Alliance 54 to host Africa Global Women in Business Forum

Meeting to promote financial Inclusion for Africa Women especially in the diaspora London. In a bid to achieve sustainable development in Africa and for the African people globally through promoting financial inclusion especially for women, Alliance 54 is hosting the Africa Global Women in Business Forum in London on 30th – 31st, October, 2013.

 

This initiative according to Ernest Okwudike, Founder and Conference Director of Alliance 54, was inspired by the call and need for action by all stakeholders to change the destiny of Africa and the African people for best.

Global news is awash with so much reports and information on the rising status of Africa. There has been consistent economic growth of over 5% in the continent; however, this does not necessarily reflect development in the different countries especially in the rural areas.

That said, concrete steps needed to be taken very quickly to ensure that there is a balance between growth and development, and when we look at development issues in Africa, one very important aspect that seem to be overlooked but needs urgent attention in order to develop the region is goal number 3 of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – To promote Gender Equality and Empower Women.

Now, African women play a significant role in the socio-economic development of the continent. They produce 80% of food in Africa through the micro-enterprises and Small and Medium business that they operate. Yet, they remain grossly underserved in spite of the massive contribution. In her statement, Thelma Williams, Head of Development and the Conference Manager said that they are still faced with unequal treatments and underserved stereotypical barriers including lack of access to land, bank accounts and other ‘cultural hindrances’.

Even though there has been an increase in the number of women-run enterprises from 10% to 30%, more still have to be done as they only receive 10% of capital invested. Generally, women have unmet financial needs of over US$320 billion yearly as reported by the World Bank. In Africa, the African Development Bank (AfDB) states that they need over $19 billion yearly. Therefore, the Africa Global Women in Business Forum main objective is to explore the financial options available to women entrepreneurs

The forum aims to promote financial inclusion for the African women especially for those in the diaspora who still run businesses back home and abroad. In a statement by Toyin Adeniji, Head of Women in Business Program at the International Finance Corporation (IFC), she stated that it is an exciting initiative and one that will add to the on-going conversation regarding growth and support to women owned business in Africa. Also, the focus is to discuss practical solutions to the challenges that they (women) encounter daily in their businesses, with inspiration from successful business women and the meeting is also open to men that are interested in the discourse.

For the first time, the forum will be emphasising on the importance of developing collaboration with global counterparts to achieve common goals. Ernest argues that ‘we cannot divorce Africans from the global partners, the world is a global village and there are foreigners working and living in Africa and they have committed their lives and work to ensure that there is development there and vice versa. Our plan as a company is to see how we could promote these healthy and beneficial partnerships for the good of all and global economies.

More information about the forum could access at http://www.agwibf.com/
Early bird registration currently on for first 50 respondents on a first come first serve basis and it expires on August 31, 2013.

 

Contact: Ernest Okwudike
Phone: +44(0)7909 468 059
Email: ernest(at)alliance54(dot)com
Website: http://www.agwibf.com

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What is Aid to Bongo Bongo land for?

Whilst foreign aid to African countries has been praised for lowering poverty levels in Africa, experts, think tanks, non government organisations (NGOs) and even citizens of both donor and recipient countries have also criticised it for creating dependency, preventing growth and promoting the interests of donor countries over the needs of recipient countries.

But last week Godfrey Bloom a Member of the European Parliament from the UK Independent Party (UKIP) raised  the criticism bar by criticising the UK government for sending aid to what he called “Bongo Bongo land”

This was unfortunate. For instead of  we the publics being engaged on the important questions about aid such as, what is aid for and how effective it is, we became embroiled in debates about racism.

What became apparent to me as I read the comments and listened to reactions about Bloom’s outburst was that some amongst the general public do not understand the motives of aid donors. We do need to ask the question

Why do donors give aid?

The motives of aid donors are many and varied  and may  include

 

a) Poverty reduction: some donors such as the Department for International Development (DFID) in the UK and international non government organisations (INGOs) such as the Word Bank and NGOs believe that rich countries have a moral obligation use their resources to fight poverty in poor countries to ensure that citizens of these countries can access social services (Pomerantz 2004:4)

b) Historical and colonial ties: France and the UK in particular are charged with Neo-Colonial motives with respect to their reasons for providing aid to former colonies. The charge here is that the provision of aid enables donor countries to exercise political and economic influence in those countries. This influence ensures that the former colonial master continues to access raw materials for its industries from its former colony in exchange for aid (Mayall 2005:307).

c) International Relations: Scholars like Radelet (2006), Wood (1996), Hook (1996) and Moyo (2009) have argued that aid is the means by which donor countries conduct relations with other nations, in other words aid is used a bargaining tool in foreign policy, or as Baldwin (1996:3 cited in Hook 1996) puts it: “foreign aid is a means by which one country gets another to act in desired ways’’ For countries like Japan, USA and Canada for instance aid is a means for their multinational companies to gain access to international markets as well as protecting the interests of those companies in aid recipient countries

d) Security: increasingly donors such as the European Union and the USA are tying aid to security concerns and this tend to be in the form of technical training. The reasoning here is that if these problems are not resolved those countries will become unstable and lead to migrants on our door step.

e) humanitarian reasons:aid is given to countries to mitigate the effects of civil conflicts, the impact of natural disasters such as Tsunamis and chronic food shortages due to climate change etc. (Pomerantz 2004:4)

So as you can see there is a confluence of reasons why donors give aid. What puzzles me is how little we the publics know about our governments motives for giving aid.  Is it a matter of lack of transparency on the part of our government?

A related point has to do with where does aid actually go?  If you are interested in this question I would recommend that you read this report from ActionAid as the argue that very little of what donors count as aid is given as cash. Some aid is used to write of debt, provide technical assistance and indeed create jobs here in the UK, as  DFID boss Justine Greening explains in this BBC interview.

 

Have you got a view? Lets talk about!

 

 

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Enough food IF….

Did you make it to Hyde Park in London on 8 June 2013?

 

If you are food poor regardless of where you live this was about you. See food poverty doesn’t affect Africans only and if you thought so, think again. Here in the UK over 500,000 people rely on food banks, because the food has become so expensive

The IF campaign run by several International Charities and aims to lobby the UK and other G8 countries on two aspects FOOD SECURITY and TAX AVOIDANCE.

These charities argue that there is enough food for everyone but 2 million children are dying of hunger every day because

  1. large corporations are buying up land in developing countries and using it to grow food that is then shipped out those countries
  2. land is used to grow bio fuels so the west can drive cars that do not damage the environment
  3. seeds are too expensive and women in particular cannot access them
  4. large corporations dodge tax in developing countries which means that governments  in those countries are denied a revenue that could be put towards feeding their citizens
  5. moreover that the G8 countries should give more aid that will fund access to food and the UK government in particular should enshrine into law the UN target for developed countries to give 0.7% of GNI in aid

 

I can’t argue with the sentiments of this campaign at some level and yet I do have a problem with it and I wrote about some of my reservations in this post over at Africa on the Blog.

I think  most of the reasons that people are going hungry are first and foremost structural in nature and when I raised this point with one of the leading NGOs behind this campaign at a recent meeting I was told it is not in their remit to address structural problems.

It is my belief that in order to tackle these structural problems we need a huge dose of political will.

Lets take the EU’s agricultural policy. A consequence of this policy is that surplus food is damped on developing countries markets with a consequence of killing of agricultural businesses in those countries.

To compound this situation, certain agricultural products from African countries are excluded from the EU’s common market. This is something that the G8 should be lobbied about and address as a matter of urgency

Why

If you are a farmer in a developing country you currently have no real hope of fighting the level of  protectionism in western markets and  depending on your product you may be excluded from the local market because the surplus food from western will end up on the local market as food aid.

Besides EU policies,  the policies of the World Trade Organisation to liberalise trade have failed to address protectionism amongst developed countries and instead produced a situation in which a few global companies rule the world.

The IF campaign has argued that if these global ompanies paid taxes in developing countries then that money would be available to feed the poor and hungry. I am not entirely convinced by that argument either.

It is not to say that I support non payment of tax but instead  that some of these countries such as Uganda, already have too much food but there is no political will to get it to those that have none. Moreover corruption and misuse of aid money in that country is well documented .  Uganda for instance reduced the incidence of HIV throughout the 1990s because the Museveni’s government made HIV reduction a priority. Could the same drive and energy be applied to food poverty reduction?

Could the EU and the USA reduce subsidies to their farmers?

Secondly we need to look at the effect of the policies of the World Bank and IMF on global poverty and hunger. An interesting article  by Chossudovsky  entitled, ‘Global Poverty in the Late Twentieth Century’ analyses the extent of the impact of the policies of these institutions on developing countries. Chossudovsky argues that  the IMF and World Bank have imposed practice such as the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) on the developing world and killed off internal markets and industries within the developing world and necessarily increased poverty, unemployment and hunger. He notes too that, trade liberalization has seen the relocation of firms to underdeveloped regions to access cheap labour, creating unemployment in western countries on the one hand and left citizens in the developing countries unable to afford basics like food and shelter on the other. 

Although this an old article I would argue some of the issues it raises are still relevant today. SAPS have been replaced by Poverty Reduction Strategies but the basics of the policy have not changed much. Countries have to meet political and economic conditions before accessing  help from these instituions.  Think Greece

 

The point I am trying to make is that at some level this campaign is simplistic as it fails to address the fundamental failures of the international structure that disadvantages those in developing countries. Furthermore, if the global companies create jobs in the G8 countries, can the governments of those countries do anything about their tax dodging  and risk losing several jobs and foreign direct investment?

Another reason I have a problem with the IF campaign is that it feels like MAKE POVERTY HISTORY before it, those going hungry are unlikely to have a seat at the top table, their voices are missing we don’t know what they would like the G8 to do that will improve their lives.

Don’t get make wrong, I am not saying that we should not address the issue of food poverty. Having grown up in Uganda, I have first hand experience of being food poor. In my case it was not because my parents were poor  but it was due to civil wars that meant that we could not access the food that was going to waste on farms and gardens.

This is still the situation in some parts of Africa such as Mali, Central African Republic and Congo. Food poverty in this instance is directly linked to political instability and no amount of matching in Hyde Park will mitigate civil wars.  Furthermore, there is an awful lot of food going to waste and most of that food is transferred from developing to developed countries.

Political will is required to address this level of inequality most of which exists in the international structure. The focus should not therefore be on governments of developed countries  only but governments in developing countries too. This  level of inequality requires more than a campaign in a pretty London park.

 

 

Your thoughts please?

 

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