Brexit, the EU and Africa: The Ghost of the Future

Comments (0) Africa, Featured, Politics, UK

The news of the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union in June shocked the world, sending several currencies into turmoil, including some in Africa. Immediately following the announcement, the already tumultuous South African rand plummeted by 8% against the US dollar, the fastest drop since the 2008 financial meltdown. The decision, deemed the ‘Brexit’, is expected to have long term impacts upon Africa’s stance within the European Union: for decades, the UK has been Africa’s greatest ally, but with the imminent departure of the UK, Africans are worried they may be left stranded.

The relationship between the UK and Africa is complex and laden with colonial history: the legacy of the UK’s decades of imperialism is still felt in the deep racial tensions in Southern Africa, and in the education systems of West Africa. This is demonstrated through the Commonwealth, where member countries (states that were at one point occupied during British imperialism) enjoy fewer trade restrictions, trade preference and/or free trade. Without the UK negotiating and handling imports from these countries, many African countries stand to lose their beneficial relationship with the EU.

Broken Words: Trade Agreements between Africa and the EU

Of primary concern to many African leaders and business people is the future of existing contracts between their respective countries and the EU. Just one example of the potential impact of Brexit is the impending Economic Partnership Agreement between the East African Community and the EU set to take place later this month. The Kenya Flowers Association is concerned that the Economic Partnerships Agreement may not extend its current easy access to the UK, one of Kenya’s biggest flower export markets. The UK currently imports the majority of its flowers from Kenya thanks to a deal negotiate through the EU. This, and many other contracts, would have to be re-negotiated with the UK following the Brexit, which could result in less beneficial contracts for African industries.

Realistically, the EU is not Africa’s biggest trading partner– China is. Some critics say the weight being given to the potential impact of Brexit on African trade is unwarranted. Sangu Delle, a Ghanaian entrepreneur and pan-African macro-finance specialist, said that the United Kingdom has been a major supporter of Africa in EU and G8 negotiations, and has a history of pushing for deals that benefit the continent. “It was instrumental in supporting development aid being allocated to Africa,” he said, bringing up the other major concern regarding Brexit and Africa.

The End of Aid?

The UK is one of the biggest contributors to the European Development Fund, the EU’s international aid and development branch. Without the weight of the UK, many fears, the EU’s development funds may be re-directed to other African states where other members, such as the Dutch and French, have colonial-era obligations. Furthermore, without the contribution of the UK, the European Development Fund may be forced to scale-down its overall funding.

Not only would a Brexit diminish the European Development Fund’s coffers, but it would deplete Britain’s influence on global development. According to DevEx, the EU is the world’s single largest donor organization: the 28 (soon to be 27) member group provides more than half of the world’s international aid total, around 30 billion euros. Without the weight of the EU, the UK will have much less sway in terms of ‘pet projects’, or specific areas it wants to develop both in Africa and beyond.

Potential for a post-UK EU

Not all are pessimistic about what this means for the continent. Delle was quoted saying “Brexit, to me, is a warning to us all…it wasn’t about racism. A substantial segment of UK citizens feel disenfranchised– that they are not stakeholders in the new economic order. As we go about creating new African economies, we have to make sure that the economic systems we put in place don’t just create economic growth, but create shared economic prosperity.” This epitomizes the optimism that is needed to move the continent forward– both in terms of economic prosperity, and in building cohesive societies.

Delle is optimistic that whatever the outcome, African’s will prevail– they are, after all, best suited to find context-appropriate solutions. “I’ve now spent time in 43 countries across Africa. The one thing I’ve seen in every one is resiliency. No matter what the socio-economic situation, whatever hand they’re dealt, people move forward.” In a time when the world seems to be unraveling, this type of level-headed analysis and faith in one’s own people is vital. Because, no matter what the outcome of Brexit, humans will move forward as they have done for tens of thousands of years.

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Water filtration device holds promise for Africa

Comments (0) Africa, Environment, Featured

A simple and inexpensive water filtration device soon will be produced in Tanzania and marketed across the continent, where tens of millions of people do not have access to drinking water.

The Waterfilter was designed for emerging nations by a group of students in India under the aegis of the nonprofit Enactus. The device is a small cistern made from clay mixed with organic materials such as coffee grounds. The cistern is heated with water inside and the organic material burns away, creating micropores that capture impurities while letting the water drip out.

According to Michael Simet, a program manager with the Germany-based Enactus, the cistern can clean about two to four liters of water per hour, removing 99.9 percent of impurities.

Enactus expects to start production of the Waterfilter soon in Kigoma, Tanzania. However, the nonprofit organization will not become the manufacturer. Instead Enactus plans to teach local residents how to make the device on their own, including an important process to achieve the right mix of the clay with other materials.

Designed by students in India

The device will sell for $28 and is expected to last about two years, meaning the average cost is just over $1 per month.

The filtration device was designed by a group of students at Delhi University’s Sri Ram College of Commerce in India, where potable water is also unavailable in many areas.

Under a project named Asbah, the student members of the Enactus SRCC Society in collaboration with the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (SRCC) set out to develop an inexpensive clay filter that could be made and sold locally. In India, potters mix readily available river sand or sawdust with clay to create the filter.

Enactus is an international nonprofit social enterprise organization of students at more than 1,600 universities in more than three dozen countries. It has about 67,000 active student members.

Millions lack access to water

Access to water is an urgent issue for many parts of the world, including much of Africa.

As the population of the continent has grown, the number of people who do not have access to safe drinking water has increased nearly 20 percent, from 265 million in 1990 to 316 million last year.

At the same time, access in sub-Saharan Africa has increased by 20 percent in the past 25 years.

African stakeholders want water supply and sanitation to be considered as part of the November Climate Change conference (COP22) in Morocco in November. They want water issues to be incorporated in climate talks.

‘’Water for Africa” launched

More than 20 foreign ministers, including 18 from Africa, issued a call for “Water for Africa” in July at climate change talks in Rabat to highlight the need to mobilize around pressing water issues on the continent.

Charafat Afailal, Morocco’s Minister in Charge of Water, said “40 percent of the African population lives under water stress and that the figure will increase to 64 percent by 2025 if nothing is done.”

Kate Bayliss, a research fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, said investment in water and sanitation infrastructure has lagged badly.

Bayliss estimated Africa would need to spend $15 billion annually to meet its development targets. Instead, she said, spending is about $3.6 billion.

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Bio pesticides boost Kenya’s mango exports

Comments (0) Africa, Agriculture, Featured

Kenya’s mango exports have jumped by 400 percent in the past five years, thanks in large part to a switch from chemical to bio pesticides to control fruit flies.

In the past, the troublesome insects forced mango farmers to leave a significant share of their crop on the ground or to use chemical pesticides that meant the fruit was not acceptable in many foreign import markets.

But the introduction of new methods of controlling pests using naturally occurring substances is giving mango farmers a boost.

Louis Matheka, sales manager for the exporter Mangos from Kenya, said mango production increased by 27 percent during the season that ended in April compared to a year earlier. At the same time, exports were up 30 percent. In the latest season, Kenya exported 26,000 metric tons of mangos, mostly to the Middle East.

Fruit fly spoils crops

Most of Kenya’s growers are small farmers who have struggled to make their mango crops pay because fruit fly infestations often resulted in more than half the fruit being wasted.

Erratic yields in turn made it difficult to enter and meet the requirements of formal contracts with exporters.

Meanwhile, fears of spreading fruit flies to importing countries along with high use of chemical pesticides meant the harvests were off-limits to many foreign import markets. Instead, farmers sold their fruit for lower prices at local markets.

But in recent years, companies have developed promising bio pesticide alternatives to help an estimated 60,000 Kenyan growers control fruit flies.

Project pioneers bio pesticide

One Kenyan company, Real IPM, has pioneered fruit fly control that uses a common insect-killing fungus, Metarhizium (Met) 69, that occurs naturally in the soil. Real IPM developed the system with funding from USAID and the Rockefeller Foundation.

Real IPM equips farmers with the powdered substance, which is used in traps. Flies that enter the traps are contaminated and exit the trap. They are able to contaminate other flies by grooming or mating before they die.

The system requires at least 20 traps per hectare. The fungus, which does not leave a residue because it is naturally occurring, can also be sprayed onto trees to infect larger adults or onto the soil to kill pupae.

One farmer, Henry Ngari, told Reuters he is now able to sell 90 to 95 percent of his crop. “That’s a big improvement for farmers. We were losing around half of the crop because it was infected by fruit fly,” Ngari said.

Costs reduced

The system is initially more costly than chemical pesticides. But the traps only have to bought once, compared to many applications of pesticides. The system also greatly reduces manpower necessary to control fruit flies.

Ngari said he used to employ six men per day to spray chemicals. “Now it’s just one person to put a trap in place. That could be me or my wife,” Ngari said.

According to Sunday Ekesi, head of plant health at Kenya’s International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), the use of bio pesticides is on the rise in Kenya. Companies including Dudutech, Kenya Biologics and Farmtrack Consulting also offer environmentally friendly tools to fight pests and plant diseases.

Growth in exports forecast

Experts believe bio pesticides will help Kenya’s growers further boost production and expand their export markets from the Middle East to Europe.

The United Arab Emirates imports more than 55 percent of the African nation’s mangos followed by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar.

Jonathan Bamber, whose Burton and Bamber buys from around 100 small farmers and produces dried mangos, said Kenya could become one of the world’s top producers. “It could be a huge revenue stream for small-scale farmers, if we can develop the market and demand, as well as the quality on the supply side,” Bamber said.

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Forbes Magazine names Mosunmola Abudu Africa’s most successful woman.

Comments (0) Africa, Featured, Leaders

Mosunmola Abudu, or Mo Abudu as she is more commonly known, is one of Africa’s most vibrant personalities. She is a jack, and a master, of many trades. Abudu is a renowned entrepreneur, talk show star, media personality, human resources guru and philanthropist. Forbes magazine has even gone so far as to name her “Africa’s most successful woman” and others have dubbed her “Africa’s Oprah”.

Early life in the UK and Nigeria

Born in the United Kingdom to Nigerian parents, Abudu spent her early years in Hammersmith, London. When she was aged seven, her family decided to return to Nigeria. She was sent to stay on her grandparent’s farm in Ondo State, and it was here that Abudu really connected to her African roots. When she was just 12 years old, her father tragically passed away, and not long after, Abudu returned to the UK. She moved to Kent, to stay with a family friend and guardian before enrolling in The Ridgeway School, in Tunbridge wells.

Abudu has recounted that she was one of the few black children in the school and that 1970’s Britain wasn’t the most multicultural or tolerant place. She often felt the need to prove herself in the face of ignorant remarks and hurtful questions. She said: “I think somewhere deeply buried in my subconscious was a need to tell Africa's story.”

A remarkable career and an outlandish dream

Abudu obtained a Master’s degree in Human Resources Development at the University of Westminster. She started her HR career in 1987, joining recruitment giant Atlas Group. She swiftly maneuvered herself into senior corporate positions. In 1992, she moved back to Nigeria after being headhunted by ExxonMobil to head up their HR and training unit. In 2000, she set up her own specialist HR consultancy, Vic Lawrence & Associates, which she still owns today. Despite her success, an unfulfilled ambition gnawed at her. She left her HR career in 2006, to pursue her dream, television. Abudu felt that Africa was ready for its own TV talk show and that she was the star to host it. In 2008 she pitched her pilot episodes to executives at DStv. Convinced by her tenacity and passion; they decided to commission the program.

An African television sensation

“Moments with Mo” has gone on to become a pan-African Success. Abudu has hosted distinguished guests such as Hilary Clinton and President Goodluck Jonathon. Today it airs in over 50 African countries, and Abudu is a veritable household name across the continent. However, the popularity of Moments with Mo was not enough for Abudu. She was convinced that Africa needed a bigger platform to promote African culture in a more positive way. In 2013 she launched Ebony Life TV. This award winning network is now established across the continent, and offers a range of high quality, exclusively African content across television, mobile and internet platforms. Through Ebony Life TV, Abudu hopes to particularly engage with Africa’s growing young demographic, as she sees them as the “custodians of the future.” She hopes to use her network’s content to galvanize this generation, and foster a new-age African identity for the future.

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No place to hide: Nigerian government cracks down on corruption.

Comments (0) Africa, Featured, Politics

Earlier this month, several of Nigeria’s top judges were arrested in a stunning sting operation. Since the arrests, details have come to light that hold major implications for Nigeria and the direction that the country is headed.

Nigeria’s Department of State Service (DSS) stormed the homes of some of the country’s top judicial figures. The DSS found significant sums of foreign and domestic currency, alongside evidence of bribery. Alarmingly, two of the arrested judges are from The Supreme Court, the country’s highest judicial office.

The two Supreme Court judges have been named as Sylvester Ngwuta and John Okoro. It has since come to light that the DSS seized close to US$ 900,000 from their homes. The investigation has also allegedly uncovered that Ngwuta, Okoro, and others hold hidden properties, which should be beyond their means as judicial officials.

Corruption an obstacle to progress

Nigeria has long been renowned for systemic corruption. This unfavorable reputation has naturally been a source of concern in the international community. Economically, the perception of corruption has deterred foreign investment. Normal Nigerians, frustrated by corruption and unscrupulous official practices, have been clamoring for change

 Last year, Muhammad Buhari ascended to the presidency, promising to root out corruption in all its forms. His administration has made good on its pledge by bringing charges against leading businessmen and politicians. However, many of these cases have stalled in court, and critics have suggested that rampant corruption within the judiciary makes it exceedingly difficult to actually convict powerful individuals.

Arrests uncover web of conspiracy

The recent arrests of these senior judges represent an attempt to deal with the judiciary and pave the way for further anti-corruption measures.

In the case of Ngwuta and Okoro, the allegations are particularly serious. It is alleged that Ngwuta traveled to the Middle East to obtain a substantial bribe, which he then shared with Okoro and others. The plot becomes even more insidious, as recent information obtained by Sahara Reporters links the bribe to State Governor Nyesom Wike.

Allegedly Wike paid the bribe in order to obtain a favorable verdict in his election case, which is currently under review by the Supreme Court. It would appear that the State Governor is at least involved in some capacity. He swiftly appeared with his staff at the scene of one of the DSS raids and argued with officials. In the commotion, an unnamed judge was said to have escaped.

Applause and tenuous protestations 

It is interesting to note that Wike is a prominent member of the People’s Democratic Party, the official opposition. Critics have said that corruption cases are only being wielded against those who are out of favor with, or in direct opposition to the administration.

The judiciary itself has argued that the DSS doesn’t have the authority to carry out raids and that investigations into the judiciary are fundamentally unconstitutional. However, such grievances are ringing hollow in the ears of most Nigerians, who are glad to see decisive action being taken. The protests sound more like the desperate cries of an archaic and self-serving class, which has realized it is under bitter siege.

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Honey: Africa’s Golden Ticket?

Comments (0) Africa, Agriculture, Featured

Stability is not a word often used to describe the status of small-scale farmers, particularly not those in Sub-Saharan Africa. African farmers are especially vulnerable to variable climates: should a rainy season arrive early or late, be heavier or lighter than anticipated, an entire community’s livelihood can turn to dust or be washed away in a flood. At the recent African Honey Exhibition, experts discussed the viability of beekeeping and honey production as not only a key to eradicating poverty for farmers, but as an industry that has a multitude of positive externalities, such as pollination.

The Buzz Around Town

Small scale investment has gained more traction as a viable development tool in recent years: from micro-credit enterprises in Bangladesh to projects focusing on African farm collectives, more money is being given in small scale projects than ever before. Agriculture is a challenging area in which to invest, particularly in a region now characterized by unpredictable weather, political turmoil and lack of connectivity between urban and rural areas. Beekeeping, or apiculture, has recently been identified as a potential agriculture venture that can thrive in the

African climate: in a 1990 paper for the Food and Agriculture Organization, Stephen Adjare wrote that beekeeping and honey production had long been occurring in Eastern Africa, but that they made use of antiquated techniques that inhibited expansion or growth. His points as to why Africa is ideal for beekeeping and honey production are now being echoed by development experts and economic advisors around the world.

Tropical apiculture is not only inexpensive, but it allows farmers to be self-reliant. It is not dependent upon the importation of expensive foreign equipment or experts, it does not require a beekeeper to own large amounts of land, as hives can be created on very small plots or even in a garage or shed, bees positively impact the surrounding environment through pollination and the semi-arid climates that render other crops fallow are ideal for beekeeping. According to one source, African bees are better for pollinating that European or American bees. That is because African bees emphasize colony growth over honey production, which necessitates more pollen to feed to bee larvae. In this way beekeeping may even be an excellent complementary practice for farmers with crops that require pollination, such as fruit trees.

The New Gold Standard

Kenya is an interesting example of the potential for honey production. While it is not the continent’s largest producer, it is the largest consumer. Demand exceeds the country’s production, and so tons of honey are imported from neighboring Tanzania each year. The production gap is so large, in fact, that international exportation is yet to be a viable option, despite the high demand of the United Arab Emirates for African honey. This is due in part to the small-scale nature of Kenyan apiculture.

There are currently no commercial beekeeping or honey production operations in East Africa. Small-scale farmers currently manage the sector, which has both positive and negative aspects. The most obvious positive aspect of this is that more individual farmers profit– there is no large company taking a portion of their profits. The downside is that the industry is not operating at maximum efficiency given the gap in production ability. It seems unlikely; however, that consolidating wealth produced in this industry into the hands of a corporation would prove at all beneficial for the average African farmer who turns to beekeeping as a mode of poverty prevention.

The Future of African Honey

In a 2012 video with more than 35,000 views, modern techniques for African beekeepers are explored through the development of modern hives by a local company. This video demonstrates the sustainability of hive production: not a single aspect of beekeeping is wasted, meaning fewer dollars lost in the production of new colonies. Should apiculturists be enabled to engage in modern beekeeping techniques, this could greatly benefit their honey production and greater pollination?

Unfortunately, it does not seem that African bees are immune to illness. Bees around the world have been plagued by a parasite that cut global production in half. Unlike the agriculture branches of European or American governments, there has yet to be a concerted response to this threat by African governments. Responding to such threats require expensive scientific experiments and investment.

The Money is in the Honey

Investing in modern beekeeping techniques for small-scale African farmers has enormous potential. Doing so provides economic security for individuals and their families, and has positive externalities for surrounding crops, such as fruit trees or flowers, both of which are large export industries on the continent. Investment requires careful planning; including contingency plans for occurrences such as colony die off due to parasites or extreme weather. That being said, honey may just turn out to be the golden ticket out of poverty for African farmers.


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Why female leadership is so important in Africa

Comments (0) Africa, Featured

Across Africa, women are ascending to roles of prominence and leadership. This phenomenon is encouraging. More women attaining top positions in both the political and business spheres are positive indicators of progress and social inclusion. Women are needed every bit as much as much as men, in shaping the continent’s new image.

Women for Africa

Earlier this year, at the New African Women Forum, many of Africa’s foremost females were in attendance to recognize exemplary leadership, and discuss the obstacles to gender equity across the continent. The highly regarded former World Bank Africa VP, Oby Ozekwezili was one of the key speakers at the conference. Ozekwezili said: “When women participate in the decision-making process at every level, there is a higher propensity of positive outcomes.”

Well known for her achievements as former Minister of Education in Nigeria, her focus on ethical leadership has led her to influential board positions with organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund and The Centre for Global Leadership. Additionally, in the wake of the abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls, Ozekwezili was one of the driving forces behind the viral #BringBackOurGirls campaign. As one of the most formidable female leaders on the continent, it’s no surprise that she scooped the New African Women Award for Contributions to Civil Society.

African women tackling the big issues

Women like Ozekwezili are no doubt consummate role models. However, the big problem is that in Africa, there are still too few of her kind. Statistics show that women are woefully under-represented in African politics. Across the continent, women account for a mere 19.7% of total parliamentary positions. Additionally, these figures are skewed by the likes of South Africa, Rwanda, and Mozambique, who have substantially higher levels of female inclusion.

Outside of politics, women are being underutilized in the African workforce. The United Nations Development program has estimated that Africa lost 61% of potential development due to gender equality. Another cause for concern is the fact that only 20% of African women have access to a bank account. This means that the vast majority of women are going without the financial security that comes with being connected to the formal economy through banking.

Culturally there are big obstacles to overcome. African society favors the education of boys over girls, especially in lower income areas. When it comes to cultural gender expectations, African women face an uphill battle against the notion that their traditional place is as child-raiser and housekeeper. In a similar vein, outdated ideas about women’s innate ability are dangerous and need to be dismantled. Prominent Ghanaian lawyer and politician Betty Mould-Iddrisu said “Since there is an ingrained skepticism towards women’s ability to succeed in Africa, it means, simply put, that women leaders must work doubly hard. The path to success is littered with obstacles and it takes huge doses of courage and determination to stay the course.”

A movement is growing

The New African Women Forum was designed specifically to tackle issues such as these. Bringing the current generation of leaders and innovators together is critical to generate discourse and develop coherent strategies. This forum is part of growing movement of both men and women, determined to break barriers and usher in African gender equality. South African Dalphne Mashile-Nkosi embodies the progress women are making. Nkosi, a former African CEO of the Year winner, is the head of billion dollar mining giant Kalagadi Manganese. Nkosi is a proponent of affirmative action and is striving to staff 50% of her corporation with female talent.

She said: “Figures show that when women earn, 90% of it goes back into their society, their children’s education or the local community.” However, not all female African leaders agree on such policies. Valentine Rugwabiza, a renowned Rwandan politician and former Deputy Director General of the World Trade Organization is in favor of meritocracy. She explained: “By having quotas it may seem like they are in their position, not because they deserve it, but because some international statistic requires it.”

While there may be some disagreement between heavyweights such as Rugwabiza and Nkosi, there is no doubt that recent years have seen an increasing emergence of strong female role models.

Women are initiating change in a myriad of sectors, and that’s a cause for great celebration.

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Ibrahim Hissein Bourma is the 27 year old millionaire with big dreams for Chad’s future.

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured

Ibrahim Hissein Bourma is only 27 years old and yet, after only 7 years in business, he already runs 3 companies with a value of around $30 million. Bourma was born and raised in Chad, and a passion for his home country is central to his business ethos, as he aims to create more than just a personal empire, but to help his nation prosper too.

3 companies inside 7 years

Bourma was born and raised in Chad, but he went to France in order to pursue higher education, graduating in 2009 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting and Finance. Although Chad is not a country with a well-established history of entrepreneurship, Bourma was determined to return to his homeland in order to begin his business career. After graduation, Bourma set up his first company in Chad – Umm Alkheir Construction – which later became known as Imperial Construction. The move into construction was one that seemed logical, as Bourma’s father runs Chad’s first ever construction company. By 2014, Bourma decided to set up a second company, operating in a field that he was personally passionate about – cars. Iby Motors turned a hobby into a thriving business, as Bourma began importing automobiles of numerous types to sell within Chad, while also offering affordable maintenance at the largest garage complex in Chad.

Diversification of interests paid off, and his success encouraged Bourma to move into a third arena of enterprise – the fashion industry – as he launched Iby Fashion. Iby Fashion offered central African nations imported European fashion brands, in much the same way that Iby Motors offered car enthusiasts in Chad the opportunity to buy imported automobiles. As the 3 companies that Mr. Bourma created continued to flourish, he created the holding company Oum Alkheir Holding, of which he is the CEO. Oum Alkheir Holding had an annual turnover in excess of $30 million by last year, and Bourma is driven to continue growing his businesses, and providing Chad’s people further opportunities for work.

The future for Bourma and Chad

Mr. Bourma has made major decisions in his personal life, but even some of these are linked to his burning desire to open up more markets within Chad. Bourma is married, and after his wife gave birth to their first child he moved himself and his family to Dubai. However, despite this change in his living arrangement, his commitment to Chad’s economic development remains unwavering. Bourma explains that the main motivation behind his move was to create business connections that could benefit Chad, saying that his thought process was “If I move to Dubai, it is (with) the aim to make…relationships in the midst of international investors.”

Bourma already plans to open an Iby Fashion store in both Dubai and Montreal, as Iby now creates its own range alongside stocking established fashion labels. While 80% of Oum Alkheir Holding’s profits currently come from the Imperial Construction wing of its operations, Bourma sees opportunities to create new projects that will create more jobs within Chad. Bourma says that he is open to any proposal for new business ventures in Chad, and that he carefully looks at any new idea from prospective collaborators. Moreover, Bourma is convinced that entire areas of industry can be better organized to change Chad’s fortunes. With his existing interests in fashion, the textile industry is one that stands out, as Chad is a net exporter of cotton. Bourma states that, “While the stock is at hand, Chad has no textile industry.”

As Chad’s economy improves, Bourma sees openings in numerous areas, explaining that he wants to “revive industry in Chad” and that “everything remains to be done, in textiles, in food processing, leather etc…I’m open to new ideas and people…I like the risk, but only when controlled and calculated.”Bourma already employs 600 people, and if his ambitions for new ventures are met, than this number should grow rapidly, bringing new employment and revenue to his country of birth.

Ibrahim Hissein Bourma is already a renowned name within Chadian business and industry, but at such a young age he has years in which to make an even grander reputation for himself and his country. Only 7 years into his career, he has already created firsts within Chad’s economy, and his determination to continue in this vein should provide exciting times ahead for commerce in one of central Africa’s often overlooked nations.

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Vangsy Goma – the entrepreneur behind an African Uber.

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured

Vangsy Goma is the young man behind Africab, the latest Uber style taxi service within the continent of Africa. Goma himself is only 31 years old, but his company has already had an immediate impact in the Ivory Coast, and his fresh approach to the industry could reach far further than its launch site.

From Africa to Europe and back again

Vangsy Goma was born in the capital of the Republic of Congo, Brazzaville, into a powerful Congolese family. Goma’s grandmother is the wife of Congolese president, Denis Sassou Nguesso, and yet his privileged upbringing did not dent an enthusiasm to create changes in his home continent. Goma went to pursue further education in France, and eventually graduated with a degree in management and marketing from France’s IDRAC institute. Goma decided to return to Africa, and his home country, where he began working as a project manager for Congo’s Assistance Foundation – a body that focuses on spreading access to education for children within the Lower Kouilou region. By 2012, Goma changed path, and began working for the oil company CNPC as a commercial services manager; before another move into a higher position, as commercial director, at Congo’s MBTP construction company. It was during his time with MBTP that Goma devised his plan for Africab, and he began talks with professional colleagues and the investment group, CEMAC, about his vision.

The creation of Africab

While Goma could have easily avoided the stress and financial risk that comes with starting up your own business, nothing in his background (or successful early career) appears to have reduced his entrepreneurial spirit, or desire to help his own people. Goma says that it was a conversation with a friend, and fellow entrepreneur, Vérone Mankou, that led to him formulating his idea for Africab. Mankou is the man behind a highly successful Congolese mobile phone company, VMK, and Goma explains that his business model was one that inspired him, because “he turned great local demand for imported products into inclusive local economic growth. VMK means new jobs and new skills for Africa.”

Goma felt that this was something he could also use as a model to rectify a problem that he had noticed on a visit to the Ivory Coast’s capital city, Abidjan. Goma explained, “Africab is a ‘startup’ born from the observation…that African urban populations had new transportation needs.” Goma observed that many African nations had a rapidly growing middle class, and that existing transport systems were unreliable, unsafe or lacking modern facilities that many consumers desired. The initial target audience was the men and women of the professional middle classes, which is why Goma proudly describes how “In our taxis, we have electronic tablets, on which you can check emails and city guide. There is also a 4G network available on board.”

Abidjan is only the beginning

Despite being Congolese, Goma chose Abidjan as his launching point, due to “purely economic reasons and opportunities”, as the city (and Ivory Coast as a whole) has a well-established middle class, with stable growth, and a high demand for new services. However, Goma’s goal is to revolutionize transport across sub-Saharan Africa, and he is eager to bring Africab to his hometown of Brazzaville as well as many other destinations.

While Abidjan’s relative prosperity was ideal for the company’s launch, Goma wants his company to not only work for the customers, but also for its employees. Unlike Uber, and other established taxi apps, Africab owns all of its cars, directly employs its drivers, and sees long-term job creation as one of its core components. Goma says he wants it to be a truly pan-African company that provides its staff with training, and opportunities to develop their potential.

Since Africab launched in February of this year, the fleet of cars has extended from 30 to 50, and has already ordered 120 more vehicles, such is the demand! Goma states that 10,000 potential customers have downloaded the app, and he recently signed a deal with the Beninese Company, MIG Motors, which will be responsible for rolling out the service in Benin. Vangsy Goma is still only 31, but his success looks likely to continue, and investors will be watching his progress with interest.

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William Kamkwamba: The Malawian wind tamer

Comments (0) Africa, Environment, Featured

William Kamkwamba is someone you may have heard of. The 29 year old Malawian is has made himself famous for his remarkable achievements and brilliant mind. Indeed, the young man has delivered inspiring TED talks, and his book, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is a New York Times Bestseller.

Hard times suggested a bleak future

Kamkwamba’s early life was difficult. Born in a poor rural community in Malawi, his family relied on farming for subsistence. In 2001, when he was just 13, a major famine swept through  claimingthousands of lives and destroying entire communities. At the peak of this crisis, more than 70% of the nation’s farmers were considered at risk of starvation.

Food was so scarce that Kamkwamba parents would often go without a meal so that their children could eat.

For Kamkwamba, the disaster meant that his family could no longer afford to send him to school for five full years. As a natural and avid learner, he was devastated by his inability to attend class. However, determined to continue his education however he could, Kamkwamba immersed himself in books from a local lending library.

A mind that couldn’t be denied

Through the library, he developed a passion for engineering. He taught himself about circuitry, materials, and physics despite only having a basic understanding of English. In the aftermath of what he set up his own small business fixing people radios and other electrical appliances.

One book in particular called Using Energy, concerning wind turbines, became of particular interest. He was astounded to learn that wind energy could provide reliable electricity and power irrigation. As a result he vigorously studied the complex schematics, all the while considering how he could apply them in his own environment.A crude Kerosene-powered generator was the only source of energy his family possessed at that time.  Since the engine was costly, expensive and unreliable Kamkwamba started by fashioning a prototype windmill form an old radio motor. Pleased with the results, he set about building his first real windmill, salvaging what he could from a scrap yard. He said, “Many people, including my mother, told me I was crazy.”

Undeterred, Kamkwamba created his windmill with an old bicycle, a dynamo, PVC pipes, the fan blades from a defunct tractor, and a shock absorber. He connected his contraption to a car battery so he could store the energy he harnessed. What’s more, he completely wired his own house to include switches and a circuit breaker.

John Collier, an Engineering Professor and advisor to Kamkwamba said, “To start with nothing and end up with a fully-fledged windmill that produces power is an extraordinary move – and to do it all with no tools except for some nails?”

International Acclaim

Before long, local villagers were clamoring to charge their phones at Kamkwamba’s house; the only source of reliable power in the area. The news of his achievements spread across the country, and journalists came to visit. The national newspaper, The Malawi Daily Times wrote a long piece on Kamkwamba, as did Hacktivate blogger Mike McKay. The story came to the attention of Emeka Okafur, the Program Director of TEDGlobal. Fascinated by Kamkwamba’s story, Okafur invited him to TED as a fellow.

Before his talk at TED, Kamkwamba had already made some serious improvements to his system. He increased the diameter and height of his first windmill, which provided power to additional houses in his village. He also built a second windmill which powers a pump and an irrigation system.

An example for a generation

Upon attending TED, his story was incredibly well received. Inspired philanthropists in the audience became mentors and benefactors. The famous satirist and TED speaker Tom Reilly pledged to support Kamkwamba through seven years of school and university.

He was swiftly enrolled in the African Leadership Academy, a prestigious institution designed to rigorously prepare the talented students through academics, ethical leadership, entrepreneurialism and design. Kamkwamba then went on to study Engineering and Design at Dartmouth University, USA.

Since graduating in 2014 Kamkwamba has overseen numerous wind turbine installations throughout Malawi. He intends to use his education to continue solving problems his home country is facing with. His foundation, Moving Windmills, has already delivered numerous life changing development projects across the country.

Finally he wants to open an innovation centre to inspire the next generation of young leaders and entrepreneurs. Perhaps a quote from Kamkwamba’s own TED talk should adorn the walls: “Trust yourself and believe, whatever happens don’t give up.”

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