African leaders have signed an agreement to set up a massive free-trade area to improve regional integration and boost economic growth across the continent. The deal to create the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) was signed at an extraordinary summit in Kigali, Rwanda by representatives of 44 of the 55 African Union (AU) member states.
Only 16 percent of Africa’s trade takes place between countries on the continent today, according to the union. The commission expects that numer to jump to more than 50 percent if all 55 nations sign on to the pact.
“Our peoples, our business community and our youth, in particular, cannot wait any longer to see the lifting of the barriers that divide our continent, hinder its economic takeoff and perpetuate misery, even though Africa is abundantly endowed with wealth,” said AU Commission Chair Moussa Faki Mahamat.
Albert Muchanga, the commissioner for trade and industry at the African Union Commission, which oversaw the negotiations, said the new agreement also aimed to create jobs and broader economic diversification, in particular by overcoming the continent’s reliance on exporting resources like minerals and oil, and by reducing non-tariff business hurdles, like onerous regulation. He also said yearly monitoring and evaluation will yield better results for this agreement than for its regional predecessors.
Why Some Countries Did Not Sign
The list of all countries that did not sign the agreement was not immediately available. We do know that some of the countries holding out include Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia.
New York Times reported that of the 11 holdouts, Nigeria and South Africa represent $700 billion — or one-third — of the $2.1 trillion in gross domestic product across all 55 African countries. The two countries are also home to 242 million people, or 20 percent of Africa’s population of 1.2 billion.
Nigeria pulled out of the signing ceremony after President Muhammadu Buhari cancelled his attendance on Sunday. A statement at the time said the decision was made “to allow time for broader consultations”.
Buhari who has since set up a presidential committee to take two weeks widening consultations on AfCFTA, believes that the economic and security implications of Nigeria signing the deal must be further discussed.
‘‘We will not agree to anything that will undermine local manufacturers and entrepreneurs, or that may lead to Nigeria becoming a dumping ground for finished goods,’‘ Buhari explained.
Olusegun Obasanjo, a former president of Nigeria and an elder statesman on the continent, called the Buhari administration’s reluctance “criminal,” according to KTPress, a Rwandan news outlet.
“I am surprised that any African leader at this time would be doubting or debating the benefits of what is going to be signed here and fail to show up,” he said.
“The signing and implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will enable a shift from dependence on assistance to increased trade.
“The establishment of the Free Trade Area will result in the establishment of a market of over one billion two hundred million people, with a combined gross product of over three trillion dollars.”
“That is where our salvation lies, trading amongst ourselves and consequently developing our economies. The agreement will inspire a change a perception of the continent by the rest of the world,” he said.
South Africa’s Reasons
Cyril Ramaphosa did not sign the crucial agreement at the African Union (AU) Extraordinary Summit in Rwanda’s capital Kigali — only signing the declaration on the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Ramaphosa said that his government welcomed the “historic moment” saying that it had been dreamt of by the founding fathers of the AU, saying that South Africa was pledging itself totally to opening up trade by signing the declaration.
“We are part of this process of opening up Africa for trade. All that is holding us back from signing the actual agreement is our own consultation process. We still need to consult at home, to consult in Cabinet, to consult the partners at [the National Economic Development and Labour Council ] Nedlac, and finally to consult Parliamentarians, ” Ramaphosa said.
“So we are really going the clean up process of ensuring that everybody is on board. As far as we are concerned as South Africa we are very much part of it. The agreement therefore is very much alive, it’s not dead in the water. We as South Africa want free trade in Africa because we are an important player in the African continent.”
Zambia is another country that did not sign the AfCFTA as it was still conducting internal negotiations on some protocols in the agreement, a Zambian official said. Zambia’s foreign minister, Joseph Malanji, said Zambia only signed the African Free Trade Area Declaration and not the agreement.
He said in a statement that Zambia had negotiated the protocol on goods and services and the dispute settlement mechanism, while the remaining protocols, including on trade competition, investment and the intellectual property, were yet to be negotiated.
The Minister, however, said the signing of the declaration shows that Zambia stands with all other African countries in the quest to improve intra-Africa trade.
Meanwhile, Zambia’s commerce, trade and industry minister Christopher Yaluma said in the same statement that Zambia will not sign the protocol on the free movement of people as the country was not ready for it.
Rwanda, which hosted the extraordinary summit, went to great lengths to make it happen in the year when its president Paul Kagame is chairing the African Union.
The agreement will come into force after 22 countries ratify it in their national parliaments, which is expected to happen within the year. Thereafter, countries will be added as they ratify.
The agreement commits countries to removing tariffs on 90 percent of goods, with 10 percent of “sensitive items” to be phased in later. It will also liberalize trade in services and might in the future include free movement of people and a single currency.
Nigerian Makes History At NASA
Every now and then a genius emerges from Africa and stuns the world. This time it is Wendy Okolo making history as the first black woman to bag a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering at NASA. However, this is not the first time Wendy Okolo is making history.
At the age of 26 back in 2015, Wendy Okolo became the first black woman to bag a doctorate degree in aerospace engineering. She obtained both her BSc and Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Arlington. During her undergraduate days, she was a member of the African Student Society at the University of Texas at Arlington. While in the university, Wendy Okolo also served as the president of the society of women engineers.
Wendy Okolo’s Family And Career
Wendy Okolo is one of the six children of a family whose origin goes back to southeastern Nigeria. She regards her sisters Phyllis and Jennifer as her heroes. According to Wendy, they used their day-to-day experiences to teach her biology and other sciences.
Her first stint with NASA’s Orion spacecraft was during her undergraduate days as an intern with Lockheed Martin. As a graduate student from 2010 to 2012, she worked as a summer researcher at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). At this time she was part of the Control Design and Analysis Branch. During this period Wendy Okolo said she had to fight imposter’s syndrome. She felt she was not good enough to work with such an elite team.
“I was like I am sure these guys are so smart, what am I going to bring in.”
Her first impact on the team was fixing a system error code. According to her, “that fixed the imposter syndrome for a while”. Today, Wendy Okolo works at Ames Research Center as an aerospace engineer. This is one of the major research center belonging to NASA in California’s Silicon Valley.
Black Engineer Of The Year Award 2019
In February 2019, Wendy Okolo won the “Most Promising Engineer” at the BEYA Global Competitiveness Conference Award. The award from the U.S. government is a recognition for her contributions in aerospace engineering. Today, Wendy Okolo uses her position to inspire young girls to pursue a career in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). She shared the award on her Twitter handle with the caption, “#beya #beya2019 @BlackEngineer thank you for the honor!”
— Dr. Wendy A. Okolo (@wendy_okolo) February 17, 2019
Currently, in NASA’s Ames Research Center Okolo works in the Intelligence Systems Division as a special emphasis programs manager. Okolo’s other major achievements include predicting GPS faults in drones. Wendy Okolo, through STMD-ECI project, is also working on improving spacecraft’s maneuverability during entry, descent, and landing. The STMD-ECI project is worth $2.5 million dollars.
Top 10 Current African Heads of State
Africa battles hunger, poverty, lack of basic infrastructure, corruption, and a host of other challenges. Of all these problems, corruption seems to be the most endemic that is sapping the life out of the continent. Many believe corruption and lack of sincerity of the leaders is the bane of Africa. However, there are few African leaders that are redefining leadership in Africa. These leaders are taking steps towards transforming the condition of their people for the better.
From economic policies to fighting corruption to infrastructural development, these leaders are matching words with action. The top 10 current African Heads of State are ranked based on Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG), Transparency International Corruption Perception Index (CPI), safety and rule of law, participation and human rights, sustainable economic opportunity, and human development. Since corruption is considered the bane of Africa, ranking emphasis will be on Transparency International CPI.
Paul Kagame (Rwanda)
President Paul Kagame gets the number one spot on our list of Top 10 Current African Heads of State. Rwanda does not have the lowest corruption rating in Africa, however, in just under two decades of Kagame’s leadership, a country that was divided and poor is now growing at a rate comparable to emerging economies like China.
Before assuming office as the president, Paul Kagame was the commander of the rebel forces that ended the 1994 genocide. 6 years later, Kagame was sworn in as President to a country that was as divided as ever with mounting challenges. In addition to poverty, revenge killings were going on unchecked and corruption was rampant. Rwanda had lost its way and needed direction. Kagame prioritized two main objectives – one was to unify his country and the second was to pull his country out of poverty. He invested time in understanding how other emerging economies such as China, Thailand, and Singapore had transformed their economies. Based on what he learned, he put together a government development plan for Rwanda called Vision 2020 with a goal to transform Rwanda into a robust middle-class economy by 2020. The Vision 2020 serves as a roadmap with 44 clear measurable objectives tracked by the government and private consultancy firms.
Rwanda now has a CPI score of 56% which places the country 48/180 as compared to other countries in the world. Similarly, IMF/ADB estimates that her economy will grow by 7.8% by 2019/2020. Safety and rule of law, as well as human development, has increased tremendously since the genocide to 64.2% and 69.9% respectively in 2017. Additionally, Rwanda has an IIAG good governance score of 64.3% which places them at 8th on the continent. President Paul Kagame gets the number one spot on our list of Top 10 Current African Heads of State for his efforts in transforming Rwanda’s trajectory in less than two decades – restoring peace and fostering economic and infrastructural growth.
Danny Faure (Seychelles)
Seychelles has the best CPI score in Africa (66%) which makes them the least corrupt country in Africa. This score ranks Seychelles 28 out of 180 countries in the world. Seychelles President Faure came into power on October 16, 2016. Before then he served as the country’s vice president between 2010 and 2016. Seychelles has an overall governance score of 73.2. This ranks the country 2nd in Africa. Safety and rule of law and human development stands at 74.8% and 83.8% respectively. There is also high participation and respect of human rights in Seychelles (70.5%). Investors and job seekers will also meet a high sustainable economic opportunity (63.5%).
Mokgweetsi Masisi (Botswana)
Botswana defies all the negative indices peculiar to many African countries. The BBC described Botswana as the most stable country in Africa. Before becoming the nation’s 5th president on April 1, 2018, President Mokgweetsi served as the education minister. Botswana has the second least corrupt public sector in Africa with a score of 61% on CPI. Compared to other countries in the world, Botswana ranks 34/180. This is not only the second best in Africa but also trumps prominent Asian and South American countries. In terms of security and rule of law and human development, Botswana scores 79.6% and 72.5% respectively. This is also one of the highest scores on the continent. Respect for human rights is also high (63.3%). According to the IIAG, Botswana has an overall governance score of 68.5%. Botswana’s economy has remained fairly stable. The nation has also moved away from the mono-diamond economy to explore other sectors including tourism.
Hage Geingob (Namibia)
There are only three African countries that score above 50 on CPI and Namibia is the third. Namibia has a score of 53% which ranks it 52/180 on global transparency index. It also ranks 4th out of 54 on IIAG’s governance index.
Prior to becoming the president on March 21, 2015, President Hage Gottfried Geingob served as the country’s first Prime Minister from 1990 to 2002. Geingob has virtually been on the corridors of power since 1990 and his experience is evident in Namibia’s high safety and rule of law and human development rating of 77.1% and 63%b respectively. Namibia is also one of the top-ranked African countries in terms of human rights (74.9%).
Macky Sall (Senegal)
Senegal has a CPI score of 45/100 and ranks 67/180. Macky Sall has displayed a transformational leadership since coming into office in April 2012. Based on IMF projection, Senegal shows all the signs that it will become the sixth fastest growing economy in Africa before Q4, 2019, pegging its economic growth rate at 6.7%. President Sall has also raised Senegal’s safety and rule of law to 67.1% while human rights and human development are pegged at 67.8% and 59.5% respectively. Senegal now has an overall governance score of 63.3% and ranks 10th in Africa based on IIAG.
Cyril Ramaphosa (South Africa)
Since the end of apartheid on April 27th, 1994, South Africa has become a model for other Africa countries in many spheres. On February 2018, Cyril Ramaphosa was sworn into office after his predecessor, Jacob Zuma, was indicted for corruption. However, South Africa has a CPI score of 43% which ranks the nation 73/180. Upon assuming office, Ramaphosa pledged to prioritize land reforms and economy. South Africa’s economy remains the second largest after Nigeria’s economy. The country also has an impressive safety and rule of law score if 66.7% which is close behind Senegal. South Africa has the second highest human rights score after Namibia (74.4%). The country’s sustainable economic opportunity and human development are 65.1 and 65.6 respectively. It is ranked 7th in Africa for good governance by IIAG.
Beji Caid Essebsi (Tunisia)
President Essebsi is a product of Tunisia’s December 21, 2014 revolution. Since his swearing into power on 31st December 2014, President Essebsi has taken bold steps to restore the people’s lost government confidence. In terms of public sector transparency, Tunisia scores 43% occupying position 73/180 in the world. Tunisia is generally safe (62.0%). The country also has a high human rights participation score of 67.3% and human development of 65.4%. In overall governance, Tunisia occupies the 9th position in Africa with a score of 63.5% by IIAG. With a more stable society, Tunisia’s tourism sector has grown tremendously. However, a recent increase in taxes has brought protests back to the streets.
Saadeddine Othmani (Morocco)
Moroccan Prime Minister Saadeddine Othmani was appointed a prime minister in April 2017. In collaboration with King Mohammed VI and parliament, Morocco has become a reference point for a classic example of good leadership—particularly in Northern Africa. Like South Africa and Tunisia, Morocco has a CPI score of 43% and shares the same position with the other two countries. However, Morocco ranks lower in safety and rule of law and human development (61.9% and 61.6% respectively) compared to the other two countries. But Morocco has better sustainable economic opportunities than the other two (68.3%). According to reports, Morocco retains a place as one of the biggest economies on the continent with FDI hitting 36.75% in November 2018. Sadly, Morocco still has one of the worst human rights participation in Africa (41.8%). In spite of that, it claimed IIAG’s 15th spot out of 54 countries in Africa for good governance.
Nana Akufo-Addo (Ghana)
The only reason Nana Akufo-Addo is not among the top three on the list of top 10 current African Heads of State is that Ghana is still struggling with a corrupt public system. Ghana scores 41% on CPI and ranks 78/180. After coming into power in January 2017, President Akufo-Addo left no one in doubt that he is taking leadership in Ghana to the next frontier. Today, key good governance statistics tilt in his favor. Take, for instance, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in conjunction with the African Development Bank (ADB) is projecting a growth rate of 7.6% in 2019/2020. In terms of overall governance, Ghana is 6th in Africa with an overall score of 68.1% by IIAG. Ghana scores high in safety and rule of law (70.7%), human rights participation (73.0%) and human development (69.9%).
Roch Marc Christian Kabore (Burkina Faso)
Like many of the Top 10 African Heads of State, President Kabore was courting absolute power before becoming president. Kabore served as the country’s Prime Minister between 1994 and 1996. The banker also served as the president of the country’s National Assembly between 2002 and 2012. Since becoming the president in 2015, Kabore has made sweeping changes. Burkina Faso now has a CPI score of 41% and occupies position 78 out of 180 countries. Burkina Faso enjoys good safety and rule of law (59.1%) as well as human development (54.8%). However, Burkinabe has to face the reality of below average sustainable economic opportunity (49.6%). As far as IIAG governance ranking goes, the country ranked 16th out of 54.
Like every other continent in the world, Africa has myriads of challenges. However, these courageous African leaders are taking bold steps to address them. Obviously, the list of top 10 current African Heads of State can change drastically if the focus key indicator changes. However, which other African leader do you think deserves to be on the list? Let us know your reasons in the comment box below.
Microsoft Wants To Promote Digital Transformation in Africa And Here Is How
South Africa is the home for Microsoft’s first data centers in Africa. The two data centers are located in Cape Town and Johannesburg. The new data centers are serving Azure, with Dynamics 365 and Office 365 scheduled to be added by end of 2019.
The company had, in 2017, announced that it plans to have data centers in South Africa. Overall, the multinational technology company has 54 cloud regions announced around the world.
Data Centers and Digital Transformation
The new data centers in South Africa make Microsoft the first global provider to offer cloud services from data centers in Africa. The company aims to help in promoting digital transformation in Africa.
The location of the data centers in Africa means regional users are guaranteed of resilient cloud services, enhanced security, compliance needs, and data residency. Furthermore, the new data centers will help promote global investment, improve access to the Internet and cloud services in Africa, and increase business opportunities in the region.
Projections from IDC–International Data Corporation–indicate that adoption of the cloud services will generate around 112,000 jobs in South Africa—by end of 2022. The data centers will facilitate improved environment for building digital businesses. Nedbank for instance, plans to utilize Microsoft Azure to increase its agility, customer focus, and competitiveness.
Furthermore, Azure provides companies with data privacy and security. This makes it a suitable service for banks like Nedbank. The Peace Parks Foundation and eThekwini Water have also signed up with Microsoft for computing services.
Microsoft Azure is a cloud computing service. It can be used for building, testing, managing, and deploying services and applications through Microsoft data centers. The service supports different tools, frameworks, and programming languages.
Users of Azure can enjoy instant computing resources on demand. In addition, businesses or individuals using the service do not have to build on-site data centers or have server cooling environments. Also Azure users do not endure maintenance costs, electricity costs, and use of floor space. As such, Azure brings down the costs of computing.
Microsoft’s Investment in Africa
Microsoft has a 30-year history of operations in Africa. With over 10,000 local partners on the continent, the new data centers in South Africa add to the company’s long list of investments in Africa. The expansive investments in Africa took a new direction with Microsoft’s launch of 4Africa Initiative in 2013.
The initiative seeks to facilitate the company’s engagement with startups, partners, and governments. The aim of these engagements is to help the youth develop locally relevant technology, 21st-century skills, and affordable access to the Internet.
Other global tech giants with plans to open data centers in Africa include Huawei and Amazon. Facebook announced it will set up a content review center in Nairobi, Kenya.
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