Herakles Farms Announces Update on Its Cameroon Palm Oil Subsidiary SGSOC
June 13, 2012 | 0 Comments
Company to Proceed with Phased Development Approach to Ensure Sustainable, Environmental and Socially Sensitive Growth
– Herakles Farms, a New York-based agriculture company operating in Ghana and Cameroon, today announced new details for its Cameroon palm oil subsidiary, SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon (SGSOC), and its decision to pursue a phased development approach to allow its many stakeholders to better understand the social and environmental benefits and impacts and to be responsive to the concerns of all stakeholders that may arise.
To date, SGSOC has cultivated less than 30 hectares in the Nguti, Mundemba and Toko Sub-Divisions of South West Cameroon. Specifically, this development entails three nurseries near the villages of Talangaye, Lipenja I, (Batanga) and Fabe, with 70,000 mature trees currently ready for transfer to the field. SGSOC recently conducted pre-clearing studies on the initial 2,000 hectares of land under evaluation for field-planting development. These studies included a detailed examination of the flora, fauna, and habitat of the land adjacent to the Talangaye nursery in order to ensure the maintenance and protection of all environmental and social high conservation value areas.
SGSOC committed to development in Cameroon in September 2009, when the Company and the Government of Cameroon signed an agreement to develop approximately 70,000 hectares of oil palm in an area classified by the Government as secondary forest in the South West Region. The area had suffered economically in large part because of its isolation from services and market opportunities. Since the land in the region had been logged and farmed repeatedly in the past, the Government of Cameroon responded to the communities’ needs by designating the land for commercial, agricultural and economic development.
SGSOC conducted an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for the area and submitted it to the Government of Cameroon in August 2011. The Government thereafter issued its approval through a Certificate of Environmental Conformity in September 2011. In an April 2012 ruling, the Mundemba High Court affirmed that SGSOC had complied with these environmental and land-related Government regulations and that the Company has been in order with such requirements for legal operation in Cameroon.
While SGSOC expects that approximately 60,000 hectares may ultimately be suitable for planting, before it proceeds with transferring its trees from the nursery to the field, it has committed to performing additional pre-planting studies designed to ensure that the Company has thoroughly mapped all high conservation value sites, important lands for village use, buffer zones and fulfilled other obligations to key stakeholders.
In parallel to this phased approach, SGSOC is also helping to support rural employment and development, upgrading infrastructure including roads and enhancing critical services such as healthcare and schooling. For instance, together with the local organization of medical doctors, WecCare Foundation, a program was recently completed in the villages of Talangaye and Ayong near Nguti, and Lipenja I, Batanga and Meangwe near Toko. Consultations, informational booklets, medication and a range of selected surgeries with appropriate follow-up were included in the program. In terms of education, the Company donated textbooks to 35 secondary schools in all nine subdivisions in the Ndian Division. SGSOC continues to develop its longer-term medical and educational programs for the local villages in the area.
“Herakles Farms is committed to listening to the concerns of all stakeholders and modifying our practices where necessary. We want to be a responsible leader in developing sustainable agriculture that prioritizes community development,” stated Bruce Wrobel, CEO of Herakles Farms. “We are focused on balancing our commitments to the Government regarding job creation and economic development with the specific and important interests of the local communities, as well as NGOs and other stakeholders. We are proceeding in systematic phases in order to be responsive to all concerned. Going forward, we want to foster greater openness, transparency and collaboration in our activities.”
About Herakles Farms Established in 2009, Herakles Farms is focused on identifying and implementing solutions to important food security issues in Africa. The management team has a track record of developing environmentally and socially sustainable projects that result in economic development in some of the least-developed African countries, and has received numerous awards for its work. Previously known as SG Sustainable Oils (SGSO), the Company has been an active member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) since 2008.
Contact Information: Ms. Delilah Rothenberg Herakles Farms 277 Park Avenue, 40th Floor New York, NY 10167 (212) 351-0176 Rothenberg@heraklescapital.com
SOURCE Herakles Farms
Cuba injects doctor diplomacy into Africa
June 11, 2012 | 0 Comments
By Nick Miroff*
Oil-pumping African nations pay hefty sums to staff their hospitals with thousands of Cuban doctors, with most of the money going to the Cuban government.
HAVANA, Cuba — Africa is a growth market for the world’s best-known Cuban brand after Havana Club rum and Cohiba cigars.
That would be Cuba Rx, also known as Havana’s doctor diplomacy.
A generation ago, Fidel Castro sent Cuban soldiers to intervene in African civil conflicts and fight the Cold War against US proxies. Now, Cuba’s doctors are fanning out across the continent as the island expands its role in administering medical services to some of the world’s most ailing countries.
For Cuba the effort is good philanthropy, good diplomacy and, in some cases, good business. The Cuban missionaries are part of a widening global medical outreach that has boosted Havana’s ties around the world and earned billions in hard currency for the cash-strapped Castro government.
The largest contingent of Cuban doctors working abroad remains in Venezuela, Cuba’s closest ally, where they have helped boost support for Hugo Chavez’s government by staffing clinics in rural areas and rough neighborhoods where health services are scarce.
In turn, the Venezuelan government sends Cuba billions in cash as well as critical supplies of oil. But Chavez is facing re-election in October as well as an uncertain recovery from an aggressive and still-undisclosed form of abdominal cancer.
If a leadership change in Venezuela were to cool relations with Cuba, thousands of Cuban doctors could be reassigned elsewhere — many to Africa, where fast-growing economies and rising commodity prices have left some governments flush with cash yet lacking in health care professionals.
Some 5,500 Cubans are already working in 35 of Africa’s 54 countries, Cuban Foreign Ministry official Marcos Rodriguez told reporters this week at a press conference in Havana.
Of those, 3,000 are health professionals, and 2,000 are doctors, he said.
“We have blood ties with Africa,” the deputy minister said.
Some 1.3 million African slaves were brought to Cuba during the island’s colonial period, Rodriguez said, and 2,289 Cubans died fighting in Angola between 1975 and 1990, where some 300,000 Cuban served.
“Cuba believes that it has a historic debt to Africa that must be repaid,” he said.
Then again, Cuba’s debt repayment is not an entirely one-way affair.
While Cuba sends physicians to Africa’s poorest countries and grants scholarships for their students to study medicine on the island, it does a brisk business with more prosperous countries on the continent — especially those that are rich with oil and poor in health professionals.
Petroleum-pumping Africa nations such as Algeria and Angola are paying hefty sums to staff their hospitals with Cuban doctors, with most of the money going to the Cuban government.
For instance, the Angolan government pays Cuba about $5,000 a month for each doctor the island sends, according to a source with knowledge of the arrangement. The Cuban doctor receives a $500 share.
It’s a tiny cut, but the amount is still about 10 times what Cuban doctors can earn back home. The Castro government also rewards physicians who complete medical “missions” with other perks — like the ability to buy a used car from the state.
The specific details of each arrangement between Cuba and the countries that receive its doctors and other professionals are not public. But the programs seem to work along three basic channels: providing medical help free to poor countries that can’t pay, charging countries that can pay, and training medical professionals at universities back in Cuba.
This sliding-scale policy has won Cuba friends around the world, as students from more than 100 countries have been trained at the island’s medical programs. According to a report this week in the Toronto Star, nearly 20,000 foreign students are currently receiving medical training in Cuba — including 116 Americans on scholarship.
But not all foreign students are studying in Cuba for free. When officials in Ghana announced recently they had reached a deal with the Castro government to train 250 doctors over a six-year period, the arrangement was criticized by Ghanan officials who argued the money would be better spent boosting education doctors back home.
Many African doctors who train abroad opt to work in foreign countries where salaries are higher, and the Cuba’s training urges them to serve their communities back home.
After the 1959 Cuban Revolution, Africa was one of the first places Cuba’s health missionaries went when a small medical brigade arrived in Algeria following the country’s anti-colonial fight against France. Cuban medical personnel also accompanied Cuban soldiers sent to aid leftist allies in Angola, Namibia and elsewhere.
And the ideological battle between the US and Cuba is still playing out on African soil. A program created by the Bush administration in 2006 creates special visas for Cuban medical personnel who wish to defect from their missions abroad.
About 800 doctors have done so to date, drawing fierce criticism from the Castro government, which says the US visa program deprives poor countries of desperately needed medical care.
Culled from GlobalPost
France Africa relations: Le Grand Divorce? By Nicholas Norbrook
June 11, 2012 | 0 Comments
Informal networks and unscrutinised presidential authority have shaped France’s Africa policy for decades. The last time a socialist politician won the presidency – François Mitterrand (1981-1995) – he promised to radically shake up France-Africa relations, as did President Nicolas Sarkozy (2007-2012). It is now President François Hollande’s turn to try to push for good governance and to normalise relations with France’s former colonies.
Tricolores, alongside Algerian and Syrian flags, billowed over Place de la Bastille on 6 May, a historic ground zero for global revolutionaries and a happy stamping ground for France’s left. The election of the Socialist candidate to the Elysée raises hopes in Africa too. Perhaps this time there will be a definitive break with the past, an end to the nebulous and opaque net- works of what has become known as Françafrique. Perhaps.
The main charge against France is that it froze the political evolution of its former colonies, even as it gave them independence (see timeline). Proof of the perennity of the system: President Nicolas Sarkozy supported the attempt to shoe horn Karim Wade, son of the increasingly autocratic Abdoulaye Wade, into the Senegalese presidency. France’s foreign minister Michèle Alliot-Marie offered French police training to the thugs of Presid- ent Zine el Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia. This attempt by a French minister to stop the Arab Spring in its tracks – by a minister who had been accepting largesse from her Tunisian counter- parts – is the latest stain on France’s conscience.
And this political freeze has led to arrested development. On many metrics, Francophone African countries lag behind their continental peers. French-speaking Africa represents 19% of sub-Saharan Africa’s gross domestic product, whereas English-speaking Africa represents around a half – and that is excluding South Africa. Of the 187 countries ranked by the United Nations Development Programme’s human development index, seven of the 10 worst performers are Francophone countries. Burundi, Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo are the last three on that list. France gets 60% of the uranium it uses for its world-beating nuclear industry from Africa – including Niger.
CÉLLULE AFRICAINE NO MORE
Not everyone agrees. Côte d’ Ivoire’s President Alassane Ouattara told The Africa Report: “If you take Francophone countries of the CFA franc zone, I think that the situation is actually much better than many Anglophone countries. There has been a real mastering of inflation, which really is a cancer for the poor. There has been strong growth. Perhaps the populations of these countries did not get as fair a share of this growth as they should have.”
Regardless of the debate over how far Francophone Africa has been hamstrung by its former colonial master, the question going forward is can Hollande end Françafrique? During his campaign Hollande claimed, like Sarkozy before him, that there would be a ‘rupture’ with “the old habits of Françafrique”.
But Kader Arif, a Socialist member of the European Parliament and Hollande’s advisor on development mat- ters, says that the change will be radical. “We will get rid of the cellule africaine, place African affairs under the Minister of Foreign Affairs and give parliament anoversightrole.”This is a positive sign: the personalisation of politics under Elysée secretary general Jacques Foccart allowed for clientelism to flourish.
And there are signs that Hollande will be tougher on corruption. Addressing members of Amnesty International and Oxfam, his defence spokesman Jean-Yves Le Drian has said Hollande will impose tighter controls on arms sales. French company Thompson-CSF (now Thales) was involved in a troubled South African arms deal of 1999.
Another of Hollande’s advisors is William Bourdon of Sherpa, a non-govern- mental organisation formed by lawyers that took three Central African lead- ers to court – Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea, the late Omar Bongo Ondimba of Gabon and Denis Sassou-Nguesso of Congo-Brazzaville – in March 2007. The investigators behind the ‘biens mal acquis’ affair demand that these presidents account for their endless lists of properties and bank accounts in France. Eva Joly, the 2012 presidential candidate for the Europe Écologie-Les Verts party and the former investigative magistrate who brought down the national oil company Elf in the 1990s, may well receive a role in government.
NOT JUST ANY REGIME
The ties that bind France’s political elite to the Françafrique system run deep. Eyebrows were raised when Laurent Fabius, a potential future foreign minister for Hollande, made trips to see the presidents of Gabon, Togo and Benin between December 2011 and this February. Contacted for this article, Fabius declined to comment. For Jean-Christophe Rufin, France’s former ambassador to Senegal under Sarkozy, this sent all the wrong signals, “as if the bad old habits have come back”.
“Not at all,” said Arif. “We will not work with just any regime, and it’s not only the candidate [François Hollande]who is saying this but it is a collective expression of will. Those regimes that are not moving in the direction of democracy shouldn’t be frequented.” He went on to explain the importance of opening France to non-traditional partners including South Africa, Ghana and Nigeria.
Kofi Yamgnane, a Franco-Togolese politician now running Africa relations for Hollande, is a connection to the days of the late President François Mitterrand. The last time the Socialists had the presidency, there was a similar great hope for change in Franco-African relations that was quickly dashed. On discovering how Elf showered the French political class with money, Mitterrand did not close down the system but just insisted the Parti Socialiste receive its cut. His son, Jean-Christophe Mitterrand, or ‘Papa m’a dit’ (Papa told me) as he came to be known, was good friends with the son of Charles Pasqua, a key player in President Jacques Chirac’s Africa policy. Both sons would be caught up in the Angolagate affair, the illegal sale of arms to Angola.
President Sarkozy did not appear to remove himself from the shadowy net- works of years past. Pascaline Bongo, who ran her father’s finances, sat in the front row at Sarkozy’s investiture as candidate, next to the financiers of his…
Brazil pledges investment fund for Africa
May 12, 2012 | 0 Comments
Africa – Brazil pledged major investment and technology transfer to Africa to repay a “solidarity debt” from a country with a huge black population to the poorest but resource-rich continent.
“Brazil must begin to repay the solidarity debt we have with Africa,” former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said on Thursday, in his first public address since he was diagnosed with larynx cancer in October.
The world’s sixth-largest economy “owes its current strength to the more than 300 years of slavery during which we exploited the sweat and blood of millions of Africans,” he added.
Lula gave major impetus to relations with Africa while he was in power from 2003 to 2010, making several trips to the continent and reminding his hosts there that Brazil has the world’s second-largest black population after Nigeria.
Leaders of top state and private Brazilian companies with interests in Africa, including oil giant Petrobras, mining conglomerate Vale and construction firm Odebrecht pledged to boost investment in Africa during a seminar sponsored by the powerful state Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES).
“The (African) continent has been posting robust GDP growth for 10 years and in 2012, it can grow nearly six percent,” Lula said.
“The middle class there already totals 300 million people. The number of young people in schools and universities is growing. More than 430 million Africans use cell phones.”
Guinea-Bissau’s Carlos Lopes, appointed to be the next executive secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, told the seminar that Libya is expected to post GDP growth of 76 percent this year, Sierra Leone 35 percent, while Angola, Congo and Mozambique are set for “double-digit growth.”
BNDES chief Luciano Coutinho described investment opportunities in Africa as “extraordinary,” particularly in the areas of agriculture and energy, transport, technology, farm equipment, telecommunications, the petrochemical and auto sectors as well as banking and pharmaceuticals.
But he stressed that there was still a lack of financing and said that BNDES would guarantee “its commitment as a national bank to help face this challenge.”
And Brazilian companies signaled their interest in competing with China for Africa’s huge mineral resources and growing consumer market.
Brazil’s leading investment bank Banco BTG Pactual used the occasion to announce a $1 billion Africa investment fund, the biggest in the world, with capital collected in the country.
“It will be the biggest fund in Brazil with a special focus on the African continent,” BTG Pactual president Andre Esteves said.
“The creation of this ‘private equity’ is a demonstration of the enormous confidence and affinity Brazil has with this region of the world.”
Petrobras chief Graca Foster hailed Africa as an “exceptional new market,” but called for improved national regulations to spur further investment.
The energy leader is currently present in seven African countries.
Vale, the world’s top iron producer, says it has $7.7 billion worth of investments in nine African countries.
The mining giant is also modernizing and building 900 kilometers (550 miles) of railways as well as a deep-water port in Portuguese-speaking Mozambique, said Vale president Murilo Ferreira, who complained about African bureaucracy.
Brazilian exports to Africa soared from $2.4 billion in 2002 to $12.2 billion last year, while trade with the continent jumped from $4.3 billion in 2000 to $27.6 billion in 2011, according to official statistics.
*Courtesy of http://www.portalangop.co.ao
The Africa Finance & Investment Forum Seeks To Strengthen Private Sector In Africa-Idit Miller
May 12, 2012 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
In line with the United Nations International year of Cooperatives, the Africa Finance & Investment Forum will serve as a platform to strengthen the private sector in Africa .Slated for June 17-19, the event is expected to bring together Over 250 decision makers from around the world. According to Idit Miller Managing Director & Vice President of the EMRC, the forum provides an excellent platform for a productive dialogue between entrepreneurs and investors, policy makers and private sector, between south-north and south-south, as well as a perfect opportunity to identify partners and investors. Considered as the pulse of the EMRC, Idit was among the first of EMRC’s founding members to recognize the importance of international business networking. With a deep wealth of experience in organising International business events, Idit Miller shares more on AFIF 2012 with PAV.
PAV: The EMRC will be organizing the Africa Finance and Investment Forum in June; may we know what the forum is all about?
Idit Miller: EMRC’s Africa Finance & Investment Forum is one of our showcase events, aimed at strengthening the private sector in Africa, by encouraging partnerships and attracting investments. The forum is designed for entrepreneurs interested in securing finance for their projects, for private investors looking for projects, as well as for policy makers, financiers and bankers. In 2007 the forum was held in Lisbon, under the patronage of the Portuguese EU Presidency, in 2008 – in Paris at the Credit Agricole and in 2009, AFIF was organized in partnership with the FMO and held at the ABN AMRO Bank in Amsterdam. In 2011 AFIF was held as the “AfDB-EMRC SME Forum” in Lisbon, in the framework of the African Development Bank’s Annual Meetings.
This year EMRC associates its forum with the “International Year of Cooperatives”, highlighting the contribution of cooperatives to the sustainable socio-economic development in Africa.
Focusing on “Financial inclusion through SMEs & Cooperatives”, AFIF 2012 is hosted and organized in partnership with Rabobank, a Dutch based international financial services provider operating on cooperative principles, one of the world’s largest financial institutions.
Among the many AFIF partner Organizations we can mention: Food First-Floriade, Oikocredit, FMO, AfDB, FARA, Hivos, Grameen Credit Agricole Foundation and Shell Foundation. AFIF 2012 will consist of a two days programme at the Rabobank headquarters in Utrecht and a third day programme in partnership with Food First as well as guided visits to Floriade 2012 (Venlo-Netherlands) – a World Horticultural Exposition that occurs only once every ten years. An important part of the forum are the B2B sessions, where delegates meet and discuss projects, investment and collaboration opportunities following pre-arranged meetings.
All in all, AFIF2012 is about allowing delegates to meet key decision makers from all over the world and it is about sharing expertise during pragmatic and interactive workshops and plenary sessions. At AFIF2012 people will also have the opportunity to participate in B2B pre-arranged meetings and to submit their projects to the challenging “EMRC-Hivos Project Incubator Award” competition! So there are plenty of good reasons for delegates to attend our international business event.
PAV: How is the forum expected to impact on development in Africa?
Idit Miller: The EMRC Forums (AFIF and others) are excellent platforms for a productive dialogue between entrepreneurs and investors, policy makers and private sector, between south-north and south-south, as well as perfect opportunity to identify partners and investors. Through the pragmatic sessions and pre-arranged business meetings we help forge strong and solid partnerships between the different actors that work in Africa and strive to bring sustainable development to the continent: young and innovative entrepreneurs, development agencies, public sector representatives, investors, bankers, and academia. Sub-Saharan Africa is of course a big and diverse 54 country continent and in the EMRC forums we address the issues that matter on each part of the continent and help bridge the differences and challenges that different countries face. The personal assistance throughout the year is of course a great benefit for our members.
PAV: What criteria are used in the selection of participants and may we have an idea of some companies or personalities who will be in attendance at the forum?
Idit Miller: Our forums are open to all those who have projects in Africa and look for partners and investors, and those who want to invest in Africa and look for good sustainable opportunities. Much of our effort is addressed to the SMEs, professional organisations, finance, services and agro-industry sectors in Africa. EMRC celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, which means that we have been in the “business” for long and we are happy to see that more people are knocking at our door with the wish to be involved and contribute to Africa’s development; they are all welcome.
EMRC and Rabobank are expecting around 250 delegates from around the world. Among the personalities and companies I can mention Berry Marttin, Member of Rabobank’s Executive Board; Jean-Luc Perron, Managing Director of the Grameen Credit Agricole Foundation, the Chairman of AFRACA (African Rural & Agriculture Credit Association), Monty Jones, Executive Director of FARA (Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa), Jean-Michel Severino, Managing Director – I&P, former Managing Director AFD (French Development Agency), Fabian Kasi, Centenary Bank Uganda and others ( from FMO, AfDB, Oikocredit, Heineken, GIZ and many more.
PAV: Did the forum of last year produce any tangible results and for are there any changes that will be witnessed at the 2012 forum?
Idit Miller: We evaluate the success of our initiatives through the number of partnerships that are forged among the delegates. In our last event held in Johannesburg over 1.000 meetings took place, from those meetings concrete businesses were made: investments in different sectors (mainly agriculture and agro-food), exchange of expertise, buying/selling of equipments, new technologies, etc.
The EMRC Project Incubator Award initiative also provides very concrete and short-term results – this year the Award of US$15.000 will be sponsored by Hivos, the Humanist Institute for Development Cooperation.
The Project Incubator Award is an EMRC initiative launched in 2008 at the FAO headquarters in Rome. The award aims at encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa among SMEs. Finalists present their business projects during the forum’s plenary session and the winning project is announced at the gala event.
We offer the winners and finalists public recognition, media attention and extensive exposure to investors, donors and business partners. Susan Belemtougri, the 2011 winner of the Project Incubator award told us on an interview that the “prize honors the women of Africa and in particular the women of Burkina Faso. It will incite the future competitiveness of women entrepreneurs and even male entrepreneurs because my presentation set a tone and even generated enthusiasm from a large number of EMRC participants to be even more focused and to invest better in their businesses and projects. “
PAV: You have hosted quite some events and forums in Africa, what are some of the challenges that you have faced and if you had recommendations that could improve on the business and investment climate in Africa what will there be?
Idit Miller: Indeed, one of our main annual events, the EMRC AgriBusiness Forum, takes place in Africa since a few years, following our members’ requests– it was one of the best decisions we ever made, especially for our members.
The AgriBusiness Forum is the biggest pan-African Agribusiness event held on African soil, which gathers around 500 delegates from around the world. The challenges that we faced in South Africa or in Uganda, or in Africa in general are not so different from the ones in Europe. It is about the hard and professional work of many months, building trust among the potential participants and convincing potential partners that the 150 or so African delegates are all highly valuable and excellent potential partners.
PAV: May we know other events or activities that the EMRC has in line for the rest of the year?
Idit Miller: I invite all the ones interested in our activities to visit our website (www.emrc.be) and until the end of 2012 we will promote the AgriBusiness Forum in West Africa, the Africa-India Economic Mission, a regional event in Maputo, Mozambique, and a few tailor-made activities in Brussels.