14 November 2010

Trying To Get Oil Out Of Peanuts:A Peanut Sheller for Malian Women

Several 'Universal Peanut Shellers'
Enlarge Courtesy David Campbell These Universal Peanut Shellers were invented by Jock Brandis. They're now in 17 countries.
Several 'Universal Peanut Shellers'
Courtesy David Campbell
These Universal Peanut Shellers were invented by Jock Brandis. They're now in 17 countries.
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November 10, 2010
Be careful what kinds of promises you make. That's a warning you might get from Jock Brandis, whose life was changed after he promised some African women he'd help them find a better way to shell their peanut crop.
That promise turned Brandis into a social entrepreneur — a man completely focused on developing better technology for poor farmers in the developing world.
Trying To Get Oil Out Of Peanuts
Some men's minds are drawn to puzzles. The puzzles that intrigue Brandis are deceptively simple: how to remove the shell from a peanut; how to get water from here to there; how to remove cocoa beans from the pod. Or, how to coax the oil from a bunch of peanuts using muscle power and some scraps of metal.
Brandis, who was born in Joost, the Netherlands, ponders this problem in his workshop in Wilmington, N.C., on a recent day. He leans over a workbench, and peers into the borehole of an old auger.
How To Make Something Out Of Nothing
At 64, Brandis is reveling in his second career. He has wispy blond hair, shuffles about his workshop with the disheveled air of an artist whose creations are never quite finished. His machines look like whimsical children's sculptures made from found objects — oil drums and tires. They lie scattered about the ramshackle workshop that is home to the nonprofit Full Belly Project.
Brandis wasn't always a do-gooder. His first career was in the sometimes bloody world of B-movies.
He did lighting for the films you might have seen in college and can now find listed under cult classics, like the legendary Scanners, a thriller about a telekinetic psychopath. Brandis even got some bit parts. But to find him, you have to look closely — within minutes, he's usually dead and out of the picture. The movies taught Brandis something important: how to make something out of nothing.
"You know, the director saying, 'All right, next Thursday, flying saucer flies into the Brooklyn Bridge, here's your budget.' And we say, 'OK.' And you just do it," he says.
A Quiet Agricultural Revolution
That's what he did for a living, until he made that famous promise in 2001. That's when Brandis went to Mali, West Africa, on a lark. He'd decided to help a friend build a drinking water project. He noticed African women shelling thousands of peanuts by hand. It was slow, painful work that made their fingers bleed. Before he left the country, he made a promise that he was going to send them back a peanut sheller. But he ran into a problem. "When I came back to America to buy it, it didn't exist," he says.
Senegalese villagers use the peanut sheller.
Courtesy David Campbell Senegalese villagers use the peanut sheller. The invention allows them to shell hundreds of peanuts at once, instead of one by one by hand.
There were no small-scale peanut shellers. So Brandis used his can-do chutzpah to cook up a gizmo that is powering a quiet agricultural revolution in 17 countries.
All over the workshop, you can find versions of Brandis' most famous creation: the Universal Nut Sheller.
While assistant Hansen climbs onto a bicycle seat and pedals away, Brandis pours in handful after handful of peanuts. Shelled, unbruised peanuts rain down out of a chute. "And this machine can do a ton of peanuts a day quite easily," Brandis boasts.
He says that villagers with their own sheller go from subsistence farmers dependent on middlemen to independent business people.
They can shell as much as they need for market, and keep the rest fresh in their shells.
Rick Brandenburg, who teaches at North Carolina State University, says "the price can double if you can get them to the market at the right time. It allows them to market their crop when the price is right."
Brandenburg says he has seen the sheller raise the incomes and the quality of life of many villagers.
by Larry Abramson

9 November 2010

Supporting Smallholder Farmers

Women Play a Key Role in Smallholder Agriculture
Three quarters of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas and their livelihoods depend on agriculture. The majority of smallholder farmers in developing countries are women and they are responsible for 60-80% of food production. 
Agriculture is the major productive activity in many developing countries.  Agricultural development is central to the broader fight against poverty, particularly in Africa. Limited technology and training, difficulties related to land ownership and tenure, as well as the effects of climate change, environmental degradation and HIV/AIDS, all impact upon agricultural production in developing countries. Women’s participation in any plans to improve agriculture and food security is vital, not only because of their role as farmers, but also because they look after the health and nutrition of their families. Issues such as women’s access to land and credit as well as their role in agricultural diversification for improved household nutrition are increasingly being factored into programmes which address agricultural production by governments and NGOs. 
It is closely related to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Growing crops and rearing animals involves use and management of the natural resource base and is closely related to environmental sustainability. Adequate food supplies are essential to good nutrition and health – including maternal and child health. Proper nourishment is also essential to the mitigation of the effects of HIV/AIDS. Agriculture often provides the income which is used to support children at school.
Ireland’s ResponseIrish Aid is committed to enabling and assisting sustainable pro-poor economic growth through support for rural development and agriculture. We support measures to improve the production and efficiency of agriculture in partner countries in Africa through additional funding for rural infrastructure, water management, research and sustainable land management initiatives.
• Irish Aid provides funding to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). This is a strategic alliance of fifteen agricultural research centres which together work to foster agricultural productivity, achieve sustainable food security, improve nutrition and reduce poverty in developing countries. 
• In Tanzania Irish Aid supports the Governments Agriculture Sector Development Programme which aims to enable farmers to have better access to and use of agricultural knowledge, technologies, marketing systems and infrastructure, all of which contribute to higher productivity, profitability and farm incomes.
• With Irish Aid support, In Malawi, 1.6 million smallholder farmers have been able to purchase fertiliser and improved seeds through the Government Farm Input Subsidy programme. In 2009, only 10% of households had less than adequate food consumption, down from 38% in 2007. For more on Irish Aid’s support to smallholder farmers in Malawi please read Sharon and Peter’s story below.
Sharon and Peter’s Story
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Sharon Bomba and Peter Cornodi are smallholder farmers in Malawi. As members of the Irish Aid supported Government farm inputs subsidy programme they and their families have benefitted from improved availability of essential farm supplies. Read More

VC4Africa starts the first African online venture capital matchmaking platform.

Press Release: VC4Africa matches entrepreneurs and investors in Africa

November 9th 2010
Today VC4Africa starts the first African online venture capital matchmaking platform.
Many investors are looking for businesses to get involved with but have difficulties finding promise. At the same time many businesses seek knowledge, capital and practical support. Without matchmaking their potential is never realized, hindering economic growth.
The VC4Africa community currently consists of 10.000 members worldwide. Business ideas have been registered through the website and entrepreneurs are seeing benefit. VC4Africa works to visualize the continent’s business potential. VC4Africa has the ultimate goal to contribute to a paradigm shift focusing on transparency and entrepreneurship as a leading agents for development. VC4Africa wants to become the one-stop shop for African business development.
VC4Africa is a truly global initiative with the team working from Cameroon, Kenya, The Netherlands and the USA. Events (or what the community calls VC4Africa Meetups) have already been hosted in Kigali, Kampala, Nairobi, Johannesburg, Lagos, Tunis, San Francisco, Atlanta, Washington DC, New York, London and Amsterdam.
Due diligence is a limitation factor for investors interested in Africa. It costs too much time and capital to find genuine entrepreneurs with a solid business idea and plan. As a result, most existing funds seek large deals and better margins. MicroCredit is limited in its ability to support high growth businesses, this results in entrepreneurs with potential, struggling on the sideline.
VC4Africa solves these issues by applying innovative technology that leverages the power of the crowd. Anyone anywhere in the world is able to positively contribute to the development of African businesses with their own competencies and interests.
Open up! Now is the time. Let’s connect!

About VC4Africa
VC4Africa is an initiave by Ben White (Founder, Amsterdam), Bill Zimmerman (Founder ActivSpaces, Cameroon) and Bart Lacroix (Founder 1%Club, Amsterdam).
VC4Africa is an online community dedicated to connecting innovative, Africa-based entrepreneurs (and their ideas) with access to knowledge, markets and capital— i.e. mentors, business partners and investors. The focus is on entrepreneurs with innovative projects that apply new technology, new media, the web, mobile and green energy.

4 November 2010

In the Congo Brazzaville, the first agricultural villages are bearing fruit

With a harvest of 2.000 tonnes of cassava expected in late-November, the new agricultural villages represent a hope for the Congolese state in the reduction of food imports, valued at $60 million per year. Therefore, between 2011 and 2015, the state is planning to inject approximately $80 million per year in the budget for agriculture, either 1.3 percent of the national budget.
Construction of two new agricultural villages, in Odziba and Imvouba, started in October 2010 in the same agricultural basin and they should be completed by February 2011. These villages will be used for rearing chicks and animal feed industry.
Agricultural villages - a model of success
Nkouo is one of three new farming villages that the government already built in the agricultural basin of Ignié, in the Pool, in the north of Brazzaville. There are still two villages under construction.
When the farming village of Nkouo was built in 2009 by the Congolese company for modernization, the government gave these livestock farms to young Congolese i.e. 40 young families selected from 358 applicants.
According to Jean Claude Elombila, national coordinator of agricultural villages, these families work for their own profit and are only obliged to deliver results.
An innovative way to develop the agricultural sector for the authorities
The state gave 792 young hens and two hectares of cassava to each of these villages. These 40 families live in houses built by the state. The state invested a total of $26 million in the project. Everything is free, the farmers only pay water and electricity.
By creating farming villages, the government wants to professionalize agriculture, because almost no company is interested in this sector in the country. Official records noted that only one percent of the companies created in 2009 were interested in agriculture, while 74 percent of them are engaged in trade, especially in imports of food products.
Only two percent of 10.000 hectares of arable land are exploited according the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The objective of the project is to implement modern agro-pastoral villages in the rural areas that would be inhabited by several families, forming multi-sectoral, homogeneous as well as organized and successful communities.
Reducing food imports
With this village, an important step has been taken in the reduction of the Congolese food imports, estimated at about 130 billion CFA francs per year. The farming village of Nkouo is meant to provide the market in Brazzaville and other locations with quality chickens and eggs at low prices.
Besides houses, there will be a primary school, a health center, a library, community playgrounds, a community hangar, networks of electricity and water supply, a system of public lighting, roads, a livestock feed factory and a central storage.
Outside Nkouo, the project involves the construction of two other villages in Imvouba and Odziba (Pool), which will specialize in raising chickens and pigs.
The Government has decided to inject 40 billion CFA francs per annum in the agricultural sector during the next four years. After the Pool, the Government envisages the construction of agricultural villages in other counties.

First Africa Energy Week Highlights Importance of Clean Energy

The first All-Africa Energy Week got underway in Maputo, Mozambique, this week with emphasis on the importance of clean energy for sustainable development.
Energy sector specialists and African decision-makers are participating in the 1-5 November event jointly organized by the African Union, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), and hosted by the Mozambican government.
The meeting will prepare and approve recommendations covering continental policies, programmes and priority projects in the energy sector.
Opening the meeting, Mozambique's Prime Minister, Aires Ali, emphasized the importance of clean and environment-friendly energy. "Our challenge must always be intensifying actions in order to develop our resources in a rational way for people's benefit from clean and environmentally friendly energy resources," Mr. Ali said.
Addressing the participants on behalf of Bobby Pittman, AfDB Vice-President for Infrastructure, Regional Integration and Private Sector, the Bank's energy Division Manager, Amadou Thierno Diallo, said that the meeting would establish a platform to take stock of what has been achieved and planned in the development of energy infrastructure and services.
He underscored Africa's recent economic growth and its resilience to the economic crisis. "Although Africa contributes only 4% of global CO2 emissions, the prevailing pattern of energy production and consumption on the continent is unsustainable for our forests," he said, adding that Africa's efforts must be focused on energy access and efficient utilization of its resources.
He expressed the AfDB's commitment to develop renewable energy sources, saying that "the institution strives to be the lead financier for increasing access to energy for Africa, in ways that support a low-carbon development path on the continent."
UNECA representative, Antonio Pedro, referred to infrastructure development as "a key requirement to realize economic growth" and emphasized the importance of public-private partnerships to tap Africa's huge energy potential.

Yvan Cliche

From Bamboo Bikes To Biomass Briquettes: UNEP Unveils Seed Award Winners

From Bamboo Bikes To Biomass Briquettes: UNEP Unveils Seed Award Winners
Nairobi, 3 November 2010 - A novel solar device that turns waste heat into electricity in rural China, a Ugandan business that manufactures stationary from agricultural waste, a bamboo bicycle project in Ghana and a female-run business in South Africa making a hand-held laundry device that saves water are among the 30 winners of the 2010 SEED Awards, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) announced today.
The SEED Awards recognise inspiring social and environmental entrepreneurs whose businesses can help meet sustainable development challenges. By helping entrepreneurs to scale-up their activities, the SEED Initiative, which is hosted by UNEP, aims to boost local economies and tackle poverty, while promoting the sustainable use of resources and ecosystems.
This year, in addition to seeking innovative start-ups throughout the developing world, the SEED Awards had a special focus on Africa, placing particular emphasis on initiatives from South Africa, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Egypt, Ghana, Rwanda and Senegal. This focus was part of a larger project linked with UNEP's Green Economy Initiative and was funded largely by the European Union.
Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, said:" The SEED Award winners exemplify the strong spirit of entrepreneurship in the developing world and its significance in creating a Green Economy. While the Awards recognize individual outstanding projects, governments must also show leadership in supporting grassroots efforts through diverse and dynamic standards, forward-looking policies and incentives to further catalyze corporate and community-led change."
All the SEED winners will be honoured at award ceremonies in their home countries. The prize they will receive from SEED is a package of individually-tailored support for their business. This includes access to relevant expertise and technical assistance, meeting new partners and building networks, developing business plans and identifying sources of finance. SEED will furthermore contribute towards meeting each winner's most immediate needs by contributing to a jointly developed support plan.
The 2010 call for proposals saw applications from just under 60 countries, representing the collaborative efforts of non-governmental organizations, women's and youth groups, labour organisations, public authorities, international agencies and academia. While most of the applications were in the agriculture and rural development sector, many entries addressed issues around climate change and energy, the conservation of biodiversity, and waste management. The selection of the winners was by an independent International Jury of experts.
The 2010 SEED Award winners (by country):
Burkina Faso:
"Manufacture and Popularization of Biomass Briquettes". Aiming to replace wood and charcoal with biomass briquettes from fallen leaves and other sources of unused biomass, this progressive enterprise of local and international NGOs and a research institution helps to combat desertification, create jobs in rural communities and raise awareness for alternative energy sources.
"Initiative for Promoting and Distributing Bio-Pesticides". The initiative's ambitious goal is to promote and distribute ecological pest control for organic crops, especially cotton, vegetable and oil-producing crops. In this way, the partnership of local and community-based organisations and research agencies hopes to increase yields and preserve the production environment.
"ORIBAGS INNOVATIONS (U) LTD" is a private enterprise initiated by a research institution and local NGO to manufacture hand-made paper bags, printing paper and jewellery from agricultural wastes including wheat straw, elephant grass and other natural fibres. Oribags offers an eco-friendly alternative to polythene bags and empowers women entrepreneurs.
All winners can be found on the SEED website at http://www.seedinit.org

Planned GDF Suez' Cameroon Refinery To Produce 3.5Mln Tons LNG Yearly-Official

YAOUNDE, Cameroon -(Dow Jones)- The planned liquefied natural gas plant which French energy firm GDF Suez SA (GSZ.FR) plans to build in Cameroon is projected to produce an estimated 3.5 million tons of LNG per year, a senior official of the African nation's National Hydrocarbons Corporation, or SNH, told Dow Jones Newswires Wednesday.
The GDF Suez plans to build an onshore LNG processing plant in Cameroon's Atlantic coastal town of Kribi, located some 300 kilometers southwest of Yaounde beginning 2011.
The chief executive officer of GDF Global LNG Philippe Olivier held talks on the project with Cameroon's President Paul Biya last October, after which he announced that his company will be investing $5 billion for the project.
"GDF Suez is expecting to produce an estimated 3.5 million tons of liquefied natural gas from the refinery by the time they start production in 2014," said an official of the SNH involved in the project.
The state-run SNH, which manages and markets Cameroon's oil and gas, is working in close collaboration with the French firm and temporarily hosts its Cameroon office.
"This gas will be sold in Cameroon and the international markets," added then official, who preferred to speak anonymously.
-By Emmanuel Tumanjong, contributing to Dow Jones Newswires; +237-9655-6261 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              +237-9655-6261      end_of_the_skype_highlighting; tnuel@yahoo.com

27 October 2010

India’s rich buy assets in booming African market

ACQUISITION: A group of tractors plough land owned by India's Karuturi Global, in the Gambella region of Ethiopia, Africa in this file photo. Africa’s gross domestic product expanded 4.9 percent a year from 2000 to 2008. Bloomberg photo

ACQUISITION: A group of tractors plough land owned by India's Karuturi Global, in the Gambella region of Ethiopia, Africa in this file photo. Africa’s gross domestic product expanded 4.9 percent a year from 2000 to 2008. Bloomberg photo
Indian billionaire Ravi Ruia flew to Africa every month for the past 18 months, buying coal mines in Mozambique, half an oil refinery in Kenya and a call center in South Africa for his Essar Group.
This month, executives of his Essar Energy attended a conference hosted by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to attract investors in the power grid. The officials, backed by $2 billion the company raised in April on the London Stock Exchange, also mulled other “business opportunities” around Africa, the company said.
Ruia, who controls the $15 billion Essar Group with his older brother, Shashi, is not alone. Billionaire countrymen Sunil Mittal, chairman of India’s largest mobile phone provider, Bharti Airtel; Adi Godrej, chairman of Godrej Consumer Products and Harsh Mariwala, founder of Marico, have fueled a $15.8 billion buying spree in Africa since January 2005.
“Africa looks remarkably similar to what India was 15 years ago,” said Firdhose Coovadia, director of Essar’s African operations. “We can’t lose this opportunity to replicate the low-cost, high-volume model we’ve perfected in India.”
Indian companies acquired or invested in at least 79 companies in Africa, chasing business in less crowded markets after growing in a home economy that expanded by an average 8.5 percent since April 2005.
Africa’s gross domestic product expanded 4.9 percent a year from 2000 to 2008, McKinsey & Co. said in a June report. The continent’s GDP will rise to $2.6 trillion by 2020 from $1.6 trillion in 2008.
The last frontier
Consumer spending may double to as much as $1.8 trillion by 2020 as infrastructure is built and farm output increases, the report said. That is the equivalent of adding a consumer market the size of Brazil.
“Africa is seen by the investing community as the last frontier,” said Walter Rossini, who manages $330 million in an India fund at Aletti Gestielle in Milan. “There is a higher risk, but then there is greater reward if the political situation remains stable over the next 10 years.”
Africa is new territory for Bharti, which paid $9 billion in June for mobile phone operations in 15 countries and will rebrand them by year’s end.
This month, Bharti executives sought advice at the Kenya offices of Bangalore-based Karuturi Global, the world’s largest rose-grower. Sai Ramakrishna Karuturi, the managing director, said Africa is driving his company’s success.
Six years ago, as he struggled to compete against flower growers in Africa and Europe with lower freight costs and larger tracts of land, he bought a small plot in Ethiopia. Sales since have grown 11-fold to $112.7 million in the fiscal year that ended March 31.
He leases 311,000 hectares of land - larger than the U.S. state of Rhode Island - in Ethiopia and Kenya, and his company sells more than half-a-billion roses a year.
“I got in on the ground floor, others got in on the second floor, but there’s a lot of floors left to go in Africa’s economic cycle,” Karuturi said. “Africa offered us a scale we could never reach in India.”
Indian acquisitions in Africa peaked in 2008, when companies closed 26 deals worth $3.1 billion. Those include the state-run Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative’s $721 million purchase of Industries Chimiques du Senegal, an idle phosphates producer that once was the country’s largest industrial plant. Ernst & Young handled 11 deals since 2005.
“We are seeing Indian companies look at Africa in a major way,” said Anuj Chande, the London-based head of the South Asia Group at advisory and accounting firm Grant Thornton U.K. “Compared to India, valuations are quite attractive. We’re expecting to see a lot of midsize deals across a variety of sectors.”
Buying spree
Apollo Tyres, India’s second-biggest tiremaker by market value, bought Durban, South Africa-based Dunlop Tyres International for $62 million in April 2006. That gave Apollo two manufacturing plants and a retreading unit in South Africa and Zimbabwe, and brand rights to 32 African countries.
Adi Godrej bought a hair-color company in South Africa and a soap and body-lotion maker in Nigeria. His Mumbai-based Godrej Consumer Products gets 23 percent of its total sales outside India, including Africa.
Marico paid 520 million India rupees ($12 million) to buy the consumer division of Durban-based Enaleni Pharmaceuticals Consumer Division in October 2007. Two months ago, it bought South African health-care brand Ingwe for an undisclosed price.
Dabur India started shopping on the continent in 2004, when it bought a hair-care brand in Egypt and then a Nigerian cosmetics company.
“I am not even a fly on the wall in India, but in Ethiopia I am the largest investor, the second-largest employer after the government,” said Sai Ramakrishna Karuturi, whose company owns professional football and volleyball teams. “To do that in India, you have to be a Tata or an Ambani.”

EU and WTO seeking solution over China rare earth elements

Germany looks for rare earth element partnerships due to scarcity:

According to two unnamed officials, safeguarding REE supplies is “crucial” for Germany, so German Economy Minister Rainer Bruederle, whose ministry is hosting an Oct. 26 international conference, is attempting to forge strategic partnerships with seven countries — Mongolia, Namibia, Nigeria, Kazakhstan, South Africa, Chile and Peru — to secure commodities, including REE and copper. China needs to realize protectionism is not a “one-way street,” Bruederle said. 
October 26, 2010 - (Reuters) - The World Trade Organisation and the EU said on Tuesday they were seeking a solution to German concerns about reported Chinese restrictions on exports of rare earth elements (REE) used to make many high-tech products. At a conference in Berlin, where the German government warned of the severe impact of the scarcity of the 17 minerals with magnetic, luminescent and other properties, the EU said it was watching China's actions for possible legal implications.
Frank Hoffmeister, a top aide of European trade chief Karel De Gucht, was asked at the seminar whether the EU planned legal action against China over the reported export restrictions. "It is clear we are monitoring the situation quite closely. We need to have clear facts," he answered.
The head of the WTO, Pascal Lamy, prescribed a completion of stalled global trade talks as a way of eliminating uncertainty about access to scarce raw materials. Lamy said the Doha round -- deadlocked since 2008 -- would set clear rules on the transport, sustainable exploitation and tariffs of raw materials, and avert global political tensions.
"A completion of the Doha Round will serve as a stepping stone towards better international trade rules in resource sectors," Lamy told the conference.
Germany's electronics industry has said the market for rare earths, used to manufacture a range of high-tech products, had become "critical" due to reported restrictions on exports from China, which produces 97 percent of the world's supply.
According to two unnamed officials, safeguarding REE supplies is “crucial” for Germany, so German Economy Minister Rainer Bruederle, whose ministry is hosting an Oct. 26 international conference, is attempting to forge strategic partnerships with seven countries — Mongolia, Namibia, Nigeria, Kazakhstan, South Africa, Chile and Peru — to secure commodities, including REE and copper. China needs to realize protectionism is not a “one-way street,” Bruederle said.
The country's dominance of rare earths used in high-tech products has drawn growing international attention after reports that the government has been choking off shipments, possibly for political reasons.
Beijing has denied any plans to cut export quotas of the minerals used to make cars, computers, cell phones and other high-technology products. Washington has called it a potential threat to the U.S. economy and national security. China's media has accused Western countries of making unreasonable demands over the cheap supply of rare earths.
German Economy Minister Rainer Bruederle said his country was "severely affected when it comes to energy resources and ... rare earths which are growing scarce". "When speculation is rife, you lose the foundation in the economy," he said. "And that is detrimental for the producing industries. Pricing frameworks must remain on our agenda."
Germany, which depends on raw materials from abroad to power its export-driven economy, this month announced a government strategy to secure access to crucial raw materials and called on countries to address the issue together at international talks.

14 October 2010


Launching on the eve of International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, film showcases the
power of helping the poor learn practical skills, start livelihoods and save
– Trickle Up (www.trickleup.org), an international poverty
alleviation organization that empowers people living on less than $1.25 a day to take the first
steps out of poverty, has released a documentary that profiles the impact of its work and the
people it affects.
“The Test of Poverty” follows two women living in extreme poverty in West Bengal, India, as
they participate in Trickle Up’s program and work to change the effects that generations of
poverty have had on their families’ lives. The film shows that addressing the needs of the ultra
poor – those living on less than $1.25 day – involves more than just providing them with capital,
and must be viewed through a wider lens. The film also captures the powerful effects that
increased self‐confidence and empowerment that come from participating in Trickle Up’s
program have in helping women break the vicious cycle of extreme poverty.
As the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty approaches on October 17th, “The Test
of Poverty” underscores the theme designated by the United Nations: "From Poverty to Decent
Work: bridging the gap." According to the UN, this day of observance comes at a time when
people living in poverty are even more uncertain about employment stability, working
conditions, training opportunities and the availability of social protection.
“The Test of Poverty” was directed by Gautam Bose and produced with support from the
Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), which is spearheading a global effort to
understand how safety nets, livelihoods, and microfinance can be sequenced to create
pathways for the poorest to graduate out of extreme poverty.
Trickle Up takes a comprehensive approach to addressing the needs of the ultra poor. The
organization provides seed capital, training and savings support to kick‐start microenterprises
and create a savings habit that endures. The grants buy things like tools, seeds and fertilizer,
and goats—assets that help build income and stability. The savings groups work like community
banks; the members save money, make loans to each other, and pay interest that grows the
group fund. In 2009 alone, Trickle Up served over 10,000 new participants. Each new or
expanded enterprise impacts five lives, which means over 55,000 lives have been touched.Launching on the eve of International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, film showcases the power of helping the poor learn practical skills, start livelihoods and save.

The Test of Poverty shows how Trickle Up helps the ultra-poor holistically and with lasting results.
To view a shorter 4 minute version, please visit:

9 October 2010

EU to build jatropha plant for biofuel in Ghana

Ghana biofuel development
Ghana biofuel development
A two million-euro jatropha project to produce bio-energy at Walewale in the northern part of Ghana has been launched by the European Unio n in the area.
The five-year project would use unfertile lands in the area to cultivate jatroph a plants and process the seeds to obtain crude oil and its by-products.
Professor Giuseppe Enne, Project Coordinator of the Ghana Jatropha Project and t he Nuclea Ricerca Desertification of Sassari University of Italy, announced Thur s day that an appropriate and cost-effective expeller for Jatropha oil extraction w ould be constructed.
The project aims also to improve Ghana’s sustainable renewable energy, to create income-generating activities and to mitigate land degradation effects in rural a reas in the country.
Ghana’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Ministry of Food and Agr iculture, Technology Consultancy Centre of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Scien c e and Technology and New Energy, a non-governmental organization, are collaborat i ng to ensure successful implementation of the project.
Enne said the project would develop the marketing of primary and secondary produ cts of jatropha and the setting up of community-based organisations and micro-en t erprises to reduce poverty.
In addition, he said, the project would realise direct desertification mitigatio n actions in the target areas by using drought resistant species with a high mar k et value.
Mr. San Nasamu Asabigi, Deputy Northern Regional Minister said jatropha could be an alternative to reduce the energy crisis facing the country.
“About 69 per cent of the total energy consumed in Ghana is from the already dep leted forest, 10 per cent from electricity and 21 from imported petroleum”.
Source africanmanager.com

8 October 2010

Uganda prepares to plant transgenic bananas

Sweet pepper gene confers resistance to bacterial wilt.
Scientists in Uganda will next week start field trials of a banana variety genetically engineered to resist a bacterial disease that has been decimating crops across central Africa.
The new variety is part of a wider effort to improve the East African Highland banana, a fruit so important to Ugandans that its name, matooke, is synonymous with 'food' in one of the local languages. But delays to a law regulating the commercial growing of genetically modified (GM) food in the country means it is not clear when the improved banana could be released to farmers.
The bananas have a gene from green pepper to protect against banana Xanthomonas wilt (BXW), which costs farmers in Africa's Great Lakes region an estimated half a billion dollars every year. Bananas infected with BXW ripen unevenly and prematurely, and eventually the entire plant wilts and rots. The disease was originally found in Ethiopia, but was discovered in Uganda in 2001 and has rapidly spread to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and Burundi.
The sweet pepper gene produces a protein called HRAP that strengthens the plant's ability to seal off infected cells. The idea was pioneered by scientists at the Academia Sinica in Taiwan, where it has been shown to improve the disease resistance of vegetables including as broccoli, tomatoes and potatoes.
The Ugandan research team, based at the National Agricultural Research Laboratories in Kawanda, received a royalty-free licence to use the technology in 2006.
Six of the eight GM banana strains developed with the green pepper gene showed 100% resistance to BXW in the lab1.
"This is the first time this gene has been used in Africa, and it is the first time the technology is going to be tested in the field," says Leena Tripathi, a biotechnologist from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Kampala, and lead investigator of the Ugandan project.

5 October 2010

Africa: Governance improves in Liberia, Angola, Togo, declines in Eritrea, Madasgascar

Cape Town (South Africa) — Governance standards have improved significantly in Angola, Liberia and Togo over the past four years, but have declined in Eritrea and Madagascar, according to a leading survey assessing the quality of governance across Africa.
This year's edition of the Ibrahim Index of African Governance, released in Johannesburg on Monday, shows that Mauritius remains Africa's best-governed country, with a score of 82 out of a possible 100 on the index. Somalia is still the worst-governed nation, with a score of 8.
Liberia's score showed the biggest increase, from 32 in 2004/05 to 44 in 2008/09, the latest years for which data are available. Angola's score also rose steadily over the four years, from 31 to 39, while Togo's improved from 36 to 43.
All three countries nevertheless remained in the bottom half of the continent's rankings. Of 53 nations surveyed, Liberia was in 36th place, just ahead of Niger and Mauritania and immediately behind Cameroon and Ethiopia. Togo was in 39th and Angola in 43rd place.
Eritrea's score on the index dropped from 40 to 33 over the four years, and it was ranked in 49th place, only four places above bottom-ranked Somalia, where the federal government does not even control the whole of the capital, Mogadishu.
Madagascar, where there was an unconstitutional seizure of power 18 months ago, saw its score on the index drop from 56 to 48, but it remained higher on the rankings, as the 29th best-governed country in Africa.
Africa's best-governed countries after Mauritius are the Seychelles, Botswana, Cape Verde, South Africa, Namibia, Ghana, Tunisia, Lesotho and Egypt.
Somalia is followed as the worst-governed country in Africa by Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Eritrea, Sudan, the Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea and Cote d'Ivoire.
The survey indicates that the continent's best-governed region is Southern Africa, with an average score on the index of 57, followed by North Africa (54), West Africa (50), East Africa (45) and Central Africa (38).
The Ibrahim index is produced by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, which was founded by the Sudanese cellphone entrepreneur of the same name. The foundation describes the index as "a tool to hold governments to account and frame the debate about how we are governed."
Citing what it saw as the most interesting trends seen in this year's survey, the foundation said more than 40 countries had seen "some form of improvement" in the categories of sustainable economic opportunity and human development.
"Generally, African citizens are healthier and have more access to economic opportunities than was the case five years ago …
"However, the category that gender sits within, participation and human rights, makes for less encouraging reading. Thirty of Africa's 53 states have declined in participation and human rights performance over the past five years - notwithstanding some improvements around gender issues.
"Overall … the impressive sustained economic progress and human development on the continent stand in contrast to deterioration in national performance in security, rule of law, participation and rights."
The index measures the delivery of public goods and services by government and non-state entities, using four main categories - including 88 criteria - by which to judge the performance of nations: safety and the rule of law, participation by citizens and human rights, sustainable economic opportunity and human development.
It has laid emphasis in recent years on boosting the role of African scholars in producing the index, and this year cites the involvement of institutions from Benin, Egypt, Ghana, Senegal and South Africa.
Introducing this year's index, Mo Ibrahim said the index had strengthened the assessment of governments' commitment to gender equality by adding indicators assessing women's political and economic rights and examining legislation combating violence against women. It had also introduced indicators assessing the provision of anti-retroviral treatment.

4 October 2010

CHINA-AFRICA: A partnership with equal benefits?

At the end of August, government leaders from China and South Africa announced that they would advance bilateral cooperation in a wide range of areas, including higher education and scientific research. The partnership follows a series of collaborations that have been set up following the establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in 2000 and the formulation of the Chinese government's 'Africa Policy'.

This policy was initiated in 2006 to promote student and faculty exchanges, training in African and Chinese languages, and research cooperation in fields of mutual interest, such as bio-agriculture, mining and medicines.

Since 2006 a large number of African nations including Egypt, Nigeria and Tunisia have signed higher education and research agreements with China and started joint research projects.

In the past four years, China has provided training to around 15,000 African professionals including scientists, doctors, nurses and administrators. It has also started to construct 26 hospitals on the continent and built 30 centres for the treatment of malaria. To enable collaboration, China has established 25 Confucius institutes in 19 African countries, where Mandarin language classes are offered.

Research collaboration is particularly increasing in the area of science and technology. In March this year, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, FOCAC, which includes representatives from China and 49 African countries, launched a series of joint research projects, training programmes and academic staff exchange programmes between partner countries.

China has also promised to offer research equipment to African scientists who return to their home countries on completion of long-term research projects in the country, and a Chinese-funded network of agricultural technology centres in Africa is currently being planned and developed.

Drivers and benefits

The prime aim of China's Africa initiatives, including its higher education and research partnerships with the continent, is to secure a share of Africa's natural resources (especially oil, iron and copper) for use towards its growing population and booming economy. Domestic economic growth, in turn, is likely to give China more global political power.

In addition, by diversifying its trade partners and including African nations, China appears to be trying to limit the financial risks involved in being dependent on a smaller number of trade partners. China also sees Africa as a potentially large market for its own products.

Collaboration in areas such as higher education and science and technology could create the networks necessary to promote these goals.

China's projects can be valuable for Africa, given the higher education and brain drain challenges faced by the continent. The sheer size of the Chinese market, coupled with projections for continued economic growth, can offer good trading opportunities for Africa.

African partners also hope to learn from China's rapid economic development over the past decade. At least 35 of Africa's 53 countries are currently benefiting from Chinese-funded projects to improve infrastructures in the areas of transport, electricity and telecommunications. For Africa, these Chinese activities are important for economic development and brain gain.

The two regions are good partners in the sense that they share no historical conflict and collaborate on the principle of 'non-interference' in each other's politics (apart from China's prohibition of having diplomatic relations with Taiwan).

Analysts have argued that China's emphasis on national sovereignty is attractive to those African states that in the past have been reluctant to implement reforms imposed by Western donor institutions and countries, which often came together with requirements such as improving governance.

Meeting Africa's long-term development needs?

While Chinese politicians argue that their Africa initiatives are mutually beneficial, critics believe that China's motives for Africa collaboration are more profit-oriented than its philanthropic rhetoric would suggest.

According to the African Development Bank, China is on its way to become Africa's most important economic partner. Since the launch of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in 2000, China-Africa trade has grown at an annual average rate of 33.5%, from US$10 billion in 2000 to US$107 billion in 2008. China has already become South Africa's largest export destination by country since the start of 2009, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

Africa profits from these links with China in several ways.

Between 2000 and 2008, the export of African products to China has doubled, and this export growth is still accelerating. China has been playing an increasingly important role in financing and implementing infrastructural projects on the continent, which are improving Africa's future potential for economic development. China has also established special economic zones on the continent, where African goods are being produced.

African Development Bank representatives, however, have argued that there is no guarantee that China will help advance the production of African goods that are not aimed at export to China.

Critics argue that China's initiatives are not always tailored to Africa's needs.

One example is Chinese-sponsored training programmes for African students, who study in China for several years, taking language courses while they study in Chinese. Once these students return to Africa, however, they often struggle to assimilate scientific concepts in a foreign language. To some extent, such difficulties may be due to the fact that China has relatively limited experience in large-scale higher education collaboration.

2 October 2010


Douala, Cameroon October 2nd (News.Cameroon-Today.com)  -  Qualcomm the wireless services major from San Diego California have announced its plans to foray into various pats of Africa including Cameroon. The top officials of the telecom provider indicated that they plan to operate in the 3 G segment in a massive way.

Qualcomm based out of San Diego has planned to expand its services all across West Africa In a press release late yesterday the wireless services provider indicated that it plans to open an office in Lagos, Nigeria which will be the basis from where it will operate in the Western African regions.

Maps of Cameroon
Cameroon Map - The Map of the republic of Cameroon, Africa
The top brass of Qualcomm Africa also stated that their office in Lagos would service their mobile and wireless operations that would essentially spread across Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Ivory Coast and Cameroon and would be the hub for all their western African operations. The latest hub is intended for QCOM Wireless Technologies Limited which is a fully owned subsidiary of Qualcomm.
Qualcomm stated that their research has indicated that the 3G technology which has just started entering into Africa is showing great promise and they plan to focus highly in the segment. They said that they plan to launch a whole bevy of activities to support growth and development of the 3G technology in the continent. The wireless biggie says that statistics reveal that more than three fourths of the rural population in countries like Cameroon and Nigeria cannot be connected by fixed line telecom networks and hence can be benefitted highly by a wireless technology.

24 September 2010

12 Reasons to Invest in Africa

Over the past decade, South Africa outperformed the MSCI Emerging Markets Index


Forget the BRIC countries of Brazil, Russia, India, and China. Larry Seruma, chief investment officer of Nile Capital Management, says many retail investors are missing a tremendous opportunity for growth in Africa. Seruma manages the Nile Pan Africa fund, the first actively managed, U.S.-based mutual fund to focus exclusively on Africa. He recently released a report, which can be seen here, that explains his investment firm's reasons for investing in the continent.
Click here to find out more!
Seruma says more investors will begin to look outside of developed markets like the United States for growth, because those markets aren't expected to grow as fast as they have in the past. "It's only much more recently you're beginning to see these huge disparities coalesce," he says. "The U.S. is going to have very low investment opportunities going forward."
[See U.S. News's Mutual Fund Score to find the best investments for you.]
Investing in Africa involves plenty of risks. The biggest, Seruma says, is liquidity. "Liquidity is really the ability to trade frequently," he says. "When you want to get out of a position, it's not easy to get out of a position." Executing trades can be difficult because some African stock markets aren't as transparent and not as much trading takes place compared with, say, the S&P 500. There are other concerns, including the threat of government and corporate corruption. Many African countries have become functioning democracies, however, according to Seruma.
There are a number of other funds that give investors access to Africa and other "frontier" markets, which are also sometimes called pre-emerging markets. Templeton Frontier Markets and iShares MSCI South Africa Index ETF are two examples. Out of the 53 countries in Africa, Seruma's fund currently invests in 14, which together account for about 90 percent of Africa's overall market capitalization. Here are Seruma's reasons for investing in Africa.
'Ground-floor opportunity.' Seruma says many investors have already missed what he calls a "ground-floor opportunity" in Africa. For the decade ending Dec. 31, 2009, an African composite index made up of eight countries, including South Africa, Nigeria, and Egypt, returned about 14 percent annualized. South Africa alone returned an average of 13 percent per year over that period. Compare that with the MSCI Emerging Markets Index, which returned about 7 percent annualized, or the S&P 500, which lost about 3 percent over the same time period. He compares the risk versus return ratio in Africa today with emerging markets like China, India, and Brazil in the late 1900s—meaning that investors who enter a new high-growth market first reap the highest returns over time because they're willing to take on more risk.
[See The Opportunity in Africa.]
Low correlation. Correlation is a measure of how investments perform in relation to each other. A low correlation, for example, means that two securities will frequently move in opposite directions. According to Seruma's research, from January 2002 through June 2009, an African composite index of eight countries had a correlation of 0.59 with the S&P 500, 0.66 with the MSCI EAFE Index (which measures developed markets outside of North America), and 0.60 with the MSCI Emerging Markets Index. That means that 59 percent of the time, the returns of the African index differed from those of the S&P 500. Investors can use correlation statistics to find out how to better diversify their portfolios. "The African markets have a very low correlation with domestic or other emerging markets, so [you have a] good opportunity to actually reduce risk in the overall portfolio," he says. Diversifying your portfolio among uncorrelated assets can help offset big losses.
[See Why Emerging Markets Belong in Your Portfolio.]
Strong growth expected. According to projections from the World Bank, nine of the 15 countries in the world with the highest rate of five-year economic growth are in Africa. Seruma estimates that Africa is likely to grow by 4.7 percent over the next five years. Economists expect much slower growth in places like the United States and U.K. over the next few years. "It's a pretty huge growth differential," he says.

2 September 2010

Top tips from Africa's entrepreneurs

What is the secret of success in business? During Africa Economy week, BBC News asked entrepreneurs across the continent to give us their "top tips".

Market seller with strawberries, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
Running a business in Africa's harsh economic climate can be a real juggling act.

You have to think fast in business.

If someone asks - "Are you selling your blouse?" Sell it!

You can always buy another one.
You need lots of patience and nerves of steel

The first day I opened my shop, I only had five bunches of roses.

My first customer didn't see the flowers I had - all he saw was water.

So he asked me: "Are you selling water?"

I told him - "Yes!" That 20 cents he gave me was my first income.

You have to be brave. You have to be aggressive. Don't be embarrassed.

Nigeria is driven by nepotism.

But you have to hang in there.
When you have the right product and you wait long enough, the rainy day will come.
Also, putting in the street style works well for me.
Formal training can help. But businesses are driven by passion and innovation.
Even if I'd been to the best business schools, my business would still be driven by my goals.

Sylvia Banda, Zambia
Sylvia Banda's first restaurant had no tables. She now owns 16 eateries.
My advice - persevere.
I remember very well the first day I opened my restaurant.
I did not have any chairs. I did not have any tables.
My customers had to eat in a standing position. I told them - you're going to have a "standing buffet".
They laughed and continued eating, and that's how my catering business was born.
Today, we have 16 eating places in Lusaka and we have opened a college training students in hospitality.
It is important to say to yourself - I am as good as the other person. If that person can do it, then so can I.

You don't need to save a huge amount before you start your business.
You can begin working from your house, or even under a tree.
We started with a small amount - buying two or three dryers, chairs and other equipment a customer might need.
Anybody who came, we gave them good hair.
Then, by managing well, we have grown bigger.

Mainstream US Media Criticized for Ignoring Positive Developments in Africa

Africa Society president Bernadette Paolo says many Africa-related events continue to feature less prominently in mainstream US media
Photo: VOA.President Obama and the African Youth Forum
The president and CEO of the Africa Society of the National Summit on Africa says that important stories about Africa continue to feature less prominently in mainstream American media outlets.
The Africa Society is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that strives to educate Americans about the richness and diversity of Africa, as well as the economic opportunities that the continent offers.
Bernadette Paolo said, despite the fact that the month of August featured many Africa-related events in Washington, those events did not make the mainstream American media.
She said there is a need to demand positive coverage of Africa by providing the media with information that contrasts with the usual negative stories.
“When you ask students throughout the United States, the first four images that come to mind when they hear the word “Africa” is war, disease, starving children and animals. And, I think that the reporting in the media is primarily negative,” she said.
Paolo said, although there are challenges facing African countries, Americans need to know the contributions the continent is making and the potential it holds.
“When you think about it, many of the mineral resources in the entire world are from the continent of Africa, never mind the fact that the African diaspora in the United States is the highest educated among all immigrant populations. These are facts that never come to the fore through the media,” Paolo said.
She said changes in U.S. foreign policy toward Africa over the years suggest that Africa is getting the attention it warrants from the U.S. government.

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: Commercial Banks and Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) in the Economic Community of Central African States Required to Raise Capital Reserves to $20m

The Committee of Banking Supervisors of West and Central Africa, an organization that supervises credit establishments and sets prudential banking legislation in western and central Africa, announced earlier this week that starting from 2014, all commercial banks including microfinance institutions (MFIs) in the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), a subsidiary of the African Union [1], will need to have capital reserves of USD 20 million.
The decision was made during the committee’s last meeting in Yaounde, Cameroon. This represents a 400 percent increase from the original requirement of USD 4 million. Idriss Ahmed Idriss, the president of the committee stated that the new requirement would “strengthen the banks and microfinance institutions in Central Africa by raising their required capital reserves.”
[1] About the Economic Community of Central African States:
The Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) is an economic community of the African Union which aims to promote collective autonomy, better standards of living and economic. There are 11 member states, including Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Sao Tome and Principle.
A group of financial experts has ordered all commercial banks in the Central African Economic and Monetary Community, CEMAC, to raise the minimum amount of their capital reserves.

24 August 2010

Why foreign aid and Africa don't mix

By Robert Calderisi, Special to CNN
August 18, 2010 -- Updated 1016 GMT (1816 HKT)

story.calderisi.rc.jpgEditor's note: Robert Calderisi has 30 years of professional experience in international development, including senior positions at the World Bank. He is the author of "The Trouble with Africa: Why Foreign Aid Isn't Working." He writes for CNN as part of Africa 50, a special coverage looking at 17 African nations marking 50 years of independence this year. 
Friday, Charles Abugre of the UN Millennium Campaign writes for CNN about why aid is important for Africa and how it can be made more effective. (CNN) -- I once asked a president of the Central African Republic, Ange-Félix Patassé, to give up a personal monopoly he held on the distribution of refined oil products in his country.

He was unapologetic. "Do you expect me to lose money in the service of my people?" he replied.
That, in a nutshell, has been the problem of Africa. Very few African governments have been on the same wavelength as Western providers of aid.
Aid, by itself, has never developed anything, but where it has been allied to good public policy, sound economic management, and a strong determination to battle poverty, it has made an enormous difference in countries like India, Indonesia, and even China.
Those examples illustrate another lesson of aid. Where it works, it represents only a very small share of the total resources devoted to improving roads, schools, heath services, and other things essential for raising incomes.
Aid must not overwhelm or displace local efforts; instead, it must settle with being the junior partner.
Opinion: Why foreign aid is important for Africa
Because of Africa's needs, and the stubborn nature of its poverty, the continent has attracted far too much aid and far too much interfering by outsiders.
From the start, Western governments tried hard to work with public agencies, but fairly soon ran up against the obvious limitations of capacity and seriousness of African states.
Early solutions were to pour in "technical assistance," i.e. foreign advisers who stayed on for years, or to try "enclave" or turn-key projects that would be independent of government action.
More recently, Western agencies have worked with non-government organizations or the private sector. Or, making a virtue of necessity, they have poured large amounts of their assistance directly into government budgets, citing the need for "simplicity" and respect for local "sovereignty."
Through all of this, the development challenge was always on somebody else's shoulders and governments have been eager receivers, rather than clear-headed managers of Western generosity.
In the last 20 years, some states -- like Ghana, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique, and Mali -- have broken the mould, recognized the importance of taking charge, and tried to use aid more strategically and efficiently. Some commentators would add Benin, Zambia, and Rwanda to that list.
But most African governments remain stuck in a culture of dependence or indifference. There are still too many dictators in Africa (six have been in office for more than 25 years) and many elected leaders behave no differently.

20 August 2010

Capturing Africa’s business opportunity

In the aftermath of the global crisis, Africa no longer seems uniquely risky. The opportunities are huge.

Donald Kaberuka.

Africa was among the fastest-growing parts of the world between 2001 and 2008, with average growth of 5.6 percent a year. While the commodity boom played a role, stable macroeconomic conditions coupled with structural reforms—including the privatization of state-owned enterprises and lowered barriers to competition—underpinned the impressive growth. It was accompanied by large amounts of foreign direct investment (which more than tripled during these years), including inflows from the Gulf countries and from emerging Asia (China and India).
Resource-rich countries such as Nigeria and South Africa received most of the foreign direct investment during the decade, but new patterns have emerged in the last three to four years. In eastern and northern Africa, for example, new investment has arrived in nonresource sectors such as tourism, manufacturing, financial services, telecommunications, and construction. Also, a second tier of smaller but high-performing countries, including Ghana, Namibia, and Zambia, has caught investors’ attention.
In sum, foreign investment has diversified in recent years as a number of African governments undertook structural reforms to make their economies more attractive. But to sustain foreign investment inflows, governments must pursue measures for strengthening governance and legal frameworks, building financial markets, investing in human capital, developing infrastructure, and deepening regional integration.
Overcoming the global recession
Even though Africa was hit by the global financial and economic crisis, and growth slowed sharply in 2009, to 2.5 percent, the continent avoided the recession. The impact of the crisis varied across regions and countries, though on the whole the decline in growth was less severe than expected, allowing for a faster recovery. In sharp contrast to other parts of the continent, southern Africa has been directly affected by the global crisis because its resource-rich countries are dependent on exports and subject to the “neighborhood effect” emanating from South Africa. But many of these countries should recover quickly as commodity and financial markets rebound. The group of middle-income countries in North Africa, despite their close integration with the European Union, fared much better, partly because of their less open capital accounts and more diversified economies.
Countries with built-up reserves implemented stimulus packages and measures aimed mostly at easing supply-side bottlenecks. African policy makers have resisted the protectionist tendencies that often accompany a crisis of this magnitude. Instead, most countries maintained a prudent macroeconomic stance during the crisis, steered clear of protectionist measures, and in several cases accelerated reforms to create a favorable investment climate. Some countries, such as Botswana, Ghana, and Seychelles, took advantage of financial-aid packages that helped them adjust their economies significantly.
Having weathered the downturn, the continent faces the challenge of returning quickly to high and sustainable growth. In March 2010, the African Development Bank forecast 4.5 percent real GDP growth for Africa in 2010 and 5.2 percent in 2011, in line with the global recovery. While these growth rates are below pre-crisis levels, the recovery is broad-based, with more than 15 countries projected to grow by upward of 5 percent in 2010.
It remains to be seen if the recovery in the advanced economies, a key factor in Africa’s own recovery, will be robust and if adequate financial aid to low-income countries follows in a timely manner. So it is even more important that African countries create an economic and business climate to attract stable private capital flows.
Challenges and opportunities ahead
While Africa’s growth from 2001 to 2008 marked a turnaround relative to the previous three decades, it was more subdued when measured in terms of per capita GDP growth. In this respect, Africa still lagged behind most parts of the world, and the income gap between Africa and developing countries in other areas closed only slightly. The key question is when Africa’s low-income countries will reach a high, sustainable growth path that would allow them to narrow the income and productivity gaps with the more advanced economies.
Poor infrastructure is a major impediment to growth. A recent study1 of 24 countries, conducted by the African Development Bank and its Africa Infrastructure Country Diagnostic (AICD) partners, estimated that the total cost of bridging Africa’s infrastructure gap over the next decade will be about $93 billion a year, with about 40 percent in the power sector. Furthermore, it found that the continent has the weakest infrastructure on the planet, with Africans in some countries paying twice as much for basic services as people do elsewhere. The study argues that a well-functioning infrastructure is essential to Africa’s economic performance and that reducing inefficiencies and waste could result in major improvements in African lives.
Despite the significant progress in creating an environment for private-sector development, more can be done to achieve high and broad-based growth in Africa. Differences across African countries notwithstanding, the African Development Bank’s experience suggests that critical reforms would enhance Africa’s competitiveness:
  • Governance and legal frameworks should be strengthened, including property rights, which facilitate transparency and accountability in the management of public resources.
  • Encouragement should be given to the development of financial markets and the creation of access to credit for private-sector projects, which require funding from sound banking sectors, well-regulated stock exchanges, and venture capital.
  • The quality of human capital should be enhanced—in particular, by improving the quality of tertiary education and stemming the loss of talented citizens to emigration. The gender gap in education could be closed further.
  • The infrastructure gap should be narrowed through the development of energy and transportation, which are the main obstacles to competitiveness in Africa and put African entrepreneurs at a disadvantage to the major competitors in Asia. Challenges in the energy sector are particularly complex, requiring the harmonization of the activities of donors and countries, as well as the creation of proper institutional and legal frameworks.
  • Regional integration to create economies of scale and to leverage the strengths of individual countries should increase. Power pools, transport corridors, and cross-border climate change problems are among the areas to be addressed.

5 top tips for doing business in Africa

Vladimir Kokorev (PhD), author and former CEO of companies dedicated to public transportation, fishing and shipbuilding in Africa, offers up tips for doing business in Africa

5 top tips for doing business in Africa
1. Do not forget that Africa is not one country – there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach
The first point to make is that obviously Africa is not one country – but the second largest continent in the world, comprising of 54 states. There are huge differences between these countries and you simply cannot approach Africa with a 'one size fits all' attitude. For instance, South Africa is a modern industrial regional power, while countries like Angola, Sudan and Equatorial Guinea are experiencing spectacular economic growth stimulated by the expansion of their oil extraction capacity.
Meanwhile other countries live off agriculture, self-subsistence and international aid, with Mediterranean Africa being heavily influenced by Arab and Islamic culture. The key thing is to make sure you are familiar with the cultural, economic and political specifics of each African state that you plan to bring your business to.
2. Always start by contacting the official channels
Before starting your business, you should always contact the official representatives of the country in which it is located, in order to present your business plan and anticipate any legal or administrative obstacles for its development.
You have a big advantage if you have had some experience of working for diplomatic service or for a large company with local branches in Africa. This will make it easier for you to assess the situation and obtain the necessary contacts. Moreover, the administrative officials will generally have a more favourable opinion of you, as opposed to if you were a newcomer or a freelancer. For example, many Americans and Europeans have started their own businesses in Africa, after working for many years as NGO volunteers.
In the end though, you will be judged not by your words or promises, but by what you actually do. As a friend of mine used to say, unlike Europeans, African people are not won over by advertising and marketing techniques, but by results.
3. If you want to do business in Africa, be prepared to spend a lot of your time in Africa
If you are thinking about trying to run your African business from the comfort of your own country – checking in every now and then with a timely Skype or video conference – forget about it. Just like in any country, if you want your business to be a success, you have to be around – especially in the early days. By directing your business from a distance there is a real danger you will lose touch and lose sense of what is really happening on the ground. Modern communication tools are a real danger, because although they give you the illusion that you are physically there, it is just that - an illusion.