South Africa's first black president and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela has passed away, at the age of 95, last week.

Nelson “Madiba” Mandela will be remembered for many things, but his message of forgiveness and reconciliation may resonate the most.

"Mandela's biggest legacy was his remarkable lack of bitterness and the way he did not only talk about reconciliation, but he made reconciliation happen in South Africa," said F.W. de Klerk, South Africa's last white president and Mandela's predecessor.

"Nelson Mandela achieved more than could be expected of any man," President Barack Obama said last week. "We have lost one of the most influential, courageous, and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this Earth. 

He no longer belongs to us -- he belongs to the ages.”

Announcing the news on South African national TV, President Jacob Zuma said “Madiba” was at peace.

"Africa has lost its greatest son"

The greatest father there ever was: this is how South Africans will remember the man who brought an end to apartheid and delivered the nation from the brink of civil war.

As he did in life, his passing has brought unity amongst South Africans as black and white speak of their love for him. Many will be drawing on that same spirit for strength, that "Madiba magic" over the next few days and weeks as the nation left with the great burden of honoring Mandela's legacy, mourns his passing but also celebrates his life.

We will miss you “Madiba” but we will never forget you…

Conflict "enemy number one" of Africa [Reuters]

African growth impressive despite global downturn
Continent still struggling to end cycle of war

Africa's emerging nations have become a driving force for world economic growth, International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde said on Monday, but armed conflicts pose the principal threat to the continent's future development.

Resource-rich African nations have continued to post impressive growth even as the economies of Europe have stagnated and a U.S. recovery makes only slow progress.

The IMF is projecting economic growth of 5.25 percent for sub-Saharan Africa in 2013, a rate that places the region second only to Asia's booming economies and well above a world forecast of 3.6 percent.

"It's clear that emerging countries are the motor of world economic growth," Lagarde said in a speech to lawmakers in top cocoa producer Ivory Coast, which received over $4 billion in debt relief under an IMF/World Bank programme last year.
"I cannot help but be impressed by the continent's resilience ... in the face of the most serious disturbances seen by the world's economy since the Great Depression," she said.

Africa's diverse mining sector, which offers everything from copper and iron to diamonds and gold, is booming largely on demand from Chinese industry. So too is its oil sector. And investors are increasingly drawn to its growing and largely untapped consumer markets.
These recent gains risk being undermined however by lingering conflicts across much of the continent, Lagarde said.


"Security is too fragile in many countries and especially here in West Africa. If there is no peace, the people simply won't have the confidence or courage to invest in their own future, and neither will (foreign investors)," she said.

West and Central African nations, which have long struggled to stamp out the recurring cycles of political turmoil that have plagued the region since independence a half century ago, witnessed a surge in violence in 2012.
Islamists from Nigeria's Boko Haram sect carried out almost daily deadly attacks in the regional giant's troubled north. Rebels in Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic gained ground and threatened to overthrow their respective governments.

Fighters with links to al Qaeda took advantage of a military coup in Mali to seize more than half of the country, raising fears that the conflict could spill across its porous borders and destabilise the region.

"Conflicts have disastrous consequences for the belligerents. They also have consequences for neighbouring countries. If I had to name the enemy number one of economic development, it would clearly be conflicts," Lagarde said.

Ivory Coast, where Lagarde is spending three days as part of a tour of Africa, emerged from a decade of political crisis following a brief war in 2011.
Amid a much praised post-war economic turnaround, the country registered economic growth of more than 8.5 percent in 2012, following a 4.7 percent contraction in 2011.

But it too is struggling to cope with a series of regular, deadly attacks on security forces and infrastructure sites that began last August

2013 is There...

Hello Everyone, 

With the start of a new year this week, it reminded me that today our daily life has been measured or categorised by the number of items we owned, the work place we work, the car we drove, the brand we can afford to wear or how much is the mortgage on the house we tried so hard to buy. 

Words or expression like : iPad, Apple, 3D, Sky TV, Premier league Football, Celebrity gossips, Android, Games, Xbox, PS3, Tablets, Work, Unemployment rate, immigration, X Factor, BBC scandals, .... are too often part of our daily journey, taking us far away from the simple pleasure in life. 

In 1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote : "… that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness". 

Let’s make 2013 a year of dreams and happiness, a year of less suffering and more joy for those around us, a year to move forward and a year to be more optimistic about tomorrow… 

Wishing you all and your family an Happy New Year and all the very Best for 2013. 

Best Regards 

Business Network Consulting

Barack Obama : 4 years later...

Four years ago, the day after Barack Obama’s election as president, Niall Ferguson wrote:  “four decades is not an especially long time. Yet in that brief period America has gone from the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. to the apotheosis of Barack Obama. You would not be human if you failed to acknowledge this as a cause for great rejoicing.”

That day, four years ago, was unreal, awesome, unique and historical at the same time, the first black man elected president of the first democracy in the world, it was one of these days most people will never forget and remember as : “I was there, when Barack ….”

Unfortunately, the question confronting America nearly four years later is not who was the better candidate four years ago. It is whether if the winner has delivered on his promises.

In his inaugural address, Obama promised “not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth.” He promised to “build the roads and bridges, the electric grids, and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together.” He promised to “restore science to its rightful place and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost.” And he promised to “transform schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.”

Today, America is suffering: the total number of private-sector jobs is still 4.3 million below the January 2008 peak. Meanwhile, a staggering 3.6 million Americans have been added to Social Security’s disability insurance program. Unemployment has averaged 8.2%t this year so far, and the annual household income has dropped more than 5% since June 2009. Today, over 110 million individuals received a welfare benefit in, mostly Medicaid or food stamps. This is one of many ways unemployment is being concealed.

Meanwhile, the public debt is growing dramatically, according to the Congressional Budget Office: it will reach 70% of GDP by the end of this year. These figures significantly understate the debt problem, however. The ratio that matters is debt to revenue. That number has leapt upward from 165% in 2008 to 262% this year, according to figures from the International Monetary Fund. Among developed economies, only Ireland and Spain have seen a bigger deterioration.

It is now five years since the financial crisis began, but the US central problems—excessive financial concentration and excessive financial leverage—have not been addressed by the Obama administration.

The failures of leadership on economic and fiscal policy over the past four years have had geopolitical consequences. The World Bank expects the US to grow by just 2% this year. China will grow four times faster than that; India three times faster.

By 2017, the International Monetary Fund predicts:  the GDP of China will overtake that of the United States.

Meanwhile, the fiscal train wreck has already initiated a process of steep cuts in the defence budget, quite a worry for the conservative part of the US population, but more importantly, the cut on foreign help and specifically the US investment in Africa, has to be a concern for the great continent, at a time when it is very far from clear that the world has become a safer place (Middle East & North Africa) and where poverty, health and education is still a huge problem for millions of people in Africa.

For me, Obama’s greatest failure has been not to think through the implications of all the challenges ahead. Far from developing a coherent strategy, he believed [perhaps encouraged by the premature award of the Nobel Peace Prize] that all he needed to do was to make great speeches around the world explaining to most people that he was not George W. Bush.

Believing it was his role to repudiate neo-conservatism, Obama completely missed the revolutionary wave of Middle Eastern and Maghreb (North Africa) democracy. When revolution broke out—first in Iran, then in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Syria— the US president faced stark alternatives. He could try to catch the wave by lending his support to the youthful revolutionaries and trying to ride it in a direction advantageous to American interests. Or he could do nothing and let the forces of reaction prevail.

And unfortunately, he was “caught by surprise”…

For most American, Mitt Romney is not the best candidate for the presidency, but they believe that he was clearly the best of the Republican contenders for the nomination. He brings to the presidency precisely the kind of experience —both in the business world and in executive office— that Barack Obama manifestly lacked four years ago.

In a few months, voters in the US will face a tough choice. They can let Barack Obama’s rambling, solipsistic narrative continue until they find themselves living in some American version of Europe, with low growth, high unemployment, even higher debt and real geopolitical decline (Spain, England, France…).

Or they can go for real change: the kind of change that will end four years of economic underperformance, stop the terrifying accumulation of debt, and re-establish a secure fiscal foundation for American national security.

What do you think, is Niall Ferguson assessment of Barack Obama correct?


One World One Game One Culture

For a lot of people, this marketing group of words looks more like an utopia that would be more about time wasting than achieving something that would change people life.

But for AsiaEurope Football, this is reality.
A branch of the AsiaEurope Group, AsiaEurope Football have several sports programs in place all around the world which are running successfully and with the help and support of their partners have made a huge impact in a lot of communities.

In 2005, AsiaEurope Football opened the UK’s first Educational Football Academy in Liverpool with the Liverpool Hope University, to promote ethnic football in the UK. This program was developed by AsiaEurope Football which now acts as a blueprint for our football programs around the world.

These past few years, AsiaEurope Football have developed strong links with Africa to develop grassroots football, work with local FA and clubs to give young kids an opportunity to play football and learn about the sport through playing, coaching and managing.

AsiaEurope Football is currently involved in Africa, at all level of the game in Gambia, Kenya, Uganda and South Africa, with an objective to implement new football project in Central Africa in the near future.
On a global scale, the group is also involved in UK, Germany, Spain, Greece, India, Pakistan, Peru, Brazil and the USA.

For a lot of people in Europe, football is a passion and a way of life, if you father was a Red Devils fan (Manchester United) at your birth, you will be a Red Devils fan for the rest of your life.
In Africa, for a lot of young kids playing barefoot in the street, football is more than that; it is their hope for a better life, their dream of a secure future, their way to feel alive. And few of them have an opportunity to learn the game within a proper sport structure and understand how to improve their game to one day, finally, live their dream and share that security with their family back home.

In some of these African countries, AsiaEurope Football is trying to do just that, give hope, by using football as an international language to share their passion for the game.

Not everyone can be the next Drogba or the next Eto’o, playing professional football in France or England, but any kids in Africa can have an opportunity to try and this is already more than what they have ever dreamed of.

Patrice de Boeck is director for Business_Network Consulting | A consultancy focused on providing fresh and innovative approach to investment and development in Central Africa, through the provision of services covering Finance, Marketing, Strategy and Sports Sponsorship.

Africa's Second Female President Delivers [NYT]

Just weeks after Malawi’s new president, Joyce Banda, began her charm offensive to the West, the International Monetary Fund is about to hand her a $157 million check.
This loan comes hard on the heels of a $51 million cash infusion pumped into Malawi’s coffers by the British government.

Since taking office in April, Mrs Banda, 62, has devalued the currency by a third, a move her predecessor had resisted. She also vowed to decriminalize homosexuality. All this was done in a bid to entice donors back to Malawi.
Those donors and international partners who had deserted Malawi in recent times were pleased when she announced her decision to sell off the presidential jet and a fleet of 60 Mercedes Benz limousines.

Just a few months ago, the mother of two was the vice-president to Bingu wa Mutharika. It was he who bought the plane and declared it a necessity for the presidency back in 2009. “The jet that I purchased is not mine. It belongs to the nation,” he said then. “It will be used by 10, 11 other people coming after me. So that’s an asset.” But that was not to be. He died of a heart attack in April and Mrs Banda became Africa’s second female head of state.

She was quoted as saying she was happy to jettison the official jet with its nearly $341,657 annual maintenance costs and fly commercial.
“I can well use private airlines. I am already used to hitchhiking.”

While the I.M.F. loan is still subject to approval by its executive board, it looks likely to sail through.
Christine Lagarde, the head of the fund, recently indicated that she had Africa on her mind even when dealing with thorny issues like Europe’s fiscal crisis. In the controversial and attention grabbing interview she said: “No, I think more of the little kids from a school in a little village in Niger who get teaching two hours a day, sharing one chair for three of them, and who are very keen to get an education. I have them in my mind all the time. Because I think they need even more help than the people in Athens.”

Malawi is a poor country and desperately needs the cash to tackle fuel shortages and to run government programs. A $208 million cash injection could go a long way toward alleviating the poverty of 60% of the 15.4 million Malawians.

Mrs Banda now has the credit line she longed for. Now all eyes will be on her to deliver in ways many men haven’t been able to do before.

Emerging Africa

A new optimism is permeating much of Africa. The past 10 years of unprecedented growth in sub-Saharan Africa has helped fuel this positive attitude even when most of the rest of the world faces global economic crisis.

As more Africans move out of poverty and become middle-class consumers, they are increasingly in a position to drive investment, support entrepreneurship, and improve education.
According to a panel of African experts, the IMF confirm the upbeat outlook for the continent and, while acknowledging continued and deep-rooted poverty, spell out what Africa needs to do to further spur opportunities for growth.

The increasing middle-class growing (now over one-third of the population according to the African Development Bank) is shifting global perceptions about Africa’s prospects. The traditional focus on eradicating poverty in Africa distracted both African authorities and international donors from serious consideration of ways to promote prosperity infrastructure development.

The African middle class still has comparatively little to spend by Western or Asian standards. But better economic policies, governance, and use of natural resources, coupled with more business-friendly policies and stronger demand for Africa’s commodities from emerging economies such as Brazil, China and India have led to Africa’s consistently high growth levels.

The new middle class is young (nearly 70% under the age of 40) and in the acquisitive stage of their lives, spurring consumer spending.

Today, across Africa, change is in the air.

The story is not all rosy of course. Poverty will be a fact of life in Africa for a long time: one-third of all Africans will still be extremely poor in 2060, living on less than $1.25/day. While it helps those who are in immediate need, an emphasis on aid does not encourage Africa to aspire to higher economic performance. The change in focus that Africa watchers are noticing (from poverty to gradually growing prosperity) represents a deep shift in the perceptions of Africa’s economic future, with profound policy and practical implications.

Africa is projected by the IMF to grow faster than Brazil between 2010 and 2015. But the lack of adequate infrastructure is now one of the big factors holding Africa back. Africa’s poor roads, ports, and communications isolate it from global markets, and its internal border restrictions fragment the region into a myriad of small local economies. It is neither regionally nor globally integrated. But with better underlying economic policies, a rising middle class in Africa will fuel growth.

It is one thing to bring prosperity to a region, but what counts is growth that benefits the poor and the young, and growth that lasts. Growth is not enough. . . . For young people in particular school plus experience is essential for true inclusion in society.

Patrice de Boeck is director for Business_Network Consulting | A consultancy focused on providing fresh and innovative approach to investment and development in Central Africa, through the provision of services covering Finance, Marketing, Strategy and Sports Sponsorship.

For a democratic theory of Peace...

2011 ended with mixed results in terms of peace, security, development and health. Today, Africa is still one of the most affected regions in the world, facing unprecedented crises, despite the praiseworthy efforts made ​​by local leaders and the world community. Stability is still the greater challenge for most African countries that tried to reduce the gap between global isolation and economic growth.

Instability in Africa is the direct result of a democratic deficit and economic misery

The "Arab Spring", which originated in North Africa has surprised many observers and Medias, it had created a new order in this area. While the fight against terrorism and other new threats are a top priority for Africa in 2012, the concerns and preoccupations of people (the youth generation) aspiring to freedom and to decent and safe living conditions are not taken into consideration. Many African government have failed in that respect, failure that will have an impact on how these countries will move forward and implement proper program (economic and politic) that will erase poverty and offer a better educational system to a young population eager to learn and change their life.

The last dramatic event in Mali and Ivory Coast remind us that despite the fact of not pretending bringing any ready-made solutions and to prevent and overcome these types of sensitive situations, government should appeal to internal political values for democracy, diplomacy and negotiation instead to use military force or repression.
In other words, it is a matter of promoting the theory of peace and democracy which contributes to the respect of citizens’ rights and freedom and to a peaceful settlement of internal conflicts. 

As it was 20 years ago, instability in Africa is still the direct result of a democratic deficit and economic misery.


Making Finance Work in Africa

Over the past few years, the continent has seen vast improvements in services and accountability in its often struggling, un-competitive, heavily bureaucratic financial services sector. Wireless and smart card technologies are also enabling the development of services in previously un-banked areas, helping to stimulate local economies and encouraging investment and tourist spend.

The picture of Africa has an immature market with an underdeveloped infrastructure is now something from the past, as we know, there is great potential for growth, utilizing new electronic banking systems, without having to significantly upgrade the existing infrastructure, and this should push government to support the development of their banking sector.

There are stirrings of change in African finance, some of them vigorous. Strengthened by an extended wave of reforms over the past decade, financial systems in many African countries have begun to diversify their activities, deepen their lending, and increase their reach with new products and new technologies. Financial repression and the practice of directed credit are both much diminished and there has been extensive privatization of state-owned banks. A microfinance movement with deep roots on the continent has strengthened. Links between MFIs and mainstream banks illustrate the adaptation of organizational structures to local conditions.

The persistent failure (until a decade ago) of formal and semi-formal finance to advance, leaving a fragmented and dualistic financial system stubbornly in place, seems to have been overcome. A new wave of intermediaries, many of them market- based, have begun to adopt new approaches that promise to address the special challenges that confront financial development in the region. Cellphone technology is being used for retail payments and for price transparency. Modern technology also underlies the surge of retail lending in several African countries.

General studies have shown that wireless and satellite will provide Africa's best chance of catching up to the rest of the financial world. The world's second biggest continent only has around 3% of the world's phone lines and accounts for a mere 0.1% of the world's Internet users. The costs for setting up wireless connectivity are a fraction of those for setting up the fixed line infrastructure to do the same job.

Today, 60% of the world's leading financial institutions have a wireless strategy and consider mobile or wireless banking as a core element of their service delivery strategy. Wireless represents an answer to clients as banks rationalize branches, and for previously un-banked areas. 

Of course there is still a long way to go. The continued shallowness of finance, and the limited access by small firms and households to any formal financial services, especially in rural areas, mean that this is just a turning of the corner. The environment for financial firms remains difficult and progress has not been as fast as had been hoped. The combination of improvements and unfulfilled potential warrant a new look at African finance.

Strong financial systems are built on good governance, certainly both of the intermediaries and their regulators. But in addition, because all sizable enterprises and all government agencies do business with the financial sector, improvements in this dimension of the financial sector has a pervasive effect on the quality of governance in the business and government sectors as a whole.
Well-targeted direct assistance to improve the productivity of subsistence farming productivity and to reduce disease can make a sizable impact on extreme poverty. But, this just gets the poor to the bottom rung of the ladder. Helping them to the next rungs is the task of microfinance: building the ladder requires mainstream finance.

Reducing absolute poverty in conditions of anemic growth is all but impossible for a market economy. Taking a long-term growth perspective, the major channel for a sustained reduction in African poverty is a transformational increase in the share of the population that is working in the modern sector and with advanced economy productive techniques.

Delivering the infrastructures for the modernization agenda is a demanding agenda, not only because of its technical complexity and the need to respond to changes in the international environment, but also because it lacks the kind of dramatic initiative that helps secure political support.

But persistence and ingenuity will be repaid given the central importance, for achieving development goals, of making finance work for Africa.

Sustainable Energy Solutions for Africa

Despite being rich in natural resources [including a vast amount of renewable solar energy] Africa remains solidly at the bottom among the world’s continents in terms of human well-being and development, it’s a situation that most people called the “resource curse.”

The idea behind this concept of “resource curse” is that African regions with lots of natural resources, especially non-renewable, tend to have economies dominated by just a few industrial sectors, causing the rest to remain weak, underdeveloped or inexistent. This over-reliance on a few key resources also makes country vulnerable to corruption, government mismanagement and wild swings in global commodity prices.

Africa has certainly all those things in abundance, but the continent is also undergoing dramatic change, with some countries seeing rapid economic growth and accelerating urbanization, while underdeveloped infrastructure [both in cities and in rural areas] remains an on-going problem.

Today, at a regional level, the number of people without access to electricity in sub‐Saharan Africa increases by 10% every year, with a projection from 590 million in 2010 to 645 million in 2030, with the steadily rising price of electricity affecting both individuals and businesses alike in every African country, alternative energy can be one of the solutions. For example, micro-hydropower could help bring electricity to remote areas, as well as Solar Energy.

This is especially critical in Africa, where population growth will continue to overwhelm energy development efforts.

For most development study agency, a shift to renewable forms of energy has been identified as a long-term solution to the looming problems of energy shortages and the obvious damage to the environment. Concentrated solar power is one of the few (if not the only) renewable energy form that offers both immediate and long term solution to Africa’s energy needs.

Sustainable power in Africa can be based to a great extent on utility-scale renewable energy generation from the sun, as well as energies from wind and micro scale water turbines. A well balanced mix of renewable energy sources with fossil fuel backup can provide affordable power capacity on demand throughout Africa.

We tend to forget sometime that Africa has an enormous amount of sun energy, falling as sunshine on African deserts, arid Sahel region and savannah grassland, begging to be harnessed by anyone who has an appreciation for sustainable, clean, affordable and renewable electricity.

Let's the sun shine...