Tag Archives: Africa

CFA: West Africa’s Brexit Moment

CFA Facebook post republished with permission of  TOS.

Today Senegal celebrates its independence; strangely enough, I am not in a celebratory mood. 50+ years of so-called independence, the more things are the same.

I am somehow very encouraged by President Alpha Conde’s and Kabore’s recent remarks, which makes me think that something is brewing…I had posted an article in a private forum and feel the need to share it with a bigger audience in hope to widen the tent that will lead our leaders to the waters…Here you go..
“If you want your independence then take it”, uttered De Gaulle in 1958 frustrated by young men heckling him.  Independence was given a few years later, but independence was not gained, as the terms were never negotiated in good faith but dictated by France and the CFA became a by-product of that.

At recent events, the Minister of Economy of Senegal suggested that Senegal is not considering dropping the CFA, which given the current climate, to me is a political response to an economic problem.

In contrast the President of Chad, Idriss Debby landed on the opposite side of the argument, and clearly established himself as the only head of state siding with a growing number of Africans, who have come to accept that Africa cannot be truly independent if its financial system is controlled in France.

In many parts of Francophone Africa, there is an emerging sense that economic growth cannot happen without economic independence especially with 50% of CFA member countries reserves being deposited into the French coffers. Such an awareness implies that people are ready for an alternative and a clean departure from the CFA and transition into an independent currency.
A move like this has to be strategic and deliberate simply because doing away with 70 years of political and economic control, will not be without peril. The French economy came out of its economic crisis after World War II in big part because of the CFA and relies on this system of exploitation to remain a strong economy in Europe.

Therefore, dropping the CFA, without a clear well laid out plan and implementation strategy might not be a winning strategy, but a knee-jerk reaction. It is also important that we take timeless lessons from previous movements that called for change such as the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street etc. These movements were well-meaning and all called for positive changes, but they were all reactive and started without a clear end game and solid alternative in place.

So my question is how do we form a coherent strategy consistent with the efforts already being put forth on the ground, and overcome the challenges ahead? Here is a summary of what I think might be a good starting point:

  • Understand the forces at play: Understanding the lay of the land, including the historical backdrop, the parties involved will help us not duplicate efforts and coordinate our efforts to support the different fronts that are on the ground presently. The first step should be to research and take stock of all the current issues, what the movements are doing, including the Front contre le Franc CFA, led by people like Kemi Seba, who have been fighting the good fight for years now.
  • Build on strengths of the movements already on the ground: A number of organizations have been laying the ground for years, but efforts have not been coordinated enough to reach a critical mass. I think the time is ripe and we can build on the January 7, 2017, events that were synchronized in Paris, Abidjan Dakar etc.…  Some research will be beneficial in order to know what people are doing and what is working, and what is not. Based on this information a framework can be built for how we can contribute positively to the cause. However, so far it seems the conversation has not gone beyond denouncing and asking for the end of the monetary servitude, for I am yet to see any concrete steps that lay a blueprint of how to achieve this objective and the ultimate goal of self-determination.
  • Develop a framework to complement these efforts: The framework should consider an end game, formalize the necessary steps, and then develop an initial response to potential challenges for each step. The benefit to this approach is that it allows us to look ahead, identify, anticipate and help us adapt to changing situations.
  • Educate ourselves and inform others, to build a critical mass: The only way to be effective is to have a full understanding of the high and low points of what an independent currency would bring in terms of positive changes. There are several resources from African born experts who have written and spoken extensively on the subject, such as Nicolas Agbohou who wrote “Le franc CFA et L’euro contre l’afrique,” Demba Moussa Dembele, author of “Sortir l’afrique de la servitude monetaire” and many others. There are also many short and easily digestible videos available on the subject.
  • Enlist Monetary Policy and Economic development experts: We need to know what our competencies are, and seek out outside experts such as Dr. Abdourahmane Sarr President at the Center for Local Economic Development Financing (CEFDEL), on areas where we do not have either an expertise or sound plan in place. A winning proposition will have to add something positive to the debate, therefore it is important to know what are the winning strategies being currently executed and try to complement the gaps we can identify.
  • Craft a value proposition to engage those on the sidelines: Assuming that despite framing the value a departure from the CFA will bring, we do not succeed in getting people to get involved, we should be able to pivot and appeal to people’s selfish nature, and what they personally stand to gain, for example: If a person lives in the US, and sends money home monthly, could they be swayed if they see that they monthly remittances can drop considerably? If the person lives in Senegal and wants to start a business or grow their business, could we explain how this will possibly affect access to capital and help them export?
  • Attack the CFA weaknesses and offer alternatives: Every solution has weak points and every problem presents new opportunities. Let’s list these out, and take the message within our networks and above. Winning people’s support and buy-in will build momentum and bolster enough support to put pressure on our leaders to hold referendums and in term force on the hand of France to accept new terms in its relationship with its former colonies.
  • Negotiate a win-win economic partnership with France: Coming up with a creative offer for France will be a better solution than a confrontation, which will simply be suicidal, and will lead to more destruction of our economies. Let’s capture our imagination, if you have ideas or know others who might have ideas on how we can give incentives to France to accept a different partnership agreement that can allow both parties to benefit, please share these ideas.

If you subscribe to this vision, I challenge you to engage people in your networks, one conversation at the time. The lives of close to 150 million people depends on this, so if you are from Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Togo Cameroun, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, or know someone from those countries, get educated, get involved and be the change you want to see.

Read up on the CFA Franc.

Image source: Silicon Africa

Growth Crossings: Africa Rising?

Excerpts from the Economist Events #GrowthCrossings dinner in Nairobi this week.

growthcrossings-nairobi

  • China grew by exporting to the world, Africa is rising by buying products – Abiola Olaniran
  • There are 1 trillion cash transactions in Africa that can be financially included through partnerships & technology – Sanjay Rughani
  • In two years, the unbanked African population has dropped from 54% to 46% – Sanjay Rughani
  • An ADB study found 3 drivers of Africa growth to be demographics (young urban population), climate change, and digital leapfrogging – Donald Kaberuka
  • A mobile network is many things in Africa, and Safaricom will be an ecosystem for others to succeed e.g in health, education, energy – Stephen Chege.
  • E-commerce is driven by high volumes, consistent delivery, and consumer protection – this takes a lot to succeed in Africa –  Sanjay Rughani.

JW Marriott to open hotel in Nairobi with AVIC

Today, Marriott International and AVIC International signed a partnership agreement which will see Marriott operate a 365-room, 5-star J.W Marriott luxury hotel for AVIC in their Africa headquarters and office complex, in Westlands Nairobi.

AVIC representatives said the company had been in Kenya for the 20 years, engaging in four areas; aviation (built the new JKIA airport terminal, and supplied Y12 aircraft), education (equipment and training for NYS projects), real estate (in which they hope to create 15,000 jobs), and CSR (sponsoring Kenyans to get educated in China). AVIC is a China state-owned company with 60 global offices.

Avic Marriott Nairobi signing

A VP from Marriott said that while the have 110 properties (with 13,000 rooms) in Africa, this was the first J.W Marriott in East Africa and they planned to expand in 5 more countries by 2020 including Rwanda and Zambia. Also that they have 19 global brands, and may open under a different chain in Mombasa, Kenya). He said they have many Kenyans managing and working at their properties in the Middle East, and who were ready to come back home to work. He said that they choose owners and investors carefully to partner with in China and Africa.

Nairobi County Governor Evans Kidero, who was hailed as a supporter of the project, said that the $400 million AVIC complex with JW Marriott hotel represents 6% of Nairobi’s annual new building space and 8% of the annual build cost. He also said that with 5,000 hotel beds, the city is strained when hosting large summits like the upcoming UNCTAD and TICAD 6, which will both be in Nairobi later in 2016.

Construction of the AVIC complex started in August 2015. It will have 6 towers, with the tallest being 42 storeys. Building works are ongoing, next to the Villa Rosa Kempinski Hotel that has established itself over the last two years and who challenged the construction of the AVIC complex.

Dreaming of an African Formation

A true Beyonce fan must try to see Beyonce. And if that’s your travel dream, you should make it happen.

A few weeks, ago Beyonce performed at the Super Bowl half-time show. And, just before that, she released her Formation video, about which Awesomely Luvvie wrote .. “this Formation video (directed by Melina Matsoukas) that she dropped on everyone in the middle of a Saturday is the best thing she’s ever done.”

She also announced a Formation Tour with dates in the US and Europe.  The Formation Tour website  lists tickets that are still available  in several cities, some of which can be accessed with reasonable air fares from Nairobi. These include London ($749 round trip fare from Nairobi),  Zurich ($669(, Milan ($649), Copenhagen ($699), and Frankfurt ($649). (You should have saved up for by now, if you’re a true fan.)

A Beyonce super fan who plans to attend a Formation concert says it would be ideal if the concert tour came to Africa, probably Johannesburg (which is always a possibility).

I asked her if going to any of these European cities for the concerts intrigued her? Brussels? Copenhagen? Cardiff? Milan? And is she could combine a trip to those cities with fashion, museums, or something else? She said:

  • I want her to come to South Africa (SA). She needs to be watched with a squad and trying to haul many people to anywhere that requires boarding >1 plane is always hectic. Best option would be London, but those tickets get sold out in a matter of minutes. So. We’ll wait for SA.
  • Going to the city itself isn’t a problem. That’s the easy part. I went to watch Kendrick Lamar (and Usher) in New Orleans last year by myself and the thing that I missed was having my friends there. Just watching the act is fine but Beyonce is such a collective experience (see how the internet reacts whenever she does something, with all stans feeling the need to reach out and engage with other stans) that it seems like a disservice to yourself to do that experience without at least a couple of friends. Then the issue becomes logistics – everyone getting leave, visas, organizing flights, accommodation, etc. The further you go the more time you need, which makes it harder to synchronize.  
  • SA is a quick weekend trip + relatively cheap and hassle-free.  You can go after work on Friday and be back in the office by Monday a.m.

Awesomely Luvvie’s Beyonce Mixed GIF

Reasonable air fares from Nairobi are also available to US cities  that still have Formation tour tickets available between between April to June 2016, including Tampa, Raleigh, Nashville, San Diego,Seattle (WA, Edmonton, Minneapolis, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Detroit.

Back to the formation video, which  is loaded with lots of references for Beyonce fans; to important pieces like the New Orleans, the Creole people, and towns in her life, like Alabama (Nairobi roundtrip tp Montgomemerry $1,589) and Lousiana (Baton Rouge $1,589) and Texas (Houston $1,099). 

Also see why Kenya is unlikely to have a Beyonce concert, any time soon.

Namibia President wins Mo Ibrahim Prize

President Hifikepunye Pohamba was today announced as the winner of the 2014 Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. The award

Earlier, there was some speculation or expectation, with the announcement being made in Nairobi, that Kenya’s former president Mwai Kibaki might be this year’s winner. The prize panel comprising Salim Ahmed Salim, Martti Ahtisaari  Aïcha Bah Diallo, Mohamed ElBaradei, and Graça Machel addressed that in a  Q&A session after the announcement was made by Salim

He said President Pohamba made a mark in terms of reconciliation, cohesion, and respect for the constitution. He had offered sound leadership while remaining humble. His achievements were seen in gender equality (48% of parliamentarians are women) a focus on health (80% of HIV cases receive therapy and transmission rates are falling) and education, tackling poverty (social safety nets and disability grants) while grappling with challenges like the widening inequality.

  • Questioned on the criteria, Baradei said the awards are not given in a vacuum – and this is measured by improvements in governance and leadership. President have to do the right things amid challenges, and create a cohesive society in which citizens can work together. Aicha mentioned his acceptance of political parties  and consultation with opposition leaders.  Graca said the achievements in his country were done in a very short period of time.
  • Are all winners from the Southern Africa region? Machel said that was not true and they analyze every case regardless of region. She said that while three winners are from Southern Africa, the SADC regional also had some bad (young) countries
  • Does it create encouragement? Has the prize had an impact in Africa and is it work all that money? Yes they said. Salim said they would rather go a few years without an award, than give an award for no reason. There has been no winner for three years, and that may happen again in future. Ultimately, the answers lie in numbers derived from the Foundation’s Index of African Governance.
  • The MC read out a tweet from a Kenyan newspaper that Kibaki lost to the prize to Pohamba’ – and Salim said that it was an assumption that they had considered Kibaki for the prize.Mo Ibrahim at the 2014 Prize announcement
  • Chris Kirubi compared giving a prize to wealthy retired presidents to putting water back into the river. Mo Ibrahim stood and disagreed with the that generalization saying it was detrimental  to make. He said this was due to Africans relying on foreign media  and only knowing a few continental leaders like Mandela and then the infamous ones – and asked how many in the room knew the past winners like presidents’ Festus Mogae  or Pedro Rodrigues Pires or Pohamba (before today)? He appealed to the media to report properly on Africa by knowing the 54 presidents, some of who were wealthy, but others who lived humble lives, and find more heroes, beyond Mandela. He said Pires, a former liberation leader who became president, called a taxi and went to live with his mother after he lost the election. He also cited Botswana’s former President Masire who once traveled to  a meeting in Addis where he was overlooked by VIP protocol as they didn’t know he was traveling in economy class (to set an example).
  • ElBaradei said  the fact they don’t have winner every year is also a message. They would like to see 2 or 3 qualified ex-presidents every year but Africa is still facing challenges of transiting to democracy and good governance.
  • The award, which is a $5 million prize paid over 10 years, followed by $200,000 annually for life thereafter, remains open to any president who has left office in the previous three years. It affords winners a chance to have dignified years in retirement and invest or fund activities they believe in.