Africa in the news

President Obama to host U.S.-Africa Summit

President Obama has invited African leaders for a summit in Washington D.C. from August 4-6 next week. More than 200 business and political leaders from both the U.S. and Africa will be attending the summit which will focus on the continent’s development and the U.S. role in partnership and investment.

Obama invited all African nations that are currently in good standing with the United States or are not suspended from the African Union. Leaders from Egypt, Madagascar, Sudan and Zimbabwe will not be attending.  Egypt, is not eligible to attend as it is currently suspended from the African Union.  There will also be no invitation for Sudan, whose president, Omar al-Bashir, has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC).  The United States has sanctions against the Zimbabwean government of Robert Mugabe and his key officials over human rights abuses, political intimidation of opposition parties and role back of democracy.

Guinea-Bissau and Madagascar will not be attending the summit as well. The U.S. has concerns over the subversion of democracy in both nations.

One notable inclusion is Kenya, where President Uhuru Kenyatta is currently awaiting a delayed trial at the ICC on charges related to violence after an election in 2007 that left 1,000 people dead.

A White House statement said the trip would “advance the administration’s focus on trade and investment in Africa, and highlight America’s commitment to Africa’s security, its democratic development, and its people.”

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker when speaking to the Wall Street Journal, said deals worth billions of dollars would be reached at the meeting, adding that more money would be advanced to Africa for various development projects.

First Lady Michelle Obama, and former First Lady Laura Bush and the Bush Institute, will host a day-long spouses’ symposium at the Kennedy Center focused on the impact of investments in education, health, and public-private partnerships as well.

Throughout his years in office, President Obama has held numerous conferences and events focusing on building partnerships and investment for African nations. This upcoming summit is a continuation of that policy.

More information about the event can be found at the White House’s website.

Piracy drill off Africa larger than ever

As piracy in the Gulf of Guinea off west Africa soars, professionals from over 20 nations are taking part in Obangame Express, a naval-exercise aimed at improving maritime safety and security in the region.

The issue of piracy and enforcement is one that needs to be tackled due to the fact that it’s a growing problem. This is mainly due to lack of ships and trained personnel which is required since large areas of water need to be patrolled and watched over. The more training done with various nations and navies, only helps in curbing the problem. More cooperation and training is needed, and such exercises will only help.

Rwanda’s health insurance as a model for Africa

Proper health and nutrition is key to good living no matter where you are in the world. That isn’t always the case though, especially throughout Africa but Rwanda is highlighting what can be done as a model throughout the continent in this video report.

Africa’s Cowboy Capitalists

Great documentary from VICE about the untapped potential of Africa, and individuals whom are making the journey throughout the continent to create their own success stories. Photographer and filmmaker Tim Freccia followed around Ian and the guys he hired for this job. Cowboy Capitalists” documents their attempts to navigate the continent’s dangerous roads and bureaucratic chaos. Though some of their methods are unorthodox, none the less, they give great insight and understanding no matter how much or little you know about Africa.

The African Miracle

On every important measure, life throughout Africa is getting better

There has been a sustained surge in economic growth across Africa. There is a strong link between economic and political progress, and the two tend to be mutually reinforcing. For decades, bad economics and bad politics fed off each other in Africa. The continent appeared to be trapped in a vicious circle of decline. Now it looks to be in the early stages of a virtuous cycle as the institutional, political and security underpinnings of economic growth strengthen.

A foundation stone for the African renaissance has been greater security in a region that has been plagued by violence since wars of independence began in the middle of the last century.

Now the continent is becoming less bloody. In the 1990s, there were 328,000 fatalities in conflict in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the Conflict Data Program at Sweden’s Uppsala University. In the 2000s, fatalities were down by between a half and two-thirds.

Another indicator of the declining propensity to violence is the frequency with which political leaders are overthrown. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, there were 17 coups in the 1990s, but just six in the 2000s – the lowest for any decade since independence.

Fears that the sudden death last August of Ethiopia’s long-standing leader, Meles Zenawi, would unleash violent political turmoil have proved unfounded.

Sub-Saharan Africa remains one of the most conflict-prone regions of the world, but it seems to be becoming less so. The bedding down of democracy in many countries is one reason for this.

Elections are held more frequently and in more countries. And those elections mean more. In the last century, only three African leaders walked away from power after losing elections. Since 2000, it has been very different. Since Abdou Diouf accepted his rejection by Senegalese voters in March 2000, peaceful transitions have become almost commonplace, at least in western and southern Africa. MaliGhanaBeninCameroon, and Nigeria have all enjoyed peaceful transitions, as have NamibiaSouth Africa,Botswana and Zambia in the south.

Elections mean little if the politicians who win them then misuse and abuse power but here again improvements are taking place. The Mo Ibrahim Foundation, established by a Sudanese entrepreneur with a loathing of corruption (and on whose board Mary Robinson sits), measures the quality of governance in all African states. It finds that in a big majority of countries the state is serving citizens better now than when the foundation first started measuring such data in 2000.

One link between politics and economics is the middle classes. They have long been associated with political stability. When people have a stake in society, they are less inclined to want to tear everything down. Middle classes not only provide democracy’s ballast, they are the drivers of economic growth via their entrepreneurial dynamism. With more middle class households in Africa now than in India, the rise of Africa’s bourgeoisie augurs well for the future.

By almost every measure – of health, wealth and education – and for most of its people, life in Africa is getting better.

Just slightly over a decade ago, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair declared “The state of Africa is a scar on the conscience of the world.” Times have changed since then. Africa is now the go-to continent. Africa is no longer gloom and doom. Africa today is alive with rising urbanization, ever expanding consumer-middle class, and foreign invest business deals.

Investment, growth in Africa is similar to that of China at the beginning of the 2000s. Like Asia, Africa was one of only two regions where GDP rose during 2009’s global recession. Inflation fell to an average of 8 percent in the 2000s after a decade during which it hovered at 22 percent. African countries have lowered trade barriers, cut taxes, privatized companies, and liberalized many sectors, including banking. Africa now has more than 100 domestic companies with revenue greater than $1 billion. Capital flows to the continent which were $15 billion in 2000, are now slightly over $100 billion in 2012. All this leads to Africa offering the highest rate of return on investment of any region in the world.

Revenues from natural resources, the old foundation of Africa’s economy, directly accounted for just 24 percent of growth during the last decade; the rest came from other booming sectors, such as finance, retail, agriculture, and telecommunications. The fastest-growing demand for these raw inputs comes from the world’s emerging economies, with which sub-Saharan Africa now conducts half its trade. Africa’s production of oil, gas, minerals, and other resources is projected to grow at 2 to 4 percent per year for the next 10 years. At current prices and depending on how commodity prices rise, value of resource production will be $540 billion by 2020 or higher. Not every country in Africa is resource rich, yet GDP growth accelerated almost everywhere. New data on Africa shows Sub-Saharan African countries continue to grow at a strong pace

Africa’s urbanization is also increasing demand for new roads, rail systems, clean water, power generation, and other infrastructure. In 1980, just 28 percent of Africans lived in cities. Today, 40 percent of the continent’s 1 billion do, a portion close to China’s, larger than India’s, and likely to keep growing in the coming years. The number of households with discretionary income is projected to grow 50 percent over the next 10 years to 128 million. Already, Africa’s household spending tops $860 billion a year, more than that of India or Russia. And consumer spending in Africa is growing two to three times faster than in the wealthy developed countries and could be worth $1.4 trillion in annual revenue within a decade. The African middle class stands over 300 million. Thats about the size of the Indian middle class.

Multinational companies have already shifted their mindsets, even if the political world is still used to thinking of Africa as a charity case. Telecom firms have signed up 316 million new African subscribers since 2000, more than the population of the United States. Walmart recently bid $4.6 billion for one of the region’s largest retailers, confirmation that global businesses think Africa holds commercial potential on a scale not seen since China opened up more than 20 years ago. Those prospects will only grow as Africa urbanizes; already, the continent is home to 52 cities with populations of at least 1 million, as many as in Western Europe today.

Contrary to the pessimistic predictions of French agronomist René Dumont in his 1962 book “False Start”, Africa, with its prime geopolitical position and access to raw materials, seems well on its way to becoming the future granary and workshop of the world, with one billion workers and consumers. The continent is home to 60 percent of the world’s uncultivated arable land. So if farmers brought more of it into use, raised the yields on key crops to 80 percent of the world average, and shifted cultivation to higher-value crops, the continent’s farmers could increase the value of their annual agricultural output from $280 billion today to around $500 billion by 2020. Africa also has unique comparative advantages, which means considerable room for growth. It possesses half the unused arable land in the world, and its low yields, less than a metric ton (2,204 pounds) of cereal per hectare (1 hectare = 2.47 acres), mean that production growth could put an end to the food insecurity and malnutrition that currently affects one-third of all Africans.

The future looks bright for the African continent whether, it is political, economic or social. The best is yet to come. More people are being educated, adventuring around the world, meeting new people, trying-experimenting with new ideas, which only lead to better outcomes. This runs counter to the usual reporting in the news about famine, military coups, political instability and economic malaise, which is true to some parts, but does not paint the whole picture. With government reforms, greater political stability, improved macroeconomics, and a healthier business environment, it is hard to not feel a sense of optimism. Yes, challenges do remain but overall the continent and it’s people are doing better and future looks bright.

U.S. Engagement with the African Union.

Ambassador Michael Battle, U.S. Ambassador to the African Union and Steve McDonald, Director of the Africa Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars have a conversation about U.S. engagement with the African Union, moderated by Deputy Assistant Secretary Cheryl Benton, at the Department of State in Washington, D.C. on March 16, 2012.

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Luanda is the most expensive city in the world

Luanda, Angola

The world’s most expensive city isn’t Paris or London or even New York City. It’s Luanda. Angola’s oil-rich capital city is the priciest city for the second year in the row, according to a yearly study by the Mercer Group.  Tokyo is the second priciest city in the world, while the city of N’Djamena in Chad came in in third place. Moscow is in fourth position with Geneva in fifth and Osaka in sixth. New York City placed a relatively distant 32nd. Karachi, Pakistan was deemed the least expensive city.

The report, which is published annually to help companies assess compensation allowances for expatriate workers, compared the cost of over 200 items including housing, food and transport in 214 cities, using New York as a reference.

Luanda is ridiculously expensive. The city was designed for a couple hundred thousand inhabitants but today the population is somewhere around five million people. Limited infrastructure and inflation mean that the cost of food is high (fuel is cheaper than water) and the rent on a small two-bedroom apartment in Luanda can cost $7,000 a month. The infrastructure is in dire need of an overhaul.

The end of the war in 2002 led to an investment boom by China and some Western nations which helped turn Angola into one of the world’s fastest growing economies.

Costs will remain exorbitant in Luanda because oil companies, and the teeny percentage of Angolans who are profiting from them, can afford it. Angola has tons of potential outside of oil, but like in most countries in Africa, proper management and competent leaders are needed for this to happen.

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According to new study, Africa is the birth of human language(s)

New research reveals that language originated in Africa and migrated across the world.  It originated in central and southern Africa before spreading across the globe, the research said.  A large study of the sounds that differentiate words, or phonemes, used in 504 human languages reveals that the dialects containing the most phonemes are spoken in Africa.

Human language originated in Africa, according to a newly completed University of Auckland study. The study results parallel and complement recent genetic and phenotype studies that support an African origin for Homo sapiens, or modern humans, strengthening the notion that the development of language was a key innovation that enabled modern humans to spread across the globe.

This is not surprising since Africa is the origin of man.

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