Spotlight on Investment: Event Review

We continued our ‘Focus on Africa’ series last week as we were kindly hosted by Barclays Bank at their global headquarters. Theresa May has clearly stated that the UK will look to foster deeper relationships with African countries because of their imminent departure from the EU. This is therefore part of our analysis on what opportunities may arise as a result of this.

WhatsApp Image 2019-02-22 at 1.47.11 PM (1)

 

We were joined by esteemed actor, entrepreneur and political aspirant, John Dumelo as well as 80 young diasporans keen to learn about what prospects they could engage with on the continent.

John Dumelo, 35, does not shy away from being an advocate of investing in agriculture. In fact, he is a proud farmer. He focused on this heavily during the conversation, referencing current investments he has in Ghana, Guinea and Liberia in addition to prospects he is eyeing up in Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso.

Africa imports $35billion worth of farmable products every year. However, only 2% of land in Africa is used for agriculture. Furthermore, the African Development Bank has said that within the next 6 years, Africa will import $110billion worth of farmable products every year. John sees this as an opportunity for the diaspora to bring money and invest back home in Africa. Access to capital is harder in Africa, but much easier in the Western world which is something Dumelo mentioned young diasporans should capitalise on. The reason why agriculture was a no brainer for John Dumelo and why he urges a lot of us to consider it is because of the demand. Simply put, people eat everyday and a farmer is needed to produce that food. Furthermore, according to The United Nations, Africa has the highest rates of hunger in the world and it is increasing. Therefore, being involved in agriculture, enables you to address a daily need of everyone on the continent.

John Dumelo also spoke about the need for African governments to do more in terms of innovation when it comes to tourism. He used the example of Dubai and the fact that many people travel there just to see the world’s tallest building. However, in Africa as much as there are beautiful places and wonderful history, new things are only being created at a very slow pace. This is another area in which he believed the diaspora have the capital and the ‘know how’ to invest in and bring more tourism to the continent.

There were also very good contributions from the floor. One of the prevalent concerns raised was about the relationship between the diaspora and the locals. It was concluded that the best thing to do for a “them versus us” culture to be avoided, is for diasporans to spend time with locals and try to learn some of their customs and social norms to bridge the gap. There was also a heavy discussion on government corruption and the need to pay bribery to land a contract, even if the proposed project will have a good impact on the society. On the reverse, some people spoke about how in the West, the same thing is done, but it tends to be covert in the form of an expensive dinner or travel expenses paid for a meeting. It was concluded that the extent in which happens in Africa is unacceptable, but this concept of a ‘facilitation fee’ is not uncommon regardless of where you are in the world.

However, the discussion generally evoked a sense of optimism amongst the attendees. Dumelo referenced the work that the Chinese are doing in building airports across Africa, amongst other things. He challenged the diaspora to work together and see ways in which they can combine their finances and invest, because  if Africans do not build Africa, someone else will which will come with several consequences. The attendees felt that they had a purpose and sense of duty to invest in their respective countries, no matter how big or how small, to take control of the continent with the right intentions and to see it progress.

We were also joined by Oxford Business Group, Naija Startups and African Foundation For Development in a networking reception who were all sharing information with the delegates about invest opportunities in Africa. Thanks to everyone who came and we will see you at the next one!

WhatsApp Image 2019-02-22 at 1.47.11 PM

Written by Elorm Haligah

YPN PRESENTS: FOCUS ON AFRICA – THE GHANA EDITION (SUMMARY)

Written by Josy Baroness-Boakye, Online and Marketing Manager, Young Pioneers Network

Global interest in Africa and its potential has been through a number of phases. The first one, that I remember, was the “well Africa may have some potential… but it’s too unstable. And Asia has a lot more potential” phase. A couple of years ago, we had the ‘Africa is on the rise’ phase. That was my favourite. Though short-lived, the ‘Africa Rising’ rhetoric was in full stride and with it came a barrage of press releases and think pieces identifying the continent as the next big thing.

Then it stopped. Abruptly.

Nigeria, Africa’s powerhouse, had slipped into a recession in 2016 and that signaled the beginning of the “perhaps Africa isn’t really rising” phase.

But was that premature?

The Africa Rising narrative may have dimmed, but interest in the continent is at an all-time high. From music, fashion, film, business – Africa is trendy and with that comes opportunity. Especially for the diaspora.

Every year, for the past three years, we at Young Pioneers Network (YPN), have organised an annual event, targeted at the African diaspora to discuss and debate relevant issues. In our first year, we hosted “EU out, AU in – The Politics of Free Movement” where we discussed the merits of the African Union, the introduction of the AU Passport and trade liberalisation. The second year was “Social Media and its impact on African Development” (shout out to @Omojuwa for being one of the inspirations for this) which focused on internet activism and asking whether social media was the great political equalizer. This year we hosted our third event and launched a series called “Focus on Africa”. With Theresa May’s recent announcement that the UK will be focusing on building stronger relationships with Africa post-Brexit, this series aims to provide a platform for people to discuss what this truly means in reality and explore the opportunities that can be leveraged for the benefit of the continent.

I’m super excited about this series.

Yesterday was the first one: YPN Presents Focus on Africa: The Ghana Edition.

I know. I know. The bias in choosing Ghana to launch this series… But hear me out. There were very good reasons for it. This year alone, Ghana has been heralded as one of the fastest growing economies in the world; Google announced that it was locating an Artificial Intelligence lab in Accra and the country boasted the launch of a new “state-of-the-art” terminal at Kotoka Airport (is it really new if it isn’t described as ‘state of the art’?). To name a few. So it’s only right that we provided a forum to discuss Ghana’s position in Africa and also on the World stage.

WhatsApp Image 2018-10-12 at 10.52.22 AM (1)

 

We had the pleasure and honour of hosting Honourable First Deputy Speaker of the Parliament of Ghana, Hon. Joseph Osei-Owusu who gave an inspiring keynote speech encouraging the diaspora to think outside of the box when looking to invest in the country. He also emphasised the importance of capital, persistence and not expecting handouts.

 

Our amazing panelists provided insight into social enterprises, of which they all have experience in, and discussed the realities of trying to build a sustainable business in Ghana. The rest of the event was a heated debate on politics, economics, Foreign Direct Investment and discussing the availability of skills required to grow a tech community in Ghana. So a lot!! I love hosting panel discussions like this because I learn so much from both the panel and the audience. It’s refreshing, and encouraging, being in a room in Parliament with people who are engaged and eager to know more and do more for Africa.

WhatsApp Image 2018-10-12 at 10.52.23 AM

The First Deputy Speaker of The Parliament of Ghana, Honourable John Osei-Owusu

A huge thank you to our amazing panelists: – make sure you follow their work:

Ben Anim-Antwi, Director, Future of Ghana

Annette Oppongannetteabena.com and Community Manager, Foundervine

Gillian Asafu-Adjaye, Founder of Ekua Haizel

Also featured on www.beingbaroness.com

MY PROJECT L.E.A.D EXPERIENCE JASMIN NANA YAA ASSANOH

Where can I even start about my experience with YPN?

At first I was very nervous about going back to Ghana, because the last time I went to Ghana was 16 years ago. However, being with YPN was a great all round experience. I got to see two worlds and it really opened my eyes to see another side of Ghana and Africa that you don’t see through the  media.

Day one: Kumasi 

Kumasi was the first stop for us. I don’t even know where to begin to speak about the work we did with the children and the relationships built with them. I must say the road trip from Accra to Kumasi was LONG! However, it was all worth it. In Kumasi we partnered up with a organisation called The Street Children’s Project.
These kids were soooooo intelligent. I must admit, I was under the impression that it would be hard to communicate with them, however it was the complete opposite. In Kumasi, the kids were given the role of a researcher, to go out into the streets in small groups and interview the public about the importance of education and what changes they would Propose to the president. The feedback from the public wasn’t surprising if you know about the Ghanaian welfare state and education. The kids then used that information to form a political debate and elected a ‘President’ represent their group.

Day 2: Accra

Accra was completely different. The kids were collected from the second biggest slum community in Accra – Chorkor. Here, we taught the children about the importance of the environment you live in. For this, we went into a close by area with bin bags and gloves to clean the area up as much as we can. Afterwards, we went back to the iSpace centre (technological hub in Accra) to teach the children about recycling. Similar to Kumasi we used the issue that the particular community was facing to create a political debate, elected a President to represent their groups that they were split into.
Both in Kumasi and Accra the elected President at the end of the debate, received 100 cedis which they have to invest in their community and have an influence as leaders. The whole concept of teaching children and young people about political and social issues is needed – both in Africa and here in the U.K. There are many people that do not know much about elections or even which political party is in government at the moment amongst other things.  These things are  so important to know as politics affects everyones day to day living.
Something that I must say though is that if you’re rich in Ghana you’re definitely rich but if you’re poor you are POOOOOR. What do I mean by that? Well, you actually see the difference and I think that is something that makes me really upset looking at these children that I worked with and to see that some of them are trying to pursue a future for themselves but it’s challenge because they don’t have enough money to pay for a term at school.
But let me write a bit more about the program itself. I love the fact that YPN is more than just a social enterprise . My experience with YPN taught me about the following:

1. Myself:

I had a lot of time to reflect on myself and clear my mind and refocus. There is also just something about being Ghana, being away from family, friends. It has a great influence on you and you can just think and focus.

2. Entrepreneurship:

Despite the fact that this social enterprise has been running for two years it has networked a lot and built a lot of relationships – some of which I was able to leverage off of, such as local radio stations and the Ghanaian Youth Parliament.

3. Ghanaian culture & Tourism

Though I am Ghanaian and I thought I knew much about our culture, seeing how well mannered the children and people around are was just amazing.
We also got to explore Ghana. After the program finished we went to the beach but even whilst we were doing the project, due to the travelling we got to see different sides of the country.

4. You don’t have to be rich to have a voice or to bring change:

What do I mean by that? YPN gave the children and young people the opportunity to voice their opinions on matters they would have never been able to speak about. YPN and the children made me understand that to bring change, you don’t have to be a millionaire but the little actions you take can make an impact. It has to start somewhere

5. Chase your dream and do something what makes you happy:

To be honest this I don’t even know how to explain this but the kids and the program sparked something in me that I can’t explain.
I could go on and on about this wonderful experience but I can’t wait to go again next year and see how much these kids have done and have grown. Now being back in the U.K., I appreciate life much more and makes me zealous to do the things I want.

MY PROJECT L.E.A.D EXPERIENCE – CELINE AKOSUA HENRY

I’ll begin from Monday when  the team went into Accra together. We went into town to have a look around. Upon leaving home around 11am, we arrived back home at 1am. One thing you’re guaranteed in Ghana is uncertainty of the road traffics and car breakdowns. However, we were not in fear nor panic, mainly because we had a wonderful day exploring Accra, seeing the East Legon area and the around the mall. This was the beginning of our bonding as a team.

We woke up at 4am on Tuesday morning to make our journey to Kumasi. You could imagine how tired we were on our arrival to Kumasi which was a 5/6 hour journey. By time of arrival, 12pm, I was so low on energy and enthusiasm that I was so fearful I wouldn’t be able to have a normal functioning day. One minute I was excited by the fact that we were finally about to meet the kids. I began thinking of how best to introduce myself to them – it suddenly dawned on me that I was part of something extraordinary.

Kumasi was amazing. We worked with the Street Children Project. We went around and did community surveys on the topics Economy, Education and Agriculture – three main important topics in Ghanaian politics. Doing that activity, it was as though the kids had forgotten any form of poverty and had become really important community personnel’s. Their confidence was amazing to see as they asked members of the public about certain policy interventions. We got to experience the Ashanti culture of communicative flamboyancy at the bus station of which I saw the type of environment these kids belonged to. It made me have more respect for them. By the time we had arrived back to Accra all of us had the weird feeling of being hungry and tired all at the same time. We had the best Fried rice and chicken ever!!!

Working in Accra was also amazing. Accra was definitely the day that brought us all together as team. We were all wide awake and energised by the children too who seemed interested in all the tasks we did. During the day we went to a very dirty area where we cleaned and collected rubbish from the streets. The kids we worked with were students from Accra’s second poorest slum area, a place called Chorkor. Therefore,  seeing them collect rubbish without complaining and with pride was such a humbling experience. Another remarkable thing of the day was those who volunteered to be leaders of their groups (we called them presidents) were all females. It made me think that gender inequality in politics perhaps wasn’t as a problem in Ghana as it is in the West. It gave me hope for those females.

 

Three key things I learnt on Project L.E.A.D:

  1. I have no excuse

Being from inner-city London at times I fear that the feeling of complacency could creep in especially after completing University. However, in both Accra and Kumasi I realised that I had no excuse whatsoever to stop myself from dreaming and working diligently towards these dreams and goals.

 

2. You either work hard or don’t work at all.

In Ghana we saw so many hawkers and also realised that the normal waking up time over there ranges from 5am to 7am. By that time, you are awake and the heat makes you aware that you have no reason to be in bed. I was so astonished by the street hawkers who sold their ice creams, water and other goods on the roads. Often seeing them run after cars and trucks to take their money or sell was another astonishing thing. It was very different from the laid back approach we have in the U.K. This made me think if someone can stand in the sun selling their products then I could definitely sit in a library and read books to crack my brain. That is the depth of the impact Ghana had on me. It challenged me mentally.

 

3.  In the midst of chaos if you know your purpose you will go far.

Whilst Ghana is a deeply religious nation I was surprised to realise how often the kids referred to God quite often, along with the many churches we saw at almost every corner we curbed at. This made me realise that whilst This was particularly seen with Accra’s young pioneer, Benjamin Dadzie. Whilst everyone laughed at his short height and funny character he said proudly “I am the smallest boy here, but I have the biggest future.” Here I learnt that the kids had disallowed their current situations to be their defining motto’s in life. That for me was remarkable.

 

I didn’t have many apprehensions before arriving in Ghana but I did when arriving and realising how reckless the driving over there was. I mean people changed lanes like they were drinking water. Their life was at stake. Thankfully we had a wonderful driver, who drove us into town daily which was amazing. The funniest thing I can recollect was the assumption we had on both places we went to. We were told that the young people in Kumasi were well-versed in English whilst those in Accra would require translators. You can imagine our confused faces when we had to attempt to speak Twi with those in Kumasi and be replied back in English when we spoke in the vernacular with the kids in Accra. There we learnt to never assume from information. This meant that in both Kumasi and Accra we had the chance to learn.

 

Overall, when I think of my time the song Pain Killer by Sarkodie & Runtown comes to mind. Whilst I haven’t digested the lyrics of the words create a sense of nostalgia and vibe. Its beat and tempo reminds me of all the faces of the kids that were smiling during an activity. The loud crescendo that gave me goosebumps after the children shouted “I WILL CHANGE THE WORLD!” which shook the room.

 

 

EU out, AU in: The politics of free movement

EVENT REVIEW by Genevieve Quartey
Why enter when we just left?
On 9th September, an assembly of African diasporas and those interested in the continent took place in Parliament. Speakers for the night were: Tom Lawal, an award winning Barrister, Naivasha Mwanji of  ‘HashtagCongo’ and Chima Ndibeka, a financial adjudicator. It was hosted by Benjamin Bennett, co-founder of Project 1957.  The debate was focused on the politics of free movement and the coincidental timing of Britain leaving the EU whilst the AU begins its plans for free movement.  The debate called into question many controversial topics such as identity, economic stability, trade, aid and much more.
What does Brexit mean for Africa
Was Brexit the best decision? “Are you never going to leave your mother’s house?” This was a statement made by speaker Chima Ndibeka in response to audience members who felt leaving the Europe Union was the completely wrong decision.  Amongst the African community a large amount of middle aged diasporas voted to leave the EU. When raised to the audience, Chima argued this was due to a wide belief that migrants from the EU didn’t work as hard as Commonwealth migrants, but still received the same benefits. The effect Brexit will have on aid to African countries were also debated, if Britain is no longer financially stable to provide the level of aid that is needed can we rely on the US and China to compensate for this?  A consensus response was that we should rely on ourselves.  ‘Nigerians are the most educated in the world’ argued an audience member, ‘therefore, we as a continent have the education and resources to take care of ourselves rather than rely on others’.
AU and the free movement
So why then if a significant amount of African diasporas opting out of a free movement agreement would the AU want such an arrangement in Africa? Easier trade and greater unity in the continent are the answers to this, as one audience member mentioned such movement has already been happening in West-Africa under ECOWAS.  For those who saw free movement leading to further problems in Africa, they argued the new biometric passports would need to rely on technology, which could cause difficulty as in many African countries electricity is not consistent.  In Ghana, citizens have nicknamed the inconsistency of power and light –  ‘Dumsor’ meaning off and on. There are also concerns that well off countries could also face an influx of migrants and according to the World Bank 37% of people in sub-Saharan Africa do not have legal identification making it difficult to apply for such passports. Naivasha had mentioned that in her home country of Congo, this could spell real problems in terms of security because of the ongoing Civil war there. Audience members also raised concerns about what type of people would be included in the free movement, which most felt it would be the well off in society. Tom Lawal however spoke about the positives, namely the importance of Africans working together more, with this being a step in the right direction.
A member of the audience raised a strong point which left other audience members asking themselves this question: ‘how do  Africans in the Diaspora identify themselves, as British or African and with which do your interests lie’.  Her point was that depending on your answer, we can then begin work to improve Africa.

The general passion amongst the audience showed the YPN team that there is a lot of work to be done to ensure that the diaspora engage with what can be done at home. Whether or not you were born in Africa, young people in the diaspora have a connection in their hearts to their country of origin. The rich culture and sense of community across the continent of Africa evokes that sense of belonging. This event was a reminder of Kwame Nkrumah’s great quote – to paraphrase: “you are not an African because you were born in Africa. You are an African because Africa was born in you”.

2016 Mandela Washington Fellowship Applications open! (Deadline is November 11th!)

MWFP

The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders brings 500 dynamic young African leaders, ages 25-35, from across the continent to the United States for 6 weeks of leadership training and mentoring at twenty U.S. universities and colleges in three areas: business and entrepreneurship, civic engagement and public administration. In 2014, the Fellows were also hosted in Washington, D.C. for a three-day Presidential Summit featuring a Town Hall with President Obama. Following their in-depth academic coursework and leadership training, some Fellows remained in the United States to participate in eight-week professional internships with American NGOs, private companies, and governmental offices. Selected from nearly 50,000 applications, participants in the 2014 Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders represent the extraordinary promise of an emerging generation of entrepreneurs, activists, and public officials. Upon returning to their home countries, the Fellows have access to professional development opportunities, mentoring, networking and training, and seed funding to support their ideas, businesses, and organizations. Applications are open now and the deadline is November 11th 2015.

Selection Process

The Mandela Washington Fellowship is conducted as a merit-based open competition. After the deadline, all eligible applications will be reviewed by a selection panel. Chosen semifinalists will be interviewed by the U.S. embassies or consulates in their home countries. If selected for an interview, applicants must provide a copy of their passport (if available) or other government-issued photo identification to verify eligibility.

Who is eligible to apply?

Applicants will not be discriminated against on the basis of race, color, gender, religion, socio-economic status, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity. The Mandela Washington Fellowship is open to young African leaders who meet the following criteria:

  • Are between the ages of 25 and 35 at the time of application submission, although exceptional applicants younger than 25 will be considered.
  • Are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents of the U.S.
  • Are eligible to receive a United States J-1 visa.
  • Are proficient in reading, writing, and speaking English.
  • Are citizens and residents of one of the following countries: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cabo Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Republic of the Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Individuals residing in Eritrea and Zimbabwe may not apply to the Public Management track. Residents of Sudan may only apply for the Civic Leadership track.

The U.S. Department of State and IREX reserve the right to verify all of the information included in the application. In the event that there is a discrepancy, or information is found to be false, the application will immediately be declared invalid and the applicant ineligible.

Applications not meeting the above technical eligibility requirements will not be forwarded to the selection committee. If you do not meet the technical eligibility requirements for this program, we invite you to visit exchanges.state.gov for information on other U.S. Department of State exchange opportunities.

What are the criteria for selection?

Selection panels will use the following criteria to evaluate applications (not in order of importance):

  • A proven record of leadership and accomplishment in public service, business and entrepreneurship, or civic engagement.
  • A demonstrated commitment to public or community service, volunteerism, or mentorship.
  • The ability to work cooperatively in diverse groups and respect the opinions of others.
  • Strong social and communication skills.
  • An energetic, positive attitude.
  • Demonstrated knowledge, interest and professional experience in the sector/track selected.
  • A commitment to return to Africa and apply leadership skills and training to benefit the applicant’s country and/or community after they return home.

Application Information:

The application will collect basic information and will include questions regarding the applicant’s professional and academic experience, including educational background; honors and awards received; extracurricular and volunteer activities; and English language proficiency. We will also request a résumé (with dated educational and professional background), and personal information (name, address, phone, email, country of citizenship). Additional elements, such as letters of recommendation or university transcripts, are OPTIONAL and may supplement your application. To apply click here