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Smart Africa’s New Boss Has Big Ambitions For The Continent’s ICT Agenda

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Lacina Kone

Smart Africa gets a new boss, taking over at a time when the continent is having high expectations for Information Communication Technology (ICT) and development. The secretariat must grow ICT investments and accelerate taking up of technology across Africa. Additionally, Africans have high expectations that the Smart Africa Alliance organization will also seek to increase its membership from the current 24 African countries to include even more. This is in order that the organization can have greater impact in Africa.

Smart Africa is an alliance and a commitment by heads of states and governments in Africa. The aim is to accelerate sustainable socio-economic development in Africa. It also seeks to propel Africa into a knowledge-based economy via affordable access to Broadband and usage of ICT.

Last week, Dr Hamadoun Toure handed over the mantle to Lacina Kone as the Executive Director of Smart Africa Alliance. This is an alliance organization that uses the power of ICT to drive the African development agenda. Among the huge task ahead for the new boss is to foster an environment that will entice all other members of the African Union. This is in order for them to join the Smart Africa entity.

Smart Africa Alliance under Lacina Kone

Kone is the new Alliance’s boss hailing from Ivory Coast. He joins the Alliance with many ambitions that include creating a single digital market in Africa, an agenda that was launched last year in the continent. This is a development agenda created in order to rip down all borders in Africa such that the final result will be a one-Africa market. Additionally, the agenda entails creating a single African digital identity and a blockchain technology for money transfers. These important development issues will also require participation of the private sector in Africa in areas of investments.

Starting off his career in 1991, Kone holds two Masters Degrees with more than 20 years experience in ICT development. He has served in various capacities including head of technology organizations such as Intelsat, CVT Global as well as Booz Allen Hamilton. Additionally, he has been the Digital Economy Advisor to the Prime Minister. He is also the advisor of Benin government in areas of ICT. This shows that the Alliance is getting a competent boss and therefore increased expectations and hopes for development in ICT.

The Big Tasks Ahead for Kone in Smart Africa

The Smart Africa Alliance has a unique approach to its operations. The model of operations involves each member country taking up one flagship program in order to spearhead. Additionally, each country then shares the approaches, blueprints, and practices it uses in the program with other countries in Africa. This sharing makes the member states to learn in return. The new boss will lead in this task to ensure that these blueprints are documented and the countries are adopting them.

“I will seek to continue implementing the roadmap of the organization,” Kone said. This is while acknowledging the urgency of creating unity and a one voice for Africa. Especially in issues relating to internet penetration and affordability for example.

“If you look at, say, the initial internet cost in Rwanda, it’s about $8 per megabyte and it’s about $60 for the same in Ivory Coast which has access to the ocean. Ghana, which neighbors Ivory Coast, has about half the cost. We need to have very serious conversations about such things with a unified voice,” he said.

Other Tasks in the Smart Africa Alliance

Other tasks that are hot in his to do list include facilitating one Africa network. The network will enable users enjoy free roaming services on the continent. Additionally, he will ensure that the continent has increased number of exchange points in order to reduce the expenses and foster better user experience.

The outgoing director Smart Africa Alliance, Toure has been in the office since 2015. During this time, he oversaw the founding of the alliance. Additionally, he saw the increase of member countries from the initial nine during inauguration to the present 24. It is also through under his leadership that the alliance got a total of 41 private sector partners in investment.

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Business and Development

Mauritius and Kenya Sign New Deal. Ban Lifted on Kenya’s Produce

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Kenya’s president and Mauritius Prime Minister witness the signing of the deal

Kenya and Mauritius signed a new deal that saw Mauritius lifting a ban on Kenyan farm produce. The new agreement enhances trade between the two African countries. Mauritius had initially banned baby beans, baby carrots, broccoli, and avocados from Kenya. Bilateral talks between Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth and Kenya President Uhuru Kenya culminated in the lifting of the ban on these products.

Agreements

The bilateral talks also saw the signing of the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement—DTAA. In addition, the two leaders signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation for the development of an Export Processing Zone in Kenya.

Kenya and Mauritius also signed an Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement. Other agreements signed include MOU in the field of arts and culture, an MOU in the field of higher education and scientific research, and an MOU on tourism.

Impact of the Deal

The signed agreements will boost Kenya’s ambitions to reach its development goals. According to President Kenyatta, the agreements will particularly boost Kenya’s manufacturing sector and create employment opportunities.

The new deal will further foster cooperation between Mauritius and Kenya. This means that the cordial relationship between the two countries is enhanced. This relationship will boost trade and investment opportunities in both countries.

Both Kenya and Mauritius have long coastlines, and more benefits can be derived in their blue economies through cooperation. President Kenyatta stated that there is a need for the two countries to look for ways of enhancing maritime transport by linking the Port of Mombasa to Port Louis. An established link is considered a catalyst for growing trade and businesses in the two countries.

The key benefit to Kenya from the deal is the promotion of its agricultural produce. Mauritius lifted a three-year ban on Kenyan avocado. Kenya lost the avocado market in Mauritius in 2015. The ban was due to the Mauritian National Plant Protection Office citing low hygiene standards of the Kenyan avocados. Lifting of the ban will now see more exports of avocados to Mauritius, along with other farm produce such as baby carrots and broccoli.

Kenya’s deal with Mauritius follows an initial pact with China. In 2018, Kenya signed deals with China and the Republic of Korea that opened opportunities for farmers to export more agriculture products to the two countries. The Kenya-China agreement opened opportunities for Kenya to export meat, flowers, and a selection of fruits and vegetables to China.

Kenyatta’s visit to Mauritius for the deal makes him the first Kenyan president to visit Mauritius.

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10 Easiest Countries to Do Business in Africa 2019

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Do you want to do business in Africa? As you may well be aware, Africa is a continent that is buzzing with potential. One of the primary reasons it makes the best place to invest is its untapped opportunities. There is so much that you could do here. On top of there being a ready market and raw materials, the continent is also not short of skilled labor. Now, Africa has many countries; you cannot probably invest or do business in all of them.

The small economies in Africa are the best performing in terms of policy and business reforms. For this reason, the best three countries to do business in Africa today are not necessarily the economic giants of South Africa (position 82 globally), Egypt (position 120 globally), Nigeria (position 146 globally) or even Kenya.

The World Bank report uses very specific parameters in measuring the ease of doing business in a country and determining its position worldwide. These parameters include ease of starting a business, taxes, contracts, access to credit, training, dissemination, registering property,  and cross-border trade. The World Bank looks at a total of 190 economies in the world. And at this time, despite minor improvements, our own Eritrea (189 positions) and conflict-ravaged Somalia (position 190) managed the last two slots. The list below gives you the ten easiest countries to do business in Africa.

Top 10 Easiest Countries To Do Business in Africa

Do Business in Africa

#1 – Mauritius

Mauritius is one of the easiest countries to do business in Africa. The incredible part is that it ranks first in Africa! World Bank report has also positioned it 20th on a global scale. This should not be in vain. What makes Mauritius the best country to do business in Africa? There are several factors. The ones highlighted by World Bank being a notable improvement in areas of business creation, obtaining building permits, cross-border trade, enforcement of contracts and infrastructure. The predominant language for business is English.

#2 – Rwanda

Rwanda is an East African country with a lot of economic potentials. It is ranked the best in East Africa (pdf) by reports in ease of doing business in the region. The country is also rich in natural resources like minerals and agriculture. The country has so much going on, even in foreign trade. We are talking about tea, minerals, coffee, and tourism and so on. Is the legislative environment conducive? Well, as a matter of fact, it ranks 33 in property rights and 47 in innovation.

There are 4 official languages in the country. Kinyarwanda is the language spoken by most of the population. English, French and Swahili are the other 3 official languages. In 2008, English became the language of instruction in schools – this was a switch from the Frech language. The predominant languages for business are English and Swahili.

#3 – Morocco

Morocco is an African country that is located in the northern part of Africa; it is actually the most northerly country in the continent. Morocco ranks third when it comes to Africa’s best countries to do business in. What are the perks of doing business in this country? Truth be told, you will be overwhelmed.

It all starts with the mere fact that the country has proximity to Europe. What does that mean? The proximity makes foreign trade relations easy. Also, it makes the country a hotbed of investors. The business climate is also diverse and very proactive.

Since the government has geared its efforts towards the education sector of the country, educated workforce keeps increasing. The Moroccan government is also very stable and in support of economic development. There are so many opportunities to harness in this country. The country also has exceptional performance when it comes to Monetary Freedom.

Morocco is multilingual with different flavors of Arabic and French commonly used for communication. However, the predominant language for business is French.

#4 – Kenya

Kenya has the most powerful economy in East Africa. Just to show you why Kenya makes a good pick, you need to note that the state has risen the ranks in World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business from position 136 globally to 61. The most incredible part is that this happened in less than five years. That is not all. The country has also exhibited exceptional economic and infrastructural development which makes it even easier to run business in the state. When it comes to innovation, the country ranks third in the Sub-Sahara. As you have seen, it offers a very conducive environment for business.

Kenya has two official languages, English and Swahili. However, English is predominantly used in business.

#5 – Tunisia

What makes Tunisia one of the best countries to do business in Africa? Well, there are several reasons why you should invest here. For one, it is one of the African countries that have the most diversified market-based economy. Also, just like Ghana (position 114 globally), you will even get to enjoy personal freedom as an entrepreneur. The country ranks fifth best country to do business in Africa.

Tunisia has two main ‘official’ languages. Modern Standard Arabic and French. Both languages are used to conduct business.

#6 – South Africa

Despite being an Africa economic giant, South Africa has not made as many significant reforms as needed to rank better as a country of destination for doing business in Africa. However, it is worth noting that South Africa ranks as the sixth best country to do business in Africa. Also, it has an overall rank of 82 in the world. South Africa’s economy can be described as a middle-income emerging market. The country also has abundance in natural resources and a well-developed transport and communication sector. That is not all. The country is also doing very well in the financial and legal sector.

The South African stock exchange is also impressive, ranking 20th in the world. All that combined with Investor Protection and Property Rights makes the country one of the best to invest in Africa.

South Africa has 11 official languages. However, business is mostly conducted in English.

#7 – Botswana

Botswana ranks seventh in Africa, and 86 in the World among the best countries to do business in. This is by reports released by the World Bank. What makes Botswana a catch? For one, the mining sector is attracting an outstanding number of investors. Also, it is good to note that Botswana’s banking and insurance sector is a force to reckon with. Cross-border trade and access to credit in the country is pretty impressive.

Botswana has two official languages, English and Tswana. However, English is the language predominantly used to conduct business.

#8 – Zambia

There are excellent potential and opportunity for growth here. It would be satisfying if you set up a business in the country and watch it grow as the nation grows. Despite the country relying heavily on copper trade, it has one of the fastest growing economies in the continent.

Zambia recognizes 7 languages as regional official languages. However, English is predominantly used in business dealings.

#9 – Seychelles

Seychelles is yet another country that ranks top 10 in the list of best states to do business in Africa. This has been attributed to the diverse economy. We are talking about tourism, agriculture, energy, and telecommunications. More so, the country has been ranked 96 globally by the World Bank.

Seychelles has 3 national languages – Seychellois Creole, English and French. However, English is the language predominantly used in business dealings.

#10 – Djibouti

Djibouti is among the top ten countries that improved quite significantly across three or more doing business areas as measured by the World Bank. The country did reforms in the areas of accessing credit, starting a business, protecting minority investors, enforcing contracts, registering property and resolving issues of insolvency. Most significantly, the country ranks among the top ten in Africa because of creating a one-stop shop for business startup.

According to Atou Seck, World Bank Resident Representative in Djibouti, “The reforms undertaken by the Government of Djibouti to improve the business environment can be a catalyst for change in the country’s economic landscape

Djibouti has 3 official languages – Somali, Arabic and French. However, French is the language predominantly used for business dealings.

Most Improved Countries

On the list of the 10 most improved economies in the world are 5 African countries. The countries are Djibouti, Togo, Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire, and Rwanda. Of the 5 countries, only Djibouti has been on the most improved list for 2 consecutive years.

Source: Doing Business database. Note: Economies are selected on the basis of the number of reforms and ranked on how much their ease of doing business score improved. First, Doing Business selects the economies that implemented reforms making it easier to do business in three or more of the 10 areas included in this year’s aggregate ease of doing business score. Regulatory changes making it more difficult to do business are subtracted from the number of those making it easier. Second, Doing Business ranks these economies on the increase in their ease of doing business score from the previous year. The improvement in their score is calculated not by using the data published in 2017 but by using comparable data that capture data revisions. The choice of the most improved economies is determined by the largest improvements in the ease of doing business score among those with at least three reforms.

Where will you invest?

Africa is a growing and diverse continent that is ripe with opportunities for investments and business. You cannot afford to miss out on the share of the economic pie. As you look for countries to do business in Africa, the list here should provide you with the best in the continent. The countries are packed with talent, innovation and also rich in natural resources. Invest and be a part of the business revolution happening in Africa!

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Ethiopian Prime Minister’s War On Corruption Results In Arrests Of 59 More Officials

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Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed

Since coming into power in 2018, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed made a firm resolve to clean-up public institutions. Ahmed canceled the contract between the government and METEC (Metals and Engineering Corporation), a military-run industrial conglomerate. The latest crackdown on corruption on Thursday 11th April 2019 led to the arrest of 59 officials.

Among those affected by the arrest are the head and staff of the Public Procurement and Property Disposal Service. Commenting on the matter on Friday the nation’s attorney general, Berhanu Tsegaye, said the arrest is based on the suspicious acquisition of properties and economic sabotage.

“We found properties, such as title deeds of houses held by the suspects, which are beyond their income.”

Just one year in office but the prime minister is taking great strides in reforming the country. Ethiopia now has improved relationships with neighboring countries. These efforts have earned the prime minister a Nobel Peace Prize nomination.

Abiy Ahmed’s Previous Public Institution Cleanup Efforts

According to Berhanu, the recent arrest follows a three-month investigation involving officials from the Ethiopian Water Works Construction Enterprise and Pharmaceuticals Fund and Supply Agency. However, this is not the first time the government is making efforts to stamp out corruption. In November 2018, the government arrested over 60 intelligence officials, businesspeople, and military personnel on various charges of right violation and corruption. Tsegaye said

“[The offenses of some of those arrested include] beatings, forced confessions, sodomy, rape, electrocution, and even killings [and mismanaging METEC].”

The high-profile arrest included officials from METEC. Consequently, this led to the cancellation of the contact between METEC and the government. The former METEC head was in January 2019, charged with corruption. This makes him the most senior official in the arrest to be prosecuted. Ethiopia’s spy chief was also fingered in a botched plot to assassinate the new prime minister.

Reactions Trailing The Anti-Corruption War

It is all positive response for the anti-corruption war of the new prime minister. However, an opposition figure, Yilikal Getnet says the prime minister is merely playing to the demands of the people. In an interview with The Associated Press, Getnet said,

“These have been issues that we in the opposition have long been calling for, too. The ruling party alone can’t bring justice for all these atrocities committed in the past.”

Amnesty International also thinks the arrests are the right steps in the right direction. Commenting on the November 2018 arrests, the East Africa Director of Amnesty International, Joan Nyanyuki said,

“These arrests are an important first step towards ensuring full accountability for the abuses that have dogged the country for several decades. Many of these officials were at the helm of government agencies infamous for perpetrating gross human rights violations.

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