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...

Africa in 2012 [The Economist]

Over the past decade six of the world’s ten fastest-growing countries were African. In eight of the past ten years, Africa has grown faster than East Asia, including Japan. Even allowing for the knock-on effect of the northern hemisphere’s slowdown, the IMF (International Monetary Fund) expects Africa to grow by nearly 6% this year, about the same as Asia.

In 2000-08 around a quarter of Africa’s growth came from higher revenues from natural resources. Favourable demography is another cause. With fertility rates crashing in Asia and Latin America, half of the increase in population over the next 40 years will be in Africa. But the growth also has a lot to do with the manufacturing and service economies that African countries are beginning to develop. The big question is whether Africa can keep that up if demand for commodities drops.

Optimism about Africa needs to be taken in fairly small doses, for things are still exceedingly bleak in much of the continent. Most Africans live on less than two dollars a day. Food production per person has slumped since independence in the 1960s. The average lifespan in some countries is under 50. Famine persist, the climate is worsening, with deforestation and desertification still on the march.

Some countries praised for their breakout economic growth, such as Angola and Equatorial Guinea (thanks to gas and oil), have huge corruption problem. Some that have begun to get economic development right, such as Rwanda and Ethiopia, have become politically noxious. Congo, after a shameful election process, still looks barely governable and hideously corrupt. Zimbabwe is a scar on the conscience of the rest of Africa. South Africa, which used to be a model for the continent, is tainted with corruption; and within the ruling African National Congress there is talk of nationalising land and mines, which doesn’t make political sense at all.

Yet against that depressingly familiar backdrop, some fundamental numbers are moving in the right direction. Africa now has a fast-growing middle class; according to the Standard Bank, around 60 million Africans have an income of $3,000 a year and 100 million will by 2015. The rate of foreign investment has increase dramatically, around tenfold in the past decade.

China’s arrival has improved Africa’s infrastructure and boosted its manufacturing sector. Other non-Western countries, from Brazil and Turkey to Malaysia and India, are following its lead. Africa could break into the global market for light manufacturing and services such as call centres. Cross-border commerce, long suppressed by political rivalry. Africa’s enthusiasm for technology is boosting growth. It has more than 600 million mobile-phone users (more than America or Europe). Around a tenth of Africa’s land is covered by mobile-internet services (a higher proportion than in India). The health of many millions of Africans has also improved, thanks in part to the wider distribution of mosquito nets and the gradual easing of the ravages of HIV/AIDS. Skills are improving: productivity is growing by nearly 3% a year, compared with 2.3% in America.

All this is happening partly because Africa is at last getting a taste of peace and decent government. For three decades after African countries threw off their colonial shackles, not a single country has peacefully ousted a government or president at the ballot box. But since Benin in 1991, it has happened more than 30 times, far more often than in the Arab world.

Population trends could enhance these promising developments. the rise of educated young people entering the job market and a decline in the birth rates are positive signs. Having a lot of young adults is good for any country if its economy is thriving, but if jobs are in short supply it can lead to frustration and violence. Whether Africa’s demography brings a dividend or disaster is largely up to its governments.

But let's not loose our focus here, Africa still needs deep reform. Governments should make it easier to start businesses and cut some taxes and collect honestly the ones they impose. Land needs to be taken out of communal ownership and title handed over to individual farmers so that they can get credit and expand, something that will benefit the all community. And, most of all, politicians need to act as politicians and not business-men and leave power when their voters tell them to.

Western governments should open up to trade rather than just dish out aid. Foreign investors should sign the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which would let Africans see what foreign companies pay for licences to exploit natural resources. African governments should insist on total openness in the deals they strike with foreign companies and governments.

Autocracy, corruption and strife will not disappear overnight. But at a dark time for the world economy, Africa’s progress is a reminder of the transformative promise of growth.

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.

How important is Business Strategy?

"It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperilled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperilled in every single battle." SUN TZU

Businesses are economic as well as human entities, and need to be built on a solid base of sustainable competitive advantage.

The business strategy of a company provides the big picture that shows how all the individual activities are coordinated to achieve a profitable end result. But can a business prevail if the strategy plan is poorly conceived or the company faces competitors with superior strategies, resources, and positioning?
 As Damon Runyon wrote, “the race is not always to the swift or the victory to the strong, but that's how you bet." (From Fast Company)

It is through the strategy process that the overall direction of the business is set. This is based on the opportunities and threats in the outside world and the internal strengths and weaknesses of the business.
As the external environment changes, perhaps due to changes in customers or competitors or perhaps due to the wider forces - political, economic, social, technological, environmental or legislation based - it is important to review your initial strategy and ask some fundamental questions.

And even if the basic environment is stable, actions and intentions of businesses competitors change and companies need to review what is happening, prepare for any real or potential competitive manoeuvres and find new insights into ways to create value for customers.

Whatever you do in your business, you must have a strategy plan and if problem occur, it is probably that the business strategy your company has implemented is just not good enough. It may not take into account clear threats from your competitors or the market; it could be that your company may not have spotted a great opportunity that could increase profit and sustainability within a tough market environment.

If a new competitor has been able to take over one of your existing clients (or even several in an attempt to consolidate their market position), it is clear that they have a very different approach to business and different goals. They may have a different business model which could give them a significant advantage to customer.
When business is good and profit grows as planned, the general assumption is that the company management team is very effective, knows what it is doing and future performance will remain high. The inevitable question is "Why change a winning formula?", although this view has led many companies to grow complacent and to lose any competitive edge.
Unfortunately, managers can become too comfortable and confident, because they have spent a long time working for the same company, within the same industry that they believe too often that there is only one way to compete, the one they know.

Let’s not forget Sun Tzu words: “Strategy is how you get to know your enemies, yourself and the terrain on which you will fight”.
In most company, there is an element of mystery about strategic planning and a feeling that it has to be more complicated than it really is. Sometime, the management team don't really know where to begin and there is the obvious fear of change. As we know, a business strategy implies change and that could mean that people within the company feel that they have as much to lose as they have to gain.

We probably all agree on the fact that business strategy is important, because it is the source of a long term profits for any ambition businesses today, and how you setup this in your company, should look like that :
  • By implementing a business strategy, you will get tremendous value from the strategy process and stepping away from the day-to-day issues by looking at the long term future of your company. Thinking about what may happen makes the company and you much more aware of the symptoms of change to avoid the boiled frog problem.
  • Your business strategy should focus on competitive strategy and how you can win customer preference over competitors. It has to be a strategy based on establishing a differentiation advantage.
  • You want a short strategic plan that becomes a living document and guides the decisions and actions made by the company, your team and yourself. As things change, the plan has to be updated and kept constantly relevant to what is happening in the business.
Again, let me finish this post with another Sun Tzu quote, from Mark R. McNeilly book, Sun Tzu and the Art of Business:

“Generally in war, the best policy is to take a state intact; to ruin it is inferior to this....For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.” 
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.

What does Zambia's victory teach us?

So many questions have been raised to try to explain the Zambia national football team victory in the AfricanNations Cup 2012.
Most people believe that the spirits of their compatriots who died in 1993 was one of the reasons of their amazing and welcome success by the entire continent.

Herve Renard, who proved to be a tactical maestro in turning a relatively good team into an African champion, also believes something beyond the obvious was responsible for the historic win.
“They found the strength and the motivation and I don’t know from where,” said Renard about his players. “It just felt right for all of us and for Zambia, but it wasn’t because of me. I don’t know where it came from, we were not the best team but we had a force that pushed us and made us African champion.”

As always, there are a number of key decisions that can ensure stability and bring success and Zambia wasn’t afraid to make their own path to victory, no matter what.
We all knew of the abundance of talent this country possess, they have truly gifted footballers, but it was more about how they managed them and how they setup their team that made a difference: respect the players and nurture their talents.

Obviously, a good coach was still needed.
Without any doubt, Zambia did hire the right man for the job in Herve Renard, soon after their qualification for the CAN 2012.
He, previously, was in charge of the Zambia national team, taking them to the quarterfinals once and after a qualification stage under a previous manager, the Zambia FA were not convinced that it would be enough to take them further in the competition. For some, the fact that Zambia would be at the CAN 2012 was already a success but for the Zambia FA president, Kalusha Bwalya, going through to the last 4 or the final was a real possibility.

19 years ago, 18 members of the Zambia national team perished in a plane crash in Libreville (Gabon), a dramatic and painful experience for the Zambia at the time and especially for Kalusha Bwalya, who should have been in the plane if it wasn’t for some contract circumstance with his current club that year.

Herve Renard resume in Africa came from his time as manager for the Ghana and Angola national team, and the experience gained from that was at least enough to the Zambia FA. They needed a coach that they could learn from and gave him all the necessary support. Kalusha Bwalya knew that he was the right type of manager to lead the team and to deliver stability, but he probably never dreams that the Frenchman would be able to take Zambia all the way to the end, to African football heaven, to become 2012 African Champions.
Many countries in Africa assemble their national team and for most of them mainly with players coming from England, France, Spain… and other part of Europe. A lot of them are well paid professional and for some national icon (Drogba, Demba Ba, Yaya Touré) coming to the national team with their own ego which doesn’t always suit the rest team.

Zambia didn’t assemble a team; they have built one from scratch.  

The Zambia FA went back to the drawing board and started building a new team around a stable organisation under the lead of Kalusha Bwalya, a national hero and role model. Their players have been played together from the Under-17 level and went to the Under-20s together, then you have a number of them who were part of the under-23 teams and this has been the blueprint of their current success, building a team around players that know each other well and have a deep understanding of each other skill and football abilities.

You look at their team during the final against Ivory Coast and it featured four players under 22, two players under 23 and only two players over 30, the complete opposite of their opponent that day.
Few countries in Africa have had trust in young players and still rely on players past their prime at the expense of emerging and promising talents.

Another problem in African football has been the multiples divisions some local FA has to face: religion, ethnic, tribal…
Divisions, in some country, have been a huge obstacle to national team success, unfortunately.

To quote Kalusha Bwalya : “In Zambia we have fewer resources than most African countries and less funding to promote our sport,  but when it comes to play for the national team, we all stick together for one cause, our country and this make a huge difference.”

Since last week, they are AFRICAN CHAMPIONS and the pride of the continent.

Is FREEDOM a complex ideal...

In politics, the idea of Freedom comes up quite often, but the word Freedom has little meaning if we do not have a common definition.

Theoretically, Freedom is not that complex of an ideal. But putting theoretical ideals into practice becomes much more difficult: the black-and-whiteness of ideals becomes muddled with the various grey hues of practice's complexity.

Freedom starts with a principle of self-control, also known as self-ownership. In a free society, each and every person has legal control of their own body and mind. As such, the concept of Freedom refers to a certain type of political empowerment. It refers specifically to equal empowerment. In other words, a free society is one with an equal distribution of legal rights and in which each and every person has as much legal rights as possible.

We enjoy all these Freedoms here in England. No one tells us how many children we can have. We are allowed to own our own home and/or business, work where we wish, get an education, worship the God of our choice in the way that we choose, and in the church of our liking, or not at all, if we so desire. We are free to travel, or to stay at home. No one puts up walls to keep us contained within any boundaries. We are free to live in the location of our choice, but we are also free to move from state to state with no restrictions, if that is our desire.

Basically, a free person has the legal allowance to do whatever he or she wants insofar as he or she does not offensively harm or coerce other people against those other people's wills. Remember, the limitation is a logical requirement. Freedom obviously cannot include the legal right to limit other people's Freedom because that would be illogical.

We are the few fortunate. We can choose the size of our family, the size of our home is limited only by our capacity and willingness to earn our living. We are free to bargain with our employer about the amount our skills and expertise are worth and the conditions under which we are expected to work. We receive fair compensation for our labours and we are free to spend it in the way we choose, and free to invest and save for our retirement years.

We enjoy so much more Freedom. But this privilege does not come cheap.

Freedom in Britain have been bought and paid for with the blood, sweat, and tears of previous generations and their peers who still stand tall today in the military, ready and willing to defend our Freedoms from any and all transgressors all over the world. These are your husbands, sons, brothers, fathers, uncles, cousins, daughters, wives, mothers, aunts, friends...

A famous phrase from a former a US career military officer was: "I may not agree with what you say, but I will fight until my death for your right to say it."

Who can give us more than that? Shouldn't we give as much as we can back to them?

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.

Diversity | A challenge for most Businesses

Professor C. James Trotman argues that multiculturalism is valuable because it uses several disciplines to highlight neglected aspects of our social history, particularly the histories of women and minorities and promotes respect for the dignity of the lives and voices of the forgotten.  By closing gaps, by raising consciousness about the past, multiculturalism tries to restore a sense of wholeness in a post-modern era that fragments human life and thought.
Basically for most of us, multiculturalism is seen as a fairer system that allows people to truly express who they are within a society, that is more tolerant and that adapts better to social issues. We could argue that culture is not one definable thing based on one race or religion, but rather the result of multiple factors that change as the world changes.
Countries like England, France and the United States have seen a huge change in their way of life in the past 50 years, mainly impacted by multiculturalism.

But on a business point of view, how could we assess the impact of multiculturalism in today society? How current business leaders see multiculturalism as a positive tactic which encourages diversity to better serve a heterogeneous customer base or simply increase market share or year to year profit?

In a business area, Diversity theorizes that, in a global marketplace, a company that employs a diverse workforce (both men and women, people of many generations, people from ethnically and racially diverse backgrounds...) is better able to understand the demographics of the market it serves and is thus better equipped to thrive than a company which is less open to diversity.

An additional corollary suggests that a company that supports the diversity of its workforce can also improve employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention. If a workforce is diverse, but the employer takes little or no advantage of that breadth of that experience, then it cannot monetize whatever benefits background diversity might offer.

But there are a lot of challenges to manage a diverse work population. Managing diversity is more than simply acknowledging differences in people.

A major challenge is miscommunication within an organization. When native and non-native speakers are exposed to the same messages, they may interpret the information differently.

Cultural bias is another huge challenge. Cultural bias includes both prejudice and discrimination.  Prejudice refers to negative attitudes toward an organization member based on his/her culture group identity, and discrimination refers to observable adverse behaviour for the same reason.
Finally, assimilation has had serious negative consequences for individuals in organizations and the organizations themselves. Those who assimilate are denied the ability to express their genuine selves in the workplace; they are forced to repress significant parts of their lives within a social context that frames a large part of their daily encounters with other people. People who spend significant amounts of energy coping with an alien environment have less energy left to do their jobs.

Assimilation does not just create a situation in which people who are different are likely to fail; it also decreases the productivity of organizations.

The key to managing a diverse workforce is increasing individual awareness of and sensitivity to differences of race, gender, social class, sexual orientation, physical ability, and age.
There are several ways to go to create a diverse organization that performs extremely well: self-monitoring, empathy, and strategic decision-making |

·         Self-monitoring refers to a communicator's awareness of how his or her behaviour affects another person, and his or her willingness to modify this behaviour based on knowledge of its impact
·         Empathy enables the receiver to go beyond the literal meaning of a message and consider the communicator's feelings, values, assumptions, and needs
·         Strategic decision-making implies that the communication sources and channels used to reach organization members, as well as the substance of the messages conveyed, are mindfully selected.
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.

THINK : Foundation for a better World

One of the great unknowns of today is the way our leaders, our governments and members of the G8 will decide to do to build a better world for tomorrow. They cannot afford to be passive and let technological progress make decisions for them; however they must anticipate the current trends with a positive strategy in order to guarantee our security and a better living condition for our children.

Today financial crisis is a perfect example of an elite government that has failed to foresee the collapse of an archaic and uncontrolled financial system, which resulted, in most financial market place, in the development of a global trading exchanges volume, exceeding the financial capital or resources available to them.

Too often we forget that the world around us changes constantly and gradually: countries such as Japan, Germany and Italy have seen their population becoming increasingly older, which could dramatically affect, in the short-term, their economy, education systems and infrastructure.
The positive development of a "Green Economy" more in tune with our environment, which in political terms may affect the civilian sector and financial, has been a positive step toward a better way of using our resources and protecting our planet.
Internet today has become the main tool of communication in all areas of activity and the impact of the [world wide web] on our professional and private life is quite impressive today.
Diplomacy is now a key element for any successful business, as well as to help our governments to work together and discuss positively with their citizens and partners.

The success of a competitive globalization, and a human one, has to be achieved with a better cooperation between nations from both hemisphere and by improving diplomatic relations between peoples.

But what’s about Africa?

One of the strong arguments of the IBM Think Project for a better world in 2020 is to promote continued cooperation with Africa by offering every government the right solutions to help them to work better together and to solve important problems such as national security and immigration, the development of a competitive business sector and implementing a proper health service to be able to fight against deadly disease such as AIDS, Malaria, Ebola...

Asia is undoubtedly the continent of today with the emergence of China and Japan's competitiveness in areas such as information technology, multimedia and the car industry, but Africa has all the tools and talents to be the continent of the TOMORROW.

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.