Thursday, December 6, 2012

Mobile Services & E-Empowerment -- The Developing World Has the Advantage

A FEEEDS blogspot - The developing world and emerging countries such as China and India are far ahead of the U.S. and Europe in creating services available to mobile phone users -- providing technology-based empowerment (or e-empowerment) to customers who typically fall outside of formal sectors such as banking.

Mobile services such as sharing credits, providing cash, paying bills, supporting small and medium (SME's) enterprises, and sharing health information from HIV/AIDS to prenatal care -- all have become the order of the day for many in the developing world. In fact mobile phones in Africa, China, and Asia have become cradles of innovation for mobile services; mobile phones are used less for talking, and more today as platforms to support daily living, and improving quality of life. Today nearly half of the world's population has access to mobile phones, both pre-paid and post-paid services, growing from fewer than 1 billion in 2000 to over 6 billion, of which nearly 5 billion units are in the developing world.

Africa -- The Most Wired Continent:

Africa hails right now as the continent with the most mobile phone users topping the list with around 649 million subscribers making it the most wireless region in the world. This represents about 65 per cent penetration of the region's population, with future uses at year’s end and into 2013 reaching 735 million. Nigeria reportedly leads the way with more than 100 million subscribers. China follows but also has the unique distinction of adding 8 million new mobile phone subscribers per month, while India pulls in about 7 million new subscribers per month. These sheer numbers have produced unique e-services, turning the mobile phone into a life line for many people living at the poverty level or striving to enter the lower and middle income tiers. As more people in these regions move into the middle class, more services will be available to them on their mobile phones. In addition to mobile services the application world (or apps) in these regions has also exploded. According to Information and Communications for Development 2012, more than 30 billion "apps" were downloaded in 2011. One interesting factoid which underscores Bangladeshi cellphone czar Igbal Quadir who said "connectivity is productivity," a 2005 London Business School report said that when 10 people out of 100 use a mobile phone GDP rises about .59 percent

Innovative Mobile E-Services:

Here is a look at some of the e-empowerment uses of mobile phone-based services that underscore the innovative paradigm shift taking place in the developing and emerging worlds over the West in mobile technology services.

Let's start with subsistence agriculture for small farm holders – a sector which employs most in developing world. In countries like Benin, Tanzania, and Kenya small holder farmers are able to get commodity prices and yield information on their phones determining where best to sell their goods -- e-empowering rural farmers who use their mobile phones like a mini mercantile exchange. There are apps such as TradeNet, now available in 17 countries, providing information about agricultural goods and micro-insurance for agriculture products, while the “iCow” app -- billed as "the world's first mobile phone cow calendar," uses text messaging and voice services to track gestation for dairy farmers and give tips on breeding and cow nutrition.

Mobile Financial Services and Banking for the Unbanked:

Some of the greatest out of the box efforts from Ghana to Bangladesh in mobile services have been in mobile financial and banking services for the unbanked (meaning mobile customers not in the formal banking sector). For example, an array of cloud-based secure financial services for SME’s are coming on line for mobile phones, particularly for keeping track of credit scores, data sharing with micro finance institutions, and accountancy applications. These mobile services help better managing resources and save money for the small business person. In Venture , with offices in Bangalore, M-Cloud IT Solutions in Ghana, and Cloud Kenya are just a few services, which help SMEs manage and save resources.

Both feature phones (non-smart), and smart phones in the developing and emerging worlds are sporting enhanced SIM cards which allows for a range of payments for household and business expenses, or provides credits to send cash to family. Users can also turn over minutes to a cell phone vendor, who in turn gives the equivalent amount of cash to a designated individual, minus a small fee. With enhanced SIM cards, mobile phone owners can go to kiosks, bars, or small restaurants to get credits added to their SIM cards, or transfer money such as with M-Pesa in Kenya. In South Africa these are called a variety of things from “bank shops” to “banks of corrugated metal” to “kiosk banks.” Companies like Safricom, Vodafone, MTN, Standard Charter, Western Union, Visa and others are taking advantage of these platforms to reach new customers. The key is that even with less technology-enhanced feature phones someone with a daily budget as low as $2-10 per day can up their phone credits or pay their household bills. Zoona, with agents functioning like ATM’s in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Malawi, allow people to store savings, receive insurance payouts, and repay loans.

In Bangladesh, there is an EBay like mobile service called Cellbazaar, known as “market in your pocket” listing mobile numbers of those looking to buy or sell everything from rice to a goat, while in Palestine, Souktel’s JobMatch service is helping young people find jobs.

Mobile Services: Education and Health Also in the Mix:

In South Africa MoMath , launched by Nokia, is teaching mathematics via a teaching tool on Africa’s Mxit social media platform, while Info Dev, a Finnish Government-Nokia collaboration, has established five regional mobile innovation labs (mLabs) in Armenia, Kenya, Pakistan, South Africa, and Vietnam, using social networking to bring entrepreneurs together with stakeholders in mobile hubs or mHubs. On health care, Medic Mobile is helping provide prenatal care to rural mothers in Malawi using text messaging, and USAID, Johnson & Johnson, and mHealth have developed the text-based Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA) providing information from swaddling to breast-feeding to over 20 million expectant and new mothers in 35 countries (e.g. South Africa, Indonesia and Bangladesh).

It is clear that south-south countries are far advance in using mobile services, and also creating new ways to address poverty, raise standards of living, and improve socio-economic issues in innovative ways. We in the West certainly need to play catch-up!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Agriculture as Part of An Eco-System, and not a Sector & Using PPPP’s

I have previously discussed new and innovative approaches to both agriculture and public-private partnerships (PPP) - arguing actually to expand the matrix of PPP's to include public-to-public sector partnerships or adding a fourth P (The Africa Post - ). There is a need for more public sector entities to come together to share both resources and expertise to get development accomplished.  Public sector entities that have responsibilities for improving agriculture, housing, water and sewage management, the environment, and spuring manufacturing should move out of their stove piped bureaucracies and develop PPPP vehicles that cut across their sectors. This type of innovative thinking needs to be done particularly in agriculture in order to address food security -- especially in Africa -- since land, water, and environmental management are not separate from agriculture or long term food security. 

In essence the PPPP approach (meaning adding public-to-public sector projects and policies) views agriculture as part of an eco-system, and not a stand-alone sector, which of course it is not.  These public sector-to-public sector approaches can be linked with getting expertise from non-profit and for profit organizations, companies, and international donors with the flexibility to work in a synergistic manner across sectors.  Very few large international donors have this flexibility, but the British development agency DFID probably comes closest. Country donors like the Japanese and south-south nations like Vietnman are closer than others to appreciating the seminal point that agriculture is part of an eco-system.

One such model that is pioneering this new thought is - Songhai Integrative Farms Systems in the Republic of Benin. It presents the answer to changing the age old paradigm of vertical agricultural development. Although this old paradigm served as the model for decades, it did not worked; was ineffective; and in the end, was detrimental to the overall GDP of nearly all African countries pursuing this standard historical approach to agriculture after their independence in the 1960s. Historically, donors equally have been guilty of  not thinking out of the box, or even next to the box on agriculture, although that is changing with more value chain focused agriculture projects like USAID’s Markets Initiative ).

 Songhai sees the importance of a systems approach to agricultural development adding training and technology as well as an incubator framework to help farming entrepreneurs, and build linkages with academic and research institutions around the world in support.  There are more and more new thinkers coming on board and seeing agricultural as part of a system as opposed to a sector.  But they are far and few in between. Efforts to really have food security spur agricultural self-sufficiency and truly have a workable, sustainable value chain to support commodities, advance regional trade, and combat the cycles of drought and famine that we have seen in both East and West Africa, and the world are not being wholistically addressed or viewed by many development entities as connected issues. 

The Eco-System, rather than the Sectoral approach to agriculture needs to be pursued by a lot more countries, donors, and agriculturally focused non-government organizations and companies with this CRS manadate for their truly to be a paradigm shift and success in agricultural development.     

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

It’s the Economics: Refocusing & Reframing Africa - Part I

A FEEEDS® Series
 Sub-Saharan Africa (SSAfrica) today is as an economic and investment growth area, but what has not happened in this atmosphere of renewed discussion about the Continent, is “Reframing” the entire discussion on the region -- meaning talking about it differently, and respecting its multifaceted dimensions. Africa has a value-chain contribution to both the Continent and the global community. "Value chain," in this context means the progress that each African country makes will have a positive economic ripple affect globally and Continent-wide.

The frame or view about Africa, certainly by many Americans, mostly still focuses on the negative. This does not diminish the serious challenges in the region. But, every world region has tough issues today, including the U.S. as we are very much a politically-divided nation, managing tough economic, security, and social issues.  The call to “Reframe Africa,” means redirecting the lens on region so it is more balanced, comprehensive. Avoid swiping the entire region with one negative cloth, but encouraging the economic growth in a fair manner, engaging transparently and with realistic expectations. Unfortunately, however, many Africans, despite living in resource-rich countries, are not benefitting from the economic boon, and remain impoverished, struggling with health and education issues, unemployment, and failing to meet the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.
The Challenges: Although these which will be addressed in more detail in a Part II blog spot, it is important to summarize here. Real politick analyses and solutions on current crises areas, (e.g. Mali, Kenya’s littoral, Nigeria’s northwest, Guinea Bissau’s instability, South Africa’s mining sector, and Tanzania’s Zanzibar, are a must-do, along with improved democratic leadership, and a reduction in corruption. Long lasting solutions that do not call for the annihilation of one group or another must be discussed. The  old public diplomacy tool about building “mutual understanding” (which is not a do-as-I-say-discussion, but a real conversation) among disparate groups about contentious issues needs to come back en vogue.  Let’s begin with the global positive value chain contributions:

Africa’s Global Positive Value Chain Contributions:
ü  Positive Economic & GDP Growth Rates

ü  Increase FDI

ü  Equity Funds & Investments

ü  Capital Markets Reset
Economic stories by leading media and research institutions in 2012 from the Economist and Financial Times to McKinsey all have highlighted the checklist above about Africa’s rising economic leadership, especially when the rest of world is struggling. But as we approach year’s end, let’s recap the headline: 7 of the world’s 15 fastest growing economies are in SSAfrica.

ü Botswana has maintained double digit growth rate the last 10 years;
ü Ghana is projected to reach 8 percent, which would making it the Continent’s fastest growing economy;
ü Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Angola, and Zambia are in the 5-7 per cent range. (The African Post –  
Hence, South Africa should not be the sole African country highlighted in the much coined acronym BRICS (use to underscore the economic prowess of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). I have said before that BRICS should be re-coined to BRICA to be more inclusive of the success, influence, and economic growth rates of a number of African countries over the last 3 years. World Bank  is projecting for 2013 a collective average growth rate for SSAfrica of 5.7 per cent, possibly remaining in that range over the next 20 years (;   Basically this proves that other African countries should be let into the BRICS House.

Foreign Direct Investment: The Continent’s FDI in early 2012 rose over $68 billion, while projected FDI estimates for 2015 are $150 billion. China (infrastructure) and India (ICT/manufacturing) respectively are leading the way on both FDI and trade, with Brazil, Canada, and Japan not far behind. The U.S. still lags, but has picked up its game in 2012.

Equity Funds:  Creation of Africa-focused equity funds on business, infrastructure, ICT, agriculture, health as well as Diaspora funds like Homestrings ( are at an all-time high. Wall Street Journal notes 79 Africa-focused equity funds have been established in the last 5 years, paying 5-6 times earnings after taxes, depreciation, and amortization (
Examples are Helios; Old Mutual Pan Africa; Bob Geldof-CDC 8 Mile African Fund (; Aureos Africa Health Fund; and, Ghana-based Africa Agriculture Fund (AAF), raising $30 million at first close on its Small-Medium Enterprises sub-vehicle.

Reset of Africa’s Capital Markets: Africa’s capital markets are just now getting the attention they deserve.  From Zambia and Namibia to Nigeria and Senegal, these emerging and frontier markets are doing well. Foreign institutional and private investors are looking for growth areas to combat Europe’s downturn and America’s snail-like recovery, and have recognized Africa as the place to be (  Stock market indexes in Uganda, Rwanda, Nigeria, Kenya, and Namibia are up 33 per cent in 2012 in local currency terms.
Other Key Economic Factoids:
ü  Collective projected GDP is expected to reach $2.6 trillion by 2020 (;  

ü  Debt dropped from 82% to 59% of GDP over the last 5 years;  

ü  Inflation dropped Continent-wide from 22% to 8%, with many countries in low double digits in this tough global economy;

ü  Middle class is approximately 331 million, translating into growing consumers with purchasing power (;

ü  Households discretionary income is projected to rise by 50 per cent over next ten years (;

ü  African Diaspora remittances are up over the last 5 years adding to GDP growth, according to informal channels, accounting for 73 per cent of the  world-wide total remittance since 2005 (;
ü  Growth sectors are agriculture; infrastructure, housing, manufacturing, ICT (SSAfrica mobile users are more than 100 million, with Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, and Ghana leading the way (The Africa Post, -

These positive economic indicators definitely call for a reframing of Africa, as  a multi-dimensional region with both positive stories, and challenges. Blog spot Part II will address the challenges.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Africa @ the Crossroads: Things are Changing, but Challenges Remain

Africa at the Crossroads  Technology and global political pressure have changed the landscape of African activism and youth-led change are on the rise. Joining Insight to discuss how Africa's youth is changing the continent is former US ambassador to Nigeria, Robin Renee Sanders. She is delivering the keynote address Friday at Sacramento State University's 21st Annual African/African Diaspora Conference: Africa at the Crossroads: Revolution, Democracy, Youth empowerment, Social media and Non-Violence.

click here to listen to NPR interview w/Ambassador Sanders in Sacremento or
download link

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Trade, Gender and Women’s Entrepreneurship

Trade, Gender and Women’s Entrepreneurship – Opening Scene Setting Remarks – Ambassador Robin Renee Sanders, D.Sc. – Moderator AGOA-CSO Panel  as part of the AGOA Ministerial, Washington D.C.,  2:00 – 3:30, June 13, 2012

Welcome to this important panel on Trade, Gender, and Women’s Entrepreneurship

The word itself and the energy associated with the term “entrepreneurship” can be summed, in my view, in a number of ways -- linked to drivers such as innovation, inspiration, and insightfulness (the 3 I’s) in responding to a need in the economic, business or social sectors for either goods and services or to address an element of the global human condition today. There are no better examples of how entrepreneurship can be transformative in one’s life or one’s community than what women in general, and African women in particular are doing across the Continent – especially today as they help enhance trade, push for more entrepreneur- friendly policies, and help advance the economic well-being of their respective nations.

With more than half the world’s population women at 50.9%, translating into 143, 368, 343, and with half of Sub-Saharan Africa’s population of 1 billion also  women, we see more and more women enlivening the entrepreneurship space with the 3 I’s I noted above – innovation, inspiration, and insightfulness – and our 3 panelists today are both illustrative and emblematic of this. Each panelist will have about 5 minutes for their formal remarks, then we will move to an interactive session.

We have with us today (their bio sketches are in your packets):

Ms. Comfort Aku Adjahoe – Owner of Ele Agbe (I actually met her when I was US rep to ECOWAS and have tried her great products) – Ele Agbe is a shea butter company in Ghana. Ms. Au Adjahoe transformed her sea butter shop into a major trading company.

Ms. Nigist Haile – an entrepreneurial activist and Founder and Executive Director of the Center for African Women Economic Empowerment (CAWEE) that helps and provides capacity building for women entrepreneurs.

Ms. Winnie Mandosela-Kamalandu – a senior lecturer in the Department of Economic at the University of Swaziland, and an expert on social-economic issues and international trade.

Enola Mafie – Program Manager on West Africa of Vital Voices Partnership where she provides program and development support for Vital Voices’ economic and SME development in the US and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Other Definitions of Entrepreneurship, which you might find useful:

Entrepreneurship is the act of being an entrepreneur or "one who undertakes innovations, finance and business acumen in an effort to transform innovations into economic goods". This may result in new organizations or may be part of revitalizing mature organizations in response to a perceived opportunity. The most obvious form of entrepreneurship is that of starting new businesses (referred as Startup Company); however, in recent years, the term has been extended to include social and political forms of entrepreneurial activity. When entrepreneurship is describing activities within a firm or large organization it is referred to as intra-preneurship and may include corporate venturing, when large entities spin-off organizations.[1]

According to Paul Reynolds, entrepreneurship scholar and creator of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, "by the time they reach their retirement years, half of all working men in the United States probably have a period of self-employment of one or more years; one in four may have engaged in self-employment for six or more years. Participating in a new business creation is a common activity among U.S. workers over the course of their careers." [2] And in recent years has been documented by scholars such as David Audretsch to be a major driver of economic growth in both the United States and Western Europe. "As well, entrepreneurship may be defined as the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled (Stevenson,1983)." [3]  There are a number of other definitions of entrepreneurship which reflect today’s reality. The Kaufmen Foundation notes the phenomenon of entrepreneurship as being efforts to advance education and training efforts, to promote entrepreneurship-friendly policies, [or] to better facilitate the commercialization of new technologies by entrepreneurs and others, which have great promise for improving the economic welfare of our nation[s].

(sources: wikipedi, pulled June 12, 2012; source  Kaufmen Foundation pulled, June 12, 2012)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Nigeria's Agricultural Agenda - Fixing both the Commodity & Financing Value Chains in Agriculture


As a result of presentations recently on Nigeria's Agricultural Transformation Agenda by senior members of the Nigeria Government, the private sector, and international institutions at both Corporate Council on Africa event and the annual meetings of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, clearly there are two value chain dimensions for Nigeria's agricultural sector:

-- The commodity-structure-productivity and policy framework under the Ministry of Agriculture; and,

-- The need to fix the financing value chain - meaning such things as getting Nigerian Banks to not only lend to farmers, but understand farming needs, especially the small farm holder, and improving the insurance regulatory framework. The country's Central Bank is leading the way on reframing the agricultural finance issues.

These two comprehensive value chains (commodity-productivity development & financing) have a symbiotic relationship - both need to improve in order for the agricultural sector to not only transform, but also to provide the growth potential for the country and for the West Africa Region writ large. Both the Ministry of Agriculture and Nigeria's Central Bank have recognized the pivotal linkage of these two value chain issues, and have put forces together to change the negative paradigms of the last 30 years in the country's agriculture sector. Key efforts include unlocking more than $3 billion in potential financing through several innovative programs such as the Nigerian Incentive-Based Risk Sharing for Agricultural Lending Program (NIRL Program); incentives and initiatives for women farmers; innovative SME development in the agricultural sector, and credit and financing for small farm holders. In addition there is an effort to ensure that there are "agricultural desks" at Nigerian Banks, and that these banks also increase the number of women in senior leadership positions by 40 per cent. The Bank of Industry, an arm of Nigeria's Ministry of Trade, is in partnership with both the Central Bank and the Ministry of Agriculture and pushes for greater support for women farmers, women cooperatives, financing for women, and SME development. The flip side of course is to work with farmers so that they too see agriculture as a business.

International institutions like the International Finance Corporation (IFC) has also stepped up its focus on agriculture as it recently announced an increase of $3.5-4 billion in 2012 for sub-Saharan Africa (up from $2.7 billion in 2011) -- a good portion of this reportedly will be focused on agricultural projects. Infrastructure is the other key area of focus for these funds, along with transportation, food storage, and technology. Banks like Standard Charter is also pioneering with risk insurance for farmers and better credit terms.

This is all good news for Nigeria and for to the other 15 nations in West Africa region. Why? Because if Nigeria can transform its agricultural sector (fixing the commodity-productivity value chain as well as the financing value-chain), this can spur greater sub-regional trade (intra-Africa trade is only about 10 per cent of exports, see; and, more economic growth for a sub-region with one of the Continent’s and world’s largest and youngest populations. We have all heard the projections that Africa will likely reach the 2 billion person mark at the same time we come close to reaching mid-Century, with one-third of the population reportedly being under the age of 30.

Here is another figure to ponder for West Africa. There are roughly 600 million people living in that sub-region today who are under the age of 30 and about 65 per cent of those work in subsistence agriculture ( Last reports had Nigeria's youth numbers hovering around 75 million and counting. Thus, there is a demographic importance (the youth bulge) to improving agriculture in addition to the common sense driven needs of: spurring economic growth; improving trade, and increasing GDP. I have written before about Africa's youth needing to become the world's next leading farmers as well as the importance of the region becoming the next global bread basket ( . (FYI: Africa and Latin America are the two areas of the world with the most remaining arable land and water resources). More and more this is being borne out by not only the demographic facts, but certainly the reframing and resurgence in focus by many African government, international institutions, and the African and foreign private sectors on the fundamental importance of fixing agriculture's two value chain issues.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Reframing Africa:2012 & Beyond: Africa's Value-Chain Contributions to the Global Community -The Positives, Challenges & Way Forward


Dr. Robin Renee Sanders,  Founder FEEEDS® Advocacy Initiative @ RMU
California State University-Sacramento – Center for African Peace and Conflict Resolution, April 27, 2012

Good Morning:
It is a pleasure to be invited to California State University-Sacramento as a Visiting Scholar and to participate in this wonderful conference that looks at a variety of issues facing Africa writ large and sub-Saharan Africa in particular.  I am here today in my capacity as the founder of the FEEEDS® Advocacy Initiative at Robert Morris University, and not speaking on behalf of the U.S. Government. What is FEEEDS® you ask? Its an acronym representing the things I have become most passionate about on Africa in this phase of my life such as food security, education, environment-energy, economics, development and the self-help role that is key to all of these things. These are the FEEEDS® pillars.
I have been fascinated by the breadth of the issues you are covering at this Africa conference and I wanted to set the stage for you today by talking about some of the issues and things I see that are present-day positives for the region, then look at some …. of the current and long-standing challenges, and then leave you with  a template check list on some possible ways forward for this region that we care so much about and for which we need to create shared values around.
Reframing the Discussion

I have entitled my remarks today “Reframing Africa,” meaning talking about the region differently, and respecting its multifaceted dimensions. I would like to begin with what I think of as Africa’s value-chain contribution to both the Continent and the global community -- using the phrase "value chain" in an atypical manner  -- meaning whatever progress each and every African country makes going forward has a positive ripple affect Continent-wide and for the global community writ large. 
It seems clear to me that for the most part, at least here in the U.S., the frame on Africa is mostly on the negative.  What do I mean by frame?  Taking sociologist Erving Goffman’s (1974) description of frames in The Framing Analysis and others academics such as Jim Kuypers (1997) into account, we are encouraged sometimes by institutions, news organizations and other entities to see a particular issue or country or Continent in a certain way. And, by doing so, we are “induced to filter our perceptions of the world [or parts of the world, in this case Africa] in particular ways, making some aspects of ...reality more noticeable than others” (Kuypers, 1997).
Hence, as a first start, I would argue that for 2012 and beyond let’s reframe the discussion and redirect the lens on Africa so that it is more balanced, and more inclusive of the multi-dimensional framework of the region. This however, does not diminish the challenges that we all know are there.

Africa 2012 Positive Value Chain Contributions:
I know many of you are aware that of the 15 fastest growing economies in the world today, seven of those are in sub-Saharan Africa. Botswana, for example, has maintained a double digit growth rate for the last 10 years; Ghana, will likely be the Continent’s fastest growing economy in 2012 at 8 percent; Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Angola, and Zambia are others, just to name a few. (The African Post, TAP -

In fact, I have been urging (through my blog) that we re-coin the term BRICS which focuses on the economic prowess and growth rates of Brazil, Russian, India, China and in Africa only South Africa (currently with a projected 3.2% growth rate for 2012 according to World Bank reports) to BRICA in order to be more inclusive of the success and influence of other African nations that are enjoying positive growth rates at 5% or more over the last 3 years. There is a wave of economic growth and development for Africa’s emerging markets at a time of global economic downturn or slow recoveries in Europe, in the U.S. and elsewhere. On top of this, the average 2012 projected collective growth rate for SSAfrica is hovering between 6-7%, with the Financial Times forecasting this to be on order for the region over the next 20 years (

You probably also know that foreign direct investment (FDI) on the Continent at the end of 2011 had risen to over $68 billion with projected FDI estimates for 2015 reaching more than $150 billion  (VP Africa World Bank speech 2/25/11; 2011 US FDI is $48 billion up from $41billion in 2010 ). China (infrastructure) and India (ICT and manufacturing) respectively are leading the way on FDI in the region as well as being the largest trading partners.

Equity and institutional investors are increasingly seeing the region as a haven for investment and a range of new Africa-focused equity funds are cropping up everywhere on business, infrastructure, ICT, agriculture, health or with a Diasporan focus like Homestrings (  The importance of the African Diaspora being involved in the Continent’s economic growth cannot be underestimated. Wall Street Journal notes that there are more than 79 investment funds which have been created in recent years exclusively focused on Africa paying 5-6 times earnings after taxes, depreciation, and amortization[with projected 2011 year-end estimates of funds raised at over $8-10 billion (

Funds like Helios, Old Mutual Pan Africa, Bob Geldof’s 50 million pound sterling “8 Mile African Fund,” with the UK’s CDC development finance arm (, Aureos’ Africa Health Fund, and Ghana-based African Agriculture Fund (AAF), which has raised $30 million at the first close of its small and medium enterprises (SME) sub-vehicle. US-based Global Environment Fund (GEF) has raised $160 million for the GEF Africa Sustainable Forestry Fund (GASFF), exceeding its target of $150 million. ( While the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation is involved in some 19 vehicles raising equity and capital in some of the areas noted above ( 

What is the other good news?

Ø[Institutions like McKinsey Global Institute noted that the collective GDP of SSAfrica in 2010 was $1.6 trillion (, which could rise to $2.6 trillion by 2020 (;
                   Ø Debt dropped from 82% to 59% of GDP over the last 5 years;

Ø Inflation dropped Continent-wide from 22% to 8%, with many countries holding at low double digits in this difficult global economy;

Ø The region’s growing middle class is approximately 331 million, translating into growing consumers with purchasing power (; and the number of households with discretionary income is projected to rise by 50 percent over the next ten years (;

Ø Forecast for consumer spending power is projected to rise to $1.4 trillion (Sept/Oct 2011 “This is Africa”);

Ø African Diaspora remittances are up over the last 5 years adding to GDP growth, according to informal channels.  Diaspora remittances to Africa reportedly account for 73 per cent of the world-wide total since 2005. (Figures from;

Ø On HIV/AIDS – although we still need to maintain both momentum and resources, over the last eight years, anti-retroviral drugs have saved more than 5 million lives in Africa.
Areas of sectoral growth include, but are not limited to key non-oil investment such as agriculture; infrastructure, housing, manufacturing, ICT (SSAfrica has more than 100 million cell phone users, with  Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, and Ghana topping the list (Africa Post, TAP-

Now to the challenges: 
There are some key challenges that transcend the entire region. Despite the positive news that I outlined above, topping the list of challenges on both the socio-political and development scales are:

Ø  Democracy, Governance, Human Rights -- We have seen over the last 18 months more fragile African democracies face pressures from Mali-to-Senegal-to-Democratic Republic Congo-to Malawi, which underscores that the institutionalization of good governance, and respect for democratic constitutions still needs to be stronger. Clear and respected constitutional transitions still are not the order of the day. We saw this in Cote d’Ivoire in 2011 and hiccups this year in Senegal and Malawi. I do not know if some of Sub-Saharan Africa will eventually have its own version of the Arab Spring – maybe not in the same form -- and certainly it should be peaceful, but it will be defined by Africans– as calls for more sustained good governance is demanded, especially through social media as Africa’s young cellphone owners use it as a tool for election monitoring, and economic, and socio-political change. Here I am using the broad sense of governance to include freedom of the press, association and protecting universal human rights, particularly to help empower the Continent’s estimated 500 million women. (NB: Varying exact figures, but sites such as note that females make up 48-50% of the Continent-wide population).

Ø  Corruption and lack of transparency are next -- Many of the countries that are faring well with their positive macro-economic factoids, still have challenges in these two all-important democracy pillars. On Transparency International’s Corruption Index for 2011 of the 183 countries ranked, only 3 SSAfrica countries (Bostwana, Namibia, and South Africa) where mid-rank between 4.0-6 on TI’s upward 10 point scale of being good on anti-corruption efforts and perceived transparency in the public sector (http://bit/ly/AFcorrup). Transparency in the extractive industries remains one of the biggest issues. According to a April 25, 2012, report by U.S. auditing firm KPMG, bribery, theft and other kinds of fraud cost African governments and companies at least $10.9 billion in 2011 (NB: KPMG said it arrived at the figure after scouring English-language news reports and databases of fraud cases from 2011).

Ø Security – In some countries, security issues from political and resource-related conflict to transnational threats, to famine and drought are on the rise. These provide a fertile home for people with nefarious goals or for illegal goods such as drugs and narcotics. Porous borders and fragile institutions cannot adequately monitor these activities, but stronger regulations, customs and border institutions can help. On peace and conflict, we all must continue to create shared values to reduce tensions and resolve these issues – mutual respect and understand are part of the solution.

On the development end of the challenge scale are: poverty and all its elements such as lack of education and strong health services; tmore focus on youth and women; the need for the right kind of agricultural development (including improved use of water, land, and renewable energy); improvement in infrastructure, access to electricity and transport; and, regional trade

Ø Poverty -- For most Africans the macroeconomic pluses I noted above have not reached the masses as the majority of the Continent continues to live on $1.25 to $2.00 per day. According to the UN, despite sub-Saharan Africa’s economic growth, the increase in per capita has only been from 2.7 in 2011 to 2.8% in 2012. Thus, the Continent is not growing at sufficient levels to make a significant dent in poverty.  The minimum rate needs to be 3% per capita just to inch above the poverty line ( The region’s growing population, high food and energy prices, the need for better access to basic and secondary education and good health services are key. There are reportedly 133 million young people in the region who cannot read. Youth and women are the most affected by poverty indicators, thus on every sector of development youth and women must be at the center.

All of these issues add to the negative indicators and poverty levels. Parts of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for 2015 are to improve the lives of 50 percent of Africans living on $1.25 to $ 2.00 per day down to 29 per cent. With three years to go toward the MDG deadlines, we are not near these goals.

Ø Agriculture and Food Security are next on my list. According to 2011 World Hunger and Poverty Facts, of the 925 million hungry people in the world 239 million of those are in sub-Saharan, 26 per cent of this figure represents children ( These are staggering numbers only outpaced by the Asia and Pacific region with 578 million people facing daily hunger. All this, despite the world’s ability to produce enough food to feed everyone according to FAO. Although there is a resurgence in the focus on agriculture by many African governments, past neglect in the sector over the last 30 years, by governments and international institutions, has helped lead to the current situation. Therefore the region has to play catch-up at the same time its population is growing at an enormous rate in parallel to rising food and energy prices.
Most of Africa’s poor who struggle with income disparity surely cannot manage these higher food prices. And, it is not just about food availability, but nutritional and adequate food amounts. 

Ø Improvement in rail, infrastructure (particularly electricity), and trade are next on the list. Connecting Africa both infrastructurally and with trade between and among nations are key to further sustainable development. Only about 1 in 4 Africans have access to electricity, intra-African trade is about 10 percent of total exports, and roughly 30% of the region has paved roads or working railways. (

Ø Employment and lack of job creation and education are fundamental to forward progress, but the emphasis may not need to be just on traditional jobs or traditional education, but on entrepreneurial opportunities, SME development, vocational training and capacity building programs alongside of traditional education. No donor today, in my view, focuses enough on vocational and entrepreneurial training, SME development or working vigorously enough with the African Diaspora.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but provide some things for you to think about as we all try to work together to address these challenges and create shared values to help move the region forward.

So What is The Way Ahead for 2012 and Beyond? 

I would argue that there are some key areas needing reframing and refocusing to spur along sustained, Africa value-chain contributions . . . for the Continent, and global community:

Ø SMEs -- Once such area is the need for more growth for Africa’s Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SMEs) which can help not only with job creation, and employment but will also help overall economic growth. The value, role and impact of SME development in Africa, particularly for women and youth cannot be underestimated, with figures for African women at more than 50 per cent of the total population and nearly 250 million African youth (ages 15-24) out of a potential population size of 1.9-to-2 billion by 2030 (

 I have said in the past on “The Africa Post” blog that SMEs have a development enterprise role in Africa that cannot be understated in helping to reframe issues on unemployment and future growth. According to reports there are only 30 million SMEs operating in region and that number needs to be much greater than this to keep pace with population and job and national development needs.

Ø  Agricultural makes both lists -- as a challenge and as a sector for the way ahead.  But the questions on the “way ahead ledger” for this sector are: what kind agriculture, focused on whom, and benefiting who? These questions must be part of reframing the sector. According to a 2010 report of the Global Horticulture Institute the majority of farmers on the Continent are small farm holders which FAO estimates at 36 million  (those with access to 2 hectares or less of land). Leading author D.S.C. Spencer (2002) notes that African small farm holders produce about 90 percent of the Continent’s agricultural output.

     The reason agriculture makes the “way ahead” list is that its potential to employ and create jobs for women and youth is enormous. Protecting small farm holders by using appropriate technology and encouraging them to form cooperatives to produce sufficient yields will be vital. This needs to be coupled with protecting more arable agricultural land from long term foreign leases (which are on the rise) and in some cases have little-to-no benefit to the surrounding communities. Keep in mind that there are only two regions of the world with remaining sufficient arable land and water resources – Africa and Latin America.

Ø The Private Sector -- The role of both the African and foreign private sectors can help with vocational training, capacity building and education as well as in investing more in development. Because in the long term, a developed Africa will help them as well.

Ø Innovative Public-Private Partnerships (PPP’s) – Having donors, the African and foreign private sectors, and the African Diaspora develop new PPP paradigms to spur development will also be important. [A good example of this is the African Diaspora Market Place project, or ADM ( ADM is a new partnership which includes NGOs, a U.S. private sector company and its foundation, and USAID focusing strictly on helping and providing grants to Diasporan SMEs.

Types of PPPs also need to expand to include Public Sector-to-Public Sector -- meaning in-country public sector entities or ministries can cross-fertilize budget resources on synergistic projects.

For example, Housing and Power Ministries could combine parts of their budgets to provide affordable, energy-efficient housing. In this case, the African public sector entities are both donor and stakeholder. And, PPP‘s can include more donor-to-African sub-sovereign entities – meaning donor partnerships that are directed to states/districts/parishes with in a country, or toward municipalities, or community governments with good governance and good local leadership. Keeping in mind those partnerships also can include community in-kind contributions (

Ø Good Governance and leadership – Everyone has a responsibility to ensure that there is an improvement on these two fronts. This includes those living on the Continent wanting peaceful change and those in the international community as regards to who it supports and when. The recent elections in Senegal, in the end, proved that the voice and will of the people prevailed in the end to support their constitution. We saw fairly reasonable elections in a number of countries in 2011, but we need to reach a point where free and fair elections, respect for constitutional transitions are not the exception but the rule. 
Thus, we are in the early years of the 21st Century. We need to reframe the discussion on Africa to reflect its multidimensional reality, but also create and define shared values on the way forward in 2012 and beyond.  I have provide some food for thought today on how and in what areas we can all work together to ensure that things improve as we reach the mid-way point of the Century while the Continent simultaneously reaches the 2 billion person mark. We all need to recognize that we play an important role in making the region a better place for the generations that follow. Thank You