Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea eye $20bn Chinese loan fund

 

By KEMO CHAM in Freetown | Tuesday, October 23 2012 at 17:55

(Front L-R) Cote d’Ivoire President Alassane Ouattara, Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Guinea President Alpha Conde, and Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma attend a meeting of the four-nation Mano River Union on June 15, 2012, in Conakry. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea are pushing to take advantage of China`s recent windfall pledge to the continent with the establishment of a joint development project on a neglected border region of the three countries.

At the last China-Africa summit in July Beijing pledged $20 billion for Africa. The Chinese will spend this money in the form of loans on projects carved out at sub regional levels.

The three neighbouring West African countries intend to put up the Makona River Free Zone Project, covering a historically thriving cross-border region linking the communities of Guekedou in Guinea, Koindu in Sierra Leone, and Foya in Liberia, along the Makona River.

The area, prior to the civil unrests that rocked the three countries recently, used to be a major economic hub.

The project entails land development, including industrial facilities such as a rubber processing plant, an industrial park, urban infrastructure facilities, social service facilities, and hydro power stations.

It will also include the construction of railways and seaport linking the free zone to the three countries which will facilitate the development of their natural resources.

Through this the three countries stand a chance of gaining improvement in their mining and related infrastructural development, as well as promotion of manufacturing and urbanisation.

Resource advantage

Officials say the project has the potential to contribute in “perennial challenge of turning the natural resource advantage within the three countries into development advantage.”

“The objectives of the project are to achieve maximum socio-economic development in the Makona River area and to develop industrial, urban infrastructure, commodities trade, commerce, services, and real estate and properties within the Free Zone area, among others,” said Ambassador Mamadi Diare, the Guinean envoy to China.

Mr Diare and his Sierra Leonean and Liberian counterparts, Abubakarr Multi-Kamara and Jarjar Kamara repectively, were in Freetown on the first leg of what s supposed to be a three-nation tour to seek political endorsement for the project whose cost is yet to be disclosed.

The Makona River Free Zone Development Project is in tandem with the Makona River Union created in 2005 by parliamentarians from the three countries who hail from the region.

The three countries are also part of the larger Mano River Union (MRU) that also includes Cote d’Ivoire as an associate member.

Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma described the project as timely considering the MRU countries have been thinking of areas of regional cooperation away from usual cooperation at governmental levels.

“This project will give practical effect to Mano River Union cooperation,” he said.

No loan quota

The three countries will jointly own and implement the project under the Makona River Free Zone Authority as the “social, civil and administrative authority” that will comprise representatives from the three countries, and China.

The Sierra Leonean leader will now have to discuss the issue with his MRU counterparts as major prerequisites for submission of proposals include approval of the three heads of states and the setting of an interim management authority as the Makona Free Zone Authority.

Chinese officials say no quota is allocated to any African country as per the $20 billion pledge. Therefore consideration for funding is on a first-come first-serve basis.

Also, according to officials, over 40 projects have been forwarded to the Export-Import Bank (EXIM-BANK) of China by several sub regional groups for funding so far, hence the need for speedy work on the part of the West African nations.

But Sierra Leone`s Beijing representative believes their project stand a unique chance.

“China’s enormous financial and industrial capacity backed up by its huge global demand for West Africa’s natural and mineral resources makes a strong compelling case for heightened cooperation with the three countries that constitute the Makona River Free Zone Development Project,” Multi-Kamara said.

 

Ken D. Johnson

Principal

212.260.0177

Devconia, LLC

International Development

Cross Cultural Management

www.devconia.com

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IN PURSUIT OF A U.S.-CHINA-AFRICA ENTREPRENEURIAL BRIDGE

IN PURSUIT OF A U.S.-CHINA-AFRICA ENTREPRENEURIAL BRIDGE

By Fritz-Earle Mc Lymont

July 2012

The National Minority Business Council, Inc. (www.nmbc.org), a 40-year-old, New York-based resource and advocacy organization of which I am a co-founder, strongly endorses the China International Fair for Investment and Trade (CIFIT) as the place to be in China this year for U.S. small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). This endorsement of CIFIT coincides with the Council’s pursuit of its vision to build an entrepreneurial bridge spanning the United States, Africa and China for the small, minority, women- and veteran-owned firms businesses it primarily serves.

Held each year in September, CIFIT provides an excellent opportunity for U.S. companies and business leaders to grasp the policies and practices that are shaping relations between China and Africa. African government representatives and entrepreneurs will be among the more than 15,000 foreigners who will network and interact with the expected 50,000 business representatives from various provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities in China.

China is investing heavily in Africa, to the consternation of U.S. political and business leaders who still view Africa through a 20th century economic and political lens. We are in the 21st century, change is here, and we have no choice but to deal with it.

At the end of the 20th Century, business, financial and economic pundits around the world declared that the 21st century belonged to Asia and to Africa. And indeed, over the past decade, six of the world’s ten fastest-growing countries were in Africa. In eight of the past ten years, Africa has grown faster than East Asia, including Japan. The continent is flexing the muscle of its vast economic potential, creating waves through new relationships from Beijing to Rio de Janeiro. At the same time, China and India have become global economic powerhouses.

Given this new dispensation, U.S.-based Africans, African-Americans, and Asian-Americans must assume responsibility for the success or failure of our communities’ entrepreneurs. With their understanding of the changes that have taken place in Africa and Asia, particularly at the micro level, and their ethnic and cultural connections to those regions, we have a unique opportunity to forge successful business relationships within and between those regions.

Sino-Africa relations are on a fast track. At the Fifth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, held in Beijing in July,Chinese President Hu Jintao announced that Beijing would provide a $20 billion credit line to African countries over the next three years to “support infrastructure, agriculture, manufacturing and development of small and medium-sized businesses.” At the Forum’s opening ceremony, South African President Jacob Zuma noted that Africa’s past economic experience with Europe “dictates a need to be cautious” when entering into partnerships with other countries. “We are particularly pleased that in our relationship with China we are equals, and that agreements entered into are for mutual gain. We certainly are convinced that China’s intention is different than that of Europe, which to date continues to intend to influence African countries for their sole benefit,” he said.

Africa’s political leaders increasingly are showing more interest in diplomatic and economic solutions to the challenges they face. The Wall Street Journal, in a report in July on the selection of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, President Zuma’s ex-wife, as chair of the Africa Union Commission, the AU’s executive body, noted that South African officials lobbied aggressively for Dlamani-Zuma, an experienced politician who has held three ministerial positions in South Africa since 1994. “Their hope is that her victory will lend more diplomatic heft to the African Union, which has appeared divided and weak in recent crises in the Ivory Coast and Libya. In both cases, military force prevailed over diplomatic solutions,” the WSJ article said.

In this shift to diplomatic, and particularly economic, solutions, the U.S. government‘s declared priorities in Africa remain unchanged: democratic governance; sustained economic development and growth; preventing, mitigating and resolving conflicts; strong public health programs; and addressing “transnational” challenges such as climate change, narco-trafficking, trafficking-in-persons and arms, and the illegal exploitation of minerals and maritime resources.

For U.S. SMEs, however, the unwavering focus must be on economic development and growth, both here in the United States and abroad. SMEs must take advantage of every opportunity in the U.S., China and Africa, and in multilateral institutions, that can contribute to small-business growth, which, in turn, fuels the creation of jobs, wealth and social and economic stability. At the same time, our country must learn to rely more on the creativity and innovation of SMEs than on the greed and power games that many foreigners now associate with our multinationals, and even our government.

Innovation in how we approach and structure business deals and apply technologies today will determine our success in the long term. According to an April 2012 article in The Economist, we are now in a third industrial revolution – the first having been in the late 18th century with the mechanization of the textile industry, the second in the early 20th century with mass production. “Everything in the factories of the future will be run by smarter software…and the effects will not be confined to large manufacturers; indeed, they will need to watch out because much of what is coming will empower small and medium-sized firms and entrepreneurs. Launching novel products will become easier and cheaper,” the article said.

If the principle of comparative advantage holds true, as wages in China rise and the elements of productivity shift with new technologies, SMEs must skillfully pursue niche opportunities to compete and succeed. In doing so, they must recognize the value of relationships in critical labor and raw material regions like Africa and China. Sectors not to be overlooked are renewable energy and agriculture, where China has invested heavily. Africa is poised to be major producer and consumer of food and energy-related products and services as economic growth and consumer demand increase. Add the already strong demand for ICT and entertainment products and services in Africa and Asia and SMEs can be off to good times.

On this year’s CIFIT mission, the NMBC delegation will also visit Beijing, Solar Valley and Eco City for first-hand experience, and to establish business contacts that hopefully will result in solid business deals.

This is not a time for the United States to be revving up for energy or currency wars, or any other conflict with China in response to that country’s new global economic status. Rather, it’s a time to encourage engagement with Chinese SMEs for our mutual benefit. Let us keep our eyes on the prize of entrepreneurial development and growth, and not be distracted by sound bites and fast images, especially in this election season where talk is cheap and dangerous. Through our SMEs, let us begin to build the right relationships, to understand the people, the risks, the opportunity and the rewards of doing business with China and Africa.

 Fritz-Earle Mc Lymont is Managing Partner of Mc Lymont, Kunda & Co. a New York based international trade and development consulting firm, and Managing Director of NMBC Global.

He may be contacted at Fmclymont1@nmbc.org

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MSNBC’S “The Black Agenda—A Stronger America”

By Fritz-Earle McLymont
Blk companies

I started to watch the MSNBC special, “The Black Agenda—A Stronger America,” on Sunday, April 10, with great expectation. I had written down two items I would look for in the two-hour long conversation: Business/Entrepreneurship and Global Affairs. They reflected my agenda and personal interests as a Black “African” man living in America.

Halfway through the first half-hour segment, which assembled erudite Black professionals from academia, media and social/civil organizations, I began to wonder if I was in for one of those sessions that many of us in the 1960s labeled “paralysis of analysis.” In the segment, only Marc Morial of the Urban League used the word “business,” which he did once—not in the context of business as part of the Black agenda, but in a passing reference. For the entire half hour, I was forced to listen to educated Back persons react to every conceivable ill experienced by the Black people in the United States at the hand of the “establishment.” I asked myself, “Where is the vision?”

By the second half-hour segment, I realized I was being treated to another American theater: a passionate white liberal leading and orchestrating a Black agenda for the benefit of the liberal establishment. (For the record, I was a strong supporter of the Nixon Administration’s initiative supporting small and Black-owned businesses, which cast me outside what I call “the liberal feel good club.”) In this segment, someone mentioned strategies that must include alliances with Hispanics and Asians, who together account for 30 percent of the U.S. population. Bear in mind that the entire U.S. population represents less than 5 percent of the world’s total population.

I perked up, expecting to hear the elements and benefits of these alliance strategies, such as the potential of the three ethnic groups to interact commercially with their counterparts overseas, counterparts who, collectively, represent the bulk of the world’s population and the fastest growing economies. From 2002 to 2007, the number of America’s minority owned non-farm businesses jumped 46 percent to 5.8 million, with total receipts of $1 trillion. Asian-American firms alone grew 41 percent to 1.5 million; Hispanic firms grew 44 percent to 2.3 million; and Black-owned firms grew by 60.5 percent to 1.9 million.

What an awesome force could be unleashed when these eight million minority entrepreneurs, armed with cultural and language connections, engage fellow entrepreneurs in Africa, Asia and Latin America, enhancing U.S. investment in and trade with these regions, leading to a “stronger America.”

To my great dismay, not once did I hear reference to business, entrepreneurship, or global affairs during the first half of MSNBC’s exploration of the “Black Agenda.” Instead, I was subjected to a disgraceful display of babbling Black voices, including a screaming match between Princeton University professor Cornel West and community activist Rev. Al Sharpton reminiscent of the worst behavior seen in a parliamentary debate in Jamaica. Orchestrator Ed Shultz seemed pleased with this particular bit of theatrics.

Enter the second hour and Big Ed is now fired up about education versus incarceration. My level of disgust is increasing as I hear more analyses of the poor condition of Blacks in the education system, the viciousness of the justice system, and the lack of sensitivity on the part of government. As the discussion veered into what works and what has not worked, and the need to substitute trust for combativeness, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, highlighted models that are working in other countries, but made absolutely no mention of the fact that African immigrants academically outperform every other ethnic group, including whites, in U.S. schools, and that lessons can be learned from the reasons why this is so.

Late into the second hour, Pastor Byron Williams of Oakland, Calif., brought up, twice, the need for investment in small businesses, but no one saw fit to pursue that point. The preoccupation with jobs as if it were the ultimate solution to Black America’s “problems” seemed pathetic in light of an economic crisis that has shot Black unemployment into the double digits—above 20 percent in union-busting Wisconsin—with no dignified letup in sight. At the same time, imbued with the desire to generate their own wealth, an increasing number of Blacks are starting businesses. These are enterprises with the potential to provide jobs and enhance the economies of their respective communities. Small businesses currently account for 49.6 percent of U.S. private-sector jobs.

I do not know how many of the talking heads I saw on MSNBC provide meaningful jobs for Black folks, or find ways to increase Black employment in their respective organizations. It was shortsighted not to have included entrepreneurs in the Black Agenda panels. Entrepreneurs, who have the responsibility of employing Black folks, could have addressed an agenda that is in tune with the vision of men like Marcus Garvey and Booker T. Washington—a vision rooted in self sufficiency and productivity, which is needed to build a stronger America.

With Black businesses growing at more than triple the national rate, with receipts for such businesses increasing by 55.1 percent between 2002 and 2007 to $137.5 billion, and with our brothers and sisters in Africa ratcheting up GDP growth of more than twice the rate of the U.S. and Europe, it is high time we began a dialogue on the Black economic agenda.

If we continue to be distracted by platitudes and useless analyses while the rest of the world is beckoning us, as African in the Diaspora, to become engaged in correcting the imbalances and inequities created by race and power, future generations of Black Americans will pay a heavy price. In a discussion at the kickoff of this year’s New York African Film Festival, entertainer and activist Harry Belafonte advised the predominantly Black audience that anyone who is not getting involved in what is happening in Africa today “should be charged with crimes against humanity.” I thoroughly endorse his position. Even if I have to be a one-man army, I for one will continue my Black Agenda of “creating global entrepreneurs and business leaders.”

Fritz-Earle Mc Lymont is a New York City-based entrepreneur who is actively involved in Africa, and managing director of NMBC Global, the international arm of the National Minority Business Council, Inc. He may be contacted at Fmclymont1@nmbc.org 

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Libya: Not Our Fight

By  Fritz-Earle McLymont |  Tuesday, March 29, 2011

rebels

“Cockroach don’t business in chicken fight!” No doubt there’s an African equivalent of this proverb I learned as a child, which warns would-be meddlers against getting involved in other people’s affairs. I offer this proverb to President Obama as he ponders U.S. engagement in North Africa. The current uprisings in Libya and the rest of that region have little to do with threatening U.S. security, financial or otherwise. Rather, they are more of a threat to the desire of France and the U.K. to maintain a power base in the region for their own social and economic security.

It is interesting to note that Brazil, Russia, India and China—the so-called BRIC nations—abstained from voting in the U.N. Security Council Resolution on a no-fly zone over Libya. The BRICs are fully engaged in the economic development taking place in Africa, where growth has been outpacing that of Europe, especially that of the PIIGS—Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain—and whose population of nearly 1 billion includes a middle class that is predicted to surpass India’s in size by 2015. The BRICs know which side their bread is buttered on in this post-Great Recession era.

I hope President Obama’s decision to visit Latin America in pursuit of business opportunities for American firms and improved relations in our hemisphere is testament to his wisdom in leaving the warmongering to others.  The Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement subsequently signed with Brazil includes $1 billion in U.S. Exim Bank trade financing for infrastructure in Brazil’s oil sector, and additional financing for joint projects by U.S. and Brazilian firms in third countries, mainly Africa.

These activities are more important to the social and economic prosperity of the U.S. than dropping bombs on Libya, at a cost of more than $100 million a day, to satisfy French President Sarkozy’s desire to establish an African Mediterranean zone for the economic benefit of his country. A May 2010 editorial published by Ocnus News on the contentious European Union plan to bail out the falling Euro reaffirms France’s financial dependence on Africa. “The Germans, who provide the bulk of the cash, were bludgeoned into agreement by Sarkozy of France who twice threatened to pull France out of the Eurozone if the Germans wouldn’t go along with the plan. This is very important as France is not playing only with its own money. To a large degree it is cushioned by the reserves it holds from francophone Africa as part of the integration of the CFA francs into the Eurozone.”

If the meeting of Western allies in France prior to the beginning of their air attacks on  Libya was in any way a revisit of the late nineteenth-century gathering at the Berlin residence of German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck to carve up Africa, then today’s European leaders have lost their bearings and their minds. Africa is on a different course today and is of a mindset more firmly steeped in Pan Africanism.

France therefore faces the prospect of losing its monetary cushion, which stems from an arrangement wrangled by French President Charles De Gaulle stipulating that 65 percent of the foreign reserves of the newly independent former colonies must be stored in the French treasury, with another 20 percent of their reserves put toward covering their “financial liabilities” with France. That arrangement holds to this day, some six decades later, propping up the French economy and denying the African countries any recourse to the funds. These African benefactors of France do not know, nor are they told, how much of the pool of foreign reserves held by the French Treasury belongs to them as a group or individually. The earnings on the French Treasury’s investment of these funds are supposed to be added to the pool, but the high officials in the French Treasury who have knowledge of the accounts, their investments, and the return on these investments are prohibited from disclosing any of this information to the CFA banks or the central banks of the African states that supply the funds.

In 2009, I attended a week-long program in Dakar, Senegal, in which President Wade invited African-American and continental African investment bankers to explore opportunities in the finance sector as an alternative to the old CFA regime. President Wade expresses Pan African sentiments similar to those of Colonel Qaddafi, witnessed by the colossal African Renaissance monument built in Dakar to represent the resurgence of an Africa in the hands of Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora.

If Sarkozy wants or needs a Mediterranean zone to replace the Francophone zone that France is destined to lose, he should finance it with French money and French lives, not American. Similarly, if British Prime Minister David Cameron entertains fantasies of conquering territories in Africa, he must pay for his own adventures. I am sure there are still Arabs and Africans who are willing to accommodate any kind of monetary or military arrangement that will guarantee their own personal power and wealth. However, they should be aware that, in these days of WikiLeaks and unfettered digital access to information, the chickens will come home to roost before night.

Let us examine where American values and interests intersect in this new global arena before we squander our limited resources to fight the battles of other people, whose long-term interests may not be to our benefit. It was right for President Obama to spend time building relationships in the Americas, where there is a need to find ways to shape 21st Century values out of our common experiences of the last 500 years. “Promoting a safe, stable, and prosperous hemisphere where the United States and our partners share responsibility on key regional and global issues is the most effective means of defending our core democratic values in the Americas,” the President said. “We export three times more to Latin America than to China. Our exports to the region that are growing faster than with the rest of the world will sustain in a very short term, more than 2 million jobs in the United States.”

Between 1998 and 2009, U.S. merchandise trade with Latin America grew by 82 percent compared to 72 percent for Asia (driven largely by China), 51 percent for the European Union, and 221 percent for Africa. Those of us who advocate on behalf of small, minority and women-owned business enterprises should insist that America keep its eyes on the prize—the growth taking place in Latin America and Africa, where our cultural, historical, and family connections will serve us best—and not on the distraction of the futile madness being undertaken by 21st century Bismarckists.

Fritz-Earle Mc Lymont is a New York City-based entrepreneur who is actively involved in Africa, and managing director of NMBC Global, the international arm of the National Minority Business Council, Inc. He may be contacted at Fmclymont1@nmbc.org

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