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How to build Wakanda: Lessons for African leaders from ‘Black Panther’
March 10, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Taa Wongbe*

The king of Wakanda Chadwick Boseman and Lupita Nyong'o.

The king of Wakanda Chadwick Boseman and Lupita Nyong’o.

As “Black Panther” nears a billion in box office worldwide, many Africans have flocked to theaters, sporting traditional African attires with pride to watch their brothers and sisters portrayed as superheroes, a narrative that has been lacking in popular culture.

With the World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects reporting that three of the ten fastest growing economies are in Africa, “Black Panther” provides a vision of what African countries could look like if some things are done right.
The movie is filled with many lessons that African leaders and government officials can take to promote sustainable economic growth, peace and prosperity to build their Wakanda. Here are five:
Empower and elevate women, and ensure you surround yourself with them.
There is no escaping the power of women in “Black Panther.” The newly crowned Prince T’Challa, played by Chadwick Boseman, surrounds himself with powerful women, who he leaned on for guidance, wisdom and strength.
Africa has seen many women leaders — Winnie MandelaMiriam MakebaWangari Maathaiformer President Joyce BandaNgozi Okonjo Iweala and my own former President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf— who have played critical roles in shaping their countries’ destiny.
When women are empowered, they promote the well-being of society by championing health, education and peace. To build Wakanda, African leaders must put more women in positions of leadership.
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education is key.
For me, Princess Shuri was the coolest and most inspiring character in the movie; no one could resist her intellect. She reinforced the power of STEM education. Because of the film’s success, Disney donated $1 Million for STEM education for young boys and girls in the US.
Education can change everything, and technology has the power to be the great equalizer. Because of this, African leaders should focus on STEM at an early age so Africa does not fall behind in the technology sector. Leading this charge for STEM education in Africa is Rwanda.
The country has a strategic plan to transform its economy by 2020 and STEM education is at the nexus. Investing in STEM education will not only confront the rampant unemployment challenges we have, but it will also address the gaps in human resources in Africa to build infrastructure, manage natural resources, and control diseases.
African leaders must take immediate steps to ensure STEM is included in national curricula.
Use natural resources to develop your country, and keep them in the people’s hands for today and tomorrow.
We have heard horror stories about the resource curse in Africa, but in Wakanda, Prince T’Challa and his late father fought to protect their natural resources. The Wakandans added value by developing technologies and did not export their resources hastily.
Few countries in Africa have avoided the curse, but one success story is Botswana, one of the world’s largest producersof diamonds. The nation has pursued economic diversification and has developed sound fiscal policies to regulate diamond wealth and government spending.
Botswana also invested diamond revenues for future generations using a sovereign wealth fund called the Pula Fund. Botswana is paving the way for their youth to become educated and empowered, and their society to prosper. Other nations must learn from this, it’s the Wakanda way.
Respect cultures and traditions while modernizing and allow them to coexist with the basic tenets of democracy.
Democracy is essential for every country to aspire for. But it comes in many forms — it is not a one size fits all system. In Wakanda, culture and traditions were important.
The Wakandans followed them while evolving their country. They did not simply accept a new form of government because it worked for other societies. Africa has seen charismatic leaders elected democratically and celebrated by the West only for those leaders to change the rules to fit them.
Democracy can be manipulated. We saw that recently in Rwanda, and in Uganda for years. Wakanda seems to embrace and exhibit some of the basic tenets of democracy while respecting their culture and tradition. For example, while there were no elections, certain citizens could challenge the king to win the throne.
This was their form of election and it was valued and respected. While we modernize and develop our society, we should remember the positive traditions and cultures that got us here and preserve them as we modernize. This is a firm lesson for African leaders.
Embrace the natural habitat of the land while developing and building up.
In Wakandan architecture, we saw red dirt and market places while alongside super railways and skyscrapers.
Many roads in Africa are built with asphalt which is highly expensive and difficult to procure. Wakandans built using the natural habitat, and fortunately, this is possible in Africa. For example, the Nubian Vault technique has been used since the ancient kingdom of Nubia, located in the Nile Valley in Egypt and Sudan. Environmentalists laud this as environmentally friendly and sustainable, and can help mitigate the effects of climate change.
African leaders must support architectural innovation with their natural habitat.
“Black Panther” inspired me to imagine what Africa could be if our leaders take some bold and collective actions.
It also inspired me that we should all be a part of this Wakanda-like development journey by developing leaders, specifically in the public service, that will passionately serve their people, protect their natural resources, embrace innovation and preserve cultures and traditions that are worth preserving.
*Source CNN.Taa is a Liberian Entrepreneur, Advocate and Philanthropist and the founder and CEO of the Khana Group, a leading social impact research and consulting firm in Africa. Taa has consulted with McKinsey, Deloitte and other consulting firms and was recently awarded the Business Leadership Excellence Award and inducted into the African Leadership Magazine’s CEO Hall of Fame.
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South Sudan Media Authority Suspends UN Radio Station
March 10, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Deng Machol

FILE (VOA)- Radio Miraya host Lubna Lasu broadcasts the Betna Weekend Edition program in the southern Sudanese city of Juba, April 10, 2010.

FILE (VOA)- Radio Miraya host Lubna Lasu broadcasts the Betna Weekend Edition program in the southern Sudanese city of Juba, April 10, 2010.

Juba – South Sudan’s media authority has suspended the UN – run known as Radio Miraya and ordered its frequency to be switched off in the country, citing failure to comply with directives to register in accordance with the provision of the media regulatory body.

This was announced in the press conference on Friday by Media Authority, asked the National Communication Authority to withdraw the frequency 101FM assigned to the UN radio station for non-compliance with conditions set for acquiring licenses for operation in the country.

The media regulatory body established by the government said the popular radio station should stop broadcasting with effect from today (Friday, March 9, 2018).

The media regulator accuses the UN- backed radio of non-compliance and refusing to be regulated under the country’s media laws.

Mr. Elijah Alier, managing director of the South Sudan Media Authority told a news conference that the radio station operated by the United Mission in South Sudan, UNMISS has failed to obtain a valid operation license.

Alier further says Radio Miyira journalists will not be allowed to cover stories until the suspension is lifted.

He denies criticism that the suspension of the radio station amounts to media censorship.

“This is to inform the public and media houses that the media authority has suspended the operation for persistent non-compliance and refusal to be regulated under the media laws in the Republic of South Sudan,” letter reads in part seen by Panafricanism.

According to the Media Authority’s suspension letter, the decision was taken following notifications starting on June 2017, September, 2017, November 2017 and February 2018.The management of Radio Miraya, the letter alleges has failed to respond in what authorities equate to violation and non-compliance with the media authority orders.

The suspension also came after the Country’s Information Minister and Government Spokesperson, Michael Makuei Lueth, who then sanctioned by the UN, had been threatened to shut down the station, earlier saying he would not be afraid to close down the UN-owned radio station meant for peace building.

However, UNMISS spokesperson Francisca Mold says the management of Radio is till in talks with government and that UN – radio will continue to operate.

Since the conflict erupted in 2013, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the government lead by President Salva Kiir have not been good terms, government has several accused the UNMISS of supporting the country’s rebels lead by former first vice President Dr. Riek Machar.

According to a UN human rights report released last month, Press freedom in South Sudan has been affected by the ongoing conflict.

In July 2017, South Sudan’s authorities said blocked access to some websites such as Sudantribune,  Radio Tamazuj, Paanluel and others accusing them of “hostile” reporting.

In the aftermath of conflict, journalists in South Sudan were often complain of harassment and arbitrary detention by the security forces.

According to the Media Authority Act 2013, no one is allowed to provide broadcasting services in the country without valid license.

Moreover, the media body earlier this month, prevented a journalists who have not registered with them to cover a press conference held by the country’s Information Minister.

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Ugandan author wins $165k prize
March 9, 2018 | 0 Comments

The Manchester-based author who’s won a life-changing $165k book prize

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi moved to the UK from Uganda at the age of 34

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi moved to the UK from Uganda at the age of 34

A Manchester-based author whose debut novel was initially rejected by British publishers has won one of the world’s richest literary prizes.

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi – who’s from Uganda and moved to the UK 17 years ago – has won one of the Windham Campbell Prizes from Yale University in the US.

She will receive $165,000 (£119,000). “I haven’t been earning for a long, long time,” she says.

“I really put everything into writing. So for this to happen is unbelievable.”

The prize money is more than double the amount that the Booker Prize winner gets, and organisers say it’s the richest award dedicated to literature after the Nobel Prize.

Makumbi is one of eight writers to receive Windham Campbell Prizes this year spanning fiction, non-fiction, drama and poetry – and is the only winner to have published just one full-length work.

Two other British writers are also on the list, both for non-fiction – Sarah Bakewelland Olivia Laing.

‘Too African’

The prizes were created by writer Donald Windham and also carry the name of his partner Sandy M Campbell. They were first awarded in 2013 to “provide writers with the opportunity to focus on their work independent of financial concerns”.

Makumbi said news of the award came out of the blue. “It’s American, and normally it’s people who have got so many books [behind them],” she said. “So I’m surprised how I was one of them.”

Makumbi’s debut novel Kintu was first published in Kenya four years ago after British publishers rejected it for being “too African”. It was finally released in the UK this January.

Cover of Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga MakumbiImage copyrightONEWORLD PUBLICATIONS

The author said British publishers and readers like to have something they can relate to – be it Western characters or familiar settings and storylines – if they’re reading about Africa.

But she describes Kintu as “proper, proper Africa”.

The book conjures myths and legends to tell the story of a Ugandan family who believe they have been cursed over 250 years.

“I had really locked Europe out,” Makumbi says. “But it was a little bit too much – the language, the way I wrote it – they [Brits] were not used to that kind of writing. But they are beginning now to open up I think.

“Readers are realising, OK, if I want to explore Africa I’d rather be told from an African point of view rather than being told things that I’m expected to want to know.”

‘It’s about getting a paycheque’

Makumbi was a high school teacher before moving to the UK to pursue her dream of a writing career. She began by studying creative writing in Manchester, then wrote Kintu while doing a PhD in Lancaster.

The Windham Campbell Prize will help spread the word about the book – but for Makumbi, for now at least, the prize money will be the thing that changes her life.

“I would like to say it’s more about getting to be known and whatever, but mainly it’s about getting a paycheque,” she admits.

“It’s mainly about [doing] ordinary things that other people do that have a job. I have a partner but he’s not earning much and I’ve not been really pulling my weight.

“I’ve just been taking and taking, and we are a working class family, so it’s huge. And then, of course, now I can go and do research in different countries for my next project.”

‘Shocked’ by British life

She didn’t have to travel far to research a short story collection that will come out next January. It’s title is Love Made in Manchester.

“I write the stories as a way of writing back to Ugandans, informing them what happens to us,” she says. “I’m telling them, ‘You want to come to Britain? Hang on a minute. First read my story.'”

So what impression will Ugandans get of Britain if they do?

“It’s not the world that they’ve been told it is. When you’re in Uganda, Britain is the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, The Savoy, The Ritz – because this is how Britain markets itself.

“You never see the working class. That is what takes you by surprise. It’s just shocking.

“You come here and see the working class and you’re like, I should have paid attention to Dickens!”

*Source  BBC

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Merck Foundation marks ‘International Women’s Day’ with the First Lady of Niger
March 9, 2018 | 0 Comments
Merck Foundation discusses their commitment to building healthcare capacity with the President of Niger
NIAMEY, Niger, March 8, 2018/ —

  • Merck Foundation, in partnership with the First Lady of Niger builds healthcare capacity in the country with special focus on Cancer, Diabetes and Infertility.
  • Merck Foundation appoints the first Lady of Niger, as an Ambassador of Merck More than a Mother.
  • Merck Foundation discusses their commitment to building healthcare capacity with the President of Niger.
Merck Foundation appointed the First Lady of Niger H.E. Mrs. Aissata Issoufou Mahamadou as an Ambassador of 'Merck More Than a Mother'

Merck Foundation appointed the First Lady of Niger H.E. Mrs. Aissata Issoufou Mahamadou as an Ambassador of ‘Merck More Than a Mother’

Merck (www.Merck.com) launched their Merck Foundation (www.Merck-Foundation.com) in Niger in partnership with the First Lady of Niger and their Ministry of Health (www.NigerStateMoH.org). During the launch event Merck Foundation, a non-profit organization and a subsidiary of Merck KGaA Germany, marked ‘International women’s Day’ in Niger to empower infertile women through “Merck More Than a Mother” campaign.

During the event, Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of the Executive Board of E.Merck KG and the Chairman of Merck Foundation Board of Trustees emphasized, “We are very proud to launch our Merck Foundation in partnership with the First Lady of Niger and Ministry of Health to build healthcare capacity, improve access to Cancer and Diabetes care and to empower infertile women in the country.”

Dr. Rasha Kelej CEO of Merck Foundation explained, “We are very proud to appoint H.E. Mrs. Aissata Issoufou Mahamadou, the First Lady of The Republic of Niger, as an ambassador of ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ campaign, to work closely with Merck Foundation in defining interventions to break the stigma around childless women across the country. Through our partnership, we will transform the lives of those unprivileged women, women who suffered all their lives from the Infertility stigma.”

L-R) Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of the Executive Board of E.Merck KG and the Chairman of Merck Foundation Board of Trustees, Her Excellency, the First Lady of Niger, H.E. Mrs. Aissata Issoufou Mahamadou and Dr. Rasha Kelej, the CEO of Merck Foundation

L-R) Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of the Executive Board of E.Merck KG and the Chairman of Merck Foundation Board of Trustees, Her Excellency, the First Lady of Niger, H.E. Mrs. Aissata Issoufou Mahamadou and Dr. Rasha Kelej, the CEO of Merck Foundation

Her Excellency, the First Lady of Niger, H.E. Mrs. Aissata Issoufou Mahamadou emphasized, “I truly value our partnership with Merck Foundation. I firmly believe that building professional capacity is a good strategy to help our government to improve access to healthcare in our country. I will also work closely with Merck foundation to break the stigma around infertility at all levels by raising awareness, training the skills of local experts and by supporting childless women in starting their small businesses.”

She added “Currently, we don’t have any oncologist or fertility specialists in Niger, we even do not have cancer care facility and fertility clinic in the country. Merck Foundation makes history in the Niger, through its ‘Merck Oncology Fellowship Program’ and ‘Merck More Than a Mother’. They will provide training to the first oncologists and fertility specialists for Niger.

L-R) Dr. Rasha Kelej, the CEO of Merck Foundation, Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of the Executive Board of E.Merck KG and the Chairman of Merck Foundation Board of Trustees discussed long-term commitment to healthcare capacity building with the President of Niger H.E. Mahamadou Issoufou

L-R) Dr. Rasha Kelej, the CEO of Merck Foundation, Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of the Executive Board of E.Merck KG and the Chairman of Merck Foundation Board of Trustees discussed long-term commitment to healthcare capacity building with the President of Niger H.E. Mahamadou Issoufou

“As per the information received from the Ministry of Health, for 22 Million population, Niger has only six oncologists, one hematologist, and 12 radiotherapists. This gap is of course not enough to give proper access to quality and equitable cancer care across the country. We hope we can significantly increase the number of oncologists in the next three years.” Rasha Kelej added.

Merck foundation is committed to providing one-year to two-years Oncology Fellowship Programs and Clinical Fertility Management Training to four candidates from Niger in 2018 and is determined to provide training to more candidates in the future.

Merck Foundation met the President of Niger H.E. Mahamadou Issoufou to discuss and underscore our long-term commitment to healthcare capacity building, and empowering women and youth in Niger through our impactful programs; Merck Cancer Access Program and Merck More Than a Mother in partnership with the First Lady of Niger H.E. Mrs. Aissata Issoufou Mahamadou

Merck Foundation met the President of Niger H.E. Mahamadou Issoufou to discuss and underscore our long-term commitment to healthcare capacity building, and empowering women and youth in Niger through our impactful programs; Merck Cancer Access Program and Merck More Than a Mother in partnership with the First Lady of Niger H.E. Mrs. Aissata Issoufou Mahamadou

Moreover, Merck Foundation is committed to contributing toward advancing Diabetes Care in Niger, by providing online Diabetes Management Diploma in the French language, for medical postgraduates in Niger and other Francophone African countries, so that they can learn more about diagnosis and treatment of diabetes. The course is accredited by ‘Royal College of General Practitioners’ in the UK.

About Merck Foundation in Niger:
Merck Foundation is going to provide the oncology and clinical fertility training to the following healthcare professionals from Niger:

Oncology
1.    Dr. Mamadou Oumarou Ramatou- Adult medical oncology
2.    Dr. Mahamadou Aichatou- Paediatric Oncology
3.    Dr. Alhousseini Alhassane Laila- Radiation oncology
4.    Dr. Moussa Soffo Issa- Radiation technician

Clinical Fertility Management Training
1.    Dr. Abdoulaye Maiga
2.    Dr. Barkire Fatoumatou
3.    Dr. Lawali Chekarao Mamadou.

So far, candidates from Uganda, Zambia, Ethiopia, Namibia, Tanzania, Ghana, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Botswana, Liberia, Rwanda, Kenya, Chad, Niger, Guinea, Gambia, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Nepal have benefitted from Merck Foundation’s training programs in fertility or oncology fellowships. Merck Foundation aims to expand to more African and Asian countries soon.

(L-R) Hon. Dr. Idi Illiassou Mainassara, Minister of Public Health for Niger, Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of the Executive Board of E.Merck KG and the Chairman of Merck Foundation Board of Trustees and Dr. Rasha Kelej, the CEO of Merck Foundation discussing Merck Foundation's long-term commitment to building healthcare capacity in Niger

(L-R) Hon. Dr. Idi Illiassou Mainassara, Minister of Public Health for Niger, Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of the Executive Board of E.Merck KG and the Chairman of Merck Foundation Board of Trustees and Dr. Rasha Kelej, the CEO of Merck Foundation discussing Merck Foundation’s long-term commitment to building healthcare capacity in Niger

The Merck Foundation (www.Merck-Foundation.com), established in 2017, is a philanthropic organization that aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people and advance their lives through science and technology. Our efforts are primarily focused on improving access to innovative healthcare solutions in underserved communities, building healthcare and scientific research capacity and empowering people in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) with a special focus on women and youth. All Merck Foundation press releases are distributed by e-mail at the same time they become available on the Merck Foundation Website. Please go to www.Merck-Foundation.com to read more and/or register online to interact and exchange experience with our registered members.
Merck Foundation is a subsidiary of Merck KGaA Germany

About Merck
Merck (www.Merck.com) is a leading science and technology company in healthcare, life science and performance materials. Around 50,000 employees work to further develop technologies that improve and enhance life – from biopharmaceutical therapies to treat cancer or multiple sclerosis, cutting-edge systems for scientific research and production, to liquid crystals for smartphones and LCD televisions. In 2016, Merck generated sales of € 15.0 billion in 66 countries.
Founded in 1668, Merck is the world’s oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company. The founding family remains the majority owner of the publicly listed corporate group. Merck holds the global rights to the Merck name and brand. The only exceptions are the United States and Canada, where the company operates as EMD Serono, MilliporeSigma and EMD Performance Materials

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Africa a world leader in women business owners: Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs
March 8, 2018 | 0 Comments

Index shows Ghana has the highest percentage of women business owners worldwide. Uganda is third overall.

 Africa – 8 March 2018 – Following the release of the Mastercard Index of Women’s Entrepreneurship (MIWE) today, it was revealed that 46.4 percent of businesses in Ghana are owned by women, making it one of the top performing African countries highlighted in the index.

The MIWE is a weighted index that helps to better understand and identify factors and conditions that are most conducive to closing the gender gap among business owners in any given economy. The three factors include Women’s Advancement Outcomes, Access to Knowledge and Financial Services, and Supporting Entrepreneurial Factors. The Index examined 57 different economies around the globe, including Botswana, Ethiopia, South Africa and Uganda; with Ghana, Nigeria and Malawi as new additions.

Nigeria and Ghana scored particularly well in terms of advancement outcomes: the women entrepreneurial activity rate was 100 percent, with overall scores in this regard coming in at 62.4 percent and 59.1 percent respectively. African countries also scored highly in women labour force participation – with Malawi at 100 percent, Ghana at 96.1 percent, and Ethiopia at 86.6 percent.

South Africa excelled in sharing knowledge assets with women and providing financial access, with a score of 84.3 percent– coming in 6th out of 57 countries. Botswana followed closely with a score of 73 percent.  Botswana and South Africa were the highest scoring African countries in the Index overall with scores of 66.5 percent and 64.2 percent respectively.

When compared to other African markets surveyed Botswana leads the charge with the highest rate of Supporting Entrepreneurial Conditions, at 68.1 percent, this is an increase of 2 percent from last year. Indicating that the country has positive Cultural Perceptions of Women Entrepreneurs and Quality of Governance. The continent scored highly in terms of women Financial Inclusion with South Africa at 98.7 percent, Ghana scoring 84.6 percent, and 77.1 percent in Ethiopia.

The Index results revealed that female entrepreneurs in developing countries are driven by grit and determination, along with a desire to provide for their families. The findings reinforce that women entrepreneurs are the backbone of economic growth and powerful engines of development and financial inclusion, especially in Africa.  The Index also showed an interesting contrast: women’s progress and advancement as entrepreneurs is not necessarily aligned to the pace of their own country’s economic growth and wealth. In fact, the highest rates of ownership are seen in developing economies where entrepreneurship is typically necessity-driven.

Women entrepreneurs in Africa and other developing markets have proven to be equally vibrant, resourceful and innovative in finding opportunities to improve their own lives as well as create a better future for their children.

“Botswana, Ghana and Uganda shine as examples of women’s determination to provide for themselves and their families and Africa excels at creating strong women entrepreneurs with the drive to succeed even in the face of financial, regulatory or technical constraints,” says Beatrice Cornacchia, Head of Marketing and Communications, Middle East and Africa, Mastercard.

An interesting outcome of the Index is that cultural perceptions of women entrepreneurs in Africa are predominantly positive – at 69.1 percent in Uganda and 67.2 percent in Nigeria, this is well above their Middle Eastern counterparts.

According to the Index, some women’s inclination towards business ownership may be undermined by limited access to education, financial and entrepreneurial opportunities. These are by no means only African – or developing – countries challenges, however. Women entrepreneurs even in developed nations face cultural and gender biases that restrict them from opening or expanding their own businesses.

These constraints are acting as barriers preventing women from starting businesses in the majority of the 57 countries surveyed. In New Zealand, the top ranked country overall for example, results revealed that society is less receptive towards female entrepreneurs because they are not perceived as having the same level of know-how as men. In Portugal, which ranked 6th on the Index with a score of 69.1 percent, women are not only constrained by a lack of cultural acceptance, but difficulties in getting bank loans, insurance, or trade finance. Even Botswana – which emerged as the top ranked African country on the Index at 14 with a score of 66.5 percent – has seen an increasing gender bias that acts as a barrier to women opening businesses.

This indicates that changes need to be implemented not just within society itself, but at economic, financial and political levels. “This requires collective action from public and private sector partners to implement initiatives that provide African women with the necessary education, training and mentorship to develop financial literacy to start and run successful and sustainable businesses,” Cornacchia concludes.

The full report is available here: https://newsroom.mastercard.com/mea/digital-press-kits/mastercard-index-of-women-entrepreneurs-2018

Methodology

The Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs tracks female entrepreneurs’ ability to capitalize on opportunities granted through various supporting conditions within their local environments and is the weighted sum of three components: 1) Women’s Advancement Outcomes (degree of bias against women as workforce participants, political and business leaders, as well as the financial strength and entrepreneurial inclination of women), 2) Knowledge Assets and Financial Assets (degree of access women have to basic financial services, advanced knowledge assets, and support for small and medium enterprises), and 3) Supporting Entrepreneurial Conditions (overall perceptions on the ease on conducting business locally, quality of local governance, women’s perception of safety levels and cultural perception of women’s household financial influence).

The Index uses 12 indicators and 25 sub-indicators to look at how 57 economies across Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa, North America, Latin America and Europe, representing 78.6 percent of the world’s female labour force, differ in terms of the level of the three components.

Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs – Top 10 markets with the strongest supporting conditions and opportunities for women to thrive as entrepreneurs

  1. New Zealand – 74.2
  2. Sweden – 71.3
  3. Canada – 70.9
  4. United States – 70.8
  5. Singapore – 69.2
  6. Portugal – 69.1
  7. Australia – 68.9
  8. Belgium – 68.7
  9. Philippines – 68.0
  10. United Kingdom – 67.9

Women business owners as a percentage of all business owners – Top 10 markets

  1. Ghana – 46.4%
  2. Russia – 34.6%
  3. Uganda – 33.8%
  4. New Zealand – 33.0%
  5. Australia – 32.1%
  6. Vietnam – 31.3%
  7. Poland – 30.3%
  8. Spain – 29.4%
  9. Romania -28.9%
  10. Portugal – 28.7%

 

About Mastercard

Mastercard (NYSE: MA), www.mastercard.com, is a technology company in the global payments industry.  Our global payments processing network connects consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories.  Mastercard products and solutions make everyday commerce activities – such as shopping, traveling, running a business and managing finances – easier, more secure and more efficient for everyone.

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Global Witness Says South Sudan Leadership Uses State-owned Oil to Fund Conflict, Gov’t Denies
March 8, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Deng Machol

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir

Juba – the South Sudanese government has refuted claims that the top leadership diverted millions of dollars from the State-owned oil company to finance the ongoing civil war in the country.

The campaign group, Global Witness, in a new investigative report, indicated that Nilepet has fallen under the direct control of President Salva Kiir and his inner circle, is using oil revenues to fuel the conflict, now in its fifth year.

According to its latest report titled, South Sudan “Capture on the Nile”, the group said an investigation it carried out shows how the state-owned oil firm – Nilepet – is being used to funnel millions of dollars in oil revenues to the country’s brutal security services and ethnic militias, with limited oversight and accountability.

The Campaign Leader, Michael Gibb, said Nilepet is deeply integrated into global oil supply chains without which it would be unable to raise revenues.

He said these international trading partners could play a key role in challenging and holding Nilepet accountable.

He added that greater focus on the economic aspects of the conflict can help bring new information to the public and help negotiators in bringing new leverage and influence.

“While South Sudan’s population continues to suffer a senseless war and economic crisis of their leaders’ making, Nilepet is failing its true constituents, serving instead, the interests of a narrow canal, and being used to prolong the brutal conflict,” Michael Gibb, a campaign leader for Conflict Resources at Global Witness said.

However, the Nilepet has dissociated itself to comment when contact on the Global Witness report by Panafricanism.

Meanwhile, a Country’s Information Minister, Michael Makuei has said the report was envisioned to damage the image of the president and the government of the country.

“We all know that Global Witness is US-funded and America has taken an anti-government stance, and Global Witness is an anti-government organization,” Makuei quoted told the BBC on Tuesday.

Secret documents and first-hand testimony were relied on to unearth the dirty deals that occur within the national oil company, repot stated.

In one such document, the report said, the managing director of the Nilepet received a letter requesting a payment of over $1.5 million, for expenses incurred by South Sudan’s national security services.

The national oil company, however, says it operates in secrecy, and the report details how this secrecy has been used to finance military operations, arms transfers to ethnic militias, and conceal the looting of millions of dollars meant to help imports of essential goods as country’s economy deteriorated.

“South Sudan’s security forces are able to operate with alarming impunity driving cycles of violence and oppression,” said Gibb, adding that Nilepet’s ability to finance these operations without scrutiny or oversight is critical and must be tackled as a first step towards confronting this rampant impunity while also creating the economic conditions for peace after years of brutal civil war.”

The report details how revenues from oil resources, the country’s main resources of revenue, are used to fuel militias and ongoing atrocities, and how a small clique continues to get richer while the majority of South Sudanese suffer or flee their homes due to conflict.

South Sudan which got her independence in 2011, has relied on oil for all its incomes, a situation that has significantly compounded the ongoing political and economic instability, due to the fall in crude oil prices.

While South Sudan is a producer of crude oil, it lacks capacity and infrastructure to refine this into the fuel its population relies on, but it’s only export route is through Sudan, giving Khartoum leverage and leading to ongoing pricing disputes.

As result, Nilepet is deeply integrated into global oil supply chains, including international refineries and commodity traders, without which it would be unable to raise revenues. These international trading partners could play a key role in challenging and holding accountable, report says.

“Nilepet depends on the international oil supply chain,” said Gibb. The international companies it deals with have a responsibility and opportunity to use their influence to drive reform and transparency at this critical moment in South Sudan’s conflict, indifference is tantamount to complicity in the face of clear evidence of Nilepet’s role in the war economy.”

Due to ongoing conflict that erupted in late 2013, has affected country’s oil production, placed a country into far-fetched economic crisis.

South Sudan’s security warring forces have also been accused of atrocities in the country’s civil war, including ethnic cleansing and rape, tens of thousands of deaths and over 4 million people displaced from their homes.

More so, the Global Witness has been engaged in South Sudan affairs since the independence.

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South Sudan Seeks Observer Status in Arab League
March 8, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Deng Machol

JUBA, South Sudan - File photo shows Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir (L) and South Sudanese President Salva Kiir shaking hands at Kiir's presidential office in Juba in April 2013. (Kyodo)

JUBA, South Sudan – File photo shows Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir (L) and South Sudanese President Salva Kiir shaking hands at Kiir’s presidential office in Juba in April 2013. (Kyodo)

Juba – South Sudan has formally applied observer status in 22-nation regional organization of the Arab League, reported the official Egyptian Middle East news agency (MENA) on Tuesday.

The League’s main goal is to draw closer the relations between member states and to safeguard sovereignty, and to consider in a general way the affairs and interests of the Arab countries.

South Sudan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Spokesperson, Amb Mawien Makol says the country have not applied for membership but to be observer in Arab League.

He argued that the decision for South Sudan to have observer status in the Arab bloc was to discuss important issues including waters of the Nile River and security, these issues need South Sudan to be present in Arab League.

The Country’s diplomat said his government haven’t submitted an officially application for membership in Arab League, but [government] was keen only in obtaining the observer status in the regional organization.

“We haven’t applied for a membership. We are not a full member. We would not pay fees to the League, so we are not required to commit to other things,” Amb. Mawien told Panafricanism.

He said South Sudanese ambassador to Cairo will be present when issues to do with South Sudan are discussed by the Arab League body.

MENA quoted report that South Sudan’s request to join the regional body would be referred to the Arab League Council which was scheduled to hold its 149th session this week at the level of the foreign ministers. If approved, South Sudan would be the 23rd member of the regional organization.

The Arab League’s current member states include: Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Yemen, Iraq, Syria (membership suspended), Tunisia, Oman, Lebanon, Qatar, the Comoros, Sudan, Palestine, Algeria, Mauritania and Libya.

Besides Sudan, Somalia, Djibouti and Comoros are the other East African states members of the League of Arab States.

The use of the Arabic language as an official language is a prerequisite to joining the Arab body.

This has been talked point for South Sudanese officials since the secession from Sudan in July 2011 to join Arab League States.

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Ugandans claim Wakanda
March 8, 2018 | 0 Comments
Daniel Kaluuya in a kanzu

Daniel Kaluuya in a kanzu

Ugandans, who have two actors featured in Black Panther – Daniel Kaluuya and Florence Kasumba – have been busy showing why the African country Wakanda is actually Uganda, since the movie premiered on the continent two weeks ago.

With some scenes from the movie shot on location from Mountain Rwenzori and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest national park, in southwest Uganda, who can blame them for staking their claim?

Ugandans are also not taking the rhyming of Wakanda with Uganda for granted, nor have they glossed over the fact that Kaluuya’s character in the movie is called W’kabi, (read, Wakabi).

And the British-born actor himself put a Ugandan seal on the movie when he turned up for the world premiere of the box office record-breaking movie dressed in a traditional kanzu. Some have already taken to social media, wooing the world to come vacation in Uganda and see more of Wakanda.

Africans just cannot get enough of the first Marvel superhero movie with a predominantly black cast. In Ugandan cinemas, tickets are still selling out like hot cake, as even those who have watched it claim to return for second screenings of the movie that casts Africa and Pan-Africanism in positive light.

Hollywood movies set in Africa often depict the continent as a war-torn environment filled with poverty and suffering. Black Panther has received rave reviews from critics and cinemagoers that have flocked its premieres in Uganda, Nigeria and South Africa, among others.

Some of the cast flew to South Africa for the premiere, with Kenyan-born actress Lupita Nyong’o, tweeting “the excitement is spellbinding”.

In Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos, film fans, Nollywood stars and comedians were dressed in traditional robes and gowns, with some opting to wear specially-made attire in keeping with the film’s futuristic take on African garments. Kaluuya had set the fashion pace at the world premiere with his kanzu worn with a maroon velvet jacket.

“Black Panther is a film that celebrates black excellence…it is especially exciting,” said Bolaji Kekere-Ekun, a 33-year-old filmmaker. “The people who made the film were very specific about the references they used in relationship to Africa. They are pulling from the best fashion and art.”

Wakanda

Black Panther is set in the fictional African nation of Wakanda. It tells the story of the new king, T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), who is challenged by rival factions.

“We put our heart and soul into it because we knew it was a great opportunity,” Boseman, 41, said during a Twitter Q&A. “But to see how people have responded to it, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It’s crazy.”

The fictional African country is depicted as a verdant land with stunning waterfalls where spacecraft designed like tribal masks soar over a modern metropolis.

Directed by black director Ryan Coogler and featuring actors including Michael B. Jordan, Angela Bassett, Nyong’o and Forest Whittaker, the film has received widespread critical acclaim after years of criticism about the under-representation of black people in Hollywood.

Black Panther scored the largest box office debuts ever in West Africa and East Africa, generating about $400,000 and $300,000, respectively.

Big-screen company Imax Corp said its theaters in Kenya and Nigeria had their biggest results ever with Black Panther.

With more than five million posts, Black Panther is also the most tweeted-about movie of 2018 – ahead even of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Various analysts said they expect Black Panther to do for ethnic diversity what last Warner Bros smash hit Wonder Woman did for women – which was to persuade film executives that blockbuster movies don’t need white male leads to sell tickets.

The film’s release comes less than two months after US president Donald Trump was quoted calling African countries “shitholes”.

*The Observer

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Africa’s Year of Opportunity
March 8, 2018 | 0 Comments

By CAROLINE KENDE-ROBB*

In many corners of the world, 2018 is shaping up to be yet another disappointing year, with inequality and poverty continuing to fuel anger and populism. While Africa will not be entirely immune from such developments, its inhabitants have at least eight good reasons – far more than most people elsewhere – to be optimistic.

GENEVA – We are still near the start of 2018, and already it feels like tension and disorder will be the year’s defining characteristics. From anti-immigration policies in the United States to flaring geopolitical hotspots in the Middle East and East Asia, disruption, upheaval, and uncertainty seem to be the order of the day.

But at least one metric offers reason for cautious optimism: economic growth. The International Monetary Fund estimatesthat global growth will reach 3.7% this year, up from 3.6% in 2017. As Christine Lagarde, the Fund’s managing director, put it in a speech in December, “The sun is shining through the clouds and helping most economies generate the strongest growth since the financial crisis.”

It was fitting that Lagarde made that observation in Addis Ababa, because it is in Africa where the rays of prosperity are shining brightest. In fact, I predict that 2018 will be a breakout year for many – though not all – African economies, owing to gains in eight key areas.

For starters, Africa is poised for a modest, if fragmented, growth recovery. Following three years of weak economic performance, overall growth is expected to accelerate to 3.5% this year, from 2.9% in 2017. This year’s projected gains will come amid improved global conditions, increased oil output, and the easing of drought conditions in the east and south.

To be sure, growth will be uneven. While nearly a third of African economies will grow by around 5%, slowdowns are likely in at least a dozen others. Sharp increases in public debt, which has reached 50% of GDP in nearly half of Sub-Saharan countries, are particularly worrying. But, overall, Africa is positioned for a positive year.

Second, Africa’s political landscape is liberalizing. Some of Africa’s longest-serving presidents – including Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Angola’s José Eduardo dos Santos, and the Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh – exited in 2017. In South Africa, Jacob Zuma’s resignation allowed Cyril Ramaphosa to become president. In January, Liberians witnessed their country’s first peaceful transfer of power since 1944, when former soccer star George Weah was sworn into office.

*former chief adviser to the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity, is a senior fellow at the African Center for Economic Transformation. This piece was originally published in Project Syndicate

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China, Russia Mounting Growing Challenge to US in Africa
March 8, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Jeff Seldin*

Ethiopia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Workneh Gebeyehu (center R) walks the red carpet with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as he arrives to begin a six-day trip in Africa, landing at Addis Ababa International Airport in Addis Ababa, March 7, 2018.

Ethiopia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Workneh Gebeyehu (center R) walks the red carpet with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as he arrives to begin a six-day trip in Africa, landing at Addis Ababa International Airport in Addis Ababa, March 7, 2018.

China and Russia are working to expand their influence across Africa, hoping to outspend or out-compete the United States, U.S. officials warn, describing it as part of a larger effort by both countries to reshape the world order.

For months, top national security officials have been talking about the reemergence of what they describe as a great power competition, calling out China and Russia as the two countries doing the most to counter the United States.

FILE - Chinese workers pose at the inauguration site of a train linking Addis Ababa to Djibouti, 20 kilometres from the centre of Addis Ababa, Oct. 5, 2016.
FILE – Chinese workers pose at the inauguration site of a train linking Addis Ababa to Djibouti, 20 kilometres from the centre of Addis Ababa, Oct. 5, 2016.

Officials say the efforts by Beijing and Moscow are both regional and global, with both pursuing strategies to deny the U.S. access to conflict zones in times of crisis and to commercial markets in times of peace.

And in Africa, both are trying to portray themselves as viable, if not essential, alternatives to the United States.

On Tuesday, the commander of U.S. forces in Africa told lawmakers it is now critical for African countries to know Washington can and will remain a steadfast partner.

U.S. Marine Corps General Thomas Waldhauser holds a news conference at Camp Lemonnier in Ambouli, Djibouti, Apr. 23, 2017.
U.S. Marine Corps General Thomas Waldhauser holds a news conference at Camp Lemonnier in Ambouli, Djibouti, Apr. 23, 2017.

“It’s important that we’re there, that we’re present and that the African people see our commitment,” U.S. Africa Command’s Gen. Thomas Waldhauser told the House Armed Services Committee.

China’s expanding influence

Concerns about China’s ever-expanding reach into Africa are not new. U.S. intelligence warned this past September (2017) that Beijing’s first overseas military base, at Doraleh, in the east African nation of Djibouti, was likely to be the first of many.

FILE - Chinese People's Liberation Army personnel attend the opening ceremony of China's new military base in Djibouti, Aug. 1, 2017.
FILE – Chinese People’s Liberation Army personnel attend the opening ceremony of China’s new military base in Djibouti, Aug. 1, 2017.

“China seeks to build [military bases] around the world, creating new areas of intersecting, and potentially conflicting, security interests between China and the United States,” an intelligence official said at the time.

For U.S. Africa Command, perhaps no situation is as concerning as the one in Djibouti, home to Camp Lemonnier, the only permanent U.S. military installation on the African continent and a hub for U.S. counterterror operations.

FILE - In this image released by the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Marines and sailors prepare to board a KC-130J Marine Super Hercules at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti.
FILE – In this image released by the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Marines and sailors prepare to board a KC-130J Marine Super Hercules at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti.

Gen. Waldhauser described the Chinese military base at Doraleh as, “right outside our gates.” And despite some efforts to work with the Chinese, in areas like medical aid and training, U.S. defense officials remain wary.

“We are not naïve,” said Waldhauser Tuesday. “We are taking significant steps on the counterintelligence side so that we have all the defenses that we need.”

But China’s military might in Africa, including its approximately 2,500 peacekeepers, is not what has U.S. defense, intelligence and diplomatic officials most concerned.

Rather, they point to the way Beijing relies on economic aid and promises of development to bring countries like Djibouti into its sphere of influence.

A Chinese naval base and U.S. base Camp Lemonnier, in Djibouti
A Chinese naval base and U.S. base Camp Lemonnier, in Djibouti

“The Chinese there are building facilities. They’re building a shopping mall. They built a soccer stadium,” Waldhauser said. “They built the infrastructure for communications in Djibouti.”

“When we talk about influence and access, this is a classic example,” he added. “We’ll never outspend the Chinese.”

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday went as far as to accuse China of “encouraging dependency” in its approach to the continent.

“Chinese investment does have the potential to address Africa’s infrastructure gap but its approach has led to mounting debt and few, if any, jobs in most countries. When coupled with the political and fiscal pressure, this endangers Africa’s natural resources and its long-term economic, political stability,” noted Tillerson in a speech hours before leaving on a five-country African trip.

Other U.S. officials have also raised concerns about the high levels of debt some nations are incurring as they increasingly accept Chinese loans. By some U.S. estimates, Djibouti, which is home to the U.S. military base, owes more than $1.2 billion to Beijing.

That has sparked fears among some U.S. lawmakers that China could make a play to take control of Djibouti’s key port, the Doraleh Container Terminal.

Djibouti took control of the port citing a contract dispute with the former operator, Dubai-based DP World.

“Reports that I’ve read say that they didn’t seize it for purposes of operating it for profit, but that they actually intend to gift it to China,” Republican Representative Bradley Byrne (from Louisiana) said during Tuesday’s hearing with Africa Command’s Gen. Waldhauser.

“The Chinese aren’t there for purely charitable reasons,” Byrne said. “We all would recognize that.”

U.S. defense officials admit that if China does take over the port and decides to impose any restrictions, the consequences could be significant – impacting the military’s ability to refuel ships and to resupply Camp Lemonnier and other outposts across Africa.

Russia’s focus on Africa

Russia, too, is making Africa more of a focus.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visits Africa this week, starting with a stop in Zimbabwe, where Moscow has been cultivating economic ties, including a $3 billion investment in platinum mining, while also pursuing deeper military ties.

There has also been extensive Russian outreach to northern African nations, particularly countries like Libya which border on the Mediterranean.

“Our concern would be their ability to influence and be on the southern flank of NATO, and also them to kind of squeeze us out, if you will, by them taking a prominent role,” said U.S. Africa Command’s Waldhauser.

Russian officials say they have no plans to back down.

“African countries view the development of cooperation in the military and technical sphere as an instrument of ensuring their sovereignty, independence and countering the pressure of Western countries,” Andrei Kemarksy, director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Africa Department told the Tass news agency last month.

“We are training both military and police personnel for peacekeeping operations,” Kemarksy added.

*Source VOA

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Africa’s population explosion is a ticking time bomb — African Development Bank Governors
March 8, 2018 | 0 Comments
Africa is projected to have over 840 million youth by 2050 with the continent having the youngest population on earth
The African Development Bank and its East and North African Governors have stressed the need for urgent measures to match the continent’s growing population and youth unemployment

The African Development Bank and its East and North African Governors have stressed the need for urgent measures to match the continent’s growing population and youth unemployment

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, March 7, 2018/ — The African Development Bank (www.AfDB.org) and its East and North African Governors have stressed the need for urgent measures to match the continent’s growing population and youth unemployment, which they likened to a “ticking time bomb.”

The meeting described the continent’s growing young population as a potential growth engine for the world.

“The good news is that the solution is within our reach and will require investments,” said Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank.

At the end of a two-day consultation at the headquarters of the Bank in Abidjan, CÕte d’Ivoire, the Bank and the Governors discussed strategizes for closing Africa’s $170 billion infrastructure investment gap.

To bridge the investment gap, ensure inclusive growth, and create employment for the continent’s population, the meeting endorsed the African Development Bank-led African Investment Forum and described it as a timely opportunity to catalyze investments into projects and attract social impact financing to Africa.

Tanzania’s Minister for Finance and Planning, Isdor Mpango, called for closer involvement of the private sector in financing development on the continent.

“The African Development Bank is well positioned to advise and assist Governments and the private sector to come up with bankable projects,” Mpango said, calling for direct resources to provide budget support and investment opportunities.”

Through the African Investment Forum, scheduled for November 7-9, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa, the Bank and its partners intend to showcase bankable projects, attract financing, and provide platforms for investing across Africa. The forum will bring together the African Development Bank and other global multilateral financial institutions to de-risk investments at scale.

“A uniqueness of the African Investment Forum is that there will be no speeches. The only speeches will be transactions,” said President Adesina.

Rwanda’s Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Claver Gatete said: “The African Development Bank has already discussed the concept of the African Investment Forum with us. The Rwandan Government takes this Forum very seriously.”

“Jobs will come from industrialization. The new approach using the African Investment Forum to de-risk the sector and attract investors is the way to go,” said Kiplagat Rotich, Kenyan Finance Minister.

13 per cent of the world’s population is estimated to live in sub-Saharan Africa today. That number is projected to more than double by 2050. Four billion (or 36 per cent of the world’s population) could live in the region by 2100, according to the UN Population Division. Africa is projected to have over 840 million youth by 2050 with the continent having the youngest population on earth.

According to Adesina, “We have 12 years left to the SDGs. It is an alarm bell because if Africa does not achieve the SDGs, the world won’t achieve them. The African Development Bank is accelerating development across Africa through the High 5s. We are deepening our reforms. We deepened our disbursements to the highest levels ever last year and we are leveraging more resources for Africa.”

Tunisia’s Finance Minister Zied Ladhari recalled how the Bank’s 11-year temporary relocation to his country helped strengthen the bonds between them. “We share the Bank’s vision. Africa is the continent of the future. This is a great Africa moment with the Bank at the centre. Unleashing the potential of African economies is a task which the Bank must accomplish.”

As part of the Bank’s High 5 agenda, 13 million African women have benefitted from new electricity connections and 23 million from improvements in agriculture. Also, 10 million African women have benefited from investee projects

An analysis of the African Development Bank’s impact from 2010-2017 indicates that 27 million Africans gained access to new electricity connections. 899,000 small businesses were provided with financial services. 35 million have benefitted from improved access to water and sanitation.

“With the Bank’s support, Somalia has evolved from a failed to a fragile state,” asserted Somalia’s Finance Minister, Abdirahman Beileh. “The African Development Bank has been with us throughout. Together we can reach the bright light at the end of the tunnel.”

Algeria’s Finance Minister, Abderahmane Raouia, said “The biggest challenge for Africa today is job creation. It is a stake of stability and a lever to pull economic growth upwards. We must offer job opportunities for young people to convince them to stay here on the continent.”

According to Simon Mizrahi, Director, Delivery, Performance Management and Results, the Bank needs to move from billions to trillions in its funding and leveraging effect.

Egypt’s Ambassador to Côte d’Ivoire, Mohamed El-Hamzawi, who represented the Finance Minister, said the country has seen two revolutions in 2011 and 2014. He thanked the Bank for supporting the country’s macroeconomic stabilization, financial reforms, infrastructure, and energy projects, among others.

Morocco’s Economy and Finance Minister, Mohammed Boussaid, praised the Bank’s ambition for Africa, and underscored its support for energy, agriculture and infrastructure projects. He said “a capital increase today is not a choice, it is a necessity. Today, the leading export sector in Morocco no longer belongs to traditional sectors, such as phosphates, but to the automotive industry. This generates jobs and adds value for sustainable and robust growth.”

With a substantive capital increase, the African Development will be able to execute its robust pipeline of operations (15bn in 2018 alone), including infrastructure and regional integration projects. The prospects for 2018-2020 are bright, with 50.3 million people benefitting from improved access to transport compared to 14 million in 2017. Also, more than 35 million people are expected to benefit from new or improved electricity connections, in contrast to 4.4 million delivered in 2017.

The African Development Bank Group (AfDB) (www.AfDB.org) is Africa’s premier development finance institution. It comprises three distinct entities: the African Development Bank (AfDB), the African Development Fund (ADF) and the Nigeria Trust Fund (NTF). On the ground in 37 African countries with an external office in Japan, the AfDB contributes to the economic development and the social progress of its 54 regional member states. 

*AFDB

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This is Afrofuturism
March 7, 2018 | 0 Comments

Afrofuturism reimagines the past and envisions what can be. If fact follows fiction, the future will belong to Africa and our storytellers.  

BY BOLANLE AUSTEN PETERS*

Clockwise from top left: Sanford Bigger’s “Bam”; a bodypainting work by Laolu Senbanjo; the cover of Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death; Janelle Monae’s album The ArchAndroid; poster from Black Panther; Awol Erizku’s “Girl With A Bamboo Earring”.

Clockwise from top left: Sanford Bigger’s “Bam”; a bodypainting work by Laolu Senbanjo; the cover of Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death; Janelle Monae’s album The ArchAndroid; poster from Black Panther; Awol Erizku’s “Girl With A Bamboo Earring”.

A decade ago, superhero films were almost universally about white male characters, but the buzz around Black Panther reveals a growing appetite for art that pays homage to black history and black power. Within 24 hours of its release, the Marvel film had set a new sales record, helping to mainstream the Afrofuturism movement.

The term Afrofuturism, coined in 1993, seeks to reclaim black identity through art, culture, and political resistance. It is an intersectional lens through which to view possible futures or alternate realities, though it is rooted in chronological fluidity. That’s to say it is as much a reflection of the past as a projection of a brighter future in which black and African culture does not hide in the margins of the white mainstream.

When I grew up in 1970s Nigeria, the country hosted Festac ’77, a famous celebration of African history and culture that welcomed greats from Stevie Wonder to Miriam Makeba. I recall going to the National Arts Theatre and watching Ipi Tombi, a South African musical. The imagery from that experience jumpstarted my career as a director nearly 40 years later.

A parade as part of the Festac ’77 festival, a month long celebration also known as the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture.

A parade as part of the Festac ’77 festival, a month long celebration also known as the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture.

In that era, hope of Africa’s promise was high, but images of the Great African nation, a model of black modernity, died soon after during structural adjustment in the 1980s. Shrinking budgets left little space to dream about fine art or literature.

In Black Panther, the imaginary kingdom of Wakanda – like the fantastical realms of African-American author N.K. Jemisin – resurrects a vision of black sovereignty and success that has long been dormant. As the Nigerian-American author Nnedi Okorafor says, “African science fiction’s blood runs deep, and it’s old, and it’s ready to come forth. And when it does, imagine the new technologies, ideas and sociopolitical changes it will inspire.”

Wakanda, for example, is the world’s most technologically-advanced country. This may seem a far cry from typical depictions of poverty-stricken Africa. However, as it becomes a truly digital-first continent, Afrofuturist films like Black Panther may just be giving us a glimpse at the future.

 

 

It can be hard to conjure up images of illustrious black royalty in a present that is fraught with intercommunal tensions. In the past year, racial inequality has been laid bare, from South Africa, where #RhodesMustFall challenged the remnants of brutal colonisation, to the US, where white supremacy groups have come out of the shadows.

Given the sometimes bleak present-day circumstances of Afro-descended people, Afrofuturism is a chance to envision a radical and progressive vision of blackness – one in which justice reigns in superheroes and where black creativity is mystical and fascinating. In this space, black life matters.

The body artwork of the Nigerian artist Laolu Senbanjo (above), for example, paints spiritual motifs on famous figures and reclaims African art in an overtly white culture. Meanwhile, Sanford Bigger’s 2015 work, Bam, features statues “re-sculpted” by real bullets and subtly calls out police brutality in America. These artworks are rooted in techniques and traditions of the diaspora, but are resolutely forward-looking.

Black history often lives in the shadows of modern consciousness. Afrofuturism is a means to discover that history in an impactful and engaging way. Musicians such as Janelle Monae and filmmakers like Ryan Coogler create new vehicles to challenge the status quo.

Time is not linear in this genre. An imagined future can impact the present as it unearths a buried African past. Afrofuturism pieces together parts of a history that people were not privy to as their stories had been sidelined for so long.

Afrofuturist novels in particular offer a unique platform to shed light on Africa’s history. Consider Kindred by Octavia Butler, in which a woman is transported from 1970s California to Africa at the height of the slave trade; or Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death, about a woman tormented by her sorcerer father in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic Sudan.

Afrofuturism is a channel through which artists can go back in time to give old works of art a new, decidedly African identity. This is the case, for example, with Awol Erizku’s distinctive painting Girl With a Bamboo Earring, a 2012 interpretation of Vermeer’s famous Girl With a Pearl Earring. Like the historical recovery projects black intellectuals have engaged in for over 200 years, Afrofuturism does more than fight the erasing of black contributions to global history: it empowers and reimagines the past for lasting cultural impact.

If life truly imitates art, then art must lead the way in inclusiveness and representations that honour all of us. For Afrofuturism to function not as mere fantasy but as a revelation, it must be mainstreamed by producers and publishers and made equal to white artistic expression. History has been edited and the present is a silencer. But if fact follows fiction, the future will belong to Africa and our storytellers.

*African Arguments. Bolanle Austen Peters is the founder of Terra Kulture, Nigeria’s preeminent centre for the performing arts and culture.   

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