the trend line is improving, this will be an area where the United States would not have to commit sizable forces to address the security situation.

Our efforts are collaborative at every level. This collaboration starts with fostering productive relationships by listening and learning from deployed AMISOM forces about the threats they face and their assessments of training and equipment requirements. USAFRICOM works closely with the Department of State, Embassy Country Teams, and our OSCs to improve and adapt the Title 22 ACOTA programs to prepare AMISOM forces for the operating environment in Mogadishu. Over time, often applying hard-earned training and operational insights from Iraq and Afghanistan, and most importantly input from AMISOM forces, ACOTA training has expanded to include force protection, patrolling, convoy operations, cordon and search, base security, and counter-IED training. Finally, our USAFRICOM military mentors participate directly in ACOTA training alongside State Department-contracted trainers and continue to shape collective and individual training efforts at locations in Uganda and Burundi.

Section 1206 “Global Train and Equip” authorities allow USAFRICOM to complement and expeditiously reinforce ACOTA training and meet the operational requirements of AMISOM forces. For example, we use 1206 authority to fund 10-week combat engineer (sapper) training courses for deploying Ugandan engineer companies conducted by U.S. Marine Forces Africa’s Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force (SPMAGTF). Operating out of Sigonella, Italy, on a rotational basis, SPMAGTF is tailored to conduct small-footprint theater security cooperation engagements and consists of just fewer than 200 Marines organized in 5to 14-man teams, with two KC-130 aircraft. This dual key funding authority has also allowed us to put small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in the hands of deployed Ugandan forces. These UAS have a direct positive impact on AMISOM’s capacity to conduct operations in Somalia by targeting enemy locations, clearing routes, and identifying IEDs.

The new 1207(n) Global Security Contingency Fund (GSCF) Transitional Authorities provided in the fiscal year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act will allow us to reinforce AMISOM’s success and focus on readiness and independent sustainability by enhancing intelligence, engineer, and sustainment functions.13 We are collaborating closely with the Department of State and Embassy Country Teams to plan our activities and programs to support not only AMISOM, but also the program goals and objectives for PREACT, which aims to defeat terrorist organizations by strengthening regional counterterrorism capabilities and enhancing and institutionalizing cooperation among the region’s security forces.

AMISOM forces have driven al-Shabaab out of Mogadishu, creating space for Somalia’s TFG to gain legitimacy and effectiveness. All this said, it is important not to overstate our contributions. Neither USAFRICOM nor the U.S. Government writ large is solely responsible for AMISOM’s success. Nevertheless, USAFRICOM has been a supportive partner to willing and increasingly capable African countries meeting regional security challenges that have direct national security implications for the United States. Moreover, we are fostering enduring security relationships with willing partners in a dangerous and volatile corner of the world. This will serve us well in an uncertain future.

Building Capacity in the Sahel and in the Maritime and Air Domains

We follow a similar collaborative, regionally focused capacity-building model in combating other threats. For example, in North and West Africa, we focus our efforts against the terrorist organization al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). AQIM exploits the undergoverned spaces of the Sahel to plan and execute terrorist attacks. We work within the Department of State-led regional framework for combating AQIM, the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership. Despite political uncertainty within some of our TSCTP partners, we have maintained a steady focus over time on building the regional counterterrorism capacity of our partners with small training teams, regional exercises, and our 1206 authorities. The results of these sustained efforts are states increasingly committed to and capable of combating extremism in the Sahel. That said, we all recognize that there is still much to be done.

In the maritime domain, we encourage regional approaches to transnational maritime security challenges such as piracy and illicit trafficking. Our partners have articulated their maritime needs, and USAFRICOM cooperates to help them meet their operational requirements. Our flagship maritime security engagement program is Africa Partnership Station, which provides sustained engagement with mobile training teams, interagency, and international trainers working from U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, and international partner nations’ vessels. Participants include not only U.S. and African naval forces but also vessels from Europe and Brazil. This program improves tactical planning skills, maritime domain awareness, response capabilities, and multinational interoperability.

To enhance regional cooperation in the Gulf of Guinea, we have sponsored and supported, in conjunction with the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, two regional maritime security conferences between the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The outcome of these ministerial-level conferences is a draft agreement that provides a firm basis for sustained and effective intra-African maritime cooperation in a region important not only to Africa but increasingly to the United States as well. We already see the beginnings of effective regional cooperation with Nigeria and Benin’s joint maritime patrols and Cameroon, Sao Tome and Principe, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon’s participation in ECCAS-led patrols.

We approach air domain security challenges in a similar fashion with a new security cooperation program: Africa Partnership Flight, which features a light footprint, short duration, high impact, sustainability, and predictable engagement with our African partners. It will become the primary Air Force program for building partnership capacity and will enable committed African states to enhance their aviation capabilities, foster greater regional cooperation, and increase air domain safety and security in Africa.

The Way Forward

Two new programs, the GSCF and the Army’s Regionally Aligned Force (RAF), and the potential expansion of the existing National Guard State Partnership Program (SPP) will help USAFRICOM expand, focus, and sustain its efforts.

As already noted, the new GSCF provisions are promising innovations that we expect will facilitate interagency collaboration and unified action and provide a flexible and responsive capacity-building funding source. However, the GSCF is a prototype; it expires in 2015. So while we experiment with GSCF and potentially move toward its full implementation, the effective and well-understood 1206 authorities will expire in 2013. Therefore, it is important that we manage this transition in a manner that maintains continuity and allows us to meet our commitments to willing partners who are on the frontlines helping combat threats to our national security. As soon as practicable, it is essential that we move from temporary authorities and codify best practices and lessons learned into enduring statutes.

Army Chief of Staff Raymond T. Odierno, in his recent Foreign Affairs article, explained the concept of aligning Army brigades with regional combatant commands.14 The RAF concept is an innovative approach consistent with USAFRICOM’s emphasis on operating with small teams and maintaining a light footprint. Security cooperation engagements will be conducted primarily by small tailored units from within an aligned brigade. This alignment over time will allow staff and subordinate units to foster enduring security relationships and develop expanded regional knowledge as well as an understanding of our partners’ unique security requirements. A RAF from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, will begin working with USAFRICOM in FY13, and along with SPMAGTF will provide flexibility and continuity in our security partnerships.

In our efforts to strengthen the defense capabilities of African partners, the SPP assists USAFRICOM in establishing consistent, predictable long-term security partnerships. Currently, there are eight state partnerships in Africa (Botswana and North Carolina, Ghana and North Dakota, Liberia and Michigan, Morocco and Utah, Nigeria and California, Senegal and Vermont, South Africa and New York, and Tunisia and Wyoming). General Craig McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau, is actively considering adding two state partnerships as well as long-term possibilities for future growth.

The Security Partner of Choice

USAFRICOM’s capacity-building efforts are an integral part of a U.S. Government approach to the threats, challenges, and emerging opportunities across Africa. Moreover, cultivating and nurturing effective security partners is a sound investment and hedge against an uncertain future. In Africa, we look forward to being the security partner of choice for rising nations by building lasting, beneficial partnerships. Our success depends on close collaboration with our interagency partners, Embassy Country Teams, African regional organizations, and African nations.

We believe that over the long run, it is Africans who should address African security challenges and that we most effectively advance U.S. security interests through focused and sustained engagement. In strengthening African defense capabilities and capacities, we enable states to take ownership of their challenges and strengthen their leadership roles. In the famous car maintenance commercial, the mechanic tell his customer, “You can pay me now”–pay a little to have a small but important repair done now–or “pay me later”–pay a lot to have the entire engine replaced later. If African states cannot meet their own security challenges, then the United States and the international community will continue to find themselves responding to crises and contingencies ranging from armed conflict to humanitarian disasters. We believe that for a relatively low cost, our programs are making a positive difference in a rising Africa and demonstrate the enduring value of building partner capacity to the security of the United States. While there are indeed many risks ahead, there is also great opportunity if we are willing to act now to work with our partners.

Richard Tracey and Caterina Dutto Fox, U.S. Africa Command, J5-9, contributed to the development of this article.

*Source: NDU Press

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