Thursday, June 11, 2009

Why Has Africa Not Attracted More Interest From the U.S. Business Community?

American investment in Africa has the potential to provide much-need jobs, access to healthcare, and generally improve standards of living. In fact, American corporations are becoming increasingly interested in investing in Africa, with some regarding it as the last big growth market, but they are often deterred by Africa’s negative image, a new study shows.

US companies in some sectors, particularly technology companies, now regard Africa as “the last frontier for growth”. It has a market of one billion people, mobile telephone networks have been successful, and other countries, particularly China, are increasing their African investment thrust. Accessing that huge market will benefit investors, but also has the potential to improve life for Africans as workers and consumers.

The study was conducted by the Africa Business Initiative of the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington DC, and Baird’s CMC, an international communication management consultancy which conducted all of the interviews.

The conclusions and recommendations are based on in-depth interviews with top executives from some 30 US multi-national corporations, of which half are Fortune 100 Companies. The objective was to identify the factors affecting US corporations’ investment decisions in Africa and what US executives believe would make Africa more attractive to them. A second part will study the response of African leaders to these American attitudes.

“We want to tap in to the ‘conversation behind closed doors’, both in US boardrooms and in African cabinet discussions. We hope that these frank viewpoints by US business leaders and African policy-makers will help increase American investment into Africa,” said François Baird, Baird’s CMC co-chairman.
Commenting that attracting US investment is “a long haul”, the study recommended that African countries and regions sell themselves aggressively to corporate America which needs “a strong and specific pull from Africa”. This can be the pull of a big market or a big source of critical raw materials or a belief that there is a competitive advantage to early entry into African markets.
Ultimately, the goal is for improved communication and understanding between American investors and African leaders, contributing to mutually-beneficial economic growth.

For more information about Baird's CMC and the study:

Monday, March 30, 2009

Lasting development in Africa

Self Help Africa is an international development agency that works at grassroots level tackling poverty and improving lives in rural Africa.

Self Help Africa's primary focus is assisting families and communities to grow enough food to feed themselves and to earn a sustainable living.

Our all-African staff and local partners will this year help hundreds of thousands of people to work their way out of poverty. We will do this by bringing simple and effective innovations to farming, managing natural resources and helping people access basic services like clean water, healthcare and education.

Self Help Africa has almost twenty-five years experience in bringing lasting solutions to poverty for Africa’s rural poor. We work in Burkina Faso,Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Togo, Uganda and Zambia.Self Help Africa uses a wide variety of innovative technologies to assist the people we work with to achieve sustainability in their lives.

These approaches are cost effective and practical ways of tackling the very real challenges faced by Africa's rural poor.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Who Is Your Best Friend?

I’ve been fighting depression for six years. I’ve learned that I will never beat the evils of depression but now have a friend to talk with which keeps me emotionally well. Now when i feels depressed, i knows what to do. "I need to talk to someone. I can't sit back, because I get really sick."I learned healthier ways to deal with my feelings. "I need to take a deep breath if I'm about to lash out at someone, or I'm not going to like the result."Erin also takes medicine now, though sometimes she doesn't want to. But she does want to stay healthy and reach her goals. I'm in a band, so I could be a musician," she says. "In school I work with handicapped children, so I'd like to work with handicapped children if I'm not a musician." Erin has a message for others living with feelings of depression. Getting help is a must, You could end up having really bad things happen."People feel depressed for many reasons. If you feel depressed, please tell someone you trust. Talking about your feelings is a sign of strength. Emotions
When my best friend joined a gang, I had no support anymore. I was really down. I had so much stuff inside me – anger and pain – I never talked about. I didn’t have anyone to talk to. I used to put my feelings in a box and not open up to nobody. I was silent. For a long time I ran away from my feelings, and that’s a bad thing.One of the toughest things is you think emotions have to be kept inside. You don't cry for no one, you know. It's tough. You have to play this role. It holds you back from being totally yourself. When I was sad, I would sit alone in my room and cry. I refused to show anyone I had emotion. I wouldn't let anyone into my heart. The most important thing when something is on your mind or eating at you is to talk with somebody. Talk to someone who’s a mentor, someone older and more experienced, so they can give you good advice. You know It's just unhealthy to keep all those feelings inside of you, male or female. If you play a sport, talk to your coach if you feel comfortable. Or talk to someone in your church, a leader of a youth group, or a parent. They may be the most experienced people. I know that I have good friends now because they let me be upset when I'm upset. They let me cry if I need to cry. They let me get out whatever I have inside. When you talk to somebody and let it out, it’s kind of a sigh of relief, and you can kind of put it into the hands of someone else. That feels really good. In anyone’s life there is always someone to go to. Once you find that person, you’ll know that you have the largest shoulder to lean on that you could ever believe. It does feel good. When I’ve talked about something that’s bothering me, I feel free. I'm not hiding anymore. I can put my head up, you know?
Real friends help each other through good and bad times, and learn to be loyal. Katti, Orondé and Wendy talk about their friendships. They know which qualities to look for. To me, it's so important to have good friends. But it's not the amount of friends I have. Not popularity. What's important is that you can really talk to someone, and they can really be there for you. You can think what the other one is thinking. We can understand, because we know each other. I can tell when there's something wrong just by looking at his face. Likewise he can do to me. Especially in groups. Everything I said came out wrong. Other kids laughed or talked about me when I could hear them. They made fun of how my body jerked when I got excited. I couldn’t help it. My body just did that because of the way my brain worked. It made me do things that looked weird. It hurt when people made fun of me. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make myself be like other kids.”
A couple of older boy in my school were nice to me, “They accepted me and showed me it was ok to be poor. It can really help to talk to a teacher, parent, or another adult you trust about how you are feeling. but I always had a best friend at home, When no one else understood me, she was there to love me. She never judged me for being different, and she was always waiting for me when I’d had a bad day. Lyn
I deal with stress I’ll just really try to talk it out or write it down. I can understand when a person have problems and they want to drink, but I think it would be better for them to find another way to deal with their problems because its like, It’s still gonna be there in reality you’re really not escaping from it, you’re just adding to your problems. Communication is huge, especially between a parent and a kid. I found that's why I probably didn't go to like, drugs and drinking. Because I had my parents to go to. They helped me. They talked to me. They helped clear my mind. I didn't have to keep it inside. I just talked with them, and it made me feel good.
I was in junior class when my friend told me her story, she said “One day when I was supposed to meet him in between classes I was a few minutes late. He asked me where I was. I said went to my locker and to the ladies room. And he said, “I really worried about you and I wish that you had told me.” Then he backhanded me across the face. I thought, “What did I do to deserve that?” He promised he would never do it again. He said his father had done that to his mother and he didn’t want to be like him. He said, “Please, Kris, forgive me.” And I did. A lot of people knew I came to school with bruises. They didn’t want to get involved.I was afraid of what he would do if I left because he threatened me. So, I stayed with him. A lot of people would say, “Why don’t you just leave?” But you don’t know how it feels to be afraid of someone. He had threatened to murder me and that scared me so much. I wanted to go to college and I always wanted to have kids and get married someday. I knew I had to do something. I told someone in my family. Everyone was great. We went to family counseling with all of my sisters. I was so embarrassed. At that age you just think that’s so un-cool to go to family counseling. But it was the best thing I ever did. I got to express everything and tell stories that I hid for so long.With time and counseling, and support from my family and friends, I got stronger. My family is still supportive of me. That was her story so If someone says that they are going to change, don’t try to be a counselor. Encourage them to get help. But don’t stand by them the whole time they say they are going to change. Tell their parents. Tell somebody in the school. Don’t take the road I did and wait so long to ask for help. I realized fights didn't solve anything. I put myself into a deeper hole. I realized fights didn't change anything. Nothing got better. My experience was to survive, to be mean, not to negotiate. "Talk is cheap. Go fight." It was the wrong crowd that made me go down the wrong path. Now I stay away from them.

Your real friend will accept you for who you are. No matter what mistakes you make, they'll still love you. We could give each other hugs and say: “We've made some mistakes, made some bad ones, but I’m still there for you.” I want my friends’ honest opinions, objections, anything they think they can say to help me, if it's for my betterment. One of my best friends right now is a guy. What makes him so close is we have the same values. We feel the same way about so many things. I can talk to him. He can talk to me. The way he thinks, the way he is, just makes me want to be his friend. It's really important to have that one person to talk to, because they know you well. You could make one gesture, and they know what the heck you're talking about. You have to be comfortable with them in silence as well as out loud. Sometimes in certain situations, I get so depressed I can't talk. So it's good to have a friend to just sit and hold your hand.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Child Labour Part 2

Case Studies from around the NigeriaI wanted to go home I was told I never would. I didn't enjoy camel racing, I was really afraid. I fell off many times. When I won prizes several times, such as money and a car, the camel owner took everything. I never got anything, no money, nothing; my family also got nothing."Ahmed was only returned home after a Nigeria official identified him during a visit to Togo in November 2005. Me and other TIG specialist support and help he needed to resume his life with his family.
Child soldiersThere are about 300,000 child soldiers involved in over 30 areas of conflict worldwide, some even younger than 10 years old. Child soldiers fight on the front line, and also work in support roles; girls are often obliged to be sex slaves or "soldier's wives". Children involved in conflict are severely affected by their experiences and can suffer from long-term trauma. The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict entered into force on 12 February 2002, which encourages governments to raise the age of voluntary recruitment into the armed forces and explicitly states that no person under the age of 18 should be sent into battle. The United Kingdom, which has the lowest minimum recruitment age in Europe at 16, ratified the Optional Protocol on 24 June 2003. The Government, however, added a declaration to reserve the right to send under-18s into hostilities "if there is a genuine military need" or "due to the nature or urgency of the situation". This clause is in direct conflict with the spirit of the Protocol, which urges that states "take all feasible measures to ensure that members of their armed forces who have not attained the age of 18 years old do not take a direct part in hostilities".On March 30, the MV Etireno set sail from Benin for Gabon. The manifest of the Nigerian-registered ship said it was carrying 139 passengers. It had room for 200. The ship was turned away from Libreville, Gabon, after the Transport Ministry issued a press statement claiming there were 250 Nigerian children aboard, destined to be used as slave labour. The ship was then turned away from Douala in Cameroon, before finally docking back in Benin. The international outcry that followed the statement by the Gabon Transport Ministry meant Benin cabinet ministers and United Nations officials, as well as police, crowded the dockside in Cotonou when the MV Etireno returned.In the event, only some 23 children and 20 adolescents were found on board, and they are now to be looked after by relief organizations. Questions remain whether more children were on board, as originally indicated, and if so, what has happened to them? One theory is that they did set sail on board the MV Etireno and have disembarked somewhere. Another possibility is that the MV Etireno has been confused with another ship that was carrying child slaves.While the voyage of the MV Etireno and the possible fate of any other children that may have been on board is unclear, it remains a fact that some 200,000 children are sold into slavery every year in West and Central Africa. Aid workers say parents are often tempted to sell their children for as little as $15, in the hope that they may find work in richer West African states, usually on cocoa or coffee plantations. Thousands of children between the ages of nine and 12 are thought to work on plantations in Ivory Coast, the world's top cocoa producer.Although there may be a superficial resemblance to the African slave trade of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the driving forces behind this modern form of slavery are entirely new. The roots of today's slave trade are to be discovered in the way that capitalism has developed in Africa during the last few decades.The conditions of extreme poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa have attracted transnational corporations (TNCs), which can profit from Africa's rich mineral resources and other primary products by exploiting the plentiful cheap labour needed to produce and process them. The TNCs are able to sell these products in Europe and America for many times more than they cost to produce. They are aided in this enterprise by the corrupt regimes in many African countries, which are often dominated by the military and kept in power thanks to the backing they receive from the West.The disastrous impact of IMF policies on Sub-Saharan Africa is also a major factor leading to a resurgence of the traffic in child slaves. Many of the countries expend far more in debt repayments than they do on health and education, in spite of all the fanfare about “debt cancellation”.Today's child slaves are mostly exploited in turning out products to be exported and sold in the West. They can be found on farms and plantations, and in factories and sweatshops. It is thought that at least 15,000 children from Mali are employed in neighbouring Côte d'Ivoire producing cocoa, which finds its way into almost half of the world's chocolate. Many are imprisoned on farms and beaten if they try to escape. Some are under 11 years old. The fall in the world market price of cocoa and coffee means the giant corporations who make their profits from selling chocolate and coffee all around the world are looking to cut production costs to the bone. They have done nothing to stop the slave trade taking place in Mali, since they are the main beneficiaries.Another odious form of slavery is child prostitution, recently highlighted when it was shown that Britain played an important role as a stop-off point. Thousands of young girls from countries such as Nigeria are shipped to the UK before being taken to other European countries, where they are forced to act as prostitutes.There is also a thin layer of elite Africans who acquire unpaid servants to work in their houses. Countries in the front line of this trade include Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Gabon, Nigeria and Togo. Traders say girls from Benin and Togo are particularly in demand by wealthy families in Lagos, in Nigeria, and in Libreville, in Gabon. Other children are taken from as far away as Banui in the Central Africa Republic. Children from Banui are said to be in high demand in Cameroon. In one instance, in July 1997, the Benin authorities found 400 children aboard a boat anchored in Cotonou harbour, the site of an historic slaving market. Benin police arrested five West Africans preparing to ship them to Gabon. The police said the children, some aged only eight, had been bought from families for the equivalent of about $30. The arrest of these particular slave traders is the exception, however, not the rule.To supply the need for child slaves, traffickers pay the fares, including food for the children during their journey, as well as bribes to ensure the collaboration of border guards. They then recoup this money from the profits arising from the child's labour in their destination country. Often, the parents of those being sold are told their children may have the chance to become rich in another country. Once at their final destination, however, the children receive no money at all.It is estimated that 1,000 Togolese girls are presently being used as slaves in Gabon. According to investigators, more than 30 children are taken across the Benin-Nigeria border every two months. Of these, 95 percent are girls intended for domestic work, and half are under 15 years old.

Child Labour Part 1

What is child labour?

Some types of work make useful, positive contributions to a child's development. Work can help children learn about responsibility and develop particular skills that will benefit them and the rest of society. Often, work is a vital source of income that helps to sustain children and their families.
However, across the world, millions of children do extremely hazardous work in harmful conditions, putting their health, education, personal and social development, and even their lives at risk. These are some of the circumstances they face:
Full-time work at a very early age
Dangerous workplaces
Excessive working hours
Subjection to psychological, verbal, physical and sexual abuse
Obliged to work by circumstances or individuals
Limited or no pay
Work and life on the streets in bad conditions
Inability to escape from the poverty cycle -- no access to education
How big is the problem?
The International Labour Organization estimates there are 218 million working children.
126 million are estimated to work in the worst forms of child labour -- one in every 12 of the world's five to 17 years olds (2006)
74 million children under 15 are in hazardous work and should be "immediately withdrawn from this work" (2006)
8.4 million children are in slavery, trafficking, debt bondage and other forms of forced labour, forced recruitment for armed conflict, prostitution, pornography and other illicit activities (2002)
Girls are particularly in demand for domestic work
Around 70 per cent of child workers carry out unpaid work for their families.

Child trafficking:
Trafficking involves transporting people away from the communities in which they live, by the threat or use of violence, deception, or coercion so they can be exploited as forced or enslaved workers for sex or labour. When children are trafficked, no violence, deception or coercion needs to be involved, it is merely the act of transporting them into exploitative work which constitutes trafficking.
Increasingly, children are also bought and sold within and across national borders. They are trafficked for sexual exploitation, for begging, and for work on construction sites, plantations and into domestic work. The vulnerability of these children is even greater when they arrive in another country. Often they do not have contact with their families and are at the mercy of their employers.
Why do children work?
Most children work because their families are poor and their labour is necessary for their survival. Discrimination on grounds including gender, race or religion also plays its part in why some children work.

Children are often employed and exploited because, compared to adults, they are more vulnerable, cheaper to hire and are less likely to demand higher wages or better working conditions. Some employers falsely argue that children are particularly suited to certain types of work because of their small size and "nimble fingers".

For many children, school is not an option. Education can be expensive and some parents feel that what their children will learn is irrelevant to the realities of their everyday lives and futures. In many cases, school is also physically inaccessible or lessons are not taught in the child's mother tongue, or both.
As well as being a result of poverty, child labour also perpetuates poverty. Many working children do not have the opportunity to go to school and often grow up to be unskilled adults trapped in poorly paid jobs, and in turn will look to their own children to supplement the family's income.

Where do children work?
On the land
In households -- as domestic workers
In factories -- making products such as matches, fireworks and glassware
On the street -- as beggars
Outdoor industry: brick kilns, mines, construction
In bars, restaurants and tourist establishments
In sexual exploitation
As soldiers
The majority of working children are in agriculture -- an estimated 70 per cent. Child domestic work in the houses of others is thought to be the single largest employer of girls worldwide.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Let The Rainbow Take Shape

From the deep creeks of the Niger Delta to the sandy dunes that border the receding lake chad, and the bush paths that make it hard to tell whether it is the soil of Benin Republic or that of Nigeria’s Kwara State and the mountain ranges that allow us a glimpse of Benue, Cross Rivers State, and in fact Cameroon, I greet you the varied, the gifted and the long suffering people of our beloved country. I salute you in great tribute as I acknowledge that the moment is now for identifying where the rain began to wet our heads and that acting jointly we may draw down the evidence that it is time to play because the rain is gone – the rainbow.

I thank you who have come from great distances to gather in the quest for reasoning together on how to escape this rain that has hammered down so hard on us that a country which should be prosperous is inhabited by some of the poorest people on earth. Folklore tells us that in the abundance of water the fool is thirsty. But we are thirsty with water everywhere; there is soap in our eyes irritating those vital organs even though we are in a pool of water. Reflect, my people; reflect. Unless we can put on thinking caps ours may be like the sad story of some of our regional compatriots who watched, in denial about predicted doom, until they were consumed by it.

Such ominous portends about us too have rung out. Many of us remain unconcerned, or convinced that our personal circumstances will shield us from whatever may come. But I urge you to look at people who thought like them a few years ago in Cote d’voire and a few years earlier still, in Liberia. It is these reflections that led me to stand from the comforts of my immediate environment, persuaded that on the raising of an army of servant leaders dedicated to making the true needs of the people the essence of public life and deeply passionate that advancing the Common Good could save the fast rushing Nigerian train from the precipice.

I have since embarked on a tour of this vast country, talking to the rich, the poor, the women, the men, the young and the old, in languages I could speak and in those I could not speak. I discovered an amazing thing; we all want similar things. How we want them may differ, but in brotherhood we stand in seeking a better future for our children, a reduction in the toil with which we eke out an improved quality of life for ourselves.

The years of innocence have been consumed by the dark clouds of corruption, and the despising of intellect and people of ideas. The result is clear. Instead of hospitals we have homes of death; in place of schools, we have sheds of unlearning and illiteracy; rather than export food and agricultural produce as we used to we have become the world’s biggest importer of Rice and even Palm Seedlings that were taken from here have sent back their grandchildren as imported oil from Malaysia. Tell me, my people, how long shall we kill our prophets and wander in the wilderness.

As I traveled around the country, consulting and listening to the people I felt the pain of this blessed land; I heard the cries of little children, innocents who did not choose to be born here, and felt the agony of mothers who could not provide, and the anguish of widows deprived of what little they had to live on. It became clear to me that it would be hard for me on judgment day if I did not come forward and say to you that you have a choice.

Nigeria needs a revolution. Nigerians must arise and throw off the yoke of leaders who do not care, who may not know, and who in greed and mindless selfishness hold them in bondage, sacrificing even the future of their own children because they lack the wisdom to see that even their own children, no matter how much of the public treasure they despoil, are likely victims of a mortgaged future. It is a revolution we can accomplish without a shot being fired. I have stood up to be counted in offering myself as willing to go forth and contest the market place of ideas with my vision of a new Nigeria. If that vision, which we shall offer on Monday pleases you then I would in deep humility go forward as your servant to contest elections for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. But there is much work to do.

Many times when change has become imperative in Africa we have failed the people badly because self-centered elite hold on to fiefdoms fractured political parties are reluctant to coalesce into one solid opposition block. FORD in Kenya went down that path and left a tired Arap Moi regime in power. Even in Nigeria our previous democratic incarnations suffered from this disease. I have therefore deliberately encouraged the road to a coalition of interests since I indicated interest in participating in partisan politics. It has been a big challenge managing egos in that quest to evolve structure that will best serve the desperate desire of the Nigerian people for change which was so palpable as I toured the country.

But I must thank those who I pressured with these burden. They include Chief Okey Nwosu, Chairman of ADC, leaders of AC, Chairman of Union of Political Parties, Chief Okpara, Chief Olu Falae, Cief Gani Fawehinmi, Dr. Tunji Braithwaite, Dr. John Obayuwana and other too numerous to be named.

It is my fervent hope and prayer, for the sake of the Nigerian people, that this effort not be in vain because of narrow mindedness. Only a Rainbow, that coalition of colours in the spectrum will signal that the rain is about to stop beating the Nigerian people.

Your royal highnesses, Chiefs, Honourables, Distinguish Ladies and Gentlemen I have a dream of a country radically different from what we have now. A country where the youth have hope, the elder have contentment and the families have peace and joy, and have a dream of a country where justice reign and the rule of law is taken as a fact of life. I have a dream of progress, prosperity and the elevation of the dignity of the human person such that strife which is the hallmark of present Nigerian life recedes into only remembrance of history as on educated middle class for bread that it is a majority of the people drive a globally competitive economy. I am most grateful that you have given so generously of yourself on this working day to send me forth into the political arena to seek to make these dreams come true.

May God bless you, bless your children and bless our dear country Nigeria.

Monday, May 01, 2006

On Writing About Africa

The flaws in Western writing on Africa are not hard to find, and are often bizarrely consistent. For example, Wendy Belcher wrote in Salon how nearly every travelogue on Africa begins on an airplane. Others have noticed how there are usually more animals than people, how Africans can never seem to help themselves, how they just can’t see things the right way. But now Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina, editor of the literary magazine Kwani?, has offered a biting summary of shallow Western “impressions” that pass for insights. In a new Granta story How to Write About Africa, the Caine Prize winner advises writers to “Always use the word ‘Africa,’ ‘Darkness’ or ‘Safari’ in your title. Subtitles may include the words ‘Zanzibar’, ‘Masai’, ‘Zulu’, ‘Zambezi’, ‘Congo’, ‘Nile’, ‘Big’, ‘Sky’, ‘Shadow’, ‘Drum’, ‘Sun’ or ‘Bygone’.” When profiling Western conservationists, Wainaina cautions, “Never ask how much they pay their employees,” and notes that “African characters should be colorful, exotic, larger than life—but empty inside,” while “Animals, on the other hand, must be treated as well rounded, complex characters.” More complex, at any rate, than some travel writers. Kapuściński traveled all over Africa, and even to Latin America. Not satisfied with the short news dispatches he had to telex home, he also wrote longer pieces to be published later, which helped establish him as one of the best of the new writers using the tools of literature to illuminate their travels. And the things Kapuściński saw lent themselves to this well: He was thrown in jail, he heard Prime Minister of the Congo Patrice Lumumba speak before he was assassinated and he was almost burned to death by angry mobs in Nigeria. The tales are mythic, but it is his eye for the details of life that give The Soccer War its richness. “The so-called exotic has never fascinated me,” he wrote, “even though I came to spend more than a dozen years in a world that is exotic by definition. I did not write about hunting crocodiles or head hunters, although I admit they are interesting subjects. I discovered instead a different reality.” Elsewhere, amid the war and struggle and corruption, Kapuściński finds that, “There is so much crap in the world, and then, suddenly, there is honesty and humanity.” While the famous Naipaulian arrogance is evident here, Shiva also had a gift for the absurd details that make his harshest observations funny and compassionate and even moving. Today we can see that much of what he encountered is still relevant, and that his question back then was the right one: The gap was, and still is, wide indeed. But in the end, it is the dialogue he captured, the descriptions he rendered and the people he met that make this one of the best travel books of all time.