AFRICAN UNION ELECTS NEW BOSS


 

By Paul Ndiho

The 28th African Union Summit has ended, but not before its leaders made two major decisions; selecting the foreign minister of chad to the top post of the continental body — and readmitting morocco to the group. 61c5ab2d2c7714c2b17c25d8cafe21f97ca296a4

The African Union on Monday elected Chadian Foreign Minister, Moussa Faki Mahamat, as its new commission chairperson.  In the final round of voting, he beat out Kenya’s top diplomat, Amina Mohamed. The 56-year old Faki takes over from South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, who remained in the post an extra six months, after leaders failed to agree on a candidate last July. The theme of this year’s meeting was “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in the Youth.” AU members also discussed the divisive issue of Africa’s relationship to the International Criminal Court.

Dlamini Zuma, who now is widely believed to be in the running for the presidency of the African National Congress, also spoke out against the new travel ban by U.S. President Donald Trump barring travelers from seven muslim-majority countries including the African nations of Libya, Sudan and Somalia.

“The very country (where) our people were taken as slaves… has now decided to ban refugees from some of our countries,”

The new U.N. Secretary General, Antonio Guterres spoke at the summit, and commended African countries for opening their borders to refugees and people fleeing violence, while nations in other parts of the world, including the West, are closing their borders and making plans to build walls.

“African nations are among the world’s largest and most generous hosts of refugees… `African borders remain open for those in need of protection when so many borders are being closed, even in the most developed countries in the world.”

Sub-Saharan Africa hosts more than 18 million refugees, about 26 percent of the world’s refugees, according to the U.N. refugee agency. The refugees have fled conflicts in Somalia, Central African Republic, Nigeria, South Sudan and Burundi.  The world’s largest refugee camp is the Dadaab facility in Kenya, which houses more than 300-thousand people, mostly from neighboring Somalia. However, last year, the Kenyan government announced its intentions to close Dadaab, which has been open for more than 20 years. Kenyan officials say the camp harbors Islamic extremists and is a security threat.

In another related development, guinea’s president Alpha Conde has succeeded Chad’s president Idris Deby as chairman of the African union.

Meanwhile, The African Union formally admitted Morocco as a member on Tuesday, more than three decades after Rabat withdrew from the predecessor organization.

Morocco’s King Mohammad, who had been campaigning since last year to join, waved to applauding heads of state and delegates at the end of an annual summit.

The North African kingdom quit the AU’s predecessor, the Organization of African Unity, three decades ago amid a dispute about the body’s recognition of Western Sahara, most of which has been controlled by Morocco since 1976.

 

 

Nigerian Fashion Designer Making Her Mark In Washington DC Metro Area


By Paul Ndiho

USA based, Nigerian-born designer Vivien Agbakoba, launched her clothing line “ANYA BY VIVIEN” in 2013, and since then, she has stirred up quite a buzz on the fashion scene here in Washington DC.  Now, women in the U.S. capital who like to shop, but are worried about what to wear, are getting a custom made shopping experience right at their door steps. screenshot_20170118-1004411

Fashion designer Vivien Agbakoba has always been a fashion fanatic. By the age of 11, she started to experiment with beautiful fabrics and taught herself the art of designing clothes. Today she is the founder and artistic director of her own label, Anya by Vivien — derived from her maiden name. “ANYA” which in the IBO language means eyes or vision.

“I see beauty in every woman, and a lot of times that’s what inspires me. When I look at someone I am already seeing the beautiful in them and I’m thinking of how I can make them even more beautiful.”

Agbakoba’s creative designs blend a mix of vibrant African prints and high quality fabrics produced by the Vlisco to create a dazzling array of outfits.

“When I see the fabric, I try to figure out which one would work with the concept I have. But sometimes I’m also inspired by these beautiful prints that I see. They are so vibrant and colorful.”

Agbakoba has participated in several fashion shows showcasing innovative, unique and cutting edge fashion designs and wants to make a difference in the diaspora.

” I just get excited when I start to think of what I can do with them, how I can work with them; but on top of it, I do have a chance to connect with my clients in a very personal way, sometimes that I find myself being a source of either mentorship or encouragement.

Stella Nkenchar, one of Vivien’s’ clients, says she manages to maintain the eccentric, romantic feel of the garment.

“This is a fabulous dress I’m wearing by Anya by Vivien. Very sophisticated. I’ve actually worn it to a dinner with my husband. And it was just unbelievable.”

Nina Oranwusi, another client says the day she wore this outfit, people were blown away because of its uniqueness.

“She has a unique way of doing things. Her tailoring is neat, the treading is neat and everything is in details. The cutting, the layout, everything is just placed together. And that’s why I like about what she does.”

Oma Ngwabia, notes that Vivien’s ability to design with variety of prints has given her a limitless opportunity to continue to unleash her creativity and grow her client base.

“She uses like fashion to bring out the best in people. So she makes fashion that works with one’s body, her dresses blend with your body and bring out your best cups and hide imperfections.”

Agbakoba attributes her success to her parents and other supporters who pushed her to pursue her dream in the fashion industry.

“My mom encouraged it by allowing me to use her machines and leftover fabrics that she worked with, and she taught me a few of the stuff that I knew. But my dad was exceptionally very supportive.”

Phil Russell, a manager at Sonna African Textiles, says Vivien has tremendous potential to meet the growing demand for high-end products in the global market including Africa’s growing middle class.

She typically buys the Vilsco. Um, she…they have wax block, super wax, java. And the way I would differentiate those three products is typically, if you think of, um, bedding, you know, thread count, you know, the higher the thread count, the better the quality.

As the Anya by Vivien’s label expands and makes its mark in the fashion world, Agbakoba says it will play a significant role in inspiring the next generation of young designers.

COFFEE CULTURE GROWS IN NIGERIA


By Paul Ndiho

Most coffee sold in Nigeria is instant and imported. But a local beverage company is working to market its new blends of freshly roasted and ground coffee to a growing middle class in Nigeria that has given rise to coffee drinking in the country. images

Kaldi Africa promotes locally roasted and processed coffee made from blends of coffee sourced in Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya.  The beverage processing company operates in Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos.

The company, launched nearly a year ago, started roasting coffee beans sourced from Nigeria, Kenya and Ethiopia as part of a larger plan to offer Nigerian coffee lovers a more premium product.

The goal is to target a growing middle-class that is ready to spend while meeting in coffee shops opening around the city.

Kaldi’s managing director, Nasra Ali, says most supermarkets in the country sell imported instant coffee varieties but that there is demand for freshly ground and brewed quality coffee.

“When you look at the generation that was in the 40s, 50s and 60s, they were exposed to coffee drinking and that was in the peak of Nigeria exporting coffee. They were drinking, then of course that went down drastically and so did the production. What we are having right now is as a result of the globalization and the coffee drinking culture globally, we know that coffee is the second drunk beverage after water. It is the second highest traded commodity after oil. Then it is inevitable that it would catch up in Nigeria. So what we are basically doing is we are using the best of the African product, and preparing ourselves for the launch of the coffee culture in Nigeria and the greater West Africa,”

After a roasting process, coffee beans go into a de-stoning machine to make sure that the last bits of impurities are removed before being grounded and packed in bags for sale. One kilogram of Kaldi’s coffee sells for about 8 U.S. dollars.

The company also works closely with farmers to buy their produce and help them promote their coffee. Nearly 10 percent of the world’s coffee comes from the African continent. Alfred Mwai is the head of operations at Kaldi African.

“We have no doubt because the kind of business model that we picked was very well thought through, it was not just about coffee roasting. It is about when we roast, what are going to do with the coffee. Do we have the capacity to be able to give the education to people on the benefits of drinking fresh roasted coffee, and how are they going to have the consistency of fresh roasted coffee. So I think, I cannot regret, it is really working,”

 

Apart from Ethiopia, which consumes half of the coffee it produces, few Sub-Saharan African markets have a taste for the drink. During weekends, Kaldi African treats guests to various coffee drinks made by top barristers to give people a chance to sample and learn more about the benefits of taking coffee.

“It was a great experience. Aside from the quality of the product, the passion, the zeal and everything is quite interesting. And then for me as a person the fact that we have such a thing here in Nigeria is actually great. I think it is a break through,”

New coffee startups in Nigeria compete with big brands like, Nestle which is responsible for more than 80 percent of the country’s coffee sales, mostly instant coffee sold off mobile carts on the streets.

 


 

ONLINE GAMING IN UGANDA

By Paul Ndiho

Video gaming is undeveloped in Africa. Though various start-up companies have appeared across the continent, few successes have been made. Well, in Uganda, Kola Studios might be a game changer.  Creators of the popular card game “Matatu” are making their mark on the global tech scene. unnamed

The introduction of broadband Internet has spawned a generation of young ICT savvy people in Africa. Gaming is among the fastest growing industries on the continent. Here in the Ugandan capital Kampala, young techies have developed a cutting edge mobile APP called “Matutu”. At over one hundred thousand downloads the card game has been played over 6 million times.

With the success of this gaming app, Jasper Onono, the brain behind all Android apps at Kola Studios has joined the growing ranks of East Africa’s wiz kids helping to propel the region into the tech spotlight.

“It’s the most popular game in Uganda right now. The idea came up back on campus when we were attending a conference. A thought just hit us: ‘Oh, why don’t people have this game on their phones.”

Matatu – a traditional two-player card game – has long been popular here in Uganda. But with the rapid growth of the smartphone market – in Kenya alone 1 in 5 people access the web through their phones. Sharon Rwakatungu says that the goal of the game is to play all your cards before your opponent.

“I like having it on the phone because then I can playing it anytime. Even when I’m alone, I don’t need to have friends around or a group of people. I can just have it on my phone and play it anytime, anywhere. And it’s fun.”

In 2011 Matatu was a finalist in Google’s Android Developer Challenge for Sub-Saharan Africa – providing them with publicity and mentoring, as well as having their app hosted in Google play store and Google cloud.

Uganda has experienced a dramatic “tech-hub boom” – spurred on by collaborative workspaces such as Outobox, Innovation Village and growing international investment where investors are looking to break into these lucrative markets.

“When you ask young people, about apps they have on their phones, they tell you that at least five apps on their phone,  are either from Ugandan or Kenyan apps. I feel like that will go a long way in encouraging other young people to believe that there is more potential than just what they see. We’re not just consumers of content, but we’re creators of it.”

If the future of computing lies in mobile – and the fastest growth in mobile comes from the developing world – many are beginning to look to African startups for a taste of things to come.

 

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) a multinational professional services network based in London, Africa’s gaming industry has been on a significant upswing in the past few years, driven primarily by advances in mobile phone technology.

 

GHANA AND GAMBIA ELECTIONS ANALYSIS


By Paul Ndiho

Opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo won Ghana’s national election last week, on his third attempt, cementing the country’s reputation as a standard bearer of democracy in West Africa.   Meanwhile, political turmoil has erupted in Gambia, after President Yahya Jammeh reversed course, to reject the outcome of the December first vote.

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Gambia’s longtime leader president Yahya Jammeh is drawing international condemnation after going back on his word to step down after losing the presidential election to Adama barrow.  Mister Jammeh initially conceded defeat to president-elect barrow.

“I at this moment take this opportunity to congratulate Mr. Adam barrow for his victory. It’s a clear victory because our system says ‘simple majority. I will help him work towards the transition while i part to go and work on my farm…”

But, by late Friday, Jammeh had changed his mind — and in a televised statement, he shocked the world and announced that had decided to reject the ballot on charges of fraud and that he would challenge the voting results before the nation’s Supreme Court.

A delegation of West African heads of state, led by Liberian president Ellen Johnson sirleaf, have travelled to Gambia to mediate the dispute.

In Ghana, President John Mahama and the nation’s voters have again demonstrated that their country is a beacon of West African democracy.  President Mahama quickly called opposition leader nana Akufo-Addo to concede defeat in the national election.  President-elect Akufo–Addo won an outright majority in the vote, according to the country’s electoral commission.

“Going b figures, and by the power vested in me as the chairperson of the electoral commission, and the returning officer for the presidential election, it is my duty and my privilege to declare nana Akufo-Addo wins as the president-elect of the republic of Ghana. Thank you, god bless our homeland Ghana, and make our nation greater and stronger.”

Nana Akufo-Addo defeated President John Mahama with nearly 54 percent of the vote.  After hearing the news, his supporters, the new patriotic party broke into cheers and dancing as car horns blared, and fireworks erupted across the capital, Accra.  Akufo-Addo, 72, says he is ready for the challenge.

“I make this solemn pledge to you tonight: I will not let you down. I will do all in my power to live up to your hopes and expectations,”

Ghana’s President John Mahama conceded defeat and called to congratulate opposition leader nana Akufo-Addo, after a hotly contested election, seen as a test for a country viewed as a beacon of stability in West Africa.

“I want to assure the nation that we’ll respect the outcome of this election whether it is positive or negative.”

In the end, voters gave President John Mahama just one four-year term before rejecting his administration.  Akufo-Addo and his new patriotic party will inherit an economy that for years was rated one of Africa’s most dynamic, but has slowed sharply since 2014, in part, because the prices for the country’s main exports — gold, cocoa, and oil — have fallen.

GHANAIANS VOTE IN GENERAL ELECTIONS


 

By: Paul Ndiho

Ghanaians are voting n neck-and-neck presidential and parliamentary elections. Two candidates dominate the race – President John Mahama, who is seeking a second term in office. And, his main rival, Nana Akufo-Addo, a veteran politician and businessman.

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High unemployment, and corruption scandals have beset mahama’s presidency, but he has urged Ghanaians to re-elect him.  But Akufo-Addo believes he has the business acumen to turn the economy around.  But for one small business owner in accra, the stakes could not be higher.

Incumbent President John Mahama is running for a second and final four-year term in office under a National Democratic Congress (NDC) ticket. He has made proposals to boost industry, energy, infrastructure, health and education.

His main opponent, Nana Akufo-Addo and his New Patriotic Party criticizes Mahama for squandering the wealth the country has amassed since it began producing oil in 2010 and being out of touch with the people.

Akufo-Addo promises to give every constituency the equivalent of $1 million a year to alleviate poverty by installing basic services such as electricity, running water and sanitation.

Mabel Simpson is an accessories designer and entrepreneur working in Accra. She resigned her office job in 2010 to launch her own clothing label in mSimpson. Since then, she has created quite a buzz on the Ghanaian fashion scene.

“I feel like Ghana needs a leader who is going to fight corruption, who is going to bring jobs especially for young people and who is also going to make sure that the manufacturing industry in Ghana is doing very well.”

Simpson’s fascination with fashion- and love for raw African prints started when she was a young girl. She now competes with some of the biggest names in the African fashion industry.

Today, her design label – Msimps sells products in a store in Accra and online for clients making orders from all over the world.

“I feel like Ghana needs a leader who is going to fight corruption, who is going to bring jobs especially for the young people. It’s just not going to be, he is saying it but then he acts on it also. They would keep the promises they made to Ghanaians, so that people would be proud of Ghana.”

Ghana exports gold, oil and cocoa but has suffered from a slump in global commodity prices and macro-economic instability in the form of inflation that stood at 15.8 percent last month, an elevated budget deficit and high unemployment.

“We need to cut down on imports and rather concentrate more on exports so that we can grow the economy. So whichever leader that I feel is going to actually going to implement these policies. I think that leader is going to have my vote.”

She says she wants Ghana to invest more in manufacturing and export of “Made in Ghana” products and to provide more support for entrepreneurs as a way of dealing with unemployment and boosting the economy.

“I’m also looking for a leader who is going to make sure that young start-ups or entrepreneurs have some tax rebates so that we can grow the economy and employ more people.”

Fashion experts say the industry has tremendous potential to meet the growing demand for high-end products in the global market- including Africa’s growing middle class. Simpson says that young African designers can play a significant role on the continent through entrepreneurship.

As the mSimps label becomes more popular and expands, other young African designers are also looking forward to expressing their creativity in the marketplace.

NIGERIAN TECH FIRMS DRAWING INTERNATIONAL VENTURE CAPITALISTS


 

BY Paul Ndiho

Tech firms in Nigeria are rushing to get office space in Lagos’ Yaba district, a university town that has transformed itself into a vibrant technology hub.

yaba-tech

At first glance, Yaba is like many other parts of Nigeria’s sprawling commercial capital: a cacophony of car horns and shouting street vendors, mingling with exhaust fumes.    But in between the run-down buildings in this seemingly inauspicious part of Lagos, a city of around 21 million, tech start-ups are taking root and creating a buzz that is drawing international venture capitalists and more established digital firms.

Online retailer Jumia, dubbed the Amazon of Africa, has set up shop here…hoping it can propel the continent’s rising consumer middle class out of the street markets and onto its websites.  Nicholas Martin is the chief executive at Jumia.

“Lagos has the potential to become something that is relevant and on the map in the global scale.  It’s going to take time, it’s going to take support, it’s going to take a lot of infrastructure work because there is still a lot of work to be done. But the full amount of potential is here, the market is here, the appetite is here. We have started to also seeing a strong flow of repatriate talents coming here and irrigate that hub, so Lagos is actually very hot and that drives Yaba,”

Yaba draws on a pool of talent from the nearby University of Lagos and Yaba College of Technology. African tech centers are a recent phenomenon that mix web business concepts borrowed from other parts of the world with start-ups focused on Africa-specific challenges in creating opportunities in areas such as mobile payments and e-commerce.

Yaba also has a growing number of established tech companies that hope the area, where rents are relatively cheap, might breed success.

Africa Internet Group, backed by Germany’s Rocket Internet, South African mobile phone giant MTN and Sweden’s Millicom, moved six of its tech firms, including Hellofood and Easy Taxi, to Yaba last December.

Guillaume Leblond, is the managing director of hellofoods.

“The presence of UNILAG (University of Lagos) as well is important for us because we recruit a lot of people. If you look at my staff behind me, probably sixty percent of them come from UNILAG so they know the area well, they have good network of friends that we recruit or that we hire for ambassadors,”

Investors have taken an interest in several Yaba-based start-ups. Nigerian hotel booking company hotels.ng got seed funding from the EchoVC Pan-Africa Fund and the Omidyar Network, created ed by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.

The potential market size of Africa’s most populous nation makes Nigeria, with around 170 million people, an attractive location. Google and Microsoft ran coding workshops, while a deal between CCHub, the Lagos state government and local telecoms firm MainOne brought cheap high speed Internet via fibre optic cable.

“You won’t find warehousing space in Yaba, you won’t find warehousing space that is big enough to host a company like the size of Jumia. Jumia is by any measurement not only the biggest e-commerce and also the biggest retailer of the land and therefore we just need warehouse space and that ware house space, as long as I can keep it tight and tied together with the office space I will,”

Even though it is Africa’s biggest economy and top oil producer, Nigeria’s Internet speeds and network coverage have lagged behind other countries such as Ghana and Kenya. But that in itself is an opportunity, with a 2013 report by consultancy McKinsey suggesting that only 1.5 percent of Nigeria’s nearly $500 billion economy took place online.