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Is Donald Trump alienating the Middle East?

Comments (0) Business, Featured, Middle East, Politics

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Taking a look at Donald Trump and his recent outbursts that might alienate him with the Muslim world.

Donald Trump is making a lot of headlines these days and while they haven’t all been flattering, the 69-year-old business mogul seems unfazed that his brass manners have created such media furor. He is not a repentant person and has shown that he thrives in the media’s spotlight. He is often seen using loud words and confrontational rhetoric that that has helped him create both more supporters and more opponents, effectively polarizing the public, and whether for better or worse, he has been getting lots of media attention during his election campaign.

In a recent interview with Joe Scarborough on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”, multi billionaire and presidential candidate Donald Trump made it clear that he would not be adverse to more surveillance of mosques in the US or even looking into closing some of them down. He believes a lot of the radicalization takes place in these mosques and that hatred towards America emanates from these houses of Muslim worship.

While these actions might alienate him to Muslims in general, they are nevertheless measures aimed at US citizens on US soil and as such they are not targeting the Muslim world in general. However, when he wants to ban all Muslims from entering the US, he’s sending a clear message to the international community as well. Adding to that his recent comments about Saudi Arabia being on par with China and other countries which he deems are cheating the US and one can understand why he might seem confrontational from a more international perspective.

Media feud with Alwaleed bin Talal

In a recent media spat, which was born after Trump had the idea to ban Muslims entering the US, Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal let the presidential hopeful know what he thought of him when he tweeted the following: “You are a disgrace not only to the GOP [the Republican Party] but to all America. Withdraw from the US presidential race as you will never win”.

Donald Trump responded with accusations that Alwaleed bin Talal wants to control the US government with his daddy’s money and also called him “dopey”, which will surely not serve to lessen the tension between the two.

While Alwaleed bin Talal does not represent a united Muslim world, he is a well-known business magnate and philanthropist, ranking 34th on Forbes List of the richest people in the world in 2015. He has an estimated net worth of 28 Billion USD, dwarfing Donald Trump’s net worth and recently made headlines when he let the world know he’s donating his fortune to charity.

For the average voter in the US though, Alwaleed bin Talal is not exactly a household name and banning Muslims is not a problem. Among the American public Trump has the majority backing his proposal among Republicans, with a large estimated one third minority among Democrats backing him as well.

trump middle eastTrump and the international business world

The big question for business mogul-come-presidential nominee is not just about winning or losing the presidency. As a business man and a professional he must also contend with the lost business and brand value he is suffering from his remarks in the parts of the world he has been seen as demeaning.

The evidence seems to suggest he is already losing business in the millions from former partners in the Middle East as the Landmark Group is cutting its ties with the Trump Organization and will no longer carry home decor products from the company that is headed by Donald Trump.

What he is losing in business and brand value in the Middle East, he is most likely making back in campaign funding however, which has increased as he rides the wave of fear of Muslims and terrorism that has enthralled certain American voters.

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Iran’s nuclear deal may not mean an oil boom

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The prospect of western sanctions ending in Iran is an exciting prospect for international oil companies hoping to tap the fourth largest oil reserves in the world. According to Russia’s envoy to the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the historic Iran nuclear deal is expected to see sanctions lifted in Tehran in January 2016. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a deal brokered between Iran and the P5 + 1 nations (France, China, UK, Russia, US and Germany) in July 2015 after 20 months of negotiation, is ground breaking. In exchange for Iran reducing its nuclear program, including swapping non-enriched uranium to scale back its stockpile of low-enriched uranium, Europe and the US will lift international economic sanctions on Iran.

Despite concerns that the US Congress may block the deal, the prospect of oil markets opening up to international oil companies seems more likely come January 2016, with the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Association) expected to close a 12 year investigation into Iran’s nuclear program when the board meets in December 2015.

Hope for oil markets as sanctions lift

If the Iran nuclear agreement holds, western sanctions are due to begin winding back in early January 2016. Consequently, a Reuter’s poll comprising 25 oil analysts and economists predicted that as much as 750,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Iranian crude oil could enter the global market by mid-2016. International oil companies such as France’s Total, Italy’s Eni and Royal-Dutch Shell are understandably enthusiastic about the prospect of gaining traction in Iran’s emerging oil economy. With the promise of 50 new production projects in Iran’s extensive oil and gas reserves and flexible contracts on offer in 2016, the prospect of an oil boom seems tangible.

iran oilProgress on JCPOA nuclear deal

But how robust is this deal in reality? Will Iran deliver on its promise to scale back their nuclear program?

On the one hand there are promising signs that Iran is ratifying the agreement. As recently as November, 2015 the Iranian nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi reported that work had begun to decommission centrifuges. This activity was additionally confirmed by complaints in Tehran from 20 MPs, claiming that dismantling work at Natanz and Fordow facilities was advancing too quickly.

Further progression of the JCPOA was evidenced by Iran granting permission for the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency to visit the sensitive military site Parchin in September, 2015. This was despite earlier parliamentary restrictions which declared the nuclear deal excluded such inspections.

However, in complete contrast to these acts of compliance, in October, 2015 Iran fired a long – range ballistic missile from a hidden military base in a seemingly confrontational act of defiance. Considering sanctions will only be lifted when Iran fulfils conditions within the nuclear agreement, this action sent confusing signals.

Political climate throws doubt on nuclear deal

There is also concern that the nuclear deal has not been ratified into local Iranian law. Rather the Iranian parliament has referred to the JCPOA as a “Plan of Action”, maintaining the agreement’s voluntary nature (according to the Iranian government). This avoids the Iranian parliament having to mandate the agreement as an international treaty or contract, which would require local governmental authorization into law.

Thus the nuclear deal, in reality, is an agreement accepted by the Rouhini agreement on the basis of good faith, but stands on shaky ground when considering the implications for future governments. Until the JCPOA deal is legislated into Iranian law it would arguably be unwise for international oil companies to leap into Iran’s oil and gas market without some serious caution.

Conditions too volatile to ensure oil market stability in Iran

Although some economists have predicted a significant global reduction in oil prices once the JCPOA “day of commencement” arrives, the shifting sands of Iran’s political and military conditions make this eventuality less likely. Even if Iran does comply with nuclear downsizing, discontinues weapons testing and demonstrates political willingness to conform to the agreement, there is still concern about the power of the military over commercial operations.

For instance the US insists sanctions will be maintained over the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. Although this military corps was designed to respond to internal or external threats against Iran, it now has extensive influence in the Iranian oil and gas industry via control over hundreds of companies. Therefore, international oil companies may still find themselves hampered by sanctions if they partner with Iranian companies maintaining ties to the revolutionary guard.

When the long term political and military complexities are considered in Iran, it seems it may be some time before the Iran nuclear deal will make a significant impact on global oil markets.

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Who is Ayman Rafic Al-Hariri?

Comments (0) Leaders, Middle East

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Ayman Hariri: a talented entrepreneur or a well-financed, well-connected, unprincipled businessman?

Ayman Hariri was born in 1978 in Saudi Arabia but at the age of two he moved to Lebanon, the birth place of his father. At the time his father Rafic Hariri, having become a successful and hugely wealthy businessman in Saudi Arabia, was increasing his philanthropic activities in Lebanon as well as starting to build a political career for himself. Ayman has joint Lebanese and Saudi Arabian nationality and currently lives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia with his wife and child.

Ayman Hariri is the son of Rafic Hariri and Nazik Hariri (nee Audi). Nazik was Rafic’s second wife and as a result Ayman has three half-brothers (one deceased) through his father’s marriage to his first wife Nida Bustani. Ayman is the eldest of Rafic and Nazik’s four children. He has a younger brother called Fahd and two younger sisters, the youngest of which is called Hind.

A family of Prime Ministers

His father became the Prime Minister of Lebanon, serving two terms; 1992 – 1998 and 2000 – 2004. He was later assassinated on the 14th February, 2005 in Beirut. Ayman’s brother Saad followed his father into politics, becoming the Prime Minister of Lebanon on the 9th November, 2009. His term only lasted until the 12th January, 2011 when the cabinet collapsed due to disagreements with Hezbollah as a result of the investigations and resulting allegations surrounding his father’s assassination.

Ayman earned a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University in Computer Science. Just like Ayman, his three half-brothers Bahaa, Saad and Houssam were all college educated in the US. In fact, it was whilst studying at MIT that Houssam died in a car accident; it is alleged that he and his brother Bahaa were drag racing identical Porsche 911’s at the time of the accident.

Ayman Rafic Al-Hariri: a member of the Executive Committee for Saudi Oger

Ayman began his career working as an engineer for a company called Intelsat – the first company to offer a commercial global satellite communications solution. He later started up a company called Epok which is an identity management software company, where he is still the Chairman.

In addition to his responsibilities at Epok, he is also a Director of 3C Telecommunications Ltd and Vice Chairman, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and a member of the Executive Committee for Saudi Oger Ltd, the company founded by his father Rafic in 1978.

Saudi Oger is a construction company based in Riyadh, and in conjunction with all its subsidiaries it offers a complete construction package including building design, project management, engineering, facilities management, telecommunications, waste management and IT services.

Ayman Rafic Al-Hariri

Strong leadership skills…

Whilst his elder brother Saad is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Ayman is very much considered to be the driving force behind Saudi Oger.

His strong leadership skills, in conjunction with his experience and entrepreneurial vision, as well as the fact that he appears to have no political aspirations, make him the apparent heir to the Hariri family business.

…but many controversies

Rumors of corruption have plagued this family for years; whilst Prime Minister this father was often accused of stripping Lebanese finances whilst building his own personal wealth. His supporters however insist that he actually invested much more money into Lebanon than he ever removed.

Saudi Oger along with Saudi Bin Laden have for a long time been the two major businesses to benefit from the massive investments being made in Saudi Arabia, including Princess Noura University for Women and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. This dominance is however starting to change so whilst there are planned investments totalling approximately $806 billion in the next 15 years, Saudi Oger can no longer be confident of benefitting as they would have done 10 years ago.

Whilst the financial stability of Saudi Oger is hard to fully ascertain, in 2012 three major Saudi banks stated that Saudi Oger and its subsidiaries were “financially vulnerable institutions.”

Embezzlement and corruption rumors

In 2011 Saudi Oger received a loan of $800m and a further $1bn in 2013, yet at the end of 2013 it was stated that they were $3bn in the red. The year of 2013 also saw further company restructuring with approximately 1,500 layoffs. These were largely Lebanese nationals however some Saudi nationals were included, which caused major controversy and widespread objections.

An audit of the business showed a complete lack of accountability, not to mention a lack of trust between senior employees. There were also embezzlement and corruption rumors and serious concerns raised about the lack of clarity within the political, business and personal financial records.

When asked about these issues in 2013, Saad blamed Ayman, apparently even threatening to sell his brother’s shares in the business to deal with the gap in the company finances.

 

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Salma Elloumi Rekik, a glimmer of hope for Tunisian tourism revival

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At a time when many would have shied away from such a hard-hit economic sector, Salma Elloumi Rekik, business woman and politician, boldly stepped into the role of Tunisia’s Minister of Tourism.

Time of action for the Tourism Minister

Little over a month after taking the reins from her predecessor Amel Karboul, on February 6th, 2015, the already fragile economy was knocked by Bardo terrorist attacks and again in the July Sousse beach massacre. Tourism has increasingly become the nation’s linchpin, generating 15 percent of the country’s GDP last year. It has been down to Rekik to provide solutions to get the vital tourism trade back on track.

On June 29th, 2015, Salma Elloumi announced the many government measures that were to be put in place to essentially give those in tourism a financial lift. Among them: loan repayments were postponed for the years 2015 and 2016, VAT reduced from 12 percent to 8 percent and overdue fines cancelled.

“The ministry has focused its actions on the change in the promotional policy, especially after the attacks of Bardo and Sousse,” said the Minister.

In an endeavor to broaden Tunisia’s appeal to holiday makers from African countries, Iran, China and Russia, Rekik worked hard to have security in the country strengthened and to increase air traffic, devoting a budget of 12.5 million of Tunisian dinars (over 6 million US dollars) for this purpose.

The lady behind the titles

Born in Tunis on June 5th, 1956, Rekik was influenced and immersed in business from an early age. Growing up surrounded by her family’s wiring company; she continued her education after leaving Omran High School at the Institute of Management in Tunis (ISG) until the age of 22. As well as possessing a business mind, the young Rekik became multi-lingual, speaking and reading in Arabic, French and English.

On leaving university she began working for the family business which her father, Taoufik Elloumi, created in 1985. Societé Cofat Med -SCM specializes in the design and manufacture of electrical wiring for motor vehicles and utilities and is still going strong.

“SCM started with less than 20 employees; now it is one of the most popular companies in Tunisia,” the 59 year old said of her father’s enterprise.

In the early 1990’s, Rekik expanded her professional outlook after the former president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali launched a campaign to modernize agriculture. Taking this as a cue, she branched out into a new sector, industrial agriculture.

She began with Stifen, the food processing company her father founded in 1994. In time she was made CEO and the prosperous company became part of the expanding Elloumi group. Her appetite for responsibility led her to become the CEO of SCM and she went on to drive both companies to great success. Stifen now exports globally and lists Kellogg’s, Danone and Nestle amongst its clients.

Political life

The mother of three, not content with just one profession, she embarked on her political career after the 2011 Jasmine revolution in Tunisia. Spurred into action by the changes her country was experiencing, she co-founded the secularist political party Nidaa Tounes and became a member in the party’s executive bureau.

“Engaging in politics is a duty as a citizen,” she said, and she paid her duty well, following her party to victory against the Islamist Ennahda party in the October 26th, 2014 elections, only the second truly legitimate election to be held in Tunisia since 2011.

Their time in power was not smooth, including a coalition government with their Islamist rivals in February 2015. Further difficulties beset the party when Rekik, along with 30 other Nidaa Tounes deputies, resigned Sunday, November 8th, 2015. The mass resignation came in response to members becoming increasingly fractious about the conduct and intentions of some of the party’s fellows.

For the love of one’s country

For now, Rekik has a big enough task ahead in her work as Tourist Minister. Without doubt she has proven herself many times over in her varied chosen fields of work, and has shown and continues to display strong and prudent leadership skills, which have been sought after globally.

Versatile, intelligent and brave, Rekik’s work has been publically recognized and gained her two commendations by the Tunisian Republic for her service to the nation. She still found time to participate throughout her career in leadership, management, and crisis management training programs in the United States and Europe.

Her work as Minister of Tourism seeks to bring hope to the Tunisian people and highlight the rich array of positives her nation has to offer the rest of the world. Speaking on December 2nd, 2015, she announced the upcoming release of a film about the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize, which was awarded to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, an encouraging sign and a pivotal moment for Salma Elloumi Rekik’s beloved country.

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Flying With Fatima Beyina-Moussa

Comments (0) Africa, Featured, Leaders

Fatima Beyina Moussa - ECAir13

A profile of Fatima Beyina-Moussa, CEO of ECAir.

The African aviation market is becoming one of the most significant in the world thanks to its growing middle class, which now makes up over 35% of the population. African air traffic is growing by 5.2% per year. Fatima Beyina-Moussa is 41 and a mother of 2 children. Ask her if she dreamed of being the CEO of an airline and changing the African airline industry and you will elicit a hearty laugh from Ms. Beyina-Moussa. The quick and honest answer is an emphatic “No”. She mentions several other things she dreamed of and the academic track that she trained in, but none of them involve air transportation and helping lead a revolution in travel by air in Africa.

Born in Dakar, Senegal, where her father, Pierre Moussa, studied and taught at the University of Dakar in the area of planning and development alongside Prof. Samir Amin, Fatima’s thoughts on her path in life mirrored her father’s career more than anything. Pierre Moussa was born in Owando, located in northern Congo-Brazzaville, in 1941. He is considered a man gentle in nature, married, and a father of 4 children including Fatima.

Before the Daughter, the Father

Fatima Beyina-MoussaPierre Moussa, Ms. Beyina-Moussa’s father, is an economist by training and a politician in the Congolese government. He started his government career in 1978 as Secretary-General of Planning. President Denis Sassou Nguesso promoted Moussa to Minister of Planning in 1979, the same year he joined the Central Committee of the Congolese Labour Party (PCT). The PCT selected Moussa as Secretary for Planning and the Economy in 1984. He climbed to the role of Minister of Planning and Finance in August of 1987. Moussa is considered “the regime’s economist”, and joined the PCT Political Bureau in 1989, taking on the responsibility for planning and the economy; he was promoted to Minister of State for Planning and the Economy in the Congolese government in 1989. Pierre Moussa is now President of CEMAC, the Commission of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa. His 5-year term appointment was announced at the 11th Summit of CEMAC Heads of State in 2012 at Brazzaville.

Fatima has inherited much from her father, including the role of an economist and interest in development and planning. Her post-secondary school education has focused on economics and finance, primarily in Canada, where she received her Bachelor’s degree from the prestigious HEC Montreal. She then received her MBA from the University of Ottowa, pursuing specialized studies in the USA and France as well. Not only is she keenly aware of issues in Africa, but she is also aware of how Africa interfaces with the rest of the world. As a black African woman, Beyina-Moussa is a pioneer in her field, and her actions and opinions are followed with much interest. As she takes the pulse of modern Africa as one of its business leaders, she is also someone that drives that pulse with her ideas and decisions.

A Rising Career

Beyina-Moussa started her career as a consultant at Ernst & Young in the Congo. She advanced to the role of a consultant at the official Bank of Central African States (BEAC), then moved to New York City, working for the United Nations Environment United for Development (UNDP). Her rise, professionally, was quick but not entirely unexpected. In the Congo, she took on the job as an advisor to the economy and to reform the Congolese Ministry of Finance, Budget and Public Portfolio. Beginning in 2007, she worked on establishing a national air carrier to advance the Congo’s transportation industry and its economy. Success has been quick and in 2011, Fatima Beyine-Moussa was appointed Director/CEO of the national airline of the Republic of Congo, Equatorial Congo Airlines (ECAir). Shortly after her hiring as CEO of ECAir, Fatima was selected as a member of the Executive Committee of African Airlines Association (AFRAA) in 2012. In November 2014, Beyine-Moussa was appointed Chairwoman AFRAA and recently completed her 1-year term at the 47th General Assembly of AFRAA from November 8th-10th, 2015 in Brazzaville.

Fatima Beyina-Moussa is embracing her role as a favorite and influential daughter of Africa. She has plans and a clear view of how she wants Africa to evolve now and in the future. One that she is fervently working on now is travel between cities and countries within Africa. Currently, it can be easier to fly out of the continent, take a connection in Dubai or Paris, and fly back into Africa. Beyina-Moussa is working on a plan to avoid this and make travel within Africa easier and more beneficial for airlines and passengers. Connections between African countries are insufficient, and there are not enough round trips, making travel difficult. With Beyina-Moussa working on this, it is without doubt a job that will get done. In her words, “We have only just begun.”

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Doing Business amidst Terrorism

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured, Middle East

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Despite the odds, the Middle East and Africa show improved business environments.

On June 1, 2015 the World Bank Group published its 13th annual Doing Business 2016 report, a virtual check-up on the health of 189 different economies and each one’s environment for small and medium sized businesses. By monitoring domestic business regulations, the World Bank Group attempts to analyze the shifting horizons for international entrepreneurs, hoping to usher in a firm-friendly future in light of the ever-globalizing world economy.

The rise of cross-border terrorism has caused concern for many business leaders and potential investors in the region. Though the state of presumed instability may suggest a weakened business environment in the Middle East and Africa, contrary to media sensationalism these regions have made massive strides in improving the economic conditions for business owners alongside the threat of potential conflict. As always, there is much more than meets the eye.

A Binary Opposition between Appearance and Reality

In light of this, though most foreign policy surrounding terrorism concerns blunt force and combat, there is a need to not just strengthen the fighting power of our African and Middle Eastern allies, but also strengthen the structures that support them. The dangers portrayed by mainstream media are a bite-sized vision of the entire reality at play, as the emotional nuances of warfare footage packs a more memorable punch than the hard numbers Doing Business presents.

The toll of a nearby enemy is evident in the World Bank’s report. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is still held as the least transparent region internationally, and with the exception of Morocco there is little public engagement in forming regulatory policy. The region’s governance carries a relatively low regulatory quality but with great efficiency.

Improved Business Conditions as the Norm

Despite the multiplicity of issues these policy makers face, almost all nations within the Middle East and Africa have made huge strides to improve their business environment. This region currently represents half of the twelve nations that implemented four or more reforms, specifically Rwanda, Madagascar, Senegal, Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates. Across the board, low income economies have made much bigger improvements than high-income economies: Sub-Saharan Africa alone accounted for over 30% of all regulatory reforms made between 2014-2015.

In addition, Sub-Saharan Africa represents half of the top-ten improved economies as ranked by Doing Business, with Uganda, Kenya, Mauritania, Senegal and Bahrain implementing major economic reform. Within this region Rwanda also stands out, boasting a massive reduction in the number of days required to transfer property from 370 to a mere 32, and jumping from a score of 2 to 19 out of 20 on an index that rates the ease and efficiency of attaining credit.

The thirteen years of data collection has afforded the World Bank group several conclusions about the relationship between regulation, efficiency, and performance, and in this year’s Doing Business report they found that transparency during policy making was “highly and significantly” related to greater regulatory quality as well as efficiency. Currently in Mozambique, proposed regulations are published in a federal journal and distributed to stakeholders to encourage dialogue. In Ethiopia, Niger, and Afghanistan, public meetings are held so that the public and business leaders can be a part of the process of reform. In Kenya they even have a website for proposed regulations, where anyone at any time can weigh in on economic policy.

And Kenya’s not the only place that’s gone online- Rwanda made electronic tax filing and payment compulsory in 2014/15, and the time required for businesses to prepare and file taxes fell by 10 hours. Uganda introduced an online system for obtaining trading licenses, and other economies introduced systems where trade-related documents could be processed, including Benin, Côte D’Ivoire, Ghana, Madagascar, Mauritania, Suriname, Tanzania, and Togo. Currently, 25% of MENA nations have online systems for tax filing and payments, reducing the scope for bureaucratic discretion and corruption while increasing the system’s transparency, simplicity, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness.

The Best and the Worst

Countries’ ability to govern and enhance opportunities for citizens despite attacks from groups like ISIS and Boko Haram is commendable and demonstrates that optimism is in fact realistic. Turkey, though overrun with refugees, was able to streamline the process of obtaining construction permits. Saudi Arabia, with ISIS only 30km from their borders made property transfers faster by updating to a computerized registry system.

Nigeria and Kenya, the top two sub-Saharan nations affected by terrorism in the last year were still able to make their business environments healthier, with Nigeria reducing fees for property transactions and increasing the protection of minority investors by requiring external review. Kenya significantly reduced the time it takes to start a business by eliminating procedural inefficiencies, improved electronic document management for land registry, and improved access to credit, electricity, and proposed policy dialogues.

During a time of growing cross-border terrorism, with sensationalized militias such as Boko Haram and the Islamic State, as well as lesser known groups such as the al-Nusra Front or the Fulani militia, the significance of the stability a strong economy offers has never been so important. The relative security a growing economy offers provides the resources and willpower to combat terrorists, supports the persecuted, ensures justice, and dissuades the sympathetic from joining the extremists. Like many other groups branded with violence that preceded them, this generation of extremists will fall from within once they realize that peace is a more profitable reality.

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Gilbert Diendéré: Coming Out from the Shadows

Comments (0) Africa, Featured, Leaders

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Chief of staff to Blaise Compaoré, Burkina Faso’s ex-president, Gilbert Diendéré is far more than a jack of all trades; intelligence, information, organisation and control, he is a master of all.

Burkinabé military officer and head of the powerful Presidential Security Regiment (RSP) for almost three decades, Gilbert Diendéré, who was known to lead from the shadows, took an unprecedented step into the lime light on September 17th, 2015.

In a move the General is now calling “the biggest mistake,” he took power of his West African home country, in a coup d’état that lasted a mere six days. After which, he and his army succumbed to mounting pressure to step down.

The coup, which pushed out the interim president, appears to have been an attempt to reinstate his comrade, Compaoré, the man for whom he was the quiet power behind through the former president’s entire time in office.

A Military Force

As the officer who announced the October 1987 coup, this was not Diendéré’s first experience of overthrowing a government. Taking power from the popular and revolutionary Thomas Sankara, with whom Diendéré had trained alongside as a young cadet in the army, he then placed it in the hands of Compaoré.

This was a pivotal time for the General, who was subsequently made head of the Presidential Security Regiment (RSP). With Compaoré’s blessing, he developed and expanded the RSP into a reportedly stronger and better trained army, which offered its soldiers better conditions and higher pay. It also answered directly and exclusively to the president himself.

Together the pair ruled Burkina Faso for an almost unfeasibly long time. Not until October of last year, when Compaoré’s push to be re-elected resulted in him being ousted by mass public demand, did their reign come to an end. Throughout his time in power, Diendéré has been accused of crimes against humanity. The charges against him include murder and firing at unarmed protestors, allegations for which the General will now stand trial.


Multifaceted Man

Standing at an impressive 6.5 ft, Diendéré may be physically imposing and considered to be one of the most powerful men in Burkina Faso, but until recent events the 56 years old had chosen to exert his power indirectly.

His international connections boosted Compaoré’s network and political status, whilst also cementing his own reputation internationally, particularly in America and France. In 2008 Diendéré was awarded the Légion d’Honneur, one of France’s most prestigious military medals.

The former head of RSP is highly regarded for being well informed, knowledgeable in many fields; particularly that of the West African political affairs, and a skilled negotiator and strategist. Known as a “master of intelligence,” the Burkinabé General has been involved in delicate negotiations with al-Qaeda linked group AQMI and in the release of several European hostages in 2009 and 2011.

A fearless thrill seeker, he enjoys regular parachute jumps and is popular and respected amongst his colleagues. However, it is recognised that the man described as shy and calm, with the formidable “iron fist” handshake, is a man one would prefer as a friend and not a foe.

In the Face of Justice

Just days after the coup began Diendéré conceded, “I am willing to turn myself over to face justice,” and called for his army to lay down their weapons. “I would like the people of Burkina Faso to find a solution to this crisis through dialogue.” He said, after turning himself in on October 1st.

The self-appointed Chairman of the National Council for Democracy sought shelter in the Vatican embassy as crowds on the Burkina Faso streets became violent. Negotiations took place to ensure his safety before he was handed back to the interim government. The Presidential Security Regiment (RSP) was later ordered to be disbanded and the assets of Gen. Gilbert Diendéré, frozen.

What is next for the shadowy figure is uncertain. He remains adamant that Compaoré had no dealings with the latest coup and has openly denounced his own actions. For now the country awaits the delayed elections which will take place on November 29th, perhaps a clever by-product of the General’s failed coup. The complicated history of Burkina Faso informs us that the future is most likely to follow suit, as for the rest, only time will tell.

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Third India-African Forum Summit

Comments (0) Africa, Featured, Politics

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The Third India-African Forum Summit took place in New Delhi on October 26-29, 2015. This Summit was arranged to develop trade between the emerging economies of Africa and India and explore improving relationships in other areas on a bilateral and continental level such as involvement in United Nations .The intent of this summit was shown by a higher representation from Africa (over 50 leaders) compared to the previous summits where only 10-15 African nations were present.

Developing relations in a new era

India is now Africa’s fourth largest trading partner behind China, the United States and the European Union nations. At this summit discussions were held at different levels addressing a number of issues with the intention of improving dealings between the attending nations. For instance, India proposed to increase concessionary credit to $10 billion over 5 years to enable further trading opportunities with African nations. Currently the trade figure between India and Africa stands at $70 billion – a substantial increase from $3bn in 2000 when India started showing significant growth. As more African nations are showing an improvement in economic growth, the discussions in this summit were an opportunity to work on higher goals.

Areas of further progress and new development

India’s trading with Africa is mainly in importing of oil and other raw energy products to support its own economy’s growth in areas such as manufacturing. This summit saw further discussion between India and its main trading countries such as Nigeria, South Africa and Angola on further trade in light of falling oil prices. Africa allows foreign investment in its oil industry unlike Saudi Arabia and certain Asian countries. It is expected that oil trade between Africa and India would further expand and flourish, as India imports 90% of its oil from Africa and the commodity is increasingly available in conflict-free areas.

Further agreements were reached to offer 50,000 scholarships for students from Africa to study in India over 5 years. India has also agreed to provide training and construction of more educational institutions across Africa as well as expand the Pan Africa E-Network. The continuation of duty free provision to 34 countries will allow further advantages to increase trade between attending nations

modi at african summitPrime Minister Narendra Modi also announced the joint co-operation in challenging the effect of climate change. India and the more developed African nations are known to have high rates of pollution and so any steps to control this situation on a collective basis would be beneficial. Growth on a scale not previously known to developing countries was acknowledged as being encouraged without any serious effect on the environment.

One of the obstacles to further growth of India and African nations, as with other nations, is terrorism. The biggest problems are in Somalia with Al Shabab and in Nigeria with Boko Haram. Somalia is in a particularly fragile situation and can ill afford to drive away investment. Nigeria is India’s biggest trading partner in Africa and so would benefit from efforts to control terrorism. The summit was also told that there would be improved arrangements in the deployment of troops in areas where conflict still exists. This would require the involvement of the African Union and the United Nations.

A summit too high?

Internet searches on interviews with African leaders provided little information on what African nations sought from this summit. The few interviews reported related to information about late arrivals by some leaders and non-attendance by others. There was also a similar lack of information from African academics and think tanks. This raises doubts about the importance they place on the event. Given that South Africa will host a summit of African nations with China in December, it is not clear how much importance is placed on developing trade with India.

India has had a long relationship with Africa because of a colonial past where several African nations are part of the Commonwealth. The Indian diaspora in Africa numbers approximately 3 million people and this provides an added advantage in developing links with India. While China’s trade figures with Africa are substantially higher than India’s at $200 billion, it has been noted that China has a more neo-colonial approach to foreign trade. Ultimately Africa should use investment to increase its own competiveness and capacity and not be dominated. India relies on Africa whilst being a more solid trading partner and this was one clear outcome of the Third India African Forum Summit this year. Africa’s stance in the forthcoming summit with China will be an interesting indicator.

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Magatte Wade, the New African Global Voice

Comments (0) Africa, Featured, Leaders

magatte wade

39-year-old Senegalese entrepreneur Magatte Wade, who made her name in Silicon Valley, has brought the love for her continent and her business flair together to bring the world a taste of African soul and the world to Africa.

If you are not prepared to face a pride of lions or find yourself pitted against the former CEO of Nestlé in a debate on the importance of organics, then step down, you are not prepared to be Magatte Wade.

Walking away from a $32 million business to create her second company in 2009, Magatte Wade is no stranger to making hard decisions, shunning the easy route and following her instincts. Five successful years went into Adina World Beverages before her departure, a company whose concept blossomed from a much loved yet rapidly disappearing traditional Senegalese drink, bissap, made from hibiscus flowers. The brave entrepreneur left behind Adina World Beverages not because it hit difficulties or became financially unviable, but rather due to a realization that her beliefs were no longer in sync with those of the other key stakeholders.

Now the founder and CEO of Tiossan, which produces luxury, organic skincare products, she brings traditional Senegalese recipes to the global beauty and health market, selling online, in high-end boutiques across the US and in their Hudson, New York, based store. Tiossan gives 10% of all profits towards creating innovative schools in Senegal.

“Use the power of brands to change perceptions”

As an entrepreneur Wade saw the disappearing bissaps’ marketing value but more than this, her experience had taught her that branding is the opportunity to tell a story and she had one she wanted to share.

During her first TEDex talk in 2011, the young Senegalese spoke of brands creating a culture. At the time over 50% of the Top 100 World Brands were American and not a single one African. She observed that American culture is in all our everyday lives and she concluded, “America has succeeded beautifully in exporting its own culture,” it being one of the most sought after worldwide.

To Wade this means building a powerful consumer brand of Africa’s own, to put it on a platform to engage on a global level and subsequently having a say on world issues. There are solutions and Africa can be part of it. “I want my continent to be an economic and cultural power.” Rather than sitting waiting for the next trend to come from America, she said “we can change whole world’s problems by addressing those in the US” first. Selling America healthier drink alternatives like bissap, to reduce obesity levels, was a clever example.

Big ideas and big ambitions

magatte wadeAs a girl, she ran free until the age of eight in her Senegal family compound. Always the instigator of fun hunting and fishing trips, she led a pack of boys with her on her escapades, leadership skills she now draws upon greatly.

From her grandmother, who was her main caretakeruntil she went to join her parents in Germany, she was given a “tremendous feeling of confidence and boundless opportunity”. These attributes, she says, taught her more than anything she learnedat school.

Arriving in Germany, school came as a cold slap of new reality. The rigidness she felt from those initial days would follow her to France, where she studied from the age of 10 until 20 and attended PSB-Paris Business School, which lefther seeking to inject more warmth, humanity and soul into the business world. She made connections while on an exchange program to Indiana and moved there in 1997, before finding her way to Silicon Valley nearSan Francisco.

That special something

It appears her grandmother was onto something when she told her she had “something” special and “something”special to give the world. Ranked first in Forbes 2014 ”20 Young Builders of Africa of Tomorrow” as well as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum at Davos, the list of impressive accolades goes on.

A woman of Africa and a visionary for her continent’s future, she remains humble and good humored. About that run-in with the Nestlé heavyweight, it was his un-gentlemanliness that allowed her to gracefully side-step a technical question she didn’t have the means to answer. It was “scarier than the day I ran into a pride of lions on the Okavango. And just as beautiful.”

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Africa, the Middle East, and the Future of Football

Comments (0) Africa, Featured, Middle East, Politics

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In 2010 South Africa hosted the first World Cup to be held on the African continent. Following ex-President Sepp Blatters scandal of corruption and vote-rigging this summer, FIFA is once again turning to the Middle East and Africa for solutions and a new vision for the organizations future.

Since the founding of FIFA in 1904 all but one President has been European, with the exception of Brazilian João Havelange. But the candidate list confirmed by FIFA last week boasts a truly 21st century roster; four out of the seven candidates hail from the Middle East and Africa, signaling not only the globalization of football but also the millions of fans represented in this region.

The Untapped Potential

Andrew Walsh of the sports research group SPORT+MARKT, notes an “increasing awareness of the scope for growth in Africas key football markets. And its not just FIFA that is gaining interest in the region, but all of football leadership. Africa is a hot-bed of untapped potential for clubs due to the sheer numbers of fans there. No other continent on earth harbors such a high ratio of football interest,Walsh added.

And hes not exaggerating. In a 2011 study, SPORT+MARKT revealed that 72 per cent of Africas 1.12 billion people, aged between 16-69, have an interest in football, roughly 800 million football fans. The study shows that 55 per cent of them are interested in the Premiership, while 39 per cent actively support an English top flight team.

In comparison, Europes entire population is 742.5 million people- the fact that there are millions more African football fans than the entire population of Europe illustrates why FIFAs newly diverse potential presidential candidates mirror the future of football.

south africa worldcup

The Odds

Despite the numbers, many sport bookies seem to favor Frenchman Michel Platini as the likely winner of the upcoming elections. But as a long-time FIFA executive currently on suspension alongside Blatter, many Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) members doubt that he will be able to oversee the far-reaching reform needed following Blatters regime- especially since hes trying to hold onto his UEFA presidency at the same time.

The FIFA presidency requires full attention to achieve necessary reform, so its likely that when it comes to the vote UEFA members will swing behind a candidate that will bring a fresh-start to the organization.

The Candidates

Likely candidate Jordanian Prince Ali bin al-Hussein ran against Blatter in this summers elections and nearly won, with UEFAs backing as well as the support of Asian and African regional football associations. A former FIFA Vice President, veteran politician, and current President of the West Asian Football Federation, Prince Ali seems like a worthy contender to Platini. However in the last Vice Presidential election, Prince Ali lost to Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim, another candidate with a strong running for the presidency.

Sheikh Salman also has an impressive track record and a proven ability to consolidate votes. A Bahraini FIFA Vice President, Salman is on the task force to untangle football disputes between Israel and Palestine, and has targeted match-fixing, grassroots development, and womens involvement during his time as President of the Asian Football Confederation, an organization mired by historic corruption and transparency issues.

Turn FIFA around really quickly

Salman currently denies allegations of human rights abuse concerning the violent suppression of pro-democracy campaigns in Bahrain in 2011, where over 150 athletes were imprisoned. Salman is a historic Blatter fan and a backer of the controversial Qatari and Russian World Cup bids, but he reckons hell turn FIFA around really quickly

Musa Bility, Liberian Football Association President and oil mogul, is also plagued by a controversial history concerning his 6-month football ban in 2013 and allegations that he won his presidency by buying votes for $500 a piece.

Among all the candidates, Tokyo Sexwale has the most divergent CV: a millionaire mining tycoon and anti-apartheid activist, Sexwale was imprisoned for 13 years in Robben Island alongside Nelson Mandela. A former FIFA Vice President, Sexwale was also key member of South Africas winning World Cup bidding team, and a chief organizer of the competition. Though the bid has drawn allegations for bribery, Sexwale has not been accused of any wrongdoing and has publicly criticized the payments, calling it worrisomefor the future of football in a BBC interview.

Despite FIFAs need for a fresh-start, many candidates have a history of wrongdoing to address. Currently embroiled by scandal, FIFA needs a new figurehead fast to clean up the mess and criminal reputation Blatter left behind. Recovering from collapse will be tricky without strong leadership, but its undoing offers a once-in-a-lifetime chance to build an international governing body fit for its purpose. It would be a true crime to waste it.

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