Archbishop of Canterbury declares Sudan new Anglican province
July 31, 2017 | 0 Comments
By Jay DESHMUKH*
Khartoum (AFP) – Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby on Sunday declared Sudan the 39th province of the worldwide Anglican Communion, six years after the predominantly Christian south gained independence from the north.
The Anglican church in Sudan, a majority Muslim country, has been administered from South Sudan since the 2011 split which followed a civil war that left more than two million people dead.
Sunday’s ceremony in Khartoum added Sudan to the 85 million-strong worldwide Anglican communion’s 38 member churches — known as provinces — and six other branches known as extra provincials.
Welby said that creating a 39th Anglican province with its own Khartoum-based archbishop was a “new beginning” for Christians in Sudan.
He installed Ezekiel Kondo Kumir Kuku as the country’s first archbishop and primate at a ceremony in the capital’s All Saints Cathedral attended by American, European and African diplomats as well as hundreds of worshippers.
“We welcome the new primate with jubilation,” Welby announced to a cheering crowd as he handed a cross to Kuku.
– ‘Autonomous church’ –
Welby, spiritual head of the Church of England and of the global Anglican Communion, said it was a rare opportunity for an archbishop to declare a new primate.
“It is a responsibility for Christians to make this province work, and for those outside (Sudan) to support, to pray and to love this province,” he said.
“The church must learn to be sustainable financially, to develop the skills of its people, and to bless this country as the Christians here already do.”
The idea of a separate Anglican province in Sudan was first discussed in 2009 as it became clear that the south would secede.
“But after the split it was decided to have a separate, autonomous Episcopal Church of Sudan,” he said.
“Today, we inaugurated that. It will have its own autonomous adminstration to take its own decisions.”
There is no central Anglican authority such as a pope, with each member church making its own decision in its own ways guided by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
– Persecution –
Human rights and Christian campaign groups have regularly accused the Sudanese authorities of persecuting Christians and even destroying churches in the capital since the north-south split.
About three years ago two South Sudanese pastors, Yat Michael and Peter Yen, were arrested in Sudan on charges including spying and crimes against the state.
The two, arrested by agents of Sudan’s powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), were released by a Khartoum court in August last year.
Since the 1989 coup that brought Islamist backed President Omar al-Bashir to power, authorities in Khartoum have pursued Arabising and Islamising policies in a bid to unify the country.
This has stirred resentment and helped trigger a devastating civil war that ended with the secession of the mainly Christian south.
Later on Sunday, Welby met Bashir with whom he discussed issues concerning “protection” of Christians and churches in Sudan.
“We talked of how in England we seek to help mosques in ensuring that they are able to function well and freely,” Welby said.
“In England, the Church of England often seeks to protect Muslims when they are under pressure,” he said, indicating that he expected the same in Sudan when it came to protecting Christians.
Christian communities in Sudan today are mostly found in the Nuba mountains of South Kordofan state. Experts say that between three and five percent of Sudan’s about 25 million population are Christian.
US President Donald Trump is to decide on October 12 whether to permanently lift sanctions imposed in 1997 over Khartoum’s alleged backing for Islamist militant groups.
Several campaign groups have urged Washington to maintain the sanctions or formulate new ones to address concerns over human rights violations, including alleged religious repression.
Africa: Millions of Women and Children for Sale for Sex, Slavery, Organs
July 29, 2017 | 0 Comments
By Baher Kamal*
Rome — It is happening now. Millions of humans are forced to flee armed conflicts, climate change, inequalities, and extreme poverty. They fall easy prey to traffickers lurking anyone who can be subjected to sexual exploitation, forced labour and even sell their skin and organs.
Just as tragically, 79 per cent of all detected trafficking victims are women and children, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Global Report on Trafficking in Persons.
The drama is immense. Every year, millions of children, women and men fall into the hands of traffickers, lured by fake promises and deceit, the United Nations reports once more, this time ahead of the World Day against Trafficking in Persons, marked every year on 30 July.
The “horrendous crime” is being committed now, while you are reading this article, and in public “salve markets”. See African Migrants Bought and Sold Openly in ‘Slave Markets’ in Libya
Buying and selling migrants is a big business. In fact, human trafficking has become a global multi-billion-dollar enterprise, affecting nearly every country in the world, according to UNODC’s executive director Yury Fedotov.
“Today, there are millions of people whose liberty, dignity and essential human rights have been stolen. They are coerced into sexual exploitation, forced labour, domestic servitude, forced begging, stealing, online pornography, and even compelled to “sell” skin organs. “
This inhumane business is far from slowing down-from 2012-2014, more than 500 different trafficking flows were detected and countries in Western and Southern Europe detected victims of 137 different citizenships, according to UNODC. In short, “the crime of human trafficking is occurring almost everywhere.”
In terms of the different types of trafficking, sexual exploitation and forced labour are the most prominent, says the report, adding that trafficking can, however, have numerous other forms including: victims compelled to act as beggars, forced into sham marriages, benefit fraud, pornography production, organ removal, among others.
Many countries have criminalised most forms of trafficking as set out in the UN Trafficking in Persons Protocol. The number of countries doing this has increased from 33 in 2003 to 158 in 2016. Such an exponential increase is welcomed and it has helped to assist the victims and to prosecute the traffickers, said Fedotov.
“Unfortunately, the average number of convictions remains low. UNODC’s findings show that there is a close correlation between the length of time the trafficking law has been on the statute books and the conviction rate.”
What Is Human Trafficking All About
The UN defines human trafficking as a crime that exploits women, children and men for numerous purposes including forced labour and sex.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that 21 million people are victims of forced labour globally. This estimate also includes victims of human trafficking for labour and sexual exploitation. While it is not known how many of these victims were trafficked, the estimate implies that currently, there are millions of trafficking in persons victims in the world.
“Every country in the world is affected by human trafficking, whether as a country of origin, transit, or destination for victims. Children make up almost a third of all human trafficking victims worldwide, according to the Global Report on Trafficking in Persons.
Another important development is the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants, which produced the groundbreaking New York Declaration. Of the nineteen commitments adopted by countries in the Declaration, three are dedicated to concrete action against the crimes of human trafficking and migrant smuggling.
Protect, Assist Trafficked Persons
This year, UNODC has chosen ‘act to protect and assist trafficked persons’ as the focus of the World Day.
This topic highlights one of the most pressing issues of our time — the large mixed migration movements of refugees and migrants.
The theme puts the spotlight on the significant impact of conflict and natural disasters, as well as the resultant, multiple risks of human trafficking that many people face.
And it addresses the key issue concerning trafficking responses: that most people are never identified as trafficking victims and therefore cannot access most of the assistance or protection provided.
Counter Trafficking in Persons Since the 90s
Meantime, the leading UN agency dealing with migrants reminds that it has been working to counter trafficking in persons since the mid-nineties.
“Our primary aims are to prevent trafficking in persons and to protect victims, in ordinary time and in crisis, while offering them support on their path to recovery, including through safe and sustainable (re)integration, return support to their home countries, or, in some circumstances, through third country resettlement, says the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Globally, it has so far assisted over 90,000 trafficked persons. “Ensuring freedom and a chance at a new life, IOM’s assistance includes safe accommodation, medical and psycho-social support, and assisted voluntary return and reintegration.”
For this, the UN agency works with governments, the private sector, civil society organisations, and other UN bodies “to protect victims of trafficking and associated forms of exploitation and abuse; to prevent such abuses from occurring; and to support the development and implementation of policies aimed at the prevention and prosecution of these crimes and the protection of victims.”
The agency’s approach is based on: respect for human rights; support for the physical, mental and social well-being of the individual and his or her community; and sustainability through capacity building and the facilitation of durable solutions for all beneficiaries.
Africa: Third Trump Try to Fill Senior Africa Policy Post
July 29, 2017 | 0 Comments
By Reed Kramer*
After two abandoned attempts to fill the highest Africa position in the White House, the Trump team is considering a career intelligence officer.
No announcement has been made, but sources with access to the selection process say Cyril Sartor, deputy assistant director for Africa at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), is the front runner to be senior director for Africa at the National Security Council (NSC).
On April 1, AllAfrica was the first to report the choice of Air Force veteran and former Pentagon Africa counter-terrorism director Rudolf Atallah for the NSC Africa job. Buzz Feed, which wrote about the Atallah selection 12 days later, reported on June 23 that the offer to Atallah had been “yanked” – after he had been introduced at an ‘all-hands’ NSC meeting and had been actively working on African issues for the administration.
No reason has been advanced for the reversal on Atallah, who was the second person named to direct Africa at NSC. The first, Robin Townley, was blocked from taking the job after his security clearance reportedly was rejected by the CIA.
Among the positions Sartor has held, according to a brief biography posted online by the Aspen Security Forum in July 2016, are serving as briefer for two National Security Advisors and as acting intelligence officer for Africa at the National Intelligence Council (NIC), which produces strategic forecasts for the U.S. government. The bio says he earned an MA in African History from Boston University in 1984.
Sartor is among the small group of African Americans at senior level in the intelligence community. No official government biography is available online.
The information posted by Aspen accompanied Sartor’s participation in a public panel on terrorism in Africa at the Aspen forum in July 2016, a relatively rare appearance by an intelligence analyst. “It feels a little weird for a CIA officer to be live streaming on YouTube,” Sartor joked, as he began his prepared remarks.
“Violent Islamic ideology is a foreign import to sub-Saharan Africa and as such it only thrives where it can co-opt local grievances,” Sartor said, citing complaints among nomadic Tuareg people in Mali and “clan frustrations” that spur the insurgency in Somalia.
The socioeconomic roots of popular grievances must be addressed, he told the Forum, adding, “I sincerely believe the international community can defeat terrorism in sub Saharan Africa with a robust mix of long-term development and security assistance.” He said defeating terrorism in Africa “will take a long time” – in part because insurgencies typically last “more than a dozen years” and also because the youth population across Africa is growing faster than anywhere else in the world.
Top Africa Job at State Could Have Nominee Soon
Africa director at NSC is one of two high-level Africa jobs that remain unfilled more than five months into the Trump administration. No formal nomination has been put forward to head the Africa Bureau at the State Department, a front-line position tasked with managing U.S. diplomatic relations with the continent.
Africa experts who track policy developments believe a nomination for the senior Africa post at State could be nearing. The choice for Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian was announced on July 19 – only the third nomination to date for one of the 22 assistant secretary positions in the department.
After several names were discussed within the administration to be nominated as Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, well-connected sources say that J. Peter Pham, director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council, is being vetted and that his name could be one of the next submitted by the White House to the Senate for confirmation.
That these key posts remain empty is widely seen as part of the reason for the U.S. response to the ‘Compact for Africa’ put forward by German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the G20 Summit earlier this month. Riva Levinson, a Republican and a Washington DC-based government relations consultant with extensive African experience, writing in The Hill, labeled as “utterly tone-deaf” President Trump’s decision to leave the Summit during the session on ‘Partnership with Africa, Migration and Health’, the focus of which was “the well-being of Africa’s 1.6 billion people.” His daughter and advisor, Ivanka Trump, took his place at the table with the Summit principals, primarily heads of state and of international organizations,
Grant T. Harris, who was senior director for African Affairs in the Obama White House, sees ‘de-prioritization’ of Africa by the Trump administration as creating an opening In Africa for other powers. “Chinese leaders must be salivating” – the country now takes in $50 billion a year or more from African investments, he wrote in The Hill. “North Korea has sold weapons to African countries, in violation of UN sanctions, to fund its weapons of mass destruction programs, and Russia is looking to Africa to hedge against U.S. sanctions,” he wrote.
Peter Pham, the presumed nominee to head the Africa Bureau at the State Department, is a prolific author of analytical essays and books whose work has focused on African security issues. He prepared a strategy paper published by the Council and submitted to the Trump transition team in December, which advocated – among other recommendations -reassigning four north African nations (Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco) to the Africa Bureau at the State Department, where they currently fall under the Bureau of of Near Eastern Affairs. This reorganization took place at the NSC soon after Trump assumed office.
Women Advancing Africa placing women at the centre stage of Africa’s Economic Advancement
July 28, 2017 | 0 Comments
|The Women Advancing Africa Forum is set to bring some of the continent’s best and brightest minds together to shape a common agenda to accelerate the economic advancement of women in Africa|
DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania, July 28, 2017/ — The inaugural Women Advancing Africa (WAA) Forum is a new Pan-African flagship initiative launched by the Graça Machel Trust to acknowledge and celebrate the central role women play in shaping Africa’s development agenda and by driving social and economic transformation. The Forum will take place from 9-12 August in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania at the Hyatt Kilimanjaro.
Africa is in a second liberation era – the economic liberation. Women can no longer be secondary or marginal, and through Women Advancing Africa the Trust wants to enable women to take centre stage in the economic advancement of Africa. The Trust is establishing a platform for women to claim their right to sit at the table where the decisions are made and to shape the policies, plans and strategies for our futures and those of the generations to come.”
The Trust is honoured to have H.E. Samia Suluhu Hassan, Vice-President of the United Republic of Tanzania and member of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment join the WAA Forum to share her insights on issues that will be discussed over the four days. The Forum will consist of interactive sessions organised around three core pillars: Financial Inclusion, Market Access and Social Change.
With an estimated attendance of 200 participants from across the continent, the WAA Forum will play host to a diverse mix of women and youth representing thought leaders and influencers from the private sector, philanthropy, academia, civil society, government, development agencies and the media who will bring their voices, experiences and ideas to strategize, set priorities and craft a common agenda to drive Africa’s social and economic transformation.
A Social Progress Agenda
We are honoured to be joined by Gertrude Mongella, former President of the Pan African Parliament who will be joined by some of Africa’s leading women giants who have shaped the women’s movement in the past and will bring legacy and the future face to face in a gathering at the side of the Forum.
The WAA Forum will also celebrate the diversity of African culture and creativity in all its forms, from language, to design and fashion, to movie making and dance. This year’s Forum will celebrate African female writers and storytellers who are challenging the status quo, reshaping narratives and developing a deeper understanding and appreciation of the creative industries and their role in driving social progress.
Research looking at the Narrative and Economic participation of Women in Africa
The Graça Machel Trust’s Women in Media Network will also launch a research report on the coverage and portrayal of women in media entitled: “Women in Media – What is the Narrative?” The session will be broadcast as a Facebook Live event with interactive participation in the post launch In Conversation series to stimulate a broader conversation about the narrative of women in media as well as other storytelling formats and platforms.
Announcements will be made on the WAA website www.WomenAdvancingAfrica and the WAA Facebook page www.Women Advancing Africa – WAA, closer to the time.
A movement of women focused on economic advancement
The Trust would like to thank our generous partners who have helped make our vision a reality. Special thanks to The UPS Foundation, the Intel Foundation, American Tower Corporation, and UN Women. Media partners include: the ABN360 Group, incorporating CNBC Africa and Forbes Africa; the Nation Group and locally based Azam Media Group. The WAA Forum’s convening partner, APCO Worldwide has worked closely with the Graça Machel Trust, providing expertise and insights to develop this one-of-a-kind women’s network. These partners share the Trust’s belief that advancing women economically is crucial to the health and prosperity of African families, communities and nations.
The Graça Machel Trust is an organisation that works across the continent to drive positive change across women’s and children’s rights, as well as governance and leadership. Through our support of local initiatives and connecting key stakeholders at a regional, national and sub-national level, we help to catalyse action where it is needed. By using our convening power the Trust seeks to: amplify the voices of women and children in Africa; influence governance; promote women’s contributions and leadership in the economic social and political development of Africa.
The Network of African Business Women (NABW) provides women with opportunities to freely and effectively participate in the economic development of their countries through the establishment of sustainable business ventures. Through training, mentorship and capacity building, the Network supports business women’s associations and existing business women generating a much needed upsurge of growth-oriented, African women entrepreneurs.
The African Women in Agribusiness Network (AWAB) addresses challenges in food security and identifies opportunities for women in the agricultural sector. The network advocates for initiatives that enhance women’s competitiveness in local and global markets. AWAB also seeks to foster market linkages for women, connecting them to projects in the agricultural sector that can improve their access to resources, knowledge and training.
New Faces New Voices (NFNV)
New Faces New Voices (NFNV) advocates for women’s access to finance and financial services. The network aims to bridge the funding gap in financing women-owned businesses in Africa and to lobby for policy and legislative changes. The overall objective of the network is to advance the financial inclusion of women by bringing more women into the formal financial system.
The Women in Media Network (WIMN) is the latest Pan-African network established by the Trust. It comprises a network of African women journalists who individually and collectively use their influence and voice to help shape and disseminate empowering storylines about Africa’s women and children.
Founded in 1984, APCO Worldwide is an independent global communication, stakeholder engagement and business strategy firm with offices in more than 30 major cities throughout the world. We challenge conventional thinking and inspire movements to help our clients succeed in an ever-changing world. Stakeholders are at the core of all we do. We turn the insights that come from our deep stakeholder relationships into forward-looking, creative solutions that always push the boundaries. APCO clients include large multinational companies, trade associations, governments, NGOs and educational institutions. The firm is a majority women-owned business
IGD Launches Inaugural “Making Farming Cool!” Podcast Series
July 20, 2017 | 0 Comments
Produced by Afropop Worldwide, a Peabody award-winning radio program and online magazine dedicated to music from Africa and the African diaspora, Cameroonian-born veteran broadcaster Georges Collinet will host the podcast series. The podcast series is a component of the Africa Investment Rising (AIR) campaign, IGD’s dynamic communications and advocacy effort.
Agriculture is the engine driving in many African economies. While job opportunities exist in the agricultural value chain, young people are largely not entering the agriculture sector.
An estimated 25 million young people are expected enter the job market each year in Africa by 2025. To absorb the new entrants in the labor force, more than 10 million new jobs per year will have to be created in rural areas in the next two decades, according to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).
“We’re thrilled to launch the ‘Making Farming Cool!’ podcast series,” said Mima S. Nedelcovych, IGD President. “The podcast series has a youthful vibe and will feature compelling interviews with private sector leaders and experts working in agriculture to draw attention to the tremendous business opportunities for growth and innovation in the agriculture sector.”
In the first episode, host Georges Collinet will take listeners on a captivating journey through South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province to meet Siehle Zealous Sibisi, a 28-year-old who manages his family’s successful sugarcane farm, TBS Holdings, which produces 30,000 tons of sugar a year. TBS Holdings is a supplier of IGD Frontier Leader Illovo Sugar Group. Listeners will also hear about how the family business is a successful model of South Africa’s post-apartheid land restitution program.
IGD Frontier Leaders listened to a preview of the a podcast episode featuring Dr. Abdu Mukhtar, Group Chief Strategy Officer of Dangote Industries Limitedduring a May 5 evening reception at the Frontier 100 Forum in Durban, South Africa.
The podcast series will roll out new episodes of “Making Farming Cool!” on the Afropop Worldwide website at http://www.afropop.org/37720/making-farming-cool/. New episodes will be released in September and October.
The podcast series will be distributed through IGD’s media partners and initially broadcast in three target media markets: Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa. The series will also be distributed in the U.S. through Afropop Worldwide.
Marrakech to host The World Premier high-level dialogue of leaders on Women, Agriculture and Sustainable Development September 11- 12, 2017 at the Four Seasons Hotel, Marrakech, Morocco
July 17, 2017 | 0 Comments
Believe in Africa has chosen Morocco, the picturesque “Western Kingdom – a place the sun sets,” for this year’s “Woman and Agriculture” conference. Hosting this conference in the Africa continent closer to home will bring together a cross-fertilization of ideas and home grown solutions from more than 500 delegates representing the diverse face of leading Africans in politics, business, regional/international experts in financing, technology and innovation, climate change and access to markets, including the voices of members of non-governmental organizations and institutions. By bringing people together, BIA 2017 will be the place where the pivotal role African women play, and contribute, in agriculture and sustainable development will be discussed and honoured.
“Our choice of Morocco is not fortuitous. With the efforts deployed by His Majesty King Mohammed VI, King of Morocco with his clear vision and leadership in advancing African economic integration and enhancing the collaboration between, and within, African countries, was the inspiration behind our decision to choose Morocco for this year’s conference, for the first time in the African continent, “said Mrs. Angelle KWEMO, president of the association and president of the Congress. She added that “Women and Agriculture” wishes to create a platform to empower women.
“Morocco is one of the most economically dynamic African countries. Geographically, and strategically located, Morocco is a bridge to Europe and the U.S. for Africa and a leader for South-South trade. It is certain that during this Congress we will learn a lot from the Moroccan experience in developing and expanding its agriculture sector. With the strong support of our conference partner, the OCP Group, world leader in phosphates and derivatives production, this conference will bring visibility to women who work daily in fields across Africa, concludes Mrs. Kwemo.
Another partner is the United Nations Women organization and BEYA Capital, a pioneer Casablanca-based climate investment and advisory firm that joined several global partners to organize the innovative Global Climate Finance Action Summit 2016 (GCFA 2016) during COP22. GCFA Summit made history by convening high-level international public and private sector leaders to discuss scaling actionable solutions to unlock climate finance flows towards developing countries, with a particular focus on Africa. Mustapha MOKASS, Founder & CEO of BEYA Capital stated “Women are the backbone of Africa food security and Climate change mitigation. Empowering them equals empowering the world”. He added “we are proud to join Believe in Africa in this historical event to showcasing concrete financial solutions to African women entrepreneurs’ projects to Climate Change Adaptation as a prelude to the upcoming gathering of GCFA Investors Platform on September 18/19 during NY Climate Week and during upcoming COP23 in Bonn (Germany).”
To drive our stimulating BIA 2017 agenda, we welcome our strategic partners, Washington Media Group, Reseau des Femmes Artisanes du Maroc (RESFAM), Africa 24 TV, Forbes Africa, AllAfrica.com, Horizon Africa, Inside Consulting … and others will soon be joining us in moving our agenda forward.
Believe in Africa (www.believeinafrica.org) is an African diaspora-led initiative founded by former U.S. congressional staffers and African leaders in the U.S. to empower Women and young Africans, to harness the power of the African Diaspora, educate policy makers and the public about African economic growth and highlight the continent’s gradual rise in the global community.
China focuses on its military footprint in Africa, setting stage for new rivalry with West
July 14, 2017 | 0 Comments
By Fabio Scala*
While the United States is scaling back its international positions amid a significant reduction in State Department’s budget that will affect international aid, another superpower, China, is working to substantially increase its international engagement.
For years China has been spending enormous sums of money buying political influence, including in Africa. But China is now revving up its military engine, looking to step up where opportunities allow it amid an uncertain commitment from the West.
One of China’s top geographical priorities is Africa. This is because Beijing sees an opening, as Africa is being neglected by both Europe and the United States. For the West, the continent is always analyzed through the lenses of illegal migration, terrorism, and the extraction industry. The continent is largely seen first as a source of problems, and rarely an opportunity. China too has been focusing on natural resource acquisition, but it has also committed investments and manpower to build infrastructure and export its technical capabilities to its African partners. As these investments expand, Beijing is now seeking to protect the billions it already committed in the continent by flexing its military muscles.
The Chinese military has been on overdrive these past days. In the Mediterranean, on the northern tip of the African continent, the Chinese navy is conducted live-firing drills this week. It committed a destroyer, a frigate and a support ship in drills that took place on July 10. The group is headed next to Russia, where it will join its Russian counterpart in St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad to perform joint exercises.
This week also, China is inaugurating its military base in the strategically located Djibouti, a country transformed into an open military fortress for many foreign forces, include those of France, Italy, Japan, the Unite States, and soon Turkey and Saudi Arabia. China argues that its Djibouti presence will be for peacekeeping and humanitarian aid in Africa, but rivalry with the US and the protection of Chinese assets and investments in East Africa, and elsewhere in the continent are critical drivers to China’s military focus there. This week, several navy ships left the port city of Zhanjiang in China’s southern Guangdong province, headed to the small port of Obock, in the of the Gulf of Tadjoura, Djibouti. The port is linked to the Gulf of Aden, allowing it easy reach to the troubled Middle East.
China’s presence in Africa is pretty ubiquitous, and that includes the Southern Africa region too. Also this week, the Chinese military made a symbolic gesture to Mozambique when it pledged $18 million to build new Mozambican Armed Forces barracks in Maputo. The gesture is symbolic indeed, but there are major implications on the long run in the aftermath of the high-profile visit of Chang Wanquan, the Chinese Defense Minister to Maputo. During the visit, the two parties highlighted China’s commitment to training Mozambican soldiers, but they are also planning a Chinese involvement in military infrastructure and logistics.
This Chinese charm offensive in Mozambique is taking place as the Southern African country has witnessed a reduction of aid from Western donors amid a major financial scandal that has rocked Mozambique. But it is also happening as Mozambique prepares to produce a significant amount of gas from the northern Rovuma basin, off the coast of Cabo Delgado. Although symbolic for now, the Chinese investment in Mozambique is likely to accelerate in the near future, and that would include a growing military presence to protect such investments.
China’s interest in Africa is no secret. It begun years ago and in 2015, its leadership renewed their commitment to Africa with pledged investment of $60 billion going forward. China’s footprint can be found in many places across the continent, making it the continent’s biggest economic partner, surpassing by far the colonial powers, who have been neglecting the continent. The Chinese presence can be found in sectors like highways and railways, ports and housing. It is also in engineering and energy, in places like Djibouti, Ethiopia, Angola, Nigeria, Tanzania, Zambia and of course North Africa. The Chinese engagement is now expanding into the military world, and that could create the next area of conflict in the world, post-Daesh.
*The North Africa Journal
Better connecting Africa to the US should be a priority
July 4, 2017 | 0 Comments
BY JOHN WILLIAM TEMPLETON*
Dr. Arikana Chihombori Quao has practiced medicine in middle Tennessee for the past 25 years, operating four clinics.
A new generation of African leaders versed in science and finance are changing the image of the continent.
Chihombori, known in Tennessee simply as “The African Queen,” has been part of that transition since the ascension of Nelson Mandela as President of South Africa.
The Zimbabwe native launched the African Diaspora Healthcare Initiative 20 years ago to bring about a vision of world-class medical centers on the continent, fueled by doctors from around the world who make time in Africa an important part of their experience, and train practitioners while there.
She joined us in Los Angeles for the launch of a tourism initiative to spotlight the black experience in Southern California, where 1.5 million African-Americans are among the 50 million yearly visitors to Los Angeles.
However, they rarely learn about the significant role of blacks in the city’s history or the extensive cultural amenities which the 1 million African-American residents have created.
Along with her was Richard Patterson, CEO of Trion Supercars, the first African-American automaker in a century.
The previous week, I had been in lower Manhattan where 25 years ago, the black community of New York City insisted that the bones of 15,000 17th century Africans be properly respected with the African Burial Ground National Monument.
The new Visitor Center is as moving as the new Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History, with a 20 minute film that captures the feelings of the people who worked so hard to build what became the world’s greatest city.
Chihombori understands the mandate of that history as she discusses the “Joseph generation” in the Biblical analogy which was separated in order to save their home in the future. The continent’s leaders have charged her with being the catalyst for invigorating ties between the Sixth Region of the African Union-the Africans who migrated around the world–and its nations.
Changing old stereotypes takes direct personal engagement. On a suggestion from a patient, she visited the auction of Chapman Clearing, a plantation dating back to 1799 and unexpectedly won the property, which had practiced slavery during the 19th century. In an act of grace, she told the Chapmans that they could stay in the property while she decided what to do with the investment.
Later on, Chapman confided with her that it had completely changed the way he thought about black people.
She and her husband, Dr. Nii Saban Quao, then turned the former slave plantation into Africa House, using the 15,000 square foot mansion and the surrounding 30 acres for tourists, events and conferences on the transformation of the African continent.
She also bought a hotel in Durban, South Africa which is also a place for cultural heritage tourism and intellectual engagement.
The graduate of Fisk University and Meharry Medical College is returning the grace that former Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher extended during her medical studies. She had almost turned down her acceptance to Meharry because she lacked the funds for medical school, but her husband insisted that she accept.
Although the money didn’t materialize, every year, the financial aid office sent her to meet with Dr. Satcher, then the president of the college, for a long conversation about her goals and African culture. Every year, he would sign papers to allow her to continue her studies. Eventually, she completely repaid all the tuition and fees.
Satcher’s insight channelled the voices of those unknown Africans buried in the African Burial Ground and at Chapman Clearing who endured suffering so that future generations would learn about the proud heritage that they inherit.
Africa’s new spokesperson in the U.S. knows America from the inside out.
Both sides of the Atlantic are certain to benefit.
*The Hill.John William Templeton is co-founder of the 14th annual National Black Business Month and creator of the California African-American Freedom Trail. He leads African Free School summer institutes in Washington, New York, Philadelphia and Miami in July and August.
Prophet Bushiri shares weekend with Malawi children: Donates K10 million to two orphanages.
June 26, 2017 | 0 Comments
South Africa based billionaire preacher Prophet Shepherd Bushiri jetted in his home country Malawi on Thursday and took time off his busy schedule on Friday to mingle with underprivileged children in capital Lilongwe.
The Man of God, popularly known as Major One, visited two child care centres—SOS Village and Tilinanu Orphanage—where he donated K5 million too each centre.
SOS Village, since its establishment in 1997, keeps an average of 130 children per year while Tilinanu, since its inception in 2005, keeps at least 35 orphaned girls.
Visibly jovial and in high spirits, the Prophet mingled with the children through, among others, engaging them in sports activities, sharing childhood fairytales, doing a Bible Study, singing choruses and, interestingly, being taught how to dance by these ecstatic children.
It was all smiles for the children who, from public confessions, could not believe they were sharing a moment with Prophet Bushiri, a global celebrity preacher leading one of the world’s fastest growing ministry.
“Every child is special to me—just as my biological children. However, these ones [in child centres] suffers rejection sometimes because they feel they don’t have parents to look into. Some of us come in to fill that gap, to show them fatherly love so that they grow up with the love that every child needs,” he said.
He dismissed media reports that his donations are motivated by political motives.
“I don’t just make donations in Malawi. Recently I was in Nicaragua in Central America where we made so many donations. Are we saying I am also having political ambitions there? What I am doing is just who I am. My joy comes from reaching to those not privileged than some of us. I hope the gesture will be echoed by others too,” he said.
The Prophet hailed SOS Village and Tilinanu for braving the time, ensuring that the children are safe and healthy.
On his part, Mkandawire—who is running Tilinanu which her departed mothers started in 2005 as part of her selfless cause to help an orphaned girl child—appealed to the Prophet to soldier on the spirit, arguing it symbolizes God’s love of humanity.
Football can heal South Sudan, says FA boss
June 25, 2017 | 0 Comments
By James Copnall*
The new president of South Sudan’s Football Association Francis Amin believes he can use the game to unite a fractured nation.
For the past four years, South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, has been torn apart by a civil war sparked by a political power struggle.
Thousands of people have been killed and hundreds of thousands more have sought refuge in neighbouring countries and beyond.
But Francis Amin, who was elected in elections supervised by Fifa, wants to develop the game throughout South Sudan – but also to use the sport to bring people together in a country scarred by massacres and killings on ethnic grounds.
“I’m trying to use football as a tool to unite the people of South Sudan; football can bring them together as one,” said Amin.
“We have the example of the national team; when they have a match, all the people forget about their problems, they come all of them under one flag of the national team.”
Amin told the BBC that his priorities included developing the administration of the game, taking South Sudanese football to an African or even world level, and improving refereeing, coaching, women’s football and pitches around the country.
Lots of work then – and it will not be easy, in part because South Sudan’s civil war has devastated the economy.
‘I’m a businessman, actually, by profession, so I’m thinking of how to make an investment section in the football association.
‘When we get some income and after that get some facilities, it will be easy.’
Amin acknowledged that the economic challenges facing his nation are huge, but is hopeful of getting assistance from Fifa and the Confederation of African Football.
Sudan – the country South Sudan seceded from in 2011 – has promised to help train referees and coaches.
However, Amin was non-committal on the age-old issue of whether a foreign or a national coach would be best for the national team, the Bright Star.
But he said reports that he had personally help finance the team in the past were true – explaining that he did it out of “patriotism”.
Amin says he plans to launch a Super League in 2018, with games staged all over the country with the hope of bringing people together.
Where does he see South Sudanese football in five years time?
“The country will be at peace, and in that time we will compete in the Africa Cup [of Nations] and the World Cup – this is our dream.”
The Race to Solar-Power Africa
June 22, 2017 | 0 Comments
American startups are competing to bring electricity to communities that remain off the grid.
In eighteen months, entrepreneurs brought electricity to hundreds of thousands of people in places that the grid failed to reach.
Illustration by Oliver Munday / Photographs courtesy Mathieu Young / Off-Grid Electric
The cacao-farming community of Daban, in Ghana, is seven degrees north of the equator, and it’s always hot. In May, I met with several elders there to talk about the electricity that had come to the town a few months earlier, when an American startup installed a solar microgrid nearby. Daban could now safely store the vaccine for yellow fever; residents could charge their cell phones at home rather than walking to a bigger town to do it. As we talked, one of the old men handed me a small plastic bag of water, the kind street venders sell across West Africa—you just bite off a corner and drink. The water was ice-cold and refreshing, but it took me an embarrassingly long moment to understand the pleasure with which he offered it: cold water was now available in this hot place. There was enough power to run a couple of refrigerators, and so coldness was, for the first time, a possibility.
I’d come to Daban to learn about the boom in solar power in sub-Saharan Africa. The spread of cell phones in the region has made it possible for residents to pay daily or weekly bills using mobile money, and now the hope is that, just as cell phones bypassed the network of telephone lines, solar panels will enable many rural consumers to bypass the electric grid. From Ghana, I travelled to Ivory Coast, and then to Tanzania, and along the way I encountered a variety of new solar ventures, most of them American-led. Some, such as Ghana’s Black Star Energy, which had electrified Daban, install solar microgrids, small-scale versions of the giant grid Americans are familiar with. Others, such as Off-Grid Electric, in Tanzania and Ivory Coast, market home-based solar systems that run on a panel installed on each individual house. These home-based systems can’t produce enough current for a fridge, but they can supply each home with a few lights, a mobile-phone charger, and, if the household can afford it, a small, super-efficient flat-screen TV.
In another farming town, in Ivory Coast, I talked to a man named Abou Traoré, who put his television out in a courtyard most nights, so that neighbors could come by to watch. He said that they tuned in for soccer matches—the village tilts Liverpool, but has a large pocket of Manchester United supporters. What else did he watch? Traoré considered. “I like the National Geographic channel,” he replied—that is, the broadcast arm of the institution that became famous showing Westerners pictures of remote parts of Africa.
There are about as many people living without electricity today as there were when Thomas Edison lit his first light bulb. More than half are in sub-Saharan Africa. Europe and the Americas are almost fully electrified, and Asia is quickly catching up, but the absolute number of Africans without power remains steady. A World Bank report, released in May, predicted that, given current trends, there could still be half a billion people in sub-Saharan Africa without power by 2040. Even those with electricity can’t rely on it: the report noted that in Tanzania power outages were so common in 2013 that they cost businesses fifteen per cent of their annual sales. Ghanaians call their flickering power dum/sor, or “off/on.” Vivian Tsadzi, a businesswoman who lives not far from the Akosombo Dam, which provides about a third of the nation’s power, said that most of the time “it’s dum dum dum dum.” The dam’s head of hydropower generation, Kwesi Amoako, who retired last year, told me that he is proud of the structure, which created the world’s largest man-made lake. But there isn’t an easy way to increase the country’s hydropower capacity, and drought, caused by climate change, has made the system inconsistent, meaning that Ghana will have to look elsewhere for electricity. “I’ve always had the feeling that one of the main thrusts should be domestic solar,” Amoako said. “And I think we should put the off-grid stuff first, because the consumer wants it so badly.”
Electrifying Africa is one of the largest development challenges on earth. Until recently, most people assumed that the continent would electrify in the same manner as the rest of the globe. “The belief was, you’d eventually build the U.S. grid here,” Xavier Helgesen, the American co-founder and C.E.O. of Off-Grid Electric, told me. “But the U.S. is the richest country on earth, and it wasn’t fully electrified until the nineteen-forties, and that was in an era of cheap copper for wires, cheap timber for poles, cheap coal, and cheap capital. None of that is so cheap anymore, at least not over here.”
Solar electricity, on the other hand, has become inexpensive, in part because the price of solar panels has fallen at the same time that the efficiency of light bulbs and appliances has dramatically increased. In 2009, a single compact fluorescent bulb and a lead-acid battery cost about forty dollars; now, using L.E.D. bulbs and lithium-ion batteries, you can get four times as much light for the same price. In 2009, a radio, a mobile-phone charger, and a solar system big enough to provide four hours of light and television a day would have cost a Kenyan a thousand dollars; now it’s three hundred and fifty dollars.
President Trump has derided renewable energy as “really just an expensive way of making the tree huggers feel good about themselves.” But many Western entrepreneurs see solar power in Africa as a chance to reach a large market and make a substantial profit. This is a nascent industry, which, at the moment, represents a small percentage of the electrification in the region, and is mostly in rural areas. There’s plenty of uncertainty about its future, and no guarantee that it will spread at the pace of cell phones. Still, in the past eighteen months, these businesses have brought electricity to hundreds of thousands of consumers—many of them in places that the grid failed to reach, despite a hundred-year head start. Funding, much of it from private investors based in Silicon Valley or Europe, is flowing into this sector—more than two hundred million dollars in venture capital last year, up from nineteen million in 2013—and companies are rapidly expanding their operations with the new money. M-Kopa, an American startup that launched in Kenya, in 2011, now has half a million pay-as-you-go solar customers; d.light, a competitor with offices in California, Kenya, China, and India, says that it is adding eight hundred new households a day. Nicole Poindexter, the founder and C.E.O. of Black Star, told me that every million dollars the company raises in venture capital delivers power to seven thousand people. She expects Black Star to be profitable within the next three years.
Like many of the American entrepreneurs I met in Africa, Poindexter has a background in finance. A graduate of Harvard Business School, she worked as a derivatives trader before leading business development at Opower, a software platform for utilities customers that was acquired by Oracle last year. (Unlike many of these entrepreneurs, who tend to skew white and male, Poindexter is African-American.) She decided to start the company in 2015, after she began to learn about energy poverty. She recalled watching TV coverage of the Ebola epidemic in Liberia. “There was a lot of coughing in the background, and I was thinking, That’s someone with Ebola,” she said. “But it wasn’t. It was from the smoke in the room from the fire.” Last year, in the Ghanaian community of Kofihuikrom, one of the first towns that Black Star served, the company erected twenty-two solar panels. Today, the local clinic no longer has to deliver babies by flashlight. The town chief, Nana Kwaku Appiah, said that he was so excited that he initially left his lights on inside all night. “Our relatives from the city used to not come here to visit,” he said.
When I visited the Tanzanian headquarters of Off-Grid Electric, in the city of Arusha, the atmosphere was reminiscent of Palo Alto or Mountain View, with standing desks and glassed-in conference rooms for impromptu meetings. Erick Donasian, the company’s head of service in Tanzania, grew up in a powerless house three miles from the office and joined the company in 2013; he said that, along with his enthusiasm for the company’s goals, one attraction of working there is that it is far less formal than many Tanzanian businesses, where “you have to tuck your shirt in, which I hate the most.” Off-Grid’s Silicon Valley influence was clearest in the T-shirt Helgesen wore. It read “Make something people want,” and sported the logo for Y Combinator, Silicon Valley’s most famous incubator, where Helgesen’s wife had recently developed a bartering app.
Helgesen, who is thirty-eight years old and lanky, with hair that he regularly brushes out of his eyes, grew up in Silver Bay, Minnesota, a small town on the shore of Lake Superior. At fourteen, he came up with the idea of leasing the municipal mini-golf course for a summer, and tripled revenues by offering season passes and putting on special promotions for visiting hockey teams. As a sophomore at Notre Dame, in 1999, he set up a Web site that posted the college’s freshman register online, so that, as he put it, “you’d actually know who that cute girl you saw in anthro class was.” Helgesen started similar sites at other colleges, but, he told me, “I wasn’t as good a programmer as Zuckerberg. Even if I’d gotten it completely right, it would have been more Friendster than Facebook.” His first major company, Better World Books, founded in 2002, took the model of charity used-book drives and moved it online. It’s now one of the biggest sellers of used books on Amazon, and has helped raise twenty-five million dollars for literacy organizations, including Books for Africa.
Helgesen made his first trip to Tanzania in 2006, to visit recipients of Better World’s funding and to go on safari. “I was staying at a fancy lodge near Kilimanjaro, and I remember thinking, How do things really work around here?” Helgesen said. He paid a local man to take him to the nearest village. “I was peppering him with questions: ‘Do young people go to the city?’ ‘How much does coffee sell for?’ ” The experience, he said, “flipped my mind-set from ‘People in Africa are poor and they need our help and our donated books’ to ‘This is what an emerging economy looks like. This is young people, this is entrepreneurialism, this is where growth will be.’ ” During a second trip to Africa, he went scuba diving in Lake Malawi (“to see the cichlid fish, which keep their babies in their mouths”), and was invited to dinner by his scuba instructor. “It was a decent-sized town, maybe twenty thousand people, but absolutely no electricity,” Helgesen said. “It was all narrow alleys—they were bustling, but they were pitch-black.”
In 2010, Helgesen won a Skoll Scholarship to Oxford, for M.B.A. students seeking “entrepreneurial solutions for urgent social and environmental challenges,” and spent the year researching the renewables market. He found two like-minded business partners, and, in 2012, they set up shop in Arusha. At first, they planned to build solar microgrids to power cell-phone towers and sell the excess electricity to locals, but, Helgesen said, “it became clear that that was a pretty expensive way to go.” So they visited customers in their homes to ask them what they wanted. “Those conversations were the smartest thing we ever did,” Helgesen said. “I remember this one customer, she had a baby, and she would keep the kerosene lamp on low all night, as a night-light. It was costing thirty dollars a month in kerosene. And I was, like, Wow, for thirty dollars a month I could do a lot better.”
Helgesen decided to “start with the customer, and the price point they could pay, and build the business behind that.” Matt Schiller, the thirty-two-year-old vice-president of business operations, said that, in some ways, it is an easy sell. “If we talk to a hundred customers, not one says, ‘I’d rather have kerosene,’ ” he told me. “Not one says, ‘I’d like the warm glow of the kerosene lights.’ In fact, when we were designing the L.E.D.s, we focus-grouped lights. And the engineers assumed they’d want a warmer light, because that’s what they were used to. But, no, they picked the bluest, hardest light you can imagine. That’s modernity. That’s clean.”
There were solar panels in sub-Saharan Africa before companies like Off-Grid arrived, but customers generally had to pay for them up front, a forbidding prospect for many. “Cost is important to the customer at the bottom, but risk is even more important,” Helgesen told me. “A bad decision when you’re that poor can mean your kids don’t eat or go to school, which is why people tend to be conservative. And which is why kerosene was winning. There was no risk. You could buy it a tiny bit at a time.”
Off-Grid, like several of its competitors, finances the panels, so that people can pay the same small monthly amounts they were paying for kerosene. Customers in Tanzania put down about thirteen dollars to buy Off-Grid’s cheapest starter kit: a panel, a battery, a few L.E.D. lights, a phone charger, and a radio. Then they pay about eight dollars a month for three years, after which they own the products outright. The most popular system adds a few more lights and a flat-screen TV, for a higher down payment and about twice the monthly price. Customers pay their bill by phone; if they don’t pay, the system stops working, and after a while it is repossessed. That scenario, it turns out, is uncommon: less than two per cent of the loans in Tanzania have gone bad.
Despite Off-Grid’s Silicon Valley vibe, it faces challenges unfamiliar to software companies. Aidan Leonard, Off-Grid’s Arusha-based general counsel, told me that the company “requires a lot of people walking around selling things and installing things and fixing things. There’s a lot of hardware—someone’s got a physical box in their house, and a panel on the roof, and they have to pay for it on a monthly basis.” Poindexter, of Black Star, put the problem more bluntly. “We’re a utility company,” she told me, and utilities are a difficult business.
In America, utilities are burdened with infrastructure, such as the endless poles and wires that come down in storms. Off-Grid doesn’t have to worry about poles, and the wires only run a few feet, from panel to battery to appliance. Still, the company is working with technology that is brand-new and needs to be made cheaply in order to be affordable. When solar energy first came to Africa, it was expensive and unreliable. Arne Jacobson, a professor of environmental-resources engineering at Humboldt State University, in California, is a couple of decades older than most of the entrepreneurs I met in Africa. He got his doctorate studying the first generation of home solar in Kenya, in the late nineteen-nineties. “In Kenya, I was trying to understand the quality of the panels that had started to flood the market,” he said. Much of the technology had “big troubles. Chinese panels, panels from the U.K., all this low-quality junk coming in. Later, L.E.D.s that failed in hours or days instead of lasting thousands of hours, as they should. People’s first experiences were often really bad.”
Jacobson has spent his career in renewable energy; he helped build the world’s first street-legal hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicle, in 1998. He now runs Humboldt’s Schatz Energy Research Center. (“You want to know why a lot of early solar research happened in Humboldt?” he asked me. “Because there were a lot of back-to-the-land types here, and they had cash because they were growing dope.”) After seeing the unpredictability of solar technology, he created, in 2007, what he calls a “de facto consumer-protection bureau for this nascent industry.” The program, Lighting Global, which is run under the umbrella of the World Bank Group, tests and certifies panels, bulbs, and appliances to make sure that they work as promised. Jacobson credits this innovation with making investors more willing to put their money into companies such as Off-Grid, which has now raised more than fifty-five million dollars. His main testing lab is in Shenzhen, China, near most of the solar-panel manufacturers. He also has facilities in Nairobi, New Delhi, and Addis Ababa, and some of the work is still done in the basement of his building at Humboldt, where there’s an “integrating sphere” for measuring light output from a bulb, and a machine that switches radios on and off to see if they’ll eventually break.
Because many of Off-Grid’s potential customers have experience with bad products, or know someone who has, the company takes extra steps to build trust with its clients. After an Off-Grid installer shows up on his motorbike, he opens the product carton with great solemnity; in an Ivorian village, I watched along with seventeen neighbors, who nodded as the young man held up each component, one by one. He then climbed onto the roof of the house, nailed on a solar panel about the size of a placemat, and used a crowbar to lift up the corrugated-tin roof to run the wire inside. He screwed the battery box to the cement-block wall and walked the customer through the process of switching lights on and off several times, something the man had never done before. The company also offers a service guarantee: as long as customers are making their payments, they can call a number on the box and a repairman will arrive within three days. These LightRiders, as the company calls them, are trained to trouble-shoot small problems. They travel by motorcycle, and if they can’t make repairs easily they replace the system with a new one and haul the old unit back to headquarters.
This sales-and-installation system presents some engineering challenges. When the company expanded into Ivory Coast, last year, it had to redesign its packaging to fit on the smaller motorcycles used there. It also runs into problems coördinating coverage across a vast area where most houses don’t have conventional addresses. “We had to build our own internal software to make it possible,” Kim Schreiber, who runs Off-Grid’s marketing operations in Africa, said. “We optimize, via G.P.S. coördinates, the best routes for our riders to take. The LightRider turns on his phone every morning, and he has a list of his tasks for the day, so he knows what parts to take with him.”
Solar companies also contend with the complexity of the mobile-payment systems. In Ghana, where many customers don’t use mobile money, Poindexter’s Black Star team instead sells scratch cards from kiosks, which give customers a code they need to enter on their meter box to top up their account. Off-Grid delivers these codes over the phone, but the company still needs a call center, manned by fifteen people, to help customers with the mechanics of paying. Nena Sanderson, who runs Off-Grid’s Tanzanian operation, showed me the steps entailed in paying a bill through a ubiquitous mobile-money system called M-Pesa. There are ten screens, and the process ends with the input of a sixteen-digit code. “And I have a smartphone,” she said. “Now, imagine a feature phone, and imagine you may not know how to read, and the screen is a lot smaller, and it’s probably scratched up. Mobile money is a great enabler, but it’s not frictionless.” One of Off-Grid’s competitors, PEGAfrica, has printed the whole sequence on a wristband, which it gives to customers.
Because one of the biggest obstacles to the growth of solar power in the region is the lack of available cash, many of these companies are essentially banks as well as utilities, providing loans to customers who may have no credit history. That can make it hard to figure out what to charge people. “What you see in this space is at least eight to ten decent-sized pay-as-you-go solar companies, all trying to parse through what the actual end price to the customer really is,” Peter Bladin, who spent many years in leadership roles at Microsoft and now invests in several of these firms, told me. Bladin first started studying distributed solar—solar electricity produced near where it is used—in Bangladesh, where the Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus used his Grameen microcredit network to finance and distribute panels and batteries. Lacking that established financial architecture, companies in sub-Saharan Africa are constantly experimenting with different plans: Off-Grid began by offering ten-year leases, but found that customers wanted to own their systems more quickly, and so the payments are now spread out over three years. PEGAfrica customers buy their system in twelve months, but the company gives them hospitalization insurance as a bonus. Black Star is a true utility: the customers in the communities where it builds microgrids will always pay bills, but the charges start at only two dollars a month. (The business model depends on customers steadily increasing the amount of energy they buy, as they move from powering televisions to powering small businesses.) Companies like Burro—a Ghanaian outfit launched by Whit Alexander, the Seattle entrepreneur who founded Cranium games—sell lamps and chargers and panels outright, saving customers credit fees but limiting the number of people who can afford the products.
This uncertainty about the most practical financial model reflects the fact that in sub-Saharan Africa there is a great deal of economic diversity, both between countries and within them. One morning, I found myself walking down a line of houses in the Arushan suburb of Morombo. At the first house, a two-room cinder-block structure with a broken piece of mirror on one wall, a woman talked with me as we sat on the floor. The home represented a big step up for her, she said—she and her husband had rented a place for years, until they were able to buy this plot of land and build this house. She had a solar lantern the size of a hockey puck in her courtyard, soaking up rays. (Aid groups have distributed more than a million of these little lamps across the continent.) She assured me that she planned to get a larger solar system soon, but, for many of Africa’s poorest people, buying a lantern is the only possible step toward electrification.
Next door, a twenty-six-year-old student named Nehemiah Klimba shared a more solidly built house with his mother. It had a corrugated-iron roof on a truss that let hot air escape, and we sat on a sofa. Klimba said that, as soon as he finished paying off the windows, he was going to electrify. He and his mother were already spending fifteen dollars a month on kerosene and another four dollars charging their cell phones at a local store, so they knew they’d be able to afford the twenty dollars a month for a solar system with a TV.
One door down was the fanciest house I’d seen in weeks. It belonged to a soldier who worked as a U.N. peacekeeper, and the floors were made of polished stone. There was an Off-Grid solar system on the roof, but it was providing only backup power. The owner had paid a hefty fee to connect to the local electric grid, so he faced none of the limitations of a battery replenished by the sun. In his living room, he had a huge TV and speakers; a stainless-steel Samsung refrigerator gleamed in the kitchen.
“This is how the solar revolution happens—one hot sales meeting at a time,” Off-Grid’s Kim Schreiber whispered to me as we watched one of the company’s salesmen, an Ivorian named Seko Serge Lewis, at work. We were visiting the village of Grand Zattry with Off-Grid’s Ivory Coast sales director, Max-Marc Fossouo. A couple of dogs tussled nearby; a motorbike rolled past with six people on board. In the courtyard next to us, a woman was doing the day’s laundry in a bucket with a washboard. Her husband listened to the sales pitch from Lewis, who was showing him pictures on his cell phone of other customers in the village.
“That’s to build up trust,” Fossouo said. He’d been providing a play-by-play throughout the hour-long sales call. “This customer is on a big fence,” he said. “He’s stuck in the trust place. And I’m pretty sure the decision-maker is over there washing the clothes anyway.” Fossouo was born in Cameroon and went to school in Paris. In his twenties, he spent seven summers in the U.S., selling books for Southwestern Publishing, a Nashville-based titan of door-to-door marketing. (Rick Perry is another company alum; so is Kenneth Starr.) “I did L.A. for years,” he told me. “ ‘Hi, my name is Max. I’m a crazy college student from France, and I’m helping families with their kids’ education. I’ve been talking to your neighbors A, B, and C, and I’d like to talk to you. Do you have a place where I can come in and sit down?’ ” All selling, he said, is the same: “It starts with a person understanding they have a problem. Someone might live in the dark but not understand that it’s a problem. So you have to show them. And then you have to create a sense of urgency to spend the money to solve the problem now.”
The man turned down Lewis’s pitch. He was worried that he wouldn’t be able to make the monthly payments in the lean stretch before the next cacao harvest. “That’s crap,” Fossouo whispered, pointing again to the man’s wife. “He loves this woman, he can move the world for her.” When we went to the next house, Fossouo took over. This prospect was a farmer and schoolteacher, and they talked in his classroom, which had a few low desks with shards of slate on top. Fossouo had the man catalogue everything that he was spending on energy: money for kerosene, flashlight batteries, even the gas for the scooter that he borrowed when he needed to charge his phone. Then Fossouo showed him what he had to offer: a radio and four lights, each with a dimmer switch. “Where would you put the lamp?” he asked. “In front of the door? Of course! And the big light in the middle of the room, so when you have a party everyone could see. Now, tell me, if you went to the market to buy all of this, how much would it cost?” Fossouo tried angle after angle. “You have to think big here,” he said. “When I talked to your chief, he said, ‘Don’t think small.’ If your kid could see the news on TV, he might say, ‘I, too, could be President.’ ”
“This is great,” the man said. “I know you’re trying to help us. I just don’t have the money. Life is hard, things are expensive. Sometimes we’re hungry.”
Fossouo nodded. “What if I gave you a way to pay for it?” he asked. “So the dollar wouldn’t even come from your pocket? If you get a system, people will pay you to charge their phones. Or, if you had a TV, you could charge people to come watch the football games.”
“I couldn’t charge a person for coming in to watch a game,” the man said. “We’re all one big family. If someone is wealthy enough to have a TV, everyone is welcome to it.”
The hour ended without a sale, but Fossouo wasn’t worried. “It takes two or three approaches on average,” he said. “You always have to leave the person in a good place, where he loves you stopping by. This guy wants to finish building his house right now—his house is heavy on him—but it won’t be long.” As we talked, the first prospect came over, asking for a leaflet and a phone number. His wife, he said, was very interested.
The arrival of electricity is hard for today’s Westerners to imagine. Light means differences in sleeping and eating patterns and an increased sense of safety. I talked with one Tanzanian near Arusha who had traded in a kerosene lamp for five Off-Grid bulbs, including a security light outside his door that went on automatically when it got dark. “Crime is here,” he said, “but also dangerous animals. Especially snakes. So it’s good to have lights.” Everywhere I went, I met parents who said that their children could study at night. “You can feel the effects with their grades now at school,” one Ivorian father said. Several town chiefs told me that they hoped to get classroom computers, and one planned to mechanize the well so that townspeople would no longer need to pump water by hand. Farmers in West Africa were getting daily weather reports from Farmerline, a Ghanaian information service that uses G.P.S. to customize the forecasts. “If a farmer puts fertilizer on the field and then it rains, he loses the fertilizer—it washes away,” Alloysius Attah, a young Ghanaian entrepreneur who co-founded the service, told me. “And the farmers say they can’t tell the rain anymore. My auntie could read the clouds, the birds flying by, but the usual rainfall pattern has shifted.”
“Our killer app is definitely the television,” Off-Grid’s Schreiber said. “If the twenty-four-inch is out of stock, lots of people won’t buy.” Wandering through newly electrified towns, I saw teen-agers watching action movies. Black Star’s Poindexter told me, “There was a kid in town that I liked, Samuel, and when I came back after the power was turned on his arm was in a cast. He’d watched a karate show on TV, and he and his friends were playing it, and he broke his arm. I was horrified—I was, like, society is not prepared for this. And then I remembered that I did the same thing after I watched ‘Popeye’ as a kid. I ran right into the hedge and had to get twenty stitches. That’s kids and TV.”
In Daban, after I asked what the most popular program was, everyone began laughing and nodding. “ ‘Kumkum’!” people shouted. “Kumkum Bhagya,” an Indian soap opera set in a marriage hall and loosely based on Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility,” airs every night from seven-thirty to eight-thirty, during which time village life comes to a standstill. “All the chiefs have advocated for everyone to watch, because it’s about how relationships are built,” the local chief, Nana Oti Awere, said. Of course, the changes brought about by electrification will affect local communities in unpredictable ways that will play out over many years. One mother I spoke to explained that the TV “keeps the children at home at night, instead of roaming around.” The Ivorian farmer who told me about the effects on his children’s grades went on to say, “In the old time, you had to go outside and talk. Now my neighbor has his TV, I have my TV, and we stay inside.”
A decade ago, most experts would have predicted that foreign aid, rather than venture capital, would play a central role in bringing power to sub-Saharan Africa. Off-Grid Electric has been funded by sources including Tesla and Paul Allen’s venture fund, Vulcan. Allen, one of the world’s richest men, is worth twenty billion dollars, or roughly half of the G.D.P. of Tanzania, a country of almost fifty-four million people. Should he be able to make yet more money off the electrification of African huts? There’s more than a whiff of colonialism about the rush of Westerners and Western money into Africa. As Attah, the young Ghanaian who helped found Farmerline, put it, “There are a lot of Ivy Leaguers coming to Africa to say, ‘I can solve this problem, snap, snap, snap.’ They’re doing good work, but little investment goes to community leaders who are doing the same work on the ground.”
“I don’t know what that is, either—it could be the Olsen twins.”
The Westerners I spoke to, though they pledged to hire more local executives, didn’t think that the drive to help was incompatible with the desire to make money. As Poindexter put it, “There is a level of responsibility that I feel, and that I think any appropriate investor needs to have, about extraction versus contribution. I am not willing to be an extractive capitalist here, but I think that capitalism has an extremely important role to play in these communities.” Helgesen—who, despite his occasional oblivious tech-dudishness, spends most of his time in very remote places trying to provide power—is unapologetic about his company’s funding sources. Billionaires, he says, have the capital to make companies grow fast enough to matter. “Paul Allen didn’t invest because he thought it was the easiest way to make more money,” Helgesen said. “I got an awful lot of ‘no’s along the way from people who wanted easier money.” In any event, it’s not clear that other sources of funding are available, at least from the U.S.: Trump, pulling out of the Paris climate accord earlier this month, said that the country would not meet its pledge to help poor nations develop renewable energy, dismissing the plan as “yet another scheme to redistribute wealth out of the United States through the so-called Green Climate Fund—nice name.”
Even when aid agencies are well funded, they haven’t always delivered. Over the last decade, a strong critique of aid, ranging from William Easterly’s “The White Man’s Burden” to Dambisa Moyo’s “Dead Aid,” has laid much of the blame for Africa’s continued underdevelopment on the weaknesses of sweeping programs planned from afar. Still, aid agencies and global-development banks have a useful role to play in the energy transition. It will be years before it makes financial sense for solar companies to expand to the most remote and challenging regions of the continent. As new companies launch, they will need an infusion of what Helgesen calls “ultra-high-risk capital.” Private investors will supply it, he says, “but they want forty per cent of your company in return, which makes it hard to raise capital later on, because you’ve already sold off such a big chunk.” Some aid agencies have funded private ventures in the early stages, to help them get off the ground or reach new geographic areas. U.S.A.I.D. gave Off-Grid five million dollars toward its early costs, and, over the past few years, a Dutch development agency has given the company several hundred thousand euros as it has extended into the impoverished lakes region of Tanzania, where it otherwise wouldn’t have been profitable to go. Currency risks pose another problem: Poindexter told me that when she builds a Ghanaian microgrid she has invested in an asset with a twenty-year life span in a country where inflation is highly unpredictable. “We just had an election in the U.S. with huge consequences for policy,” she said. “But over here every election is potentially like that.” And, like anywhere in the world, national governments can make things easier by establishing clear policies. Rwanda’s leaders, for instance, specified the regions in which the rapidly developing country planned to extend its grid, thereby delineating where solar would be needed most.
“African leaders used to think solar was being pushed on them,” Clare Sierawski, who works on renewable energy with the U.S. Trade and Development Agency in Accra, said. “But now they all want solar. It’s a confluence of things. Mostly, it’s getting cheaper. And governments were tuned in to it by the Paris accord.” Ananth Chikkatur, who runs a U.S.A.I.D. project in the city, had just returned from taking thirteen high-ranking Ghanaians on a trip to study solar power in California. “Renewable energy should not be considered an alternative technology,” he said. “It’s becoming a conventional technology now.” Rwanda is not the only nation expanding its grid, and many countries are turning to large solar farms to generate power. Burkina Faso, for instance, has plans for solar arrays across its desert regions.
Distributed generation, however, is especially essential in rural areas, and it is growing fast—maybe, according to some observers, too fast. The investor Peter Bladin told me that the push for quick returns on investment could lead some companies to try to “squeeze more out of poor households” and warned about “mission drift, trying to make money off the backs of the poor in a dubious way.” Earlier this year, three principals from the impact-investment firm Ceniarth, which had put money into Off-Grid and similar companies, said that it was backing out of the industry for the time being. In an open letter, they wrote that the hype of venture capitalists and the lack of government regulation “puts consumers at risk and places a great deal of responsibility on vendors to self-police.” The gush of money, they cautioned, “may be too much, too fast for a sector that still has not fully solved core business model issues and may struggle under the high growth expectations and misaligned incentives of many venture capitalists.” Helgesen, unsurprisingly, disagreed with their analysis of investor over-exuberance. “It’s like looking at a Palm Pilot and saying, ‘This is not so great,’ ” he said. “Or even an iPhone 1. The iPhone 1 was a necessary step to the iPhone 7. People who have raised real money have not raised it on the premise that we’ll be selling the same stuff in ten years.” But he wasn’t waiting for the technology to mature. “We have to think about the future, and we have to sell something people want today,” he said.
Most customers I met had little interest in the fact that their power came from the sun, or that it was environmentally friendly. Since these communities weren’t using power previously, their solar panels fight climate change only in the sense that they decrease pressure to build power plants that consume fossil fuel. But some observers hope that the experience in Africa—which today has more off-the-grid solar homes than the U.S.—could help drive transformation elsewhere. Already, a few dozen American cities have pledged to become one-hundred-per-cent renewable. (Pittsburgh did so the day after Trump held up its theoretically beleaguered citizens as a reason for leaving the climate accord.) The U.S. has already sunk a fortune into building its electric grid, and it may seem far-fetched to think that users will disconnect from it entirely. But, as Helgesen told me, “As batteries get better, it’s going to be a lot more realistic for people to stop depending on their utility.” He thinks that, in an ideal world, technological change could lead to cultural change. “The average American has no concept of electrical constraint,” he said. “If we accept some modest restrictions on our power availability, we can go off-grid very quickly.”
For many people in the countries I visited, solar power is creating a new hope: for electric fans. When I was there, Off-Grid Electric was expanding from the relatively cool highlands around Mt. Kilimanjaro to the scorching, humid lowlands of West Africa, and in every village we visited the message was the same: The TV is great, the light bulb is great, but can I please have a fan? Many homes are poorly ventilated; windows are expensive, and can attract burglars. Fans, however, draw a comparatively large amount of current, threatening to quickly drain the battery that a solar panel has spent the day filling. And, unlike light bulbs or televisions, fans have moving parts that easily break. “Our customers tend to make heavy use of their equipment,” Off-Grid’s Schreiber said. Still, she promised one village after another that fans were coming soon.
Shea Hughes, Off-Grid’s product manager, is one of the employees charged with delivering on that promise. Hughes told me that he hopes to someday make Off-Grid’s product powerful enough to perform industrial tasks: pumping water for irrigation, milling cacao, and so on. “I’m confident solar is capable of doing that,” he said. “You just add more panels and you get to the power requirements you need. And as the price drops, well . . . ” He had recently been to a consumer-electronics fair in China. “I was amazed to see the prices,” he said.
For the moment, though, a workable fan would be nice. “We’d always thought a fan would take too much power for the current systems we’re selling,” Hughes said. “But the people in Ivory Coast were so insistent that we went back and looked at it.” Because of the emerging market for super-efficient appliances, in the U.S. and elsewhere, some manufacturers had a product that, as long as you kept it set to medium, drew only eight and a half watts. (The standard incandescent light bulb that hung in American hallways for generations drew sixty.) “We’ve told the manufacturer to eliminate the high-speed option,” Hughes said. “Now medium is high. And in our tests people are satisfied with the air speed. But they say the battery tends to run out at 3 or 4 A.M., and they typically sleep till 6 A.M. So it’s not perfect, but it’s getting there.”
*The New Yorker
Sudan: China’s Original Foothold in Africa
June 22, 2017 | 0 Comments
Thanks in part to U.S. neglect, China’s footprint in Sudan has grown exponentially over the past 20 years.
By Joseph Hammond*
China’s legacy in Sudan is immediately visible in downtown Khartoum. Near where the Blue and White Nile join to form the world’s longest river sits the People’s Friendship Cooperation Hall, a gift from China to the People’s Republic to Sudan that dates to 1976.
The complex, which includes a conference hall, meeting rooms, a theater, and banquet hall, stretches for nearly a kilometer along the Nile. The building has aged well and remains one of Africa’s modernist architectural gems; a Chinese extension in 2003 expanded and refurbished the building without impacting its charm In 2014, the People’s Friendship Cooperation Hall hosted the third China-Africa People’s Forum while Chinese sources hailed Sudan as an important country in Africa.
The building is not far from where the British Empire suffered one of its greatest defeats in 1885. That year General Charles George “Chinese” Gordon was killed when the besieged Imperial garrison at Khartoum was overrun by Mahdist forces. A British-led force sent to relieve him arrived just hours too late to lift the months long siege. Before his death in Sudan, Gordon was heavily decorated by the British Empire for his role in suppressing the Taiping Rebellion in China, which the Communist Party of China in recent years has come to see as an anti-imperialist uprising. As such “Chinese” Gordon provides a compelling historical link in Sudanese-Chinese relations, as both countries can claim to have suffered under the same colonial oppressor.
Chinese-Sudanese relations date to 1959, when Sudan became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to recognize China. Today, China is the largest investor in Sudan, as it is in the continent as a whole. But China’s relation with Sudan is exceptional because of the absence of competition from the United States. Other than Coca-Cola, very few American products are readily available to Sudanese consumers.
Sudan has been under U.S. sanctions since 1995 in part due to the country’s past ties to terrorists like Osama bin Laden. That same year President Omar al-Bashir signed Sudan’s first oil deal with China.
“It is surprising, the coincidence that U.S. sanctions began around the same time China invested in our oil industry,” a Sudanese government official offers sarcastically.
Yet China’s oil empire in Sudan began rather reluctantly. When first approached by Bashir’s government to invest in oil concessions, the Chinese officials suggested Sudan look to Chevron instead.
In June 1997, the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company was established with the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) taking 40 percent ownership and Malaysia’s Petronas taking 30 percent. India’s ONGC Videsh acquired 25 percent when a forerunner of Canada’s Talisman Energy had to leave due to sanctions.
China has invested in other aspects of the industry until it controls as much as 75 percent of the Sudanese oil industry. Sudan currently produces 133,000 barrels of oil per day — a fraction of what it produced before the south of the country seceded in 2011, taking most of the country’s proven oil reserves with it. Today, Chinese companies are looking for new oil deposits in Sudan as increasing oil production is one of the government’s priorities.
“China’s first experience in investing in Africa was in Sudan,” says Ibrahim Ghandour, Sudan’s foreign minister. “They started in oil but, now have other interests in trade, mining, and construction.”
However, in one area Chinese involvement in Sudan is exaggerated: China has been falsely accused of being an major source of armaments for Sudan. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s arms transfer database, arms from Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine made up the majority — 77 percent — of imports into the Sudanese arsenal from 2007-2016. China was responsible for a modest 19 percent of all military exports to Sudan over the same period.
China’s presence in Sudan is not without controversy. For example, Sudanese labor law requires that international companies consist of staff which is 80 percent Sudanese, but the foreign minister admits that Chinese companies have failed to comply with this. However, he insists that the Sudanese benefit more than locals in many other African countries from Chinese companies.
“Yes, Chinese companies are in violation of this but, it is the smallest possible violation. Within the oil industry today most of the engineers and technical experts in Sudan and South Sudan are Sudanese. They were trained in China, and we see more and more of them… Sudan is the only country in Africa where over time more locals have gotten jobs from Chinese companies,” says Ghandour.
Though not typically seen as a part of the Belt and Road Initiative, Sudan sees itself as playing a critical role in the development of China’s plan to link East Asia with western Europe. The Sudanese government believes Port Sudan on the Red Sea will be an important loop on that belt.
“We are in discussions with China to work with them on developing a new free-trade area near Port Sudan, which will focus on attracting Chinese companies and of course support the One Belt, One Road Initiative,” says Sudan’s state minister for investment, Osama Faysal. “However in the long term American companies may have a competitive advantage in Sudan due to their spending on R&D.”
If the United States was reluctant to engage in transaction diplomacy back in 1996, when Sudan offered to turn over Osama bin Ladenfor sanctions relief, China has proved a willing partner. Now the Trump administration is poised to lift economic sanctions on Sudan later this year, but it will be a while before the knockoff “Starbox” coffee shops and Khartoum fried chicken eateries disappear.
Khartoum is talking about new business opportunities with American companies and the wider world. That said, despite some resentment among the local Sudanese toward the Chinese, China’s influence will likely continue unabated.
Elsewhere in Africa, China has thrived by under-cutting the competition and accepting higher risks than American companies. However, China’s influence will survive for political reasons as well.
Bashir, who has ruled Sudan since 1989, has pledged to step down in 2020. However, Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party has no intention of yielding power, and in this regard is consciously emulating China. China was the only non-Muslim country outside Africa invited to the fourth national congress of the NCP held this year. Communist Party of China officials — fluent in Arabic — furiously scribbled notes during Bashir’s speech. A few rows away an NCP party member wore a lapel pin from the China Executive Leadership Academy in Pudong, known in Sudan as CELAP, where some NCP leaders have undergone leadership training. As the party has reformed itself as part of a national dialogue initiated in 2014, China has presented an explicit model where competition takes place within parties, not between them.
“China offered a completely different model of human development a model very different than Europe and Britain,” says Ibrahim Mahmoud, the vice president of the NCP who led the reform. “That is an example we are closely following.”
*Culled from The DiplomatJoseph Hammond is a fellow with the American Media Institute and former Cairo Correspondent for Radio Free Europe. He has been contributing as a freelancer to The Diplomat since 2010.