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Dr LinkUp: The African startup connecting the continent’s doctors

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured

Doctors in African-American Community

Dr LinkUp is a startup company that aims to help doctors around Africa support each other.

Dr LinkUp is a Senegalese startup company that is only a year old, and yet it offers a unique platform for the African market. While social media is a global phenomenon, Dr LinkUp provides a network specifically for doctors, within Africa, to contact each other and discuss medical issues. The goal is to provide a platform for doctors to seek help from one another, and to therefore improve the service that they provide.

A founder dedicated to healthcare

Dr LinkUp was founded by Caamo Kane, a 32 year-old woman of Senegalese-American heritage. Kane studied “Gender Studies and Public Health of Women” in the United States, and after completing her MBA, she returned to her father’s home of Senegal to enroll at medical school. Kane had already involved herself closely in health initiatives within Senegal well before she devised her idea for Dr LinkUp.

After seeing how poor many of the services were for pregnant women in Senegal’s capital, Dakur, Kane embarked upon a fund raising campaign to transform the maternity facilities at the Centre de Santé Philippe Maguilene Senghor in Dakur.

When interviewed about the project at the time, Kane had said, “I see the health center as a pilot project. We are planning to do some interesting and innovative things.”

Doctor using Dr Linkup

Doctor using Dr Linkup

Of the innovative ideas that Kane alluded to, Dr LinkUp is her most recent venture: launching in May 2015 and within weeks of its launch, hundreds of medical professionals had registered. Kane hopes that by creating a support network of experts, doctors can improve their own services, and help each other discuss pertinent issues. The exchange of information is of notable worth during sudden outbreaks of infectious diseases, such as the recent Ebola epidemic.

Sharing ideas and information

Dr LinkUp allows doctors and medical students across Africa to ask questions and share experiences online. This should allow specialists to help general practitioners with specific queries, but it also provides forums for debate. Doctors can discuss different ideas on treatments and as people challenge one another, so the range of ideas available to all is broadened.

Moreover, the space gives members the ability to upload medical literature from around the world, which may not be easily accessible within certain regions. The forums are divided into various categories, such as cardiology, medical imaging and public health. The wider the network grows, the greater the sum of knowledge there is for any given doctor to draw upon. Patients will benefit from seeing doctors who have access to the expertise and experiences of numerous other physicians from around the continent.

Kane hopes that 2016 will continue to see the service grow, commenting “We want to involve up to 3,000 African doctors in our debates online, and help them better care for their patients.”

Working with others

As Dr LinkUp looks to expand its e-health services, Kane has embraced outside support in order to grow the company. The tech startup incubator Upstart was approached, in order to help Kane establish connections with other nascent companies, where mutually beneficial relationships could be established. Kane agreed to work with another startup inside Upstart, which she claims provided additional skills to support Dr LinkUp’s early days. Kane explained that such cooperation saved her valuable time, and allowed her to “stay focused on the acquisition and retention of new users.”

Dr LinkUp is a first for Senegal, and Kane aims to not only continue growing the professional network of medical experts, but to produce a series of web videos on the world of medicine. The hope is that some of the web series could go viral on other social media outlets, thus broadening the reach of its educational output, and heightening attention to important issues.

Kane’s experience in helping improve the education of midwives and doctors in Dakar should surely stand her in good stead, as she attempts to create a focus on educational support within Africa’s medical community. Whether it’s dealing with long standing health problems, or tackling sudden dilemmas in a given region, communication and education are evidently essential components to improving healthcare in Africa.

Kane summed up the core principles that motivate her: “I’m passionate about women’s health and wellbeing, preserving the environment, community service, entrepreneurship.”

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Chinese demand for peanuts boosts Senegal’s economy

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured


The West African nation, the seventh largest exporter in the world, reached a record yield of one million metric tons in 2015.

Fueled by Chinese demand for peanuts, the price of the groundnut is on the rise in much of the world to the benefit of major exporters such as Senegal.

China, a major peanut producer itself, imports Senegalese peanuts to make oil, which is becoming increasing popular among Chinese consumers.

The West African nation, the world’s seventh largest exporter of peanut, has steadily increased its crop. Peanut production reached a record one million metric tons in 2015 and even greater yields are expected this year if rains are good.

Growth in peanut yields, along with targeted growth in rice production, could make the country self-sufficient by 2017, Senegalese President Macky Sall said. Rice production has doubled to 900,000 tons in the past four years and is on track to again double in the next two years, Sall said.

The country’s farmers have adopted genetically modified seed to improve yields, and improvements in transportation and energy supplies have helped drive growth.

Senegal plans bond issue

Doubling down on crop exports, Senegal plans to issue a bond of $500 million to $1 billion this year to fund infrastructure development to spur more growth in the agricultural sector, Sall said.

Senegal’s economic ambitions are benefitting from a surge in peanut prices, driven by an increase in Chinese demand and weather disruptions in key growing regions.

According to the Financial Times, health-conscious Chinese consumers are snacking more on peanuts and using peanut oil for cooking.

Women sorting peanuts in central Senegalese village

Women sorting peanuts in central Senegalese village

As a result, China is going from being a leading exporter of peanuts to a major importer. Chinese exports have declined by about half to about 500,000 tons during the past 10 years while imports have increased by 50%.

According to the National Peanut Board, China remains the largest producer of peanuts in the world, with yields of more than 16 million tons per year, followed by India and the United States. Global production totals about 29 million metric tons a year with about 1.25 million tons making up exports. India, the United States, and Argentina are the largest exporters of peanuts.

Prices raise 20-30 percent

Chinese demand has pushed the price of peanuts up by 20-30% this year. “They are just hoovering everything up,” one London trader said.

While the weather looks promising for peanut yields in Senegal, other major producers have see disruptions because of bad weather. India has suffered poor harvest for two years because of weak monsoons.

Argentina, a leading supplier of Europe, is expected to suffer crop losses of 20-40% because of rain damage. Poor weather also may limit this year’s crop in South Africa.

Ironically, the United States, which produces about 10% of global supplies, is experiencing a peanut glut and lower prices. As a result, farmers are turning their crops over to the federal government as a form of repayment of annual loans. The U.S. government, in turn, plans to send 500 metric tons of peanuts to Haiti as humanitarian aid.

China helps increase yields

In 2014, China and Senegal completed a cooperative agreement designed to boost the African nation’s production of peanuts as well as its exports to China. Under the deal, China helped establish an agricultural technology demonstration center in Senegal in order to increase the capacity of farmers to adopt more efficient and competitive methods such as those employed by Chinese farmers.

In addition to assistance from China, the Islamic Development Bank has committed $220 million to finance water and other infrastructure projects related to groundnut production in Senegal. The World Bank has approved $20 million in financing to help boost crop yields.

Senegal’s bond issue later this year will also spur growth.

“The money will be used totally for infrastructure, roads and power. A little bit may be for health facilities and education,” Sall, the nation’s president, said. The government is targeting a yield of 6% or less for the new bond.

Economic success story

Sall, a geological engineer who won the presidency in 2012, has overseen steady expansion of the Senegalese economy as the country has improved transport connections and power supplies. Since 2012, economic growth has averaged 4.7% in Senegal – one of the highest rates in sub-Saharan Africa – and the economy is expected to grow by 6.6% this year.

Senegal is also counting on energy to boost its economy. Gas production from two offshore fields is scheduled to start in 2020. A year or two later, Senegal expects to start producing oil from a deep-water well.

Senegalese production also has plenty of room to grow. Yields are approximately 950 kilos per hectare in Senegal, less than a third of the 3,500 kilos per hectare that the Chinese produce and slightly more than half of the average global yield of 1,674 kilos.

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Mauritania, Senegal seek to become oil, gas exporters

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured

senegal gas

The two West African countries bet on a long-term recovery as global fuel prices slump.

In spite of the slumping price of oil in the past year, two West African countries are betting on a long term recovery as they race to produce enough oil and gas to become exporters by 2020.

Mauritania and Senegal both report promising off shore oil discoveries and each nation plans to proceed with multi-billion dollar extraction projects.

However, David Thomson, an analyst with Wood Mackenzie cautioned that securing financing for the projects could be challenging and take time. “These projects are massive and they’re very capital intensive,” Thomson said.

Offshore wells promising

In Senegalese waters, Cairn Energy reported that it had drilled three wells that revealed significant amounts of oil off Africa’s western extremity. Drilling was planned at a fourth, according to the Scottish energy company’s chief executive, Simon Thomson.

The United States company Kosmos Energy said it had confirmed a large pool of natural gas that straddled the Mauritanian-Senegalese border at sea and it planned to drill in the area.

The projected yield is 20 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, an encouraging threshold for further drilling, Kosmos spokesman Thomas Golembeski said.

Other African nations wait

The Senegalese and Mauritanian plans contrast with other nations such as Tanzania and Kenya, which are delaying tapping similar resources until the economic climate improves.

Nadine Kone of Oxfam International questioned the wisdom of Senegal’s and Mauritania’s plans. “Why rush with oil given where prices are now?” Kone asked.

After increasing by 20 percent in April, global oil prices fell in early May to below $45 a barrel and experts predicted weakened demand.

Senegal oil

Producers see increase in demand

Golembeski said the Kosmos thinks demand will have increased by the time the gas site is ready to deliver. He cited the ease of shipping to Europe as an advantage for exports from the region.

“Demand for oil and gas will continue to increase over time as more and more people around the world move from rural areas into the cities and want the conveniences of modern life,” he said.

Both countries have enjoyed steady economic growth in the past five years.

With a population of 3.6 million and a gross domestic product of $15.5 billion, Mauritania has seen sustained economic growth, primarily as a result of growth of the mining industry. The country is Africa’s second leading exporter of iron ore and also exports gold and copper.

According to the Heritage Foundation, the nation’s gross domestic product saw a growth rate of more than 5 percent on average during the past five years.

Senegal’s economy has grown at an average annual rate of 3.5 percent in the past five years, the foundation said, but volatility of economic growth has undermined progress in social development and fighting poverty. The nation has a population of 14.5 million and a gross domestic product totaling $33.6 billion. Senegal is primarily rural and has historically had few natural resources, relying instead on agricultural exports.

In 2015, with a growth rate of 6.5 percent, Senegal was the continent’s second fastest growing economy. Services, chemical production and construction drove growth.

Questions about oil proceeds

Kone of Oxfam questioned whether the five-year window the energy companies are projecting from exploration to sale is enough time to create a legal framework to regulate the governments’ use of proceeds from their 10 percent shares in projects within their boundaries.

Despite economic growth, both countries suffer from youth unemployment and chronic poverty and many residents do not have access to housing, health services, education or even clean water.

Kone cited Ghana, which discovered oil in 2007, as a model in the region that Mauritania and Senegal might emulate. Ghana created a dedicated fund from the proceeds that it used to invest in priority areas such as education and agriculture.

A contrasting example is Nigeria, where the state-run oil agency withheld billions of dollars funds that were designated for government services. Nigeria derives about 70 percent of its revenue and is Africa’s top producer of crude oil.

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Wari is now Senegal’s first choice for money transfers

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured


The money transferring business Wari has become Senegal’s first choice as it continues to expand into other countries.

Wari might not be a familiar name to people outside of Senegal, but the money transferring system is almost synonymous with sending money in the country of its creation. In fact, Wari is so widely used that in Wolof (the country’s most widely spoken language), the phrase “Warima ko” means “send me money”.

Wari’s main rival in the world of money transferring was the international company Western Union, but Wari now holds 80% of the market in Senegal and the company is growing at a staggering 35% per month.

How it works and why it’s winning

The Wari system is fairly straightforward. A person pays money into one of the multitude of Wari outlets and an SMS is sent to the person they are sending the money to. The person who receives the message then takes their ID and the code they were sent to their nearest outlet and withdraws the cash. By partnering with 45 different banks and 17 African post offices, Wari has ensured that members of the public are never far from a place where they can make and receive a payment.

In addition to this coverage, Wari is commission free and very low cost, which is something that hugely encourages poorer people to feel comfortable using it. In a country like Senegal, being able to provide people with an easy and affordable way to send and receive money is a major selling point as 94% of the population does not have bank accounts. A cash-dominated culture, in which many people are quite poor, makes transfer networks almost essential.

Wari has ensured its status as the first choice by a combination of low costs, ease of use and availability. There are 45,000 points of sale across 26 nations and 2,000 of these are in Senegal, where the company processes around 65,000 transactions per day!

Kabirou Mbodje

Kabirou Mbodje

The parent company behind Wari is Cellular Systems International, established in 2008 by CEO Kabirou Mbodje. Mbodje’s local knowledge and understanding of his own nation’s culture and needs allowed CSI to launch Wari and rapidly gain traction in the market. But aware that the needs and attitudes in other African markets will differ, Mbodje has adopted a sensible strategy toward expansion.

Think global, act local

Mbodje has said that, “Wari was designed by Africans with a vision to go global” and yet going global always involves adapting. Mbodje was self-aware enough to recognize that without the same local knowledge that had helped conquer Senegal, Wari needed to work in conjunction with other companies to be successful in new markets.

As such, Wari has built partnership deals with numerous businesses and organizations in any new country in which they launch. Wari provides the technology to companies who understand local needs but do not have the means to deliver all these services.

From NGO’s to gas stations, Wari has carefully constructed a network of partners within nations like Tanzania, Morocco and Gabon.

The result of such localized deals is that Wari is processing an average of 40 million transactions monthly and the majority of these are outside of the initial Senegalese market.

The road ahead

Despite, what is ostensibly a huge success story, the CEO of CSI and the Wari brand is very measured in his appraisal of his company’s growth. When interviewed by New African Magazine, Mbodje said, “I think I will call my business a success when I am able to serve all of Africa as one entity, giving everybody, everywhere access to…pensions, life insurance… health care, these kinds of things.”

These are hugely ambitious plans but the first steps have already been made. Last year, Wari launched project Services Relay Points that offers citizens services ranging from remote medicine to bill payments. A percentage of revenues are donated to local groups providing healthcare and educational facilities. Launched in Senegal, it has now also been rolled out to Mali and Mbodje sees it as the start of his grand plan.

It is something that Mbodje believes in strongly and it aims to also change the way the continent is viewed from outside. He has previously stated, “Africa doesn’t need aid or loans, but organization.” It will be interesting to see just how far Wari can go in bringing about such change.

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Youssef Omaïs: the unassuming head of a Senegalese giant

Comments (0) Africa, Featured, Leaders

Youssef Omaïs

Youssef Omaïs continues to grow his Senegalese agribusiness – Patisen – after 35 years of success.

Youssef Omaïs is unlikely to be a name that is familiar to most people, as he is not a man who courts fame or accolades. However, as the CEO of Patisen, Omaïs heads up a group that provides many of the most popular food brands in Africa.

Omaïs is of Lebanese heritage but is Senegalese born and raised. This firm connection to the country, in which he launched his business, has been integral to earning the respect of his peers but also to ensuring that Patisen has continued to grow year on year.

Patisen was launched in Senegal, in 1981, and aimed to provide the people of the country and others in West Africa with a range of affordable food products. Patisen did not just set out to market recognizable brands, but to take on the international giant Nestlé, in one of its strongest markets. Patisen has even been accused of copying Nestlé with its color scheme and product names. Omaïs casually dismisses such complaints, insisting that the truth behind his success in Senegal and the wider African market is down to two key tenets.

Firstly, there is the fact that Patisen is entirely Senegalese owned and run. Every position within the company is filled by a local person, which must not only foster local support but also keeps overhead costs lower than rivals who employ European staff. Omaïs also states that it is simply a matter of knowing your customers saying, “We know we address consumers, while most foreign manufacturers are disconnected from the ground.”

The Growth of a Giant

This connection to the local markets enabled Omaïs to rapidly turn Patisen‘s range of spreads, chocolate drinks and bouillon cubes into hugely popular and recognizable names. The Chocolion brand of chocolate spread is one of the most popular in Senegal and export markets to the rest of West Africa and even into Europe have continued to increase.

In 2011, Omaïs said that the company’s export business accounted for “10% to 15% of our sales” but that he wanted to “increase this to 85%” as he aims to become West and Central Africa’s first choice.

In the same year, Youssef Omaïs was announced as the “Best Entrepreneur of the Year” for his previous year’s work, at Senegal’s prestigious, annual Sedar awards. This award sits alongside his title of “Knight of Agricultural Merit”, which was given to him by the department of agriculture in Senegal for his contribution to the nation’s economy and job production.

While individual recognition might drive some business figures, Omaïs is a quiet man who does not court the limelight. Rather, his focus is entirely on turning Patisen into an even greater presence within the African market. In 2011, Omaïs secured investment of $14.3 million from the International Finance Corporation, of which $3.2 million was equity.

Omaïs said that he believed the money would “transform us into a regional champion.”

The investment evidently worked, as by 2013, Patisen was employing over 3,000 local people and had a turnover of $143 million. The quietly spoken CEO continued to bolster his local reputation, by using some of his organization’s money to repair and re-open the abandoned Dakar Market, which had fallen into disrepair after numerous fires. Such moves resonate with local communities and make Patisen brands even more marketable.

Omaïs looks to the future

While the heart of Omaïs’s company lies in Senegal, his aspirations extend far beyond his home nation. Patisen is already exporting to 20 different countries, and it is gradually making its mark in Central Africa; but Omaïs wants to spread across the entire continent.

At 61 years of age, Omaïs believes that moving into new lines of food produce will allow his company to become the “undisputed leader in Africa”.

Patisen will open up a new production plant near Dakar in the second half of this year, as it moves into the manufacturing of mayonnaise. Within a year, Omaïs expects the plant to be producing 25,000 tons of the condiment for a turnover of over $42 million.

Omaïs summarizes the ethos of his company goals by saying, “We work every day to contribute to the well-being of millions of people who use our products.”

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Aïssa Dione: One woman’s fight for traditional Senegal textiles

Comments (1) Africa, Featured, Leaders

Aissa Dione

The lady behind internationally renowned textile company Aïssa Dione; artist, designer and entrepreneur.

Dating back to the 15th century, Senegal has a tradition of textile weaving and dyeing as rich as the fabrics themselves. However, with a shift towards mass-produced clothing and the ever changing fashions and trends, this time-honored practice has suffered a huge set back. The name Aïssa Dione has become synonymous with the ancient craft, as she has fought to revive what was a tradition on the brink of distinction. “Spinning and textile industries have nearly all closed and traditional weavers are slowly but surely disappearing,” said the designer, a woman who has dedicated her life to reviving Senegal’s tradition.

A bold autodidact

Born to a French mother and Senegalese father in 1952, the renowned painter and textile designer grew up in Nevers, France. She attended the school of Fine Arts in Chelles before leaving to Senegal at the age of 20, to pursue an international career as an artist. Fate was to slightly alter her career course, when a potential buyer of her work, Pierre Babacar Kama, head of Chemical Industries of Senegal (ICS), said he would like first for his offices to undergo a revamp. It was “a bluff,” she said, when the budding artist responded confidently that she could manage such an undertaking.

This event marked the beginning of the entrepreneur’s textile and business adventure. Dione began with a single weaver who had worked for her grandmother. They set up their make-shift studio in her garden and she went to work, combining her artistic flare with traditional Senegalese weaving methods, such as the Mandjaque technique. The result was so impressive that many commissions were to follow. Local media interest sparked intrigue and soon her work was reaching a global audience, with orders flying in from all across the globe.

Celebrating Senegal

Aïssa Dione Tissus

Aïssa Dione Tissus was officially launched in 1992. From its modest beginnings it rapidly grew from having a single weaver to 15 workers, prompting a move to a more suitable location. Still her place of work today, her now burgeoning artillery is situated in Rufisque, a small town outside Dakar in Senegal. The company employs 100 Senegalese artisans. Dione dreams of recruiting more and expanding her business further but in the meantime there are Senegal’s restrictive labor laws to contend with.

Passionate about her roots, what she has borrowed from the country’s tradition and methods, she has more than given back by celebrating all that is Senegalese through textile and showcasing it to the world. The company’s philosophy is one of slow industry; creating a refined, luxury brand from local raw materials. While the West African country exports 5,000 tons of cotton annually, none was previously leaving as finished pieces of textile; the entrepreneur is changing this trend. The products from Aïssa Dione Tissus are 100 percent made from Senegalese materials, created by a purely Senegalese workforce and traditional methods of dying and weaving that are still harnessed to this day. One example: the all-natural dyes they make out of local bark and mud collected from the lake during the dry season.

“I strongly believe in small-scale industries, as a way to bring development to West Africa. We grow a million tons of cotton in this region and we export 99% of that. If I can process that cotton here, at home, I can increase my revenue fifty or one hundred times,” said the elegant 62 year old.

The future for textile and art

What the statuesque designer has so masterfully achieved is introducing a social and economically aware business into the world of high fashion and design. She discovered how to elegantly blend the traditional with the modern and it is a roaring success. What had been slowly slipping into oblivion was rescued from the precipice and with just the right modern twist is made palatable for the current trends. Labels such as Hermès, Christian Lacroix and Fendi Casa have made orders from Aïssa Dione fabrics and designers such as Jacques Grange, Christian Liaigre and Peter Marino have all used her products.

Her passion, her drive and her determination to stick fast to her beliefs make the success of Aïssa Dione Tissus even more incredible. Many frustrations along the way could have tempted a less resolute person to take shortcuts here and there but that would have compromised too much of what this French-Senegalese artist and “Lioness of Africa” believes in.

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African Super Sunday: 5 votes in 5 countries

Comments (0) Africa, Featured, Politics

March 20th marked a large shift in African politics, as 5 countries on the continent voted on key issues.

Citizens of Benin, Niger, Cape Verde, Zanzibar, Senegal, and The Republic of Congo all had the chance to head to the polls last weekend. While some results were as expected, some showed progress towards improved electoral processes.

In Benin, a presidential run-off took place between Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou, and businessman Patrice Talon. Both were seeking to replace the incumbent President Yayi Boni, whose second term in office ends on April 6th. Events progressed well from the first round of the campaign in which there were 33 candidates. Benin has shown great progress in electoral process, and was the first country in sub-Saharan African to transition to a multi-party democracy. After the polls, Lionel Zinsou conceded defeat to Patrice Talon. The victory of the businessman shows a push for change in how the people of Benin wish to be governed.

Denis Sassou Nguesso was elected to his third term in office

In the Republic of Congo, Presidential elections were held under the new constitution which removed both age and term limits for those serving as President. Before the polls, opposition parties had denounced the lack of transparency in the electoral process. Adding to the irregularity, the country experienced a government-initiated communications blackout during the voting. The official statement was in order to avoid illegal leaking of election results. As predicted, the incumbent President Denis Sassou Nguesso was elected to his third term in office. President Nguesso has already served in office for over 30 years.

In Niger, a Presidential run-off took place between the incumbent President Mahamadou Issoufou, and Hama Amadou. Tensions were high before the run-off with the opposition party rejecting the results before the election was even held, and the COPA withdrawing from the campaign stating a lack of transparency in the process. Hama Amadou was arrested earlier in the year on charges of baby trafficking, and had been flown to France recently for medical treatment as it was stated that his health rapidly deteriorated while in prison. President Mahamadou took more than 92 percent of the vote.

Zanzibar was set for a re-run of its elections which were held in October 2015. At the time the Civic United Front claimed victory even before the results had come out, however the election was invalidated by Jecha Salim Jecha (the president of the local Electoral Commission) due to what was claimed as massive fraud. The Civic United Front however, claimed that this was a ploy by Chama Cha Mapinduzi to deny it victory. For these reasons, the main opposition party decided to boycott the elections only 2 days before the polls were held. The incumbent President Ali Mohamed Shein of Chama Cha Mapinduzi was re-elected.

Senegal: Yes or No referendum

In Senegal, voters were called to vote on a yes or no referendum. Among the issues the referendum addressed was reducing the term limit for presidential office from seven years to five years. This was seen as a bold move by President Macky Sall, as other African leaders seek to find ways to extend their term limits. The referendum would also afford official recognition to the opposition leader in the constitution, local councils would be give more power, and new rights would be afforded to citizens regarding the environment and land ownership.

Meanwhile on Cape Verde, parliamentary elections were held which saw the Movement for Democracy win an absolute majority. They will replace the African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde which had been in the majority for over 15 years.

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Kenya, Senegal join effort to fight tax evasion

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Kenya signs the Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters

Twelve African countries sign multilateral agreement to counter tax abuse, which costs the continent an estimated $50 billion annually.

Kenya and Senegal have joined 10 other African countries in signing an international agreement designed to reduce tax evasion.

The multilateral convention enables cooperation among nations, including exchange of information about tax evaders and assistance in collecting taxes from them.

African nations lose an estimated $50 billion per year to illegal financial transfers, including tax avoidance, according to a 2015 report by the African Union and UN Economic Commission for Africa. In comparison, Africa received about $29 billion in foreign aid in 2013.

The tax evasion problem is particularly acute for poorer countries that do not have tools to fight sophisticated schemes by large multinational companies. The report and aid groups have noted that these billions of dollars might otherwise be used to develop services and infrastructure on the continent.

Multinational companies blamed

“Africa is hemorrhaging billions of dollars because multinational companies are cheating African governments out of vital revenues by not paying their fair share in taxes. If this tax revenue were invested in education and health care, societies and economies would further flourish,” said Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International.

The Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters is one tool to fight large-scale tax evasions. It was developed by the Council of Europe and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in 1988 and updated in 2010.

Parties to the agreement cooperate by providing financial information to other party countries on request, performing tax examinations and assisting with recovery of tax dollars.

Twelve African nations sign agreement

Kenya and Senegal signed the agreement in February. Other African parties to the convention are Morocco, Gabon, Cameroon, Mauritius, Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Tunisia and Seychelles. Globally, a total of 94 countries have signed the convention.

Kenya also recently passed a law that prevents companies from using a common tax-avoidance practice called “transfer pricing” or “trade mispricing.”

Using this practice, companies allocate their costs to subsidiaries in high-tax jurisdictions in order to pay most of their taxes at the lower rate while moving their profits to jurisdictions where they pay little or no tax.

For example, the African Union study described a South African case in which a multinational corporation claimed that a large part of its business was located in the United Kingdom and Switzerland, with relatively low tax rates.

On investigation, South African officials found the European branches had only a few staff while the company conducted most of its business in South Africa. The scheme had enabled the company to avoid $2 billion in taxes, which the South African government reclaimed.

Invoices misstate value

Other practices are “under-invoicing” or declaring a low value on exports to minimize profits on paper and “over-invoicing” by declaring a high cost on imports.

For example, Mozambique records showed an export of 260,385 cubic meters of timber was exported to China in 2012 while records in China show 450,000 cubic meters were imported from Mozambique that year, according to the report.

Another study, by Global Financial Integrity (GFI), found high rates of over and under-invoicing in Kenya, Ghana, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda in the decade leading up to 2011.

Kenya, Tanzania see high losses

GFI said Kenya had an estimated $10 billion and Uganda $813 million in under-invoicing. At the same time, Tanzania had $10 billion to over-invoicing. Ghana had more than $14 million for the decade in misstated invoices and Mozambique more than $5 million.

The African Union report said illicit financial outflows from Africa have more than doubled since 2001, from $20 billion to the current $50 billion. The report said African nations lost about $850 billion to illegal transfers between 1970 and 2008, including $218 billion from Nigeria, $105 billion from Egypt and $82 billion from South Africa.

The report said mispricing occurs in a number of sectors, including mineral production in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Africa, crude oil exports from Nigeria, and timber sales from Mozambique and Liberia.

Corporations, organized crime cited

Thabo Mbeki, the former president of South Africa who chaired that panel that produced the report said large corporations were the main tax abusers aided by corrupt officials and weak governance.

“The information available to us has convinced our panel that large commercial corporations are the biggest culprits of illicit outflows, followed by organized crime,” Mbeki said.

African and non-African governments as well as oil, mining, banking, legal and accounting firms were involved in tax avoidance schemes, according to the study.

It found that 38 percent of the outflows from the continent originated in West African and 28 percent in North Africa. Southern, Central and East Africa each accounted for about 10 percent.

While significant to the continent, Africa’s losses are a small share of the illicit outflows globally, about six percent of an estimated $1 trillion between 2007 and 2009.

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Coastal erosion washes away beaches, threatens tourism in Senegal

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

SALY, Senegal (Reuters) – The European winter is the high season for tourism in Senegal as visitors flock to its sea and sun to escape the cold, yet since last year the doors of the luxury Hotel Espadon have been closed.

Its swimming pool has turned a swampy green. The skeletons of old parasols poke out from the sand and the sea gnaws at the foundations of its pretty beachfront rooms.

The problem is not high prices or mismanagement but coastal erosion that is blighting the West African country’s coast.

The Atlantic has washed away beaches, forcing hotels to make a drastic choice: save their property by building sea walls that block the view or let the water rise and risk losing everything.

“Every day I receive tourists who come to see if it’s true what they say about the Hotel Espadon’s current state,” said Sonore Khadim Tall, the building’s superintendent. “They can’t believe their eyes and some of them even cry.”

As a Paris summit focuses on climate change it is tempting to place the whole blame for Senegal’s erosion on rising sea levels but reckless building on beaches compounds the problem, said Papa Goumbo Lo, head of Senegal’s national institute for scientific research.

The problem arises when builders construct too close to the beach or extract coastal sand for projects, exacerbating erosion and rendering buildings vulnerable to tides.



Tourism accounts for 11 percent of Senegal’s economy, but over time erosion could affect the country as a whole, given that two thirds of the population live in the coastal region around the capital Dakar.

Other countries in the region are affected. Gambia’s 15 coastal hotels are at risk due to erosion. Nigeria’s environment ministry has launched a programme to fight erosion and Ghana, which has 1 million annual visitors, has built a 30-km sea wall.

Around 1 million people also visit Senegal every year and in 2014 the government set itself the goal of tripling that number.

Saly, where the Espadon is located, is one of the country’s biggest tourist hubs but risks missing out. Since 2010, the town 50 km (32 miles) southeast of Dakar has lost 30 metres of beach.

Ousmane Diop, head of environment and client relations at the nearby Filaos Hotel, said visitors who return to the hotel these days are drawn by loyalty to the staff rather than the beach.

Only a postcard of the beach remains and the water is accessible across a ramp beside a sea wall.

“If we hadn’t built the wall, the ocean would have been in the restaurant,” Diop said, pointing at an open-air dining area with a sea view.



Tourism in West Africa has already been hit by perceptions of insecurity in countries like Mali, where Islamist militants attacked a luxury hotel on Nov. 20, and disease, after Ebola killed thousands in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Senegal tried to offset the problem in May by scrapping visa requirements and halving airfare taxes.

But numbers from the World Travel and Tourism Council show visits have been flat this year compared to last year and tourism employees in Saly say their numbers are down. Many hotels along the coast closed early last season.

Ibou Sakro Thiandoum, president of Saly’s natural resource commission, called for greater central government action, saying, “We are orphans here.”

For his part, Ernest Dione, national coordinator for the Ministry of the Environment, defended government initiatives, pointing to its study on erosion and an emergency action plan.

It is possible to recover lost beaches through the use of wave breakers and other tools but it is expensive, Lo said.

The work has started in Saly, where boulders line the shore to break waves. Some beaches have already been recovered but the process stands incomplete for lack of funds.

These initiatives are inadequate and to solve the problem beach homes responsible for erosion in the town should be torn down, said Ousmane Diouf, an artist at the Filaos hotel.

“As long as man destroys nature, he destroys himself,” he said.


(By Makini Brice. Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Estelle Shirbon)

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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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