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A Mission To Transform 10 million lives by 2030 For Africa Grain and Seed
May 20, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Founder Anthony Denga and co founder Zanile Matiwaza Denga have the ambitious aim of using the ASG to make a difference in 30 million lives by 2030

Africa’s fight against problems faced by rural communities like hunger, poverty, education and others has found a new partner in Africa Grain and Seed-ASG. Working in synergy with other key stakeholders, the ASG is out with an ambitious program to rewrite the future of 10 million lives in Africa by 2030 through education, food security, technology and entrepreneurship.

PAV caught up with the founder Anthony Denga and co-founder Zanile Matiwaza Denga for more insights into the mission and vision of the ASG.

Could we start with an introduction of the Africa Grain and Seed that you lead?

Africa Grain and Seed (AGS) is a multidisciplinary collaboration leading an inclusive economic growth strategy piloted by business partners who have expertise in investments, technology, and supply chain. To ensure the success of our turnaround strategy we have piloted through collaboration, innovation, and smart- agriculture based on long-term, sustainable solutions.

As Africa, grain, and seed we seek to address the current problems faced by Africa’s rural communities such as hunger, poverty, clean water, education, nutrition, energy, education, climate-smart livelihoods.  We integrate resources, programs, and research to transform rural communal land into economically vibrant commercial hubs by organizing African unbanked communities with surplus land but not adequate resources and access to the market to become food producers of the world.

May we understand the relevance of the Enterprise and its mission in helping Africa meet some of its present-day challenges?

Africa’s present-day challenges factoring the impact Covid has had on these marginalized communities and Africa as a whole is a mammoth task and we have taken the initiative as the private sector to relieve malnutrition, hunger and poverty – Our role as AGS is to develop and strengthen communities by identifying marginalized rural communities with the potential to become self-sustaining communities that are able to grow sufficient food for the communities and surplus into local and international markets. Our implementation approach is showcased through the donation of seeds, seedlings, books, sanitary pads with intended extensive workshops and training. This ensures that our deliverables are met in sustainable approaches the guarantees that these communities and schools have access to nutritious meals on their tables, and through the surplus, they are able to realise income reviving their economies. The relevance of our programme is the strength of partnership of these communities, private sectors, off-takers, export markets and governments through providing inputs and guaranteeing markets. Our programme is offset in the rural school propagation programmes which are interlinked with our out-growers programmes done through cluster communities. We are making these communities productive (through infrastructure development), production (through secure trade and funding) export development (through the surplus partnering with local and foreign off-takers).

It is imperative that our structures are adopted to build resilient communities that can realise revenue for the unbanked to become banked. The programme will grow the marginalized communities from producing unprocessed seeds and vegetables to producing value-add outputs. Our 2030 vision is to see established green technology commercial hubs with factories, collection, and distribution platforms within the communities through established climate-smart agriculture solutions that teach and mentor the future of Africa which are through the grower’s programmes to grow and produce vegetable, herbs, small grains, and oils through surplus that can be traded on the international markets.

On a brochure of the Enterprise, we came across, there is mention of a plan to transform 10 million lives by 2030, how do you plan on doing this?

At Africa Grain and Seed we have taken a lead in the transformation of 10 million lives by 2030 through hard work, partnering with likeminded investors that are ready to work tirelessly in piloting a viable, scalable, and a secure platform which is centered around education and Agri income-generating programs. Despite all financial and physical limitations brought about prior and during covid, we have been able to initiate the work we are doing in Africa to meet our target of 1,000,000 vegetable seedlings and 10 000 fruit trees for income-generating purposes. We have attracted like partners like Kamari and their lotteries whose funds play  a critical role in Africa, which will further our agenda in transforming 10 million lives.

Our plan will be to see direct impact on these communities through our ecosystem, key areas youth and women training, infrastructure established, Agri -entrepreneurs developed, access to education, job creation, increased nutritional meals and meals per household. The unbanked becoming banked.

Chris Cleverly, CEO of Kamari has partnered with the ASG to deliver on its life changing mission for Africans

In what parts of the continent are your operations actually located at the moment?

Our programmes are located and implemented across Africa. In Zimbabwe with a donation of over 700 000 seeds and seedlings, 1000 sanitary pads, 800 reading books and 100 fruits trees. In South Africa we have donated sanitary pads and seeds to the National Traditional House of Leaders and will be increase over role out and partnership with Humble Smile foundation and rolled up programmes in Zimbabwe, South Africa, and people can follow our work in the month of May & June in Malawi, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, and Uganda

How does the Africa Grain and Seed identify partners that it is going to work with?

We look for like-minded partners with the heart to see Africa transformed by investing in the youth to transform their minds and narrative from a dependency standpoint to leaders tomorrow. We look for synergies with partners that see the critical role women will play in this transformation and build trading platforms.  We look for innovative ideas focused at resolving Africa’s challenges. One of the biggest challenges was creating a financial structure that can accommodate the current challenges faced. Our partnership with Kamari will be introduce an application called Kampay that is designed for smart, safe, and cheap remittance and it will sit between the communities and the consumer, acting as a transaction facilitator. It will feature near -zero fees for users, and our beneficiaries will enjoy automated settlements via smart contracts. There will also be various efficiency benefits for governments and enterprises.

What mechanism do you have in place to ensure that those who benefit from the seeds you make available actually deliver tangible results to help them meet targeted goals?

Investor, partners, and AGS Steering Committee – that is inclusive of agronomists, the schools, youth leaders, teachers, women lead committees. The AGS team

The relevant partners in countries to monitor, manage and account for the resources deployed are used to derive the best results.

AGS will develop a platform should see ease of access to our communities.

May we know some of the challenges faced so far?

Smallholder and micro-farming communities in Africa are notoriously underserved by banks and traditional financial institutions. Making it difficult for them to access credit and financing to invest in climate-smart agriculture and scalable operations. Through a partnership with Kamari, these challenges will be addressed by bringing in secured-risked adverse solutions like Blockchain technology and our main focus will be on providing financing for Africa’s unbanked. It is critical for us to revisit the majority population in Africa is the Rural communities. These are not backed with critical resources for them to expand and optimize their full potentials blockchain can provide in creating cheaper credit, cross-border trade, and foreign liquidity into markets generally not priced or not supported by local banks or capital markets.

We can expect to see incentivized strategies through Kamari which will be the strengthening factors and key elements of what we look for in partners to solve development issues and bridge the gap.

When you look around Africa, what is it the governments are getting right about food security, and what are there getting wrong?

Right is that they have acknowledged the exorbitant net food import bill realized by Africa to date and how it will fluctuate if we do not take the relevant steps to change the narrative to increase the net export.

They have carried this problem on their shoulders, we would like to see strengthening in partnerships to compliment the private sector through policies to increase Africa GDP by investing in the marginalized. We also look forward to the government structures create an accountable mechanism to protect local and foreign investments across Africa.

With the ASG operations in over five countries already, Anthony Denga and his team are open to more partnerships across the continent

For those who read this interview and will like to be part of the or join you towards the fulfillment of the lofty goals you have had, what do they need to do, how can they be a part of this?

Get in touch with us! We will look at likeminded business, philanthropist, and individuals who we have synergies in legacy building. There is no partner or impact that is too small or too big. There are avenues and inputs that can be brought to this table.

For example, we are excited to announce our partnership with Kamari who has come on board as funders.  The funds will be dedicated to some of our communities to outgrow commercial produce. These are at building resistant, sustainable communities which are aimed at presenting Africa with the best solutions focusing on education, technology, smart – agri which are key driving factors in developing an African circular economy.

**Courtesy of May Issue of PAV Magazine

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Ali Mazrui Forever: New Book Sheds Light on Life and Times of Great Scholar
May 20, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Seifudein Adem with Ali Mazrui, IGCS, Binghamton University, June 2002

Ali Mazrui was one of the most under-studied and under-appreciated scholars, says Seifudein Adem, Professor of Global Studies, Doshisha University, Kyoto, Japan in selling the merits of a new book he has put out in honor of one of Africa’s greatest sons.

“Mazrui was the most stimulating thinker I have ever known,” says Seifudein who worked closely with the erudite scholar for more than a decade. Titled “Postcolonial Constructivism: Mazrui’s Theory of Intercultural Relations,” Seifudein says the book is about Mazrui, mostly in his own words and in the words of those who knew him.

The ambition of the book is to introduce Mazrui’s vast, multi-faceted and stimulating scholarship to a wider audience and do so as comprehensively as possible, Seifudein says in an interview with PAV.

For readers who do not know Seifudein Adem, could we start with an introduction and your relationship with Prof Ali Mazrui?

Prof Seifudein Adem: I first met Professor Ali Mazrui in July 2002 in Binghamton, New York, after my appointment as a research associate at the Institute of Global Cultural Studies (IGCS), Binghamton University; IGCS was created by Mazrui in 1989. I was at the time teaching political science in Japan. How I felt when I met him for the first time probably came close to what he said he had felt when he met one of his intellectual heroes, American political scientist James Coleman. Mazrui met Coleman in 1964 at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. Mazrui was intimately familiar with Coleman’s scholarship before he met him. I had also known quite a bit about Mazrui’s scholarship before I met him, as I had just completed a book manuscript on him, subsequently published as Paradigm Lost, Paradigm Regained: The Worldview of Ali A. Mazrui (2002). Mazrui said there was an element of hero-worship in his response when he met Coleman. I can say so also was my own experience when I met Mazrui. In 2003, we met again in Africa, but neither in his country of birth. Kenya, nor in mine, Ethiopia. We met in Durban, South Africa. The occasion was the 19th Congress of the International Political Science Association. When IGCS advertised an opening for a junior faculty in 2005, I applied and was selected for the position. As you know Mazrui died in 2014. Meantime I served as the Associate Director of IGCS from 2006 until 2016.

How did the interaction with Ali Mazrui shape the way Seifudein Adem perceives issues across Africa and the globe?

Prof Seifudein Adem: Almost everything I know about African cultures and civilizations, I learned them from Ali Mazrui or has been influenced by him.

My familiarity with Mazrui’s scholarship predates my arrival in 2005. In fact, it  even predates my 1992 travel to Japan, where I was to receive my graduate education, work and live for the next fourteen years. The normative positions he had taken on some of the major global issues as well as the unique style of analysis in his voluminous writings, have, I must admit, mesmerized me since the late 1980s, when I was an undergraduate student at Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia.

It was of course the greatest privilege for any Africanist to be able to work with a scholar of Ali Mazrui’s stature. Mazrui was the most stimulating thinker I have ever known. He has influenced and sharpened my perspectives about Africa and global affairs in general.

Ali Mazrui and President Nelson Mandela, Cape Town, South Africa, July 2002

You are out with a new book “Postcolonial Constructivism: Mazrui’s Theory of Intercultural Relations,” may we know the message you seek to pass across?

Prof Seifudein Adem: In my view, Ali Mazrui was one of the most under-studied and under-appreciated scholars of our time, and there are many purported reasons for this. The message I wanted to pass across is simple: here is a book, a product of notes taken at different places over a long period of time, more than twenty years depending on how it is counted, about Mazrui, mostly in his own words and in the words of those who knew him. Read the book and judge Mazrui for yourself. It is an invitation.

What motivated you to come up with the book, what relevance do you think it could have on contemporary Africa?

Prof Seifudein Adem: I was preparing for many years to write a book that would serve as a useful source of information about Ali Mazrui and his ideas in a manner that is both scholarly and decidedly of human interest. The ambition of the book is to introduce Mazrui’s vast, multi-faceted and stimulating scholarship to a wider audience and do so as comprehensively as possible. By publishing this book, I believe I have managed to do that.

Just to give some idea to your esteemed readers about what the book contains, let me summarize the three most important chapters. Chapter 8 is a collection of ideas including the large number of paradoxical propositions which Mazrui used for highlighting contradictions in social phenomena. Paradoxes are so central in his critical social analysis that he once described himself as an interpreter of cultures through their tensions, paradoxes and contradictions. This major chapter exclusively focuses on Mazrui’s paradoxes collected from scattered and wide-ranging sources. 

In Chapter 9 I assembled in more than 130 pages a large number of concepts Mazrui had invented that are at once colorful and often packed with a complex set of ideas, are systematically assembled in this chapter.  Mazrui also combined common concepts in a cleverly uncommon way. Sometimes the originality of the concepts therefore lies in how they are defined or in the distinction being made rather than in the words themselves. Further, many of these concepts served as parts of his perceptive typologies used for classifying complex realities. His conceptual formulations also show his gift for elegantly communicating with a wider intellectual community, and not just with the narrow circle of academics. Apart from the concepts and categories, this chapter presents the context in which they were originally articulated.

Ali Mazrui loved not only to write, and write about fairly everything, he was also good at keeping the written record of what, as he would put it, occurred to his mind, his being.  Based mostly on his own writings, both published and unpublished, Chapter 10 describes Mazrui’s interactions with some key individuals, historical figures and dignitaries, ranging from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Nelson Mandela, from Jomo Kenyatta to Cyril Ramaphosa, and from Carl Sagan to Mario Cuomo, and includes what Mazrui had to say about (his interactions with some of) these individuals. It also contains what others have said about him. 

Can you give us some snippets, anecdotes or interesting insights from the book, what are some of the things that readers will be edified with in the book?

Prof Seifudein Adem: I will do better than that. I think I can share the opening sentences of each of the chapters in the book, as they were originally prepared, as epigraphs. They were not included in the book. Basically, each epigraph captures the core idea of the chapter.

“…writing in my case is almost like a compulsion. I believe I have inherited this compulsion to write from my father who was a pamphleteer in the Swahili language and Arabic… He used to say that there were two areas of life in which he had not tried to emulate the Prophet Muhammad – my father did not try to marry as many wives as the Prophet had done, nor did my father limit himself to producing only one book as the Prophet had done.” Ali Mazrui (2007)

“…the remarkable story of one African child growing up in a world that was rapidly shrinking around him. The horizons were expanding precisely as the globe was becoming a village in stark cosmic isolation. Politics, culture and the nuclear age were redefining the human condition in terms of its most dangerous contradiction: man, the new master of the universe, was still not master of himself.” Ali Mazrui (1989)

“Both the great achievements and the great cruelties of the West can ultimately be traced to Western culture itself.” Ali Mazrui (1991)

I have based most of my work on the premise that cultural forces are primary. Culture is a causal factor in political behaviour and social change.” Ali Mazrui (2006)

“Marx was right that man had to eat in order to live (the origins of economics). But man had to know what to eat and what to avoid (the origins of culture). So culture is prior to economics. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was culture.”  Ali Mazrui (1999)

“The imperial power arrived in Africa, created new political boundaries, planted new seeds of local ethno-cultural rivalries, imported an alien but seductive culture of its own, and then left the new political chemistry to bubble out its own solutions.” Mazrui (1976)

“Paradigmatic changes are caused not merely by great minds like those of Copernicus, Newton, Darwin, and Einstein, nor only by great social movements like Islam and the Protestant Reformation, but also by acculturation and normative diffusion.” Ali Mazrui (1995)

“Consensus behind much-needed world reforms is impossible without substantial cultural convergence on a global scale. And yet the cultural convergence which the world has so far attained carries with it the evil of dependency.” Mazrui (1976)

“Africa is in part the mirror of the human condition. But in a mirror the left hand becomes the right hand and vice versa. The mirror is both a reflection of reality and its distortion. The mirror is a paradox.” (Ali Mazrui 1979)

“Like creative literature, political analysis has to resort at times to the use of analogy, metaphor or comparative imagery.” Mazrui (1972)

“You have had many experience in your life…you met with the founding President of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, in New York as well as other places; you were driven out of Uganda by Idi Amin; you met with Jomo Kenyatta and you are the Chancellor of a university by that name in Kenya; you met the Queen of England; you sat in a tent with [Muammer] Qaddafy; and you just had tea with the Indian Prime Minister [Manmohan Singh].” Amy Goodman, Democracy Now, Interview with Ali Mazrui (2009)

“I have critics as well as fans; I have faults as well as talents. But the most compelling lesson which my academic life illustrates is quite simple. It is the old adage ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again!’ I had vindicated it.” Ali Mazrui (2007)

Mazrui and Chinua Achebe, 2011

As someone who was very close to Prof Ali Mazrui, how well has Africa honored his memory-are there institutions name after him or events that take place in his honor, is Africa giving him the recognition he deserved?

Prof Seifudein Adem: The recognition paid to Mazrui in Africa is much less than he deserved, but I hope that this situation is likely to be corrected in the future. Otherwise, it would be a great loss for Africa. Thabo Mbeki, the former president of South Africa, said shortly after Mazrui died: “‘When a great mind like Professor Ali Mazrui passed on, we have to stop and ponder over what we shall do together to fill the immeasurable void that inevitably arises. The starting point is that we, especially our youth, must critically read and re-read everything Ali Mazrui wrote.” President Mbeki couldn’t be more correct.  Other leaders from other African countries, too, have paid moving tributes after Mazrui’s passing. But there should also be a move from words to deeds. To its credit, South Africa is the only country that has created something tangible, the Ali Mazrui Center for Higher Education Studies at the University of Johannesburg (where I hold the position of a Research Associate). It’s time for other African countries, too, to step up.

For those who are interested in getting the book, what is the cost and how can copies be procured?

Prof Seifudein Adem: The information about the book may be obtained from

.Ali Mazrui and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,New Delhi, India, Novemebr 2008

What next for you after this book, what other projects will you be working on in the next few years?

Prof Seifudein Adem: I am preparing a book-length manuscript on the Afrasian experience. Apart from being about Africa, China and Japan each on its own, this monograph is about China-Africa relations and Japan-Africa relations. While there are books which deal with each of these themes, there are none to my knowledge that address both of these relationships simultaneously and from a comparative perspective. It does so by considering not only the foreign policies of the two Asian powers toward Africa but also by broadening the analysis to include the economic, political and cultural life of these societies. It may therefore be the first, too, to examine the lessons Africa could learn from Southeast Asia’s relations with China in a similarly comparative manner.

Upon publication this book will be a product of my own cross-cultural experience of being an African who received his graduate training in Asia. I was also privileged to teach in the institutions of higher learning in Ethiopia, Japan, China and the United States. Of course, it was my highest honor, as I indicated already, to learn from and work with Ali Mazrui. What all this means is that the perspective reflected in the book will be unique. It will have the richness that comes only from immersing oneself in African, Asian and Western cultures simultaneously as well as from carefully and selectively adapting the original and fresh insights acquired from Ali Mazrui.  

*Courtesy of May Issue of PAV Magazine

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A Friend For The Oppressed-Chief Charles Taku Reminisces On A Forty Year Law Career
May 20, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Barrister Chief Taku has answered the call of the oppressed with the same verve in a law career that recently clocked 40 years.

From court rooms in Buea, Cameroon, to the Hague in Holland, Barrister Chief Taku has answered the call of the oppressed with the same verve in a law career that recently clocked 40 years.

From the perilous mission of defending Southern Cameroon’s activists in the 90s, to seeking justice for victims of the Rwandan genocide, and serving as a strong voice at the ICC against scapegoating Africans, Chief Taku has left an indelible mark in the course of his sterling career. In a walk down memory lane, the erudite Lawyer generously shares his experiences and offers his take on seminal developments in across Cameroon, Africa and the world at large.

Thanks for accepting to share with us forty years of legal services, and we would like to start with your career choice, why did Charles Taku decide to become a Barrister?

Barrister Chief Taku: Thanks so much for giving me once more this opportunity to share my experience with your teaming audience on matters about which I have personal knowledge.

My choice to apply to get into legal practice was deliberate and informed by circumstances which may be developed into a book.

A combination of circumstances and experience informed my choice to become a lawyer.  Here are some of them.

Like many Southern Cameroonians of my generation, I lived my childhood formative years in systemic injustice. The transfer of the sovereignty of the Southern Cameroons from one colonial contraption to another had profound cultural, social, political and economic impact on me and my generation. My Bangwa ancestral homeland suffered from German devastating campaign and was neglected by the British colonial administration. The area briefly gained some spotlight during Southern Cameroons government and a short lived democratic space preceding and after October, 1, 1961.

The democratic space and the liberties it brought, were recklessly interrupted and eviscerated. Here is how it happened.  Empowered by Ordinance no 60-20 of 22 February 1960, regulating the organization, administration and service of the National Gendarmerie and Military structure, Sadou Daoudou Minister of Defence under Ahmadou Ahidjo, signed Order No 65 of 13 February 1963 creating a Gendarmerie Company in West Cameroon. This effectively kick-started a reign of terror which was felt in my homeland. The terror intensified, with President Ahmadou Ahidjo signing Decree no 66-DF-133  on March 17, 1966, “extending the state of emergency in certain areas of the Federated State of West Cameroon”, particularly, Mamfe Division, Kumba Division, Victoria Division and Bamenda Division. My Bangwa homeland fell within the Mamfe Division and therefore, under the state of emergency.  During this formative period in my life, I felt the effect of the brutality and abuse of power under the state of emergency.

While in Primary School, I was subjected to political victimization because of the political orientation of my mother.  To remedy the situation, my mother withdraw me from that school and sent me to continue my primary education in CDC Laduma Mukonje Rubber Estate near Kumba where my aunt lived.  On our way to Kumba, my aunt and I were subjected to harassment and humiliation by fierce looking French speaking Gendarmes in several control posts along the road. This occurred despite the fact that my aunt procured two laisser-passers at an exorbitant cost. The pain and shame of the humiliation we suffered endures in my mind.

While in the CDC plantation, I watched and live the injustices of everyday life.  I prayed and asked God to give me an opportunity to come back one day to defend those labourers.  The chances for the realization of my prayers occurred when I enrolled in the Faculty of Law in the University of Yaoundé. 

 I was among a majority of English-Speaking students who were denied scholarship. We decided to organize a strike to press for justice.  I found myself leading the strike whose success changed my life.  From thence, I convinced myself that I had to apply to do pupillage to enable me to become a lawyer.  To answer your question, systemic injustices defined my life, opened my eyes and directed my destiny towards becoming a lawyer.

 At the University, who were some of the prominent names you had as mates and lecturers in those days?

Barrister Chief Taku: I hesitate to characterize some of my lecturers and professors as prominent because of their involvement in the politics of deception, violence, injustice, pain and excruciating pain. Some of my professors and lecturers were Peter Yana Ntamark, Professor Joseph Owona, Stanislaus Melone, Nicole-Claire Ndoko, Aletum, Lekene Donfack Charles Etienne, Emile Mbarga, Charly Ndobede, Sanda Oumarou, etc. The most honourable of all was Professor Kisob.  Several of my classmates are honourable people. They are too many to name. It saddens me that some of my classmates are active in prosecuting the genocide in my own homeland. However, Dr Christopher Fomunyoh and Hon Justice Nkengla are persons of extraordinary character, distinction and honour.  

 Coming from the English speaking of Cameroon, what were some of the challenges you faced?

Barrister Chief Taku: The challenges were many.  We studied in a hostile environment. French Speaking students subjected us to ridicule by shouting and screaming, “Anglo, Anglo””Biafrais”Biafrais” every day we came to the Amphitheatre or University restaurant; indeed, everywhere in the University campus. We were disproportionately denied scholarship.  English speaking lecturers were discriminated against in promotions and humiliated. It was a cultural, linguistic, political and economic warfront for our survival. In short, it was a laboratory for the actualization of the cultural genocide which has manifested itself in its  most violent form on the watch of the free world. We struggled for our survival on a daily basis. Unfortunately, some among us became traitors and agents of the oppressor. In that capacity, they betrayed, persecuted and oppressed us. To this day, they have constituted themselves into so- called fringe power elites, elites associations, political party and intelligence  spy operatives.

We came across a decree signed by President Ahmadou Ahidjo on April 14, 1981 authorizing you to become a Lawyer with the Chambers of Barrister BTB Foretia, was presidential dispensation needed in those days for you to practice?

Barrister Chief Taku: Yes indeed, a Presidential dispensation was required for an authorization to do pupillage to become a lawyer. Once a person was awarded a government scholarship, there was an inherent obligation to work for the government for ten years upon graduation from the university. That policy was enforced mainly for the private law practice which was tightly controlled by the President of the Republic.  The persons I consulted before submitting my application advised me against, stating that earlier applicants had unsuccessfully waited for six years. I had an option to go to ENAM, the School of Magistracy but was apprehensive that the strike I led would stand in my way and I would never have a promotion as a magistrate. Besides the magistracy was very corrupt and used a tool of oppression. I preferred to defend the oppressed rather than become a potential corrupt tool of oppression. 

Chief Taku pictured on the right at the ICC. He thinks the court has a prejudice against Africa

 Barrister BTB Foretia was a household name in the world of legal practice, how was the experience like learning and working with him?

Barrister Chief Taku: Hon Foretia was a very brilliant lawyer. People who knew him will testify that he was corruption free. He was disciplined, strategic and deliberate in every action he took.

There was no waiting or learning period under Hon. B.T.B Foretia. He prepared cases with me and provided me crucial advice on how to present cases in court. The first tool of great advocacy he told me, was demeanor towards the court, your colleagues and the participants in the case.  He told me that as counsel, I should maintain my composure as natural and as calm as possible and must avoid trying to adopt the composure of someone else. While rendition was important, the organization of the presentation was the driving force for rendition to be effective.  He was courteous to all participants in a court process and did not ever take advantage of the inexperience of young counsel to attempt to ridicule them.

My first case with him in the Court of Appeal, was before a panel of judges led by Chief Justice SML Endeley (as he then was).  We were counsel for the respondent in a criminal appeals case.  When the turn for counsel for the respondent to make submissions, he asked me to rise and respond to the submissions of the Prosecutor.  I stood up, summon courage and began making my submissions, using appropriate language, demeanor and composure he has told me.  I was calm, deliberate, organized and responded point by point to the Prosecutor, each of my points supported by authorities.  Occasionally, I stop to invite questions from the panel.  We won the appeal. From that moment when that Hon. B. T. B Foretia put me on feet in the Court of Appeal in Buea, I have never sat down or looked back.

One of the immediate causes of the current phase of the Anglophone crisis was a strike by Lawyers, in what way did the issues raised by Agbor Balla and others mirror the experiences or changes you noticed over your decades of practice in Cameroon?

Barrister Chief Taku:The issues which Barrister Agbor Balla and my English Speaking colleagues raised were not new. Learned senior lawyers from Gorgi Dinka, F.W Atabong, M.N , Weledji, B.T.B Foretia, Luke Sendze,  Chief E.E Ebai, Ben Muna, N.T Tabe and thereafter our generation fought the same battle but were ignored. When Cameroon applied to join the Commonwealth, B.T.B Foretia submitted a petition to Chief Emeka Ayaokwu Secretary-General of the Commonwealth on behalf of the South West Lawyers in which the lawyers complained inter alia: “As a matter of government policy, there are persistent attempts to wipe out the common law system. At unification, we envisaged a system where the two legal systems will co-exist side by side……Under this system, there is the independence of the judiciary, guarantee of human rights, the courts play the rule of unbiased umpires between individuals and the state and regulate inter-state relationship especially in matters of international trade.”  N.T Tabe writing on behalf of the Common Law Lawyers Association also complained inter alia: “There has been a systematic and deliberate erosion of the Common Law system, its ideals, principles, practices and procedures as obtained and intended to continue in the territory of the former West Cameroon. Agbor Balla and our colleagues were  highlighting  a systemic injustice which has defined the reckless impunity with which a once free people have been subjected to systemic abuse and persecution despite six decades of protests.

 Can you situate the role that Taku chambers played in the first All Anglophone Conference of 1993?

Barrister Chief Taku: The records will show that the idea of AAC1 was first initiated by George Ngwane, Bate Besong, Francis Wache, Vincent Anu, Verwesse and my humble self. I had resources to move the idea ahead in two areas. I had my law office which would be used as the secretariat and the ability to obtain a permit directly from Governor Etame Massoma for the conference to hold. George Ngwane, the ultimate diplomat had the mandate to convince political party representatives for the Tripartite Conference to accept to host the conference as conveners purposively to obtain the collective views of our people for the conference.  The AAC1 was a lost opportunity to avert the war several years after and a peaceful solution to the ongoing carnage and genocide.

 May we know some of the high-profile cases you handled in Cameroon?

Barrister Chief Taku: I give equal prominence to all my cases. The most prominent cases which I handled are hundreds I did for the poor, the weak and vulnerable such as the pro bono cases I did for exploited CDC cases.  CDC General Manager John Ngu preferred out of court settlements rather than face me in court. The CDC knew that, with me the labourers had a strong advocate on whom they could rely on to seek justice for the abuses they were subjected to. I defended   Ebenezar Akwanga and about 83 Southern Cameroonians who were abducted from their homes and court-martialed in Yaoundé for alleged attacks against Gendarmerie Camps in parts of the North West. That case was a forewarning of the current crisis in many respects.  This was not an isolated case. The Military Tribunal and court-martial of civilians has been around as a tool of oppression since 1962.

At what point and why did you decide to take on international practice?

Barrister Chief Taku: The Court martial of Southern Cameroons civilians in the Military Tribunal in Yaoundé was intermittently reported by VOA with the news of the trials in Arusha.  The confrontation between me and the President of the Court-martial Col. Manga who became very partisan was reported on the VOA.  Col. Manga attempted to stop me from raising objections to the jurisdiction of the Court-martial over abducted civilian Southern Cameroonians from their homes out of jurisdiction for trial in a language they did not understand and without the possibility of calling witnesses. In error, he thought he could bully me. I reminded him it was not possible. In anger, he suspended the case and gave a long adjournment.  The next day, I was at the Supreme Court where I filed a motion for conflict of jurisdiction on December 10, 1997 and left for Tanzania to enroll on the roaster of lawyers at the ICTR. I returned and left for Washington DC where I was interviewed several times over the VOA by Scot Steanne.  I exposed the sham to the world.  One day, a phone call was received in my Chamber in Buea asking me to report to ICTR, Arusha Tanzania  I arrived  on October 23, 1999,  a week after Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere on October 14, 1999 to begin my international practice that has continued till date.

You handled cases on the Rwandan genocide in Arusha, what were some of the lessons you came back from that stint with and how useful could there be in contemporary Africa?

Barrister Chief Taku: The lesson from the trials in Arusha and the Special Court for Sierra Leone are that war is bad for everyone and that the sanctity of human life must be the preoccupation for all.  Africa must have a robust mechanism for the early detection and prevention of conflicts on the continent. When conflicts occur, it must take prompt and transparent action to address their root causes.  Finally, Africa needs to establish a transitional justice mechanism to fight impunity and atrocity crimes in the continent. Such a mechanism must target all perpetrators no matter their status. The sad reality is that the ghost of colonialism very much alive in Africa. Africa is in need of genuine freedom, economic sovereignty, democracy and visionary leadership.

 The last few years for you have been at the ICC, is the court a friend or foe for Africa in the face of criticisms Africans are selectively targeted?

Barrister Chief Taku: I am one of the first persons to make the charge that the ICC was selectively targeting Africa. I repeatedly made the charge during international conferences.  I was invited by Professor Richard Steinberg of the University of California Los Angeles to write a chapter on this matter in book he edited on the ICC with a forward by Fatou Bensouda the Chief Prosecutor of the ICC.  The ICC is not a foe of Africa. There is no doubt that there are atrocity crimes are committed in Africa which warrant ICC intervention. My concern was the politicization of some of the cases such as the interventions in Cote D’Ivoire, Kenya and Libya. I was concerned about foreign influences and the manipulation ICC interventions to target and resolve political problems. When a court targets only the vanquish in a conflict, that becomes victor’s justice. I was also concerned that in its two decades of existence, the Court was still very much an African Court. It did not represent the face of our diverse universe that it was established to serve.  I underscored the fact that even in African conflicts, the perpetrators of atrocity crimes are not all Africans. I cited the example of arms for minerals merchants who are the driving forces behind some African conflicts in which atrocity crimes are committed. Many of them are not Africans. They too must be prosecuted.

 What is your reading of the current situation of the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon, and what proposals for a lasting solution?

Barrister Chief Taku: I avoided using the name Anglophone since it became a derogatory name used to stigmatize and ridicule us in the University of Yaoundé.  My involvement in the search for solutions to the conflict and the genocide is well known. There are no realistic internal solutions to a conflict which is international in nature.  The Government of Cameroon should submit to an international conflict resolution mechanism that is consistent with article 33 of the UN Charter for the resolution of this conflict such as the Swiss Mediation or any other credible international mechanism. There is no military solution to this conflict. Cameroon must accept an internationally endorsed mediation to address the root causes of this conflict. The war declared and prosecuted by Cameroon in which atrocity crimes are committed in a large scale shocking the conscience of humanity, is unjustified and unwarranted. Some persons have reduced the debate about the conflict into support of federalism and support of the actualization of the independence of the Southern Cameroons. Whether federalism or independence, the Republic of Cameroon has not accepted any of them.  It has not even accepted a peaceful option to war and the ongoing genocide. So far, the historical basis of the case no matter what, is not yet acceptable to the Republic of Cameroon. Cameroon is under the illusion that it can impose a military solution to the conflict.  Cameroon cannot and will never win in battle, in a mediation or an international court. Cameroon believes it is playing for time, but time is not on its side.  Time will only crystalize and galvanize international opinion to seek accountability for the crimes committed in the war while the territory becomes ungovernable. Only an international mediation process to address the root causes may resolve the crisis and bring about peace.

Only an international mediation process to address the root causes may resolve the crisis in Cameroon and bring about peace, says Chief Taku

To sum up the rich career that you have had, what gives you satisfaction and where do you think you fell short?

Barrister Chief Taku: I will first address where I fell short.  I have dedicated so much time and energy working for peace in my homeland and in all African conflicts. The slow pace of international intervention in the crisis and genocide in my ancestral home in particular, is disturbing.  The devastation of war is unwarranted. The crimes must stop, and perpetrators held accountable. It is disturbing for me to see massacres, genocide, butchery of innocent civilians in my homeland.  I see young Africans fleeing Africa and dying in the Sahara, Mediterranean Sea and South America escaping dictatorship, mass murder and harsh economic conditions, in the midst of plenty, while their peers in other continents are being trained to become agents of development for better living conditions for themselves, their communities and their countries. I have spent a considerable amount of time fighting these injustices, but they are persisting.

 I was elected by my peers from all parts of the world as President of the International Criminal Court Bar Association. I was also elected as a member for life of the Governing Council of the African Bar Association.  I was the vice President when Karim Khan QC, the new Prosecutor of the ICC signed the very first cooperation agreement between the ICCBA and African Bar Association.  I presented a historic address to the Assembly of State Parties Conference of the ICC on the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute and also the Plenary of the opening of the judicial year of the ICC. I was invited by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons to make a submission on a discrete issue on the UK multilateral treaty regime.  During my eventful professional journey, I was invited to address the annual conference of the Federal Administrative Judges of the United States.  I have adviced and represented governments in international and national courts with respectable outcomes. My greatest satisfaction resides with my interaction and assistance to the poor, helpless people whom I found in conflicts in several parts of Africa.  In Nyange Parish and Nyangasambu hill in Rwanda, with amputees in Sierra Leone, with refugees, who fled the scourge of war all over Africa and are in Europe, the human condition in Africa is not good at all.

What next for Barrister Chief Taku and to the young Lawyers out there who may want to emulate you, any words of wisdom?

Barrister Chief Taku: I will remind them what B.T.B Foretia told me when I embarked on this journey. I will advise them that honesty and hard work are the keys to success. That corruption kills the spirit and soul of humans. That character matters. And that although justice is administered by humans, true justice belongs to God and that with God, they will succeed. They must know that the frontiers of the world have expanded well beyond their town or country of origin. And that technology has brought the world into their bedrooms, their palms and their suitcases. They need to get out to the world and network with their peers in other continents.  They must free themselves from the shackles of ignorance and break the asphyxiating chains of tyranny which have held a majority of people hostage. 

**Courtesy of May Issue of PAV Magazine

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Hopes and Fears For A Post Deby Chad
May 20, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Chadian President Idriss Deby died in battle after some thirty years in power

For President Idris Deby, his departure from power was eerily familiar with the way he came to power. A rebellion brought him to power, and he left the stage fighting to fend off a rebelling seeking to unseat him after over thirty years in power.

Fresh off a victory in the presidential election which was a little more tricky than usual with emergence of more voices calling for change in Chad, the news of Deby’s death left many stunned and perplexed. Any hopes that his long stay in power had resolved the issue of political stability in Chad were thrown to the wind as the established constitutional order of succession was shelved. The complex arrangement of sorts led to emergence of his 37-year-old son Mahamat Idriss Deby as the new leader.

PAV caught up with seasoned Chadian political analyst Amine Idriss to help dissect developments in the Central African country.

Thanks for accepting to answer our questions Mr. Idriss, could we start with your understanding of what happened to President Deby, while official sources say he was shot at the war front, there are others who say he was killed by those in his inner cycle, what did you hear from your own sources?

The official version is the one I know: President Deby was killed in the battlefield. Personally, I believe this version is plausible since Chad has a tradition of having the generals and heads of armies directly in the battlefield taking an active part in the fights. 

Were there any warning signs you saw that could suggest such a fate befalling a leader who was considered as very courageous and had won re-election?

Any warning signs? Not necessarily but I noticed that during the campaign; he became quite frustrated with his opposition, pushing him to violently express his frustrations. He had also been for the first time visiting each and every province of the country, and even going house after house in some places in Ndjamena. Many people were astonished because that was the first time we saw Deby doing that. 

On the other hand, the political situation of the country was becoming more and more difficult during the recent campaign, with a new opposition movement led by a youngster, who didn’t necessarily have the power to overthrow Deby through elections but represented a strong part of the public opinion views about the need for change. Succès Masra’s movement introduced a new dimension in Chadian politics, awakening the old political guards, and pushing even Deby and his team to join the internet and to add some more young people in the government. Besides that, the social situation was also more difficult, because of the COVID19 economic impact but also because corruption had never been so high than during the period. Lastly and more important, during the pre-campaign, some armed rebellions clearly declared their intention to stop the elections to happen. We all knew this time would be disturbed and predicted some serious social and political tensions; but nobody could predict that Deby would be killed in a battlefield. 

Late President Deby’s, Gen Mahamat Déby Itno, emerged as the new leader of Chad in an arrangement that left many scratching heads.Photo credit AFP

Chad had a constitution with clear cut provisions on succession in case of a presidential vacancy, why was this not respected?

Good question… most Chadian politicians in the opposition were against the Constitution before the election. This constitution which was recently adopted clearly reduced the political space by limiting the youth participation in the electoral process. Most of the actors were then against it.

In addition to that, the parliament that voted the constitution had not been renewed for the last 5 years: MPs were supposed to be gone since 2015 or 2016! But despite that, the provisions of the constitution are clear: the President of the Parliament should have been vested to become the provisional President for 90 days then organize the elections. That was not the case, and the military preferred the option of seizing the power, arguing on the necessity to preserve the country’s security and unity. 

Why the choice of Mahamat Idriss Deby to succeed his father when they were more senior military officials?

I have no idea why… 

What kind of legacy does President Deby leave behind, he was in power for some thirty years, what changed for Chad under his leadership?

Under Deby’s leadership, what changed? Not many things to tell you the truth. The country followed the course of nature, with more people born (we passed from 5 million in 1990 to 16 million today) and we become poorer. Chad has had an opportunity to transform itself when we stated producing oil, but this was badly managed and became a mess, increasing corruption and bad administration. The country is today amongst the poorest and amongst the most corrupt in the world. So, what have changed? One could say that the biggest win of Deby is the military diplomacy… he has indeed managed to make Chad a kind of policeman for regional security and the world is lauding him for that. This is good for Chad’s image. But Chadians are still poor and have no access to basic amenities such as clean water and electricity, education, health, and others.

For the last thirty years, Chad had a semblance of political stability, void of frequent rebellions and military coups, are you afraid that the death of President Deby makes the country fragile again?

The country has always been fragile and unstable. Deby was indeed a kind of a stabilizer. I am not sure it would become worst. We may have this time the opportunity to discuss differently. The Chadian political space has opened, and this can be good for internal discussions.

What do you make of the way the opposition in Chad has reacted to the recent developments, what tangible alternatives are they proposing as a way forward?

I don’t think the opposition would make a big difference right now. They are too divided and too weak. The civil society also lost its independence aligning itself with the political power. But things could eventually change from all sides if Chad is suspended by the AU… this will push people and specially those controlling power to become more collaborative, and the opposition could start asserting some of her views. However, for the opposition to win anything they must learn to come together. For a country with such a   high level of poverty and political instability, I am not sure that would happen anytime soon. But if the civil society receives the appropriate support and guidance, they may help in building an environment in which political parties may come together and discuss. 

The Chadian political space has opened, and this can be good for internal discussions, says political analyst Amine Idriss

On the future of Chad, what gives you hope and what are your fears?

My main fear is the ethnic divide, and this has already started especially from some politicians. My hope is the civil society and especially the youth from the civil society. A change is on the way. 

A last question on this phenomenon of family successions in Francophone Africa, we saw this in Togo, in D.R. Congo, in Gabon, now Chad and who knows which country will come next, how concerned should Africans be about this trend?

This is just what we called extractive regimes… extractive regimes tend to reproduce themselves… 

**Courtesy of May Issue of PAV Magazine

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We Will Be Part Of Africa’s History; This Is Our Legacy-Senator Rasha Kelej on the Merck Foundation Africa Nexus.
May 20, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Relentless efforts from Senator Dr Kelej and the Merck Foundation to network with African First Ladies to address diverse health issues are yielding dividends

We envision working closely with our partners that are African First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Education, Information & Communication, Gender, Academia, Research Institutions, Media and Art in building and transforming healthcare capacity, and addressing health, social & economic challenges in our beautiful continent, says Senator Dr Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation.

Buoyed by the robust nature of the partnership and the success of the recent Africa -Asia Luminary which held virtually for the first time, Senator Dr Kelej says, the Merck foundation is committed to making history with the transformation of the public healthcare sector in Africa. In sight are training of an army of thousands of well-trained specialized Doctors who will save millions of lives in the continent.

This is my commitment as long as I live, and this is our Merck Foundation vision, says Senator Dr Kelej in an exclusive interview with PAV to review the recent 8th edition of the Africa -Asia Luminary, the depth of Merck Foundation partnerships and operations across Africa and other major projects in the pipeline.

Senator Dr Rasha Kelej what are your impressions after the 8th edition of the Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary?

Senator Dr Kelej: Very very proud of our success. Our annual conference for the first time online due to coronavirus pandemic, however it was even more successful than actual conferences. Everyone was extremely engaged and committed. And of course, we had livestream with 100,000 attendees and more from 70 countries, we have more than 300, 000 viewers on our social media channels. The conference as you know was in partnership with the Government of Zambia. And was inaugurated by the President of the Republic of Zambia, H.E. Dr. EDGAR CHAGWA LUNGU and Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp Chairman of both of Executive Board of E. Merck KG and Merck Foundation Board of Trustees; and co-chaired by H.E. Mrs. ESTHER LUNGU, The First Lady of the Republic of Zambia and myself. It is a great honor.

I am very proud to share that 13 African First Ladies participated as guests of honor. The First Ladies of Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Guinea Conakry, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, and Namibia, who are also the Ambassadors of Merck Foundation More Than a Mother.

Over 26 African Ministers of different sectors also joined us on the second day, during the high-level ministry’s panel with African Union. Together, we discussed our strategy to define interventions to break infertility stigma and support girl education; and to build healthcare and research capacity and establish a strong platform of specialized trained medical experts in many critical and underserved fields to be the first in their countries. I am very proud that we have so far provided for more than 1100 Doctors from 42 countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America with one & two-, three-year specialty training in multiple fields such as Oncology, Diabetes, Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive Medicine, Acute Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Human Assisted Reproduction and Embryology & Fertility specialty, to be the first in their countries. Moreover, we have now widened our horizons by introducing more scholarships for young doctors in many new underserved specialties across Africa and Asia.

The reach and impact of our 8th edition conference has been great. Even Better than previous editions.  

On Day 2 of the conference, MARS- Merck Foundation Africa Research Summit was held where a High-Level Panel Discussion with 26 African Ministers of Health, Science and Technology, Education, Information and Gender and MARS Researchers was held with the objective to empower African young researchers & women researchers, advancing their research capacity and empower them in STEM. Parallel to this we had other three scientific sessions of diabetes, cardiology, oncology.

The High-level Ministerial panel included:

1) Hon. Dr. Jonas Kamima CHANDA, Minister of Health, Zambia

2) Hon. Dr. Dennis WANCHINGA, Minister of General Education, Zambia

3) Hon. Dr. Brian MUSHIMBA, Minister of Higher Education, Zambia

4) Hon. Elizabeth PHIRI, Minister of Gender, Zambia

5) Hon. Dora SILIYA, Minister of Information & Broadcasting Service, Zambia

6) Hon. Silvia Paula Lutucuta, Minister of Health, Angola

7) Hon. Dr. NDIKUMANA Thadée, Minister of Public Health & Fighting against AIDS, Burundi

8) Hon. Dr. François HAVYARIMANA, Ministre de L’Education Nationale et de la Recherche Scientifique, Burundi

9) Hon. Imelde SABUSHIMIKE, Ministre de la Solidarité Nationale, des Affaires Sociales, des Droits de la Personne Humaine et du Genre, Burundi

10) Hon. Marie Chantal NIJIMBERE, Ministre de la Communication, des Technologies de L’Information et des Médias, Republic of Burundi

11) Hon. Jacquiline Lydia Mikolo, Minister of Health & Population, Republic of the Congo

12) Hon. Dr. Ahmadou Lamin Samateh, Minister of Health, The Gambia

13) Hon. Ebrima SILLAH, Minister of Information, The Gambia

14) Hon. Colonel Remy Lama, Minister of Health, Guinea Conakry

15) Hon. Pr. Amadou Bano Barry, Minister of Education, Guinea Conakry

16) Hon. Amara Sompare, Minister of Information & Communication, Guinea Conkary

17) Hon. Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda, Minister of Health & Population, Malawi

18) Hon. Dr. Patricia Kaliati, Minister Of Gender, Community Development & Social Welfare, Republic of Malawi

19) Hon. Agnes Nyalonje, Minister Of Education, Malawi

20) Hon. Ulemu Msungama, Minister Of Youth & Sports, Malawi

21) Hon. Timoth Pagonachi Mtambo, Minister Of Civic Education & National Unity, Malawi

22) Hon. Dr. Kalumbi Shangula, Minister of Health & Social Services, Namibia

23) Hon. Dr. Joyce Moriku Kaducu, State Minister for Health, Uganda

24) Hon. Monica Mutsvangwa, Minister of Information & Broadcasting Publicity, Zimbabwe

25) Hon. Sthembiso Nyoni, Minster of Women Affairs Small & Medium Enterprises, Zimbabwe

26) Hon. Amon Murwira, Minister of Higher & Tertiary Education, Zimbabwe

On the third day, Merck Foundation Health Media Training was organized for the African and Latin American Media fraternity to emphasize the important role that media plays to break the stigma around infertility, in raising awareness about infertility prevention, and empowering girls and women through education. Parallel to this we had Infertility and reproductive care scientific session and respiratory and acute medicines for Covid 19 response session.

From (Left to Right) H. E. Rebecca Naa Okaikor Akufo-Addo, First Lady of Ghana, H. E Brigitte Touadera, Frist Lady of the Central Africa Republic, H. E Neo Jane Masisi, First Lady of Botswana, H. E Aissata Issoufou Mahamadou, First Lady of Niger with Senetor Dr Rasha Kelej at the Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary in 2018, at Dakar, Senegal.

 How will you define the state of the partnership you have established with African first ladies over the years, what is working well, and what needs to be improved upon?

Senator Dr Kelej: I am proud to have partnered with 20 African First Ladies, who are now the Ambassadors of “Merck Foundation More than a Mother” Campaign. It is an extremely successful partnership; we have achieved a lot together at all levels. Through this partnership, we continue to build healthcare capacity in their countries and empower infertile women and break the stigma around infertility and support girls’ education. Together, we have introduced many initiatives in their respective countries. This certainly speaks volumes about the work we are doing.

With the unprecedented times of COVID-19, I cannot travel and meet the First Ladies of other countries we wish to partner with. I hope the world is free of Coronavirus and the lockdown is lifted soon. However, I have been able to meet the new First Ladies to invite them to be new members of Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiate – MFFLI. And they have gracefully accepted to be our Ambassadors such as New First Lady of Burundi, Malawi and DR Congo.

I have also established a new important partnership with Burkina Faso First Lady in 2020.

Here is the list of our partner African First Ladies, who are also the Ambassadors of Merck Foundation, More Than a Mother:

H.E. NEO JANE MASISI, The First Lady of Botswana

H.E. SIKA KABORE, The First Lady of Burkina Faso

H.E. ANGELINE NDAYISHIMIYE, The First Lady of Burundi         

H.E. BRIGITTE TOUADERA, The First Lady of Central African Republic

H.E. ANTOINETTE SASSOU-NGUESSO, The First Lady of Congo Brazzaville      

H.E. DENISE NYAKERU TSHISEKEDI, The First Lady of Democratic Republic of Congo

H.E. FATOUMATTA BAH-BARROW, The First Lady of The Gambia          

H.E. REBECCA AKUFO-ADDO, The First Lady of Ghana

H.E. CONDÉ DJENE, The First Lady of Guinea Conakry

H.E. CLAR WEAH, The First Lady of Liberia

H.E. MONICA CHAKWERA, The First Lady of Malawi

H.E. MONICA GEINGOS, The First Lady of Namibia

H.E. ISAURA FERRÃO NYUSI, The First Lady of Mozambique

H.E. AISHA BUHARI, The First Lady of Nigeria          

H.E FATIMA MAADA BIO, The First Lady of Sierra Leone

H.E. ESTHER LUNGU, The First Lady of Zambia

H.E. AUXILLIA MNANGAGWA, The First Lady of Zimbabwe

The Former First Lady of Burundi, H.E DENISE NKURUNZIZA, The Former First Lady of Chad, H.E. HINDA DÉBY ITNO, The Former First Lady of Malawi, H.E. PROFESSOR GERTRUDE MUTHARIKA and The Former First Lady of Niger, H.E AÏSSATA ISSOUFOU MAHAMADOU have worked successfully with Merck Foundation as Merck Foundation More Than a Mother Ambassadors to break the stigma of infertility and empower infertile women in their countries.

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation & President, Merck More Than a Mother with H:E President Hage Geingob and H.E. MONICA GEINGOS, The First Lady of Namibia & Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother

About thirteen African first ladies answered present at the recent Africa-Asia luminary, what are you and the Merck Foundation doing to bring more first ladies to join your initiatives?

Senator Dr Kelej: Honest sincere long-term commitment to the social health and economic development of their country and their people, programs with concrete measurable impact and not only talk. Creativity, smart focused strategy and objectives and also flawless implementation.

Always exceed expectations, all the time we exceed their expectation actually we exceed our own expectation. Therefore, I consider Merck foundation to be the most successful Foundation because we achieve even more than our set goals and exceeds our and our partners expectation and this is how you evaluate success. I consider myself the happiest person in the world because I achieved more than my goals to be part of transforming some people’s lives, but now I am part of transforming millions of people every month. Not only this but together with our partners we transformed the healthcare sector across Africa, revolutionary transformation in few years and still more to come, it is history in the making, as long as I am alive, I will do more and more for Africa. We will create an army of specialized and trained doctors we will save lives together. I want to be one day part of Africa history this will make me proud as an African woman.

I look forward to expanding our footprints and work with more African First Ladies who will help us to realize our vision.

With the challenges from COVID 19, may we know what the Merck Foundation did to help its partner countries in Africa to fight the pandemic?

Senator Dr Kelej: We raced to respond to COVID 19 and came up with many initiatives. One of the most important initiatives which I personally believe in its importance even before Covid 19 times is to continue healthcare capacity building, which has been our strategy since 2012, in partnership with African First Ladies and Ministries of Health, much before the pandemic struck worldwide. Due to travel restrictions, we adopted the online medical speciality education strategy, through providing scholarships for speciality training to doctors in many medical specialties such as Oncology, Diabetes, Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive Medicine, Acute Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Reproductive and sextual medicines. Moreover, we recently started to provide scholarships in many new underserved specialties including: Emergency and Resuscitation Medicine, Gastroenterology, Laparoscopic Surgical Skills, Mental Health: Psychological Therapies, Orthopedic Trauma Science, Paediatric, Emergency Medicine, Advanced Surgical Practice, Dermatology, Neonatal Medicine, Pain Management, Psychiatry, Clinical Microbiology and infectious diseases, Ophthalmology, Internal Medicine, Neuroimaging for research, Urology, Trauma, and orthopedics. We are very proud to invite applications from African and Asian English-speaking doctors from under-served communities for these scholarships on our mail:

We also understand the importance of creating community awareness about Coronavirus, so we launched “Mask up with Care” and “Stay at Home” Recognition Awards for Media across Africa, Asia, and Latin America. And also, “Make you Own Mask” Fashion Awards for the Fashion fraternity across Africa: I strongly believe in the critical role that Media and Art play to be the voice of the voiceless and raise awareness about sensitive topics such as breaking Infertility stigma and Covid 19 health precautions.

Also, the lockdown and restricted movement to fight coronavirus had hit most casual and daily workers very hard. Therefore, we supported the African government’s strategy to save the living and livelihood of 1000’s of families of casual workers and women who were affected the most by the lockdown or restricted movement. We invite applications from media personal and fashion designers to these two awards on email

Moreover, we launched an inspiring storybook ‘Make the Right Choice’ in partnership with African First Ladies to sensitize children and youth about Coronavirus. The story aimed to raise awareness about Coronavirus prevention amongst children and youth as it provided facts about the pandemic and how to stay safe and healthy during the outbreak. It also promoted honesty, hard work, and the ability to make the right choices even during the most challenging times. We released the story in three languages: English, French and Portuguese.

Also, as my personal contribution, I have produced and directed an inspiring Pan-African song called ‘My White Army’ to thank the doctors and nurses fighting on the front lines of the coronavirus battle, who are risking exposure to the virus so everyone else can stay home and stay healthy. The song, featuring singers from 11 African countries in three languages Arabic, English, and French, has been well appreciated across the continent.

Senetor Dr Rasha Kelej in a group photograph with some Frist ladies of Africa at the Merck Foundation First Lady Initiative (MFFLI) summit 2019

 With regards to the Doctors that you train for infertility specialty and reproductive & sexual health what criteria is used in selection and what feedback are you getting from their in respective countries?

Senator Dr Kelej: Merck Foundation, through its flagship program, ‘Merck Foundation More Than a Mother’ is providing training in Fertility specialty and Reproductive Health at our partner institutes.  The scientific committee reviews the applications based on the eligibility criteria, such as Medical graduate/Post Graduates, preferably working in the Government sector, who are recommended by our partners such as the First Ladies Office, or Ministry of Health for African countries, and from the President of respective societies. Through this program, Merck Foundation is making history in many African countries where they never had Fertility specialists or specialized Fertility clinics before ‘Merck Foundation More Than a Mother’ intervention, by training the first Fertility specialists and Embryologists such as; in Sierra Leone, Liberia, The Gambia, Niger, Chad, Guinea, Burundi and Malawi. Merck Foundation is proud to have supported the training of the staff of the first public IVF centers in Ethiopia, Myanmar and Rwanda.

Could you shed light on other initiatives that the Foundation will be working on this year, there is talk of the media awards, fashion awards and others, what is the Merck Foundation seeking to achieve with this?

Senator Dr Kelej:We announced two awards for media fraternity, Merck Foundation Africa Media Recognition Awards  “More Than a Mother” 2021 and Merck Foundation “Mask Up With Care” Media Recognition Awards 2021; two awards for fashion fraternity, Merck Foundation Fashion Awards “More Than a Mother” 2021 and Merck Foundation “Make Your Own Mask” Fashion Awards 2021; in addition to Merck Foundation Film Awards “More Than a Mother” 2021 and Merck Foundation Song Awards “More Than a Mother” 2021 during the Merck Foundation Health Media Training that was held as a part of the 8th edition of “MERCK FOUNDATION AFRICA ASIA LUMINARY”. We invite all to apply for these awards on

I strongly believe that media, art, and fashion play a significant role in raising awareness about sensitive topics like infertility, hence will contribute significantly to break the stigma around infertile women in Africa, if utilized properly. There are many infertile women out there; we witness their stories of suffering and humiliation every day, it is time to act and make a change. Through the awards under “More Than a Mother”, we would like to join hands with media, art and fashion fraternity to break the silence, be the voice of the voiceless and create a culture shift to Break Infertility Stigma, a message that must reach every door, every community, every mind, and every heart.

1. Merck Foundation More than a Mother Africa Media Recognition Awards 2021: The applications are invited by media professionals to showcase their work to raise awareness about infertility prevention and breaking infertility stigma and empower infertile women and infertile couples in our beautiful continent.

2. Merck Foundation Film Awards “More than a Mother” 2021: All African Film makers and students are invited to create and share a film drama, documentary of docudrama, short or long film to deliver strong and influential message to Break Infertility Stigma and Empowering girls and women through education at all levels. I want them to use their creativity to break the silence. Our soft power is very effective and will educate our community and make a change in short time thanks to social media and new technology of smart phones, everyone can create those own movies

3. Merck Foundation Fashion Awards “More Than a Mother” 2021: All Fashion students and designers are invited to create and share designs that deliver strong and influential messages to raise awareness about infertility prevention, Breaking Infertility Stigma and Empowering girls and women through education.

4. Merck Foundation More Than a Mother – Song Awards 2021- I welcome all African Singers and Musical Artists to create and share a song with the aim to empower Girls and Women through Education at all levels.

Given the unprecedented times and second wave of coronavirus, it is important to sensitize communities and raise awareness about following best practices like wearing a mask, following social distancing, and the importance of Vaccination. With this intention we have launched two awards:

5. “Mask Up With Care” Media Recognition Award: I’d like to encourage all media representatives across Africa, Asia and Latin America to apply for “Mask up with care” Media Recognition Award. This media recognition award will encourage media to sensitize our communities. Raising awareness about coronavirus in our communities will also contribute to supporting health workers who are at the forefront of COVID-19 response – providing high quality, respectful treatment, and care.

6. The “Make Your Own Mask” Fashion Awards invites African Fashion Designers and students to create and share designs of masks and other clothing items that carry messages to encourage people to wear masks to show they care and at the same time make it creative and fun. This is our way of encouraging people to wear masks during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Be creative vibrant and create new ideas and masks to encourage people to wear those masks and protect themselves and others in style. I personally ally, and have more than 50 different masks to match my outfits, so I do not get boredom’s have sone fun.

 Having experimented with virtual events this year, is there hope that when COVID subsides, the 9th edition of Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary will be in person?

Senator Dr Kelej: I hope so. However, I feel the 9th edition will still be online, the 10th edition hopefully will be in person although I might apply hybrid method. Online and in person to benefit more and more participants since now we have a great platform, and it will be very difficult to fit all of them on one place specially post Covid.

8.Dr Kelej is now Senator Kelej, what does the new job add to your leadership of the Merck Foundation and how are you able to balance your work and personal life?

I was appointed by The President of The Arab Republic of Egypt in October 2020 as a Senator at The Egyptian Senate. I am currently a member of the Egyptian Senate (2020 – 2025) and serving an important role to advise with regards to African Health, Economic and Social Sustainable Development and collaboration opportunities. Because of the nature of the senate appointment and the rye of experience required, it will add more value if most of my time is spent as the CEO of Merck Foundation and running the programs in Africa. This will create better opportunity to explore new collaboration opportunities to realize better development objectives across Africa which Egypt is part of.

I believe in this concept of Work-Life fusion. I have fused my work life with my personal life to achieve balance. This is very easy to achieve; when you have passion for your work and when you work in healthy environment like Merck Foundation.

Senator Kelej and the Merck Foundation also engage artists to send across poignant messages

 Going forward, how do you envisage the future of the partnership between Merck Foundation and Africa?

Senator Dr Kelej: We envision working closely with our partners that are African First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Education, Information & Communication, Gender, Academia, Research Institutions, Media and Art in building and transforming healthcare capacity, and addressing health, social & economic challenges in our beautiful continent. We will together make history and transform public Healthcare sector like never happened before.  We will be building a strong army of 1000’s of well-trained specialized doctors who will save millions of lives every month.

This is my commitment as long as I live, and this is our Merck Foundation vision.

We will be part of Africa’s history; this is our legacy.

*Courtesy of May Issue of PAV Magazine

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Challenging for Africa to Unleash Its Potential Without Industrialization-Adam Molai
April 13, 2021 | 0 Comments

By By Ajong Mbapndah L

Unless we industrialize, we will fail to unleash the latent potential presented by our abundant resources and youthful population,says Adam Molai

Unless Africa industrializes, it will fail to unleash the latent potential presented by its abundant resources and youthful population, says Adam Molai, African Industrialist, Founder of the JUA Fund, and Chairman of TRT Investments. Speaking in an exclusive interview with PAV, Adam Molai says the youthful population in Africa can either be its greatest asset if well leveraged, or its biggest threat if allowed to become restive owing to lack of opportunity.

“Africa is in a very poor state in as far as industrialization is concerned. We are still significant importers of finished goods and exporters of raw materials,” Molai says of the crusade on Industrialization that he has championed over the years.

“In 2018, Sub-Saharan Africa raw material exports amounted to $148 billion or 52% of total exports. That is a strong case for industrialization to convert a significant portion of our raw materials into intermediate goods or finished products, creating jobs and increasing the value of our GDP,” Adam Molai said.

On the JUA Fund which is his latest initiative to inspire the Continent’s entrepreneurial generation, Adam Molai expressed the hope that it will start a movement which will sweep across Africa. Describing the Fund as a ripple considering the enormous needs of the continent, Molai says the desire is to have a culture in the continent where entrepreneurs give back through facilitating the creation of more entrepreneurs.

Generous in detail about the building of his companies, Adam Molai says opportunities for the continent are immense, but leaders will need to develop confidence in the ability of African entrepreneurs and stop seeing them as inferior to foreign entrepreneurs.

Could you start by telling us your own interest and journey into entrepreneurship, how did Adam Molai become an industrialist?

So, I am a true-blue entrepreneur; I was never interested in working for anybody else. I have never worked for anybody else.

I often share one of my fondest memories being a 10-year-old selling matches to earn pocket money and thinking – ‘I love this!’. This is when the entrepreneurial bug struck.

I embarked on my first entrepreneurial venture when I was just 10 when I sold boxes of in-demand matches for a profit to make pocket money. While at boarding school, I sold food to fellow pupils for spending money.

In my first summer in university in the UK, I joined a network marketing business which was really an entrepreneurial exploit where I would sell frozen food products in Buckinghamshire. I recruited other students to join and work with me raising significant cash that facilitated my move to Canada.

In Canada, I ran the university consulting service, literally as an entrepreneurial venture, and this, together with other work, helped fund my university studies in Canada. I made so much money that I was able to leave a significant sum which created the Adam Molai Small Business Consulting scholarship where the proceeds from this sum are given as a scholarship annually to a deserving student at my former alma mater.

When I returned to Zimbabwe after completing my studies, I knew I didn’t want to work for anybody else.

My first business, whose infrastructure I had started constructing whilst still in university in Canada, was a chicken business of 7,000 broiler chickens. I brought solar equipment with me from Canada, and this facilitated 24-hour feeding of our chickens facilitating faster development of the chickens. There was no power in the area and thus the utilization of solar power with a storage inverter, in 1997, was quite an evolution.

I then re-opened my late father’s service station and supermarket, whilst at the same time also creating a stationery shop and copy bureau in my home time. So, within my first year of being back in Zimbabwe from the diaspora I was running four businesses.

These businesses spanned a significant distance and so my first two years were highly sleep-deficient. I would start my early Monday morning in my hometown, drive to Harare to order supplies for the retail outlets and chemicals for the chicken business; a 150km return journey to my hometown where the stationery business and supermarket were, ensure the goods were priced and then at the closure of the stationery shop after 5pm start the 140km drive to where my service station was. I would then collect the cash takings, use them to buy more grain from the local farmers and maize grinding mills, which we would use to mix with the stock feed, and then drive another 180km to the farm where we were farming chickens. I would monitor the slaughtering, dressing, and packing of the chickens and by 2am start the drive back to my hometown which from the farm was 230km.

I would sleep on this third journey back to my hometown and get back in time to start another day. Without fail, by 7am I would be back at my stationery store where my main office was. This, routine I continued for a full two years.

 I then got the opportunity to acquire the largest service station site in my hometown. I quickly converted what was the office and former car show room into the first 24/7 retail shop in Zimbabwe, taking a cue from the 7/11 concept I had been exposed to in Canada.

The move, which drew criticism from my own family and other businesspeople, led me achieve more than double the shop’s takings, transforming the retail landscape in Zimbabwe. Sixty percent of the retail sales happened in the hours when all the other shops were closed. To crown it off, which irresponsibility I didn’t understand then, we managed to get a liquor license for this shop and used to be the only 24/7 liquor retailer in the country, which resulted in inordinate sales. Within a year a 60 square metre shop was making more than US$1 million! That was the first million I made, at the age of 29.

Another transformation I undertook was transforming the chicken retail sector in Zimbabwe. When I grew up working in my father’s shop, only whole chickens and in some cases half chickens were generally sold in Zimbabwe. You could buy beef and pork in small and as-you-desired and as-you-could-afford portions, but not chicken. I didn’t understand why that was, so I started selling chicken pieces, not just whole chickens. That transformed the chicken retail sector and demand rose beyond our projections.

I also did some dealings in the petroleum sector before turning my attention to the tobacco sector. Zimbabwe experienced significant fuel shortages and I was fortunate to receive permission from Shell, the franchisor, to direct import own fuel. Fuel had always been a controlled product only available from to oil companies through the government monopoly. However, when shortages became severe fuel companies and private individuals could direct import.  Through an old high school acquaintance, who was importing fuel, I was able to receive multiple tankers a week of direct import fuel. Our site never ran dry, and we were selling over a million litres of fuel a month and still couldn’t meet demand. Cars would drive from neighboring towns to fill up as we were receiving fuel non-stop!

I had also, with support of very experienced tobacco skills we had on board, pioneered contract growing of tobacco that transformed the tobacco industry from around 4 500 mainly commercial farmers and opened the way for more than 85 000 local small-scale farmers to enter Zimbabwe’s tobacco sector.

In 2002, I co-founded Savanna Tobacco Company, which has now been rebranded as Pacific Cigarette Company, which is acknowledged as one of only two of the world’s most significant African-owned cigarette manufacturers. The company enjoys a significant share of the Southern African cigarette market.

Our business interests cut across several industries – including energy, manufacturing, property development, transport and logistics, air transport, financial services and beverage bottling – and at least seven African countries, including the African economic powerhouses of Nigeria, South Africa and Mauritius. However, we are now streamlining our portfolio to focus only upon manufacturing and distribution, property development and sales, and technology.

Our business now has over US$200 million of assets under control.

In November 2020, we also launched the $2 million JUA Fund, making it the largest venture capital fund by a private African business individual to empower and support African entrepreneurs.

So impressive was the quality of the projects from the entrepreneurs that we felt compelled to increase the fund from the original $1m announced to $2m,says Adam Molai on the JUA Fund

Today you are Chairman of the Pacific Cigarette Company and the TRT Investments, can you tell us a little more about this companies and how they fit in the vision that you have for Africa?

TRT Investments manages a diversified sector portfolio and operations in Nigeria, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique and Botswana, and our latest interests have seen a foray into the US and European markets.

The aim is really to play our role in moving Africa from being on the menu to sitting at the global economic table. We believe this will only be achieved through production and productivity. So, we are aiming at driving the industrialization agenda for Africa.

TRT recently acquired, which is the largest non-food contract manufacturing business on the continent. It manufactures many leading multinational household FMCG brands. We aim to replicate this model into East and West Africa to create the largest non-food contract manufacturer in the world.

So, our ambitions are big, and we are committed to creating African institutions, with global recognition.

With the AfFCTA, we aim to leverage this opportunity to ensure localization of production on the Continent where currently there is only 18% inter-Africa trade compared to 80% Inter-Europe trade. So, just by trading more with ourselves as Africans we can grow our economies ad create the much-needed employment for our young population.

Our other area of focus is housing.

With the significant housing supply gap on the continent, and the growing population which is urbanizing at a rapid rate, it is imperative that affordable housing is availed to ensure that we help move from the squalid urban living conditions of the past.

Our final area of focus is technology.

Technology offers Africa the opportunity to leapfrog. It facilitates more efficacious and elegant solutions to Africa’s myriad challenges.

Pacific was born out of the industrialization agenda and fits into the TRT agenda. Having always lamented Africa’s over-reliance on agriculture for survival, I felt we needed to walk our talk and beneficiate this agricultural produce into finished goods and thus participate at a higher level of the value chain. Zimbabwe’s main agricultural export has been tobacco for a long time and therefore we took it upon ourselves to add value to this crop. There is a 15 to 20 times value multiplier from raw tobacco to cigarettes and that is what we have achieved in Pacific. So, the jobs and value which we were exporting in exporting raw tobacco, we are now retaining through producing finished goods. If we look at the $600 million of raw tobacco produced in Zimbabwe, if all transformed to cigarettes, Zimbabwe would have a $6-$12 billion tobacco industry.

For the attention of many out there who see in you a success story, what were some of the big challenges you face in building your companies and how did you successfully navigate them?

Success, to me, is a journey rather than a destination. It is a culmination of many failures and continuing to find different paths where one path has failed. Funding is always a challenge. I remember using $75,000 of my university entrepreneurial savings to start a small chicken business after university because I couldn’t get funding from the banks to augment this capital raise.

The challenge of raising money for my first business or to buy factory equipment, the challenges felt the same, and had the same ultimate impact – no funding – no business. We’ve mitigated fund raising challenges through performance. When you perform and develop a track record for performing, paying, and meeting your debt covenants, it becomes a bit easier to raise funding.

Another significant challenge faced was the dearth of African entrepreneurs available and willing to offer mentorship to others on their entrepreneurial journey. I failed to find takers, amongst those I approached, as unfortunately many in our society still see other people’s success as a threat to their success and attention.

So, the only option available became to be an avid reader, always reading both success and failure books as a way to understand.

Adam Molai says opportunities for the continent are immense, but leaders will need to develop confidence in the ability of African entrepreneurs and stop seeing them as inferior to foreign entrepreneurs

You have been on a crusade for industrialization and entrepreneurship in what shape is Africa in now, and why do you think it is imperative for the continent to change course?

Africa is in a very poor state in as far as industrialization is concerned. We are still significant importers of finished goods and exporters of raw materials.

In 2018, Sub-Saharan Africa raw material exports amounted to $148 billion or 52% of total exports. That is a strong case for industrialization to convert a significant portion of our raw materials into intermediate goods or finished products, creating jobs and increasing the value of our GDP.

China has become the global behemoth owing to industrialization. Thirty years ago, China was where we are today as a continent but has transformed from a developing nation to being at the cusp of being the largest global economy through a deliberate policy of industrialization.

Unless we industrialize, we will fail to unleash the latent potential presented by our abundant resources and youthful population. This youthful population can either be our greatest asset if we leverage it, or our biggest threat if they become restive owing to lack of opportunity.

Late last year you launched the Jua Kickstarter fund to provide entrepreneurs with capital to kickstart or expand their enterprises, may we know what impact you anticipate for Africa for this initiative?

Lao Tzu is famously credited with the saying that “The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step”. The launch and subsequent Jua Olympic week are the start of a movement which I hope will sweep Africa. It is only but a ripple, given the enormous needs on the continent, but we are seeing the impact it is having on encouraging other business leaders to also start looking at how they too can assist entrepreneurs on the continent. Our hope is that this becomes a culture on our continent of entrepreneurs giving back through facilitating the creation of more entrepreneurs, creating a snowball effect. The quality of the finalists as well as the solutions being proffered by the businesses we have decided to invest in give us great confidence that there will be significant impact that will emanate from this initiative.

It was always the intention that the fund would go beyond providing money. Entrepreneurs always need money, that is not in question. But they don’t only need money. They also need mentoring, advice, access to networks, access to markets, people to stress test their ideas, advisors and mentors who can help them see the realities and potential of their businesses.

That is what Jua will provide.

 Jirogasy and Bryt-Knowledge will be furthering education one through hardware the other through software, Side and Grow Agric, are disrupting the value chain of goods from farm to table, Powerstove Energy is saving the environment by their cooking stove innovation, Whispa Health is taking care of wellbeing, and Xetova is adding African flair to procurement.

Less than a year after it was launched, the first recipients were announced, may we know how the selection was done and your overall impressions on the applications and the eventual winners?

We had over 700 applicants who were shortlisted to 25 finalists, who met the criteria that their ideas had impact and were scalable.

The 25 finalists participated in the “Kickstarter Olympics”, a 5-day pitching session during which they were put through their paces by a high-profile panel of judges.

Eventually, we made offers to 7 recipients who all accepted.

We were immensely impressed by all our finalists, even those to whom offers were not made.

So impressive was the quality of the projects from the entrepreneurs that we felt compelled to increase the fund from the original $1m announced to $2m. 

About four of the seven enterprises selected have either female founders or co-founders, what role do you see gender or women playing in the vision that you articulate?

Research is clear that empowering women has more impact on societies and communities than empowering men. I am delighted that the Jua Fund, which is aimed at empowering all entrepreneurs, regardless of gender, has been able to benefit females to the extent that it has.

What metrics and support system does the JUA Fund have in place to monitor the outcomes or progress of recipients?

As I indicated, Jua is not only providing monetary support but non-monetary support in the form of mentoring and advice, introductions to other potential investors and funders. Where applicable, we will sit on the boards.

The phenomenal experience of the JUA judges, who have kindly accepted to offer mentorship and coaching, will serve to really help the entrepreneurs unleash their potential.

Through well-established Key Performance Indicators, designed to facilitate milestone-based release of capital, we hope to see better resource utilization and less of the unintended waste of resources that culminates from non-results-based funding mechanisms.

The Jury had some powerful names in the African corporate world, how challenging was it to get these high profile and busy people to dedicate the required time in the selection process?

It wasn’t challenging at all because all the judges share our vision of the importance of entrepreneurship for ensuring that Africa gets to assume its rightful place at the economic table, and they all wanted to do their bit to pass on the knowledge they have gained as entrepreneurs or in business to these emerging entrepreneurs.

They were so keen that at times we had more judges than we anticipated and needed. We had judges from across the globe, some of whom woke up at 3am daily to listen to the pitches.

As you may be aware, most start-ups / SMMES fail within the first two years, for a myriad of reasons. The judges who participated are aware of the challenges and want to do their bit to reduce this number.

The applicants certainly appreciated it; many commented on how the judges’ questions and insight had helped them rethink parts of their business.

What next for the Jua Fund, there are many young entrepreneurs out there who would love to try their hand in the next round, what are the plans going forward?

What’s next is just to keep growing and to support more SMMEs. We will hopefully have more money to avail in the future and we can structure the non-monetary assistance better as well.

We have learned a lot from this inaugural VC round, and we intend to build on that going forward so that it has much greater impact.

Our hope is that the success of the initial projects will, as we exit, create an even larger pool of funds to support even more entrepreneurs, creating a snowball effect. We have invested $2 million, if they perform and this spawns $20 million on exit, as an example, we then invest $20-millionn to spawn $200-million and this multiplier effect is what we seek and what we believe will facilitate our dream of empowering thousands of entrepreneurs.

Adam Molai is hopeful that the JUA Fund will start a movement which will sweep across Africa

In terms of recommendations to African governments, what needs to be done by them to create the enabling environment for brilliant ideas and initiatives that millions of Africans have to thrive?

Well, entrepreneurs need the right regulatory environment to grow so all governments need to scrutinize the laws, rules and regulations that they have in place to see whether they help or hinder entrepreneurial activity.

Governments also need to realise that they cannot grow economies and create jobs, that that is the ambit of business and they need to ensure that the business environment is conducive to that. So, the economy and entrepreneurs are not dependent on who is in government, but rather that there is policy certainty and that their markets are open to all. If our governments truly embrace the intentions of the AfFCTA, we will see a significant explosion of economies on the continent.

We also need to relook at our education systems which are largely not suited to nurturing entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial activity.

We also need to encourage local investment. African governments bend over backwards for foreign investors but do not do the same for local investors which means that local investors must deal with an unequal playing field.

What is your take on foreign direct investment and what role do you see the African diaspora playing in the development of the continent?

I think all investment is good. Africa lags in terms of investment so the more people who want to invest, the better.

But I do think that governments elevate foreign investment above that of local investment and I think that this is to the detriment of the continent. The reality is that if locals show confidence and invest, foreigners will invest alongside them. So what we should be doing is giving local investors the same benefits that we give foreign investors, we should be levelling the playing fields for local investors as they have more impact on the lives of Africans. They not only invest their money on the Continent, but they spend their money on the Continent too. This provides jobs for others and opportunities for other Africans.

I think the diaspora can be used more meaningfully than it is now. We know that remittances contribute $48-billion or an average 4.17% of Africa’s GDP but we should be looking at how to make better use of the resources of Africans in the diaspora.

Instead of saving their money in low-interest bearing accounts, we should look at getting them to invest in local start-ups and enterprises. In that way entrepreneurs have access to money and the diasporans get better returns whilst positively impacting their home countries to develop.

Looking at the realities today, the challenges, and the potential, what are your hopes and fears for Africa’s future?

Africa is at a major crossroad. With a growing young population, if Africa continues to grow at its current rate, it is expected to double to 2.5billion people; a quarter of the world’s population; by 2050. All these people need food, clothing, transport, housing and many other goods and services.

China’s growth was driven by a large population, creating significant consumption and ability to grow the economy phenomenally through the goods and services required by such a large population.

We dare not fail to rise to the occasion and create the businesses that will produce and provide all the goods and services that will be required by the continent. We certainly cannot afford to create a market for the rest of the world at our own expense. This is going to require significant unity and coordination across the continent to be realized.

China could easily achieve this growth because it is a unitary state. With 54 states, Africa will need significant regional and continental integration and harmonization to facilitate the remarkable infrastructural projects required to cater for such a huge population which is urbanising significantly.

So, the opportunities for the continent are immense, the challenges will really be from our own belief in ourselves to achieve for ourselves. Our leaders will need to develop confidence in the ability of African entrepreneurs and stop seeing our own entrepreneurs as inferior to foreign entrepreneurs.

Our people will need to also develop an appetite for local goods as opposed to foreign goods and our businesspeople will need to ensure that at all levels, our goods meet the exacting global standards for quality. Changing mindsets is a difficult process, as is establishing regional and continental trust; however, if accomplished, Africa could become the global powerhouse it has the potential to be.

*Culled from April Issue of PAV Magazine

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Maximilienne C. Ngo Mbe: A Champion of Human Rights across Central Africa
April 1, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Boris Esono Nwenfor 

The struggle for human rights in Cameroon is on the verge of another major boost with the selection of Maximilienne C. Ngo Mbe amongst the 2021 International Women of Courage Award Recipients.

Maximilienne Ngo Mbe has been with the REDHAC for the past ten years as Executive Director, championing and promoting human rights across the Central African sub-region. Her relentless pursuit of human rights has seen her win multiple awards across the world and with the mantra “NEVER GIVE UP” she has shown no sign of slowing down.  

Maximilienne Ngo Mbe has won multiple awards in her fight for Human Rights with the biggest one being the U.S State Department’s 2021 Women of Courage Awards. Before this recent award, Maximilienne was in 2020 awarded “The Prize of Empowerment of African Communities” by the BBF and Heal The World Africa, an organization based in the USA. 

In 2019 Maximilienne won the “Defend Defenders: Prize of Resilience and recognition for her exceptional impact for her works on Human Rights in Central Africa.” 

Pan African Visions caught up with this vibrant Human Rights defender in her office in Douala this March 31, 2021, and began by asking her what she made of the recent award given to her in her fight for human rights. 

Pan African Visions: May we know how Maximilienne Ngo Mbe received news of her selection amongst the 2021 Women of Courage Awards?

Maximilienne Ngo Mbe: It is not possible to know how the selection comes about. I was surprised by the US Embassy who told me that I am one of the Women who have been selected for the award but the first amongst the twelve women that were to be selected. I had the information at the same time as you when the US Government made the selection. I saw the information on Friday after the announcement was made on Thursday in the night that I am one of the Women of Courage 2021.  

Maxi Ngo Mbe has been an outspoken voice among civil society actors, often sacrificing her personal safety, in the push for a peaceful solution to the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon, says the State Department

Pan African Visions: What does this award mean for you and your fight for human rights in Cameroon?

Maximilienne Ngo Mbe: First of all I was very happy when you fight against violations of human rights, fight for peace and reconciliation and when you receive the award you are happy. The award is not only for the work in Cameroon but the work in Central Africa to improve human rights and promote peace and reconciliation in Central Africa. It is a lot of responsibility and what now can I do to ensure that all these people who are suffering can do something? I do not have a lot of power to improve all these charges that have been given to me. 

Can I have the power to finish all this work? I am not sure because you need a lot of things; financial (sometimes people do not know that you carry out activities without money); democratically challenged (we do not have democratically institutions. We do not have separation of power in the countries). We have a lot of injustices specifically in Cameroon now and we have a lot of arbitrary arrests. The terrorism law is in place that leads to activists being charged. It is difficult and the situation in North West and South West is not easy. We have a lot of threats and people who do not have security in their life. It is not easy for me; I am happy but afraid. 

Pan African Visions: Can you shed light on the Central Africa Human Rights Defenders Network in Central Africa-REDHAC that you lead?

Maximilienne Ngo Mbe: It is difficult to talk about the Human Rights Defenders Network in Central Africa because it is a long road. For ten years now I have been the Executive Director and we make sure to protect, promote and advocate for the human rights defenders status and make sure that the government undertakes their role about the regional and international engagement and to make sure that the fundamental freedoms are respected. We make sure that peace and security can be improved which will lead to people having justice and living a good life. 

All these things have been very difficult to achieve because it is the civil and political rights; when you fight for their respect it is not easy especially in countries that have not had democratically institutions. Some of our victims understand nothing that sometimes turns to attack us. But REDHAC status that is out to fight against human rights especially for CSOs turns to create an atmosphere of peace between the victims. For example, every six months, we report on the violation of the human right and also the protection and security of lawyers who defend these victims. This is because if you want CSOs to continue in this light you need to reinforce them with security assistance. For example, we have laws that govern lawyers at the Regional, National and International level. Lawyers who defend victims of human rights violation and fight for peace and reconciliation 

We at REDHAC have proposed concrete solutions at the level of Cameroon and Africa in general for the respect of human rights. This is a vast area for us to handle in the protection of human rights. We also have manual functions and challenges like our laws in the country cannot surpass international laws. Analysis and recommendations have been done as well as publications on fundamental liberation and also following up defenders of human rights; aiding them protection and financially. For example, Mancho Bibixy was aided financially (REDHAC supported him by relocating his wife from Bamenda to Yaounde so she can easily pay him visits in prison) and May Ali who was relocated. We also give people the opportunity to air out their problems to the international community especially victims in the North West and South West. We have also produced documentaries on behalf of the victims. 

Pan African Visions: What are some of the challenges the REDHAC network has faced in the field while doing its work? 

Maximilienne Ngo Mbe: Some of our challenges are infrastructural and financial challenges. This is because sometimes we need to help our victims who are not financially stable to shelter them and also the majority of our financial partners are state-owned that sometimes delay the assistance. Also, the government system is another problem we faced coupled with the fact that in Central Africa all the Presidents are of age weakening the system as they try to maintain their positions leading to poor leadership. 

States that do not practice democracy is another problem we faced resulting in poor decision-making. In Cameroon especially in the judiciary decisions cannot influence justice; same with the legislative decisions hindering sanctions on the government for wrong decisions taken. This also goes to the executive. This can be seen especially in the Ngarbuh massacre that to date government decisions have not been implemented on the perpetrators of the act. Meantime, we also have the case of Wazizi where to date his corpse has not been found. Despite our complaints, nothing has been done in all these instances. Sometimes, sanctions are levied on us when publications on such situations are made public. Our challenges to sum up rest on financial, undemocratic institutions, but all these can be solved. 

On the socio-political crisis ongoing in the North West and South West Regions, we have recommended for the liberation of all Anglophone detainees, says Maximilienne Ngo Mbe

Pan African Visions: Can you give us your perspectives on the situation of human rights in Cameroon, where have you seen progress and where have things been bad?

Maximilienne Ngo Mbe: The fact that REDHAC’s doors have not been shut down despite these challenges shows a level of respect for human rights. People are allowed to talk freely on TV stations without being arrested shows some positivity on the respect of human rights. We also have laws that have been respected in the country and it is good we encourage the government for such a move which will give them the ability to keep respect for human rights.

However, laws that are made by the legislative are not always being respected by the other bodies such as the executive and judiciary. There is some collaboration even though formal such as that of the Ministry of Justice and some human rights organizations including REDHAC. These small collaborations give us a supportive hand to continue our work.

Pan African Visions: Could you share some of the recommendations that REDHAC has in mind to improve human rights in Cameroon?

Maximilienne Ngo Mbe: In Cameroon, we have recommended the revision of so many laws and not its abolition such as the anti-terrorism law of 2014 against Journalists, civilians, politicians, activists and others. For example, the military court is not supposed to judge civilians or journalists and for this reason, we have recommended that the law be revised and we hope one day it will be considering that Cameroon is one of the members of the Commonwealth, Human Rights Commission in Africa and the UN. We are not saying that the law be abolished but revised concerning the rate of terrorism in central Africa. 

The second recommendation we have made is that if you observed Western African countries, there is a law to protect the right of journalists especially in Mali, Ivory Coast which was voted for and this law should be adopted in the Cameroon National Assembly and the President signing it into law. 

Our recommendations are not only on human rights violations but in a situation that we find ourselves in. Cameroon is facing various challenges, and we have been recommended that no war can be solved with the use of arms but negotiations should be the solution between the two parties. A commission should be created such as the Truth and Justice Reconciliation Commission should be created. With this being our best recommendation as human rights preachers it will be a better means to reconcile ourselves. A proposal for that commission had been written and sent to the appropriate quarters which will only hope for a positive reply. 

Also, on the socio-political crisis ongoing in the North West and South West Regions, we have recommended for the liberation of all Anglophone detainees especially those who have not appeared before the court since they were arrested but are in prison. For this reason, if Cameroon wants to portray that she is out to protect the rights of its citizens, then persons like Mancho Bibixy have to be released and stop the arrest of journalists and lawyers who defend human rights violations. The conduction of transparent elections has to be effective which will minimize the rigging of the election, reducing violence and threats during elections in Cameroon.

Conflicts are resolved with negotiations and not war, says Maximilienne Ngo Mbe on the situation in Cameroon

Pan African Visions: A new leadership and new members were recently appointed by President Biya to the National Human Rights Commission, what is your take on that, and do you think they can make a difference?

Maximilienne Ngo Mbe: Yes I think so.In the past years, we were working with the Commission headed by its former President Chemuta Banda and we did a lot of things, be it in the North West, Central Region and everywhere in Cameroon. We fought for the promotion and protection of Human Rights. On the contrary, since we did the last nomination and with his hatred, he disposes of daily it has nothing to do with human rights. It is feared that this Commission is only an empty vessel. How can you think that Mrs Elangue née Eva Etongue Mayer who has served more than seventeen years in the Commission and a defender of Human Rights was removed at a time when we needed a Commission like never before? For us, there has not been a consensus concerning the National Human Rights Commission today. At the moment, all those present at the Commission represent their head and shadow and so we have nothing to do with the Commission. 

Pan African Visions: What do you make of accusations of bias and opposition sympathies that are often linked to groups like REDHAC, Amnesty International, Human Rights Work and others?

Maximilienne Ngo Mbe: All over the world, human rights commissions are usually accused and so there is no exception when it comes to Cameroon especially on those Commissions who do their work effectively. The truth is that they (government) deform and lie against such commissions meanwhile in other countries such a thing cannot happen. In Cameroon, they deform, lie and corrupt and when they get to a level that they cannot corrupt they go to the extent of levying threats. Human Rights organizations are only doing what we are expected to do and nothing else. 

During the Ngarbuh massacre, the Minister of Territorial Administration Paul Atangi Nji held a press conference saying that Human rights Commissions had taken five million to destabilize the country which was not true to the point of sending us a warrant of arrest. This went far in tarnishing our image both nationally and internationally and to this day an investigation is still open. This was a strong allegation from such a personality who did not have strong evidence.

This is what I have been talking about in countries that do not practice democracy. Such countries are characterised by deformation and even those who count on human right commissions like REDHAC, Human Rights Watch. REDHAC’s office is in Cameroon and all that the government does is criticise and deform. But this is very different from other Human rights Commissions like Amnesty International that has its Headquarters in Senegal; you can never hear the government criticise to this extent, same as Human Rights Watch in the USA, posing a threat to other human rights organizations coming up. It is a dictatorial system and a system that does not respect human rights. 

Pan African Visions: What next for you and REDHAC after this award, what are some of the projects that you have in mind going forward? 

Maximilienne Ngo Mbe: What I can say never gives up despite the huge challenge we face in our country. We have to continue to work for peace and protect human rights. We are continuing without any stoppage in preaching and protecting the human rights commission, the implementation of a democratic state with no fear despite all the threats by implementing all the mechanisms to promote peace for all and protect human rights defenders. It should be noted that these are areas giving less concern and our small shoulders are ready for the fight. 

Pan African Visions: We understand that you were in Congo during the recent Presidential election, could you share with us what you saw, were there free and fair from your perspective?

Maximilienne Ngo Mbe tells PAV’s Cameroon reporter Boris Esono N that REDHAC is closely monitoring the situation in Congo

Maximilienne Ngo Mbe: The situation in Congo is our preoccupation now but yesterday we were told that some protesters were arrested, showing no difference with Cameroon. You will see that when Sassou Nguesou discovered that his mandate will soon end he amended the constitution, changing it into a referendum favouring him during the election which provided him with a new mandate. Can you imagine that we were in Congo and were denied accreditation to observe how the elections were conducted? This is very dissatisfactory as during the election we carried out some teaching on the protection of human rights. 

We were going to look at those rights that were violated and not who won. This same scenario also happened to the Human Rights Commission in Congo. This is just to show you that when a Human Rights Commission works for the people it is very possible to have problems with the government. It will surprise you that the next day ghost town was declared making some voters walk long distances to vote, violating the right of circulation in and out of the country. Even we had to walk from up to 5km just to look for food to eat. When ghost towns are declared, how do you expect people to vote including handicaps? 

It should be noted that before the ghost town was declared the forces of law and order had voted two days before and these same military forces already had voting stations, showing some level of fraud. On that same night, the internet was seized even to the 27 that we returned and the internet had still not been regularized. The only excuse given was that the person that was working on it died of COVID-19. 

Again, we were told that some of our members were arrested but we are working on it though worried and the only thing we can do is hope for a calm situation considering that Congo had once had a civil war and also pray that the population remain calm because it is a provocation.  

Pan African Visions: Thank you for granting this interview, any last word you wish to make?

Maximilienne Ngo Mbe: NEVER GIVE UP. I want to thank everyone that has supported REDHAC and my staff who has been there in our difficult moments and that we have passed through it. I want to thank the American State Department as it is an award that comes to protect REDHAC and myself. I want to assure all Human Rights Organizations, journalists and the African community to continue to strengthen the fight in protecting and promoting Human Rights, and maintaining peace. 

(Translation was done with the help of Sonita Ngunyi)

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Somalia: A Sustained Fight for Human Rights paying off for Mama Zahra
March 25, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Samuel Ouma

Mama Zahra has beaten all odds to continue supporting the voiceless and the vulnerable
Mama Zahra has beaten all odds to give voice to the voiceless and the vulnerable in Somalia.Photo credit Twitter.

The task may be daunting but the crusade for better human rights in Somalia is one that Zahra Mohamed Ahmad better known as Mama Zahra has embraced whole heartedly. Under the canopy of the Somali Women Development Centre that she leads, Mama Zahra has worked tirelessly to empower women, counsel rape, war and victims of gender violence, provide free legal counselling, working on reconciliation and peacebuilding amongst many other human rights related initiatives.

Her efforts got a big boost recently when she was one of three Africans selected as recipients of the U.S State Department International Women of Courage Award. Assisted by an interpreter in an interview with Samuel Ouma for PAV, Mama Zahra says the award will serve as an encouragement to women in Somalia to keep making a positive change in society.

May we start with a reaction from you on the recent Women of Courage Award you received, how did you receive news about this? How did Somalis feel about it, and what does this mean for the work you do?

Mama Zahra: First, I would like to express my gratitude to the Almighty God for enabling me to bag this precious award because it means a lot to me and my people, especially women and girls. The information about the award came directly from the US Department of State Department and was received with joy by Somalis. I am sure it will encourage women, particularly those doing social works, to make positive changes in society.

Talking about the work you do; can you tell us a little more about the Somali Women Development Centre-SWDC ?

Mama Zahra: SWDC is a non-governmental and non-profit organization established in 2000 to empower women and other vulnerable groups such as IDPs, victims of rape, war, gender-based violence, and any calamity, be it natural or human, through access to knowledge and economic and social independence. We also focus on the human rights protection of the vulnerable groups by providing free legal aid services, enhancing reconciliation and peacebuilding, lobbying with the involved parties, and building capacity.

What is the situation like for women and girls in particular and human rights in general in Somalia?

Mama Zahra: The situation is not encouraging at all. Unlike other countries such as Syria and Kenya, refugees in Somalia who are mainly women and children live in unfavorable conditions. Overcrowding and lack of social amenities are heart-breaking. Parents are being forced to live in small tents together with their children.

May we know some of the successes you have registered, what changes have taken place in Somalia as a result of your work with the SWDC?

Mama Zahra: I am proud of the accomplishments we have achieved since 2000. First, the People of Minnesota and I had formed Somcare to oversee the treatment of 250 seriously injured in the war. Through the partnership, these people were successfully treated in Kenya’s Kijabe hospital.  Second, we have trained several women on legal matters, and they have been of great help whenever help is needed. Besides, we have trained female security guards in prison on how to handle female inmates.  We have also offered support to people living with HIV/AIDS, orphans, blind children, and university students from a poor backgrounds. By agitating for an increase in women’s representation, the quota has increased from 11/12 percent to 24 percent. Somali women are highly represented in Parliament, making it one of the highest in the continent.  Out of 275 lawmakers, over 80 are women.

In terms of challenges, may you know some of the most acute challenges you have faced?

Mama Zahra: There have been both personal and organizational challenges. As an organization, we were hard hit in 2013 after two male barristers who were mandated to train women lawyers were killed in a terrorist attack in a regional court in Mogadishu. It was a sad experience, but we had to move on. Later, I was expelled from a regional state of election for standing for what is right before losing my son under mysterious circumstances. My son, the founder of the first laundry shop in the Somali capital, was shot dead in the street. He also owned a start-up kind of organization that offered support to the young. I believe he was killed because he was innovative.

How is your relationship with the government in Somalia, how are your activities and those of the SWDC perceived, and what are they doing or not doing to improve on the situation of girls and women?

Mama Zahra: I work with many ministries in Somalia to achieve our objectives, and Somalis have embraced our activities beyond any doubt. We are doing a lot to improve the situation of women and girls. For instance, we have partnered with the government to offer free primary and secondary education; we own medical facilities where they receive treatment and provide finances to vulnerable individuals to help them settle down and feed their families.

Mama Zahra was among the women recognized worldwide by the U.S State Department  for demonstrating bravery and leadership in advocating for human rights, peace, gender equality, women empowerment, and justice
Mama Zahra was among the women recognized worldwide by the U.S State Department for demonstrating bravery and leadership in advocating for human rights, peace, gender equality, women empowerment, and justice.Photo courtesy

In terms of policy proposals, what suggestions or recommendations do you have that could help improve gender and human rights in the country?

Mama Zahra: People should pay attention to both local and international laws on human rights to better women’s lives.

With all the work you have done and the growing international, is the thought of political leadership something you have thought of or something you may consider if Somalis call on you?

Mama Zahra: I have no political ambition, but I support women’s leadership; women should be represented at all levels of positions.

Any message to international partners out there on what and how there could support the work you have been doing on the ground in Somalia?

Mama Zahra: So far, we operate in two regions, but with well-wishers and partners, we can move to other regions to impact more lives.  I plead with them to rally behind us to help us realize our goals.

What next for Mama Zahra after the Women in Courage award? What changes or developments should we expect from you and the SWDC?

Mama Zahra: I was awarded for what I did, but now through international help, I would love to improve the living standards of the IDPs, install DNA facilities that are only found in South Africa in the continent, and advocate for a high-quality healthcare system.

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NJ Ayuk On Making The Most Of Africa’s Energy Potential
March 20, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Africa’s voice must be heard loud and strong as part of the global energy discourse, says NJ Ayuk
Africa’s voice must be heard loud and strong as part of the global energy discourse, says NJ Ayuk

As many were wailing in disbelieve at the impact of COVID-19 on African economies, NJ Ayuk was one of those who rolled up his sleeves, put on his thinking cap and took the lead in proffering solutions and charting the way forward.

From robust engagement with OPEC, to a multitude of webinars to key stakeholders, helping governments navigate complex situations and building bridges with partners in Africa and the world, NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber spared no efforts in the quest for solutions to sustain and keep the African energy sector ticking.

“Africa’s voice must therefore be heard loud and strong as part of the global energy discourse. The Chamber has identified this and therefore has as one of its objectives to federate the different aspirations of Africans in the energy sector and articulate this in a constructive manner that will foster investment in the African energy sector, says NJ Ayuk in an interview with PAV magazine.

Bullish on the way forward, Ayuk believes that Africa must make the most of its energy potential and this starts with getting activity levels across the entire energy value chain in Africa back to pre-COVID-19 levels, says Ayuk. In a show of its seriousness on the way forward, the African Energy Chamber recently published its road to recovery book which provides practical guidance on how African countries can enhance compactivity globally to attract investment.

“The energy sector’s challenges, and the trials and tribulations have made the African Energy Chamber’s work more important now, more than ever. We are committed to helping Africa’s energy sector stakeholders navigate a complex and ever-changing global energy landscape. We will continue our mission to support the dynamic private sector and unlock the continent’s remarkable energy potential,” says Ayuk.

After a tough year, what do African countries need to do to get the energy sector back on the rails so it can continue playing its role in the economic development of the continent?

In order to change the tide and spur a post covid recovery in the energy sector that will also enhance overall economic growth in Africa, African countries must double their efforts to attract investment into their energy sectors. They must put in place timely and market relevant strategies to deal with external headwinds like the drive to decarbonize globally and evolving demand patterns for energy internally and hydrocarbons globally. They must end restrictive fiscal regimes, inefficient and carbon-intensive production, cut bureaucracy and other difficulties in doing business which are preventing the industry from reaching its full potential.

2020 was a year of unprecedented challenges for Africa’s energy sector. The target must be to get activity levels across the entire energy value chain in Africa back to pre Covid-19 levels and beyond. Companies in the oil and gas sub-sector for example responded by cutting costs and delaying projects, with planned capital expenditure for 2020-2021 dropping from $90 billion pre-COVID-19, to $60 billion.

NJ Ayuk says the energy sector’s challenges, and the trials and tribulations have made the African Energy Chamber’s work more important now than ever
NJ Ayuk says the energy sector’s challenges, and the trials and tribulations have made the African Energy Chamber’s work more important now than ever

As a leading actor in the Energy sector, may we get your assessment on the response from key power players in the continent like Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Angola, and others, what are they getting right and what are there missing or needs to be improved upon?

The response on the continent has been a mixed bag. A number of African countries were slow in responding to market realities, largely due to bureaucracy and the absence of generally agreed principles on how to deal with the COVID -19 pandemic. Others on the other hand, especially countries with a notable dependence on their oil and gas sectors responded swiftly to minimize disruptions in their countries.

For example, OPEC member Equatorial Guinea moved swiftly in the early months of the pandemic to implement best practice protocols that enabled the industry to operate uninterrupted during the pandemic. The government also suspended and deferred several fees usually borne by companies in the sector, in an attempt to support a reduction of costs in the sector. The result of these measures was that production in EG were kept at the levels projected prior to the pandemic and the sector did not witness mass retrenchment as was the case in several other oil producing countries.

Angola responded in a similar manner, after consulting with major stakeholders in the industry. Special health and safety protocols were adopted for the industry that allowed for undisrupted activity in the oil and gas sector. The government has also been able to maintain the momentum in its ongoing bid-round by facilitating access to seismic data and passing additional legislation that will facilitate exploration and drilling activity. Despite the associated economic crisis, the government has held on to its strategic power infrastructure projects like the completion of the Lauca dam and associated transition infrastructure which will boost power supply in the country significantly. The chamber believes that this project is key to enable the development of industry and the mass creation of jobs in Angola.

In Nigeria, there is a realization, across political lines, that the long-awaited Petroleum Industry Bill must be passed in order to give clarity and predictability to the industry, both key components that drive investment. The bill was therefore tabled in parliament and it is likely, that it shall be passed and enacted in law in the 3rd quarter of this year. Furthermore, the Nigerian government in response to the growing importance of Gas globally and also for power generation internally is investing significantly to enable gas to power infrastructure in-country. This is a good development for Nigeria and Africa, as we seek to reduce the number of those without access to affordable and reliable power and to promote industry that will provide jobs for Africa’s youthful population.

The energy sector’s challenges, and the trials and tribulations have made the African Energy Chamber’s work more important now, more than ever. We are committed to helping Africa’s energy sector stakeholders navigate a complex and ever-changing global energy landscape. We will continue our mission to support the dynamic private sector and unlock the continent’s remarkable energy potential.

What role has the African Energy Chamber played and/or what initiatives have been taken to help the continental wide response and recovery efforts?

The African Energy Chamber is at the forefront of Africa’s response to COVID-19, and the associated economic crisis. The Chamber is the voice of the African energy sector and is leading the industry’s response in a number of ways;

  • Together with OPEC and other stakeholders, the Chamber is working on an initiative to combat energy poverty in Africa, which is increasing even faster in a post covid era.
  • The Chamber together other partners like the International Association of Geophysical Contractors – IAGC championed the streamlining of permits for the obtention of seismic data in several African countries.
  • The Chamber emitted several guidelines (AEC Common Sense Agenda) after consultations with industry stakeholders on how best to ensure continuity in the energy sector and increase investment post-COVID-19
  • The AEC is a trusted advisor to key stakeholders in the industry. We engaged with several governments and advised them on ways to increase quality local participation in their energy sectors, in a manner that ensures global competitivity in a post COVID-19 environment.
  • The Chamber launched a jobs portal to take opportunities to young Africans
  • .

As things stand now, and with everything that has taken place, how much of a factor or key player is Africa in shaping global decisions in the energy sector, how strong is the African voice in articulating and defending its interests?

According to The Africa Energy Chambers 2021 outlook, Africa consumes just over 710 terawatt-hours (TWh) presently. This is expected to triple in the next 3 decades. This represents just 6% of global consumption, and 7% of global production, despite Africa having 17% of the world’s total population. Africa also holds over 7% of total proven global oil and gas reserves. However, the continent is significantly underexplored. Recent discovery trends indicate that the continent is well placed to become a key global supplier of LNG, with major recent discoveries in Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania and Senegal/Mauritania.

Africa’s voice must therefore be heard loud and strong as part of the global energy discourse. The Chamber has identified this and therefore has as one of its objectives to federate the different aspirations of Africans in the energy sector and articulate this in a constructive manner that will foster investment in the African energy sector.

African stakeholders must federate around initiatives like those of the chamber in order to have the stance taken into account. `individual countries are unlikely to have an impact.

 NJ Ayuk at a recent meeting with President Felipe Nyusi of Mozambique.The target must be to get activity levels across the entire energy value chain in Africa back to pre Covid-19 levels and beyond, he says.
NJ Ayuk at a recent meeting with President Felipe Nyusi of Mozambique.The target must be to get activity levels across the entire energy value chain in Africa back to pre Covid-19 levels and beyond, he says.

Under your leadership, the African Energy Chamber has sort to broaden its reach in Africa, with representations in Central and West Africa, how is this expansion shaping or moving the agenda of the Chamber forward?

The Chamber and our regional Presidents have done an amazing job with creating awareness about the Chamber and our work in their respective regions and beyond. Our footprints in Angola, East Africa, Mozambique, and Central Africa and their success allow us to keep abreast with the issues facing the energy industry in these regions and find solutions that work in these regions. The chamber will continue to grow regionally as we seek closer cooperation with the energy industry and stakeholders in-country. It is imperative, that the aspirations of every African and other stakeholders in each African country are reflected in what we do at the chamber. I want to take this opportunity to thank the regional teams for all what they do.

In an op-ed last year, you said now will be a good time for American independent oil and gas producers to consider opportunities in Africa, may we know what Africa stands to gain from more US presence?

I lived, studied and worked in the United States at the start of my career and one thing that has always stood out to me was this: The American sense of optimism and ingenuity that drives American entrepreneurship. In that same light, I think the ingenuity of American oil independents will lead to a win-win situation for both the companies and African countries in which they might operate. Africa’s energy sector needs that spirit of entrepreneurship which has led to the creation of tremendous wealth in America. Many of Nigeria’s major oil discoveries were made by such companies. In Senegal, AFRICA FORTESA Corporation, headed by US Upstream veteran Roger Beall is already producing and supplying gas to the domestic market. This is a trend that is expected to define the development and industrialization of Africa in the coming decades.  Mr Beall founded Fortesa in 1997 and employs over 200 employees in his onshore E&P project in Senegal. Fortesa is exactly the kind of US company that we seek to attract to Africa. Not only do such companies create good paying jobs for young Africans, but they also provide training, tax revenue and most importantly demonstrate the kind of entrepreneurship that Africans must emulate in order to develop their continent.

The African Energy Chamber recently appointed a US-Africa Committee to serve in its advisory board, how would the committee help in growing and strengthening cooperation and investment between the US and Africa in the energy sector?

The African Energy Chamber appointed the US-Africa Committee to serve on its Advisory Board as a means to support the development of stronger energy cooperation and investment between the United States and Africa. Across the entire energy value chain, the committee aims to facilitate US investment into Africa’s energy sector and provide a platform for continuous dialogue between US energy stakeholders and their counterparts in Africa. America has long viewed African energy resources, especially oil and gas as key to its strategic interests. Africa has also cherished this relationship, though perspectives have changed over time due to the changing dynamics of each stakeholders’ economies and global demand patterns. The chamber sees the US as a key partner; and with the support of incredibly talented and experienced board members on that committee, commits to ensuring that frequent exchanges between US and African stakeholders lead to more investments in Africa. The committee is chaired by KearneyAfrica Legal Advisors President and former Deputy Assistant Secretary at the US Department of Commerce, Mr Jude Kearney.

To unlock future growth potential in the US-African energy cooperation, we will need to open up to SMEs and entrepreneurs and not be limited only to large and traditional corporations. The need to encourage African investments into the US was also brought to the table as a way to further support a win-win relationship that would support further capital flows going both ways.

Ayuk and a delegation of the African Energy Chamber in a photo with the Governor of Cabo Delgado in Mozambique.The AEC came in with a consignment of emergency assistance for displaced persons
Ayuk and a delegation of the African Energy Chamber in a photo with the Governor of Cabo Delgado in Mozambique. The AEC came in with a consignment of emergency assistance for displaced persons

What is your take on the issue of vaccines for COVID 19 and do you this has a role to play in the recovery that you envisaged?

I believe vaccines are the only solution for the world to return to some form of normality, similar to pre-covid -19 times. The pandemic has been devastating to the world economy overall and even more so to Africa in particular. Ending the pandemic rests on the successful delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to every country but the challenge goes beyond just having vaccines available. There is also significant convincing to be done for populations in Africa and globally to have confidence in the vaccine. Our assessment at the chamber, is that most of the developed world will have opened up their economies fully in the fourth quarter of 2021 in response to the majority of their populations having been vaccinated. Unfortunately, vaccination is likely to be slower in Africa mainly due to lack of access to vaccines. However, a rebound in economic growth in developed nations and china will spur activity in the sector in Africa.

We end with a last word from you on the way forward for Africa as the continent grapples with COVID-19, what gives you hope and what are you are your fears?

Africa’s oil and gas industry is facing extraordinary circumstances. An ongoing energy transition and new efforts to decarbonize the world are weighing on oil demand. The shale revolution exacerbated these pressures. And of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought havoc on markets around the world, accelerating and intensifying existing trends. External headwinds are forcing African petroleum producers and the entire African energy sector to re-examine their strategies. Conventional petroleum resources here must be globally competitive, if the industry is to compete and survive when compared to new frontiers like Guyana and Suriname. Growth has lagged because of conditions above the ground and not below. Restrictive fiscal regimes, inefficient and carbon-intensive production, and difficulties in doing business are preventing the industry from reaching its full potential. These conditions need to improve, if Africa’s energy industry is to remain competitive and thrive.

Africa’s young generation gives me hope. Studies show that the younger generation is more likely to hold their leaders accountable, a key component to demand and drive change that will propel development.

*Culled from March Issue of PAV Magazine

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Sierra Leone: Anti-Corruption Crusade Gathers Steam Under Kaifala
February 15, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Ishmael Koroma

We follow the law and the evidence, says Kaifala in dismissing claims that the ACC may be on a witch hunt of Officials of the previous administration
We follow the law and the evidence, says Kaifala in dismissing claims that the ACC may be on a witch hunt of Officials of the previous administration

Appointed in June 2018 by President Julius Maada Bio to head of the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission -ACC, Francis Ben Kaifala has achieved the feat of helping Sierra Leone shed the corruption prone image it had before he took office.

Young, bold, visionary, tenacious, and result oriented, Kaifala who left a flourishing private practice to lead his country’s crusade against corruption is yielding dividends with reports from leading international agencies like Afro Barometer, and Transparency International taking note. Last year, the efforts of Kaifala and his team swelled the public coffers with circa 10 billion Leones recuperated from people guilty of pilfering the national purse.

In an exclusive interview with PAV, Kaifala rubbishes claims that the corruption crusade has unfairly targeted officials of the previous administration. We follow the law and the evidence, says Kaifala, citing examples of officials in the current administration who have been persecuted for corruption.

Much work still has to be done to further weed out corruption, but the progress registered since he took office are indicative of the positive results that will continue to follow hard work, Kaifala said as he expressed optimism for the future.

We want to wish you happy new year and thank you very much for granting us this interview. May we start with a review of how last year went for the Anti-Corruption Commission, what worked well and what didn’t work well?

Francis Ben Kaifala : It was a great year , we did a lot of work in terms of enforcement, in terms of prosecution , a lot of prevention , we did engage in lots of massive public education and as you can see from the index we , those who usually check our work can confirm we did very well and that was the year we scored the highest in the Millennium Challenge Corporation Score card , we moved into 81% , Transparency International as well,  we moved by two points , we recovered more money last year , we gave the President, we recovered  over 10 Billion Leones  in a single year from the corrupt and we gave a cheque of 8 billion Leones to the president . Basically, it was a great for the fight against corruption.

 You have been heading of the ACC for two years now, in what shape did you meet the office and the overall state of corruption in Sierra Leone, and what are some of the changes that have taken place under your leadership?

Francis Ben Kaifala : Well corruption was very prevalent at the time I came in , as  you know Afro Barometer estimated that in 2015 -2017 that corruption was 70%, the same institution has now measured and says corruption prevalence has dropped by 40% so there is a huge 30% difference that has been  made within  this period of time and generally I think there is a lot  more awareness of the fight against corruption and in fact when Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law , the PFM Consortium did a survey recently compared to previous years, corruption perception and confidence of the citizens in the ACC to fight corruption was low as 19% now it is as high as  92%, so that is  a huge difference. I believe that we are making a difference.

Under the astute leadership of Francis Ben Kaifala, the fight against corruption in Sierra Leone is yielding tangible results
Under the astute leadership of Francis Ben Kaifala, the fight against corruption in Sierra Leone is yielding tangible results

 There have been several high-profile cases involving members of the previous administration of President Ernest Koroma, what is your response to critics who say these smacks of a political witch hunt?

Francis Ben Kaifala: Well, I don’t know what they mean by witch hunt. I don’t understand. We are operating within a toxic political environment and people used this thing to cover up their actions, so a man is given money to build a bridge, the bridge is not there, the money is not in the account and you called him to say where is the money and he says is witch hunt what does that mean? We are doing our job, and isolating ourselves from these kinds of cynical previews; we accept good criticisms it helps us do our work, some of it is just cynicism and we know the difference but the real name of the game is focus, is to continue what we are doing as long as we are producing the result for the country and that’s the most important thing and that’s what we are focused on.

There was a situation where former President Koroma was invited by your office, so how has that investigation been and any update?

Francis Ben Kaifala: Yeah, we have taken a statement from him, that investigation is under review now, we have taken all the issues into consideration and we will get back to the public on the details of that investigation.

How independent is the ACC in making decisions on cases it seeks to pursue as opposed to following instructions from President Maada Bio on who should be investigated?

Francis Ben Kaifala: The ACC is very autonomous, I don’t believe in independence, independence means we are like a republic on our own. we are not, we are working within the system and we consult, we give reports to the President on behalf of the people of Sierra Leone. We are accountable to parliament, there are many things. so, I don’t like to use the word independent, I prefer to use autonomy and we are completely autonomous, that means we can do our day-to-day activities without some body calling and directing us what to do, without the State House telling us who to arrest, to prosecute and telling us what the outcome should be. So, I can tell you we are very autonomous.

In a situation where the present administration officials are found guilty of corruption, some people wonder whether the ACC would take action.

Francis Ben Kaifala : But we are already prosecuting people in the current administration, the director and other staffs in the Ministry of Information who took Commissions of Inquiry money, were prosecuted in this current administration, Dr. Sarah Finda  Bendu was head of the Sierra Leone Maritime Administration in this current administration , she is been prosecuted in court , we also entered into settlement with her and we are recovering 500 million Leones from her , she has already paid over 300 million Leones , the investigations we are doing at EDSA is not past administration , the investigations  that we have been doing at the Maritime Administration is not past administration , the investigations we are doing at State House, the former State Chief of Protocol who is  investigated was not of the former administration. So, I don’t know what they mean by the current administration, but I can tell you that we are doing more now with the current administration than any other administration. Of course, we will always ask past officials to account because many were corrupt, and we have recovered billions from them, we have prosecuted many, some are still standing trial, the former vice president is standing trial; it is just part of the work, but really, we do not differentiate between past and present we just do our job, we follow the evidence, we follow what information we have.

 Your job is very difficult; may we know some of the challenges that you have faced while running the ACC?

Francis Ben Kaifala : The resources, we don’t have resources, the entire office is running on a current expenditure of about 800,000 United State Dollars not even up to a million dollar for the year, we don’t have capital expenditure, we cannot buy cars, we cannot buy laptops, we cannot buy anything that is capital in nature.  The total allocation to the place  is so small even our  staff costs we have no room for expansion because the Ministry of Finance is limiting what we can do, so we have logistical constraints .Beyond that, we are also operating within a very difficult political system,  very cynical system where sometimes the people for one reason or the other prefer to be against us or in favour of us  but  we are focused on our work as always but there are many challenges everywhere , we have challenges with the judiciary , it has been difficult for them to impose custodial sentences, but recently we have had some encouraging signs in that regard with the court of appeal confirming the custodial sentences  impose on those who took the Commissions of Inquiry money so we are hopeful that things are going to move in a better trajectory with the judiciary, but generally our prosecutions are very good. We are having a very high rate of conviction we just want the punishment to be much more severe than they have been doing. Generally, it is more about logistics, it is about resources and personnel.

 Prior to taking over the job, you were a successful Lawyer, what motivated you to leave your private practice to take the ACC job?

Francis Ben Kaifala: To serve my country. Everybody deserves that on your CV, no matter what you do in private service if I was not here, we will not be talking today about the successes we are scoring in the fight against corruption. So, I saw it as an opportunity because as you know I was very active speaking against the injustices and wrongs in the society, corruption in the society and  I was given the opportunity by the President to lead that fight, and that is why I am here.

Presenting a check to President Bio. Under the eadership of Kaifala, the ACC has recovered millions of dollars in looted funds.
Presenting a check to President Bio. Under the eadership of Kaifala, the ACC has recovered millions of dollars in looted funds.

With you background in Law and the experience you have garnered as head of the AAC, what other policy recommendations or framework is needed to strengthen the fight against corruption in Sierra Leone?

Francis Ben Kaifala: I think that more resources need to be allocated to the fight against corruption, we need to have lot more expansion, the entire anti -corruption Commission only has 200 staff. That is not enough to police the entire country when it comes to the fight against corruption. So more needs to be done to strengthened our hand not just in terms of the laws but to make sure that we have the resources to bring more personnel on board and apart from that we have the logistics, the right equipment to deploy, recording devices, televising devices. Those are all things that need to be improve if we are to move things forward.

For 2021, what should Sierra Leonians expect from Francis Ben Kaifala and the ACC and any last word as we wrap up this interview?

Francis Ben Kaifala :  2021, we will continue doing it like never before, continue with massive, massive public education, massive, massive prevention drive, continue with more investigations, continue with more prosecutions and generally continue to launder the image of the country to show that we are ready for business and we are a country of people who are capable of looking after ourselves without stealing from ourselves.

*Culled from February Issue of PAV Magazine

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Cameroon: NASLA is “The Bedrock of Local Development” – Pioneer DG Tanyitiku Bayee tells PAV
February 12, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

Tanyi Tiku Enoh Achuo, pioneer GM of NASLA
Tanyi Tiku Enoh Achuo, pioneer GM of NASLA

The Pioneer Director-general of the National School of Local Administration, NASLA, Tanyitiku EnohAchuo Bayee has said the institution is the bedrock of local development, which is also the slogan of the school.

Director-General Tanyitiku Bayee and his deputy were appointed by a Presidential decree on March 25, 2020. They were subsequently installed by September 18, 2020.

According to him, one of his priorities is to effectively take off with the training business of NASLA. The Director-General in an interview with Pan African Visions began by explaining some of the successes achieved thus far.

PAV: Since you took over office as the first DG of NASLA, what have been the achievements so far?

DG NASLA: Achievements so far have been recorded both at the level of the provision of professional training (A) as well as at the level of administrative and financial management (B).

Achievements at the level of the provision of professional training:

The continuation of initial training of trainees of the ex-CEFAM: In conformity with article 75 of the decree on the organization of NASLA, the Directorate General continued training one hundred and fifty-three (153) trainees of the ex-CEFAM 2019-2021 batches of trainees.

The organization of NASLA’s training offer which involves the adoption of the training curricula during the session of the Board of Directors of 18 September 2020 and the production of a catalogue of continuous and specific training courses for staff of Regional and Local Authorities and Local development actors.

For the achievement in administrative and financial management, the setting up of management bodies and the adoption of resolutions governing their functioning have enabled NASLA to start its activities in compliance with standards.

Considerable financial resources have been mobilized, following the special disbursement instructions of the Prime Minister, Head of Government. These resources have been mostly made available by the following bodies; the Ministry of Finance (MINFI), the Special Council Support Fund for Mutual Assistance (FEICOM), The Ministry of the Economy, and Regional Development (MINEPAT). These resources disbursed so far, have enabled us to carry out many needed activities to enable us to take off conveniently.  

In terms of Renovation, rehabilitation of infrastructure and equipment of the offices of NASLA officials, the following have either been executed or are in the course of implementation: the transformation of dormitories into two classrooms to provide more training space; the rehabilitation of two classrooms, to provide a more conducive learning environment; the construction of a fence to better secure our campus; the signing of agreements between NASLA and P&T School of Public Works for renovation and use of some of their structures and classrooms; and the construction of a water supply system to alleviate water supply shortages on campus.  

Concerning the provision of qualified human resources to NASLA, the appointment of Directors and sub-Directors, to beef up the administrative set-up of NASLA and the recruitment of ex-CEFAM staff have been made. The situation of ex-CEFAM was not clarified by the instrument creating NASLA. The Director-General, therefore, decided to absorb all the staff through recruitment by NASLA. Additionally, some persons from the surrounding communities have also been recruited in various capacities and various mechanisms, into NASLA staff.

NASLA DG Tanyitiku Bayee being installed by the Minister of Decentralization and Local Development Georges Elanga Obaml

PAV: What are the priority areas of the NASLA DG?

DG NASLA: As the DG of NASLA, my most pressing priorities at the moment is to effectively take off with the training business of NASLA. As a reminder, the instrument creating NASLA provides the following in terms of its training: A diploma initial training of two years organized in three cycles (Cycle A for senior executives of local administration; Cycle B for the mid-level staff of local administration; Cycle C for specialized workers of local administration).

In-service training not exceeding six months for the staff of Regional and Local Authorities with graduates obtaining a certificate. Specific training not exceeding three months for local development actors with graduates obtaining an attestation.

The management of the institution has prepared the necessary instruments for the launching of the entrance examination for the initial training cycles and forwarded to hierarchy for the eventual launching of the examinations.

Also, a catalogue of the in-service and specific training offers has been prepared and is presently being disseminated to eventually interested persons. So you can see that our priority is to effectively start training which is the raison d’etre of the creation of this institution, meanwhile, we are continuing to out in lace necessary infrastructure for the seamless take-off, which should be hopefully soon.

We are hoping to launch the selection for our in-service training programme in the days ahead. We hope to be in full continuous training by the second quarter of 2021.

PAV: How important is NASLA in the smooth take-off of the decentralization process looking at the goal of NASLA which involves facilitating decentralization and local governance?

DG NASLA: The human being is at the centre of any development endeavour. For the decentralization process, as promoted by the Head of State President Paul Biya, to achieve the desired results of bringing about development and improvement on governance and the related standard of living of citizens, the people who are vested with its implementation should be qualified and properly skilled. This is why staff capacity building, as well as that of all connected actors, plays an essential role in the success of decentralization.

Presently, there is a marked deficit in the trained staff in our councils. The advent of Regions with the election of regional councils and assemblies makes this need even more pressing, for the said Region’s need to recruit qualified man-power to enable to function as an efficient administration. This is equally true for the other actors, like the newly elected Regional Council and Regional council executives; we have to be properly-versed on their mission and how to accomplish such.

In a nutshell, NASLA can be considered to be a very important institution in the success of the Decentralization process in Cameroon. NASLA is, therefore, as our slogan proclaims “the bedrock of local development”.

PAV: In 2019 MINDDEVEL revealed that more than 70 per cent of workers in Councils across Cameroon have qualifications below the standard. What is NASLA doing to equip Regional and Local Authorities with technical know-how?

DG NASLA: This question is very relevant for a study, that I was reading and that dates back about 10 years ago indicated that the deficit in qualified man-power for councils to function optimally at that time was 10,000 persons and about 3,600 staff would be needed for the Regions. This was ten years ago. This number must have significantly increased given that the ex-CEFAM, which was the school ensuring training for the local administration before now, could only train or graduate a handful of staff each year due to its organic constraints.  

NASLA has an ambition, in the medium term, to put in the job market, at least five hundred (500) graduates each year from the initial training cycle. This will be complemented by the short training that shall be carried out in the in-service and specific training cycles. As such, within a reasonable timeframe, the councils and regions should have enough trained staff to carry out the various development missions that the law devolves on them.

Officials of the Management team of the National School of Local Administration, NASLA
Officials of the Management team of the National School of Local Administration, NASLA

PAV: NASLA is an off-shoot of CEFAM. Is there any difference in the way the former is operating from the latter or how is NASLA different from CEFAM?

DG NASLA: It is true that NASLA, just like ex-CEFAM, is training for Regional and Local Authorities. It is also true that NASLA was created on the ashes of ex-CEFAM, and on the same campus for that matter. I would, however, like to point out that NASLA unlike what many people think, is a new creation; it is a new state institution that the Head of State created and not a transformation or reform of CEFAM. This distinction is significant for it makes for the marked differences between ex-CEFAM and this new institution. Firstly, the name changed completely from a Centre to s School. Secondly, the training cycles equally changed in their nomenclatures. Furthermore, the legal status also changed, for NASLA unlike CEFAM, is an administrative public establishment with a Director-General at its helm. CEFAM was headed by a Director.

I should also point out that ex-CEFAM did not have a cycle for degree holders which NASLA has. Equally, the structure of NASLA is different from that of ex-CEFAM, etc. so there are many differences these two institutions, which, however, are government instruments to provide our local administrations with qualified manpower. The operating procedures in NASLA are different from those of CEFAM. To begin with, the philosophy and mindset are different. So NASLA has not revised verso of ex-CEFAM but a new institution which has a mission to take care of the training needs of Regional and Local Authorities in line with the added and daunting missions devolved to them.

PAV: NASLA operates in a region that is going through a crisis for the past four years now. How has NASLA been able to function and keep its daily activities?

DG NASLA: it is a common knowledge that the North West and South West Regions have been in a crisis for some time now. This has, however, not stopped us from carrying out our activities at NASLA. Our modus operandi has been to focus exclusively on our mission.

In this connection, we have equally taken all necessary steps to live in harmony with the local community. For example, we have received local opinion leaders, like chiefs and elected officials of the region in general and Buea in particular; concentrated only on the achievement of our mission; given various jobs to children of the local community, which was appreciated. These are all measures that have enabled us to have an appeased relationship with our environment and ensured to an extent, our harmonious existence with people of the locality.

As for security on campus, we have instituted, inter alia the following measures; security guards who guard over the NASLA compound 24/24 hours; ensure that all visitors to the campus are adequately identified and planning to install surveillance cameras on campus. During events on campus, we enlist the reinforcement of our security by bringing the elements of the forces of law and order. I hope, when training effectively starts, to have some time of these security forces to permanently reinforce our personnel. Meanwhile, as every Cameroonian, I am hoping that this uncertain situation will rapidly find a permanent solution and come to an end.

PAV: When we look at the decentralization process, many observers say it is just a way for the government to continue exerting its powers on the local authorities. What do you say about this concerning the fact that NASLA is expected to have financial and other autonomy though still under the government?

DG NASLA: I must start by asserting that decentralization is a system of government where the state devolves some of its powers to local authorities as a means of bringing development closer to its citizens in all nooks and crannies of the country. It is not the abdication of the powers of the state over the national territory. The local authorities, therefore, function under the state. It is in reality a more advance form of delegation of powers. Local authorities remain dismemberments of the state and not independent entities. It is in this connection that State Supervision over Regional and Local Authorities is enshrined in our national law for the actions of these authorities must conform to national policies and law.

As for the case of NASLA which you mentioned in terms of its financial and legal autonomy, I will like to point out that NASLA operates as any other administrative public establishment in Cameroon. It is an institution of the State of Cameroon, established by Presidential decree and funded as well as administratively and financially supervised by this same state through competent state bodies. So it is not an abnormality for the government to continue to exert powers over NASLA, and even the Regional and local authorities for that matter. 

A sign post indicating the campus of the National School of Local Administration, NASLA in Buea
A sign post indicating the campus of the National School of Local Administration, NASLA in Buea

PAV: Looking back to 2016 the crisis in the NW/SWRs cantered on decentralisation and federalism. How important is effective decentralisation in bringing an end to the present impasse?

I have already pointed out above that there are various forms of governance. Governance by a delegation of powers to territorial entities is what is desired. Such delegation could take the form of decentralization or federalism as you mentioned. That State of Cameroon through the constitution of 1996, opted for Cameroon being a decentralised unitary state. So decentralisation was the form of power devolvement elected by Cameroon. This form of government has its modus operandi.

I believe that the State of Cameroon has been pursuing such. It is a process which entails imperfections which can only be corrected to make the system better functional. What is noticeable is the absolute commitment of the government of Cameroon to the success of the decentralisation process as a means to keep the unity of the country and bring about effective development that takes into consideration local realities and specific interests of various parts of the country.

As for the crisis in the North West and South West Regions, I think that still is within the latitude provided by decentralization, the government has taken various measures that take into consideration that specificities of the people of these regions in terms of administration, governance and development model and priorities.

More significantly, special status was granted to these regions with the creation of a Regional Assembly composed of a regional Council and House of Chiefs. This model draws from the administrative history of these regions. I believe that when these institutions shall go fully operational, many of the concerns of the people of the said regions will be addressed. Of course, the government is committed, I believe, to initiate and implement more measures that will better adequately meet the aspirations of the people of the North West and South West Regions within the framework of a united Cameroon.

PAV: Recently, the NW/SWRs elected members of the Regional House of Assembly and House of Chiefs. How important are these institutions in addressing the issue of decentralization?

DG NASLA: I already mentioned above, the significance of the creation of the Regional House of Assembly for the North West and South West Regions is an important measure to resolve the crisis that the said regions have been witnessing for the past four to five years now. This model draws from the administrative history of the concerned regions. The Regional Assemblies shall enhance grass root democratic participation and better taking into account the aspirations and needs of the people of these two Regions. Now that these institutions have been effectively put in place and are operational, it is our fervent hope that they will contribute significantly to bringing the crisis to an end.

PAV: This year 2021 marks five years since the crisis in the English-speaking Regions ensued, where are we right now and what do you think can be done to address the crisis?

DG NASLA: I believe that the crisis has abated to an extent, and this is due to the concerted efforts of all the stakeholders. Government has taken several measures, some of which I already listed above, to resolve the causes of the conflict, which unfortunately has not only grievously harmed the people of these regions but the entire country as a whole.

My take is that we should all keep working for the total resolution of the crisis so that absolute peace may return to the two regions in particular and our country as a whole. In this connection, I would on a personal note wish that all the parties of good faith keep up with dialogue efforts, for all human disagreements can only ne sustainably resolved through dialogue and reaching a mutual agreement.

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Cameroon: D&L Foretia Foundation will Continue Catalyzing Africa’s Economic Transformation
December 22, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

Fri Asanga, COO Denis and Lenora Foretia Foundation

Fri Asanga, COO Denis and Lenora Foretia Foundation

The Denis and Lenora Foretia Foundation will continue its focus on Africa’s transformation through social entrepreneurship, science and technology, innovation, public health and progressive policies that create economic opportunities for all. This per the Foundation’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) Fri Asanga, in an interview with Pan African Visions to look back at the year’s activities that the Foundation has organized and what is installed for 2021.

Before joining the Foundation, Fri Asanga was the Coordinator for FinScope and MAP Cameroon where she oversaw the activities of the financial scoping consumer survey in Cameroon on behalf of UNCDF and FinMark Trust.

PAV: 2020 has been a challenging year for everyone and the Foundation is not left out, what measures were taken or have been taken to ensure staff does not contract the coronavirus?

Fri Asanga: The Foundation educated the staff on the virus, its signs and symptoms, how to prevent it, and other measures necessary for them to protect themselves and their loved ones. In a bid to curb the spread of the disease and protect staff, the Foundation closed its offices in March 2020 and everyone started working from home. When office activities resumed in September 2020, the Foundation ensured that all staff wear masks to work, Wash their hands before getting into the office premise, and maintain social distancing while in the office.

PAV: At the start of the Coronavirus in Cameroon, the Foundation moved swiftly to create the COVID-19 taskforce. What successes were recorded? And were there any challenges faced trying to communicate to the population?

The Foundation has been a leading voice on COVID 19 themed initiatives

The Foundation has been a leading voice on COVID 19 themed initiatives

Fri Asanga: The covid 19 community pilot project under the covid task force was launched on the 16th of April 2020. The pilot project was launched in a bid to accompany the government in the fight against Covid-19 through community involvement. Through the  project, the following activities were accomplished;

  • Training of community leaders on the identification of signs and symptoms of Covid 19
  • Distribution of flyers and posters in the simbock neighbourhood.
  • Training the community on how to locally produce hand sanitizers and wash hands properly.
  • Creation of local volunteers at the community level.
  • Translation of messages to local languages (Ewondo and Bamileke) Radio sensitization.
  • Myth debunking.
  • Creation of a WhatsApp group for better monitoring and follow up.
  • Organization of a covid Symposium to crown the project.

The COVID-19 Taskforce published more than 10 bulletins to educate the general public and advise policymakers about the pandemic. Each bulletin was written both in French and English to reach a maximum number of people. The bulletins covered specific aspects including the management of the pandemic, its implications for households and companies, and the measures to curb the spread of the virus just to name a few.

Also, the task force organized a series of webinar events where key policymakers and health practitioners were invited to share their thoughts and experiences to promote evidence-informed decisions in the country.

During the entire project, the following challenges were encountered: Most volunteers were students and were not available to fully participate in the program due to school activities. Also, some interested people did not have android phones nor computers to participate in the online symposium.

Another difficulty was encountered at the level of planning and organizing the radio sensitization programme as it coincided with an exam programme of community volunteers where a greater proportion of them was in examination classes. It was a challenge getting community members to attend the virtual symposium via zoom.

PAV:  What are some of the activities that the Foundation has carried out this year?

This year we organized the SBEC Activities for the year 2020 which involved; Regional forum on Business Networking on January 31st in Douala. Theme “The Pivotal Role of business networking to entrepreneurs in Cameroon”

– Regional Forum on the business network on February 27th in Yaoundé. Theme “Business networking, a valuable tool for entrepreneurial Growth in Cameroon”

– Business plan training online from May 12th to July 1st (5 modules). Theme “Business plan, an ultimate tool for fueling ambitions and entrepreneurial growth in Cameroon”

– Bookkeeping training online on July 29th.Theme “A Practical Guide for Bookkeeping”

– Webinar on “Surviving beyond the Covid-19 as an entrepreneur in Cameroon” on September 11th.

-Webinar on “The effects of Information Asymmetry on business growth in Cameroon” on 27th November.

The Nkafu Policy Institute organized a 1-week intensive training course on policy analysis. Two Nkafu Debates were organized on the themes; “Will more Taxes Increase fiscal revenues in Cameroon” and “Is market competition good for Cameroon’s Industrialization?

Under our Leadership and Democracy project, we organized about 10 events on Peace and Democracy. As part of our COVID-19 project, we organized about 10 webinars and invited experts to gain more insights on the pandemic, and how Cameroon and Africa are adapting.

We equally organized 2 events to disseminate the research findings of a Thematic Report on Starting a business in Cameroon, and another on Dealing with Construction permits in Cameroon

PAV: Let’s now focus on some activities you carried out this year. Firstly, talk to us about the Emerging Leaders Program for this year and what are some of the peculiarities?

Fri Asanga: The Emerging leaders’ program is a program organized by the Foundation to better equip today’s youths for transformational Leadership in Cameroon. This training program which identified 20 highly skilled and motivated Cameroonians below the age of 35, took place from the 25th to the 28th of October 2020 with renowned speakers based in Cameroon and the United State of America.

The second phase of this program is underway as these youths equipped with knowledge in leadership and democracy will organize similar events financed by the Foundation in their respective regions of origin.

PAV: The Foundation organized the STEM Program last year 2019 but this year there was none. Why so?

Fri Asanga: The STEM Program did not take place this year due to the advent of the COVID 19 Pandemic. The program was scheduled to take place mid-year but during this period, the COVID 19 pandemic was at its peak and all schools were closed.

PAV: What are some of the challenges that the foundation has had to grapple with this year aside from the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Fri Asanga: Moving to the virtual way of doing events was a great challenge as the entire Foundation struggled to adapt to this new system. Participants struggled with attending and using online video conferencing applications.

PAV: How have you found the situation of working from home or using the zoom platform for webinars by the Foundation better as opposed to using physical locations?

Fri Asanga: Firstly is the ability to bring in resource persons from all over the world to contribute to discussions during webinars. The distance barrier is broken through webinars. Next is the fact that participants who were interested in our events could now attend irrespective of their location or what they are doing.

PAV: This year 2020 is about rounding up, what are we expecting from the Foundation in the few weeks left?

Fri Asanga: The foundation has some events planned out for December. They include the following;

  • December 04, 2020Le Processus De Démocratisation Au Cameroun 30 Ans Après : Quel Bilan à l’Épreuve Des Crises ?(Online)
  • December 08, 2020COVID-19 and Africa: The Path Forward A Conversation with Dr Bernard Kadio (Online)
  • December 11, 2020 SBEC National Forum (Foundation Headquarters)
  • December 16, 2020 Social Entrepreneurship for Sustainable Development in Sub-Saharan Africa: Lessons for Business Incubation in Cameroon, Burkina Faso, and Ghana. (La Falaise Hotel, Yaoundé)
  • December 18, 2020 One year into the COVID-19 Pandemic. What Lessons can be learnt? (Online )

Fri Asanga addressing 2020 Cohorts of the Emerging Leaders Programme

Fri Asanga addressing 2020 Cohorts of the Emerging Leaders Programme

PAV: What should we envisage from the Foundation this coming year 2021?

Fri Asanga: The Foundation will continue to work on 4 major projects

  • The DBI project which focuses on Liberating Entreprises to advance prosperity in Cameroon
  • The COVID-19 Project which is focused on Protecting Liberties while addressing the Corona Virus Pandemic
  • The Social Entrepreneurship Project that focuses on Business Incubator Practices in Cameroon, Burkina Faso, and Ghana
  • The leadership and democracy project which is aimed at Promoting Democracy and Governance in Cameroon

PAV: Is there anything you will like to talk about that we left out? If not, what is your last word as we sign off 2019?

Fri Asanga: The Foundation will continue its mission of catalyzing Africa’s Economic Transformation through social entrepreneurship, science and technology, innovation, public health and progressive policies that create economic opportunities for all.

*Culled from December issue of PAV Magazine

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