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The former Rwandan presidential adviser who founded his own bakery
March 31, 2016 | 0 Comments

He was once an adviser to the president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, while he has also worked for Deloitte and the African Development Bank.

But it’s an ambitious start up that’s providing Kayobotsi with his bread and butter these days.

Jean-Philippe Kayobotsi was once an adviser to Rwandan president, Paul Kagame

Jean-Philippe Kayobotsi was once an adviser to Rwandan president, Paul Kagame

His Brioche chain of bakery and coffee shops started as a small self-funded endeavor in 2013. But it has quickly morphed into a hip local brand with locations across the Rwandan capital of Kigali.

“We do pastries of all kinds, we do “vienwas” (a type of croissants), pan choc-o-lates, raisin swells and we do specialty breads and baguettes,” Kayobotsi says of his firm’s key products. “We also have dishes like homemade pastas and burgers.”

Brioche’s early popularity in Kigali, a city of one million people, attracted the attention and support of local investors which enabled it to expand quickly.

“We saw that the market was responding very well. After a year we expanded to two additional locations,” Kayobotsi says.

Key to this growth strategy has been a central kitchen and production facility where all products are made and packaged before being shipped to outlets for sale.

“In Rwanda and in the region we think this model is unique,” Kayobotsi says.

“We are able to attract international experienced chefs that can come to that central location and produce goods that can be distributed on a wider scale.”

His head chef is from Togo but has spent 20 years working in Belgium and can focus on making high-end items for sale in multiple locations.

This, he adds, is “a more European concept” and not a way of doing things many African food outlets have endeavored to master yet.

Branching out

As such, there are plenty of opportunities for the company to explore and potentially expand on the continent.

Now Kayobotsi owns a chain of bakery and coffee shops

Now Kayobotsi owns a chain of bakery and coffee shops

Brioche recently opened its first store in Nairobi, Kenya. The plan is to continue making everything at the central kitchen, delivering products to Nairobi by road every week.

“(Having a store in Kenya) sounded crazy, it still seems a bit crazy today,” Kayobotsi jokes. “But we feel that we want to have the right level of ambitions and want to take risks to make the journey interesting.”

Yet even with all its early growth, a word of caution for the future — Brioche has yet to make a profit. There is also no guarantee of success in the markets they seek to become established in where there may already be established competitors.

“Hopefully 2016 will be first year we make a profit,” Kayobotsi says.

“We see that the demand for specialty bakeries and pastries is not so high but it exists. Even among the Rwandan population who are new to those products. We see the demand growing for better quality and better products,” he adds.

*Source CNN

 

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THIS TINY AFRICAN COUNTRY IS LEADING THE WORLD’S DRONE RACE
March 31, 2016 | 0 Comments

BY LAURA SECORUN PALET*

1444259248DroneImagine this: A child is sick in a small village in the hills of Rwanda. It’s late at night, and the nearest hospital is hours away. So the kid’s worried mother picks up the phone, and, shortly thereafter, the much-needed asthma medication arrives — thanks to a drone.

Yes, Dr. Drone may sound futuristic, but it could be a way to get ahead of neighboring Kenya, which has banned the use of this tech for fear of the terrorist group al-Shabaab. And unmanned aerial vehicles, as they’re technically known, could also be a game-changer for humanitarian purposes and trade in countries such as Rwanda, with few roads to rural areas. Indeed, this tiny East African country, known as the land of a thousand hills, is leading the continent into the future of drone use — it’s even home to what could become the world’s first drone port by the end of 2017.

The word “drone” tends to conjure up images of terrified children running for cover in parts of the Middle East, or chubby nerds scaring passersby in San Francisco with their silent toys. And there are plenty of skeptics about how far this technology may go — many think deploying a large network of drones over developing countries is naive at best, and dangerous at worst. But for those like Jonathan Ledgard, a director at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, people have only begun to scratch the surface of this potentially world-changing technology. “Drones could do for transportation in Africa what mobile phones have done for banking,” he says.

The life-saving potential of this technology has been tested by Doctors Without Borders, which used drones to fight tuberculosis in Papua New Guinea.

Despite their difference in beliefs, both sides agree that the lack of infrastructure for transportation is one of the main factors holding back sub-Saharan economies. According to a study by the University of Sydney, only 34 percent of rural Africans live within two kilometers of an all-season road, compared to 65 percent in other developing regions, like Southeast Asia. Even in nations like Nigeria and South Africa, where the economies are growing close to the double digits annually, the lack of infrastructure is getting in the way of farmers being able to sell their produce and e-commerce ventures distributing their goods.

Drones could be part of the solution. At least that’s what people like Ledgard and his group of scientists say. They’ve spent the last few years developing and testing carrier drones for civilian purposes, and they’ll also be the ones in charge of filling Rwanda’s drone hub with solar-powered flying machines. (The design will be the work of the world-renowned architect Norman Foster, who has already envisioned a series of clay-made domes overlooking a lake, where the port will be built.) “Drones offer us such a great opportunity for development,” says Eric Rutayisire, founder of CHARIS, Rwanda’s first drone-making company.

But what about locals? While drones are likely to become cheaper and more accessible in the years to come, these machines currently cost thousands of dollars, putting them outside the reach of most folks here. And while some Western companies may heavily market their drones in this area, “we need to be wary of people promising quick fixes,” says Kristin B. Sandvik, director of the Norwegian Centre for Humanitarian Studies.

What most tech optimists also forget to mention is that Africa already has a history of drone use: The devices were used by colonial powers to bomb rebellions in the late 20thcentury. More recently, they’ve been used by the United Nations in Congo, and a couple of them fell near Goma, hurting civilians and burning down fields of crops. It’s hard, too, to make sure the power of drones is not abused when the laws and regulations are being created on the fly — some of the countries that could benefit from this technology have governments that are arguably undemocratic.

Yet fear is a bad advisor, says Rwanda’s minister of youth and ICT, Jean Philbert Nsengimana. He recently signed a new agreement with the San Francisco-based company Zipline, whose aerial vehicles — aka vampire drones — will be able to deliver blood to more than 22 transfusion facilities throughout the country. The life-saving potential of this technology has been tested by Doctors Without Borders, which used drones to fight tuberculosis in Papua New Guinea. And if the Rwandan experiment works, it won’t be long before other countries in the region decide to follow suit. For Rutayisire, the prospect of aerially connecting hospitals, tech hubs and markets across the continent is simply too exciting not to try. “With so much potential,” he says, “it’s hard to not be optimistic.”

 * Source ZY
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Tony Elumelu Foundation Picks 1,000 for $ 100 million Entrepreneurship Programme
March 25, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L*

A second set of 1,000 Africans has been selected to join the $ 100 million Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme –TEEP.

TEF Founder Tony Elumelu flanked by Foundation CEO Parmindar Vir and Selection Committee member Angelle Kwemo

TEF Founder Tony Elumelu flanked by Foundation CEO Parmindar Vir and Selection Committee member Angelle Kwemo

According to a statement from the Tony Elumelu Foundation, the successful candidates represent diverse industries including agriculture, ICT, and fashion. Over 45,000 applications were registered from 54 countries with the highest numbers coming from Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Uganda and Cameroon.

The release from the Foundation indicates that for the next nine months, the selected entrepreneurs will receive intensive online training, networking and mentoring that provides a tool kit for success and sustainability. Later in the year, the entrepreneurs will join in the three day Elumelu Entrepreneurship Forum which is the largest annual gathering of African entrepreneurial talent.

“The 2016 Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurs will become a generation of newly empowered African business owners, who are the clearest evidence yet, that indigenous business growth will drive Africa’s economic and social transformation,” Founder Tony Elumelu ,commented.

“In TEEP’s first year we spent over $8 million of our $100 million commitment – with $5 million going directly to entrepreneurs as seed capital — and the results have far exceeded our expectations,” said Elumelu .

To TEEP selection committee member Angelle Kwemo, it was a daunting task making the choice from the avalanche of brilliant and viable ideas. “We believe in Africa and the potential of its people,” said Kwemo, a Cameroonian, and Founder & chair of Believe in Africa, a US based organization promoting African economic transformation.

“The TEEP is proving to be one of the most effective tools in support of job creation and it should be adopted and duplicated,” Kwemo said, as she challenged other African businessmen and leaders to join forces or emulate the example of the Tony Elumelu Foundation.

Describing TEEP as “a life changing, challenging but rewarding journey,” Angelle Kwemo was pleased with the surge in French speaking entrepreneurs led in numbers by Cameroon. Wishing the new participants luck, Kwemo said Africa is looking forward to the full blown manifestation of the incredible potentials of the entrepreneurs.

Launched in 2015, TEEP is the largest African philanthropic initiative devoted to entrepreneurship and represents a 10-year, $100 million commitment, to identify and empower 10,000 African entrepreneurs, create a million jobs and add $10 billion in revenues to Africa’s economy.

The Tony Elumelu Foundation is an Africa-based, African-funded philanthropic organization. Founded in 2010, TEF is committed to driving African economic growth, by empowering African entrepreneurship. The Foundation aims to create lasting solutions that contribute positively to Africa’s social and economic transformation. Through impact investments, selective grant making, and policy development, it seeks to influence the operating environment so that entrepreneurship in Africa can flourish

 

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Congo Extradites Key Suspect in Rwanda Genocide
March 21, 2016 | 0 Comments
Top level Rwandan genocide suspect Ladislas Ntaganzwa, center, is escorted by security upon his arrival at the airport of Kigali, March 20, 2016.

Top level Rwandan genocide suspect Ladislas Ntaganzwa, center, is escorted by security upon his arrival at the airport of Kigali, March 20, 2016.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is extraditing one of the most wanted suspects in the Rwandan genocide to face charges for his crimes.

Ladislas Ntaganzwa was arrested in eastern Congo last year and was transferred into U.N. custody early Sunday before being sent to the Rwandan capital, Kigali.

Ntaganzwa is expected to be tried on nine counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and violations the Geneva conventions.

He served as mayor of the Nyakizu commune in Butare prefecture where he helped establish paramilitary forces bent on committing genocide. He and his forces are accused of organizing the massacre of some 20,000 ethnic Tutsis over a four-day period.

Captured in December

Congolese authorities said Ntaganzwa was arrested in Rushihe in December after a military operation dismantled the local headquarters of his rebel group, known by its French acronym, the FDLR.

He was initially wanted for trial by the Tanzania-based U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, but the case was transferred to Rwanda.

Other top fugitives at large include Felicien Kabuga, the alleged chief financier of the genocide; Protais Mpiranya, the former commandant of the notorious Presidential Guards; and former Defense Minister Augustin Bizimana.

An estimated 800,000 Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus were killed in the 1994 genocide.

*VOA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gina Paige

Gina Paige

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

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

Tambra Raye Stevenson

Tambra Raye Stevenson

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

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

join the event here

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

President & CEO of The Africa-America Institute Amini Kajunju

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rwanda’s President Kagame defends measure extending his time in office
February 28, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Scott Malone*

Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda attends the session "The Transformation of Tomorrow" during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland January 20, 2016. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda attends the session “The Transformation of Tomorrow” during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland January 20, 2016. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Feb 26 (Reuters) – Rwandan President Paul Kagame defended on Friday a December referendum that could allow him to extend his time in office through 2034, a move that has been criticized by the United States and other Western powers.

Kagame, who has been effectively in control of the central African country since he marched a rebel army into its capital Kigali in 1996, ending a genocide that saw 800,000 massacred, contended he was following the will of his people.

“Rwandans, most of whom are under 30 are more concerned with reaching our potential than sliding back into the dark past,” Kagame said in a speech at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, just outside Boston.

“There is a new democratic fundamentalism that values form over substance,” Kagame added. “If it is inherently undemocratic to amend constitutions, why do they contain provisions for doing so everywhere?”

The U.S. State Department last month said it was “deeply disappointed” in Kagame’s decision to seek a third term in office.

“If some people seek to stay in power when their people don’t want them – and it has happened, I’ve seen it in Africa – that will always end in a disaster,” Kagame said. “Is it the same case with Rwanda? I’m telling you no.”

He said little about the fighting in neighboring Burundi, where more than 400 have died since that nation’s president, Pierre Nkurunziza declared his intentions to serve a third term in April. Some 250,000 people have since fled Burundi and a confidential report to the United Nations Security Council first revealed by Reuters early this month accused Rwanda of recruiting and training some of them as fighters, with an eye toward unseating Pierre Nkurunziza.

Rwanda has denied those charges.

*Reuters

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First American of African Descent appointed Area Engineer for District 5 in MD
February 12, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L*

Dr Keke

Dr Keke

The African immigrant community recently registered another mile stone with the appointment of Dr Peter.M. Keke as Area Engineer and Assistant District Engineer for District 5 in Md. Originally from Cameroon, Dr Keke is the first American of African descent to hold these positions. From 1990 when he got to the USA, it has been a very eventful journey for Dr Keke whose experiences mirror those of most other successful African immigrants. “Never let people define your destiny and do not allow yourself be cut in myths,” says Dr Keke as he settles into his new job.

Dr Keke, you recently became the first American of African descent to hold the Office of Area Engineer and Assistant District Engineer for Construction in the State of Maryland, how did your recent appointment come about?

The Assistant District Engineer for Construction position in District- 5 was opened to those who had the qualification to interview during the month of May 2015. I was one of the interviewees out of 5 people. The interview panel was made up of 4 people and each of us was drilled with 9 questions. The selected candidate was screened and interviewed by the Governors appointment secretary for final approval. Accordingly, I emerged successful and was appointed on December 7, 2015 based on my ability to meet all the requirements, demonstration of an efficient and effective understanding of construction and managerial principles throughout the interview and screening process.

May we know what exactly your new duties entail and what jurisdiction you cover?

In a nutshell, my new duties are administrative and engineering construction management. I represent the District on all matters relating to Highway and Bridge construction within my area. Some of the responsibilities are; management of a $356 million construction program annually, attend legislative meetings to advice and report on construction projects, challenges, and needs. Attend town hall public meetings. Represent and advice the District Engineer, Administrator, MDOT Secretary on construction related matters. Inspect and coordinate construction activities of contractors, hire construction inspections, and coordinate with upper management on how to attain the District’s strategic and construction goals.   My jurisdiction covers four counties: Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary’s Counties.

Prior to this new appointment, what functions did Dr Keke have within the MD Government?

I was a construction inspector from 1998 to 2000 in District-5. Then from 2000 I was a Project Engineer in the District up to 2004. I continued as a Project Engineer in District-3 from 2004 to 2006. In 2006 I became the first black Area Engineer in District-3 up to 2013 (District-3 covers Montgomery and Prince Georges Counties). In 2013,

I moved to District- 4 (that is Baltimore and Harford Counties) in the same capacity as the Area Engineer. And in December 7, 2015 I was appointed the Assistant District Engineer for Constriction in Disrtict-5.

What experiences and academic background does Dr Keke bring to his new job?

I bring lots of construction experiences in this position. First I worked in Ministry of Public work and Transport Cameroon, Highway Department Limbe after graduating from National School of Technology (Survey School Buea) as Chief or Technical Officer from 1982 to 1998. Then I became the Chief of Subdivision Highways Department Kumba from 1998 to 1990. I moved to the United States in May 1990 were I worked (from 1990 to 1996) at a gas station as security guard, and later served as a housekeeper, a nursing assistant, and a medicine aid, while at the same time going to school. From 1994 to 1997 I also served as the first Mathematical Student President of Bowie State University. In addition I served as a student tutor in both Mathematics (calculus 1, 2, and 3) and Engineering (Engineering mechanics and differential equations) in Bowie State University and University of Maryland College Park respectively. I also worked as a student mathematical intern with the National Air space Museum in Washington D.C for 3 months in 1997. During the same period from 1996 to 1998 I worked with the Driggs Construction Company as Quantity Engineer and Project Engineer before joining the Maryland State Highway in 1998.

Academically; I hold a diploma in Surveying, BS in Mathematics, BS in Civil Engineering, MS in Project Management/Engineering, and a PhD in Project Management.

For the immigrant that you are, how challenging has it been for you to get to where you are?

As an immigrant it has been very challenging with varied experiences from rejection, to temptations, oppositions, and a different culture. In short, the journey demands great patience, hard work, endurance, and tenacity. Another interesting challenge is language/accent. Despite the fact that I studied in the US, each time I talk people still see me as a foreigner because of my accent. Sometimes, you face rejection because of the accent and skin color. However, my focus is to not allow such distractions became obstacles; therefore, I have always been hard working, willing to learn at all times, and to take advantage of situations. My goal has always been to be the best at all times.

To the young ones who see in you a role model and will love to emulate your example and career trajectory, what message do you have for them?

Never let people define your destiny and do not allow yourself be cut in myths. For example, I was told a black foreign person cannot graduate from University of Maryland College Park. This is a myth since I graduated from the school with honors. Another, advice is to be patient with your plan, work hard on it and it will all pay off at the end. An important point to note is that transforming from a Cameroon society to US society is challenging. You must accept and be willing to make the change needed for assimilation. You will have to start with small or odd jobs, but do not allow the jobs to define you; rather use these small or odd jobs as a means to an end. Finally, things can be made much easier if you have a mentor. Though I had none, I find that a mentor to rely on can help understand, and guide you towards success.

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A new road map for Power Africa
February 5, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Adva Saldinger *

A 500 watt solar system in a rural village in Uganda powers a home, drives a public broadcasting system, a barbershop and a video hall and generates new income for the business owner. Photo by: Sameer Halai / SunFunder / USAID

A 500 watt solar system in a rural village in Uganda powers a home, drives a public broadcasting system, a barbershop and a video hall and generates new income for the business owner. Photo by: Sameer Halai / SunFunder / USAID

An ambitious new road map released last week lays out how Power Africa, the United States government initiative to increase power generation capacity and access to electricity in Africa, will achieve its targets by 2030. The report outlines areas of new emphasis for the initiative, including a greater focus on energy access and on renewables.

And the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday unanimously passed the Electrify Africa Act, which codifies the work of the initiative and should ensure its longevity. The U.S. Senate passed the bill, which differs a bit from Power Africa goals — it sets targets at 50 million connections and 20,000 megawatts of generation, on Dec. 18 and it now awaits approval from President Barack Obama, which should be forthcoming.

In 2013 when it announced Power Africa, the U.S. committed $7 billion to tackle the challenge that more than 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity. That initial commitment has leveraged about $43 billion dollars in pledges from public and private sector partners, according to the Power Africa Roadmap.

The initial goals were for Power Africa to increase installed power capacity by 30,000 megawatts and create 60 million new connections by 2030. To date, the 13 Power Africa projects that have reached financial close are expected to generate more than 4,300 megawatts of power, according to the road map.

It’s important to note, and Power Africa does so in the road map, that some of those projects were underway before the initiative launched. While they didn’t come about under the auspices of the program, they met other criteria, including U.S. government involvement and meeting environmental and social safeguards.

Power Africa spent its first year focused on grid-scale generation deals, but leaders of the initiative are now looking ahead to ambitious connections targets — Power Africa-supported projects have the potential to lead to more than a million direct connections — and making changes based on lessons already learned.

Generation and access goals, for example, are “actually two totally different things,” Andrew Herscowitz, Power Africa coordinator, told Devex. As a result, the road map lays out specific plans for each goal, and progress will be measured in actual connections.

“We’ve learned a ton,” Herscowitz said. “We don’t just trust everything people say at conferences. We focus on analysis and data.”

The road map

That knowledge has been poured into the road map, which has three main pillars: achieving the goal around generation; increasing the number of people with access; and driving regulatory and policy changes to improve investment opportunities and speed project timelines.

Power Africa is tracking projects in the Power Africa Tracking Tool, an app built for the initiative, that would total about 45,000 megawatts if the projects all came online, though the road map estimates that only between 18,000-21,000 megawatts will reach financial close by 2030.

In order to meet its 30,000 megawatt goal, Power Africa is looking for new deals, which are likely to support natural gas and utility-scale solar expansion. It will also work to improve efficiency at existing power plants.

The majority of projects in the pipeline, and certainly those that aren’t yet being tracked, are at an early stage in their development, so it seems natural that one of Power Africa’s focuses will be on early stage transaction support. Many project developers say it’s also where donors and development finance institutions are needed most.

Reaching the goal of extending access to 60 million people will take a mix of relying on old technology — expanding existing grids, and new — developing innovative off-grid solutions.

One interesting prediction in the road map is that 8 million to 10 million of the new connections will come through the currently underdeveloped microgrid segment of the market, though this raises questions about how to build the appropriate structures and frameworks for those projects to succeed.

Work on the third pillar aimed at building capacity and driving regulatory reforms may be able to help some of those issues. A number of Power Africa programs or partner programs are working to help countries create solid, transparent regulatory and policy environments to help them attract investment and structure good projects.

That capacity building can also help citizens get a fair deal — a single negotiated deal between a company and a government not only takes a long time but is unlikely to provide the country good value for money, in part because African government officials often lack expertise, said Jamie Fergusson, the chief investment officer and global sector lead for renewables, infrastructure and natural resources at the International Finance Corp.

South Africa sets an example

Examples of what’s working are quickly emerging. While in many ways South Africa may not be representative of the rest of the subcontinent, it has risen as an example of a success story, particularly in scaling up grid-connected solar projects.

It’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Program developed a clear structure and transparent bid process that has led to more than 2,000 megawatts of solar between 2011 and 2014 and cheaper bids over time.

SolarReserve, global developer of utility-scale solar power projects, has won several bids and built grid-connected solar projects in South Africa. The latest, a 100 megawatt project with 12-hour storage, is set to start construction in the next two months.

The company continue to bid on projects in South Africa because the government built a program that commercially makes sense, has political support at the highest levels and a committed team that carries out the work, is transparent and keeps its word, said Kevin Smith, CEO of SolarReserve.

While South Africa has some advantages — it’s size, local expertise, a strong banking system lower currency risks —other countries can learn from their example, he said. Governments need to put together commercial documentation that makes sense, provide clarity around the offtaker and how it works, needs to abide by international arbitration and devise a transparent and open bidding process that sticks to a set schedule, Smith added.

Working together

Since Power Africa was launched, a bevy of other organizations focused on electrifying the continent have emerged and the initiative has amassed some 120 partners, including the African Development Bank, the World Bank, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the Norwegian government and many private developers, financiers and foundations. Managing that many groups is not always easy.

Coordination amongst the donor and development finance institution community takes long, patient conversations, and some head banging, Ferguson said.

“There’s politics and good intent and different organizations with their own mandates,” he said. “It is not all perfectly coordinated. Lots of sensible people, but still those conversations have to be had.”

Herscowitz said he is proud of the initiative’s efforts, especially in bringing the various actors together. The level of coordination among the donor organizations is “unprecedented,” he said, citing the example of household solar, where Power Africa, the AfDB and the U.K. Department for International Development got together to discuss their work on in the space and decided to have DfID take the lead. That cooperation helped shape what U.K.’s Energy Africa initiative does, Herscowitz said.

There are organizations stepping up to lead on other issues as well, like the World Bank and AfDB on grid rollout, organizations like the U.S. Trade Development Agency on project preparation, and the IFC on grid-level solar.

With so many players, determining how each player slots in and where donor and DFI capital should be used is important.

The IFC’s Scaling Solar initiative, for example, emerged to fill a gap in helping to structure and simplify the process of developing grid-connected solar projects. The program developed a template process and document set to help a government run through a process determining how much solar they want on their grid, where it should go, if appropriate sites can be developed and how it could run a competitive process to identify an independent power producer.

“Scaling Solar is designed with collaboration in that donor and DFI ecosystem in mind,” Ferguson said.

Governments will need help paying for advisory work and in financing the projects themselves, which is where donors can step in. For example, in Zambia, the first country to sign on to Scaling Solar, DfID and Power Africa are helping pay for advisory costs.

Donor financing helped many of the rapidly expanding home solar companies get off the ground — one of the most exciting development to Herscowitz personally. Super efficient fans, irons and televisions are allowing off-grid customers to “live an on-grid life,” he said, which can change the market and impact the climate change discussion.

“Donors and public money is limited and precious and, I would argue, should be targeted where you can’t attract private capital — transmission lines, distribution companies, public utilities, all of those things that you can’t attract private capital for,” Ferguson said.

But every market where Power Africa is tracking deals has some role for the public sector to play — it’s role is to “bridge market imperfections,” test new models and get first-of-a-kind deals done, Herscowitz said.

How well Power Africa picks the places or types of projects it invests in and how that translates to achieving its goals will certainly be measured against the road map, which may well serve as a blueprint as the U.S. and it’s big coalition of partners work to push things along.

*Source Devex

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CCA Summit in Addis Ababa is a strong statement on US Business Overtures to Africa- Steve Hayes
February 1, 2016 | 0 Comments
A meeting of presidents: L-R: Stephen Hayes, President and CEO, The Corporate Council on Africa; H.E. Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda; H.E. Denis Sassou Nguesso, President of the Republic of Congo at the U.S.-Africa Business Summit in 2009

A meeting of presidents: L-R: Stephen Hayes, President and CEO, The Corporate Council on Africa; H.E. Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda; H.E. Denis Sassou Nguesso, President of the Republic of Congo at the U.S.-Africa Business Summit in 2009

By Ajong Mbapndah L

The African market is too big to be the exclusive reserve of one country, says Steve Hayes, President and CEO of the Corporate Council on Africa. In a phone interview ahead of the 10th biennial US-Africa Business Summit holding Addis-Ababa from the February 1-4, Mr. Hayes said the CCA was expecting over 800 participants for the summit.

Although most of the previous summits have taken place in the USA, it will be an impressive turn out for US companies in Addis, Mr. Hayes said. Companies and businesses from other parts of the world will also answer present for the 2016 summit, he added.

Holding the Summit in Addis Ababa is also a way of reaffirming the growing interest of the US to do business in Africa without fear of competition with anyone, Mr. Hayes said. The investment climate in Africa could be a lot better, he said, citing bureaucracy, and the need for stronger dialogue between the public and the private sector.

Though China may have an edge now when it comes to trade with Africa, Mr. Hayes believes that the US has the long term advantage. The US has a better approach to doing business with Africa instead of just focusing on resources.

While President Obama gets some credit for moving the needle forward on trade with Africa, Mr. Hayes believes that the next US Administration must make Africa an even bigger priority.

A podcast of the interview which started with an over view of the CCA by CEO Steve Hayes is published below.

 

 

 

 

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Hotel Rwanda hero decries oppression two decades after genocide
January 29, 2016 | 0 Comments

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Rusesabagina

Rusesabagina

In 1994, a low-key hotel manager in Rwanda became an international hero for sheltering and saving the lives of more than 1,200 people from horrific ethnic slaughter. His display of courage was later portrayed by actor Don Cheadle in the 2004 film “Hotel Rwanda.”

On Thursday, that former manager, Paul Rusesabagina, visited Washington and announced that he is launching a political campaign against the current Rwandan government, which he called a dictatorship. He hinted strongly that he hopes to run for president, but said he is not yet ready to risk returning because his life would be in danger.

“If things change there today, I will go back tomorrow,” he told a small group of journalists on the anniversary of Rwanda’s 1961 independence from Belgium. He said he wanted to “inspire hope in all Rwandans” for change, and he called on Western officials and donors to pressure the government in Kigali to restore political freedoms and allow fair elections.

Rusesabagina, 62, has only been back home once since the genocide by ethnic Hutu militias that left some 800,000 people dead in just three months, most of them ethnic Tutsis who were hacked to death with machetes. He sought political asylum in Belgium in 1996 and divides his time between homes in Brussels and San Antonio, Tex.

He also has become a bitter adversary of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, 52, the former Tutsi rebel leader whose forces liberated the country in 1994. Kagame took power soon afterward and has twice won reelection. Kagame’s government has been supported by Western donors and praised for bringing economic modernization and stability to the deeply impoverished nation.

At the same time, reports from the State Department and human rights groups have repeatedly criticized state suppression of political dissidents and the news media, including disappearances and extrajudicial executions, and questioned the legitimacy of Kagame’s landslide electoral victories. In 2010, he won a second term with 93 percent of the vote, and last month, the constitution was changed to allow him to serve in office again.

“The government we had in 1994 was a horrible dictatorship. It has been replaced by an equally cruel but more polished dictatorship,” Rusesabagina said Thursday. He accused Kagame of creating a powerful Tutsi “ruling clique” and said the West has supported him largely out of guilt over the genocide, in which the United Nations and the international community did little to intervene.

Rusesabagina said his own political organization, the Party for Democracy in Rwanda, is not able to operate openly in the country. It is based in Brussels, which has a large Rwandan exile community. He is of mixed Hutu and Tutsi parentage and said he seeks to build a society based on ethnic harmony and equity.

Rwandan officials dismissed his criticisms, saying that the Kagame government has worked hard to build a modern economy and democracy but has sought political consensus rather than antagonism to prevent a resurgence of the ethnic hatred and bloodshed that led to the genocide.

“We don’t boast that we are 100 percent democratic, but we have been building a good foundation for 20 years, and the government’s intent has been to give a good life to people from a policy and legal framework,” said Lawrence Manzi, first counselor at the Rwandan Embassy in Washington.

images 1Manzi disparaged Rusesabagina as “a person made by Hollywood” and said he had no credibility, “even with people who were in the hotel” during the massacres. “He got a Hollywood persona and thinks he can exploit it politically.”

Some of Rusesabagina’s actions during the massacre have been criticized, such as entertaining Rwandan officials and selling rooms and liquor at the hotel where hundreds of desperate people sought refuge from marauding gangs. But in his book, he asserted that only by using his wits, perks and connections was he able to shelter so many people from what would otherwise be almost certain death.

At one point, an army captain threatened to kill everyone who had taken shelter inside the luxury Hotel des Mille Collines, and the manager quickly offered him a large sum of cash from the hotel safe. As the officer drove away with his death squad, Rusesabagina wrote, he realized “I was not powerless in the face of the murderous insanity. . . . I might be able to negotiate with the devil.”

*Source Washington Post

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US moves to strengthen economic ties with Rwanda despite third term row
January 29, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Ivan R. Mugisha*

Rwandan President Paul Kagame. PHOTO | FILE

Rwandan President Paul Kagame. PHOTO | FILE

The United States is pressing on with its economic interests in Rwanda, even as it continues to express disappointment at the recent changes to the country’s constitution which allow President Paul Kagame to run for a third term.

The US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker arrived in the country on Wednesday for a two-day visit that is mainly focussed on strengthening economic ties between the two countries.

While diplomat is accompanied by senior executives who comprise the President’s Council on Doing Business in Africa which advises the Obama administration on commercial engagements between the United States and countries across Africa, including how to build lasting partnerships between the US and African private sectors.

“They chose Rwanda as one of two destinations because over the past 20 years, the country has been a remarkable success story. Much of this positive progress is the result of a concerted and focused approach to economic and commercial policymaking. The Council members wanted to develop a deeper understanding of what Rwanda has done that has worked, and how Rwanda’s progress can serve as an example for other countries in the region and across the continent.

Rwanda and the East African Community have a lot to offer US investors. East Africa is the most integrated and fastest-growing regional economic community in Africa,” Secretary Pritzker said in a statement on Wednesday.

This was after the delegation had a roundtable discussion with President Kagame which focused on the opportunities presented by regional integration.

However, the diplomat reiterated that Rwanda can solidify its security and economic gains by welcoming “predictable competition for leadership”, as well as embracing free exchange of ideas and public debates over government policy.

“We have arrived at a difficult time. Our Administration has expressed its disappointment that President Kagame has chosen to run for a third term in 2017. The reason for our concern is clear: we believe that respecting established term limits can strengthen democratic institutions and help build a vibrant and free society,” Ms Pritzker said, pointing out that the third term issue was among the many topics discussed with President Kagame.

President Kagame confirmed his third term bid at the beginning of the new year, much to the dismay of the United States, UK and EU who strongly criticised the move to change the Constitution as an act that “damages Rwanda’s international reputation”.

Ms Pritzker reiterated that although the US disagrees with Kagame over his third term bid, both countries share a deep relationship where disagreements can be openly discussed and candidly addressed.

“Nevertheless, when we do disagree, we cannot stop talking to one another. It is at those times that our engagement becomes even more important,” she said, adding that Rwanda and the East African Community have a lot to offer US investors.

Her trip seeks to strengthen US – Rwanda economic ties as well as provide recommendations to President Barak Obama on policy steps to strengthen commerce between the United States and Africa.

The trip foreruns the upcoming US-Africa Business Summit scheduled for February 1 – 4 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

*Source The East African

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