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Investing in East Africa 101: Eight things investors should know
July 20, 2012 | 0 Comments

By  Dinfin Mulupi*

East Africa’s profile as an investment destination has improved significantly in recent years with many foreign investors and multinational companies setting up base in the region. How we made it in Africa has in the past reported on many of these investments, including Google, advertising agency TBWA, private equity funds like Actis, and many others that are reinforcing their presence in the region.

The East African Community (EAC) is made up of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi, and has a combined population of around 132 million, with vast resources that has proved to be lucrative to many foreign investors. But where should one begin?

1. Political risk

All the five EAC member states have witnessed increased democratic space in the last few years and are pro-foreign investment. Although there have been incidents of violence, tribal clashes and terrorism attacks in the region, overall stability has improved.

2. Tech savvy

East Africa has made great strides in technology since the launch of mobile money transfer service M-Pesa five years ago. The region boasts of several open innovation spaces like the iHub in Kenya, kLab in Rwanda and Hive Colab in Uganda, which have fuelled innovation among young people.

“East Africa is at the cusp of a technology-driven inflection point,” says Ben Lyon, a US expat who co-founded KopoKopo, a web based mobile payment gateway that helps businesses process mobile payments.

The wide adoption of new technologies presents opportunities for foreign investors across various sectors like education, health, communication and media.

3. Resources

The region is well on its way to become one of the most attractive destinations for mining, oil, and gas activities. Uganda has made discoveries of around 2.5 billion barrels of oil, while Tanzania has large natural gas deposits. Earlier this year the discovery of crude in Kenya’s northern Turkana region also created a lot of excitement. Although the commercially viability of the find still needs be confirmed, large corporations like Petrobras, Total and Apache Corporation have reportedly expressed interest in Turkana. In addition, East Africa also boasts other resources such as gemstones, gold, coal, diamonds and limestone.

“East Africa is the next frontier for mining in Africa … East Africa is in the stage of discovery. This is the place to invest in,” says Monica Gichuhi, executive officer of the Kenya Chamber of Mines, a body whose mandate is to lobby for favourable legislation and showcase Kenya as a viable mining destination.

4. Improving infrastructure

Poor infrastructure has been a big impediment to investment, although in recent years several new projects have been announced, with some nearing completion. These include the multi-billion dollar Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSSET), a road, port and oil refinery project that will link Kenya to South Sudan and Ethiopia. The project is expected to ease the transportation of minerals and equipment within the region.

Rift Valley Railways (RVR) is on pace with the rehabilitation of the regional railway line linking Kenya and Uganda and is expected to ease congestion at the port of Mombasa. Another large project is Kenya’s Nairobi-Thika highway, a KSh. 27 billion (US$322 million) new road, which has recently inspired numerous new property developments.


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China doubles loans to Africa to $20 billion
July 19, 2012 | 0 Comments

President Hu Jintao said Thursday China would offer $20 billion in new loans to Africa, as he delivered a speech to a Beijing forum on co-operation with the resource-rich continent.

The pledge — double the amount Beijing agreed to lend to Africa at the last forum in 2009 — underscores China’s growing links with African nations as it looks to secure key commodities to feed its economic growth.

Hu said the loans would focus on supporting infrastructure, manufacturing and the development of small businesses in Africa, although he did not specify what time period they would cover.

China's President Hu Jintao (C), South Africa's President Jacob Zuma (center L), Benin's President Thomas Boni Yayi (center R), United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (2nd row C) and other African countries' leaders arrive for the opening ceremony of the Fifth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, July 19, 2012.  Image by: JASON LEE / REUTERS

China's President Hu Jintao (C), South Africa's President Jacob Zuma (center L), Benin's President Thomas Boni Yayi (center R), United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (2nd row C) and other African countries' leaders arrive for the opening ceremony of the Fifth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, July 19, 2012. Image by: JASON LEE / REUTERS

China and Africa’s destinies are closely linked, Chinese and African friendship is deeply rooted in the hearts of the people on both sides,” he said, delivering an opening address to an audience of African leaders.

Beijing’s involvement in Africa dates back 60 years, when Chinese workers arrived to lay railway tracks and roads.

But there has been a surge in investment in the past 15 years and China is now Africa’s largest trading partner.

Trade between the Asian powerhouse and the continent hit a record $166.3 billion last year, from less than $20 billion a decade earlier and up 83 percent on 2009, according to government data.

Once seen as strictly interested in extracting raw resources and investing in infrastructure, China has interests on the continent that are increasingly shifting to investing in institutions and governments, experts say.


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Tony Blair appointed South Sudan government advisor
July 17, 2012 | 0 Comments

July 15, 2012 (JUBA) – Former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair is set to become to an advisor to the South Sudan government as part of an agreement between his charity, the Africa Governance Initiative (AGI) and the new country’s leadership.

The deal, according to The Telegraph, was reached last month between AGI and South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, following a four-day visit to the country at the end of May

Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister, sits through a question and answer session at the University of Hong Kong on June 14, 2012. (Getty)

Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister, sits through a question and answer session at the University of Hong Kong on June 14, 2012. (Getty)

by David Miliband MP, British former foreign secretary. At the seminar, which was attended by South Sudan’s vice-president and ministers, reportedly the Chinese involvement in the country’s oil industry was also discussed.

South Sudan thus becomes the fifth African nation, including Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Liberia and Guinea, where AGI now has offices in presidential departments.

It, however, remains unclear in what capacity Blair will be involved in South Sudan, while AGI’s South Sudan operation will reportedly be headed by Miliband.

“The objective of our work is to strengthen the capacity of the new institutions at the center of the government so they are better able to lead the country’s development. We hope that our work can help to deliver improvements to the people of South Sudan,” reads a statement on the AGI website.

No official statement has, however, been issued by the South Sudan government or officials from the British embassy in Juba, the South Sudan capital, regarding the ex-premier’s involvement.

The addition of South Sudan to Blair’s portfolio, The Telegraph argued, gives him influence over the world’s newest nation state, which was officially recognized a year ago following years of civil war in the region.

Blair’s appointment comes at a time when South Sudan tries to grapple with the aftermath of its oil shut down following a dispute with Sudan. Oil revenues, until then, accounted for about 98 percent of the government budget.

Also, the new nation has stepped up its fight against corruption, with the President recently issuing letters to 75 former and current officials, asking them to account for nearly $4bn allegedly siphoned from the national treasury. The President has since received lots of support from lawmakers, the civil society and the public for his anti-corruption crusade.

Last year, Blair visited Juba and held talks with South Sudan’s foreign affairs minister, Nhial Deng Nhial before meeting President Kiir.

During the visit, the former British prime minister pledged his country’s commitment towards addressing South Sudan’s post-independence challenges, and assured the latter of full international community support.

Born in May 1953, Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, a member of the country’s Labour party served as the UK’s Prime Minister from 1997 to 2007.

During his tenure, however, he was widely criticized for his foreign policy, especially his support of US President George W. Bush’s war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan.

*Culled from Sudan Tribune,


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Africa: U.S. Military Steps Up ‘Sustained Engagement’ With Africa
July 17, 2012 | 0 Comments




A stepped-up role for the American military, which has been the subject of widespread discussion and debate since the establishment of the U.S. Africa Command (Africom) in 2008, has been getting more U.S. press attention in recent weeks.

“The U.S. military is expanding its secret intelligence operations across Africa,” the Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock reported last month in the first of a series of ground-breaking articles. Whitlock described “a network of small air bases to spy on terrorist hideouts from the fringes of the Sahara to jungle terrain along the equator, according to documents and people involved in the project.” Some State Department officials have “reservations about the militarisation of U.S. foreign policy on the continent,” Craig reported, fearing the “potential for creating a popular backlash.”

“Keep your eye on Africa” journalist Nick Turse writes in an investigative examination called America’s Shadow Wars in Africa posted this week on the blog  and cross-posted on Huffington Post. “The U.S. military is going to make news there for years to come.”

A  43-page report last year by the Congressional Research Service concluded that Africom’s rising profile and large budget could lead Congress to “exert its oversight authority to monitor the command’s operations to ensure that they support, rather than guide, U.S. political, economic, and social objectives for the continent.”

The Africom commander, Gen. Carter F. Ham, describes the command’s reach in much more modest terms. The United States is not planning “a large, permanent military presence in the continent of Africa,” he said in a lengthy presentation on June 26 to a two-week seminar for senior African security-sector experts. Instead, he said, there is and will continue to be a “small, temporary presence of U.S. military personnel” in various parts of Africa, as needed to meet contingencies.

Also last month in an AllAfrica interview with Reed Kramer, Ambassador Anthony Holmes, the deputy Africom commander for civilian-military activities, outlined what he describes as a ‘concerted’ American effort to strengthen the capacity of African militaries to handle their own security, using a ‘by, with and through’ approach’. Excerpts:

There is a perception that the U.S. military is playing an increasingly larger role in Africa. Is that the case?

There has been a small but steady and fairly consistent increase in the U.S. military’s engagement in Africa since the command was formalized on the first of October 2008. It’s taken time to organize things, put in place the infrastructure and personnel. But also with the withdrawal from Iraq – and now the beginning of the end in Afghanistan – there are more people and resources available and we have a better sense of how we want to employ those resources in Africa to pursue U.S. security interests through strengthening African capacity to provide for their own security over time.

Is the principal mission to combat terrorism?

There is virtually no direct fighting of terrorists. Due to the unfortunate realities in Africa, there is concerted effort to work with African militaries and governments to enable them to confront terrorists and terrorism and to allow us to protect U.S. national security interest through expanding the capacity of African militaries to deal with their own terrorism problems directly themselves.

By and large our approach is what we call ‘by, with and through’ – developing partnerships for extended periods of time to develop the capacity in African militaries to deal with the problems themselves, so we don’t have to do it. Fundamentally, the underlying credo of the Africa command is that it’s in our direct national security interests to develop the capacity for Africans to provide for their own security on a sustainable basis.

And that’s done through a combination of approaches?

Well, it’s done through what we call ‘sustained engagement,’ and this is a very long-term undertaking. There really are no short cuts. It requires political will. It requires resources, and, first and foremost, it requires time. This can’t be done overnight. Essentially what we are doing is building institutions at the national level, at the sub-regional level and at the continental level.

So we work with the African Union, we work with the regional economic commissions to develop their peace and security architecture and to promote the cooperation of African countries among themselves. There are virtually no security issues in Africa that are conducive to solutions by one country alone. They almost always require regional approaches.

Terrorism is not limited to one country; terrorists move around. The underlying problems that generate terrorism are problems that extend beyond any border, and we try to foster communication and interdependency and joint approaches by African countries themselves.

One example would be the efforts aimed at Uganda’s rebel movement, the Lord’s Resistance Army, and its leader Joseph Kony?

That’s an example. A better example would the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), involving Uganda, Burundi and now Djibouti and Kenya and Sierra Leone – underwritten by the United States and the United Kingdom and the European Union under a UN Security Council mandate.

It’s truly an international effort, but the African nations – particularly those five – are bearing the brunt of the burden and paying a pretty steep price for doing that as well. This is not ‘peacekeeping without cost’. Burundi and Uganda have lost hundreds of peacekeepers in this effort. That shows that they take it very seriously — and it’s hardly known in the United States.

What is the Africom role in Amison?

Africom forms part of a broader U.S. government effort to train and equip these nations to go into Somalia and survive, to defend the transitional government, which we hope will become a federal government – without the “transitional” moniker later this summer – so that they can work to develop the government institutions necessary to run a modern society that has the confidence of its people, that is legitimate, that is democratically elected, and can go about the long term effort to provide for the better standard of living, a better life for the Somali people.

What about Africom in Northwest Africa?

That’s a problem area that has gotten significantly worse during my three years at Africom. Three years ago, the problem was largely limited to several hundred Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) terrorists in isolated in the north of Mali. Then they happened upon a fairly effective business model of kidnap-for-ransom and so became very well financed. They have used that finance to sink their roots into indigenous societies in the Sahel.

More recently, two events have made this a far more dangerous problem than it had been previously. The first is AQIM and its very concerted efforts to influence Boko Haram, an organic indigenous Islamic organization in northern Nigeria that has adopted many of AQIM’s tactics – bombings and attacks on civilians – to make them a very serious and dangerous threat to the Nigerian government.

Second is the fallout from the fall of Qaddafi in Libya and the return to northern Mali, in particular, of many Tuareg who had been employed in the Libyan military and by the Libyan government. They have returned to northern Mali extremely well-armed over the course of the past year.

This has contributed to a revival of historical grievances against the government of Mali and led to a splitting up of the country, which precipitated a coup by the Mali military in the capital Bamako.

You now have a fractured country and a situation in the North in which Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is able to operate very freely and openly. This gives the group a chance to seriously recruit and grow, to sink deeper roots and to operate more freely. It’s more dangerous to us but also to the Africans themselves.

Is there a risk that increased U.S. military presence in Africa could worsen rather than improve the security situation?

Al Shabaab in Somalia and AQIM in northern Mali have been plotting against the United States, against Americans and more broadly against Western interests. That’s not new. And the situation in those countries is dangerous not only to American but also Western interests. At the same time, we have interests identical to those of the nations of the region.

We are in Africa to protect American interests. That is why the American taxpayer pays for the U.S. Africa Command. After considerable analysis and study, we have concluded that the best way for us to protect American security interests in Africa is to assist the Africans in developing the capacity to provide for their own security.

*Culled from

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Obama’s Scramble for Africa
July 17, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Nick Turse*

Secret Wars, Secret Bases, and the Pentagon’s “New Spice Route” in Africa

They call it the New Spice Route, an homage to the medieval trade network that connected Europe, Africa, and Asia, even if today’s “spice road” has nothing to do with cinnamon, cloves, or silks.  Instead, it’s a superpower’s superhighway, on which trucks and ships shuttle fuel, food, and military equipment through a growing maritime and ground transportation infrastructure to a network of supply depots, tiny camps, and airfields meant to service a fast-growing U.S. military presence in Africa.

Few in the U.S. know about this superhighway, or about the dozens of training missions and joint military exercises being carried out in nations that most Americans couldn’t locate on a map.  Even fewer have any idea that military officials are invoking the names of Marco Polo and the Queen of Sheba as they build a bigger military footprint in Africa.  It’s all happening in the shadows of what in a previous imperial age was known as “the Dark Continent.”

In East African ports, huge metal shipping containers arrive with the everyday necessities for a military on the make.  They’re then loaded onto trucks that set off down rutted roads toward dusty bases and distant outposts.

On the highway from Djibouti to Ethiopia, for example, one can see the bare outlines of this shadow war at the truck stops where local drivers take a break from their long-haul routes.  The same is true in other African countries.  The nodes of the network tell part of the story: Manda Bay, Garissa, and Mombasa in Kenya; Kampala and Entebbe in Uganda; Bangui and Djema in the Central African Republic; Nzara in South Sudan; Dire Dawa in Ethiopia; and the Pentagon’s showpiece African base, Camp Lemonnier, in Djibouti on the coast of the Gulf of Aden, among others.

According to Pat Barnes, a spokesman for U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), Camp Lemonnier serves as the only official U.S. base on the continent.  “There are more than 2,000 U.S. personnel stationed there,” he told TomDispatch recently by email.  “The primary AFRICOM organization at Camp Lemonnier is Combined Joint Task Force — Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA). CJTF-HOA’s efforts are focused in East Africa and they work with partner nations to assist them in strengthening their defense capabilities.”

Barnes also noted that Department of Defense personnel are assigned to U.S. embassies across Africa, including 21 individual Offices of Security Cooperation responsible for facilitating military-to-military activities with “partner nations.”  He characterized the forces involved as small teams carrying out pinpoint missions.  Barnes did admit that in “several locations in Africa, AFRICOM has a small and temporary presence of personnel. In all cases, these military personnel are guests within host-nation facilities, and work alongside or coordinate with host-nation personnel.”

Shadow Wars

In 2003, when CJTF-HOA was first set up there, it was indeed true that the only major U.S. outpost in Africa was Camp Lemonnier.  In the ensuing years, in quiet and largely unnoticed ways, the Pentagon and the CIA have been spreading their forces across the continent.  Today — official designations aside — the U.S. maintains a surprising number of bases in Africa.  And “strengthening” African armies turns out to be a truly elastic rubric for what’s going on.

Under President Obama, in fact, operations in Africa have accelerated far beyond the more limited interventions of the Bush years: last year’s war in Libya; a regional drone campaign with missions run out of airports and bases in Djibouti, Ethiopia, and the Indian Ocean archipelago nation of Seychelles; a flotilla of 30 ships in that ocean supporting regional operations; a multi-pronged military and CIA campaign against militants in Somalia, including intelligence operations, training for Somali agents, a secret prison, helicopter attacks, and U.S. commando raids; a massive influx of cash for counterterrorism operations across East Africa; a possible old-fashioned air war, carried out on the sly in the region using manned aircraft; tens of millions of dollars in arms for allied mercenaries and African troops; and a special ops expeditionary force (bolstered by State Department experts) dispatched to help capture or kill Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony and his senior commanders.  And this only begins to scratch the surface of Washington’s fast-expanding plans and activities in the region.

To support these mushrooming missions, near-constant training operations, and alliance-building joint exercises, outposts of all sorts are sprouting continent-wide, connected by a sprawling shadow logistics network.  Most American bases in Africa are still small and austere, but growing ever larger and more permanent in appearance.  For example, photographs from last year of Ethiopia’s Camp Gilbert, examined by TomDispatch, show a base filled with air-conditioned tents, metal shipping containers, and 55-gallon drums and other gear strapped to pallets, but also recreation facilities with TVs and videogames, and a well-appointed gym filled with stationary bikes, free weights, and other equipment.

Continental Drift

After 9/11, the U.S. military moved into three major regions in significant ways: South Asia (primarily Afghanistan), the Middle East (primarily Iraq), and the Horn of Africa.  Today, the U.S. is drawing down in Afghanistan and has largely left Iraq.  Africa, however, remains a growth opportunity for the Pentagon.

The U.S. is now involved, directly and by proxy, in military and surveillance operations against an expanding list of regional enemies.  They include al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in North Africa; the Islamist movement Boko Haram in Nigeria; possible al-Qaeda-linked militants in post-Qaddafi Libya; Joseph Kony’s murderous Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the Central African Republic, Congo, and South Sudan; Mali’s Islamist Rebels of the Ansar Dine, al-Shabaab in Somalia; and guerrillas from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula across the Gulf of Aden in Yemen.

A recent investigation by the Washington Post revealed that contractor-operated surveillance aircraft based out of Entebbe, Uganda, are scouring the territory used by Kony’s LRA at the Pentagon’s behest, and that 100 to 200 U.S. commandos share a base with the Kenyan military at Manda Bay. Additionally, U.S. drones are being flown out of Arba Minch airport in Ethiopia and from the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean, while drones and F-15 fighter-bombers have been operating out of Camp Lemonnier as part of the shadow wars being waged by the U.S. military and the CIA in Yemen and Somalia.  Surveillance planes used for spy missions over Mali, Mauritania, and the Sahara desert are also flying missions from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso, and plans are reportedly in the works for a similar base in the newborn nation of South Sudan.

U.S. special operations forces are stationed at a string of even more shadowy forward operating posts on the continent, including one in Djema in the Central Africa Republic and others in Nzara in South Sudan and Dungu in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The U.S. also has had troops deployed in Mali, despite having officially suspended military relations with that country following a coup.

According to research by TomDispatch, the U.S. Navy also has a forward operating location, manned mostly by Seabees, Civil Affairs personnel, and force-protection troops, known as Camp Gilbert in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia.  U.S. military documents indicate that there may be other even lower-profile U.S. facilities in the country.  In addition to Camp Lemonnier, the U.S. military also maintains another hole-and-corner outpost in Djibouti — a Navy port facility that lacks even a name.  AFRICOM did not respond to requests for further information on these posts before this article went to press.

Additionally, U.S. Special Operations Forces are engaged in missions against the Lord’s Resistance Army from a rugged camp in Obo in the Central African Republic, but little is said about that base either.  “U.S. military personnel working with regional militaries in the hunt for Joseph Kony are guests of the African security forces comprising the regional counter-LRA effort,” Barnes told me.  “Specifically in Obo, the troops live in a small camp and work with partner nation troops at a Ugandan facility that operates at the invitation of the government of the Central African Republic.”

And that’s still just part of the story.  U.S. troops are also working at bases inside Uganda.  Earlier this year, elite Force Recon Marines from the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force 12 (SPMAGTF-12) trained soldiers from the Uganda People’s Defense Force, which not only runs missions in the Central African Republic, but also acts as a proxy force for the U.S. in Somalia in the battle against the Islamist militants known as al-Shabaab.  They now supply the majority of the troops to the African Union Mission protecting the U.S.-supported government in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

In the spring, Marines from SPMAGTF-12 also trained soldiers from the Burundi National Defense Force (BNDF), the second-largest contingent in Somalia.  In April and May, members of Task Force Raptor, 3rd Squadron, 124th Cavalry Regiment, of the Texas National Guard took part in a training mission with the BNDF in Mudubugu, Burundi.

In February, SPMAGTF-12 sent trainers to Djibouti to work with an elite local army unit, while other Marines traveled to Liberia to focus on teaching riot-control techniques to Liberia’s military as part of what is otherwise a State Department-directed effort to rebuild that force.

In addition, the U.S. is conducting counterterrorism training and equipping militaries in Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, Niger, and Tunisia.  AFRICOM also has 14 major joint-training exercises planned for 2012, including operations in Morocco, Cameroon, Gabon, Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho, Senegal, and Nigeria.

The size of U.S. forces conducting these joint exercises and training missions fluctuates, but Barnes told me that, “on an average basis, there are approximately 5,000 U.S. Military and DoD personnel working across the continent” at any one time.  Next year, even more American troops are likely to be on hand as units from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, known as the “Dagger Brigade,” are scheduled to deploy to the region.  The roughly 3,000 soldiers in the brigade will be involved in, among other activities, training missions while acquiring regional expertise.  “Special Forces have a particular capability in this area, but not the capacity to fulfill the demand; and we think we will be able to fulfill the demand by using conventional forces,” Colonel Andrew Dennis told a reporter about the deployment.

Air Africa

Last month, the Washington Post revealed that, since at least 2009, the “practice of hiring private companies to spy on huge expanses of African territory… has been a cornerstone of the U.S. military’s secret activities on the continent.”  Dubbed Tusker Sand, the project consists of contractors flying from Entebbe airport in Uganda and a handful of other airfields.  They pilot turbo-prop planes that look innocuous but are packed with sophisticated surveillance gear.

America’s mercenary spies in Africa are, however, just part of the story.

While the Pentagon canceled an analogous drone surveillance program dubbed Tusker Wing, it has spent millions of dollars to upgrade the civilian airport at Arba Minch, Ethiopia, to enable drone missions to be flown from it.  Infrastructure to support such operations has been relatively cheap and easy to construct, but a much more daunting problem looms — one intimately connected to the New Spice Route.

“Marco Polo wasn’t just an explorer,” Army planner Chris Zahner explained at a conference in Djibouti last year.  “[H]e was also a logistician developing logistics nodes along the Silk Road. Now let’s do something similar where the Queen of Sheba traveled.”  Paeans to bygone luminaries aside, the reasons for pouring resources into sea and ground supply networks have less to do with history than with Africa’s airport infrastructure.

Of the 3,300 airfields on the continent identified in a National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency review, the Air Force has surveyed only 303 of them and just 158 of those surveys are current.  Of those airfields that have been checked out, half won’t support the weight of the C-130 cargo planes that the U.S. military leans heavily on to transport troops and materiel.  These limitations were driven home during Natural Fire 2010, one of that year’s joint training exercises hosted by AFRICOM.  When C-130s were unable to use an airfield in Gulu, Uganda, an extra $3 million was spent instead to send in Chinook helicopters.

In addition, diplomatic clearances and airfield restrictions on U.S. military aircraft cost the Pentagon time and money, while often raising local suspicion and ire.  In a recent article in the military trade publication Army Sustainment, Air Force Major Joseph Gaddis touts an emerging solution: outsourcing.  The concept was tested last year, during another AFRICOM training operation, Atlas Drop 2011.

“Instead of using military airlift to move equipment to and from the exercise, planners used commercial freight vendors,” writes Gadddis. “This provided exercise participants with door-to-door delivery service and eliminated the need for extra personnel to channel the equipment through freight and customs areas.”  Using mercenary cargo carriers to skirt diplomatic clearance issues and move cargo to airports that can’t support U.S. C-130s is, however, just one avenue the Pentagon is pursuing to support its expanding operations in Africa.

Another is construction.

The Great Build-Up

Military contracting documents reveal plans for an investment of up to $180 million or more in construction at Camp Lemonnier alone.  Chief among the projects will be the laying of 54,500 square meters of taxiways “to support medium-load aircraft” and the construction of a 185,000 square meter Combat Aircraft Loading Area.  In addition, plans are in the works to erect modular maintenance structures, hangers, and ammunition storage facilities, all needed for an expanding set of secret wars in Africa.

Other contracting documents suggest that, in the years to come, the Pentagon will be investing up to $50 million in new projects at that base, Kenya’s Camp Simba, and additional unspecified locations in Africa.  Still other solicitation materials suggest future military construction in Egypt, where the Pentagon already maintains a medical research facility, and still more work in Djibouti.

No less telling are contracting documents indicating a coming influx of “emergency troop housing” at Camp Lemonnier, including almost 300 additional Containerized Living Units (CLUs), stackable, air-conditioned living quarters, as well as latrines and laundry facilities.

Military documents also indicate that a nearly $450,000 exercise facility was installed at the U.S. base in Entebbe, Uganda, last year.  All of this indicates that, for the Pentagon, its African build-up has only begun.

The Scramble for Africa

In a recent speech in Arlington, Virginia, AFRICOM Commander General Carter Ham explained the reasoning behind U.S. operations on the continent: “The absolute imperative for the United States military [is] to protect America, Americans, and American interests; in our case, in my case, [to] protect us from threats that may emerge from the African continent.”  As an example, Ham named the Somali-based al-Shabaab as a prime threat.  “Why do we care about that?” he asked rhetorically.  “Well, al-Qaeda is a global enterprise… we think they very clearly do present, as an al-Qaeda affiliate… a threat to America and Americans.”

Fighting them over there, so we don’t need to fight them here has been a core tenet of American foreign policy for decades, especially since 9/11.  But trying to apply military solutions to complex political and social problems has regularly led to unforeseen consequences.  For example, last year’s U.S.-supported war in Libya resulted in masses of well-armed Tuareg mercenaries, who had been fighting for Libyan autocrat Muammar Qaddafi, heading back to Mali where they helped destabilize that country.  So far, the result has been a military coup by an American-trained officer; a takeover of some areas by Tuareg fighters of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, who had previously raided Libyan arms depots; and other parts of the country being seized by the irregulars of Ansar Dine, the latest al-Qaeda “affiliate” on the American radar.  One military intervention, in other words, led to three major instances of blowback in a neighboring country in just a year.

With the Obama administration clearly engaged in a twenty-first century scramble for Africa, the possibility of successive waves of overlapping blowback grows exponentially.  Mali may only be the beginning and there’s no telling how any of it will end.  In the meantime, keep your eye on Africa.  The U.S. military is going to make news there for years to come.

*Nick Turse is the associate editor of  An award-winning journalist, his work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, and regularly at TomDispatch. He is the author/editor of several books, including the recently published Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050 (with Tom Engelhardt).  This piece is the latest article in his series on “the changing face of American empire,” which is being underwritten by Lannan Foundation. You can follow him on Tumblr. To catch Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which he discusses the Pentagon’s shadowy, but fast-expanding mission in Africa, click here or download it to your iPod here.

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Africa’s journey to space begins on the ground
July 14, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Meredith Baker BBC News*

Though neither country has yet launched people into orbit, both are utilising the technology they have developed from their space agencies to help people on the ground.



Nigeria founded its National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) in 1999 with the intent of using and developing space technology that would translate into socio-economic benefits for the population at large. It launched its first satellite in 2003.

The country has made great strides in satellite technology in the past decade with the establishment of NigComSat, an independent company charged with managing the commercial and business operations of communication satellites.

With the help of the Chinese, NigComSat launched NigComSat-1R in December 2011. It is a hybrid geostationary satellite with a 15-year lifespan that has provided improved and cost-effective wireless and internet coverage for Nigerians.

Not only has NigComSat-1R expanded opportunities for broadcast companies, but the government of Nigeria estimates that $10m (£6.5m) can be made from direct-to-home TV initiatives made possible by the satellite.

NigeriaSat-2 and NigeriaSat-X, launched in August 2011 from the Dnepr rocket in Russia, provide high-resolution and medium-resolution satellite images that allow Nigeria to tap into a whole new set of commercial opportunities.

Nigerian needs

UK-based Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL) built NigeriaSat-2 while Nigerian engineers looked on, and then they built NigeriaSat-X under the supervision of SSTL.

“Nigeria has been the best example of SSTL’s training programme,” says SSTL’s head of earth observation and science, Luis Gomes.

“The country has a long and well-defined road map of its space programme and embodies the vision to use space technology for the benefit of the Nigerian people both by providing information to help manage the country and by providing a focus for the training of engineers and scientists.”

Mr Gomes says NASRDA wanted to ensure both satellites were designed with the needs of the Nigerian people in mind – to monitor food production, deforestation and natural disasters, and map remote areas.

Ghana is not far behind Nigeria in Africa’s space race.

In May, the country launched the Ghana Space Science and Technology Centre (GSSTC) to plan programmes in space science and technology that directly relate to the development of the country.

Much like Nigeria, Ghana wants to use its space centre to look at natural-resource management, weather forecasting, agriculture and national security.

Though the centre currently has only 10 employees, GSSTC hopes to build its human capacity by partnering with the Space Generation Advisory Council branch in Ghana (SGAC-Ghana), which seeks to engage university students and young professionals in collaborations related to space exploration and its applications.



SGAC-Ghana’s Michael Afful says: “We have already embarked on outreach programmes in various secondary and tertiary schools, tours to interesting scientific sites, and we have also created interesting competitions to spark the minds of young space enthusiasts.”

Ghana is reinforcing the work of SGAC and the Space Science and Technology Centre by offering scholarships in maths and science and free laptops to students and teachers.

Out of 53 participating countries, Ghana has been elected to chair the Commission on Science and Technology for Sustainable Development in the South (Comsats).

And with its new role, the country has promised to set aside 1% of its gross domestic product to support research in science and technology and continue joint efforts in space exploration with South Africa and other Comsats countries.

As Nigeria continues to capitalise on its current satellite technology and Ghana begins to tap into its potential, the sky appears to be the limit for these two West African space programmes.

*Courtesy of BBC News


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10 things about African women’s leadership
July 14, 2012 | 0 Comments

Betty Mould Iddrisu*


Accomplished female leader Betty Mould Iddrisu shares her top 10 lessons about leadership on the continent and the difficulties women have to overcome to reach – and stay – on top.
There is a harsh reality about women’s leadership in Africa. I have dreamt it and lived it. Gradually, women are penetrating historical barriers that have up till very recently been closed to us, barriers that limited women’s attainment of the highest levels of power and leadership in important sectors of society. Daring to aspire or reaching heights that very few women have attained can be remarkably fulfilling, but also so revealing – with mixed experiences, unique perspectives and at times come with inexplicable disappointments. I have the laurels and scars to show for my leadership journey. And through it all, here are a few things I have come to know for sure:


Even at an all time best record of two female presidents, a woman prime minister and women occupying 19.7 per cent of parliaments across the continent, everyone would agree that these numbers of women in higher levels of politics – symptomatic of female representation in other sectors of society – are woefully low by any standards of fairness, equity or democratic principles of participation. No question, there have been significant moments and achievements to be proud of – the African countries of Rwanda, South Africa and Mozambique are among countries with the highest percentage of women in parliaments, however we are nowhere near where we need to be. And the higher-up I have climbed in my leadership journey, the more apparent this harsh reality has appeared. We must always applaud the valuable contributions of women at the lower and mediums levels, but we need to be at that high-table to partake, contribute and share in the power of shaping our national and regional destinies. We may be making significant progress, but I know for sure the status quo is neither fair nor acceptable.


African women suffer systemic prejudices in making their way to the top. Firstly, we are not taken seriously because men believe a woman is intrinsically less competent than their male counterpart. The incidence of sexual harassment both at the tertiary level and in the workplace are very well documented, impeding women’s progress overall. Additionally, the duties of motherhood can be crushing – if not managed carefully. Most men believe that women should take the primary responsibility for the care of the family so late working hours, weekend seminars, overseas and business trips which contribute to any workers upward mobility are very difficult for younger working wives and mothers. Arrival at the top tier is rare and when you are there you are usually faced with hostility and disbelief in your competency as a female. A woman at the top works so much harder than her male counterparts to prove her competency and yet is still faced with ingrained prejudice and hostility to her playing the role of a boss or leader in a largely male dominated working environment.


Politics – corporate or party – is cruel and generally unforgiving. Nowhere is this more evident than for women in Africa. Since a woman’s role is generally thought of as to be supportive to her husband and family the hard knocks and politics of insults which generally characterize public leadership are not palatable to a politicians family and such women are thought of as bringing ‘shame and disgrace’ to their families. Women leaders and politicians need the support of their sisters, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, classmates and cannot thrive without their active and vocal support. Women are generally thought of not to be supportive of each other and experience of many women leaders shows this to be a harsh reality. It takes a lot of inner strength and thick skin.


Despite the remarkable progress, despite the many breakthroughs, and despite the increasing awareness and acceptance of women’s leadership in Africa, there still remains far too many obstacles impeding a woman’s leadership and her upward mobility. Traditional African society is still hedged by a myriad of barriers designed to maintain women’s subordinate status in society. Inimical and cruel customary practices towards women, disproportionate access to education resulting in the girl child not being enabled to go and actually stay in school and endemic poverty affecting the rural peasant woman are all barriers which contribute towards keeping women out of active leadership roles on the continent. Most of the legal barriers towards women’s progress have been overcome or reversed across the continent especially over the past 30 years. The challenge then comes with shedding outmoded perceptions of women’s role in society and this can only come with time and a ‘can do’ attitude. Forward, we are moving, but I know for sure there are still many barriers to break through.


Traditions are not supposed to be stagnant – they can be used as tools of change. This change is usually spearheaded by the women themselves. Some aspects of African tradition attempt to keep women silent, subordinate and second-class citizens, but many others uphold the dignity and sacred respect for womanhood. While conscious of the many harmful aspects of our traditions, I have always viewed and utilized the empowering dimensions of culture and tradition as a catalyst for positive change – to empower, to legitimize and to advance the African woman’s role in leadership. Culture can be used to hold us back, but we can also shape cultures in ways that are liberating. Much of African tradition, however, that may have been rooted in glorious cultures and histories, have been used by men to ambush women from realizing their full leadership potential, but I know for sure we can also find strength and opportunities in the values and dynamism of many of our cultures.


Higher level education is a desirable but not a necessary pre-requisite to successful female leadership on the continent. Education commands an automatic certainty of status in society because it enables a woman to have a certain cachet. However, whilst I cannot emphasize enough its importance to every woman leader, I also know that formal education cannot provide all the tools you need to survive and succeed as a woman in higher-level leadership, but, more importantly, the lack of it does not disqualify a woman from excelling.


Since there is an ingrained skepticism towards women’s ability to succeed in Africa, it means, simply put, that women leaders must work doubly hard. The path to success is littered with obstacles and it takes huge doses of courage and determination to stay the course. I know for sure that, with or without peculiar challenges, hard work remains a non-negotiable imperative for leadership success. And with the gender-specific challenges of prejudice and skepticism directed at women leaders, the African woman leader has no choice but to work hard with a determined spirit. No matter how qualified or charming, and no matter how motivated or spiritual, a woman leader is Africa needs to work harder then her male counterparts to be counted at all.


Complaints abound across the continent that women leaders do not assist in improving the status of their womenfolk in society. But only a woman, who has been at the top and has tried her very best to make a difference, would truly comprehend the extreme difficulties of being the only one of your kind up there. Women leaders need to and must continue to forge networks and alliances with the grassroots and civil society in order to be responsive to the needs of women at the grassroots and leadership. It is so lonely at the top of that ladder, but I know for sure that broader and stronger networks of grassroots, professional and civil society allies provide powerful forces you can surely count on.


You are always viewed and judged as a ‘woman leader’ and not just as a ‘leader’. You are an African, a citizen and a leader, your ‘womanhood’ remains a pre-defined measure of society’s worldview of your leadership. Consequently, the challenges of being a woman leader are multiplied because you are an African woman; but the harsh realities of female leadership in Africa are myriad – factors such as the extremely low representation of women in politics and leadership at all levels, negative and cruel cultural and traditional practices, the subordinate status of women, lack of education and poverty levels are all challenges to be overcome in leadership.


If there is one thing I have come to know and believe beyond any count, it is the ability of women to lead – in any sector and any field or at any level. We may continue to excel – just as some men excel. We may continue to stumble along the way just as so many men stumble. We may even fail once in a while, just as men have historically failed. But I know for sure that we are capable, we have the right to and we can indeed lead this continent. YES WE CAN!

* Mrs. Betty Mould Iddrisu is one of Africa’s most accomplished female leaders. She served as the first female Attorney General and Minister of Justice, and as Education Minister of the Republic of Ghana. She also served as the Director of Legal and Constitutional Affairs for the 54 member nations Commonwealth Secretariat, as a Law Lecturer and has been a leading voice on gender equality in Africa for over 30 years. She has a tremendous passion for empowering the new generation of African women leaders and professionals. Mrs. Mould-Iddrisu is currently a much sought after International Speaker, Consultant and Activist on law, politics and gender justice.
*Courtesy of Pambazuka News.

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Nigeria Sows Seeds for Agricultural Rejuvenation
July 13, 2012 | 0 Comments

Nigeria’s attempts to regenerate its agricultural sector face tough challenges.

Lagun Akinloye*,

The agricultural sector, once the bedrock of the Nigerian economy, has witnessed a steady decline since the discovery and commercialisation of Nigeria’s abundant hydrocarbon resources. Since the 1970s, the profitability and relative availability of ‘black gold’ brought about a change in government priorities; agriculture would no longer be pivotal.

Until the 1970s, agriculture accounted for over 60% of Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP) and agricultural commodities were the country’s main exports. Decades of misplaced policies, under-investment and technological stagnation, however, have turned Nigeria into a net importer of food. Today, an average of N24 trillion ($150 billion) is spent importing food each year, and government policies – such as former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s ‘Operation Feed the Nation’ and former President Shehu Shagari’s ‘Green Revolution Programme’ – failed to turn around the agricultural sector’s fortunes.

Will the President Goodluck Jonathan’s newly-initiated ‘Agricultural Transformation’ fare any better?
Withered potential

The current minister of agriculture, Akinwumi Adesina, has been handed the Herculean task of transforming the sector. And unlike his predecessors, who have tended to not be from an agricultural background, Adesina has years of agricultural experience. He is renowned agricultural economist and academic, and has served as a senior scientist for the Rockefeller Foundation, at one point leading their agri-enterprise programme.

Adesina will need to draw on all this past experience if he is to tackle the slowest growing sector in Nigeria’s economy. The good news for the minister, however, is that Nigeria’s potential for agricultural production remains enormous. The country is already the world’s largest producer of cassava, for example, accounting for 19% of world production. Furthermore, a report by the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) estimated that production in Nigeria’s agricultural sector could grow by a colossal 160% by 2030, rising from $99 billion in 2010 to $256 billion two decades later. To achieve this, the country would – first and foremost – have to tackle its low productivity.
Reap what you sow

In the past, low productivity has tended to stem from poor technology and research, inefficient practices, and underdevelopment. The sector has also suffered from insufficient financing – funding to the agricultural sector stands at around 2% of total bank lending compared to say 6% in Kenya. Excessive risk, complex credit assessment procedures and high transaction costs are some of the reasons most commonly given for this low funding.

The country’s infrastructural deficiencies also inhibit the sector. Crumbling road networks, lack of power and the unavailability of storage facilities provide little room for advancement. These factors lead to a burgeoning need for imported goods which, according to Adesina, is growing at an unsustainable rate of 11% each year, fuelling domestic inflation and increasing levels of poverty. In 2010 alone, Nigeria spent N635 billion ($4 billion) on wheat imports, N356 billion ($2.2 billion) on rice, N217 billion ($1.3 billion) on sugar and N97 billion ($600 million) on fish. Given Nigeria’s abundance of fertile land, these figures are alarming.

Another problem is the distribution of fertiliser. According to Adesina, only around 11% of government-distributed fertiliser reaches farmers. The remainder is thought to be hoarded by cartels or moved across Nigeria’s porous borders.
Planting seeds of hope

This May, President Goodluck Jonathan inaugurated the Agricultural Transformation Implementation Council (ATIC). The council was tasked with increasing the efficiency and profitability of the agricultural sector, whilst enhancing the value-added chains of twelve key agricultural commodities: cotton, cocoa, cassava, oil-palm, maize, soya bean, onion, rice, livestock, fisheries, tomato and sorghum. Vice-President Namadi Sambo was chosen as chairman of the council and Adesina serves as its coordinator.

President Jonathan also introduced the cassava bread initiative by which bakers are expected to supplement 40% of wheat-flour with locally produced cassava flour when making bread.

These efforts on the part of the executive have been supplemented by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), which is attempting to tackle the difficult loan environment for farmers. In collaboration with the government, the CBN has launched the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Management System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL). This scheme will provide risk-sharing instruments to lower risks of lending for agriculture, provide technical assistance to farmers, and by 2015 make N500 billion ($3.1 billion) available to commercial banks in an attempt to boost lending.

The ministry of agriculture has also initiated reform in fertiliser production and distribution under Adesina’s Growth Enhancement Support Scheme (GESS). Under the initiative, the direct distribution of farm inputs will be discontinued and, instead, the government will simply subsidise the costs of buying inputs such as fertiliser and seeds directly from agro-dealers.
Future growth

The various policies initiated by the government indicate an increasing level of commitment to the sector. But success will rest on the durability of these initiatives and whether or not the government has the political will to carry them through. The hurdles facing Nigerian agriculture are many and also go beyond specifically agriculturally-focussed issues – the rejuvenation of the sector therefore can only really be fully achieved alongside the transformation of Nigeria as a whole, including infrastructure.

Whilst some might argue that the N80billion ($500 million) allocated to agriculture in the 2012 budget is insufficient for the country’s needs, used wisely, significant growth is possible. If Adesina, the CBN, the government and other stakeholders work in unison to transform the sector, Nigeria could produce enough food to sustain its growing population, lower food imports, and even become a major food exporter. Nigeria has the potential to be West Africa’s breadbasket, it just needs to be unlocked.

*Courtesy of Think Africa

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Why cities, not countries, should drive investment decisions in Africa
July 13, 2012 | 0 Comments

By  Claude Harding*

Africa is urbanising at a rapid pace. It is estimated that around 40% of Africans currently live in urban areas, making Africa more urbanised than India, and slightly less urbanised than China.

According to Standard Bank analyst Simon Freemantle “2030 will be the tipping point whereby more Africans will reside in urban than rural areas for the first time in the continent’s history”. By 2050 it is expected that more than 60% of Africans will be urbanised.

This urbanisation is likely to lead to a growing demand for consumer goods, presenting an array of business opportunities for companies looking to tap into the African market.

In a new report, entitled Urban world: Cities and the rise of the consuming class, consulting firm McKinsey notes that “most companies are still not looking at cities as they calibrate strategy”. The firm has found that “less than one in five executives is making location and resource decisions at the city, rather than the country level”.

“Companies that understand the shifting urban marketplaces relevant to their businesses and build an early presence with sufficient scale are likely to benefit from being the incumbent with better market access and higher margins. Looking at cities rather than countries can be eye-opening. Take laundry care products as an example. We expect to see more sales growth of these products in São Paulo than in either France or Malaysia over the next decade,” notes the report.

During this year’s World Economic Forum of Africa, Martyn Davies, CEO of South African-based Frontier Advisory, noted that in the future African cities will compete for investment.

McKinsey says that a large chunk of the world’s urban growth will come from a group of developing market cities, dubbed the Emerging 440. It is expected that these emerging market cities will account for 47% of global GDP growth between 2010 and 2025. Africa and the Middle East together contribute 39 cities to this group, of which 37 are classified as ‘middleweights’ – cities that have populations of between 200,000 and 10 million.

Middleweight cities in Africa include Angola’s capital Luanda, the third-largest Portuguese speaking city in the world; and resource-rich cities as Kumasi, which produces almost half of Ghana’s timber; and Port Harcourt, the centre of Nigeria’s oil industry.

Young, entry-level consumers

Although emerging market cities will experience an increase in demand for consumer goods, the level of adoption for specific products will differ from city to city. Demographic differences will play a large role. Companies that are targeting the African consumer should therefore take note of Africa’s relatively young population.

For example, in “Nigerian cities, one-third of the entire population is aged below 16 and sales of baby food are running at more than twice the global average at similar income levels.”

Of the top 20 cities that McKinsey has identified as growth hot spots for companies targeting young, entry level consumers, 15 are in Africa. The list includes urban centres such as Lagos, Dar es Salaam, Ouagadougou, Kampala, Lusaka and Ibadan.


Urbanisation in Africa will also lead to an increase in demand for buildings, container capacity at ports, and municipal water. This creates a huge challenge for governments, but is also an opportunity for the private sector.

“The world’s new urban consumers will have an impact far beyond sales of goods and services. To cater to their needs, cities will need to invest heavily in infrastructure,” notes McKinsey.

*Culled from

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Five reasons why Africa should take off
July 13, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Wolfgang Fengler*

A week hardly goes by without one or more international investors announcing major investment interests in Nairobi, or other African capital cities.

Nokia, Nestle, and IBM are some of the companies which intend to position themselves more strongly in (East) Africa. True, their investments may still be low by international standards, but they are increasingly becoming noticeable.

On a macroeconomic level, the new Africa momentum has also been evident. Africa has weathered both the global financial crisis, and the turbulence in the eurozone. According to the World Bank, sub-Saharan Africa is projected to grow above 5% in 2012 and 2013. This would be higher than the average of developing countries (excluding China), and substantially, above growth in high-income countries.

This means that at some point in this decade, Africa could grow above the levels of Asia. A few years ago, it would not have been possible for economic observers to consider such a scenario. Once Africa becomes the fastest growing continent in the world; this will also be the true turning point for Africa’s global perception.

There are five reasons why Africa can become an emerging region over the next decade, and Kenya provides a good illustration of this. The first reason is external, while the others are domestic.

First, Asia is growing richer and is becoming more expensive. With an aging and more affluent population, Asia, especially China, will need to expand domestic demand and balance its economy away from exports. This will further raise the costs for production, which will lead to “the end of the China price”, a term used by Pamela Cox, World Bank vice president for East Asia. Other poorer countries can benefit from the end of the China price, mainly due to the fact that more than 85 million manufacturing jobs are expected to leave China in the coming decade. Will Africa get a big share it? Will Kenya be part of it?

Second, Africa will be the new demographic powerhouse of the world. All continents will grow older, and many economies will have a shrinking working population. Africa on the other hand is still young (as a matter of fact, it is also growing older, but from a very low base), and the working age population is rapidly expanding. As family sizes shrink and populations grow older, countries will experience a “demographic dividend”, which occurs when the working age population exceeds the number of dependants, and continues to broaden.

For example, Kenya adds more than one million people per year to its population, and will reach an estimated 85 million by 2050. However, the number of youth (age 0-14) is expected to increase from 20 to 25 million, while that of adults from 22 million today, to 55 million in 2050. This is why rapid population growth is good for Africa, since fast growth is taking place for fundamentally different reasons, compared to the past; it is because people now live longer – not because they have more children.

Third is the geographic transition which is also connected to demography. Most African cities are still small, but growing rapidly; not least because rapid population growth by definition increases the density of countries. Studies show that doubling city size is associated with a productivity increase of an average of 6%. The key issue will be the management of these growing cities. Today, 30% of Kenya’s population lives in cities. But going forward, this share will increase by about 1% per year, over the next several decades, which means that by 2033, half of Kenya’s population will be urban. Geography should also work to Africa’s advantage, because it is not far from key markets. The port of Mombasa is relatively close to India and Europe. In addition, Nairobi has already emerged as the region’s transport and service hub.

Fourth, the expansion in education is paying off. Africans are better educated today than they were twenty years ago. Among the Millennium Development Goals, education is likely to be achieved. Kenya speaks the world’s leading language – English – and the business community largely benefits from a good labour force. Since the introduction of free primary education, most Kenyan children are now going to school. Most of them know how to read and write, but the quality of education still needs improvement.

Fifth, economic policies have substantially improved. The 1990s was the decade of controversial structural adjustment. When I was traveling through Africa during that period, black markets were everywhere. Today they are exceptional. Compared to Europe, Africa’s macroeconomic policies look excellent! For example, Kenya’s debt level of around 45% of GDP would propel it to one of the top performers in the European Union.

Is this picture of an emerging Kenya and Africa too optimistic? Aren’t the challenges still enormous? Isn’t Africa still embroiled by war, drought, climate change, corruption … you name it? Yes, the challenges remain enormous. But look back ten to twenty years, and compare it to the present day. In countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda or Rwanda almost all social and economic indicators are now better than in the 1990s. Even globally, think about it: A few years ago, who would have thought that it would be possible for someone in Kenya to have a face-to-face conversation with someone in another part of the world – for free! Thanks to modern communication, it is now possible.

There are still many local and global problems which need urgent solutions. Between now and 2050, an additional 2 billion people will join the world population, who can help to solve these problems; of these, every second person will be an African. There will also be 45 million more Kenyans. This new generation will grow up in a new world, and be better equipped to solve future challenges.

*Wolfgang Fengler is a World Bank economist based in Nairobi. This is the second part of a speech he delivered at the Annual Gala of to the Petroleum Institute of East Africa.


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Botswana looking to move away from dependence on diamonds
July 13, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Imara Africa Securities team*

A recent article in the Africa Review reports that Botswana is desperate to end overreliance on mining following threats of diminishing diamond reserves.

Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, Ponatshego Kedikilwe, said the country was “heavily dependent on a single and finite commodity – diamonds”.

Mining, dominantly diamonds, accounted for about 41% of government’s revenue and 32.3% of GDP last year and Mr Kedikilwe believes economic diversification is the way out. “We do recognise that economic diversification is a long term process and in our case, the immediate concern is how to lessen the country’s heavy dependence on diamonds,” Kedikilwe said at the just-ended Botswana Resource Sector Conference.

He said the country was presently monitoring another looming double-dip recession and had to stay prepared for it. “Economic diversification and sustainable growth cannot succeed unless an overall enabling framework has been put in place first. Priority areas for my ministry are coal and diamonds,” he added.

According to Kedikilwe, coal provides a viable diversification option because of its various utilisation options including exporting it, electricity generation for domestic consumption and export and cement manufacturing. Already, the Botswana government is in the process of establishing a Coal Development Unit (CDU) to facilitate development of the entire coal value chain from mining, coal washing, power generation, transportation, storage at ports to shipping.

“The mandate of the CDU is to facilitate monetisation of Botswana coal by developing and implementing an accelerated coal monetisation strategic plan, coordination of the optimisation of the coal value chain, directing the planning of the coal and coal related rail development, undertake coal facilitatory projects and will be the contact point between government and the private sector,” he said.

Apart from resources, Botswana’s beef sector received a boost last week after the European Union lifted the ban slapped on the country’s beef products last year, allowing the country to resume exporting beef to the EU market.

The EU banned Botswana after observing deficiencies in official controls, abattoir operations and certification procedures. It sent inspectors to assess the country’s animal disease control systems last year and recommended that the southern African country should put in place clear documented procedures and relevant official controls to guarantee that only eligible animals are slaughtered for export to the EU. Botswana was also asked to ensure that all its listed export abattoirs fulfil the EU requirements and that records of treatment with veterinary medicinal are kept on farms.

The Botswana Meat Commission says it has now complied with EU’s veterinary and quarantine procedures. “Government, through the veterinary services, as the competent authority, has put sufficient official controls in place to guarantee production of beef destined for the lucrative EU market,” read a press release this week.

We believe it is paramount for Botswana to use the proceeds from its diamonds to develop other sectors of the economy. This will help reduce the negative impact on its economy whenever the global economy takes a hit. As much as we laud the move into harnessing its coal reserves, we believe the government should also pursue diversification beyond the resource space.

Imara is an investment banking and asset management group renowned for its knowledge of African markets.

*Courtesy of


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Incensed by Fallacies and Fabrications, Jean Ping will fight for African Union Office till The End
July 12, 2012 | 0 Comments

Africa: Press Statement By Dr. Jean Ping, Chairperson of the African Union Commission

press release

Addis Ababa — Press Statement by Dr. Jean Ping, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, in response to an article titled, “At Last, SA may get its woman into AU post,” published in The Sunday Times of South Africa, on Sunday, 8 July 2012:

My attention has been drawn to an article which appeared in the Sunday Times of South Africa in its edition of 8 July2012, to the effect that I paid a visit to South Africa on Friday, 6 July 2012, where I purportedly indicated my intention to withdraw from the race for re-election to the post of Chairperson of the African Union Commission.

The paper further claims that I want “a guarantee that I will be deployed somewhere else when (I) leave office.”

Jean Ping says he will fight to the finish

Jean Ping says he will fight to the finish

I am incensed by such an outright fallacy and fabrication, because nothing could be further from the truth. I am, and remain a candidate for re-election as chairperson of the African union Commission, as I have not been withdrawn by my country, Gabon, and my region. I fully intend to stay in the race until the very end and hope to earn the renewed trust of our Continent’s Leaders when they meet at the 19th AU Summit, scheduled to take place in Addis Ababa, on 15 and 16 July 2012.

Furthermore, I wish to affirm that I have not been to the Republic of South Africa since the Global African Diaspora Summit, which took place in May 2012. This means, therefore, that I was not in South Africa on Friday, 6 July 2012, as claimed by the Sunday Times. As a matter of fact, on that day, I was on a mission to Kampala, Uganda, where I had the honour of being received by His Excellency the Vice President of the Republic of Uganda. I had gone there from Chad, where I was on 4 and 5 July 2012 and had also had the honour of being received by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Chad, who is the current Chair of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS). These facts are authentic and verifiable.

The allegation that I was in South Africa on Friday, 6 July 2012 purportedly to seek some kind of “deal” that would facilitate my withdrawal from the race for re-election as Chairperson of the African Union Commission, or “a guarantee that (I) would be deployed somewhere else when (I) leave office,” are totally false, baseless and frankly annoying.

These fabrications by some elements in the South African media are not new. The Sunday Times article is simply the latest in a series of malicious lies and innuendoes which constitute part of a whole strategy to tarnish my hard-earned reputation and destabilize my campaign for re-election as Chairperson of the African Union Commission.

It is also, no doubt, designed to cast some doubts about my strength of character and to undermine support from a wide range of Member States keen to re- elect me.

For the record, I wish to mention just a few of such mendacious allegations which have been circulating in the media since the campaign began last year.

1. I was first accused of having indicated to the South African authorities that was not interested in seeking re-election.

2. It was further suggested that my country, Gabon, was not supportive of my candidature.

3. When these two lies were debunked, attention was then shifted to my supposed inability to handle the situations in Cote d’Ivoire and Libya, when it is well known that it is the Government of South Africa which impeded ECOWAS’ efforts to settle the Cote d’Ivoire crisis timeously and the same Government that voted in favour of resolution 1973 that authorized the bombing of Libya.

4. In December 2011, another South African Newspaper, Business Day, published an article in which it was alleged that the European Union (EU) High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Mrs. Catherine Ashton, had expressed support for my opponent’s candidature. This false allegation was immediately refuted by the EU.

5. It has also been alleged that I have not managed the Commission properly during my tenure, when there is evidence to prove that a lot of reforms in the administrative and financial areas have been carried out during the last four years.

6. Furthermore, a day or two before the election in January 2012, another malicious rumour was spread in Addis Ababa, alleging that I had collapsed and was unconscious, thus implying that my health was failing and therefore I was medically unfit (and would be unable) to serve another four-year term in such a demanding high-profile position. As is evident, I have continued to discharge my responsibilities without let or hindrance, as rigorous as they have been.

7. Just before the January election also, it was maliciously alleged that I am under the influence of France and that France teleguides the affairs of the Commission by remote control. No evidence has been provided to support this allegation and there is nothing in my conduct at the AU that remotely supports that allegation.

On the contrary, I have fully implemented all AU decisions, including on Libya, which were in contradiction with the position of France.

8. Recently, it has been suggested that France is funding my campaign, including provision of an aircraft for some of the trips I have made, some of which were in fulfillment of my official duties. This is absolutely untrue. The fact is that it is my Government and my personal resources that have sustained my campaign.

9. I have been accused falsely of having illegally established the Panel of the Wise.

Unknown to them, the Panel of the Wise was provided for under the Protocol establishing the Peace and Security Council. It was put in place by my predecessor long before I assumed my post. What was done in Kampala, Uganda in July 2010 was to renew the composition of the Panel.

10. Attempts have also been made to tarnish my image and sow seeds of discord between me and my Government, as well as other Member States that support me by spreading rumours that I have been behind the destabilization of some states.

May I seize this opportunity to re-state categorically and unequivocally that I am running for re-election as Chairperson of the African Union Commission. I am in the race because I believe in the African Union and would appreciate the opportunity to finish the work we have been doing in the last four years. I am still in this race and gratefully look forward to the wholesome support of the majority of the Leaders of AU Member States.

Furthermore, I would like to emphatically underscore that I have the full support of the Gabonese Leader, H.E. President Ali Bongo Ondimba, his Government and the Gabonese Nation. The President of Gabon has provided me with an aircraft to fly around the Continent and meet with African Leaders and talk to them about my vision for the African Union and how I intend to continue to lead the Commission, if re-elected.

The President has also sent Envoys to a number of AU Member State, to campaign for my re-election. For all these, I am grateful to President Ali Bongo Ondimba and the Gabonese Government and Nation for their unwavering support.

I am also grateful to the Leaders of the majority of AU Member States who voted for me last January and whose support I continue to enjoy.

Finally, let me end by affirming that I am the Candidate of Gabon and Africa, and have not received any financial or other support from any non-African Power.

This election is an African Union matter and will be decided only by African Union Member States.

I refuse to lower the moral threshold for this campaign and hope that all involved in the election will also conduct a clean and decent campaign that brings honour to Africa and sets a great example of democratic competition for the entire Continent.

Addis Ababa,

10 July 2012

Jean Ping Chairperson

African Union Commission


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