Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

Africa’s bond rush: Handle with care

African governments must use bond revenues to address critical growth constraints, while global conditions are in their favour.

Sub-Saharan Africa has a $7bn potential bond pipeline in 2013. Zambia and Rwanda recently issued heavily over-subscribed bonds, and analysts anticipate issuances from Nigeria, Angola, Ghana (its second), Kenya and Zambia (again). Tanzania has hired a rating adviser as a precursor to a bond issuance in due course, with Mozambique an outside bet.
This is only partly a response to the continent’s robust growth. Low yields elsewhere (especially in the eurozone and the US) – as well as excess global liquidity due to quantitative easing – are the global trends pushing bond-hunters to Africa. “There is a lot of excess liquidity internationally and some of that is being used to buy high-yielding assets in Africa,” says Mason Cranswick, director of fixed income credit at Credit Suisse.
So the current window of opportunity will not last forever, meaning funds raised must be used by African governments to address critical growth bottlenecks such as infrastructure; highlighted by both recent issuers as an investment priority. “Once liquidity starts drying up, there is a risk that some of the funds will be pulled from Africa. But I think if we keep our momentum we can still attract that capital,” says Mr Cranswick. “If we can keep up with the infrastructure, I think we can stay attractive with the rest of the world.”
While government bonds could help address Africa’s enormous infrastructure deficit, it is no magic bullet. “The binding constraint is debt sustainability issues around these countries,” says Mthuli Ncube, chief economist for the African Development Bank. Rwanda could not go much further than $430m, he says. Regional infrastructure bonds can supplement government’s efforts, and innovative moves – such as Ethiopia’s diaspora bond to raise funds for the Renaissance Dam – can also help. But in the longer term, says Mr Ncube, “what is needed is a deepening of domestic capital markets. That is a process that requires an incredible sequence of reforms.”

The MasterMetals Blog

Les 50 de la Côte d’Ivoire : Tiken Jah Fakoly et Alpha Blondy, la réconciliation en chantant

23/11/2011 à 12h:39 Par Jeune Afrique
Alpha Blondy (g) et Tiken Jah Fakoly (D) se sont réconciliés. Alpha Blondy (g) et Tiken Jah Fakoly (D) se sont réconciliés. © AFP
Alpha Blondy et Tiken Jah Fakoly, les frères ennemis du reggae ivoirien, ont fait la paix. Le président Ouattara leur a donné pour mission de montrer l’exemple.

L’un est le père du reggae ivoirien ; l’autre, celui qui lui a donné un nouveau souffle. Le premier a soutenu Laurent Gbagbo avant de s’en détourner pendant la crise postélectorale, tandis que le second s’est exilé au Mali voisin peu après sa prise de pouvoir. Mais ce sont surtout leurs divergences personnelles qui opposaient les deux icônes du reggae ivoirien, Alpha Blondy (58 ans, à g.) et Tiken Jah Fakoly (43 ans). « Des tentatives de réconciliation, on en a fait plusieurs, témoigne un ami commun. Chaque fois ça échouait, sans qu’on sache pourquoi. »
C’est Alassane Ouattara en personne qui a mis un terme aux dissensions entre le « Marley ivoirien » et l’« enfant de Gbéléban ». Les rencontrant l’un après l’autre en mai à Paris, le chef de l’État leur a demandé de travailler ensemble à la réconciliation des Ivoiriens. Comment dire non au président ? Ni une ni deux, les protagonistes de la guéguerre du reggae s’affichent tout sourire devant les photographes et sont désormais à tu et à toi.
Pour sceller leur nouvelle amitié, ils préparent même ensemble une caravane de la paix et de la réconciliation pour la fin de l’année. À défaut de se rencontrer – Alpha Blondy vit plus à Paris qu’à Abidjan, Tiken Jah Fakoly, à Bamako –, ils se parlent régulièrement pour faire le point sur l’organisation et tentent, chacun de leur côté, de rallier les artistes pro-Gbagbo exilés dans la sous-région et en Europe. D’abord dépités par la fin de la rivalité, les fans de chaque camp ont fini par s’en réjouir : ils pourront, pour la première fois, voir les deux idoles sur la même scène.

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Can Matt Damon Bring Clean Water To Africa?

Matt Damon, water warrior. He's not that interested in fancy galas as a way to raise money.
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Matt Damon, water warrior. He’s not that interested in fancy galas as a way to raise money. “That seems very analog,” he says. | In the Dogon region of Mali, a girl from the small village of Songhe scoops up water from a pit that has been dug deep into a dried-up riverbed. Mali faces continual water shortages, despite a rich aquifer. | Photographs by Damon Winters/The New York Times/Redux pictures (Damon); Stuart Franklin/Magnum (Girl)

July 22, 2011

Once upon a time, Matt Damon went for a long walk in rural Zambia. The devoted family man and method philanthropist was accompanying a 14-year-old Zambian girl who had no idea that her hiking companion was an Academy Award-winning international heartthrob.

The walk came toward the end of a 10-day African journey, a systematic primer on the complexities of the continent’s extreme poverty that had been organized for Damon by staffers from his friend Bono’s ONE campaign. Damon was on a quest to understand what it meant to be really, really poor. “It was like a mini course in college,” he says. Every day brought a different subject: urban AIDS, microfinance, education, and, finally, water. While walking with the young teen on her hour-long trudge to collect water for her family, something clicked. “We talked the whole time [through a translator]. When I asked her what she wanted to do when she grew up — ‘Do you want to stay here?‘ ” he says, pointing to the memory of the dusty village — “she got shy all of a sudden.” As they returned, both toting 5-gallon jugs of water filled at the well, she finally confessed her dream: to go to the big city, Lusaka, and become a nurse. Damon recalled his dreams at the same age, when he and best friend Ben Affleck were plotting their way from Boston to casting agents in New York. That connection opened the door for Damon. “I remembered so well the feeling of being young, when that whole world of possibility was open to you.”
But while Damon’s dream was made possible by Amtrak, the girl’s was possible only because somebody drilled a borewell near her home — and, yes, an hour’s walk for water is good news in lots of places in the world. Nearly 1 billion souls lack access to clean water; three times that number lack access to proper sanitation. “This is not something that most 14-year-olds have to go through,” says Damon, 40. Without access to the water, his companion would have been unable to go to school and would likely have been forced into a precarious fight for life, spending her days scavenging for often-filthy water in unhealthy and unsafe environments. “Now she can hope to be a nurse and contribute to the economic engine of Zambia,” he says. “Of all the different things that keep people in this kind of death spiral of extreme poverty, water just seemed so huge.” He pauses. “And it doesn’t have to be.”
Damon tells me this story on a rainy spring day in Manhattan, after a full schedule of board meetings for, the charity he cofounded in 2009, three years after his Zambia trip, with longtime water expert, and now dear friend, Gary White. It has been a long day but a good one, and Damon has more news to share. He checks his watch. “I have to pick up my daughter from school. Come along and we’ll keep talking,” he tells me. As we make our way from a conference room at McKinsey in Midtown (a board member works there) to a car waiting on the street, I watch passersby light up in recognition and try to catch his eye. In spite of his attempt to blend in — Damon is wearing glasses, a splash of whiskers, and a Panavision baseball cap — he is unmistakable. And he never fails to return a smile. “Clearly my strong suit is and will be trying to get people to care about this issue,” he says of his primary role. “Our vision is clean water and sanitation for everyone, in our lifetime …” he trails off. “So we better get to work.”
For all his star power, though, Damon is more than just the pretty face of He has turned himself into a development expert. This would seem like an obvious and necessary first step for someone embracing the global water crisis as a personal mission. But, in fact, it’s highly unusual for a celebrity to dive this deep into a problem this daunting. Whether talking microfinance strategy with rural bankers, giving detailed reports from the field at the annual Clinton Global Initiative, or personally thanking donors like PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, Damon has quietly developed the cred of a program geek. “If you want to understand how this works,” he says, sounding more like an anthropologist than a celebrity spokesperson, “there is no substitute for going there and talking to people in their homes.” It’s an approach he comes by honestly. His mother, a professor of early childhood education, spent part of her summers living with local families in Guatemala and Mexico, attending language school in preparation for her field research. She brought her impressionable teenage son along. “She specialized in nonviolent conflict resolution,” Damon explains. In war-torn areas like El Salvador, she interviewed children, studied their artwork, and documented their trauma. “So I’d seen extreme poverty at an early age,” he says. “I knew what it was, and I always cared about it.” He has replicated her research process, immersing himself in the business of social enterprise until he found the cause that he felt passion for — water.
Damon reads as equal parts hardworking, ambitious, grounded, and caring, the kind of celebrity you’d want your son to be if you had a son who could get both the girl and the point of fame. He’s a son who’d make a mother proud. “She doesn’t say it quite that way,” he says. “It’s not the way she talks. She says, ‘I affirm him.‘ Hang on a sec.” As he hops out of the car to go pick up the eldest of his four daughters, a charming tween who will never have to fetch water for her family, he smiles and looks affirmed.

In 2009, Damon and Gary White cofounded That same year, they visited this town in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Their initial trips into the field included a foray to South African slums while Damon was shooting <i>Invictus</i>. | Courtesy of
In 2009, Damon and Gary White cofounded That same year, they visited this town in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Their initial trips into the field included a foray to South African slums while Damon was shooting Invictus. | Courtesy of

THE BUSINESS OF philanthropy is a difficult one, often as challenging to decipher as the problems it aims to solve.
But is the smart and careful merger of two capable organizations: Damon’s H2O Africa, which he founded as a way to funnel money to well-managed NGOs in Africa; and Gary White’s WaterPartners, a two-decades-old group that had developed a series of highly innovative and counterintuitive approaches to water access. WaterPartners’ strategy had less to do with digging wells — which, if maintained poorly, can break down and leave a place in worse shape than before — and more to do with encouraging communities to participate in the creation and ownership of water and sanitation systems that function as mini utilities. These issues, known as WASH in philanthropic circles — water, sanitation, and hygiene — are among the least glamorous of all support efforts, yet are the most likely to lift a community out of poverty if done right. Think of toilets, hygiene education, pump maintenance, faucets, and a nascent form of self-government that literally takes a village. “A community has to invest in the project themselves to manage it,” insists White, 48. “It’s bottom-up, not top-down.”
The merger involved a leap of faith for both White and Damon, though neither describes it that way. In a world where celebrities routinely rain shame upon their personal brands with public meltdowns, sex tapes, or undeclared children, and where professional philanthropists come under fire for spending a lot to do very little, each had a difficult judgment call to make. Their long courtship started as collaboration and ended in partnership. “We were a grant recipient of Matt’s before we merged,” White says. “He was clearly looking for the same things we were and had developed such knowledge on the subject.” Damon had studied White’s innovations, particularly a microfinance instrument known as WaterCredit, as he brought himself up to speed on the water crisis. “Gary is the expert. I’ve come to trust him implicitly and value his input above all others,” says Damon. “When you talk to Gary, you understand that we can solve this thing.” The two were also in sync on the practical aspects of working together. Both willingly gave up the names of their organizations, and neither fussed about titles, credit, or where their names should go on websites or programs. In separate conversations, both men declare themselves lucky to have found the other. “He’s not what I expected at all,” they say of each other, sounding similarly surprised. is on track to raise $10 million in 2011, up from $4 million in 2010. The primary use of that money is not as a handout to well drillers. Rather, tends to negotiate deals between microfinance institutions and communities. It might help a village get access to a local banker, who will then lend money to build systems that tap into a well, or a previously inaccessible water or sanitation grid. may guarantee the loan, but repayment falls to the villagers, who work together to manage the water supply and organize credit payments.
“By using local capital markets to develop the projects, people get access to the credit system,” White says. “The villagers own the project at the end of the exercise. They’re proud of it, and they have done it themselves.” claims that this approach has allowed it to help more than 315,000 people gain access to clean-water systems that are reliable and maintained.
That leveraged success, combined with Damon’s celebrity, explains why donations to are on the rise and why it has earned the attention of institutional funders. “It was clear that Gary had developed a really high impact and interesting play in the world of water access and sanitation,” says the Skoll Foundation’s David Rothschild of its decision to back the organization in 2009. “We were looking for something that would scale, and this was it.”
“THIS IS A PROBLEM we can solve,” says White. We are sitting in his sparse office in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, when he takes from his windowsill a plastic bottle of dirty water collected from his latest trip to Ethiopia, and shakes it into a chocolate-milk froth. “This is what they were drinking,” he says. Radiating warmth and calm, he shows me pictures of projects, of happy children near wells, each a story of heartbreak and redemption. These are, of course, the kinds of images we always see when asked to think about the water crisis. But behind me is a whiteboard, where White is trying to sketch out the future of “We are looking for the next WaterCredit,” he explains.
White’s long path to WaterCredit, and to, began, as the best things often do, over a meal with good friends. In the late 1980s, he was working for Catholic Relief Services (CRS) as an engineering specialist on projects in Latin America and the Caribbean. “Someone said, ‘Your life should be about finding the intersection of the world’s greatest need and your greatest passion,’ ” he tells me. “That always seemed right to me.” But in order to sit for his professional engineer’s exam, he had to give up his relief work and join a stateside engineering firm. “I was devastated,” he says. So, the day after Thanksgiving in 1990, he invited 100 friends to the local Knights of Columbus hall in Kansas City to enjoy a donated catered meal and a keg of Boulevard beer. He also showed them a slide show of the work he’d done with CRS. “We raised $4,000,” he recalls with a smile. That money seeded a project that he started in El Limon in Honduras. The next year, another dinner and another project. A series of annual dinners grew into a fledgling enterprise he called WaterPartners, which became big enough to attract institutional investment. One of the first such grants was for $100,000, from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.
Still, even after White had led dozens of projects, he remained frustrated. “Projects — everyone’s projects — were failing at a really high rate.” Communities had broken wells or faucets that villagers were unable to repair, or the wells produced water more dangerous than that of the filthy rivers that flowed nearby. There were also few, if any, sanitation projects. “In the ’80s and ’90s, the approach was really supply-driven — ‘We are here to give you your water project,’ ” he says. Dig a well, put up a plaque, take a picture, and scram. “People were designing projects for people, not with them.” White came to understand that community engagement (a term rendered almost meaningless by politicians, major brands, and social-networking companies) is a life-or-death strategy in the developing world. “There needs to be a water committee. At least 80% of the community needs to sign up and raise money for the project, participate in its construction and up-keep,” he says. That’s how a project turns from top-down charity to bottom-up sustainability.
This led him to an important insight — an “orthogonal insight,” his geeky term for the kind of thinking in which forces that appear unrelated or irrelevant help solve a problem in an unexpected way. (“You come to love Gary’s unique vernacular,” says Damon.) Poor people do have some money, White observed. And millions of them spend an inordinate amount of that buying water from the equivalent of loan sharks and hucksters — opportunists with a faucet. “We knew they were getting water from somewhere because they were still alive,” he says. And for many of these poor communities, particularly those in quasi-urban settings, water infrastructure might be just a few kilometers away.
He put all of this together and came up with the basic thought behind WaterCredit: What if communities self-organized to get a loan to create their own wells or buy their way into water access? “We began to work with microfinance institutions [MFIs] instead of just NGOs,” White says. But infrastructure financing was a sticking point. “Microfinancers had never lent to anything that didn’t have a built-in revenue source or collateral.” Convincing a local lender to take a risk means demonstrating demand, training communities to run a project, and making the case that the poor people can afford to repay the loan. “A tough sell,” says White, “but not impossible.”

Photograph by Evelyn Hockstein/Polari
Photograph by Evelyn Hockstein/Polaris

WaterCredit is a full-on microfinance tool that tries to leave nothing to chance. Let’s say identifies an urban Indian community it might be able to help build a public toilet. They rally local people into a committee to run the project, and then persuade the local utility to risk a construction project in a neighborhood that seems too poor to pay its bills. An MFI works with a local lender to loan the committee the necessary money. After the toilet is built, educators must teach people how to pay their loan — as well as why they should use their new toilets and, for that matter, wash their hands. All this for men and women who are in a hardened caste system. It is especially important for the women, because research shows that projects that ultimately succeed are designed with them in mind, as well as maintained mostly by them. So yes, it’s a long, tough sell. But if it works, a woman of low status might then be in charge of collecting maintenance fees — just pennies — at the new public toilet. That’s a woman who now has a job and dignity, and no dysentery.
In 2009, while filming Invictus in South Africa, Damon made a point of going with White to visit WaterCredit beneficiaries. “We’d go into a slum and talk to people who had taken out the loan, had a water tap or toilet in their house, and had already paid it back,” he says. “Their lives were changed.” Later, Damon got to know WaterCredit bankers and was just as impressed. An Indian branch manager explained that he was thrilled with his new customers, many of whom had returned for basic banking services. “He had been calling other branch managers, telling them how well it worked,” says Damon. “WaterCredit is our proof that risky ideas do work sometimes. It is a big idea gone right, and it’s working all over the place. That’s when it gets really exciting.”

A working pump can make all the difference, as it does for these schoolgirls in Kisumu, Kenya. The pump was installed by White’s original charity, WaterPartners. | Photograph courtesy of
A working pump can make all the difference, as it does for these schoolgirls in Kisumu, Kenya. The pump was installed by White’s original charity, WaterPartners. | Photograph courtesy of

WaterCredit has elevated White to star status in the philanthropic world. In 2009, after a rigorous, multiyear vetting process, he won a Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, scoring a $765,000 grant and access to an unparalleled network of entrepreneurial thinkers. “[WaterCredit] is well beyond proof of concept now,” says Skoll’s Rothschild. “Financial institutions, and other people, are doing it now too. It’s a shift in the way that systems operate.”
SHORTLY AFTER HIS TRIP to Zambia, in a burst of his own orthogonal thinking, Damon, who has his own production company, greenlighted a documentary that dovetailed with his newly discovered water quest. Three ultramarathoners had decided — for reasons that don’t seem much deeper than “It would be really cool to do this!” — to run across the Sahara Desert from Senegal to Egypt. The runners, Charlie Engle, Ray Zahab, and Kevin Lin, suffered (both with, and because of, one another) through the equivalent of one-and-a-half marathons a day for 111 consecutive days amid the toughest conditions on earth. Before his Zambian conversion, Damon might have passed on producing the project. “This is basically a masochistic, somewhat selfish sport,” he says. “But these three crazy guys were going right through the belly of the beast in terms of poverty, in six vastly different countries. We could use the film to highlight the water issue.” Damon and his producers discovered several small, good NGOs focused on water along the way. “That’s how we found Gary.”
The film, Running the Sahara, released in 2007, is an example of the type of messaging that Damon can employ, one that deftly uses his skills as a Hollywood power player and storyteller. (When the Libyan government threatened to deny the runners entry, Damon and pal Robert De Niro, who were then shooting The Good Shepherd together, personally worked the phones.) “Awareness is as important to us as fundraising,” says Damon. “We want people to understand the issue in all its complexity.”
But getting attention isn’t as easy as you think, even for Damon. Consider this odd couple of YouTube videos: Matt Damon speaks to the Clinton Global Initiative about water — 3,669 views; Matt Damon does a spot-on impression of Matthew McConaughey on Letterman — 13,492,392 views. Damon has no interest in typical celebrity heart-tugging. “Basically, there is the Sally Struthers approach,” he says, “where you guilt the shit out of people and they end up turning the TV off.” And most star-studded mega-events, of which he’s headlined plenty, end up netting little to the organization. “That seems very analog to me,” he says. “Unless,” he adds, referring to a recent Robin Hood Foundation event, “you’re doing what these Goldman guys do and get Lady Gaga to raise $47 million because they’re drunk and they’re trying to impress each other and they’re calling out numbers from the tables.” He pauses and laughs. “Of course, that is a kind of fundraiser we’d entertain for, but it’s the exception, not the rule.”
In today’s digital world, engagement can be stoked in ways that may not require Hollywood wattage. Sure, Damon can talk up his organization on Letterman; “that’s an audience of 2.4 million to hear our message,” says chief community officer Mike McCamon, who works closely with Damon on strategy, and is a veteran of Apple, Intel, and a handful of startups. But McCamon points out that 28 million people learned about the mission last December when they played Zynga’s FrontierVille and were offered a chance to buy or give a blue water bison. That is the kind of engagement he could neither buy nor predict. “I cold-called Zynga out of the blue,” he says. “It was incredibly effective and took us about as far away from the pandering, puppy-dog-eyes style of messaging as you can get.” Zynga confirms raising $300,000 for
The organization is also developing its My.Water.Org, a mini site that lets people follow a community in Haiti that is in the process of developing a water project. This is method philanthropy the way it should be. Instead of showing pictures of Damon with desperate kids or wells with YOUR NAME HERE! plaques, visitors learn about the difficult struggle that comes with creating sustainable water projects, virtually shadowing a community’s efforts as it goes through months of town-hall meetings, trainings, negotiations, and public debates. Upon signing up, people become digital ambassadors of sorts, with progress reports, even the disappointing ones, posted through their Twitter or Facebook feeds. Around 13% of those who sign up donate, and “65% get another person to come to the site,” says McCamon. For a profession that deems a 2% clickthrough rate as success, that’s an avalanche of engagement.
Which raises an interesting question: How in the world is a mere global celebrity supposed to compete with that? How can Matt Damon contribute when a FrontierVille bison and online town halls are hotter than an Oscar winner?
To the credit of both White and Damon, they rejoice that they even have such a question to consider. Damon does not seem to need the ego strokes of being associated with a good cause: He lives a quiet life for a celebrity of his stature. Damon, like White, is far more interested in pursuing the next big innovation, something that will likely build off of the contrarian genius of WaterCredit. The two have come to see that turning the poor into paying customers of a utility of their own creation spawns a consumer consciousness that can be harnessed. “There is development money allocated to communities all the time [via municipalities, NGOs, and international-aid agencies] that often never arrives,” says White. What mobile service could keep them in the loop, like a 311 for the poor? “If they knew what should be coming their way, they could hold others accountable,” he adds. In some communities, a water truck shows up daily. But since the women never know the time of the delivery, they can waste hours waiting with their water jugs for a truck that sometimes shows up empty. “What if there were a text system,” asks Damon, “that lets people know where the truck was and how full it was?” A compelling, time-saving notion, but hard to sell from the drawing board.
To explore possibilities such as these, the board approved, on that rainy day when I met with Damon, the creation of a new innovation fund. Damon kicked it off with a $1 million donation, and the Hult International Business School followed with a $1 million gift of its own. The fund’s goal is to spur development of a portfolio of new products and services that are specific to the bottom-of-the-pyramid water consumer. “It’s a very Silicon Valley approach,” says White. Invent. Test. Iterate. “And like the tech world, we can get the attention of bigger investors with concepts that have been proven in the field.” Damon hopes the fund will one day be open to individuals, not just institutional investors. “We all know what angel investing is now,” he says. “Why can’t we let people invest $25 in, say, the lab? Let them be part of picking the next big idea.”
White and Damon agree on their movement’s future. The new big thing will probably be the result of orthogonal thinking. “We want to support people in demanding the services and aid they’ve got coming to them,” says White, “while having an easier life in the process.” What can make the lives of people at the bottom of the pyramid, the people who form their customer base, better? Mobile-phone apps? A new financing scheme? An unconventional alliance? A technology yet to be born? Whatever it is, the story to be told will require more than a plastic bottle of dirty water.

A version of this article appears in the July/August 2011 issue of Fast Company.

Can Matt Damon Bring Clean Water To Africa? | Fast Company

Mugabe Cancels Visit to Ecuador Following Wiesenthal Center Protest

Buenos Aires, September 28, 2010

Zimbabwe’s dictator, Robert Mugabe cancelled a scheduled trip to Ecuador, where he was to receive a Doctorate Honoris Causa in Civil Law from Bishop Walter Crespo Guarderas, self-declared head of “the Anglican Province of Ecuador”. Mugabe’s host has been linked with former Bishop of Harare, Dr. Nolbert Kunonga’s “Anglican Province of Zimbabwe”, and was charged, in 2001, with allegedly supplying arms to the FARC terrorist movement of Colombia.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center had expressed indignation at the planned visit to Quito, due to take place following the UN General Assembly in New York.

In a letter to Ecuador’s Foreign Minister, Ricardo Patiño, Dr. Shimon Samuels (Wiesenthal Center Director for International Relations) and Sergio Widder (Director for Latin America) had noted that “Mugabe’s dictatorship has, for over three decades, set a record in human rights violations… his troops’ massacre of over 20,000 Matabele, in 1983-84, has been denounced as genocide and documented by the African Union”, adding, “Mr. Minister, lead the way in declaring this tyrant persona non grata throughout the Americas”.

“Investigate Mugabe’s host, Reverend Walter Crespo, for reported links with Zimbabwe’s oppressive system and publicly condemn this honorary doctorate award initiative”, had urged Samuels.

“Mugabe’s presence in Ecuador would offend human rights victims and whitewash such abuses in Latin America”, had added Widder.

Following its protest, the Center received an official letter from Ecuador’s Foreign Ministry stating that Mugabe had cancelled his “private visit” to that country.

“We construe from this diplomatic response that the tyrant is not welcome in Ecuador and hope that this sets a precedent throughout Latin America”, concluded Samuels and Widder

For further information contact Shimon Samuels at +336 09770158, or Sergio Widder at +54911 4425-1306, join the Center on Facebook,, or follow @simonwiesenthal for news updates sent direct to your Twitter page or mobile device.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400.000 members. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the OAS and the Latin American Parliament

Mugabe Cancels Visit to Ecuador Following Wiesenthal Center Protest | Simon Wiesenthal Center

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Why Africa won’t be the next Bric

August 27, 2010 5:26pm

Prompted by this week’s application from South Africa for Bric “membership”, the man who coined the acronym – Jim O’Neill of Goldman Sachs – asks in today’s FT whether Africa as a whole could become the next Bric.
On several measures he says the continent has a reasonably strong case, but he notes that its biggest economies would still need to raise their games on many fronts – and he misses some more profound weaknesses in the Africa-as-a-Bric idea.
O’Neill created the Bric acronym in 2001 as a neat way of grouping together four countries that shared the potential for generating rapid growth, attracting foreign investment, and reshaping the global economy.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, managing director at the World Bank, latched onto the idea of Africa joining the group in a speech earlier this year in which she sold it as a “trillion dollar economy”.

It’s high time Africa saw and presented itself as the fifth Bric, an attractive destination for investment, not just aid. This is realistic and within reach. As Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done”.

But before you can decide where to squeeze an “a” into the acronym, old Africa hands will jump in to say that it’s nonsense to compare it to a single country: not only is Africa a continent, it’s arguably the most diverse on the planet in terms of economics, politics, culture and the environment.
What’s more, 20 African countries have populations of less than 5m people. O’Neill is alive to that and focuses his discussion on the biggest African economies.

If you … look at the potential of the 11 largest African economies for the next 40 years (by studying their likely demographics, the resulting changes in their working population and their productivity) their combined GDP by 2050 would reach more than $13,000bn, making them bigger than either Brazil or Russia, although not China or India.

But even those 11 are highly diverse – including two of the biggest, Egypt and Nigeria. And due to Africa’s lamentable roads and railways, as well as its internal border restrictions, many of them function as isolated economic islands.
Afro-optimists would say regional trading blocs are changing that, but the reality is that only about 10 to 12 per cent of African trade takes place with other African countries, according to a study from the UN Economic Commission for Africa and others.
For those reasons, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to suppose that Africa’s biggest economies will follow the same development trajectories over the next few years, let alone the next few decades.
Yet it’s worth remembering that the Bric grouping initially attracted flak for not having any coherence either, but its runaway popularity with western businesses and investors has given the four countries more in common than they had before.
Funnily enough, one thing they share is a growing hunger for mineral resources from Africa (notably Nigeria, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sudan).
But it’s doubtful whether any country other than South Africa has the right mix of factors to make it an attractive destination for serious western investment, across a broader range of sectors, which could rival that going to the Brics.
Earlier this year Shanta Devarajan, the World Bank’s chief economist for Africa, responded with a dose of scepticism to Okonjo-Iweala’s call:

The distinguishing feature of the Brics is that they are both middle-income and large. So it’s not clear how any individual African country can aspire to being a Bric. Countries such as Malaysia or Chile may be more appropriate models for most African countries.

To achieve their “2050 potential”, O’Neill says African countries need more macroeconomic stability, less external debt, a stronger rule of law, better education, (even) more mobile telephones, and a purge of corruption.
But it’s worth paying more attention to the parallel trends of population growth (seen as a good thing by many investors in India and Brazil) and job creation (a difficult task that most African governments are failing to manage).
Each of the Bric countries have their own pockets of poverty, and in some parts of Africa poverty is actually falling. But too many countries are producing more people than they can employ. And not only does that limit their potential as new consumer markets. It has ugly consequences in terms of crime, conflict and social unrest that can strangle economic growth.
Related reading:
Building Brics, FT
Is Russia the best Bric after all? beyondbrics
Why Africa won’t be the next Bric | beyondbrics |

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DRC: Independent Audit Of First Quantum Mining Firm To Be Launched

The Democratic Republic of Congo plans to audit the operations of First Quantum Minerals Ltd. in the country to examine “suspected wide-scale misconduct,” Bloomberg reported Aug. 31, citing Mines Minister Martin Kabwelulu. A body engaged in financial auditing will carry out the investigation, which will look into allegations that First Quantum illegally exported copper ore without fully declaring it.

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Rogers Says World Needs Higher Interest Rates, Commodities Set to Advance

China and other global economies should increase interest rates to contain a surge in inflation, said investor Jim Rogers, chairman of Rogers Holdings.
“Everyone should be raising interest rates, they are too low worldwide,” Rogers said in a phone interview from Singapore. “If the world economy gets better, that’s good for commodities demand. If the world economy does not get better, stocks are going to lose a lot as governments will print more money.”
China’s central bank hasn’t increased rates since November 2007. In the U.S., the Federal Reserve this month left the overnight interbank lending rate target in a range of zero to 0.25 percent, where it’s been since December 2008, while the European Central Bank has kept its key interest rate at a record low of 1 percent.
Policy makers in Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand have increased the cost of borrowing at least once this year, while India has boosted rates four times in five months.
The global economy is at the risk of prolonging a recession after reports over the past two days showed U.S. home sales plunged by a record and Japan’s export growth slowed for a fifth month in July, he said.
“We never got out of the first recession,” Rogers said. “If the U.S. and Europe continue to slow down, that’s going to affect everyone. The Chinese economy is 1/10 of the U.S. and Europe and India is a quarter of China, they can’t bail us out.”
Rogers, who predicted the start of the global commodities rally in 1999, said he was short emerging markets and stocks and long on commodities.
“Commodities will go above their old high sometime in the next decade even if they only grow 5 to 6 percent annually,” said Rogers, who is a consultant for the Dalian Commodity Exchange.
Rogers said he would resume buying China’s stocks if they were to tumble as they did during the aftermath of the global financial crisis in 2008, when they plunged 65 percent. “I haven’t bought since the fall of 2008,” he said. “It it were to happen again, I hope that I’m smart enough to buy again.”
Allen Wan. With assistance from Chua Kong Ho. Editors: Richard Frost, Linus Chua
To contact the Bloomberg News staff on this story: Allen Wan in Shanghai at

Rogers Says World Needs Higher Interest Rates, Commodities Set to Advance – Bloomberg

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