Africa Has Not Been A Priority Region For The Trump Administration-CFA President Mel Foote
August 13, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
Very little has been done by President Trump in articulating and fostering a concise African policy, says Mel Foote, President of the Washington DC, based Constituency for Africa. In addition to not paying a visit to Africa in his first term, the President’s utterances and actions have not been helpful in forging stronger ties with Africa, says Mr. Foote, a highly respected veteran of African Affairs in the Washington, DC circuit.
Fielding questions from PAV, Mr. Foote says the upcoming Presidential elections will have profound implications on how the U.S interacts with Africa and the rest of the world.
“Should Trump win re-election, we certainly should not expect anything of significance for Africa, and certainly no new initiatives. On the other hand, should Vice-President Biden win, we can certainly expect a stronger hand of friendship coming from the U.S., although the attention of President Biden will most certainly be on responding to the COVID-19 impact in the U.S,” says Mr. Foote.
“While clearly President Trump has not engaged much with African-Americans during these four years , African-Americans have not done well with the Democratic Party either as both sides routinely promise things in exchange for votes, but deliver little,” Mel Foote charged.
Still, the CFA leader believes that the African American vote could be decisive in swaying the election either way and for this to happen, their turnout must mirror 2008 levels when President Obama won the elections, Mr. Foote says.
Thanks for accepting to grant this interview, can we start with your assessment of the state of US-African relations?
Since assuming the Presidency of the United States, President Donald Trump has done very little to advance any significant U.S. – Africa policy agenda. He started off on the wrong foot, by insulting African countries, calling them “shithole countries”, and followed this up by putting African countries, including Nigeria on a list to restrict U.S. visas! The first lady Melania Trump visited Africa last year, but did not focus on any real substantive agenda, and there has been little or no follow-up.
What was the Trump agenda for Africa and what impact did it have on the traditional ties that the US has had with Africa?
President Trump really does not have any discernable agenda for Africa. The U.S. is only peripherally involved in major movements on the continent, i.e., the Continental Free Trade Agreement; efforts to respond to climate change on the continent; and efforts to respond to COVID-19. Having said that, the U.S. State Department has been helpful in the peaceful transition to democracy in Sudan. The US played a role in the peaceful elections in the DRC. The US seems to be on the right side in pressing for democratic reform and leadership change in Cameroon.
President Trump is wrapping up his first term of office with Africa been the only region he has not visited, what message does it send to the seriousness with which the US takes its ties with Africa?
Given all of the challenges the Trump administration is facing as it wraps up its first term, including the global COVID-19 pandemic, no one can expect President Trump to make a trip to Africa any time soon. In fact, for security reasons, the President is not able to travel to Europe, Canada, Asia or anywhere else, until such a time that a vaccine would be available! Most of the Africa-watchers in Washington, would have questioned his motives for making a trip to Africa anyways, given some of his rhetoric, and his abhorrent disregard and treatment of black people in Africa and here in the United States.
Elections are around the corner, what could be at stake for US-Africa relations come November?
The US Presidential Elections in November will certainly be important for Americans and for the entire world! Should Trump win re-election, we certainly should not expect anything of significance for Africa, and certainly no new initiatives. On the other hand, should Vice-President Biden win, we can certainly expect a stronger hand of friendship coming from the U.S., although the attention of President Biden will most certainly be on responding to the COVID-19 impact in the U.S.; putting Americans back to work; and getting the U.S. economy going again.
What guarding principles or recommendations do you have for African Americans in making their choice of who to vote in November?
African-Americans certainly are in position to determine the outcome of the elections, if we turn out to vote at the level of 2008, when Barack Obama won the election. The Trump re-election team is working hard to make it difficult for Black people to vote, and clearly want to limit the potential! While clearly President Trump has not engaged much with African Americans during these four years — African Americans have not done well with the Democratic Party either! Both sides routinely promise things in exchange for votes, but deliver little! Unfortunately, we can expect little to achieve for Africa and for African people, regardless of who is elected!
What do you make of the way Africa reacted to the recent murder of George Floyd?
With the advent of social media, the entire world witnessed to murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis, Minnesota police! While thousands of blacks have been systematically murdered by police across the United States, it has always been covered up, with police claiming that they were defending themselves and had to use lethal force! African immigrants have generally stayed out of the issue of police brutality, but increasingly are being caught up as the police are only seeing them as black people, and not as Ethiopians, Guineans, Nigerians, etc. The George Floyd murder reverberated across the world including across Africa! The African immigrant community also has been caught up in the global protest, and the Black Lives Matter movement.
The emotional responses from Africa during the George Floyd included calls from the Minister of Culture for aggrieved African Americans to come back “home,” what is it that African countries could do to build bridges to its diaspora?
Africa and African people are certainly coming to realize the potential of the African Diaspora, for remittances, for trade promotion, for tourism, etc.
Thus, the African Union’s launching of the Diaspora as the “Sixth Region”, in 2012! However, much work remains to be done in Africa and here in the Diaspora, to make this Sixth Region a functional reality. The biggest challenge is to how we can develop an “operational concept of unification”, that allows African-Americans, African immigrants, Afro-Latinos, Afro-Europeans, etc., to cooperate!
As we speak, the African Union Mission in Washington DC has gone without an Ambassador since October 2019 when Ambassador Arikana was recalled, what do you make of this?
We all applaud the tremendous effort of Ambassador Arikana Chihombori to engage the Diaspora, during her three years as the Permanent Representative to Washington. She was tireless in her approach, and did much to wake the Diaspora up to the possibilities in Africa! On the other hand, Ambassador Chihombori was clearly functioning as a part of the African Union Commission and operated under their organizational policies and procedures! She served at the pleasure of the AU Chairperson, and like all Ambassadors, was subject to recall for any reason as determined by the Chairperson. The African Union has an “Acting” Representative in place here in Washington, and given the COVID-19 pandemic, the AU is certainly suspending efforts for the time being, to formally fill Ambassadorships around the world! I do expect that the way Ambassador Chihombori departed the position, unfortunately will hurt efforts in the future for the AU to focus on African Diaspora issues and engagement. They will likely focus on bilateral issues with the U.S. government, and with institutions like the World Bank and IMF!
What plans does the Constituency For Africa that you lead have for the 2020 annual Ron Brown African Affairs Series?
The CFA 2020 Ronald H. Brown African Affairs Series will take place virtually, between September 12 – 19. The theme for the Series this year is, “Advocating for Africa in the Mist of the Pandemic”! While most of the Africa-focused organizations in the U.S. have disappeared, or have severely reduced their programming during the Coronavirus pandemic, CFA has clearly adjusted, and continues to respond to the call of Africa, albeit with minimum resources. In some respect the programming is even better today in that we have much better access with the use of ZOOM and other information technologies, to reach leaders across Africa, and throughout the Diaspora around the world! We are planning to release the agenda for the 2020 RHB Series next week.
Mel, we like to end with a last question on what is been done by you and other veterans of African advocacy in Washington ,DC, to ensure that there is continuity in the great work you have done for decades?
I am pleased to say that CFA has always prioritized preparing the next generation of leadership to support Africa. I recall my own experience in coming up, how the Black leaders at that time were not attuned to helping me or any of the up and coming folks, to prepare for leadership. One of my bosses told once told me when I went to him about career advice, “You must pull yourself up by your own bootstraps”! In other words, he was not going to do anything to help me to advance my career! I decided then and there that if I am ever in the position, I would take a much different approach to the next generation!
I am extremely proud of my role in the formulation of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), that was launched by President Barack Obama, after he became President. President Obama sent an aide to see me late in 2008, and asked me to offer my thoughts on what approach the President could take in regards to Africa, in that when he arrived in office, the U.S. economy was in total freefall, we were fully engaged in fighting two wars (Iraq and Afghanistan), and he needed to spend his first year or so in fixing the economy and getting Americans back to work! He also followed George W. Bush in office. President Bush, despite his limited knowledge and interest in Africa, ended up being perhaps the most successful U.S. President in history in relationship to Africa, allocating $15 billion to respond to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and $5 billion to launch the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which provided new development support for Africa.
President Obama wanted to show Africa that he, as a son of the continent, was indeed very much interested in the affairs of Africa, but he needed to spend his first year or so, fixing the monumental problems in the U.S. I wrote a paper for the President Obama, and suggested that he not spend his political capital trying to get African old tyrants to do the right thing, but focus his attention on the young, the up and coming generation, and preparing them for leadership! President Obama loved the idea, and went on to structure YALI!
Friends In Need, Friends Indeed:Q & A With Dr Rasha Kalej On The Merck Foundation Response To COVID 19 in Africa
August 13, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
The COVID-19 pandemic may have slowed its agenda, but the Merck Foundation under the leadership of its CEO Rasha Kelej remains a dependable development partner for Africa. From continuous engagement with African first Ladies, to raising awareness and showing appreciation to frontline actors, Dr Rasha Kelej sheds light on the response of the Merck Foundation to Covid 19 in Africa in the following Q &A
With the first ladies that you work with, what initiatives have been embarked on in response to COVID 19?
Merck Foundation has raced to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic in partnership with 18 African First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Information and Education focusing on four main areas: community support , training doctors and community awareness through our “stay at home “ media recognition awards and children storybook. To give a brief ;
1) Community donations: the lockdown imposed in most countries had hit the daily workers and women the most, making it very difficult for them to survive. Therefore, we partnered with the African First Ladies of Liberia, Ghana, DR Congo, Zimbabwe, Niger, Sierra Leone, Malawi (Former) and Burkina Faso to support livelihood of thousands of women and families of casual and daily workers who are most affected by the Coronavirus (COVID -19) lockdown. The relief contribution was also undertaken in Egypt with the aim to support 500 families.
2) Coronavirus Healthcare Capacity Building: We strongly believe that building professional healthcare capacity is the right strategy to improve access to quality and equitable healthcare specially during this vicious pandemic, therefore, Merck Foundation will strongly continue their current capacity advancement programs and will specially focus on building Coronavirus healthcare capacity through providing African and Asian medical postgraduates with one-year online diploma and two-year online Master degree in both Respiratory Medicines and Acute Medicines at one of the UK Universities. This program is in partnership with African First Ladies, Ministers of Health and Academia across the two continents.
As part of our strategy of responding to coronavirus lockdown, we scaled up to more African and Asian medical postgraduates to provide online medical specialization scholarships. We will now focus more on online scholarships which will be for one-year diploma and two year master degree in several specialties such as: Diabetes, Cardiovascular Preventive Medicines, Endocrinology and Sexual and Reproductive Medicines. We invite Medical Graduates to apply for these courses by email us on email@example.com
3) Community Awareness: We also launched ‘Stay at Home’ Media Recognition Awards in partnership with First Ladies of Ghana, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Malawi (Former), Namibia, Niger, Guinea Conakry, Burundi (Former), Central African Republic (C.A.R.), Chad, Zimbabwe, Zambia, The Gambia, Liberia and Congo Brazzaville, Angola, Mali, Mozambique for English, French, Portuguese and Arabic Speaking African countries. The awards have been also announced for Middle Eastern, Asian countries and in Spanish for Latin American Countries. The theme of the awards is ‘Raising Awareness on how to Stay Safe, Keep Physically and Mentally Healthy during Coronavirus Lockdown with the aim to separate facts from myths and misconceptions’. The winners of the awards will be announced soon.
4) Community awareness for Children and Youth: We also launched an inspiring storybook called ‘Making the Right Choice’ in partnership with 18 African First Ladies. The story aims to raise awareness about coronavirus prevention amongst children and youth as it provides facts about the pandemic and how to stay safe and healthy during the outbreak. It also promotes honesty, hard-work and the ability to make the right choices even during the most challenging times. The story has been released in three languages: English, French and Portuguese.
There is also a song out -My White Army song from a group of 11 artists from 11 African countries in three languages ; for ur first time in Arabic , French and English. on the pandemic, how did you come about this initiative?
I started this song as an idea of creating an inspiring pan African song which aims 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.
I strongly believe, it is important for the people on the front line; doctors, nurses and health workers to know how grateful we are. I did not want this to be a one-off thank you, but one that becomes a regular act of gratitude across our communities. I have heard stories of horrible behavior against our health workers, such as, landlords are forcefully evicting them due to paranoia that they might spread COVID -19. It is shocking, illegal and inhuman behavior”.
Through the My White Army song, singers representing Africa are expressing our love, respect and gratitude for doctors, nurses and health workers, the frontliners in the coronavirus battle. It is their messages of support for those braving the outbreak to help others.
This is the first time in Africa and may be in the world that 11 singers from 11 African countries in three languages have participated in one song, to support the medical staff during this difficult time.
The title of the song- ‘My White Army’ simply refers to the team of health workers who wear white uniforms to save and defend us against the coronavirus pandemic which seem like a battel to the world.
What criteria was used in picking the 11 artists that were used for the song and what is the feedback you have received since the song was released?
The criteria I used was to approach singers from Arabic, English and French speaking countries with a representation from East, West, North and South Africa. Of course, I approached many singers, but I selected the ones who showed passion and great interest and were willing to work under this difficult times and restrictions.
I must say am happy with the team of singers that could come on board, but this is the beginning of series of projects and songs to be done from different countries including Portuguese speaking countries. Singers from all countries will be contacted and represented in the future to create songs to address different sensitive topics in Africa.
The 6th edition of Merck Africa Asia Luminary took place in Ghana last year , what souvenirs did you take out the forum and with COVID 19, what plans for the next one?
Of course this year we will not be able to conduct the luminary in Zambia in October like it was originally planned due to coronavirus pandemic new regulations. We will conduct our forums online this year and we will postpone the luminary to 2021. Hopefully by then everything will be under control.
You were listed last year amongst the top 100 most influential Africans by New African magazine; how did you receive this news?
I am very proud to be listed among the 100 Most Influential Africans of 2019. This recognition is very important for me and for Merck foundation as it acknowledges my efforts, my team’s efforts for empowering infertile women and extensively working on eliminating stigma associated with infertility through our historic campaign ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ that aims to empower infertile women through access to information, education and change of mind-sets. I am very passionate about this cause and I love my work and my achievements as an African woman.
Through this movement, we have succeeded to initiate a cultural shift to de-stigmatize infertility at all levels: By improving awareness, training local experts in the fields of fertility care and media, building advocacy in cooperation with 18 African First Ladies who are the ambassadors of this movement, I love to work with them. And also, by supporting childless women in starting their own small businesses. It’s all about giving every woman the respect and the help she deserves to live a fulfilling life, with or without a child.
May we have an idea of any other initiatives or projects that the Merck Foundation will be working on in the course of the year?
In addition to the four areas we are focusing on to respond to COVID 19. We will focus online speciality education like as mentioned earlier. And of course all our awards which can be conducted remotely. The full focus will be on our community awareness through our social media channel. I am very prod that we reached 3 m followers on all our channels including my private channels @Rasha Kelej . I am still thanks to all technology platforms , in close contact with all our partners , as our Alumni and new candidates to ensure that Merck foundation is on the right track to realize our vision.
Conversation with Marieme Esther Dassanou, Coordinator of the African Development Bank’s Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa programme
July 29, 2020 | 0 Comments
|She previously led IFC’s Gender Secretariat’s work on advancing women’s inclusion in the insurance and financial sectors.|
Marieme Esther Dassanou is the Coordinator of Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) the African Development Bank’s flagship pan-African initiative, which aims to bridge the $42 billion financing gap facing women entrepreneurs in Africa.
She previously led IFC’s Gender Secretariat’s work on advancing women’s inclusion in the insurance and financial sectors.
In this interview, she outlines progress made with the AFAWA initiative and its future plans.
You recently joined the African Development Bank as AFAWA coordinator. Can you tell us more about the initiative?
AFAWA is a pan-African initiative launched by the African Development Bank at its Annual Meeting in Lusaka, Zambia in May 2016 to promote gender-inclusive financing and unlock the women entrepreneurship potential in Africa. Through AFAWA, the Bank seeks to bridge the $42 billion financing gap faced by women-empowered businesses (WEBs) by deploying financing instruments better suited to addressing their finance needs for the growth of their businesses.
These financial instruments are coupled with technical assistance to financial institutions to better address the needs of WEBs as well as capacity building for women entrepreneurs to increase their profitability and bankability. AFAWA also includes a business-enabling environment component to ensure regulation is conducive to enhancing the ability of financial institutions to lend to women. Through AFAWA the Bank aims to unlock up to $ 5 billion in the next five to six years.
Why is it important for the Bank to have such a vehicle or mechanism in place?
The development and growth of women-owned businesses on the continent is a priority for the African Development Bank. The continent’s women entrepreneurs start businesses faster than anywhere else in the world, and in most countries represent at least 30% of formally registered businesses. Taking into account the informal economy, one could comfortably say that women represent the largest part of the SME sector. Thus, aiming to develop our continent without them would not make economic sense. They are fundamental and key drivers of sustainable economic growth and widespread and inclusive prosperity.
It is important to support these businesses to grow by ensuring they have the financial and business tools they need. AFAWA, through its Guarantee for Growth programme, supported by the G7, the Netherlands, Sweden and Rwanda, is a good starting point. Implemented together with the Africa Guarantee Fund, the programme reduces the guarantee requirements for women when they need a loan. AGF is a pan-African financial institution that provides financial institutions with guarantees and other products specifically intended to support small and medium-sized enterprises in Africa. Together, we will work with financial institutions to enhance their understanding of women entrepreneurs and their different risks, which should be considered in the development of financial services for women.
The Bank is also further leveraging its lines of credit, trade finance lines and investment in equity funds to increase access to finance for WEBs of a certain size even more. The partnership signed with the Women Entrepreneurship Finance Initiative (We-Fi) supports the Bank in increasing it financial coverage for women entrepreneurs through these traditional instruments, as well as increase trading opportunities for women entrepreneurs and grow the fashion and creative industries.
What are the commitments so far?
The program has so far received commitments from G7 members, including France, the UK, Canada, Italy and Germany, as well as the Netherlands, Sweden and Rwanda. AFAWA has also received its first tranche of funding from We-Fi , a portion of which will go towards enhancing to the capacity of women-owned businesses to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.
We invite other governments, especially our regional member countries, to partner with us in helping to bridge the finance gap for women-run businesses in Africa.
On the implementation front, what ground has been covered?
We’ve made great progress since the G7 Biarritz Summit last year. On 31 March 2020, the Board of Directors of the African Development Bank approved the two mechanisms that will enable us to de-risk women-led businesses and increase their ability to access to loans with lighter collateral requirements. We’ve been slightly delayed by COVID-19, but we expect that the Guarantee for Growth Programme will be operational before the end of 2020.
In the meantime, we are leveraging the Bank’s lines of credit, trade finance and equity funds to enable women to access funds and grow their businesses. The Bank is also ensuring that the SME component of its COVID-19 Rapid Response Facility (CRF) package, has a part specifically dedicated to women businesses. The Bank is also exploring opportunities to work with equity funds in enhancing the ability of women enterprises to further participate in the COVID-19 response to increase their operations and production.
Who is eligible to borrow?
It’s not only about borrowing. The access to finance gap is in part due to the inability of women-owned and led businesses to access funding, their lack of skills in presenting financially viable businesses, and an environment that is not always conducive to increasing women’s access to financial services. The AFAWA approach addresses all these areas. Thus, depending on their needs, women entrepreneurs will be eligible at different levels including access to finance for those with viable and bankable projects and also access to training and capacity building for those who may not yet be eligible to borrow but could improve their financial management skills, record keeping, marketing and any other area to enhance their bankability.
African Economic Outlook Supplement: Here is how African countries can deal with COVID-19, reopen economies and accelerate recovery.
July 8, 2020 | 0 Comments
Charles Lufumpa, the African Development Bank’s Acting Chief Economist and Vice President for Economic Governance and Knowledge Management speaks on the recent release of the African Economic Outlook 2020 Supplement. He shares policy recommendations to cushion the shock of COVID-19 on countries.
How has Africa’s economic trajectory changed since the 2020 African Economic Outlook launched in January?
Almost everything has changed since January. The outbreak COVID-19 pandemic has distressed the global economy, particularly African economies. At the time the projections for Africa’s economic growth and prospects were prepared in January 2020, no one anticipated the magnitude of disruptions that COVID-19 would cause.
Both the pandemic and the containment measures put in place by governments to limit its spread have had important economic implications. International travel restrictions, school and workplace closures, cancellation of public events, restrictions on public gatherings and closures of national borders and non-essential businesses have had an unprecedented impact on Africa’s economic, health and political landscape.
The direct and indirect consequences of the outbreak have upended the strong upward trajectory of many African countries through 2019. Our analyses, projections and forecasts in the AEO 2020 Supplement reflect this sharply changed landscape.
Why is the African Economic Outlook 2020 Supplement necessary at this time?
The pandemic has reversed the strong growth projections reported earlier in our 2020 African Economic Outlook due to the significant economic and health-related disruptions it is causing African countries.
To account for the impact of the pandemic on Africa’s socio-economic landscape, it was necessary to reassess the situation and revise our growth projections and outlook for 2020 and 2021.
The AEO 2020 Supplement presents revised projections for Africa’s economic growth and outlook for 2020 and 2021, assesses the impact of COVID-19, and offers policy prescriptions on safe strategies to reopen economies and accelerate recovery after the pandemic.
What are the main policy recommendations to spur 3.0 percent growth in 2021?
It is important to first underscore that projections of a 3-percent growth recovery in 2021 are subject to major downside risks arising from both external and domestic factors. For instance, there remains a non-negligible risk of a second wave of COVID-19 infection, which could necessitate that African countries reimpose physical distancing, lockdowns, and quarantines.
We should also not forget other natural catastrophes such as the locusts swarms in parts of East Africa that are hurting farmers’ yields and livelihoods. Other exacerbating factors such as subdued commodity prices, high debt burdens, and tightening global financing conditions are likely to increase the uncertainty of Africa’s projected economic recovery.
The AEO 2020 Supplement emphasizes a multi-pronged policy approach to addressing the pandemic that involves: a public health response to contain the spread of the virus and minimize fatalities; a monetary policy response to ease liquidity constraints and solvency risks, a fiscal response to cushion the impacts on livelihoods and to assist businesses; a labour-market response to protect workers and their jobs; and structural policies to enable African economies to rebuild and enhance their resilience to future shocks.
Actionable details on how to implement these policy responses are presented in Section 3 of the Supplement.
How can African countries build economies that are more resilient against future shocks?
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is certainly not the last major shock the continent will face. In the AEO Supplement, we emphasized the need to accelerate structural reforms to help African countries build more resilient economies and become better prepared to face future shocks.
By increasing productivity and addressing obstacles to the business environment, African countries could revive their productive base and increase levels of industrialization. These resilience-boosting reforms would require investment in human capital to build a workforce with the right skills for high-productivity sectors and bridging the infrastructure deficit to advance Africa’s industrial development.
Moreover, promoting economic diversification will help countries adapt to an increasingly volatile global economy and better shield their economies from future shocks. This will require targeted policies that boost agricultural productivity and move labor from low-productivity to high-productivity sectors as well as supporting competitive sectors such as agro-processing, digital technologies, or information and communication technology-based services, which have proved critical during the pandemic.
Other challenges that will need to be addressed in order to achieve faster-growing and more resilient African economies include: formalizing the informal sector; ensuring political stability, good governance and transparency, and stronger protections for property rights.
Nigerian Actress / Screen Writer Pens Coronavirus hit African lockdown series
June 30, 2020 | 0 Comments
Tunde Aladese is an African film actress and screen writer, she won an Africa Academy Award in 2018, she has recently been a studying BA in Filmmaking at MetFilm School .As a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, a popular series called, Shuga went into a mini-series nightly show titled MTV Shuga Alone Together highlighting the problems of Coronavirus on 20 April 2020. Tunde is the screenwriter.
The show was originally to be broadcast for 60 nights, but it’s now been increased to 65 nights and its backers include the United Nations. The series is based in Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and Cote D’Ivoire and the story is told through with on-line conversations between the main characters. In the Q and A below she discusses the series and her career plans
Do you remember how you fell in love with films and writing? Was there a particular film/ script? Did it make to feel a particular way? Anything growing up that pushed you in this particular direction?
This is a difficult one because it’s never really just one thing. It’s the gradual growth of a lifelong romance. My love for writing started with prose, making sorry imitations of any book I enjoyed in order to somehow prolong the experience that the book had given me. Cinemas weren’t much of a thing in Nigeria at the time when I was growing up but VCR was big business and watching movies was a big family pastime.
It’s hard to pick just one film because the exposure was constant, and the genres were varied. It was the eighties so there was a lot of that B movie style action. Also, a lot of the glam mini-series type content, usually centred around a woman who succeeded against all odds. There was ‘The Sound of Music’ which my siblings and I could quote in its entirety. Arthouse came later, as options widened. I didn’t have a proper understanding of how films came to be for quite a while and a couple of appearances on kids’ variety shows were a surreal experience.
I guess primary school drama club was my first proper sense of trying to create a narrative out of thin air and get other people to help bring it to life. But I can say that I fell in love with the film business, this idea of actors and directors and storytellers on screen after reading biographies of some old Hollywood movie stars between the ages of 10 and 13.
I think that was when I began to understand the process of how all that came to the screen. The possibility of anything like that being a tangible and viable career plan, came much later.
Please expand on the origins of when and why you decided that career in the screen industry was for you.
I’m not quite sure I decided. I think the timing was fortunate for me. My first job after university led to an introduction between my boss and a producer who was about to make a radio drama series for the BBC in Nigeria. My boss showed him some ideas I had put down and I got invited to be part of a writers’ room, something I’d never heard of. I couldn’t believe someone paid me that much money (not a huge amount but at the time I was making almost nothing) to do something I’d been doing for fun all my life. I figured ‘I could get used to this…’ Success was not immediate but over the next couple of years, enough opportunities came my way that when an international cable company became interested in producing Nigerian series, I actually had a little experience under my belt and could pitch myself for some writing opportunities.
Why did you choose Metfilm school? What’s unique about it? What were you experiences there? What were your education experiences beforehand? Where did you grow up and where did you go to college / university… what did you study before?
My first degree was in English Literature, from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. After almost 10 years working professionally as a screenwriter, mostly in television, I wanted new challenges and a wider canvas. I thought learning formally about all aspects of film production would help me with that. Choosing Metfilm was a combination of timing, location (Berlin had been popping up a lot in my timeline in the months preceding), language and investigating their alumni and the things they had gone on to do since leaving the school. It’s a great way to study the European arthouse film aesthetic, which I was very interested in, without having to take the time to learn a whole new language. And because it’s an English speaking school in a very European city, you get to study with students from a wide variety of countries from all over the world.
Tell me about MTV Shuga – how did the project come about about? 60 episodes – it’s quite an ask… how did you manage to complete it?
We’re still trying to! And I’m not going to deny that it is a challenge. I just take it one block at a time, and fortunately I don’t have to do it all on my own. There’s a co-head writer and co-director who alternates blocks with me and of course, the SAF team. I had worked on 2 previous seasons of the series, including one season as Head Writer and had therefore had some contact with some members of the team. They reached out within the first couple of weeks of lockdown in Germany and told me about this idea they were throwing around, and asked whether it was something I would be interested in coming on board for. I’d been sitting home for 2 weeks, reading about everything going on all around the world, from news headlines to social media posts sharing people’s emotions, so I knew as soon as they asked that there was potential here. I didn’t imagine at the time that it would be 65 episodes (yeah, it’s 65 now)! We’re recording 41-50 this week and then my co-head takes over again for the next batch.
What’s the response been like? From the audience and the industry?
To be honest? I don’t know. I usually try to stay away from comments because you get drawn in by the good stuff and then one negative comment and you might spend the rest of the day overthinking. I do understand that reactions and feedback from the first few episodes was quite exciting. It’s been challenging trying to find ways to maintain and increase the momentum and interest. But I did say I was looking for challenges, right?
What are you working on now, what are your plans for the future?
I’m almost done with this season of Shuga and there are a couple of things lined up for me to switch over to from next month. But nothing that I am at liberty to talk about right now.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking about becoming a screen writer / considering a career in the screen industries?
Read a lot of books, watch a lot of movies. Figure out what you like, what excites and moves you and why. And then try to put it into your own work. Write, write, write. Even when you hate it, keep at it. I had a period of about 6 years from secondary school into university where, everything I wrote, I hated soon after. But that made me question why I hated it and what I needed to do differently. The trick is to keep writing so that when an opportunity comes your way, you have something to show of your ability that will make them at least consider you. Don’t wait for someone to find you and make you a writer. And then of course, seek out those opportunities. I know this is a bit glib, and won’t work out for everyone, but it will for some. Oh, and I should mention this magic trick. The first time I went to a writers’ workshop, everyone there introduced themselves as a writer except me. I didn’t think I had the right to claim that about my hobby. The people present in the room made me say it ‘I’m a writer’. When I returned to my life, I started introducing myself that way. And people remembered. And the calls started coming.
From Kenya To East Africa, African Made SUV Mobius Eyes Continental Market
June 29, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
In the hugely competitive world of cars, Mobius, a Kenyan based company manufacturing luxury SUVs, has carved a niche for itself, and is set for expansion into the East African market.
Designed specifically to handle the rugged African terrain with consideration for income levels, business needs, vehicle loading and more, Mobius vehicles are a strong combination of very high level durability, and very high levels of affordability, says Joel Jackson, its Founder and CEO. Speaking in a skype interview with Pan African Visions, Joel Jackson who was pushed into car manufacturing because of the transportation challenges he faced in Kenya while working with a forestry NGO, says Mobius is developing cars specifically for the local market.
“To get the combination of high durability, and affordability with a free one-year warranty covered, and authorized servicing in a way that has not been offered before is a truly unique proposition from Mobius,” says Joel Jackson.
With roots firmly established in Kenya, Jackson says the next phase involves expansion into other countries in East Africa and eventually across the rest of the continent.
PAV: Good morning and thanks for granting this interview to talk about Mobius cars. Can we start with an introduction of the company and its products?
Joel Jackson: Mobius is a new car company in Kenya, and we design, manufacture, and sell vehicles suited specifically for the African markets. We launched our first generation vehicle in 2015, and we are preparing to launch our next generation vehicle now, and the vehicle is built in Nairobi factory in Kenya.
PAV: When you say the cars are designed for the African market what do you mean by that, and how different are your cars from Japanese, American, French or even German cars?
Joel Jackson: Firstly, they are very durable; they offer the same type of performance as an SUV in the Kenyan market, but they are also very affordable as well. Our position in price is just over $13,000 for a brand new SUV which is unparalleled in price offering in the market. So, it is a combination of very high-level durability, and very high levels of affordability but offered in a very attractive package which consumers find very appealing.
PAV: You are from Britain, what prompted you to get into the car business, and why the choice of Africa, and why Kenya out of 54 African countries?
Joel Jackson: My first experience in Kenya was working with a forestry NGO on the coast of Kenya, and it was quite an eye-opening experience. I spent a lot of time moving around in the rural areas of the country and I really had first-hand experience of the kinds of transportation challenges the people in those communities were facing so that was the original inspiration for Mobius to develop a car that was durable enough to handle the kinds of roads, terrains I saw in those areas. Although I planned to be in Kenya for a relative short stint, and move back to the UK and continue my career as a management consultant, I ended up staying in Kenya and founded Mobius, and I have done that since.
PAV: Let’s talk about the work force of Mobius, how many workers do you have and are there Kenyans or Africans who actually participate in the production process of your cars?
Joel Jackson: Yes. So today we have about 55 people on the team, and that continues to grow. We have been fortunate to hire some incredible people from all around the world with very deep automotive experience. The vast majority of our team are Kenyans, and that includes Kenyans who have been educated abroad, worked in different car companies for a while and decided to move back to Kenya and join Mobius.
PAV: With regards to the models that you currently have, could you tell us the kinds of cars you have in the market at the moment?
Joel Jackson: Our next generation Mobius 2 vehicle is currently available for pre-order, and our customers can log into our website and pre-order the vehicle. It is an SUV offering which gives customers specifically developed rugged performance for rough road driving environments. It has many of the key features customers will expect in a vehicle, power steering, air conditioning, an optional Wi-Fi enabled tablet entertainment system in the vehicle as well. But it is specifically developed for high durability, drive performance, and a very low price rate.
PAV: We believe there are many car companies in Kenya, how is Mobius copping with the competition from Japanese, French, Italian, and German cars?
Joel Jackson: The vast majority of cars in Kenya are mostly imported from countries like Japan. Those vehicles tend to experience high import duty when they arrive, so in many cases cars are mostly doubling in price. We are one of the few car companies operating on the continent which means we do not experience the same taxation as imported vehicles. What Mobius is doing is developing a car specifically for the local market which is highly differentiated regarding its combined durability, and affordability and that is a unique offering in the market.
To find an SUV at this price rate; we are the only one offering. Even when you compare Mobius to a five, six-year-old SUV import from Japan, our vehicle is lower in price, brand new with a free one-year warranty offer, assembled, and authorized servicing. So, it is a genuine, exceptional proposition to the consumer.
PAV: What has the response been from the consumers regarding sales, how excited are Kenyans about using your products?
Joel Jackson: Kenyans are really excited about the introduction of Mobius. We have already generated hundreds of pre-orders with minimal marketing to date and that is largely based out of the positive experience customers in Kenya have already received for our first generation vehicle we launched a few years ago. There is a huge anticipation in Kenya for the launch of our next generation car, and again our brand is well perceived in the local market.
PAV: With regards to expansion, do you plan to limit yourself to just the Kenyan market or what plans do you have in place to expand production to other African countries?
Joel Jackson: So, we plan to expand to other countries in Africa very quickly. We will be starting expansion out of Kenya initially within East Africa, and the focus there is stabilizing the production and distribution systems. One of the unique elements to Mobius that we are pioneering is a new model of sales and service for the customers, so beyond offering fantastic products in the market we are also looking to offer a better sales and service experience as well.
We have built in Mombasa a new sales and service centre that we will be launching later this year and that centre is quite different from traditional dealerships, you find in East Africa. It will be run by Mobius and has quite a distinctive architecture, it combines service operations alongside a show room facility, and we will be building such facilities across East Africa in the coming years. We will be expanding the Mobius brand presence in the Region, and we will also be offering customers much closer touch points for servicing their vehicles outside the major cities alone in East Africa. This is the big focus of the company in the coming years to scale up our distribution to reach many customers not just in Kenya, but across East Africa. Long-term as that system is stable, we will look to replicate in the other regions of Africa.
PAV: With regards to challenges, what are some issues that you have face?
Joel Jackson: The first challenge is setting up global supply chain for a product such as a vehicle, there are thousands of components going into it and each of those components have different suppliers, sometimes, the same suppliers. In our case, our primary sourcing, and has been in Asia and one of the things we have heavily been investing is building a body chain in Kenya, building that ecosystem of suppliers in Kenya in the coming years for the contents of our cars. We have a view of driving industrial change in Kenya and across East Africa and to create more jobs, and the increase in skilled levels across countries. So there has been a lot of investments in so far as working with our existing suppliers to improve the production capacity. We will be doing more work in the coming years as we drive up local content in our cars even higher from where we are today. That’s certainly been one of the big focus areas of the business.
The second challenge has been in setting up the right talent base in the business to do what we do. Obviously as I have mentioned earlier, developing a vehicle in an African context is new. We are really pioneering the development launch of vehicles specifically suited for the African market. Finding the right kind of skills sometimes can be challenging particularly when you are talking about specific engineering kind of skills. But again, we have been fortunate to hire a really strong team over the previous years and develop our in house capabilities in those areas. But again, when you are starting on a baseline where sought of expertise does not exist, you have to progress as you build that over time.
PAV: Is there any kind of support or partnership that you have received from the Kenyan government as you go about business in Kenya?
Joel Jackson: Yes, we are already working according to the existing incentive scheme that the Kenyan government offer, and we are in discussion with the Kenyan government about how we can work more closely with them over time to improve the incentives that are offered in industry. We are also in discussion with the government about potential purchase of our vehicles, clearly these vehicles are well suited to the African context, and this extends to various government ministries and different parastatals which may want to buy products suited for their needs. There is also in Kenya a buy Kenya, build Kenya initiative that we are a big supporter of, and we see a kind of natural synergy in Mobius supplying Kenyan made vehicles to Kenyan government.
PAV: What impact has COVID-19 had on your activities?
Joel Jackson: At the moment as we finalize the preparation of the vehicle ready for launch, there is a lower degree of impact on Mobius than it will be on other car markers around the world who are actively in production and revenue generation. Clearly, COVID has had a major impact around the world and across all sectors. Majority of our team are working at home at the moment for obvious health reason and exercising social distancing for those who do need to be in the office, and at the factory. The first sign of this situation as we look forward to post COVID-19 world is that Mobius really has unique potential in the Kenyan and East African context to be a real proponent of change and recovery in the economy by driving job creation, and skill creation in the country, as our local content increases, and the supply chain in Kenya, increases. As our production increases, we need to be hiring more people on the production line, there is a knock-on effect to the economic potential. We also need to expand the knowledge of the workers to expand their knowledge of automotive processes.
These are value-added skills that will benefit the economy more generally, and ultimately the intention of Mobius as we drive our production volume is that we are starting to export content from Kenya to other countries in East Africa and as you export contents you drive up GDP. There is huge development potential of Mobius particularly in post COVID-19 world where there is even more need for stable manufacturing operations as a backbone for economic recovery
PAV: There is a lot of talk on the continent about the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement, are you looking forward to that?
Joel Jackson: We are. We welcome any news that will make the trade of goods easier, quicker, and cheaper. We think the African Union has a huge potential long-term to benefit from the same type of trade or regulation that we see in the EU for example. We think our vehicles are well suited to a broader Pan-African market, and we see clear potentials in other markets beyond East Africa, so, we are all in favour or encouraging the free movement of goods. We think also on the supply chain as well as we invest in greater self-reliance in Africa to boost local industrialization. In Africa, we need to encourage more suppliers to come on board. There are many benefits, and we think everyone can win by increasing the movement of goods long-term.
PAV: How does your company give back to the community?
Joel Jackson: There are a number of ways as I have already referenced regarding industrialization, job creation, skills creation, all of these things can make a big difference to many people’s lives as they get jobs they enjoy doing, get a good salary, and get a good environment that their skills can develop. Also, one of the unique characteristics of Mobius is that we are positioning our vehicles as enablers of mobility. So really there is a two-prong social impact potential of Mobius; one is in driving industrialization, and two is driving access to mobility.
So not only in the SUV offering that I was describing earlier, but also with a feature configuration of that platform that is currently under development that will enable owners to physically plug in different modules for different businesses with. It could be a public transport business, delivery service, and a wide range of applications. Those are the kinds of businesses that these entrepreneurs can run to generate income with and crucially the kinds of services that enable users in their communities to benefit from transportation. So, for everyone one entrepreneur owner of a Mobius vehicle there can be hundreds of more beneficiaries.
We hope that when people buy Mobius to run public transport businesses with, in turn we will see more people in communities in rural parts of Africa benefiting from all the kinds of services that the transportation system literary provides. So, industrialization, and mobility are two really important elements to what Mobius is doing.
PAV: Looking at the economic conditions of Kenyans and Africans, how affordable are the cars with regards to the economic realities you see?
Joel Jackson: Relative to the incumbents in the market they are really affordable. As I mention earlier, if you buy a five or six-year-old SUV in Kenyan today imported you are paying well over $20,000. For a brand-new Mobius SUV you are paying a price starting from around $13,000. So, it is truly exceptional in that respect. But equally, many customers when they buy, they buy the vehicle with vehicle financing, and we have already work with a number of customers, and their banks to help to set up vehicle financing lines that they can purchase their vehicles with. Obviously, vehicle financing is something that we will be placing more and more emphases on over time as we expand our market, and we hope long-term with more vehicle financing products available many more customers in East Africa will be able to buy these vehicles.
PAV: We end with an opportunity for you to make a direct pitch to Kenyans and Africans out there on your business, why should they go for a Mobius made car as opposed to a Toyota ,Honda or some other brand ?
Joel Jackson: To get the combination of high durability, and affordability with a free one-year warranty covered and authorized servicing in a way that has not been offered to date, is a truly unique proposition, and it’s a very attractive vehicle that is a lot of fun to drive in, and we will encourage customers to come visit our showroom and see for themselves
PAV: Mr. Joel Jackson thank you for talking to Pan African Visions.
Joel Jackson: Likewise, it was great to be with you and thanks for taking the time.
Second Term For Adesina At AFDB Will Deepen Ties Between Brazil and Africa- IBRAF President João Bosco Monte
June 17, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
The re-election of Dr Akinwumi Adesina to second term of office as the President of the African Development Bank-AFDB will greatly deepen and broaden ties between Brazil and Africa says Prof João Bosco Monte ,President of the Brazil African Institute- IBRAF .
In an interview with Pan African Visions, Prof João Bosco Monte lauded the great achievements of Dr Adesina including his whole hearted endorsement of partnership with the IBRAF on hugely successful exchange programs on Agriculture that have benefited many African countries.
“I am optimistic about the possibility of Adesina being re-elected to the presidency of the African Development Bank, especially when we see Brazil as a country that can work very closely with Africa, not only at the government level, but also with the private sector,” says Prof João Bosco Monte in the interview which also discusses the IBRAF, racism , and the future of relations between Brazil and Africa.
Prof Joao Monte thanks for granting this interview, could we start this interview with an introduction of the Brazil -Africa Institute that you lead?
The Brazil Africa Institute, when was founded, I had the idea to put together Brazilians and Africans from many perspectives. The collaboration and the partnership that we can see between Brazil and some African countries are very obvious. But Brazil doesn’t know much about Africa, on the other hand, Africa doesn’t know everything about Brazil. So, the genesis of the Brazil Africa Institute, when we created it, was to put together both sides of the Atlantic and have mutual and respectful Knowledge and understanding about each other.
And now, after ten years of the conception of IBRAF we can see many opportunities that we can put together between the two sides, African and Brazilian. Not only the government, and I could say mainly the private sector can understand the potential of collaboration and opportunities that we can see from both regions.
The agenda of the Brazil Africa Institute brings many possibilities for interactions. One of the activities that we have annually is the Brazil Africa Forum, which brings leaders, Heads of States, Ministers, diplomats, private sector, the civil society, in order to discuss one important topic for Brazil, Africa, and for other regions. And this gives me the opportunity to emphasize that when we talk about Brazil and Africa, we should include all the latitudes on the agenda.
Could you also shed some light or put historical perspective on relations between Brazil and Africa, how important are the ties between your country and Africa?
Since 2006, when I started to visit Africa, I saw clearly, a very important connection between Brazil and some African countries. Actually, when I visit Africa, in many countries I feel just as I am in Brazil. On the other hand, whenever I see Africans in Brazil they say “Well, this is just like home. This is just like Africa”. In this regard, there is a very particular relationship between the two sides of the Atlantic.
And it’s important to emphasize the historical ties that Brazil has with Africa. Not because of slavery, and I can say, very sadly, Brazil is one of the places that had many slaves from Africa. But besides this, Brazil has a historical connection with Africa, and now we can see the roots of Africa in Brazil, in the gastronomy, in the music, in the clothes and the way that we dress, and I can see that Brazil is very connected with the continent.
We are doing this interview at a time when racism has also taken centre stage with world protests following the killing of Floyd Georges in the USA…what are race relations like in Brazil?
The killing of George Floyd in the US brought to the international arena a discussion about racism and how countries, how organizations, how governments, how people are acting about this theme. It’s a bit very unique. We can see demonstrations in many parts of the world, not only in the US, against racism, that are asking the governments to bring the new policies to eradicate racism from the face of the world.
In Brazil, we do have problems with racism, and some demonstrations, some protests, also came to this discussion here essentially to highlight that historical inequalities are behind the great disparities faced by black people in the labor market. Less access to education is one of them, as well as more precarious living conditions. The governments of Brazil, I’m talking about Federal and State governments, should start to discuss what kind of argument we can bring to the table, to bring to poor people, and also black people as well, the possibility to have a better life. So, the agenda that we have to include now in Brazil, and also in some parts of the world, should include the discussion about racism, but also how can we bring dignity to people who don’t have the eyes of the state.
One of the partner institutions that the Brazil -Africa Institute works with is the African Development Bank, what do you make of the recent standoff between with external partners notably the USA? How has it been like working with current AFDB President Dr Akinwumi Adesina, and what do you think a second term for him is deserved?
We have many partners around the world. One of the key partners of the Brazil Africa Institute is, indeed, the African Development Bank, and this was emphasized in the last years, and I’m very proud to say that this partnership is because of the confidence and the vision of President Adesina. I had the opportunity to discuss with him, in many occasions the potential of collaboration between African countries and Brazil, and he’s very familiar with the possibilities of collaboration. Now, when we see countries like the US bringing issues about the leadership of President Adesina, we should understand what, specifically, are the reasons that the bank is being attacked by the US Government. We need to see the details, but we also need to see a concrete reason and the objective that the government of the US is bringing to damage the reputation of president Adesina. My personal opinion is that he’s doing a very good job, and this is important for the bank and for Africa.
Watching the situation from outside I can see that many African leaders, many former Head of States, are now supporting Adesina and what he’s doing at the bank. This is important to emphasize because the leaders who are dealing with him, who had the opportunity to deal with him, are bringing to the table a very strong message that he’s doing the job very well. And this emphasized that he needs to have the opportunity to have a second turn. My feeling is that, in five years, is not possible to change the whole situation, and what he was doing in the last five years was bringing a discussion, a dialogue, among many people, many organizations, and bringing the flag of the bank, and the demands of the continent to partners around the world, including Brazil. That’s why I emphasize and defend the possibility of President Adesina to be reelected.
What did you make of the allegations levied against him and were you satisfied with the defense he put up to deny any wrongdoing?
It is very relevant to mention that the Ethics Committee of the African Development Bank received the response from President Adesina in a very positive way. So, I don’t think we need to go any further to make this clear and I particularly feel very satisfied with the answers given by him.
In 2017 the AFDB and the Brazil Africa Institute launched the Youth Technical Training Program to train young African professionals in research and technology, how is the program working out?
Three years ago, the Brazil Africa Institute started a very important program, bringing young Africans to Brazil to receive training in areas that the country achieve great results. And the African Development Bank actually was the first door that we knocked to start the talks, to show the evidence, and the possibilities of bringing these young Africans boys and girls to Brazil. This was a valuable moment for us, and the Bank received it very well, and the voice of President Adesina, followed by his team, was very helpful and proactive. And we started with agriculture, which is related to the mind of President Adesina. This was in 2017, and after this activity that we have launched with the bank, we started to develop other initiatives with some other international organizations. I’m sure that the beginning of this program, with the African Development Bank, was a crucial moment for us to reach other areas, other activities and to amplify our partnerships around the world.
I am sure that the start of the Youth Technical Training Program in partnership with the African Development Bank, was a crucial moment for us to reach other areas, other activities and expand our connections around the world.
After 3 years of the program, we are very pleased to identify that many young Africans – now with more knowledge and skills – are applying some successful Brazilian experiences in many parts of the African continent, which clearly demonstrates the importance of south-south cooperation.
What expectation would you have for a second Adesina term at the AFDB especially with regards to prospects of more projects and partnerships with IBRAF and Brazil as a whole?
I am optimistic about the possibility of Adesina being re-elected to the presidency of the African Development Bank, especially when we see Brazil as a country that can work very close to Africa, not only at the government level, but also with the private sector. And I see President Adesina’s vision as something that we can have coincidences with the activities of the Brazil Africa Institute.
How is the agenda of IBRAF going to look like for the rest of the year especially with the challenges posed by COVID-19? We will like to end this interview with your perspective on the future of ties between Brazil and Africa, in what areas or sectors do you see potential for additional cooperation and what needs to be done on both sides to make the bonds stronger?
Like all organizations in the world, we are adapting to this situation of isolation and remote work, which of course is not an easy task. As an international organization, it is very necessary to be close to people in many parts of the world, participating in meetings or activities organized by us or our partners.
I think the Brazil-Africa agenda for next year is very positive and I am very optimistic about the future of these relations. Many areas can be addressed, and Brazil is already doing things with Africa in various activities, in many fields. I see agriculture, again, as a possibility for Brazil to become more and more involved with Africa, especially in the context of transfer of technology. But it is important to emphasize that Africa must know more about Brazil and African leaders must be open to seeing Brazil as a potential partner. On the other hand, Brazilians must look for the possibilities to get involved with Africans, and we need to understand more and more the potential that we have before us.
The role of the Brazil Africa Institute is to emphasize that the moment that we have now is very appropriate for Brazil and for Africa. Not only because we see the market potential to sell and buy things, but also because the partnership we see between the two sides is very unique and can last for a long time.
For the second half of 2020, we are still planning some activities, such as the YTTP, with an edition in September and the other in October. We are bringing Africans, from West Africa, to receive training in Brazil, as we have done in the last 3 years. In addition, we are starting the IBRAF Fellowship Program for South-South and Triangular Cooperation, with the objective of facilitating the dialogue between African researchers and local professionals, enabling the exchange of knowledge in various fields, through a platform for expanding contact with the top sustainable development practices in Brazil.
Certainly, our desire is that the result of all the activities that we are developing can somehow contribute so that Brazil and Africa are better prepared for the post-COVID era.
From Lost Boy To Beacon Of Hope For Global Refugees- Manyang Reath Kher On The Sharing Award
June 17, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
From the wreckage of the South Sudan civil, a new generation has emerged with fresh hope on how to better the lot of refugees across the globe. One of the perfect epitomes of this new generation is Manyang Reath Kher who was part of the 4,000 Lost Boys who was fortunate enough to land a ticket to the United States in 2001.
A University Lecturer at George Mason University today, Manyang Reath Kher is better known for using the social enterprise 734 Coffee to advocate and conscientize the American population on the plight of refugees. Working with others under the aegis of the NGO Humanity Helping Sudan, Manyang Reath Kher has partnered with some other organizations to come up with the Sharing Award to understand and support the most vulnerable in society-refugees.
In an interview with Pan African Visions, Manyang says the Awards are intended to support individuals and organizations that work on sustainability, social inclusion, and diversity to recognize the humanity and hard work of refugees.
“My advice to successful citizens and especially those considered lost boys, is to invest in South Sudan. The country will not move forward if those of us who have learned and excelled in our respective professions or ventures do not return to invest our time and financial resources,” Manyang says.
Thanks for granting this interview to talk about 734 Coffee and the Sharing Awards, first could we start with an introduction and your journey from South Sudan where you hail from to the United States?
I currently teach Human Rights at the George Mason University (Virginia). I also steer the social enterprise 734 Coffee, as we take the lead on human rights advocacy for refugees and distribute conscious consumer goods to educate the broader American population. When I, Manyang Reath Kher, was three years old, my village was attacked and destroyed by unspeakable violence. My uncle was killed while trying to help me escape. I managed to survive and lived in three different refugee camps for the next 13 years. Blessed by the hands of parishioners, I am one of the 4,000 Lost Boys who was fortunate enough to land a ticket to the United States.
How was the adaptation process like for you and what motivated you to come up with 734 Coffee and how long has it been running now?
I have a burning desire to help my fellow refugees who are forced to make their new homes in a foreign land. During my senior year in high school, I began working to develop my nonprofit, the Humanity Helping Sudan Project, and recruited others to help me with this effort. Founded in 2008 in Richmond, Virginia, my award-winning NGO seeks to provide aid and assistance to the Sudanese Diaspora in the Gambella region of Ethiopia. HHSP’s mission is to create sustainable solutions to help alleviate suffering in the region by providing over 40,000 displaced people in refugee camps with materials and resources to battle famine, agricultural training and cultivation of indigenous crops, and clean drinking water through expansion of water wells and springs. Within the past 8 years we have gained national recognition and top sponsor dollars to do just this as well as further enriching thousands around the world with my story, and the plight of the Sudanese refugees.
There is coffee from so many countries, what makes 734 coffee unique and how has it fared in the USA market?
In the world today, racial injustice continues to be prevalent, however, when we couple that injustice with another factor, it becomes a heightened situation that needs immediate attention. Refugees already experience unimaginable social injustices and human rights violations, especially during the current political climate in the United States, that impacts the entire world. However, when refugees (especially those of African descent) do make their way to the United States, they are met with yet another desperate circumstance, that is the racial divide in America that systemically leads to racial injustice.
734 Coffee exists to level the playing field for the often-forgotten refugee population that hails from East Africa. 734 Coffee uses America’s most popular beverage as a gateway to introduce Americans to the world refugee crisis and how the U.S government’s actions play a part. The 734 Coffee project distributes Arabica coffee from the Ethiopian and South Sudan region of Gambela; it caters to over 250,000 refugees, many of whom historically have been relocated to the United States. New policies in the U.S have not allowed for many refugees to find refuge here in America, this puts a burden on neighboring countries that already struggle to maintain an economy.
Coffee is Ethiopia’s number one source of export revenue generating about 30% of the country’s total export earnings yearly. Using Fair Trade coffee, to create opportunities, educate and build the local economy.
In terms of distribution, how wide is your network in the USA and considering that it has become a brand of its own, are there plans for expansion beyond American shores?
734 Coffee currently distributes coffee to commercial and residential complexes including Hosteling International, The WhyHotel (Tysons Corner and Arlington Campus), The Warner Building (D.C) and The Louis at 14th by Greystar (D.C); specialty coffee shops, TimGad Cafe (Reagan Center and F. st., D.C), Porter’s House (D.C) and Z-Zoul Cafe (San Francisco, CA) ; retail stores, Takoma Park Co-op (Takoma, MD).
Commercial and residential complexes and specialty coffee shops:
734 Coffee plans to expand distribution to South America, Europe, the middle east and Asian in the future, but the next couple of years are focused on North America.
What are some of the challenges that you faced in the course of taking 734 coffee to where it is today?
Of the many challenges that 734 Coffee has faced on its journey to where it now stands, we have noticed two developing trends. The first, the bigger players in the space are undoubtedly ready to defend their market-share like any business would, regardless of our mission and the positive output that we have on the world. Second, establishing partnerships and deals at the intersection of social good and profit has been a daunting task.
We understand you are working on a very important project dubbed the Sharing Award, could you shed some light on this?
The Sharing Award is the result of a partnership between Humanity Helping Sudan, 734 Coffee, The Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship and One Journey Festival. It was inspired by the generosity of The Tides Foundation following the spotlight placed on HHSP by the refugee-focused film THE GOOD LIE, and the advocacy of its award-winning producers, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Karen Kehela Sherwood and Molly Smith. The purpose of the award is to support innovative individuals and organizations that work on refugee sustainability, social inclusion and diversity in order to build communities that welcome refugees, recognize their humanity, value their hard work, offer them a path to dignified work and have respect for their cultural differences, religious ideals and political beliefs.
The Sharing Award was launched earlier in June — World Refugee Month — to shed as much light as possible on the many organizations that are moving the needle on refugee issues.
Who is eligible to benefit from the awards, what is the application process, what exactly will you be looking for in successful applicants?
- The Sharing Award Winner (individual or organization) will be awarded our prestigious Vision Development Package:
- A cash prize of US $5,000,
- Acceptance to the world-renowned Atlas Corps Fellowship,
- Invitation to attend the exclusive 2021 Nexus Youth Summit, a global community founded to bridge communities of wealth and social entrepreneurship, where the most innovative social entrepreneurs gather to discover new ideas and collaborate on world changing projects (choose to attend in New York City or Washington, DC – virtually or in person).
- Applications will be reviewed by a select committee from Ashoka. Ashoka is known for its transformative program that supports the world’s leading social entrepreneurs.
- 1st Runner Up will be awarded:
- 3 Months of business mentoring support through the highly regarded Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship Jumpstart accelerator program.
- Invitation to attend the exclusive 2021 Nexus Youth Summit.
- Applications will be reviewed by a select committee from Ashoka.
- 2nd Runner Up will be awarded:
- Invitation to attend the exclusive 2021 Nexus Youth Summit.
- Applications will be reviewed by a select committee from Ashoka.
- All Finalists (top 20):
- Thanks to an innovative co-review partnership with Unfunded List, all of the Finalist applications will also be independently reviewed by an experienced evaluation committee. Each finalist will receive helpful and candid feedback regardless of whether or not they win.
- Special Nomination(7):
- Additionally, 7 applicants will also be nominated to receive an Ashoka review.
Individuals and organizations that submit an application for The Sharing Award must fulfill each and every one of the following criteria to be deemed eligible:
- Individuals and organizations must have fully developed conceptual ideas or existing projects that focus on tackling challenges faced by migrants and refugees. Examples include projects in the areas of: entrepreneurship, job opportunity, education, leadership development, capacity building, interfaith dialogue, integration, developing welcoming communities and civic engagement.
- Applicants must have a valid mailing address where postal mail can be shipped.
- Applicants must have a bank account (eligible financial institution account) in the name of the organization or individual (special circumstances will be considered).
What do you make of the political and economic developments in South Sudan, and what is it “lost boys” who have eventually turned out to be amazing success stories could do to help build or contribute your home country forward?
The political and economic landscape in South Sudan is an ever improving one with the people’s voice slowly but surely making a dent in actions taken by the government. With new appointees that have fresh ideas, I think that there is a lot of hope that we can look forward to.
My advice to successful citizens and especially those considered lost boys, is to invest in South Sudan. The country will not move forward if those of us who have learned and excelled in our respective professions or ventures do not return to invest our time, financial resources and key partners.
Yours has been a tale of resilience in the face of great odds, what message can you send the millions of refugees across Africa and the world going through experiences similar to what you went through?
Accept that Life is NOT “Supposed to be Fair”: Know that there is no single way that life is “supposed” to be. Demanding that life meet our expectations is a sure fire recipe for a miserable existence. Life is a game with no rules. Life just happens to us regardless of our best intentions. Our only path to happiness lies in being open to receiving whatever life throws at us with Gratitude.
*For more information on the awards and how to apply visit here
AFDB: Supporting Adesina for second term in US Interest-Former U.S Exec Dir to the AFDB Mima Nedelcovych
June 8, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
Unless the US government is holding some secret that the American public is not aware of, I see absolutely no reason why it should not wholeheartedly support the re-election of President Akinwumi Adesina for a second term at the helm of the African Development Bank, says Dr Mima Nedelcovych Former U.S. Exec Dir to the AFDB.
In an exclusive interview with Pan African Visions, Dr Nedelcovych says “If competing with the Chinese in Africa is primordial to the US, then supporting the position of our African fellow shareholders in the AFDB and supporting President Adesina is in our own interests.”
Adesina has established the framework for furthering the critically important role that the AfDB is playing in the development and inclusive growth of the continent, says Dr Nedelcovych. With his vision and execution of the “High 5s” for Africa, Dr Adesina has contributed tremendously to the development of the continent, and President Obasanjo and other former African Presidents have every reason to come out in public support of the champion that the current AFDB President is, Dr Nedelcovych says.
On the whistleblower allegations that triggered the current tensions between AFDB partners, Dr Mima Nedelcovych says the internal inquiry did its job fully in line with statutory guidelines. “ For me, those accusations that were made public and investigated by the Ethics Committee, have been responded to in great detail by President Adesina to my full satisfaction,” says Dr Nedelcovych
Dr Adesina and the AfDB have stepped up when most needed for an African institution to lead the way in the responses to the Covid-19 pandemic ,says Dr Nedelcovych who also shares his take on expectations for a second Adesina term, and how U.S -African relations have fared under the first term of President Donald Trump.
Dr Mima Nedelcovych served as the 1989 to 1993 as the U.S. Executive Director to the African Development Bank (AfDB) may we start this interview with some historical context on the relationship between the USA and the African Development Bank?
The US is the largest non-regional shareholder of the AfDB, and one of the major contributors to the African Development Fund, the concessional window. The AfDB has always had strong support from the US and that continues to be the case.
What was your working relationship like with the AFDB leadership at the time, what are some of the pleasant and less pleasant experiences or souvenirs that come to mind?
The pleasant experiences were seeing the AfDB take up its role as the major development institution on the continent under the visionary guidance of then President, the late Babacar Ndiaye. It was during the time I sat on the Board that the Private Sector Department was officially set up (previously the bank did not make non-sovereign loans) the African Export Import Bank was established, the African Business Roundtable was formed, and generally speaking the realization that the private sector was going to be the engine of growth was finally accepted. On the unpleasant side are memories of certain African countries falling in arrears to the very bank they should have been championing while keeping current on other MDB engagements.
In a recent letter, USA Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin expressed misgivings about the outcome of an internal inquiry that cleared AFDB President Akinwumi Adesina of any wrong doing and called for the appointment of an outside investigator, what did you make of the letter and the US position?
The US Governor, as does every shareholder, has the right to question management’s application of policies and guidelines as established by the shareholders themselves. Upon receiving the letter from the US Governor, the Ivoirian Governor, as the Chair of the Governing Board this year, in my mind did the exactly right thing. She took into consideration the supposition made by the US Treasury Secretary, reviewed it in the light of the formal procedures and guidelines, and concluded that the policies were followed and that the Ethics Committee cleared the President beyond any doubt.
Furthermore, she has asked that the whole whistleblowers statute be formally reviewed, so that it may remain effective, but not become abusive to the proper conduct of the bank. She has asked that an external well-respected individual be recruited to provide an outside unbiased perspective within the next six weeks, so that this matter is cleared up and does not smear the Annual Meetings and the election of the President. The full review of the whistleblower statues and its applications will take a longer period and should not impede the normal functioning of the bank. It is at this point that the shareholders should come to agreement as how to treat similar accusations in the future, balancing the need for such a statute for proper governance with the assurances that serious charges can be properly documented and not be issued lightly or frivolously.
Beyond your stint at the Bank, we know you continue to monitor developments closely, have frictions of this nature or such stark contrast in positions been common between the USA and the AFDB?
Frictions are always to be found in international organizations; it is the nature of the beast as every shareholder has the right to their own opinion. Having said that, I must admit that this “disagreement” is the starkest of any I have seen in the past between the US and the AfDB.
What were your impressions after reading the whistleblower report, were you convinced with the responses from Dr Adesina and do you think the internal inquiry did its job in line with statutory provisions that guide the resolutions of incidents of that nature at the AFDB?
I have known President Adesina for quite some time, including in his previous positions as Minister of Agriculture in Nigeria and at the Rockefeller Foundation, and I am fully convinced with the responses provided by him to the accusations of the whistleblowers. And yes, the internal inquiry did its job fully in line with the statutory guidelines. If there is something that the USG or other shareholders know and/or that the whistleblowers know, then that should be presented to the external individual that will be appointed to conduct the review. For me, those accusations that were made public and investigated by the Ethics Committee, have been responded to in great detail by President Adesina to my full satisfaction.
Considering that Dr Adesina was literally endorsed by all African countries and was on course to get a second term since there was no challenger, some see in the U.S position a form of opposition to Dr Adesina, what information are you getting from your networks, does the US have an issue with a second term for Dr Adesina?
That question is better posed to representatives of the USG. I have been out of government for over 25 years now and happily since in the private sector, where the African continent is finally and truly becoming a very promising market for investors.
What do you make of reactions from people like former President Obasanjo, the Nigerian Minister of Finance and others who have come out forcefully to speak in support of Adesina?
President Adesina, in his vision and execution of the “High 5s” for Africa, has contributed an awful lot to the development of the African continent. He and the AfDB have stepped up also when most needed for an African institution to lead the way in the responses to the Covid-19 pandemic. So, President Obasanjo and the large number of former African Presidents that came out in support of President Adesina have every reason and right to come forward and publicly support their champion.
In a recent open letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Ambassador Harold E. Doley, Jr, the first ever U.S Representative to the AFDB called on the US to support Adesina, may we have your views on the letter, and do you share his call for the US to back Adesina?
I am in total alignment with my good friend Harold Doley, Jr’s accolades for all that President Adesina has achieved to date, and I would add that Adesina has established the framework for furthering the critically important role that the AfDB is playing in the development and inclusive growth of the continent. As for the US backing Adesina, unless the USG is holding some secret that the American public is not aware of, I see absolutely no reason for the US to not wholeheartedly support the re-election of President Adesina.
What is your assessment of the way Dr Adesina has managed the AFDB in his first term, in what areas have you seen progress and what would you like to see from him in a second term?
President Adesina came in with a very big vision and mission embodied in the High 5s that I very much supported from day 1. This was and is the necessary vision to bring the African continent into the mainstream of the world economy. The basic tenets of the high 5s that I certainly experience every day as a business person in Africa, those being that farming is a business and a growth sector, that without power you cannot industrialize, that without industry you cannot create inclusive growth and wealth, that without integration you cannot scale and be competitive, and that without those 4 you cannot achieve the 5th of improving the quality of life of Africa’s people are at the core of that mission.
Big visions take time to implement and are often not easy to execute. They required structural changes in the body of the bank, which included both the reorganization and the strengthening of the professional cadre and morale in the bank. As an outside observer, champion and client of the bank, I see these changes taking root and the results beginning to give fruit. What I would like to see in his second term is to give him and the AfDB the time to ripen those fruits to full fruition and in consonance with the fruition I see of the African continent as a whole in today’s world economy.
When we last interviewed you in December 2016, you opined that the Trump Administration will discover the reality of good deals in a rapidly changing Africa, what changes have you seen in US-African relations in the first term of President Trump?
The best thing that has happened is the passing of the US Build Act that has created the US Development Finance Corporation with all it new tools and authorities that could make it a major player on the continent. Furthermore, the Prosper Africa Initiative that recognized that prosperity is a two-way street, is good for American business as it is good for African business and the uplifting of the African population. The reauthorization of the US EXIM Bank is another very important element. Taken as a whole, and especially as evidenced by the goal of having “Deal Teams” at each US Embassy, coordinating all the arms and tools of the USG, will be a big boon for US businesses entering or already operating in Africa.
What do you make of the fact that President Trump has not visited Africa in his first term, does this not send the wrong message to the kind of US-African relations that people like you and many others have been advocating for?
As an American doing business in Africa, whether President Trump visits Africa or not is of no particular concern to me. What is of concern is to get the full-blown support of the USG through the Deal Teams and that those teams and the vision of that support is effectively executed. And that is why all those new instruments are important.
A very astute African business colleague once remarked that the African business train is leaving the station. The Chinese have clearly gotten on board, now it is up to Americans to decide whether to board and participate in that economic growth or not. I would add that simply bashing the Chinese is not the answer, the answer for our mutual benefit is providing our African colleagues an alternative option, a solution to their problems and turning them into opportunities.
We end with a last word from you on how you see this standoff between the U.S and the AFDB eventually playing out and if you do not mind a word on your company Africa Global Partners as well.
The way I look at it, the African Development Bank is the continent’s most prominent and influential multilateral player and is one of the few such institutions that the US has a commanding say over the Chinese. If competing with the Chinese in Africa is primordial to the US, then supporting the position of our African fellow shareholders in the African Development Bank and supporting President Adesina is in our own interests.
Two years ago, I turned over my mantle as President of the Initiative for Global Development, and returned to Chairing the two companies I have been associated with since departing the AfDB in 1993, AfricaGlobal Partners in DC and Schaffer International in Louisiana. We are both advisers and developers of projects, and our sweet spot is the nexus of agro-industry, clean energy and infrastructure. I also proudly sit on the Boards of the US owned Vista Bank Group (focused on SME lending) in West Africa, Fayus International, a Sacramento, CA based food processor and distributor operating throughout Africa, and the Niger Delta Partnership Initiative in Nigeria.
Cameroon: Collective Efforts Needed For Efficient Results in COVID-19 Fight — Dr Martin Mokake
May 28, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Boris Esono Nwenfor
Dr Martin Mokake, Director of the Buea Regional Hospital say for them (medical personnel) to put their lives in danger is not much of a problem, but putting their lives without the necessary protective equipment is uncalled for. The Director was speaking to PAV’s Cameroon Reporter in an exclusive interview on Wednesday, May 27, 2020.
The Director has stated that it is impossible for you to suffocate to death while wearing a mask, while also detailing the psychological difficulties the health personnel go through taking care of COVID-19 patients.
” Together if we organize ourselves individually, and respect the measures put in place by the government, and the Ministry of Health we will be able to fight this deadly virus and win,” says Dr Mokake
PAV: Some Cameroonians still do not believe that coronavirus exists. What do you say to them?
Dr Martin Mokake: Coronavirus is here; it is ravaging the society, killing people, and making others very sick, and yet, I do not understand why someone would not believe it exists. Sometimes I have heard a lot of postulates; some people say it is a way for hospitals and governments to make money. The question I ask myself is that all governments will come together from Europe, Asia, America, Africa to formulate something that deceives the whole world, I think it is far fetched.
Coronavirus has come to kill us, to make our lives difficult, it has come to destroy economies of many countries, and I think the earlier we start believing and seeing that coronavirus is not our friend, then that is the first step to defeating coronavirus. If someone does not believe then he will not take the measures lay down by the government, and WHO. When they do not do that the infection rate climbs.
PAV: There is the call from the government for everyone to wear face masks, how long should an individual wear these masks, and what are the potential health risks of wearing the masks?
Dr Martin Mokake: Recently, I have read a lot about masks choking people to death, which is completely false. I will employ you to do a little exercise, cover your nose, and mouth tight and do not breath; you will found out that you cannot do that because your brain will not even allow you to do that. A mask cannot suffocate you to death, it is impossible.
Looking into wearing the masks, normally we can wear a surgical mask for approximately 3 hours, and it needs to be changed. However, surgical masks are not for everybody. First, they are rare to come by and definitely we cannot have that for everybody. What we use in the society are masks that are made up of fabrics, and sometimes people factually complain that they do not breath well with those masks, it is a possibility. I will advise that if you are not in a position, in an area where there are many people, or if you are alone, why would you want to wear a mask?
The standardized masks have been made in such a way there are filters (the air you are breathing goes through the masks, and the air you are breathing is not the air in the mask — air without the masks). I have heard theories of carbonmonoxide poisoning because of masks, and factually it is impossible. However, there is always a nasty feeling when you put on the masks for long hours; the air you exhale usually comes out with the body temperature and so, it is hot. Without the masks, you do not feel that but with it, you feel the hot air. We need to make a decision here, wear the masks and save lives with its inconveniences or not to wear the masks and be exposed.
PAV: As a doctor, you work with nurses, especially in the COVID ward, what are some challenges you and the nurses go through on a daily basis?
Dr Martin Mokake: Our challenges are enormous. I want to salute the medical personnel that are risking their lives to save human lives. We have been victims of slander, victims of molestation, people have beaten up medical personnel, people have spat on them, and people have abused them and accused them wrongly. Yet, those are people who never come to the media, or social media to justify themselves.
Many people think since we are medical personnel we do not have feelings, or we do not have, “heart” or we do not have families. Putting our lives in danger is not much of a problem, but putting our lives without the necessary protective equipment is uncalled for. We have been having a lot of challenges fighting against the COVID-19 with the limited resources we have, blaming nobody as we all know that no government was prepared to fight the virus. Fighting the coronavirus comes with various psychological difficulties; when you think how medical personnel are completely exposed. If you have a little fever or headache you think you are down as well. It is not a secret that we have had a lot of medical personnel with the South West Region tested positive for COVID-19. We are trying within the Regional Hospital in Buea to put mental health nurses and clinical psychologists at the disposition of our medical staff and our patients to make sure that we can boost their psychology.
PAV: Many people in the society have accused hospital staff of tagging anyone as COVID patients. Does the hospital do that?
Dr Martin Mokake: I think they may have a point, and they may also have to listen. Sometimes people want to see what they want to see. We in the hospital have advised that if you do not have something pertinent to do in the hospital please do not come. It does not mean if you come we will catch you and lock you up, it simply means the hospital is a high risks area where people can get infected. We do not have the logistics to keep people, so there is no point coming to the hospital and say you have flu, someone is going to quarantine you for any reason. Nobody tags anybody a COVID-19 patient.
Not every cough or flu or fever is COVID-19. How do we know it is not COVID-19, we have to examine you are take some simple steps. So do we assume that this flu is not COVID-19 and send you home to die? Our society is always about accusation, and yet, the reality needs to be handled. We are not going to tag anybody, we have strict rules in this hospital that do not disclose the identity of anybody’s test death or alive. Families have the results in their pocket, but they do not belief it is COVID-19 because they feel that it is a stigma. It is not and nobody goes to buy it in the market.
PAV: Does the hospital burry COVID-19 patients?
Dr Martin Mokake: We should know that the hospital does not burry patients. We have heard rumours that when people die the hospital takes them away and burry. It is unethical, and the hospital is never going to do anything that goes against medical ethics. It is responsibility of the council to do the burial. When a COVID patient dies in the hospital it is there the hospital’s responsibility ends, the council comes to the hospital, disinfect it for burial. We do not even disinfect graves, nobody does that. So if you slammed the hospital for not coming to disinfect the grave we will forgive you for ignorance but it is our responsibility to educate you on what it is supposed to be.
PAV: There is a situation now in Buea where people who may have symptoms to call instead for the call to be picked in Buea it is done so in Yaounde wasting so much time. What is being done to decentralize the call centres?
Dr Martin Mokake: Yes, the national numbers that have been given (1510) is still a centralized call system. This is one of the things we have been discussing in meetings, and they are working on, to decentralize. We understand that every society has its peculiarities. For example, a mother in Ekona wants to call because she has symptoms and knows how to speak just Pidgin English, and she calls and someone respond to her in English or French, and she cannot really understand they become frustrated. We have tabled this problem, and we have told them (Officials in Yaounde) that this is something that the population is not happy about. The national call centre should be decentralized why not even at the level of the sub divisional level that within Buea you have a call centre in Buea, Limbe, Tiko, and Muyuka and there we will be able to serve the population even better.
PAV: How equipped is the Buea Regional Hospital to take care of COVID-19 patients?
Dr Martin Mokake: It is equipped to a certain level; we do not have ventilators here to put people on artificial ventilation. We have been working with other partners to try to equip the ward (COVID ward). What we have is a 20 bed facility (refurbished with the help of MSF, and the government of Cameroon). We have 10 beds for the confirmed cases, and 10 for the suspected cases. We are working with the protocols from the WHO as stipulated from the time of the Ebola virus. We are also constructing a 24 VIP area whereby we are going to use for isolation as it is in the roofing stage. An ambulance has been set aside for the transportation of COVID patients. The hospital spends a lot to take care of its patients and staff.
PAV: How long should someone wait for the results of their test?
Dr Martin Mokake: Testing has evolved recently because we had a problem whereby we will send the tests to Yaounde it will take one week before we get the results and it caused a lot of psychological problems to the patients. Now, the testing centre in the University of Buea is fully functional, and we have our results 24 hours or 48 hours maximum. In this case it has help in the management of patients. The workers including myself have routines times when we see that we should be tested to make sure that we are ok and not also serving as a source of contamination to our patients who are not suspects.
PAV: Any Message to the Population?
Dr Martin Mokake: We just want to encourage the population and thank them for their understanding. If you have any symptoms please try to contact any health personnel around your vicinity, and they will advise you on what to do. Together if we organize ourselves individually, and respect the measures put in place by the government, and the Ministry of Health we will be able to fight this deadly virus and win. We will continue the fighting because even when we are tired we cannot stop fighting because our primary aim is the community, and our patients.
The picture now shows a rising level of infections within the South West Region. As at May 27, the South West Region has a total of 97 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the Region. The major areas include: Mamfe, Kumba, Buea, and Limbe.
COVID 19 & Beyond:Time For Africa To Look Inward For Solutions-Former Mauritius President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim
April 22, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
As Africa grapples with adequate measures to cushion the ravages of COVID-19, Dr Ammenah Gurib-Fakim says it is time for the continent to take ownership and leadership in solving its own problems.
Speaking in a skype interview from Port Louis, the Biodiversity Scientist who served as the first Woman and 6th President of Mauritius, says it is time that Africa digs deep in its pockets, bring out all the philanthropists , business community, governments , and all the full resources available to power the continent forward.
“Africa has resources, and should be able to change the narrative, work with the international community but more importantly should start investing in ourselves. Up until we start doing this, we will always be in the narrative of waiting for other people to come and help us,” says Dr Ameenah Fakim as she urges the continent to invest in institutions, and training human capital.
Addressing concerns about testing vaccines in Africa, Dr Ameenah Gurib Fakim says using Africans as guinea pigs should be out of the question.
“Whenever a trial is done on the continent it must be done in the right way, with the consent of the person, we do not talk about “guinea pigs” but volunteers, so the person who is participating in the clinical trial must have given his/her consent,” she said.
PAV: Madam President Good afternoon, and thanks for accepting to grant this interview.
Dr Ameenah Fakim: Good afternoon and you are welcome.
PAV: Let us start with the situation in your home country. How is Mauritius fairing with regards to the coronavirus pandemic?
Dr Ameenah Fakim: We have been in lockdown for the past two weeks, and as of today we are counting over two hundred and fifty (250) infected cases and seven (7) deaths.
PAV: There are concerns about the capabilities of healthcare infrastructures across Africa to handle the pandemic, how equipped, and prepared are health facilities in Mauritius?
Dr Ameenah Fakim: In Mauritius ever since we got independence, we have systematically invested in the health sector; the health service is free in Mauritius. We have also invested in the past fifty-plus years on social security nets. This has been one of the pillars in Mauritius, and right now I am very pleased that our founding fathers of this country had this vision to set up a social security net especially the wealth gap.
We are going to be stretched a bit. We keep getting a lot of infections, and what we are encouraging people to do is to stay home so that the pressure does not build on the health services in this country. Having said this, I am concerned about what is going to happen in the African continent because unfortunately, the infrastructure is going to be pushed a great deal but more importantly, if we look at the advice of the WHO they are talking about social distancing, washing hands properly, and in many places, unfortunately, these are still luxuries.
Many people are leaving in cramped conditions in one room, social distancing is out of the question, access to water is an issue, social security net in many of the fragile states is out of the question, and even food is an issue. We talk about people staying home, those operating in the informal sector they are going to be challenged because if they do not work, they do not eat. So unfortunately, in many of these places, the concerns are there that the COVID may not get them, but hunger will.
PAV: Let us talk a little more about the pandemic, what should Africa brace itself for, just how bad could this be and what impact do you see socially, politically and economically for the continent?
Dr Ameenah Fakim: The interesting thing about what is happening in Europe, and what we are observing in many parts of West Africa is that it has not hit so badly so far. I am not going to be controversial here, but could this be because Africa has been hit by so many of these pandemics they have developed somehow a little bit of resistance but already we are seeing that South Africa has enacted all the measures of social distancing, and all that so they are taking it very seriously. Whether we get the true picture of what is going on in Africa depends on the capacity to test. Now, do they have the means to do all the testing? That is the issue
We are just praying that the right measures will be taken on board in the African countries so that more importantly people stay away from those who are infected, and those who are infected have their tests, and have the appropriate care that they need.
In terms of political impact, one thing we have to address is what the COVID has done which has revealed the state of our institutions in the continent. When we talk about the state of our institutions, first is the healthcare system which we find will not be able to cope that much. The second issue which I have always been talking about is the exodus of our competence from the continent, and right now we need all the capacity we can have to be able to handle this and you know the ratio of Doctors to population is very weak on the continent. So, I fear that we may not have the appropriate human capacity to be able to tackle this pandemic. In terms of the pressure politically, time will tell but I think many governments will be under a lot of pressure to be able to address this crisis which the health sector is facing.
PAV: Leaders like Mohamadou Issoufou of Niger say the world needs to consider a Marshal Plan for Africa to help cushion the impact of the pandemic, is this something that you subscribe to?
Ameenah Fakim: I have signed a letter which we sent to the G20 in terms of the measures. We have a plea that people come together, governments come together, institutions come together to capitalise the institutions to help provide the social security net, provide medication all these. These are all our wishes that we will like to put to governments, and institutions. When we talk about the Marshal plan that was of course in 1948, it was done for a particular purpose, for reconstruction immediately after World War II. Right now we are talking about a global pandemic and this calls for countries to come together.
The scenario now is not the same as it was then. My narrative all the time has been African countries have got fifty plus years of post-independence history. It is time that we look at the continent, start digging in our pockets, bringing all the philanthropists, business communities, government because Africa is a very rich continent.
Africa has resources and should be able to change the narratives, work with the international community but more importantly should start investing in ourselves. Up until we start doing this, we will always be in the narrative of waiting for other people to come and help us. The international community has been going a great job of helping us. Beyond the solidarity, we need to start looking at ourselves and I mean this very seriously beyond the health crisis, we have a young population and we need to start investing in them.
We need to start investing in our institutions, training our human capital is our responsibility, keeping the population is our responsibility, so let us all come together to use our resources for the betterment of our institutions, and, of course, our human capital.
PAV: The African Development Bank is setting aside big sums to help African countries fight the pandemic. Considering the poor track records of managing resources across the African continent, is there a message you have for African leaders on how to manage these resources?
Dr Ameenah Fakim: If you look at a country like Rwanda, Paul Kagame after the genocide turned things around. This country does not have many resources, but I think it is leadership. We need to start looking at our leadership as I said invest in our institutions because this is something that will go beyond the lifetime of the leader. We need to start building our institutions, and it comes with investment, with investment in human capital, and in our people and institutions. We need to start building, it should have started yesterday, as we are here with COVID-19, we can start immediately after the pandemic is over but go and invest in our institutions.
Next thing I will also like to point out is that Africa has just signed up to the Continental Free Trade Agreement, there is nothing to prevent West or East Africa trading together, bringing the necessary goods and services and encouraging the movement of people so that we can promote brain circulation so that we can promote human capital, trade, goods and services across the continent. So, this is something we need to start looking at very seriously.
PAV: There has been a lot of controversy in recent times about the vaccine and testing that are needed in Africa coming from two French doctors who said Africa should be the centre for some of these testing. Being a scientist and a former leader, do you think Africans should be concerned about participating in trial runs for any potential vaccines?
Dr Ameenah Fakim: Clinical trial is an inevitable step in drug development and vaccine development. Now, do we need to incorporate Africans in clinical trials? Yes, we need to incorporate Africans. We need to do it in the right way, the same way we do it in the United States, Europe, Asia, and other areas. We need more Africans in these clinical trials. The reason why we need more Africans in these clinical trials is that genetics matter. Whenever a drug is developed in the North it is tested with Caucasians, in Asians, unfortunately, we do not see many Africans being part of the clinical trial panel. Genetics matter because whatever dosage is being developed for a Caucasia or Asian person may not be the right dosage.
Whenever a trial is done on the continent it must be done in the right way, with the consent of the person, we do not talk about “guinea pigs” but volunteers, so the person who is participating in the clinical trial must have given his/her consent. Coming back to the issue on whether we should use Africans as “guinea pigs”, certainly not. Everything must be done appropriately but we need more Africans in these clinical trials so that the dosage and the drug whenever we are prescribing to African genotype it makes a big difference to his or her health.
PAV : Let us talk about leadership from former Presidents like you, former Prime Ministers, across the continent, what role do you think they can play in addressing such a pandemic and generally trying to make sure that Africa stays on the right path to progress?
Dr Ameenah Fakim: I think past leaders have the responsibility of mentoring and this is what I have given myself the task of mentoring girls in science because of my background. We need to educate our girls and to bring them there we need to be a role model for the girl who is growing up in a village in Africa to know that it is possible to reach a certain position through hard work. In the current pandemic, we have the responsibility of advocating, speaking to governments, addressing, and seeing how we can provide best practices. I feel that at this moment in time, we need to be able to know what are the best practices and how do we also speak to the people so that they can adopt best practices so that we can get this pandemic behind us.
Having said this, getting the pandemic behind us is short term, what we have to ensure is that the conversation and the communication still go on because a second or third wave is not impossible as it is already happening in some countries as we have seen in China, Singapore. We have to make sure that when we address this issue on the continent, the conversation remains alive so that we do not get this issue again and again, and I can assure you that we have not seen the last of the COVID. We have not seen the last of any pandemic because climate change will be the next pandemic we have to settle.
PAV: Let us end this interview with an opportunity again for you to make a direct statement to everyday hardworking Africans on safety ad survival measures. How can they walk their way around this troubling time and with all the wave of panic across the continent can you also give a positive message on the way forward?
Dr Ameenah Fakim: I think what we have to do in this incident is to communicate, communicate to the people, encourage governments to do tests, tests and more tests. Hopefully, with the necessary financial measures that are been put in place, we will be able to provide the safety nets for those who are desperately in need for it. It also calls for a time of solidarity and I know that at the level of the African Union, there is an effort to get people to contribute to a fund so that they can then use that to help those people who are in desperate need. Here I have a special thought to those children because I am also working with Save the Children in Africa and I know that they have huge needs as well.
PAV: Madam President thank you so much for talking to Pan African Visions
Dr Ameenah Fakim: Thank you for having me. It has been a pleasure and as I said let us work towards getting rid of this COVID virus fast so we can start building ourselves again.
*Interview conducted earlier this month for Pan African Visions Magazine. To get Copies contact firstname.lastname@example.org, and email@example.com
Cameroon:Law On Official Languages Will Yield Results If Embraced By All-George Ngwane
March 22, 2020 | 0 Comments
Following the promulgation into law on the promotion of Official Languages (English and French) on the 24th December 2019 by the President of the Republic, the National Commission for the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism is heralding a nation-wide mission aimed at exchanging views with targeted professionals on the merits of this law on Bilingualism. The Sun newspaper’s Managing Editor Wasso Norbert Binde caught up with a scholar on Language Commissions, prolific writer and conflict management panAfricanist Mwalimu George Ngwane to shed some light in an interview on some of the black and white provisions found in the law.
Mwalimu, first of all thank you for accepting to grant us an interview on the law of Official Languages in Cameroon. As a scholar on Language Acts and Commissions,What is the novelty in this law?
Thanks for inviting me to engage your readers about this law. As you may know this is the first time in the life of our country to have a law on bilingualism. Granted that Article 1 sub 3 of our constitution stipulates that English and French are of equal status and granted as well that there exist a plethora of legal instruments that make bilingualism in Cameroon a state policy. I must also add here that barely in its two and a half years of existence the National Commission for the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism has been associated with the conception of such a law. So for me the added value is that this law now transforms our official languages from a state policy to a citizen policy action instrument. In other words the law on bilingualism can be seen as an important step on the journey to upscaling the language rights of Cameroonians especially those from the minority official language community. It is now the responsibility of all public entities to make bilingualism a more robust user-centered and citizen-friendly activity.
But certain sections of the law have come under criticism right from the time the bill was sent to Parliament
That is true and I am sure you are referring especially to Section 19 and Section 26 which on the surface are controversial with regard to those of us who come from the Anglophone regions of the North West and South West. Just to refresh the minds of your readers Section 19 says Official correspondences between public entities shall be written in either of the two languages while Section 26 says English and French shall be used indiscriminately in ordinary law and special courts. Now these two Sections can be examined through the Language Commission prism of Inference and Interpretation. By Inference we may jump into the conclusion that correspondences or court communication in the Anglophone region may be rendered in French even though the language community is predominantly English-speaking- something which the Anglophone lawyers fought against as from 2015. But by Interpretation, at least from the perspective of any language body it must be made clear that laws on Official Languages focus on the principles of proportionality and specificity. Proportionality means Official language used is reflected by the proportion of language users in that community while the principle of specificity is informed by the historical and linguistic specificity of the language community. More so Section 26 sub 2 says court decisions shall be done following the language choice of the litigant. One can replace the legal term “litigant” with the global term “user” to mean that oral or written communication in any situation must respect the language choice of the user. This is what is called the principle of active offer. However with regard to official written correspondences served in either of the two languages it would have also been ideal to write both languages side by side as it is the case between Welsh and English in the United Kingdom or one language above the other as it is with some other bilingual communities.
Let us take the case of our courts, what do you do if the Magistrate or Legal personnel does not speak or understand the language of the litigant?
I am told that the courts normally have Interpreters even though complaints have been made about some of them in relation to their mastery of oral translation. But this is an area to be examined seriously so that our courts and other public entities have Interpreters whose integrity and performance cannot be questioned. Secondly there is a need for public servants at a certain level and in this case Magistrates and others of their rank to be sufficiently bilingual. So the recommendation to your specific question is that bilingualism is something which all professional schools must henceforth take more seriously. Our government and I am sure this is within the purview of the Commission on Bilingualism should be working on what Canadians call the Public Service Official Languages Appointment Regulation or what we may simply call the Bilingualism Proficiency Appointment Charter. This is a Charter that places premium on appointment to certain positions in the public service based on the individual’s bilingual capacity. Third, team spirit is very important in the dispensation of bilingual communication so having less bilingual and more bilingual personnel or two from different language communities working side by side is an option to also consider. And this should be from the front desk workers like mail officers, secretaries, janitors, security guards etc to the highest working level.
You just talked of translation and we find poor translation in some of our official documents, billboards and public notices; what is the problem?
I am happy you said some of… because frankly the bulk of our translation is fantastic. Cameroon has about the most talented professional Translators and Interpreters in the world. They are found in most continental and world bodies, ample testimony that our Schools of Translators and Interpreters meet up with global standards. When the Commission on Bilingualism visited the various Ministries and parapublic institutions they discovered that most of them have Translation units. So the problem with some of the poor translation you are referring to cannot be due to a lack of professional Translators. Could it be that some of the Translators are not functionally empowered, could this arise from the erroneous notion that a minimum knowledge of the two languages can just qualify you as a Translator or could it just be a neglect of the fundamental role professional Translators play in our society? I am sure members of the Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters can best answer your question.
Now, let us come back again to the law proper, what do you consider as some of the strong sections in this law?
I am sorry I cannot quote all of the positive sections by heart. However I know of one that stipulates the right of every citizen to freely communicate in the language of their choice so expressions like “je ne comprend pas ton Anglais la” or “ you are even speaking Mbouda French” should now be stigmas or pejoratives of the past. Another section also talks of the state providing incentives for greater proficiency or what is called bilingualism bonus. I also have in mind I think it is Section 16 that encourages code switching which means using both languages alternately in the same official speech.
And which are the dark areas or sections?
I prefer to call them the grey areas because they are a little loose ended and open to subjective implementation. We have already talked of Sections 19 and 26 although I must add that other public entities like the health sector where diagnosis and prescriptions are made by the medical practitioner to a patient in a language the patient does not master. How about the notion of bilingual colleges today/ How about the monolingual medium of instruction in some professional schools including those in the Anglophone region? Yet and on a very personal assessment I feel much has been covered in our bilingualism journey from the time I was arrested and locked up in March 1990 just for writing and questioning the validity of our bilingualism state policy to today where state officials use both languages effortlessly. Thirty years after it is both a personal vindication for me and a linguistic paradigm shift for the government. Of course we have not yet arrived but we are on track.
Finally what sanctions are written in the law for those who violate these provisions?
Well, sanctions have not been implicitly built into the law. We all wish they were because implementation is a problem with especially state officials. But my take is that first those who do not implement the law expose themselves to self-sanctions because they limit their chances on career upward mobility. Second I think it must be Section 27 of this law that says the state shall ensure the monitoring and evaluation of the law through an Advisory body. That Advisory body I am certain is the Commission on Bilingualism which has the role of receiving complaints or petitions from the public on the violation of their linguistic freedom or abuse of their language rights. It has already been doing this through its webpage and telephone hotline 1518. Most language commissions prefer the tongue rather than the teeth approach to sanctions. By this they carry out investigations, send reports to other state bodies like Human Rights or Parliament, call the violator to order through oral or written means or sometimes do a kind of name and shame report on the violator.
Any final word Mwalimu?
No law is static and when it comes to law on languages it is always prone to revisions and amendments based on public feedback and contestations. The Welsh Language Act of 1993 has been revised so many times and already in 2015 they have a new language law called the Wales Measure. I was privileged thanks to the Commonwealth Professional Fellowship offered me in 2016 to have understudied the Welsh Language Commissioner in Wales. Other Official Language Acts in Northern Canada, Belgium, Spain and Ireland have been subjected to revisions and amendments after being tested on the field. It is therefore advisable for governments to be sensitive to citizen response to the law on languages. But before then let us give the language law a chance to be tested on the field for like it is said in French “le macon sera connu au pied du mur”.
My pleasure Sir
*Culled from The Sun Newspaper. Photo Illustrations by PAV