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30,000 Senegalese Youth To Receive Work-Readiness Skills Training
March 21, 2017 | 0 Comments

Project to provide hands-on employability skills training and school-to-work transitions to youth attending secondary school and TVET schools in 6 of Senegal’s 14 provinces. 

Education Development Center (EDC) and The MasterCard Foundation are set to announce a $15M, five-year project that will help more than 30,000 Senegalese youth develop the skills they need to secure jobs or start a business.

Enid Mbabazi is one of the thousands of young women and men who sharpened their work-readiness skills in the Akazi Kanoze project led by EDC in Rwanda. APTE-Senegal builds on the Akazi Kanoze project led by EDC in Rwanda, which has provided thousands of Rwandan secondary students with skills training and school-to-work transition support to increase their chances of employment - Intersect Jennifer Huxta for The MasterCard Foundation

Enid Mbabazi is one of the thousands of young women and men who sharpened their work-readiness skills in the Akazi Kanoze project led by EDC in Rwanda. APTE-Senegal builds on the Akazi Kanoze project led by EDC in Rwanda, which has provided thousands of Rwandan secondary students with skills training and school-to-work transition support to increase their chances of employment – Intersect Jennifer Huxta for The MasterCard Foundation

The Projet de l’amélioration des performances de travail et d’entreprenariat (APTE-Senegal) will focus on 200 lower secondary schools and 50 technical and vocational education and training (TVET) schools throughout the country, providing students with career counseling and transition to work services, including entrepreneurship coaching and mentoring, job shadowing, internship and job placement. The initiative will further train 1,575 Senegalese teachers to roll out EDC’s Work Ready Now! curriculum, a program that helps young people in emerging economies develop the skills they need to succeed in the workplace or in a livelihood.

APTE-Senegal will be launched at an event on March 23rd at 10 a.m. at the Ndiambour Hotel, 121, rue Carnot in Dakar. Speakers will include:
– Serigne Mbaye Thiam, Minister of National Education;
– Mamadou Talla, Minister of Technical and Vocational Education and Training;
– EDC President and Chief Executive Officer, David Offensend; and
– MasterCard Foundation Program Manager, Samuel Yalew Adela.

“EDC is proud to continue our work with The MasterCard Foundation to help institutionalize strategies for youth employability in Sub-Saharan Africa,” said Seni Diop, Project Director. “APTE-Senegal not only builds upon our joint work in Rwanda, it will inform ongoing research on the impact of work-readiness programs in secondary and TVET schools.”

APTE-Senegal builds on the Akazi Kanoze2 project led by EDC in Rwanda, which has provided thousands of Rwandan secondary students with work-readiness skills and school-to-work transition support to increase their chances of employment. The project initially targeted 16,500 Rwandan youth, however, it is anticipated that the initiative will have directly reached 25,000 young people, as well as indirectly reaching all Rwandan students enrolled in secondary and TVET schools across the country. The Government of Rwanda has integrated EDC’s Work Ready Now! approach in the national curriculum to equip general secondary and TVET students throughout the country with the skills they require to succeed.

“We are excited to deepen our partnership with EDC, an organization that has helped integrate work-readiness training into the curriculum in Rwanda,” explains Samuel Yalew Adela, Program Manager, Education and Learning, The MasterCard Foundation. “While the project aims to reach a critical mass of Senegalese youth, APTE-Senegal will also support the country’s efforts to reform its curriculum and improve the teaching and learning practice of teachers.”

EDC will work closely with the Ministry of Technical and Vocational Education and Training to strengthen programs, improving its connection to local market demands and existing economic opportunities in the regions of intervention. The project will further integrate EDC’s Work Ready Now! curriculum and provide school-to work transition support, including job placement, internships and other work-based learning opportunities.

In addition to focusing on these 250 schools, EDC will work with the national and regional ministries’ institutions in both TVET and secondary education to build the capacity of these institutions to provide a sustainable structure for continuing teacher training, and manage a national roll-out of the program.

APTE-Senegal will serve six regions (Diourbel, Thies, Ziguinchor, Sedhiou, Kolda, and Kedougou) over five years to build youth capacity in employability, professionalism and entrepreneurship. The training will directly reach about 30,000 young people over the life of the project.

EDC designs, implements, and evaluates programs to improve education, health, and economic opportunity worldwide. EDC manages 200 projects across the United States and in more than 20 countries.

The MasterCard Foundation works with visionary organizations to provide greater access to education, skills training and financial services for people living in poverty, primarily in Africa. As one of the largest private foundations, its work is guided by its mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to create an inclusive and equitable world. Based in Toronto, Canada, its independence was established by Mastercard when the Foundation was created in 2006.

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Musician Youssou Ndour backs Senegal’s war on malaria
March 16, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Selim SAHEB ETTABA*

Youssou Ndour is backing a new $32 million initiative to combat malaria in Senegal (AFP Photo/SEYLLOU)

Youssou Ndour is backing a new $32 million initiative to combat malaria in Senegal (AFP Photo/SEYLLOU)

Dakar (AFP) – Youssou Ndour, Senegal’s most famous musician, is throwing his weight behind malaria eradication in his homeland to combat an illness that has for too long held back Africa’s economic development.

Malaria killed more than 400,000 people last year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) — the vast majority of them children living in sub-Saharan Africa.

Ndour has performed and toured since the 1970s, blending Senegalese music with soul, hip-hop and jazz to international acclaim, but has also become known for his work as a longtime campaigner for malaria prevention.

The disease remains all too common in Senegal, with 500,000 recorded cases in 2015, including 4,400 deaths, according to the WHO.

Senegal is currently in the first stage of the fight against malaria, which the WHO refers to as the “control” phase. It aims to move to the next level — so-called “pre-elimination” — by 2020.

“It’s first of all a serious public health problem. But we also see the economic impact around it and the weaknesses we have at the level of development in Africa because of malaria,” Ndour told AFP in an interview in Senegal’s capital Dakar.

A new $32 million initiative is aiming to finally stamp out malaria in the west African nation, to which Ndour has lent his support.

More than 2.5 million people will receive mosquito nets impregnated with insecticide, 1.6 million rapid diagnosis tests will be distributed and 70,000 doses of anti-malarial drugs will be delivered as part of the project, along with advice and training for healthcare workers.

– Child victims –

The Lives and Livelihoods Fund, which targets health projects in Muslim-majority nations and is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and several Gulf states, is backing the project with the Senegalese government.

Ndour speaks with anger about the children’s lives lost needlessly to the disease over the years.

He believes the Senegalese have frequently minimised malaria’s deadly impact in the past, allowing the parasite carried by mosquitos to wreak damage that is far more dangerous to children.

“Here there are a lot of people who will tell you ‘oh I just have a touch of flu’ while in fact they have malaria,” Ndour said, sporting a white and black checked traditional Senegalese robe.

The risks are not only to health, he emphasised. “When children don’t go to school, there are no jobs, you can’t work. So poverty is always hovering in the background.”

He noted the strong link between malaria and poverty — the disease has a $12 billion impact on the global economy every year, hitting sub-Saharan Africa’s fragile economies by far the hardest.

Senegal has made huge gains in reducing malaria rates in recent years, which the project aims to consolidate to put the country on the path to complete eradication.

– Star power –

Ndour remains a massive star at home, where his music blares from seemingly every taxi and corner shop, while he is best known in the West for “Seven Seconds”, his 1994 duet with Neneh Cherry.

Using his fame as a weapon, he has participated in prevention campaigns aimed at getting families to sleep under mosquito nets, while promoting his cause abroad with giant concerts with fellow African and international musicians.

Ndour has toured the world for the last five decades, but old images he was shown in the US stick out when he tries to picture an Africa without malaria.

“They showed me these old photos in Washington, and at the time there were mosquitos. How come (the disease) is gone?” he asked himself, learning that the government and citizens had mobilised together to beat malaria after World War II.

“With the example of Washington, tomorrow we should be able to say: Senegal, Burkina Faso, Mali, that the problem in these places has been fixed to allow these African nations to take off,” the singer added.

Efforts must be far more concerted now that the end is in sight, he believes.

“We have to pick up the pace to actually eradicate malaria,” he emphasised. “I hope to see it happen in my lifetime.”

*AFP/Yahoo

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Africa: New Head of AU Commission
March 14, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Cristina Krippahl*

New African Union Commission chief Moussa Faki Mahamat officially takes up his post on Tuesday. But who is Faki and what does he stand for?

Photo: allafrica.com

Photo: allafrica.com
African Union Commission Chair Moussa Faki Mahamat

A seasoned diplomat and politician, 56-year-old Moussa Faki Mahamat is no stranger to the challenges presented by the top job he was elected to on January 30. He is seen as the architect of Chad’s nomination to the United Nations Security Council as a non-permanent member and also of the country’s presidency of the AU in 2016. He headed the AU Commission on Peace and Security at the Nairobi summit in 2013, which was dedicated to the fight against terrorism. Above all, as a former Chadian prime minister and current foreign minister he has had a decisive say in all the military and strategic operations his country was and is engaged in: Libya, Mali, South Sudan and Central African Republic, the Sahel and the Lake Chad region.

His election as chief executive of the AU thus indicates a very likely reorientation of AU policies towards issues of peace and security on the continent, Liesl Louw-Vaudran of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in Pretoria told DW: “His country, Chad, is well known for seeing itself as a sort of champion of military intervention.”

 International approval

His predecessor, South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, was severely criticized for neglecting the pressing issues on the crisis-riven continent, preferring to concentrate on longterm plans of prosperity for Africa, not to mention her own political career at home. Moussa Faki, on the other hand, has already left a mark in the fight against terrorism, most notably as chairman of the council of ministers of the G5Sahel, a military anti-terror alliance made up of Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad, of which Ndjamena is the driving force.

His election to the AU Commission is likely to please both Europe and the United States of America, who support Chad in the fight against Boko Haram and other jihadist groups. Chad is also the headquarters of the French counterterrorism operation in the Sahel, Operation Barkhane.

Democracy not a priority

But not everybody welcomed the news. Doki Warou Mahamat, a Chadian who coordinated the campaign against Faki’s election, told DW: “Moussa Faki is on the payroll of a dictatorship. The Chadians are in a state of mourning. You have to clean up your own act before starting somewhere else.”

Moussa Faki is reputed to be very close to President Deby who was reelected in April 2016 for a fifth consecutive term. The outcome was widely criticized because of serious irregularities. Deby has ruled the country with an iron fist since 1990. Both are members of the Zaghawa ethnic group. Analysts note that Deby succeeded in placing a man he trusted at the helm of the AU on the same day that he handed over the rotating presidency of the organization to Guinea, showing the extent of Chad’s influence in the AU and on the continent.

Reforms in the offing

Nevertheless, Faki’s election was not a foregone conclusion. Internal rifts in the AU were highlighted in July 2016 when no candidate won the necessary two-thirds majority at a previous attempt to elect a chairperson, forcing Dlamini-Zuma to stay on for an extra six months. And early this year it took seven rounds of voting before Faki emerged as the winner ahead of Kenya’s Amina Mohamed, long considered the favorite.

While campaigning, Faki, who studied law in Brazzaville and Paris, said that as head of the AU Commission he would want a continent where “the sound of guns will be drowned out by cultural songs and rumbling factories.” While he promised to put development and security at the top of the agenda during his four-year term, he might also want to go ahead with at least some of the reforms deemed necessary to make the organization more effective. “The AU chairperson should be able to make a stand and authorize the sending of AU troops in crisis situations. At the moment, the Commission is sort of beholden to the decision of the 55 member states. Basically, the Commission’s hands are tied,” expert Liesl Louw-Vaudran said. Being a man accustomed to power and who expects to be obeyed, it is likely that Faki will want to change that.

*DW/Allafrica

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“Lights, Power, Action”: AfDB’s Adesina and Kofi Annan Urge Governments to Close Africa’s Energy Deficit
March 14, 2017 | 0 Comments

The Chair of the Africa Progress Panel and former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, and the President of the African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina, have called on African governments and their partners to do everything possible to close the continent’s huge energy gap.

They made the call on Monday, March 13, 2017 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, at the launch of the Africa Progress Panel Report on “Lights, Power, Action: Electrifying Africa,” which calls for the adoption of every available on-grid and off-grid solution to light up and power Africa.

“The electricity deficit in Africa is immense,” said Adesina. “Today, 645 million people do not have access to electricity.

“Yet the continent has abundant supply of solar, hydropower, wind and geothermal potential, as well as significant amounts of natural gas and in some countries coal deposits. Africa has energy potential, yes, but we need to unlock that potential. And we must do so quickly, because Africans are tired of being in the dark.”

Adesina stated that he drew inspiration from the Panel’s previous report in developing the Bank’s High 5 development priorities, which places energy as the top priority, and which has, through the Bank’s New Deal on Energy for Africa, committed to investing US $12 billion on energy in the next five years and leveraging US $45-50 billion from the private sector and other partners. The goal is to connect 130 million households via the grid, 75 million people via off-grid and provide some 130 million households with access to clean cooking energy.

The AfDB President commended the Africa Progress Panel for another very insightful report which, he said, will help Africa think through how to achieve the off-grid electricity revolution, as part of the comprehensive New Deal on Energy for Africa.

Lights, Power, Action notes that more than 620 million Africans without access to electricity cannot wait for grid expansion. While grid-connected megaprojects such as large dams and power pools are essential to scale up national and regional energy generation and transmission, they are slow and expensive. Therefore, governments must also increase investment in off-grid and mini-grid solutions, which are cheaper and quicker to install, the report says.

 “What we are advocating is for African governments to harness every available option, in as cost-effective and technologically efficient a manner as possible, so that everyone is included and no one is left behind,” said Kofi Annan.

Of the 315 million people who will gain access to electricity in Africa’s rural areas by 2040, it is estimated that only 30 per cent will be connected to national grids. Most will be powered by off-grid household or mini-grid systems.

“Lights, Power, Action” is an in-depth follow up to the influential 2015 Africa Progress Report, “Power, People, Planet: Seizing Africa’s Energy and Climate Opportunities“. It urges governments to put in place the incentives needed to encourage greater investment in off-grid and mini-grid systems, protect consumers, and facilitate demand among disadvantaged groups.

Above all, governments need to foster an environment in which companies can enter energy generation, transmission and distribution markets, climb the value chain, and build the investment partnerships that can drive growth and create jobs.

“Traditional approaches to extending the grid are no longer viable as the main option for African countries,” Annan said. “They will take too long and will not meet the needs of our growing economies and societies. Instead, governments and their partners need to seize the opportunity to re-imagine their energy futures.”

*AFDB/Allafrica

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The 2017 AFRICA CEO FORUM AWARDS Recognise Business Leaders and Companies that Shaped the Year in Africa
March 14, 2017 | 0 Comments
The Winners of the AFRICA CEO FORUM AWARDS 2016

The Winners of the AFRICA CEO FORUM AWARDS 2016
Credits Jacques Torregano

GENEVA, Switzerland, 13 March 2017, The AFRICA CEO FORUM 2017, the most high-profile international forum on African private sector development, will be held on 20 and 21 March in Geneva and, for the fifth consecutive year, will salute the economic performance of African business leaders and companies at the 2017 AFRICA CEO FORUM AWARDS.

Every year, the AFRICA CEO FORUM AWARDS recognise those companies and investors whose strategies and performance have contributed most to Africa’s growth dynamic over the past year.

On the night of 20 March 2017, in the presence of Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank, one of the finalists in each of the following categories will win an award:

CEO OF THE YEAR
1. Abdulsamad Rabiu, CEO, BUA Group
2. Issad Rebrab, Chairman, Cevital
3. Mohammed Dewji, CEO, MeTL
4. Naguib Sawiris, Chairman, OTMT Investments
5. Said Salim Awadh Bakhresa, CEO, Bakhresa Group
6. Strive Masiyiwa, CEO, Econet
YOUNG CEO OF THE YEAR
1. Anta Babacar Ngom Bathily, MD, Sedima
2. Basil El-Baz, CEO, Carbon Holdings
3. Darshan Chandaria, CEO, Chandaria Industries
4. James Mworia, CEO, Centum Investments
5. Mohamed Ben Ouda, MD, SNTL
6. Lamia Tazi, MD, Sothema

YOUNG CEO OF THE YEAR
1. Anta Babacar Ngom Bathily, DG, Sedima

2. Basil El-Baz, PDG, Carbon Holdings
3. Darshan Chandaria, PDG, Chandaria Industries
4. James Mworia, PDG, Centum Investments
5. Mohamed Ben Ouda, DG, SNTL
6. Lamia Tazi, DG, Sothema

AFRICAN COMPANY OF THE YEAR
1. CIEL Group
2. ECONET
3. ELSEWEDY ELECTRIC
4. LABEL’VIE
5. MTN
6. OCP Group

AFRICAN BANK OF THE YEAR
1. ATTIJARIWAFA BANK
2. BANQUE CENTRALE POPULAIRE
3. ECOBANK
4. MAURITIUS COMMERCIAL BANK
5. STANDARD BANK GROUP
6. UNITED BANK FOR AFRICA

PRIVATE EQUITY INVESTOR OF THE YEAR
1. ACTIS
2. AFRICINVEST
3. DEVELOPMENT PARTNERS INTERNATIONAL LLP
4. HELIOS INVESTMENT PARTNERS
5. LEAPFROG INVESTMENTS
6. THE ABRAAJ GROUP

INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION OF THE YEAR
1. ALLIANZ
2. COCA-COLA
3. MOTA-ENGIL
4. ORANGE
5. SIEMENS
6. VITOL

For the past four years, over 120 African and international companies and investment funds and more than 30 CEOs, all emblematic of Africa’s economic vitality, have been nominated. Nineteeen awards have been given, including four prestigious CEO OF THE YEAR awards.

Developed in partnership with the African Development Bank, the AFRICA CEO FORUM is an event organised by Groupe Jeune Afrique, publisher of Jeune Afrique and The Africa Report, and Rainbow Unlimited, a Swiss company specialising in organising events promoting and facilitating business.Launched in 2012, the AFRICA CEO FORUM has become the leading international meeting on the development of Africa and its companies, in a top-level professional setting. The 2016 edition hosted over 1,000 African and international personalities, including 600 business leaders from 43 African countries and 100 high-level speakers.
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‘Wind of change blowing in African football’
March 14, 2017 | 0 Comments

 

By Piers Edwards*

Ahmad (left) and Hayatou go head-to-head this week for the Caf presidency

Ahmad (left) and Hayatou go head-to-head this week for the Caf presidency

“It’s time we introduce a new regime,” says Liberian Football Association president Musa Bility ahead of what has been described as the most important Confederation of African Football elections for almost three decades.

African football goes to the polls on Thursday to choose a new Caf president and for the first time since he came to power in 1988, incumbent Issa Hayatou faces a serious challenge.

Only twice before has the Cameroonian run against another candidate and he swept aside both with ease: Angola’s Armando Machado in 2000 (by 47 votes to 4) and Ismail Bhamjee of Botswana in 2004 (46-6).

 This time many believe Hayatou’s opponent, Ahmad of Madagascar, could change the status quo.

Bility, who has long been a thorn in Caf’s side after speaking out on several issues, told BBC Sport. “The reality is that football has come to be more active, more democratic, more involving – and we have to do that.

“We have to follow the path of the rest of the world, as Africa cannot afford to be left behind. I believe that Africa is ready for change. This is the first time in the history of (Hayatou’s) Caf that there is a real and possible challenge to the leadership.”

Under the 70-year-old Haytou’s control, African football has changed immensely.

He has, among several measures, overseen the expansion of the Africa Cup of Nations from eight teams to 16, the increase in the number of Africa’s World Cup representatives (from two to five), remodelling and financially boosting club competitions as well as greatly boosting Caf’s finances.

The 2007 introduction of the African Nations Championship, which is like the Nations Cup but only using footballers who play in their domestic league, has proved very popular while it was also on the Cameroonian’s watch that Africa staged its first World Cup in 2010 (in South Africa).

Despite the myriad achievements, Bility believes time is up for veteran Hayatou and that a new leader should steer African football into the future.

He believes Ahmad, who outlined a desire for improved governance, with a commitment to increased transparency and reinvestment in his manifesto, is the right man.

“He’s presented a programme to all 54 countries – I’ve never seen this before,” added Bility.

“Normally, we go to elections and there are no promises. There is nothing to hold the president against. This time around, we have a guy who is running on something we can hold him to.

“The other candidate (Hayatou) does not care to give a programme. He just goes through election after election, acclamation after acclamation. There is no promise made to us, therefore there are no obligations nor broken promises. This is what we need to change.”

With Hayatou’s critics saying he runs African football with an iron fist while relying on a handful of close advisers, Bility believes Caf will benefit from different personnel and fresh ideas.

“It’s not to say that Hayatou has not done much for Africa – African football has come of age – it’s to say that there is no way that you can keep an individual in authority for over 29 years. There is nothing new expected,” he claimed.

“Ahmad is from a country that is struggling to develop football. He understands the difficulties we go through as presidents.”

The southern African football region Cosafa, which encompasses Madagascar, has said it will vote for Ahmad – which accounts for 14 votes (a tally that might be less given Comoros has offered its vote to Hayatou) – while Nigeria and Djibouti have also publicly backed the Malagasy.

Pinnick is another calling for change at the top of African football

Pinnick is another calling for change at the top of African football

Nigeria’s federation president Amaju Pinnick told BBC Sport he believes there is a need to change the “tiny cabal” that runs Caf, so echoing Ahmad who spoke of the need to reconcile the African football family in his manifesto.

There is also a need to repair relations with Fifa, which frayed after Caf instructed all its members to vote for Bahrain’s Sheikh Salman in the football’s world governing body’s February 2016 elections.

When Gianni Infantino assumed the Fifa presidency instead, Caf was left exposed.

“You can see clearly that Caf and Fifa are not moving in the same direction,” says Bility.

“If President Hayatou wins, there will be rancour and I would foresee a period of uncertainty.”

Despite his desire to see Hayatou replaced, Bility is adamant the Cameroonian should be afforded a befitting send-off.

“We’d like to see President Hayatou retire honourably. We’d like to thank him for everything he has done for African football. We want to respect and make sure his time is recorded in history – with due honour given,” he said.

“But at the same time we want to move forward to a new development and a new generation of leaders. This is not a campaign in which we are going to get involved in mud-slinging and bad-mouthing – we just want change.”

*BBC

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Outgoing Top Diplomat Reassures Restive Africans On US Policy
March 10, 2017 | 0 Comments

-Africa is traditionally a bi-partisan issue says Assistant Secretary Linda Thomas Greenfield

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Outgoing Assistant Secretary Linda Thomas Greenfield with Atlantic Council African Director J.Peter Pham

Outgoing Assistant Secretary Linda Thomas Greenfield with Atlantic Council African Director J.Peter Pham

Departing Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, Ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield is urging patience for those eager to see signals from the Trump Administration on its African Policy. The Administration is barely a month in Office and needs time Ambassador Greenfield said, in response to questions from restive Africans on what to possibly expect .

Speaking at a public address at the Atlantic Council on the theme “Africa’s Place on the World Stage,” Ambassador Greenfield said Africa has traditionally been a non-partisan issue. The Obama Administration certainly had its own challenges putting in place a policy though there was more optimism because of his African roots. Ambassador Greenfield indicated that it was too early for people to be in panic mood on the fate of U.S African relations as the new Administration is still putting in place its own team. Ambassador Greenfield said she expects relations to remain strong as the US will remain a committed partner to Africa.

Capping a sterling 35-year Foreign Service Career, Ambassador Greenfield used the address to paint a glossy picture of perspectives in Africa. Problems do not define Africa, as the continent is full of best opportunities and talent, she said. Ambassador Greenfield offered insights into issues that defined her stint in office like partnerships with Africa to counter terrorism, economic growth and development, security challenges, and how to provide opportunities for the surging Youth population.

Ambassador Greenfield's predecessors Johnne Carson,Herman Cohen, and Jendayi Frazer are joined by Angelle Kwemo of Believe in Africa Foundation and former Ambassador Omar Arouna former Ambassor of Benin

Ambassador Greenfield’s predecessors Johnne Carson,Herman Cohen, and Jendayi Frazer are joined by Angelle Kwemo of Believe in Africa Foundation and former Ambassador Omar Arouna former Ambassador of Benin

Despite the odds, the Africa has made tremendous progress, Ambassador Greenfield said. My last trip to Gambia for the inauguration of President Adama Barrow felt like a victory lap, she said, describing it as an opportunity to celebrate success and not resolve a crisis.

Ambassador Greenfield cited the USA-Africa leaders submit, the 2015 Presidential elections in Nigeria and the recent peaceful transition in Gambia as some of the best moments of her stint as the USA top Diplomat on Africa, which started in 2013.

Speaking of the  2015 elections in Nigeria, Ambassador Greenfield said no one was sure how things were going to turn out even after Secretary of State John Kerry personally made trips to talk to leading actors. Greenfield who was in Nigeria for the elections said she saw firsthand the resolve of Nigerians to make things work. Former President Goodluck Jonathan conceded gracefully and the trend has picked up in a number of African countries, Ambassador Greenfield said.

On regrets, Ambassador Greenfield cited South Sudan where the promise of hope for Africa’s newest nation turned to a nightmare with a civil that has created a humanitarian crisis.

The event was heavily attended by African Diplomats and Policy Experts,and State Department Officials

The event was heavily attended by African Diplomats and Policy Experts,and State Department Officials

In the course of her Career, Ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield served in Pakistan, Kenya, Gambia, Nigeria and as Ambassador to Liberia. The event at the Atlantic Council  was a crowd puller with over a dozen Ambassadors from African countries, State Department Officials, African Policy gurus, civil society actors and Journalist all present to listen to the parting comments of Ambassador Greenfield on Africa, a continent she has a particular fondness for. The event was also attended by three of her predecessors Herman Cohen who served under President Reagan, Jendayi Frazer who served under President George .W.Bush and Johnnie Carson who served in the first Obama term.

Ambassador Greenfield is expected to take up Fellowship at the George Washington University. J.Peter Pham whose name is reportedly in the mix of potential candidates to replace Ambassador Greenfield introduced her at the event.

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Energy Ministers from South Africa, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Democratic Republic of Congo to address investors at the 3rd Powering Africa: Summit
March 8, 2017 | 0 Comments

H.E. Hon.Tina Joemat-Pettersson MP, Minister of Energy, South Africa, H.E. Patrick Sendolo, Minister for Energy, Land and Mines, Liberia, H.E. Hon Irene Muloni, Minister of Energy and Mineral Development, Uganda, H.E. Hon. Henry Macauley, Minister of Energy, Sierra Leone and H.E. Hon Pierre Anatole Matusila, Minister of Energy and Water Resources, Democratic Republic of Congo are the latest speakers to confirm attendance at the 3rd Powering Africa: Summit, taking place from 9-10 March 2017 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Washington D.C.

The Ministers will join over 400 investors and over 100 speakers in this investment forum exploring global opportunities within Africa’s energy & infrastructure sectors.

U.S. Representative Congressman Ed Royce, Chairman, House Foreign Affairs Committee has also confirmed to address delegates at the 2017 Summit. Chairman Royce worked tirelessly to pass the Electrify Africa Act which was successfully signed into law in early 2016. The bill seeks to address the significant electricity shortage in Africa that affects the everyday lives of millions of people. His participation will provide an insight into the act and how it will continue to maintain competitiveness in Africa whilst increasing global security and social stability.

The Summit will take the form of panel discussions and roundtables focusing on sector-specific topics and addressing how bottlenecks can be overcome to drive forward projects. Maintaining US competitiveness in Africa will be a key theme, setting out how commercial partnerships can deliver energy, create jobs, build capacity and spur industrial growth. 26 countries will be represented at the Summit to date, including 16 African countries. A networking reception will take place on the evening of 9th March, and delegates will have the opportunity to arrange meetings with other attendees using an onsite networking app.

 

This meeting will be co-located with the Growing Economies: Latin America Energy Forum, focusing on investment opportunities in Latin America’s energy & infrastructure sectors.

For more information about this meeting:

Meeting dates: 9-10 March 2017

Venue: Marriott Marquis, Washington, D.C., USA

Website: www.poweringafrica-summit.com

Contact: Amy Offord – Marketing Manager

Email: amy.offord@energynet.co.uk

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7384 8068

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Three Leading Organizations in Africa and The MasterCard Foundation Partner to Improve Livelihoods for 1.1 Million African Smallholder Farmers
March 7, 2017 | 0 Comments

The Foundation has committed a total of US$38.3 million to AgDevCo, ICCO Cooperation, and Root Capital for programs to improve productivity and market access for farmers in 11 African countries.

Sambou Coly, Program Manager, Financial Inclusion at The MasterCard Foundation addressing the panel

Sambou Coly, Program Manager, Financial Inclusion at The MasterCard Foundation addressing the panel

DAKAR, Senegal, – Three of the leading organizations in Africa working with smallholder farmers today joined The MasterCard Foundation to reaffirm their commitment to provide farmers with more of the financial resources and agribusiness connections they need to succeed.

At a one-day workshop and learning event in Dakar, the partners outlined how the work they are conducting has already led to improvements for farmers in Africa. As well, ICCO Cooperation used the occasion to launch its STARS (Strengthening African Rural Smallholders) program in Senegal, after recent launches in Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Burkina Faso.

Collectively, these three organizations are expanding their support to improve the lives of a minimum of 1.1 million farmers in 11 countries: Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.

“Smallholder farmers in Africa, need special attention to increase productivity and break out of their subsistence operation,” said Ann Miles, Director of Financial Inclusion at The MasterCard Foundation.
“We’re proud to work with such strong partners as AgDevCo, ICCO Cooperation, and Root Capital to enable smallholders to produce more, sell better, and work with local organizations in markets that are fair, transparent, and sustainable.”

Through its partnerships with AgDevCo, ICCO Cooperation, and Root Capital, The MasterCard Foundation supports multiple activities in the 11 countries. These activities include:

* providing training and better quality inputs to farmers
* implementing mobile technology solutions
* brokering long-term purchase contracts
* supporting high-impact, early-stage agricultural businesses with capital needs under $150,000 and/or business revenues under $300,000
* developing and implementing innovative risk-mitigation tools, and
* developing new agricultural finance products and services for smallholder farmers.

“Linking smallholder farmers to profitable markets is one of the best ways of lifting large numbers of people out of poverty”, said Chris Isaac, Director of Investments at AgDevCo. “The MasterCard Foundation’s support will allow AgDevCo to connect our SME investees – socially responsible faming and agri-processing enterprises in Africa – to hundreds of thousands of farmers, to boost productivity, lift incomes and improve food security”.

“The STARS program is supporting rural smallholder farmers, mostly women, to access tailor made financial services,” said Netlyn Bernard, STARS Director. “We are using the “Making Markets Work for the Poor” (M4P) approach to ensure that through capacity building and access to finance they can adopt sustainable agri-business methods and be competitive in the market. We believe that given the right opportunities and tools, farmers can become effective entrepreneurs, increase their income and therefore improve the economic situation of their households and of their communities.”

“Our partnership with The MasterCard Foundation enables us to increasingly target earlier-stage businesses in Africa operating on the fringes of financial inclusion,” said Mireille William, acting General Manager for Root Capital in West Africa. “Together, we’re committed to providing these high-impact businesses with the capital and training they need to become engines of impact in their communities.”

The three partnerships are part of The MasterCard Foundation’s portfolio of work supporting smallholder farmers in Africa. To date, the Foundation has committed more than US$300 million to support agricultural initiatives (including US$175 million for rural and agricultural finance projects).

AgDevCo is a social impact investor and agribusiness project developer, incorporated in the United Kingdom. With support from UKAid, AgDevCo invests patient capital in the form of debt and equity into early-stage agribusinesses. AgDevCo’s mission is to reduce poverty and improve food security. It has invested over USD 90 million in 59 agribusinesses in sub-Saharan Africa to date, connecting tens of thousands of farmers to markets and generating over 3,000 jobs.

Root Capital is an impact investing pioneer that grows rural prosperity in poor, environmentally vulnerable places in Africa, Asia, and Latin America by providing capital, delivering financial training, and strengthening market connections for small and growing agricultural businesses. Since 1999, Root Capital has disbursed over $1 billion in credit to 623 businesses, who in turn positively impact 1.2 million smallholder farmers. Root Capital’s clients produce dozens of different agricultural products, from coffee, cocoa, and cashews, to wild-harvested products like natural gums and shea butter.

ICCO Cooperation is a global, non-governmental organization that works towards a world in which people can live in dignity and well-being, a world without poverty and injustice. From a coherent theory of change ICCO Cooperation designs, manages, implements and finances programs for inclusive development with focus on economic empowerment of smallholders, food and nutrition security and responsible business. ICCO Cooperation offers brokering services for public private partnerships and is experienced in working with a wide range of financial instruments: microfinance (ICCO Terrafina MicroFinance), impact investments (ICCO Investments) and co-entrepreneurship (Agribusiness Booster).

The MasterCard Foundation works with visionary organizations to provide greater access to education, skills training and financial services for people living in poverty, primarily in Africa. As one of the largest private foundations, its work is guided by its mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to create an inclusive and equitable world. Based in Toronto, Canada, its independence was established by Mastercard when the Foundation was created in 2006
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Facebook Chief Product Officer takes ideas from West Africa home to California
March 7, 2017 | 0 Comments

Cox was in West Africa to find out how the region’s creatives, developers and entrepreneurs are using Facebook and Instagram to bring their passions to life

DAKAR, Senegal, March 7, 2017/ — Chris Cox, Chief Product Officer at Facebook , will be taking feedback and inspiration from the developer and content creator communities back to California following his visits to Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal this week.

Cox was in West Africa to find out how the region’s creatives, developers and entrepreneurs are using Facebook and Instagram to bring their passions to life.

Chris said: “It’s been an inspiring week meeting with some of the top artists, publishers, entrepreneurs, developers, and social media stars across the region. This is a region that creates some of the most interesting cultures in the world – from food, to fashion, to music, to art. They are at the leading edge of using mobile technology to build communities in their cities, countries, and around the region, and in solving local problems with local solutions. We left inspired, and with insights on the real challenges we have to improve our services — from internet connectivity to more regional support and tools.”

Chris started his trip on a high by seeing Femi Kuti live on stage at the New Afrika Shrine in Lagos. Chris, who is an accomplished pianist, was invited to play live on stage with Femi, an experience he will never forget. Chris said:

“It was an honor to play live with one of my musical heroes. The Shrine is one of the great institutions in music history and in the political history of the region. It was also the first time a concert has been live broadcast on Facebook from The Shrine. Femi’s team was inspired by how many folks around the city, the region, and the world wanted to tune in, and we were too. We were surprised by how many Nigerians told us how exciting it was to see a concert from there. We think there’s a great opportunity for Live to give the whole world a window into some of these gems of local culture.”

Whilst he was in Nigeria he spoke at Social Media Week Lagos — the region’s premier new media and social media conference — Cox highlighted Nigeria’s status as a hub for innovation and creativity because of its fast-growing mobile technology sector and its vibrant film and music industries. He focused on how the world is moving to digital video, with formats such as virtual reality, Live video broadcast and 360 video giving people new ways to tell their stories.

Chris then moved to Ghana where he visited the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) in Accra, Ghana. Meltwater is the premiere start-up-school and incubator in Ghana, bringing in some of the top aspiring tech entrepreneurs and engineers from around the continent to develop their businesses. During his visit Chris loved meeting the team from Asoriba , an already hugely successful software for church communities — which is extremely important and central in Ghana and Nigeria. He talked with the founders of Asorbia about how technology can be used to strengthen communities.

Later in Ghana he witnessed the force of Ghana’s creative talent in an event at ANO Gallery, which was co-hosted by and ANO Gallery and Bless The Mic. During the event, some of Ghana’s top talent spoke about how they have used technology to tell their stories and grow their audiences.

Top Ghanaian musician M.anifest said, “We have some really compelling stories to share in Ghana, not just with other Ghanaians but with audiences around the world. The remarkable thing about Facebook is that it gives us cutting-edge and exciting new ways to connect with people and to tell our stories ourselves and in our own way.”

Chris’ last stop of the trip was Senegal where he attended a ‘Stories of Senegal’ event, designed to lift the lid on the stories, cultures and talent in Senegal. During the event, top Dakar chef Corinne Erambert of Les Atelier De Corrine gave Chris Cox a crash course in local Senegalese cooking, teaching him how to make local dish ‘couscous rice’. The event was live streamed on Facebook, so that people all over the world could see how to make a local delicacy.

Corinne Erambert of Les Atelier De Corrine  said: “I founded my business ‘Les Atelier De Corrine’ three years ago. Since then I have used my blog , Facebook and Instagram to build a community of food lovers who come to my pages to see videos and photos of the new dishes I am trying out. I often give people recipes within my posts so that if people like the look of the food I make, they can try it out at home.”

For the final stop of his visit to West Africa, Chris attended an event with local tech entrepreneurs where he took part in a discussion about building tech products in Francophone Africa. Panelists included some of the region’s most promising developers:

  • Omar Cissé, CEO at In Touch  – a Senegalese mobile payments and digital services aggregator;
  • Jimmy Kumako from Coin Afrique  – an online marketplace designed to simplify the exchange of goods and services in French-speaking Africa;
  • Malick Ndiyae, Cabinet Minister, Post and Telecommunications, Senegal;
  • Seynabou Thiam, from Neylam Services  – a creative digital agency based in Dakar, Senegal.

Says Cox: “It was exciting and inspiring to see how technology is giving entrepreneurs and content creators across West Africa new opportunities to reach their audiences. I felt privileged to see how developers, content creators and entrepreneurs are using Facebook and Instagram to help solve local problems or tell local stories.”

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Ambassador Sanders’ New Book Focuses on Insta-impact of Africa’s SMEs
March 6, 2017 | 0 Comments

Ambassador Robin Renee Sanders’ new book on “The Rise of Africa’s Small& amp; Medium Size Enterprises” (SMEs) is an insightful examination of the dramatic shift in the development paradigm for Sub Saharan Africa – driven in large part by the imaginative, innovative and insta-impact leadership of the region’s small businesses or SMEs. “SMEs have helped drive economic growth and aided in increasing the size of the Continent’s middle class,” Sanders says. The book’s Introduction is by renowned civil rights leader Ambassador Andrew Young, and the Foreword is by Africa’s leading businessman, Mr. Aliko Dangote. Sanders’ credits the determination of Africa’s SMEs to step into the void left by 40 years of post-independence development efforts that had little impact on overall poverty reduction and job creation in the region.

The book also has recommendations on what donors, the African Union, African Governments, and the new U.S. Administration can do to further assist Africa SMEs. For the US, Sanders notes that as the new U.S. Administration seeks to have markets for its goods and services as part of its efforts to reinvigorate jobs in the US Rust Belt (the Midwest Region), and as Africa SMEs expand their procurement sources and help expand the region’s manufacturing base – both efforts can be synergistic, and help stimulate both American and African economies. There is also an extensive chapter on China – what it is doing in the Africa SME sector, both the big plus, like special economic zones, the New Development Bank, and becoming the world’s net credit country, as well as addresses some of the things on which it needs to do better.

Included in the book are DataGraphs from the world-respected Gallup Analytics® on the enabling environment for Africa’s SMEs and comments on the importance and impact of the region’s SMEs from other key notables such as Gallup’s Managing Partner Jon Clifton, Nigeria telecom leader and Chairman of Etisalat Nigeria Hakeem Belo Osaige, CEO of the Nigerian Stock Exchange Oscar Onyema, Chairman of Operation Hope John Bryant, CEO of Homestrings Eric Guichard, former Senior U.S. Small Business Administration official Ngozi Bell, and the Minister of Small and Medium Enterprises of the Republic of Congo, Madame Yvonne Adelaide Mougany. Dr. Frederick G. Kohun, nationally-recognized scholar of Pittsburgh’s Robert Morris University (RMU), a University Professor of Computer and Information Systems at RMU’s School of Communications and Information Systems, underscores Sanders point  in the book that the impact of Africa SMEs is not only a result of technology and its mobility, but the sister relationship that these have with providing access to knowledge management for communities around the world that have helped small businesses globally transform their societies and their nations.

The prestigious Association of Diplomatic Studies and Training (ADST) has included Sanders’ Africa SME book in its recognized series of Memoirs and Occasional Papers Series (MOPS) given its additional focus on the role and changes in diplomatic approaches to development over the ages, including the shift changes brought about the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

See story on Sanders’ book http://bit.ly/SandersAfricaSMEBook

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NBA Africa VP Amadou Fall talks about growing the game in the continent
March 4, 2017 | 0 Comments

The Senegalese exec wants to increase the league’s influence — and he’s got big plans

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NBA Africa Managing Director Amadou Gallo Fall speaks during the opening press conference of the Basketball Without Boarders program on July 28, 2015 at the American International School of Johannesburg in Johannesburg, South Africa. Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

NBA Africa Managing Director Amadou Gallo Fall speaks during the opening press conference of the Basketball Without Boarders program on July 28, 2015 at the American International School of Johannesburg in Johannesburg, South Africa. Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

The NBA opened the 2016-17 regular season with 14 of its 114 international players from African countries. NBA Africa vice president and managing director for Africa Amadou Gallo Fall is confident that the rise in popularity and participation of basketball in Africa will not only increase the number of players in the league but also the involvement in the game on all levels.

“Everybody knows who Dikembe Mutombo, Hakeem Olajuwon and Luol Deng is,” Fall told The Undefeated. “But there are also stories like Masai Ujiri that I love promoting to our young people. Here is a guy that didn’t play a minute in the NBA, but yet he is doing great things as president of the Toronto Raptors.

“It shows our young people that there are different avenues to grow in the game. Agent, coaching, being an elite-level general manager. There are so many other walks of life in sports. We talk to our people about not only playing the game, but more importantly being somebody that wants to be successful. Success can mean different things to different people. They work hard, they’re dedicated and they’re disciplined.”

Fall has been leading the NBA Africa charge from Johannesburg since its inception in May 2010. Before then, the former University of District of Columbia center spent 12 years with the Dallas Mavericks as director of player personnel and vice president of international affairs. In 1998, the Senegal native also founded the Sports for Education and Economic Development (SEED) to use education and basketball with boys and girls to grow the next generation of African leaders.

During the recent NBA All-Star weekend in New Orleans, Fall, the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association announced that the 2017 NBA Africa Game will take place on Aug. 5 in Johannesburg, two years after the inaugural exhibition. The NBA is slated to open an elite training center in Thies, Senegal, in May for boys and girls at the under-16 and under-18 level. Moreover, the NBA also signed a new multiyear deal with sub-Saharan African broadcaster Econet Media in April 2016 to show more than 500 live NBA and WNBA games, the playoffs, the NBA Finals and other NBA programs on Econet’s pay TV, internet and mobile platforms beginning this season. Every year since 2006, the NBA has selected 60 children from across Africa to participate in a Basketball Without Borders camp on the continent.

Olajuwon, Mutombo and Ujri are the names that typically come to mind when NBA fans think of Africans who have made an imprint on the game. Fall is a lesser known name, but his influence has been the same as he has helped countless Africans use basketball to improve their lives, with many more to come. He took some time to talk to The Undefeated about being the leader in growing the game of basketball from the grass roots in Africa.

Explain what NBA Africa is?

It’s one of 14 NBA offices around the world. We opened in 2010 right before the World Cup in South Africa with a goal of really growing the NBA across Africa. Growing the game of basketball. Making it accessible to young people. Growing a fan base. And ultimately, growing the business of the NBA.

How has the growth of NBA Africa been since 2010?

It started with one person, then two and today we have a team of 14 people. We’ve had rapid growth with a region of 54 countries and territories. We are looking to cover the passion that the young people have for the game of basketball. You see the growing number of African players in the league. We don’t want to take credit for all of that. But certainly the NBA has a commitment to the continent to grow the sport. We signed a partnership last April that gives us the most expansive NBA game broadcasts ever on the continent. It adds to the growing popularity of our sport.

When we opened the NBA office, we wanted to make the game accessible to young people who want to play and fans who want to watch the game. Being on television is a big target for us. We’ve had licenses before. But this past April we entered a television contract for the next five years that is really going to be a game changer for us.

What is the best way to explain your job?

I am overseeing the operations of NBA Africa. My job was to put a team together with people with a different set of expertise from business development to communications and marketing. I was lucky enough to have a colleague in my 20-plus years in the NBA that moved to South Africa with me who was at the league office. He was there at the beginning of the D-League and he is from Ghana originally. So having resources like that at the very beginning was tremendously helpful.

I am from a basketball background. I had to come in and really rapidly transform it wearing a business hat. I spent a lot of time just engaging the different stakeholders in the continent whether it’s sports ministry, basketball federation, to get them aligned and understand our mission. We’ve really worked with them to build the infrastructure across the continent and to just make people aware that basketball is the No. 2 sport globally. The same holds true in Africa. There is an ambassador element to this job. You have to attend meetings. If you’re in a leadership position in any organization, your job is to constantly sell what you’re doing.

We have a great plan in the NBA that is attentive and young people have an infinity to because of the intersections with music, fashion and the whole lifestyle. It helps us with the young people across Africa. Young people are very aware of our players, especially now that there is a growing number of African players in the league. They can participate in the NBA and watch the games through African lenses. The one thing that makes my job even easier is we have all these African players on the continent who are as committed as we are to giving back to their communities with their own camps and inspiring their own communities.

When you have your own [NBA players] like Luc Mbah a Moute, Gorgui Dieng, Joel Embiid, I’m just talking about the younger guys. These guys have come through the Basketball Without Borders [camp]. It’s not hard on selling them on where they come from. They are helping build their own brand with the NBA on their continent. And what I’m most proud of is the impact we’re having in the community in terms of using basketball as a tool to inspire young people. With the values of the game, they are learning discipline, hard work, sportsmanship, all these elements of helping young people in their formative years.

How excited are you about the NBA Africa 2017 game?

I’m extremely excited. We had tremendous success with the first Africa game in 2015. The players that we had really represented for the NBA and did very well. We did what we do best in terms of our outreach in the community. We were doing the game based on 13 years of success with Basketball Without Borders. It was 2003 when we had the first camp … We’ve had a lot of positive impact throughout the continent. The [2015] game was not only broadcasted in Africa, but it was broadcasted on a global basis in over 215 countries.

Having the likes of Chris Paul, Luol Deng, Hakeem, Dikembe participate for not only the fans in the arena … The game was sold out in 90 minutes when it was accounted. There was a lot of learning. A lot of positive feedback. That is why I am excited to do it again at a bigger venue at the TicketPro Dome, which is twice as many seats at 10,000. We’re getting the same interest from players across the league to join our rosters, so we’ll see what we can do. But there is tremendous interest. We are looking forward to giving our NBA fans in Africa the entire NBA experience. Our broadcast partner will broadcast the game throughout the continent. The commitment from the players, legends, coaches and team personnel and we are all looking forward to converging for this game.

Tell me about the NBA Academy Africa that is scheduled to open in May.

NBA Academy Africa is part of the NBA’s global network of elite training centers that we started launching last year in October. There were three centers announced in China, one in India and one in Australia. The one in Africa will be based in Senegal, partnering with the SEED Project, which has been around since 2002, which has done a good job with its resources in training young people by using basketball as an instrument to set seeds to education.

NBA Africa Vice President & Managing Director Amadou Gallo Fall presents Captain Luol Deng #9 of Team Africa and Captain Chris Paul #3 of Team World the MVP Trophy after the NBA Africa Game 2015 as part of Basketball Without Borders on August 1, 2015 at the Ellis Park Arena in Johannesburg, South Africa.

NBA Africa Vice President & Managing Director Amadou Gallo Fall presents Captain Luol Deng #9 of Team Africa and Captain Chris Paul #3 of Team World the MVP Trophy after the NBA Africa Game 2015 as part of Basketball Without Borders on August 1, 2015 at the Ellis Park Arena in Johannesburg, South Africa.

This is the same approach. The approach is going to be holistic, combining elite training with education and implementing leadership and life skills to these young people from across the continent. We’ve already hired two NBA-trained coaches. Essentially, what the academy is going to do is provide a more predictable past for young people aspiring to be at the top in basketball.

If you talked to Hakeem or Dikembe, and mine on a lesser level on how I stumbled into basketball, we didn’t really grow up thinking about being a pro basketball player. All of us started very late. Dikembe didn’t play his first year at Georgetown, he played intramurals. With Hakeem, there was a coach who showed up at his school in Nigeria just to introduce the game. Six months later, he was in Houston and the rest is history. The rap was always the same with raw, African big guys with criticism that they had bad hands. It’s very simple to understand if you don’t grow up using your hands. Everybody grew up playing soccer …

What the academy is going to do and what our grass-roots efforts across the country is going to do is introduce people at a much earlier age to the game. Also, training coaches to understand and teach the fundamentals of the game is going to be huge. Along with that, we’re building an infrastructure where kids can play wherever they want, whenever they want. If we take care of the grass-roots activity through the Junior NBA, which we intend to have in every single country on the continent in the next few years, at the end of the year we will be in 15 countries, that will take care of the base of the pyramid. It’s going to leave young people immersed. We’re also going to spend time with talent identification for the first time. No longer will these [African] players appear from pure luck. There is going to be a deliberate effort and focus to scout talent throughout the continent …

We are trying to establish an ecosystem, too. You realize that everyone is not going to have a seat on an NBA roster. We are working with local federations to build stronger local leagues where all the talent won’t all get to go to the NBA or college. We will have a place [where] they will have a choice to stay home and play in a highly stable and operated league in their own country.

How much is the game of basketball changing and even saving lives in Africa?

I will start with my own story. The game has allowed me to achieve and get to where I am today. My dreams and aspirations were very different growing up. I wanted to go to medical school in the program Doctors Without Borders. The game opened my eyes to realize that whatever I wanted to do through medicine, I can do it faster through sports.

There is a tremendous opportunity that sports provide in terms of building character, opening doors, building access and the rest is really what we continue to see when I look at our brother and good friend Masai Ujiri and what he is doing in Toronto. He is building a model program with the Raptors not only from a standpoint from the players he is able to attract there and draft, just the entire way I see the city of Toronto rally behind the team. He has shown tremendous leadership there and we are very, very proud of him.

*Source The Undefeated.Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for The Undefeated

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