Ivory Coast Re-elects Alassane Ouattara in Landslide

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Alassane Ouattara

In a tightly monitored and relatively peaceful election, the people of the Ivory Coast have re-elected Alassane Ouattara, former Prime Minister and former deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund, as President of their country in a landslide. Fifty-five percent of eligible voters participated in the election casting 84 percent of their votes for Ouattara, keeping him in power until 2020 in the cocoa-rich country.

Voter turnout was decidedly lower than the 80 percent rate for the hotly contested 2010 vote, but it was substantially above that of the previous presidential elections in 2000 and 1995.

Pascal Affi N’Guessan, his closest rival and also a former Prime Minister, won 9 percent of the vote. N’Guessan is the head of ex-president Laurent Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party. N’Guessan’s presidential run attempted to bring FPI back into political relevance after sitting out the parliamentary and local elections after Gbagbo’s arrest during the 2010 post-election crisis.

Laurent Gbagbo and the 2010 Election

Ouattara finds himself in a very different position than he did after the disputed 2010 election which resulted in the ousting of two-term president Laurent Gbagbo. In 2010, Gbagbo received 38% of the vote in the initial election but faced a run-off with second-place Ouattara because of the country’s election rules requiring the winner to have 50% of the vote. In the run-off, Ouattara received 54% to Gbagbo’s 46%, according to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), but that vote was disputed by the Constitutional Council, which then determined that Gbagbo had won 51% of the vote after citing evidence of irregularities. Both candidates declared victory, and both took the presidential oath of office.

The United Nations, the ECOWAS, the African Union, the European Union, the United States, and former colonial power France declared support for Ouattara. They determined that the election was not compromised with former Prime Minister Ouattara winning a fair and free election at the ballot box. Gbagbo was told to abdicate the presidency by most of the international community. The body charged by the Ivory Coast Constitution with determining electoral disputes, however, declared Gbagbo to be the winner.

An ugly, bloody post-election civil war ensued pitting Gbagbo’s military against rebel forces supporting Ouattara with help from French troupes and UN peace-keeping forces. Four months of fighting, causing over 3,000 deaths and a deeper divide within the country, ended with Ouattara’s soldiers capturing and arresting Laurent Gbagbo. Ouattara then took power and the International Criminal Court indicted and arrested Gbagbo for crimes against humanity during the post-election civil war. Gbagbo is imprisoned in The Hague, Netherlands and is facing trial two weeks after the 2015 elections. Hardline members of his party, the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), disavowed their latest candidate N’Guessan, however, and requested supporters to boycott the polls. Voter turnout was markedly lower in areas considered Gbagbo’s traditional strongholds.

Division in the Ivory Coast

The outcome of Laurent Gbagbo’s ICC trial will have a substantial impact on the course of the next five years in the political climate of the Ivory Coast. The verdict, resulting in either an acquittal or conviction, will affect the balance of power in the FPI and its political support in the opposition. Most are expecting that Gbagbo will be convicted, but an acquittal would be a game changer. It could unite the opposition to Ouatarra and have a substantial impact on current political sympathies and the election in 2020.

The opposition parties in the Ivory Coast are currently deeply divided and in a state of disarray. Despite a few claims of voter intimidation and unequal access to state media, this election is universally considered valid, and there will be no civil war to determine who will be President. Over 10,000 police officers and soldiers were deployed all over the country to keep the peace during this year’s election.

All is still not well in the country with a continuing north-south divide, but progress is apparent, and Ouattara cites a growing economy based on its cocoa exports. Investors are flooding into the world’s top cocoa grower and their fears of upheaval are, temporarily, alleviated. Official observers considered the election peaceful and transparent. The President congratulated all Ivorians for their maturity and exemplary behavior.

ouattara celebrationsEconomic Growth and Optimism for the Future

Ouattara has presided over an unprecedented economic turnaround during his time in office. He is a noted economist known for transforming his country into one of the largest economies among its peers in West Africa after being decimated by civil war. The Ivory Coast economy is expected to expand about 10% this year, after averaging close to 8% the previous three years. The gain is greater and more rapid than most of its West African peers. Critics of the President believe he needs to do a better job of alleviating overall poverty and encourage further reconciliation after decades of violence and division within the country.

President Ouattara is optimistic about the future of his country. He believes that the people of the Ivory Coast are committed to a path of stability and reinforcement of democracy that his government is trying to foster. Hope is that the country continues its development and that peace will accompany it. Citizens must engage with their government and with their fellow citizens in peaceful political discussion and debate for progress to continue.

Mr. Ouattara believes that continued healthy growth in the economy will ease tensions that have divided the country in the past. An important element of reconciliation is improving living conditions, and this is already happening with investment in power infrastructure and the increasing availability of potable water. There is new hope in the country, and President Ouattara believes it will continue during his time as its leader.

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Freeman Osonuga: To Space and Beyond

Comments (0) Africa, Featured, Leaders

Freeman Osonuga wired

31-year old Nigerian Doctor, Freeman Osonuga, has 927 followers on Twitter. That number is minuscule compared to 44,700 who follow fellow countryman, and former NBA star, Hakeem Olajuwon. That could change quickly. A man of many hats, Osonuga may have a larger global impact than the basketball player when all is said and done. In 2014, TIME Magazine pegged him as a “Person of the Year” with other Ebola fighters, joining the likes of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Pope Francis in an elite club of world changers. What will he do for an encore? Freeman Osonuga may become Spaceman Osonuga, exchanging his Ebola suit for a spacesuit as part of his mission to save the world.

Born the youngest of six children, Freeman grew up in Ogun State, an impoverished area of Nigeria that was once a part of the short-lived Republic of Biafra. He lost his father in his youth, and his mother struggled to send him and his siblings to public schools. At the Olabisi Onabanjo University, he studied medicine and surgery. Osonuga started an NGO as an undergraduate student called Heal the World Foundation Nigeria. The foundation’s objectives are to care for children with disabilities, orphans, and the less-privileged. So far, they’ve helped over 550 children with disabilities and orphans in Nigeria: a good start for a man who strives to save the world.

One of Ten Outstanding Young People in Nigeria

Freeman OsonugaIn his writings, Osonuga has stated that the Heal the World Foundation Nigeria aspires to be the leading organization working with global organizations to guarantee that poverty in Africa is eradicated and becomes an informative display in a museum where it belongs. His work with the group has garnered attention locally and internationally. In 2013, he was named by Junior Chambers International (JCI) Nigeria as one of ten outstanding young persons in Nigeria and was selected by MTN Group Ltd (South Africa) to be one of their 23 delegates to 2013 One Young World Summit in Johannesburg. One Young World is the preeminent global forum for young leaders aged 18-30. It brings together the most promising young leaders from around the world, empowering them to make lasting connections and develop solutions to some of the world’s most pressing issues.

The Kruger Cowne Rising Star programme selected Osonuga as a One Young World Ambassador for the One Young World Summit 2014 in Dublin. Outstanding members of the public and Ambassadors, aged 18-35, were invited to nominate themselves to go on a once in a lifetime trip. Young people from 90 nations cast their vote in Kroger Crowne and One Young World’s global search for an icon of the future to catapult onto the international stage and into space – upon the XCOR Lynx® Spacecraft. Freeman Osonuga put himself in a position to be that icon.

The Meritorious Service Award from President Bai Ernest Koroma of Sierra Leone for Osoguna

Soon after the Summit, Osonuga embarked on the most dangerous journey of his short life; he volunteered to battle the Ebola virus at its peak in West Africa for six months with 835 African Union Ebola responders. Over 28,000 people have contracted the virus, and over 11,000 have died during the epidemic, including 230 medical care workers battling it. Freeman worked with a medical team in Magbenteh Ebola Treatment Unit, a 100-bed facility, in northern Sierra Leone. Fortunately, he did not contract the Ebola virus while treating the disease. In his walk through this valley of the shadow of death, he gave hope and comfort to fellow Africans fighting the disease, both those afflicted and the medical team. The Magbenteh Unit had a 65% survival rate with patients and a zero percent infection rate among the medical staff. For his efforts, Osoguna received the Meritorious Service Award from President Bai Ernest Koroma of Sierra Leone as well as the recognition by TIME magazine.

Life has not slowed down for the Nigerian doctor. He is a WIRED 2015 Innovation Fellow and recently spoke at their 2015 event with 11 other featured speakers. He has also been named an Associate Fellow of the Royal Commonwealth Society. On October 2, 2015, he was shortlisted as one of three finalists for the space trip sponsored by Kruger Cowne, One Young World, and Xcor Space Expeditions. Freeman will deliver a keynote speech to thousands of delegates and a panel of global business trailblazers at the One Young World Summit in Bangkok in November. After the three finalists give their speeches on topics of their choice, a winner will be announced. If selected, Freeman Osonuga may make history as the first black African to venture into space.

The trip will last about one hour and will blast off in 2016. G-Force training is scheduled for the trip, in the Netherlands, to prepare passengers for their travel outside of the Earth’s atmosphere. Osonuga told Quartz Africa that the overall objective of the project is not just going to space; it is to raise global conversations on issues that affect all inhabitants of Earth such as climate change, global peace, and poverty. Godspeed, Freeman Osonuga!

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12 African Countries In Top 20 Affordable Luxury Real Estate Markets

Comments (0) Africa, Economy, Featured

luxury africa real estate

According to a September study by the German real estate portal Lamudi, twelve African countries are among the Top 20 emerging markets where luxury real estate is most affordable. Ethiopia topped the ranking in a total of 32 emerging markets in the recent Lamudi results. Luxury real estate in Ethiopia now costs an average of 396.58 € per square meter. To put this in perspective, luxury Paris property such as the Place Vendôme, Tuileries, and Palais Royal real estate commands 13,000 € per square meter, according to This Paris Life. To extend the frame of reference, Global Property Guide reports an average cost of over 6,000 € per square meter for “affordable luxury” land throughout France. Amazingly, therefore affordable luxury real estate in France is roughly 15 times more expensive than luxury real estate in Ethiopia!

Out of phase with the Lamudi study, however, Global Property Guide reports that all land in Ethiopia is owned by the government of the country, and can only be leased. With continuing border disputes, and weak enforcement of property rights, it is not clear how investors can securely exploit this appealing valuation of real estate for commercial purposes in Ethiopia. And recent drops in currency values of many African countries already discourage investment. However, the broader picture is more appealing in some of the other countries featured in the Lamudi report.

Côte d’Ivoire’s real estate market has grown rapidly since 2011

Côte d’Ivoire is now in full economic takeoff following a political and military crisis. Luxury real estate here is at an average price of 427.65 € per square meter, according to the Lamudi classification, which was made on the basis of average prices gathered from several thousand real estate sales advertisements. After ten years of sluggish economic growth, Côte d’Ivoire’s construction industry now claims double-digit growth in the most recent three years, according to the Oxford Business Group. Côte d’Ivoire’s real estate market has grown rapidly since 2011. Private initiatives thrive and the market is seeing significant development. A number of unique sources contribute to these especially attractive property prices. Substantial support by international donors in Côte d’Ivoire has artificially subsidized the markets and the country is now open to global construction firms, and boasts diversified investment sources.

Tanzania took third place in the Lamudi ranking with prices at 486.03 € per square meter. With an average price of 850.54 € per square meter, Kenya claimed sixth place on the list, following Mexico and Colombia. These figures are meticulously mined by Lamudi, a portal launched in 2013. The clearinghouse is a global property portal focusing exclusively on emerging markets. The Lamudi platform is available in 34 countries in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, and includes in excess of 900,000 real estate listings throughout its global network.

Nigeria, with a per square meter price of 856.29 €, was followed closely by Kenya, according to Lamudi. Meanwhile Tunisia at 885.52 € appeared in the ninth slot, just ahead of Ghana (1,035.75 €), and Morocco (1,144.25 €). Rounding out the African countries featured, Uganda (1,597.22 €) occupied 15th place, ahead of Algeria (1,766.53 €), while Angola (3,965.52 €) closed the top 20 list.

Marrakech a top investment choice

Target cities to watch in the emerging luxury real estate market include Marrakech, Morocco. Marrakech holds strong growth prospects, favorable political stability, and an enticing environment for foreigners. Marrakech was recently named by Financial Times property experts as a top investment choice for 2014.

Lamudi’s focus on raw price may not be a representation of true property values. While luxury real estate property values in Morocco may be nearly four times those of Ethiopia, both are relatively cheap on a global scale, especially with regard to developed countries. For this reason, other criteria such as governmental and economic stability, environmental quality, and effectiveness of law enforcement may be more important determining factors than the price of land when comparing the featured countries for the purpose of luxury real estate investment. Furthermore, the unpredictable political climate and economic instability in these areas guarantees that these prices will fluctuate dramatically in relatively short periods of time.

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African Currencies in Decline

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured

african currencies

As currencies across the African continent fall against the dollar, the International Monetary Fund stated that the financial sector should brace itself for additional volatility. The IMF warned Wednesday in a semiannual assessment of risks to the global financial system, that the fallout from the end of “easy-money policies” by central banks could decelerate global economic expansion, reveal inflated asset prices, and further strain overextended lenders. Several factors contribute to the decline, including a trend by international investors to abandon emerging markets.

MSCI’s primary emerging equity fell 1.4 percent, declining to a one-month low, and Asian shares with the exception of Japan lost 1.6 percent. China led with a 2.75 percent rout on stocks. India, among the best equity performers this past year, realized its lowest daily fund outflow as of Wednesday. Resultant currency declines included record lows in several countries, including South Africa’s rand, Zambia’s kwacha, Uganda’s shilling, Tanzania’s shilling and Ghana’s cedi. The zloty and forint also fell sharply against the rising euro. China, by far the leading investor in African frontier markets, led this trend due to predicted increases in US interest rates which have yet to materialize.

Symptoms of global decline observed in more volatile emerging markets

Neil Shearing, head of emerging markets research at Capital Economics, stated that, “It is a bit of a bloodbath in equity markets. There are several things going on … the rise in oil prices, inflation expectations. Bond yields globally, including in emerging markets, have gone up and equity markets have come off the boil.” In some countries economic indexes are below the crisis levels set in 2008. Symptoms of global decline have been first observed in more volatile emerging markets.

China’s influence cannot be exaggerated. China’s decelerating growth struck fear among investors in emerging markets, from South Africa all the way to Malaysia. Equal with the fortunes of the world’s second-largest economic force, China’s financial grumbling reaches into pockets around the globe. Following an Asian recession and market meltdown, the Beijing government supported its own economy and stock market with a liquidity injection, but emerging market currencies cannot rely on such support. As a result, African markets now feel the domino effect.

Compliance failure could further jeopardize economic stability

African governments are taking stopgap measures to stem collapses. Nigeria, Africa’s top economy, froze its foreign exchange market, but this had the repercussion that it’s Naira was excluded from the influential JP Morgan bond index. The new currency crisis is increasing government debts as well, which reduces ability to comply with debt forgiveness specifications. Compliance failure could further jeopardize economic stability in many countries. Bond issues reveal yet another hedging mechanism already in play.

Bonds, commodities, and currencies are all near 16 year low figures. Stephen Bailey-Smith of Standard Bank Group Ltd. said, “Everyone’s putting on a helmet and just hoping to get through the day. African Eurobonds have been hit harder than average because they’re perceived as being more commodity-dependent.” Kenya’s shilling dropped 0.3 percent to 103.7 per dollar, the lowest closing since October 2011. And finance ministers claim that selling dollars on the currency market to compensate is not effective because speculators will quickly respond. African markets may have an opportunity to rally if the US Federal Reserve holds interest rates steady. Without a specific catalyst, African currency markets may be headed for a very long decline.

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