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Engage with Africa on a long-term basis – Ecobank Group CEO Albert Essien tells investors
February 26, 2015 | 0 Comments

Ecobank chief gives keynote at 4th Conference on Managing Risk in Africa

Ecobank Group CEO Albert Essien

Ecobank Group CEO Albert Essien

Ecobank Group CEO Albert Essien  gave the keynote address in Munich today at the 4th Conference on Managing Risk in Africa. Mr Essien offered strategies for managing risk in Africa’s growth markets. Against the backdrop of what he outlined as a generally positive outlook for Africa, he advised investors against viewing Africa as one, but rather 54 countries with different growth prospects, different infrastructure, trade agreements, tax regulations, culture and levels of technological development.

Mr Essien urged investors to be prepared to engage with African countries on a long-term basis and avoid abrupt changes in investment focus because of perceived instability in certain markets. He encouraged managing risks associated with doing business in Africa, including fiscal and monetary policy issues such as foreign exchange restrictions, transparency and compliance, political instability and corruption and resource and infrastructure challenges.

The Ecobank Group CEO offered executives overseeing market entry strategy in Africa six key considerations that they would have to contend with. These, he said, were: understanding the local business culture; assessing which markets represent the best balance of risk and reward; finding and vetting appropriate local partners; understanding local market regulations; local environmental factors; and levels of technological development.

Mr Essien highlighted several market entry risks, which he enumerated as: political risk, reputational risk, operational risk and physical risk to staff and assets. He encouraged scenario planning as a good way to anticipate what future trends might emerge and what their impact and probability might be. “Whatever risks are identified, they are best viewed holistically rather than in isolation. New market entrants will need to develop a clear risk appetite and weigh the opportunity against the cost of risk mitigation, which can be expensive,” Mr Essien said.

The Ecobank boss advised setting up a risk review board with participation from senior management, and said this would help ensure the right level and scope of ongoing risk monitoring.

Incorporated in Lome , Togo, Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (‘ET ‘)  is the parent company of the leading independent pan-African banking group, Ecobank. It currently has a presence in 36 African countries, namely: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo (Brazzaville), Congo (Democratic Republic), Co te d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Group employs over 20,000 people in 40 different countries in over 1,200 branches and offices. Ecobank is a full-service bank providing wholesale, retail, investment and transaction banking services and products to governments, financial institutions, multinationals, international organizations, medium, small and micro businesses and individuals.

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Napping Again? Where is African Leadership in Fighting Ebola?
October 20, 2014 | 1 Comments

 

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon poses for a group photo with leaders attending the African Union Summit, which marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Organization of African Unity. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon poses for a group photo with leaders attending the African Union Summit, which marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Organization of African Unity. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

As the Ebola virus that is currently  concentrated in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone rages on, Africa seems to have been caught napping again leaving the response to the international community which is still to strike the right cords in a coherent strategy for the fight.

Complains have been flying right and left about paucity of funds, conspiracy theories making the rounds, and the unjustified stigma flying beyond the confines of the continent. An African resident based in Europe and not even a native of one of the affected countries was recently subjected to a grueling experience at an airport in a South American country where she had traveled to for work. In the U.S, there is debate going on whether or not flights from West Africa should be banned.

For sure with a virus like Ebola, precautions are worth taking and no one should fault non-African countries for taking precautions. The response of Africa itself has not helped matters at all and tales of Africans stigmatizing Africans are making their way into the international press.

Sierra Leone's John Kamara is grounded by his Greek club. The stigma from Ebola is on the rise affecting Africans who do hail from countries currently battling the virus

Sierra Leone’s John Kamara is grounded by his Greek club. The stigma from Ebola is on the rise affecting Africans who do hail from countries currently battling the virus

The NY Times recently ran a story of the anguish that layers from Sierra Leone were subjected to in the last month or so while participating in the qualifying games of the Nations cup. As uncontrollable as fans may be sometimes, taunting Sierra Leone players with chants of Ebola are simply disgusting. Having them live in secluded hotels, cut off from the public is already demoralizing enough. On his return from the qualifying games to his Greek Club PAS Lamia, of Sierra Leone’s John Kamara  was grounded from training for three weeks despite the fact that there were undergoing daily checkups while in Yaoundé Cameroon during the two leg game.

While Nigeria and Senegal may have gained credit for successfully taming the spread of the virus, the response of the continent as a united entity has fallen short. Where is the African Union? While Cuba is sending Doctors and the US and Britain sending troops, why have African countries not shown greater solidarity? Where are Nigeria and South Africa who are supposed to be leaders of the continent? The leadership fight should not only be about fighting for a fictional Security Council seat but showing the lead in marching the continent head on to confront crisis.

The Ebola crisis are a reminder for the continent to get its priorities straight. The gaping holes in health care services have been exposed in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Liberia. The situation is not different in most other African countries where health care is not considered a priority. It is not just about resources, but getting the priorities straight. There are many African leaders who rush to Europe at the sign of any malaise, but why can there not invest in building adequate health care facilities?

When we compare amounts that have been embezzled from state resources, what is lost from mismanagement, one can only imagine the difference it could have made in using such sums to invest in infrastructure, education, and health care. Even the aid and loans received from the international community has often lined up the pockets of corrupt officials and not used for intended purposes.

Ivory Coast and global soccer Icon Didier Drogba  takes the Ice Bucket Challenge. Many African sports and entertainment stars took the challenge ,there could equally take the lead in making sure ebola does not define Africa

Ivory Coast and global soccer Icon Didier Drogba takes the Ice Bucket Challenge. Many African sports and entertainment stars took the challenge ,there could equally take the lead in making sure ebola does not define Africa

On the international scene one has heard about forums where the President of the AFDB has spoken forcefully on behalf of Africa. The AFDB has equally dedicated resources to the fight against Ebola. What is done by the AFDB should not make African countries shirk the need for expressing solidarity with the affected countries. The D.R.Congo has pledged help, and Ghana seems to be talking of help too. If Doctors can come all the way from Cuba why not from Nigeria , South Africa, Kenya, Uganda etc.? Instead of renegading on hosting the African Nations Cup next year as Morocco did , how about King Hussein’s country thinks of the support it could give to the affected countries to curb the spread of the virus?

And what about the global stars from Africa? All those UNICEF Ambassadors, children are been killed by in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Africa needs their advocacy now.When it came to the Ice bucket challenge, there were so eager to come along, nominating others to take the challenge. How about that same enthusiasm is transferred in helping raise not only awareness but resources needed by these affected countries? The continent needs the global appeals of Genevieve Nnanji, Samuel Eto’o, Didier Drogba, D’banj, P Square and all others who fly high the African flag on the global stage.

Back to government priorities in Africa, research is one area where funding is often not available. The brilliant minds are there, the intellect is in abundance, and there is the added advantage of knowing the continent. What about Traditional medicine, which has suffered from acute neglect over the years?

In the Ebola crisis comes the reminder that where ever there is a leadership vacuum in Africa, someone out of the continent will fill it up. It is not enough to murmur in silence why the USA sent the military to help Liberia in its response, the question should also be asked, what did African countries do? What did the African Union do to coordinate a response? What did the business moguls in the continent do when it came to rallying financial support or should we continue to think it has to be the Bill Gates and the Mark Zuckerbergs doing it? Africa has its own global brands in Dangote, Mo Ibrahim and others.

Dr. Gabriel Logan is one of two doctors at the Bomi county hospital, which serves a county of 85,000 people. In a desperate attempt to save Ebola patients, he started experimenting with an HIV drug to treat them. John W. Poole/NPR

Dr. Gabriel Logan is one of two doctors at the Bomi county hospital, which serves a county of 85,000 people. In a desperate attempt to save Ebola patients, he started experimenting with an HIV drug to treat them.
John W. Poole/NPR

It is not late for Africans to rally together and not remain indifferent to the plight of those in countries affected. There are many who still long for a United Africa as advocated by Nkrumah. Such unity means the continent bonds in good and bad times. No one should make the mistake to think it is something limited to the three West African countries, the virus may have broken out in any of the other countries.

Far from dividing Africa, the crisis should reinforce the need to come together, the need for all Africans to speak truth and call on leaders to get priorities straight, the need to challenge African countries to make the investments needed in health care, infrastructure, technology, research ,education and others. Without these investments, and without getting these priorities right, the continent will continue to remain way short of meeting its potential. Nigeria and Senegal have already gained credit by keeping the virus under check, the continent needs to aggressively rally behind Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea and send a message to the world that the continent can take care or at least take the lead in the quest for solutions to crisis of this magnitude. Africa should lead the world in the response to Ebola and not follow the world in response.

 

 

 

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Shekau, Nigeria, Cameroon, and the politics of Boko Haram
September 26, 2014 | 0 Comments

Biya of Cameroon and Jonathan of Nigeria Biya of Cameroon and Jonathan of Nigeria[/caption] So it is been reported with more certainty that Shekau or the guy who use to pass around for Shekau is now dead. All the bravado in those videos, standing behind armored tanks and using innocent girls in his background was all for nothing. No doubt the guy could barely read well. His absence will certainly not be missed .Any individual or cause which takes delight in ambushing innocent civilians, preaching hatred and kidnapping innocent girls is not worth the trouble at all. As news of Shekau or his double makes the rounds, the tussle for credit as to who killed him is subsiding. Was it the Nigerian Military or their Cameroonian counterparts? Although claims from the Cameroonian side have remained low, there was information from social media last weekend that the fellow passing around for Shekau was dead killed by Cameroon arm forces. The news was accompanied by pictures on a military face book page. However, the Nigerian side came up with a forceful arguments culminating in a formal announcement from the military top brass that indeed, the gentleman known for the taunting visitors met his waterloo at the hands of the Nigerian military as the sect tried to get into Konduga. “The troops captured some of the terrorists and their equipment.  In the course of those encounters, one Mohammed Bashir who has been acting or posing on videos as the deceased Abubakar Shekau, the eccentric character known as leader of the group died.    Since the name Shekau has become a brand name for the terrorists’ leader, the Nigerian military remains resolute to serve justice to anyone who assumes that designation or title as well as all terrorists that seek to violate the freedom and territory of Nigeria,” a statement from the Director Defense Information, Major General Chris Olukolade. The forces doing the fighting deserve a lot of credit irrespective of which party got him. It is hard to understand how things metamorphosed to this level, but there are so many unanswered questions about Boko Haram and its supersonic rise. How comes the sect has evolved to the point where it can threaten to go toe to toe with the Nigerian military? Nigeria is a country that has been laying claim to a security seat on behalf of Africa, it has flexed its muscles in peace keeping missions from Liberia to Sierra Leone and its military was supposed to be one of the best trained and equipped in the continent. If the giant of Africa is unable to protect its citizens from Boko Haram, how can the rest of Africa rely on it for their security? Who is training the Boko Haram folks, where are their funds coming from, how and from where are there able to obtain fire power superior to that of the Nigerian military in many instances? [caption id="attachment_12366" align="alignright" width="300"]Cameroon's Paul Biya and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fanius celebrate the liberation of the molin-Fournier family last April. The wife of Vice Prime Minister Amadou Ali was kidnapped in August and has not been returned. Cameroon’s Paul Biya and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fanius celebrate the liberation of the molin-Fournier family last April. The wife of Vice Prime Minister Amadou Ali was kidnapped in August and has not been returned.[/caption] In Cameroon, the situation in the Northern part of the country remains preoccupying. Hardly had the dust settled on the first armed incursions of the sect when President Paul Biya declared that Cameroon was at war with the sect. Cameroonians grew curious about Boko Haram when a French family vacationing in the Northern part of the country was kidnapped. The Molin-Fournier family was released after some two months in captivity and the Cameroon President received the family before their departure to France. Though the French President indicated that no ransom was paid to release the hostages, it turned out that huge sums were indeed paid to secure the release of the Molin Fournier family. How much was given to secure the release of this French family? How much was given to secure the subsequent release of other foreigners kidnapped? Who received the ransom, and was the money out of the Cameroon treasury or from the home countries of the kidnapped folks who have been released? What is the relation between Boko Haram in Nigeria and Boko Haram in Cameroon? Here again more unanswered questions. It was perplexing to see that instead of Jonathan doing the two hour or so flight to meet Biya in Yaoundé or Biya doing vice versa to Abuja, both leaders preferred to honor an invitation of the French President to discuss security challenges. It borders on the absurd that it will take an initiative of the French for Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad to meet and talk about common threats from Boko Haram? A few months back, the wife of Amadou Ali one of the most senior and influential members of the Biya government was kidnapped in an attack that killed several members of the ministers family. Ministers Ali’s wife is still a hostage of whatever group keeping her. Dr Stephen Davis a negotiator from Australia recently ruffled feathers in Nigeria by announcing the names of some sponsors of Boko Haram. Fingered in his revelation were former Chief of Army staff, General Azubuike Ihejirika and former Governor Modu Sherriff of Borno State. It may not have been news that people in leadership were backing Boko Haram but it was one of the few rare times that names have been called. After a largely unconvincing press conference to clear his name, to the chagrin of most Nigerians, former Governor Modu Sheriff was pictured with President Jonathan during a visit to Chad. The optics could not have been any worse, at a time when the press was rife with reports of the Nigerian military taken refuge on Cameroon to flee from attacks from the sect.   [caption id="attachment_12370" align="alignleft" width="300"]L–R: A former Borno State Governor, Ali Modu-Sheriff, President Goodluck Jonathan, and Chadian President, Idriss Deby, at a meeting in Chad. this was a few days after Sheriff was cited by the Australian negotiator Stephen Davis as a key sponsor of Boko Haram L–R: A former Borno State Governor, Ali Modu-Sheriff, President Goodluck Jonathan, and Chadian President, Idriss Deby, at a meeting in Chad. this was a few days after Sheriff was cited by the Australian negotiator Stephen Davis as a key sponsor of Boko Haram[/caption] In the midst of the chaos, the innocent Chibok girls are still missing and nothing is heard from the help that western powers promised Jonathan. With the recent victories of the Nigerian military, releasing the girls will not only bring relieve to aggrieved families, but will also boast that struggling credibility of the Jonathan administration. The biggest resource of every country should be its people and be it in Nigeria or in Cameroon, it is the people that are suffering most. It is unfathomable to understand that for all its wealth, the Nigerian military should be complaining of been ill equipped. This is one struggle which calls to test the leadership mantles of both countries. The struggle for Boko Haram needs no politics, it is not a Northern thing in Cameroon and succession politics should not mingle with it. It should not a North v South fight in Nigeria, or unscrupulous politicians using the sect to work on 2015 agendas of sorts. No one doubts the dent that Boko Haram has put on the continental and international aura of Nigeria, hopefully the recent victories give the military the momentum to actually take the fight to Boko Haram so it can become history. In both Nigeria and Cameroon, openness and transparency in sharing information will help. The people can read in between the lines too and  so far there have been too many missing links and unanswered questions in the whole Boko Haram fight. *Insights Africa is a Blog that seeks to de-complex the complexities of developments in Africa  ]]>

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Nations Cup: 2019, 2012 and shock 2023 hosts unveiled by Caf
September 20, 2014 | 0 Comments

_74351486_130983651Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Guinea were named as future hosts of the Africa Cup of Nations by the Confederation of African Football (Caf) on Saturday.

A vote of the executive committee, meeting in the Ethiopian capital, awarded Cameroon the 2019 finals and Ivory Coast will stage the 2021 edition.

In an unscheduled announcement Caf also decided to hand Guinea the right to host the 2023 finals.

Algeria and Zambia lost out in the bidding process.

The Democratic Republic of Congo had withdrawn from the race two months ago.

Cameroon, who will stage the tournament in 2019 previously staged the Nations Cup in 1972. Cameroon’s bid was centred around four venues in Bafoussam, Douala, Garoua and Yaounde.

Ivory Coast, awarded the 2021 edition, are also former hosts, having staged the Cup of Nations in 1984. The Ivorians plan to use five cities – Abidjan, Bouake, Korhogo, San Pedro and the capital Yamoussoukro.

The 2023 hosts were not expected to be named at the executive committee meeting.

A Caf spokesperson later told the BBC that, on the basis of Guinea’s presentation “and commitment”, the committee “decided to exercise its power to make an immediate decision.”

Guinea have never hosted the competition which was first staged 57 years ago in the Sudanese capital Khartoum. Guinea’s bid promised to use Conakry, Kankan, Labe and Nzerekore as venues. Ironically the country is currently banned from hosting any international football by Caf because of the Ebola virus outbreak.

The two nations who miss out are Zambia and Algeria.

Zambia’s bid-package for the tournament in five years’ time included matches played against a backdrop of the spectacular Victoria Falls.

They were awarded the 1988 tournament only to be replaced by Morocco because they lacked the required funds.

The Algerian bid had seemed among the strongest, but their cause would not have been helped by the death of Cameroonian striker Albert Ebosse after a match in the north African state.

Ebosse died last month having being struck by a piece of slate allegedly thrown by a supporter of the club he played for, former African champions JS Kabylie.

Each country made a 30-minute, eve-of-vote presentation and the executive committee also had a report on each candidate to help them decide.

A five-man inspection team led by senior executive committee member Amadou Diakite from Mali spent several days in each of the five countries this year.

Among the facilities under the Caf microscope were stadiums, training grounds, hotels, hospitals and media centres, plus road, rail and air links.

The Nations Cup has been spread around the continent recently with southern, central, western and northern countries among the previous five hosts.

Ethiopia were the last east African hosts in 1976 with cash-strapped Kenya withdrawing as 1996 hosts and South Africa taking over.

Kenya, Algeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali and Zimbabwe are reportedly interested in replacing strife-torn Libya as the 2017 hosts ahead of a September 30 deadline for bids.

The 2017 Cup of Nations hosts will be named next year.

*Source BBC

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Didier Drogba retires from international football
August 9, 2014 | 0 Comments

Chelsea striker made 104 appearances for Ivory Coast and captained side for eight years

 

 

Didier Drogba has retired from international football after winning 104 caps with the Ivory Coast and captaining the side for eight years. Photograph: Warren Little/Getty Images

Didier Drogba has retired from international football after winning 104 caps with the Ivory Coast and captaining the side for eight years. Photograph: Warren Little/Getty Images

Didier Drogba has announced his retirement from international football with the Ivory Coast.

The 36-year-old, who last month re-joined Chelsea following a two-season absence with spells in China and Turkey, made his 104th and final appearance for Les Elephants during the World Cup in Brazil.

“It is with much sadness that I have decided to retire from international football,” Drogba said.

“I am very proud to have been captain of this team for eight years and to have contributed to placing my country on the world stage of football, taking part in three World Cups and two African Cup of Nations finals.

“I cannot convey enough thanks to the fans for all the love and support during these years. All my goals, all my caps, all our victories are for you.

“I also owe much gratitude to my team-mates – the players with whom I have shared all these emotions and I wish you all much success for the future and a very warm welcome to the new manager (Herve Renard).”

*Source irishtimes
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Two sides to every story – why African players shouldn’t be blamed for pay disputes
July 2, 2014 | 0 Comments

By Peter Staunton*

images (2)It is a privilege to be selected to play for one’s nation at a World Cup, but there is a duty on behalf of football associations to ensure that all players are respected.

Three African teams – and especially their players – have been painted in very poor light at this World Cup over issues of appearance fees and bonuses. They are being made to carry undue flak.

“Money, money, money had been the refrain by the players, and it is a pity they allowed this to ruin our World Cup,” Ghana FA president Kwesi Nyantakyi was quoted as saying by the state-owned Daily Graphic last week.

Cameroon reportedly refused to travel to Brazil until their bonuses were increased. Ghana’s players allegedly threatened to strike instead of playing against Portugal until they had their $3 million collective bonus flown to Brazil and paid in cash; that money was initially promised but not delivered. Nigeria’s players then reportedly refused to train until their bonus money for qualifying to the last 16 the second round was paid.

More ammunition, then, was provided for those who wish to portray footballers as greedy and alienated. It is convenient to paint the players as the bad guys as that keeps the focus off the football associations themselves.

Ghana midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng was thrown out of the squad before it played Portugal and his interview with Bild in the aftermath was revealing.

“It was a nightmare from the first day to the end,” he said of his World Cup experience. “I never thought that anybody could organize a World Cup so badly – from the flights to the hotels – everything was so amateurish.

“The flight from Miami to Brazil was 12 hours and we were sat cramped in in economy. It was hard on our legs. It may sound a little strange to normal people, but for a professional sportsman it’s unreasonable. At the same time, the president was sat in business [class] with his wife and two children.”

And bonuses are not a uniquely African issue. There isn’t one team at the World Cup who went to Brazil without a guaranteed participation bonus. Germany’s players got their initial 50,000 euro-per-man bonus after defeating Algeria last night and will be taking home 300,000 euros each if they lift the trophy. Spain was on 720,000 euros per man for winning the World Cup.

FIFA guarantees payment to each country with rewards ranging from 25.5 million euros – for the winning side – downward to 5.8 million for a group stage exit plus an extra 1 million euro participation fee. The problem comes with the non-delivery of money by the football associations – or even the threat of that.

“These things are normally sorted out before the competition, you can’t keep telling the players the money will come,” Ghana coach James Kwesi Appiah told the press last week. The country’s president, John Drahami Mahama, was eventually forced to step in.

“What we have to do for future World Cups is to ensure that firstly there is an agreement between the players and their national associations for the payments of bonuses,” FIFA general-secretary Jerome Valcke said last week.

This isn’t the first time that African teams have been caught up in rows over bonuses. Nigeria’s 1998 World Cup campaign was derailed by a spat before it crashed out in the second round to Denmark. Togo’s one and only appearance at the finals was overshadowed by a bonus row. “In our FA everyone thinks about their own pockets,” Emmanuel Adebayor said to Radio Frequence1 in 2012.

Cameroon’s players pulled out of an international friendly against Algeria in 2011 following the staging of the LG Cup. No bonuses were paid to the players following the event and as such drastic action was taken through a strike. “What is the quota for players who work for this money that goes into the coffers of the Cameroon Football Federation (Fecafoot)? This is the question,” Samuel Eto’o asked Mboafootball in May.

What do players like Adebayor and Eto’o have to gain from another $10,000? They are rich beyond their wildest dreams. Not every international, however, for those nations earns like those two. Having a spokesperson with such sway can be beneficial to voiceless players who would otherwise be ignored. For a player in the Togolese or Cameroonian leagues, a bonus for taking part in the World Cup could be the best earning opportunity of their career and should be treated as such.

There is money within these associations, make no mistake. One colleague tells a story of going to a certain headquarters for the purpose of collecting money on behalf of a player and being confronted with dusty envelopes full of cash which had not yet been sent to players. Both Ghana and Nigeria’s football associations have been left high and dry by botched sponsorship deals in the past year – with Glo reneging on financial agreements. But that is no excuse – not when FIFA guarantees payment for every participating nation at the World Cup.

“FIFA does not pay before the players arrive for the competition, FIFA pays after,” Kwesi explained. “The government or the FA has to find money to pay and later get it back off FIFA. Once there is a delay in getting it from the government or FA it becomes a problem.”

Four Nigerian officials, including former federation president Sani Lulu Abdullahi, were arrested after the World Cup in 2010 in relation to a missing 5.8 million euro sum that was allegedly misappropriated. Abdullahi has since been cleared of the wrongdoing and recently wrote to president Goodluck Jonathan asking for a Presidential Task Force to investigate the missing money.

“It’s not about being paid reward for anything,” said Appiah. “It’s got to do with an appearance fee, which I think every country pays its players, not just Ghana. It’s a right.”

These players are representing their nation and their people. The least their FAs could do is look after them. There are two sides to every story. “Why did our federation not invest some of the considerable amount of money they had received from FIFA in letting us live this whole experience better?” Boateng asked. It is a question which deserves examination.

*Source Goal/Yahoo

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Two sides to every story – why African players shouldn't be blamed for pay disputes
July 2, 2014 | 0 Comments

By Peter Staunton*

images (2)It is a privilege to be selected to play for one’s nation at a World Cup, but there is a duty on behalf of football associations to ensure that all players are respected.

Three African teams – and especially their players – have been painted in very poor light at this World Cup over issues of appearance fees and bonuses. They are being made to carry undue flak.

“Money, money, money had been the refrain by the players, and it is a pity they allowed this to ruin our World Cup,” Ghana FA president Kwesi Nyantakyi was quoted as saying by the state-owned Daily Graphic last week.

Cameroon reportedly refused to travel to Brazil until their bonuses were increased. Ghana’s players allegedly threatened to strike instead of playing against Portugal until they had their $3 million collective bonus flown to Brazil and paid in cash; that money was initially promised but not delivered. Nigeria’s players then reportedly refused to train until their bonus money for qualifying to the last 16 the second round was paid.

More ammunition, then, was provided for those who wish to portray footballers as greedy and alienated. It is convenient to paint the players as the bad guys as that keeps the focus off the football associations themselves.

Ghana midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng was thrown out of the squad before it played Portugal and his interview with Bild in the aftermath was revealing.

“It was a nightmare from the first day to the end,” he said of his World Cup experience. “I never thought that anybody could organize a World Cup so badly – from the flights to the hotels – everything was so amateurish.

“The flight from Miami to Brazil was 12 hours and we were sat cramped in in economy. It was hard on our legs. It may sound a little strange to normal people, but for a professional sportsman it’s unreasonable. At the same time, the president was sat in business [class] with his wife and two children.”

And bonuses are not a uniquely African issue. There isn’t one team at the World Cup who went to Brazil without a guaranteed participation bonus. Germany’s players got their initial 50,000 euro-per-man bonus after defeating Algeria last night and will be taking home 300,000 euros each if they lift the trophy. Spain was on 720,000 euros per man for winning the World Cup.

FIFA guarantees payment to each country with rewards ranging from 25.5 million euros – for the winning side – downward to 5.8 million for a group stage exit plus an extra 1 million euro participation fee. The problem comes with the non-delivery of money by the football associations – or even the threat of that.

“These things are normally sorted out before the competition, you can’t keep telling the players the money will come,” Ghana coach James Kwesi Appiah told the press last week. The country’s president, John Drahami Mahama, was eventually forced to step in.

“What we have to do for future World Cups is to ensure that firstly there is an agreement between the players and their national associations for the payments of bonuses,” FIFA general-secretary Jerome Valcke said last week.

This isn’t the first time that African teams have been caught up in rows over bonuses. Nigeria’s 1998 World Cup campaign was derailed by a spat before it crashed out in the second round to Denmark. Togo’s one and only appearance at the finals was overshadowed by a bonus row. “In our FA everyone thinks about their own pockets,” Emmanuel Adebayor said to Radio Frequence1 in 2012.

Cameroon’s players pulled out of an international friendly against Algeria in 2011 following the staging of the LG Cup. No bonuses were paid to the players following the event and as such drastic action was taken through a strike. “What is the quota for players who work for this money that goes into the coffers of the Cameroon Football Federation (Fecafoot)? This is the question,” Samuel Eto’o asked Mboafootball in May.

What do players like Adebayor and Eto’o have to gain from another $10,000? They are rich beyond their wildest dreams. Not every international, however, for those nations earns like those two. Having a spokesperson with such sway can be beneficial to voiceless players who would otherwise be ignored. For a player in the Togolese or Cameroonian leagues, a bonus for taking part in the World Cup could be the best earning opportunity of their career and should be treated as such.

There is money within these associations, make no mistake. One colleague tells a story of going to a certain headquarters for the purpose of collecting money on behalf of a player and being confronted with dusty envelopes full of cash which had not yet been sent to players. Both Ghana and Nigeria’s football associations have been left high and dry by botched sponsorship deals in the past year – with Glo reneging on financial agreements. But that is no excuse – not when FIFA guarantees payment for every participating nation at the World Cup.

“FIFA does not pay before the players arrive for the competition, FIFA pays after,” Kwesi explained. “The government or the FA has to find money to pay and later get it back off FIFA. Once there is a delay in getting it from the government or FA it becomes a problem.”

Four Nigerian officials, including former federation president Sani Lulu Abdullahi, were arrested after the World Cup in 2010 in relation to a missing 5.8 million euro sum that was allegedly misappropriated. Abdullahi has since been cleared of the wrongdoing and recently wrote to president Goodluck Jonathan asking for a Presidential Task Force to investigate the missing money.

“It’s not about being paid reward for anything,” said Appiah. “It’s got to do with an appearance fee, which I think every country pays its players, not just Ghana. It’s a right.”

These players are representing their nation and their people. The least their FAs could do is look after them. There are two sides to every story. “Why did our federation not invest some of the considerable amount of money they had received from FIFA in letting us live this whole experience better?” Boateng asked. It is a question which deserves examination.

*Source Goal/Yahoo

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The triple burden of Africa’s FIFA World Cup
July 2, 2014 | 0 Comments

Takura Zhangazha*

 

While African football players have done very well for the European teams that hired them, the question during every FIFA tournament remains the same: when will an African team become the world champion?

 

Every time the FIFA World Cup tournament occurs, at least as far as I can recall, the question of ‘will it be Africa’s time to win it?’ recurs. Not necessarily

The Cameroon football team is nicknamed Les Lions Indomptables (The Indomitable Lions). Image: ESPN ad, 2010

The Cameroon football team is nicknamed Les Lions Indomptables (The Indomitable Lions). Image: ESPN ad, 2010

because expectations are ever high that an African team will lift the globally famous cup. But more because African football players have been performing wonders at the highest levels/leagues of the beautiful game in Europe. It therefore always baffles many an African mind why they cannot do the same for their countries (most often confused with ‘continent’).

But when the tournament kicks off, the questions are subsumed by enthusiastic optimism. The entirety of Africa’s football fans will watch, scream at television sets and even hug in bars, church recreation rooms in the name of one of the five African teams in the tournament. Even if it was the one that relegated a home African country out of contention for qualifying for the tournament.

And after the group stages, where we start counting the lower number of African countries left, we still cling to the hope that one will continue to the semi-finals. And we have come close, three times. With Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010, all of which lost at the quarter final stages of the sporting competition. And if satellite images in each of these previous tournaments could pick up images of the anguish of a continent, it would only be those of Africa that would be spectacular.

The anguish is not without cause. Firstly as part of a global spectacle, and as I am sure has been noted by sports writers and scholars, the World Cup is both footballing competition and affirmation of global ‘togetherness’ as well as identity (nationalism). The latter may be more so for many of the established football powerhouses who coincidentally tend to be either the most ‘developed’ countries.

For Africa however the World Cup appears to be primarily about both history and collective continental identity. Mainly because the continent cannot shirk off the false global impression that it is somewhat backward, not only in relation to ‘development’ but as a result thereof, in football.

And that’s the first burden of Africa and the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Even after successfully hosting the last one in South Africa (though it had FIFA special courts temporarily replacing South African ones).

Our teams, our players and ourselves have to get over the notions that inform our continental history of being assumedly backward or less than the other in order to succeed at the tournament. And this is what also informs our enthusiastic support for African teams, almost as though we are there to prove a point. Hence, almost every African football pundit hints at needing to concentrate more and keep focused in the aftermath of an initial defeat for an African team. Not only in relation to the game that was played, but in relation to the strength of other teams in the same qualifying group. Especially if they are known and established football powerhouses.

The Ivorian national team is popularly known as Les Éléphants (The Elephants). Image: ESPN ad, 2010

The Ivorian national team is popularly known as Les Éléphants (The Elephants). Image: ESPN ad, 2010

This general but given point, leads to the second burden. One which falls on the shoulders of the player. Especially the star player who plies his trade in the best football leagues in the world. He has to contend with the fact that in another country he would have been in one of the powerful teams. And that his real teammates may not be good enough to challenge for the title since he knows the quality of the players and teams they are all up against.

He has to commit what others in political circles have referred to as ‘class suicide’ and see himself as much a team player in his own national side than that which he usually gets very well paid for playing with. He has to believe in his own team, even against the odds, and this is a burden few players (and teams) have been able to shoulder. Apart from Cameroon 1990, Senegal 2002 and Ghana 2010.

This brings us to the third burden, that of the imperative of Africa having to learn to compete better in global tournaments through adequate and holistic domestic development of sporting cultures.

The tendency of most African states has been that of waiting for talent in various sporting disciplines to emerge by default as opposed to seeking it out and nurturing it. And where we have been most successful, particularly in long-distance running, we have lost our most prodigious talents to other countries. The burden of all Africans is to therefore invest in their sports, not at the whim of a corporations only but also through transparent state funding. As well as through the establishment of a sporting industry that respects and values talent across all sporting disciplines, economic classes and gender.

So, as the FIFA 2014 World Cup reaches familiar stages for African teams, the questions we must ask of ourselves are whether we are continually going to keep our fingers crossed and prayers consistently on our lips so that this time, a country from our continent wins it. Even if by luck. Or whether again we witness a faltering, not for a lack of talent, but for lack of holistic preparation. And once again, hear a sports commentator mention, ‘Oh my, the Africans are coming’ during a game and not know the full import of such a statement.

*Source thisisafrica

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World Cup 2014: Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi resigns after exit
July 2, 2014 | 0 Comments

keshi11Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi has stepped down from his position after the Super Eagles’ exit from the World Cup in Brazil.

France scored twice in the last 11 minutes in Brasilia on Monday to reach the quarter-finals at their expense.

The 52-year-old was appointed Nigeria boss in 2011 and helped them become African champions two years later.

Nigeria captain Joseph Yobo also retired from international football following their exit.

Fenerbahce’s Yobo, 33, scored a late own goal after Paul Pogba’s header had broken Nigerian resistance.

Keshi offered his resignation after last year’s Africa Cup Of Nations triumph, citing a lack of support and respect, although he was persuaded to stay by Nigeria’s sport minister.

A group stage win against Bosnia-Hercegovina helped Nigeria reach the knockout stages of the World Cup for the first time since 1998, despite the players being involved in a row over bonuses.

The achievement also made Keshi the first African coach to lead the Super Eagles past the group stage.

However, he now becomes the sixth manager to leave his job during the World Cup, following the departures of Honduras’s Luis Suarez, Iran’s Carlos Queiroz, Japan’s Alberto Zaccheroni, Italy’s Cesare Prandelli and Ivory Coast’s Sabri Lamouchi.

Keshi, who captained Nigeria at the 1994 World Cup finals, was previously in charge of Mali and Togo.

Yobo told BBC Sport it was a sad but glorious end to his own international career as Nigeria failed to make their first ever quarter-finals.

“This is it. I can look back on my career with great pride,” he said.

“It’s time to give a chance to other people to come through. Our football has a bright future and I am confident this team can achieve success sooner rather than later.”

Yobo is his country’s most capped player with 100 appearances and will continue to play club football.

His 10 matches at World Cup finals – a national record – have come in three tournaments, 2002, 2010 and 2014.

“I wanted to leave on a high for my country. Defeat by France was not the right way to go but I’m happy with all I’ve done for the national team,” he added.

*BBC

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The football world cup is a war game
June 30, 2014 | 0 Comments

By Jacques Sotero Agboton*

images (2)The performances of the national teams from Africa were disappointing.  There was nothing achieved because the teams’ objectives were mediocre.  However, we all agree that the players  showed greater athletic capacities than their adversaries with sometimes unequal dexterity. At this stage of an elite craftsmanship, we were certain many  African players had the same professional level as their peers. What truly lacked among the African players was the psychological preparation. Of course, it needed to be part of the coaching team’s preoccupation or otherwise, the lead coach’s philosophy.

Unfortunately, all the African national teams were psychologically unprepared for this world cup. And like the previous ones, they came as figureheads if not minstrels with horrible managerial baggage which came to overshadow their performance. One can already Imagine the image of shame sent by the flag bearers of a nation protesting on a world stage because their stipends or bonuses were not paid.

Here then is an appeal to the consciousness of our sport authorities as well as the various actors in the same domain. There is more that is at stakes than attending or participating in a world cup. Perhaps, it may be only the Africans who have not realized that winning is everything, and if not, the most crucial element of any sport, hence, football.

Thus, like all areas of human activities, namely,  economics, politics, religion, labor, law, education, sex, military war and ENTERTAINEMENT, of which sports or a sport like football, plays an important role; Africans must become aware wherever or whenever, they compete for position, they are engaged in a war. There is no need to remind Africans that they are a conquered people; dominated in almost every area of human activity that it behooves them to consider any challenge worth winning.

There is nothing innocuous about sports at the professional stage much less at the most elitist level such as a world cup. A world-game is another world war because there are numerous national and international interests with stakes in one form or another which depend on forecasted outcomes, executed in details planning from the onset to the final results.

Black Africa has been clueless because dragged in the euphoria purposely created to distract it from viewing and analyzing its position in the grand scheme of things. That is, Africans enter unconsciously into the grand scheme of world events.

Whereas in actuality, every competition, whether local, national or international has its own dynamics for the creation of industries for a myriad of products and the provision of services which feed groups of financiers, producers and a gigantic labor force, Africans still serve as the raw material source and still again, the market of slave gladiators.

We know that the games generate not only millions in a local currency, but many more in multiple currencies of other countries for licit transactions just as more in illicit operations that this element alone is important to understand whenever there are international games.

For as much as each game generates the sources of income for several million people, the crucial question then to raise now that the subservient position of Africans is quite clear remains, “in whose interest should an actor defend the national flag or better yet, the national stake? This question presented otherwise will bring Africans to comprehend their first mistake.

“Does a foreign coach from Europe, North or South America have at stake the winning of any  African national team over his country?”  The answer is “NO!”. Then again, if that should happen once or accidentally, it may not continue over time  simply because unlike Africans who seek glory or who pride themselves in the role as mercenaries , other foreigners will bid the highest earning in total obscurity for what they consider treasonous acts.

The second mistake we attribute to the cruel naivety or psychological bankruptcy is in the predicament  of African players exercising their professional craft in foreign leagues and who with such communion with their counterparts cannot exhibit the needed combativeness  when faced with their colleagues while strangers have no problems in dealing with others.

There was an insightful window  of this image captured by the camera during the match between Ghana and the USA. Essien from Ghana greeted the coach from the USA as he entered the game. This is an unacceptable behavior and the outcome of the match was evidently against the Ghanaians when Ghanaians were tactfully  dominating but less aggressive to win.

This is perhaps a reason African nations should consider severing ties with players who exercise their craft abroad such that local products of nationally coached players will develop the warring attitudes that crystallize squads of hungry go-getters in a team which wishes to win at all cost.

Any national team that progresses internally and reaches the same professional level as developed nations with its own winning strategies cannot be hampered in achieving the best result The only result worthy of praises is that of a champion.

Finally. The term “war-games” is not harmless and was certainly not invented accidentally. While to the African spectators, this term designates an exercise, in fact, it demonstrates the permanent state of mind of European aggressions from passive/defensive practices to offensive actions. Africans in general, players and coaching staff in particular, must begin to consider the hidden and also the symbolic in term such as “games of war” because that is part of the warmonger mindset.   In the European psyche, every part of human activity is a declared war zone.

There is too much at stake for unconsciousness and unacceptable behaviors which include negligence as well as dereliction of duty  when winning is the final expected outcome.

Once Africans understand this dimension or perspective on every undertaking, in whatever area of human activity, they will inject a greater input of aggressiveness. They must recognize the need to win over an adversary by all means. Only the prize of a champion is the larges. And should Africans consider this aspect of every game, then they will promote consequently economic fallouts befitting their efforts.

*Jacques Sotero Agboton is an international political analyst and can be reached through facebook.com

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Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup: Jonathan’s Delegation Dwarfs Obama’s, Others In Africa
June 15, 2014 | 0 Comments
By Ini Ekott

 

The Super Eagles of Nigeria and President Goodluck Jonathan

The Super Eagles of Nigeria and President Goodluck Jonathan

Nigeria, again, will spend a fortune on officials traveling abroad with President Goodluck Jonathan’s typically oversize presidential delegation to the World Cup in Brazil announced this week.

If the mega-size team had any chance escaping public attention, a similar presidential delegation announced by United States President Barack Obama, sealed it.

Mr. Jonathan’s team comprises governors, ministers, federal lawmakers and diplomats- totalling more than a dozen; while Mr. Obama’s has an advisor, a diplomat and two former athletes only.

The Nigerian team, led by the Senate President, David Mark, includes the Governor of Cross River State, Liyel Imoke; Governor of Katsina State, Ibrahim Shema; the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Bala Mohammed; the Minister of Education, Nyesome Wike.

Others are the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Edem Duke; the Minister of Youth Development, Boni Haruna; the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Viola Onwuleri; the Chairman, Senate Committee on Sports, Adamu Gumba; the Chairman House Committee on Sports, Godfrey Ali Gaiya.
An advance team was led by the Minister of Sports, Tamuno Danagogo.

The delegation arrived at the Guarulhos International Airport, Sao Paulo, Brazil, at about 5 p.m. local time Wednesday.

The team’s official mission, a statement by the sports ministry said, was to convey “a presidential message” to the Super Eagles in Campinas Thursday morning ahead of Nigeria’s first group match against Iran, on June 16, in Curtiba.

In contrast, Mr. Obama’s four-person team, announced June 6, has Liliana Ayalde, United States Ambassador to Brazil; Michelle Akers, retired member of the United States Women’s National Soccer Team; and Gabrielle Reece, former Beach Volleyball World Champion.

The team was led by Daniel Pfeiffer, Senior Advisor to the President.

It is not clear yet how much the Nigerian government has budgeted for the World Cup. Details of that spending are curiously missing from the 2014 budget of the Nigerian Football Federation.

Nigeria spent N900 million for the South Africa 2010 World Cup, and N2.2 billion for the 2012 London Olympics.

The president’s official team is exclusive of lawmakers and several other government officials who also travelled to Brazil, still on government cost.
For the London Olympics for instance, five Senators and five House of Representatives members made the official sports ministry team.

The officials received far more money than the athletes at the London Olympics, according to details seen by PREMIUM TIMES.
History of jumbo teams
Since taking office in 2010, Mr. Jonathan has managed to build a notorious reputation for travelling for international events with huge entourages that often put him up for stinging criticisms.

In 2010, the president reportedly traveled with 120 people to New York.

In February 2013, officials who traveled with the president for an African Union meeting in Ethiopia, averaged 200, making the Nigerian delegation the largest to the meeting.

In September 2013, at least 600 Nigerians traveled to New York alongside the president for the United Nations meeting.

When concerns flared about the outsize team- which had clearly irrelevant members such party officials and ex-militants- the presidency scrambled a denial, saying those who traveled officially with the president were less than 30.

The response, in a statement issued by spokesperson, Reuben Abati, however admitted more people were in New York, but said they were there “for their own purposes”.

This time, though, Nigeria appears not alone.

West African neighbors, Ghana, also raised a controversial team to the World Cup, sparking public anger there.
One transparency organization in Ghana, Alliance for Accountable Governance, was quoted as describing Ghana’s 13-person delegation as Africa’s biggest, calling it “profligate and unnecessary”.

But the bulk of Ghana’s 13-person team are members of the country’s football federation and the sports ministry.

That means if such officials- who have also travelled from Nigeria- are included in the Nigerian list, Ghana will by far be outflanked by Nigeria.

The Ghanaian delegation includes the Sports Minister, Elvis Ankrah, Football Federation President, Kwesi Nyantekyi; his Vice, Fred Crentsil, Communications Director, Ibrahim Daara; Black Stars Coach, Kwesi Appiah, Federation Secretary, Emmanuel Gyimah, and Committee Member, George Afriyie.

The rest are members of parliament and party members.

*Source Sahara Reports

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Kenya football team goes to Brazil World Cup – to watch
June 14, 2014 | 0 Comments
The Harambee Stars won the Cecafa Challenge Cup in December, beating Sudan 2-0

The Harambee Stars won the Cecafa Challenge Cup in December, beating Sudan 2-0

Kenya’s president is paying for the national football team to go and watch some World Cup matches in Brazil to inspire them to qualify in future.

President Uhuru Kenyatta said he and his wife had promised to send them after they won a recent regional cup.

National captain Jeremy Onyango said it was “a dream come true for this team”.

Kenya is one of the world’s most successful nations in athletics but has never reached the finals of the football World Cup.

The BBC’s Paul Nabiswa in the capital, Nairobi, says despite recent footballing successes, some Kenyans will see the move as a waste of money, even if it is a personal donation.

Earlier in the week, Mr Kenyatta warned Kenyans to be cautious when watching World Cup matches in crowded bars, which could be targets for terror attacks.

But there was no noticeable extra security when people packed into venues to watch Thursday’s opening match, our correspondent says.

‘Jealous’

It is not clear how many matches the 11 Harambee Stars players will be attending or how long they will be staying in Brazil.

Bars in Nairobi were packed with fans watching the opening game on Thursday

Bars in Nairobi were packed with fans watching the opening game on Thursday

Mr Kenyatta said that he and his wife, Margaret, are giving $120,000 (£71,000) towards the trip, along with a $40,000 contribution from the East African Breweries company.

This would pay for 11 players and three team officials to go to the “greatest sporting event in the world”, the president said as he met the team at State House in Nairobi on Friday.

“When the team won the Cecafa Challenge Cup a few months ago, I did indeed make a personal pledge,” said Mr Kenyatta, who is one of Africa’s wealthiest men.

“We want our boys to go out to Brazil we hope that this will encourage them to do even better as they watch the standards of other international teams … [so] they will emulate what they see,” the president said, adding that he was jealous not to be going to Brazil himself.

Mr Kenyatta said his government would soon be announcing new ways to support the sport, whose administration has been dogged by allegations of mismanagement for years.

“Your support won’t die [for] this team and we are looking forward to more and more better things to come,” Mr Onyango said.

On Monday, Ghana’s government announced it was sending 500 fans and a cook to watch the Black Stars in Brazil, thanks to funds raised by the private sector.

*Source BBC

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