Friday, December 28, 2012

World Famous Board Game – Monopoly - Introduces Lagos Edition

Picture and story courtesy of CNN Inside Africa

Lagos, Nigeria (CNN) — Some 80 years after its first launch, the iconic board game of Monopoly has finally released its first African city edition.

A Lagos-themed version of the popular real estate game was unveiled earlier this week, making Nigeria’s bustling economic capital the first city in the continent to have a dedicated Monopoly edition.

“Lagos is special, it’s a megacity, one of the fastest-growing cities in Africa,” says Nimi Akinkugbe, head of Bestman Games which is distributing the Lagos edition.

“But apart from that, Lagos also holds a very special place for Nigerians all over the world. There are about 15 million Nigerians in the diaspora who are very nostalgic about Lagos; it’s not just for Lagosians but for people all over the world,” she adds.

The affluent Banana Island, a man-made waterfront community boasting multi-million dollar mansions and manicured lawns, was revealed as the game’s most expensive property, joining Boardwalk in the standard U.S. edition and Mayfair in the London version.
Many of the squares for the game’s upmarket locations feature sponsorship from banks, radio stations and shopping centers. In contrast, the square dedicated to the floating shantytown of Makoko, which is the cheapest piece of real estate in the Lagos edition of the game, was left unsponsored.

Local officials were heavily involved in bringing Monopoly to the sprawling metropolis of some 15 million people. Their goal was partly to promote the city’s rich history and landmark sites but also to encourage responsible behavior and inform citizens about laws that are often overlooked.

“You’ve been caught driving against traffic. Report for psychiatric evaluation,” is the message on one Chance card, which issues a fine — in line with the laws introduced recently by the local government to deal with the city’s major traffic problem.

Another card reads: “For using the overhead pedestrian bridge on Worodu Road, move forward three spaces.” Akinkugbe explains that many lives have been lost as people tend to cross the express highway by running across the road. “By rewarding the person that uses the overhead bridge by moving forwards three spaces, slowly it begins to sink in,” she says.

And there are also references to Nigeria’s corruption problem: “For attempting to bribe a law enforcement agent, pay a fine,” says another card.

“This gives us an opportunity to educate the public about those things,” says Akinkugbe. “[It's about] penalizing negative behavior and rewarding good behavior but in a fun and enjoyable way. We all know that learning through play is one of the most powerful forms of learning because it is not forced but is done in a relaxed, easy way.”

Akinkugbe says that two other African countries — South Africa and Morocco — have a version of Monopoly, but Lagos is the only city in the continent to have its own edition. She says that the Lagos game was sold out within 24 hours of its release, as about 4,000 people got their hands on it.

“Thousands of Nigerian families they are going to be playing Monopoly over Christmas, having a good laugh and learning at the same time, and just appreciating the city,” she says.

The first patented version of Monopoly was launched in the United States in 1935 at the height of Great Depression. It has since become arguably the most popular board game in the world, with several localized editions released over the years.

Millennium Challenge Corporation Success Story – Namibia

Story courtesy of MCC website

Indigenous Minority Group and Tourism Sector Partner To Create a Future Of Shared Opportunity

The Hai//om San are an indigenous minority group who historically hunted and gathered food in present-day Etosha National Park, the largest national park in northern Namibia. Many Hai//om San lived in the park until the former South Africa administration forcibly evicted most of them in 1954. Because of this displacement and a long history of marginalization, the Hai//om San are considered one of the most vulnerable minority groups in Namibia.

In fact, due to their history of marginalization, most Hai//om San have little access to employment or a consistent cash income. They have also been deprived of land to call their own. Although they live in and around Etosha National Park, they have not had formal opportunities to directly benefit from the lucrative tourism industry centered on the park.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation is changing that. As part of its five-year, $304 million compact, MCC is working to create tourism-based livelihood opportunities for the Hai//om San living in and around Etosha National Park.

In September 2012, the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism awarded an exclusive access tourism concession to an association representing the Hai//om San. The concession gives the association rights to bring tourists into Etosha National Park to visit an important waterhole for wildlife and to share the area’s cultural heritage. The concession will enable the association also to attract investment from the private sector to build and jointly manage a tourism lodge on land recently transferred to the Hai//om San
outside the park.

“The issuance of this concession by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism to the !Gobaub Community Association is a huge achievement as it will allow the Hai//om San to directly benefit from tourism in Etosha National Park for the first time,” said Oliver Pierson, MCC’s Resident Country Director for the Namibia Compact. “We really appreciate the leadership of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism to make this opportunity available and the willingness of the Hai//om San community to enter into a concession agreement for the! Gobaub site, and we hope this concession will lead to tangible benefits for the association.”

Unique challenges and solutions

The Government of Namibia recognizes that the Hai//om San face unique development challenges. In 2005, it prioritized development efforts for San communities throughout Namibia via a Cabinet Decision. As part of this effort, the Namibian government purchased seven commercial farms along the southern border of Etosha National Park for members of the Hai//om San community. Transfer of the farms to the Hai//om San enables them to raise livestock, harvest natural products and produce crops.

But these activities might not be enough to spark sustainable economic growth opportunities for the Hai//om San now living on these farms.

Under the compact’s Tourism Project, MCC is funding about $35 million in new infrastructure and staff housing in Etosha National Park. To reinforce the strong link between this infrastructure and sustainable economic growth in northern Namibia, MCC and the Government of Namibia agreed to make a series of management and policy reforms to ensure that Etosha National Park serves as the engine of regional economic development.

The Government of Namibia was required to meet these reforms before MCC would begin infrastructure investments in Etosha National Park. One of these reforms was a commitment to issue four exclusive tourism conservancies in national parks—including two exclusive access concessions in Etosha—to communal conservancies or other community-based associations.

These tourism concessions will give the recipients unique tourism products to develop and market, such as game drives to the !Gobaub waterhole, and should provide a basis to attract enough tourists to make joint venture eco-lodges viable, which in turn will generate substantial revenue for the community-based associations. The government awarded its first exclusive tourism concession in Etosha National Park to a conservancy in 2011; in September 2012, the newly-created association representing the Hai//om San, known as the !Gobaub Community Association, received the second concession.

Public-Private Partnerships

Private sector investment should generate substantial revenue for the association, which will receive a share of the lodge revenue. They will then use these resources to support development activities on their farms. MCC will support the association in establishing basic governance procedures and identifying a private sector partner. The association can also apply for funding through the Millennium Challenge Account-Namibia Conservancy Development Grant Fund to help establish the joint venture lodge.

This concession gives the Hai//om San formal access and rights to the !Gobaub area of the park, which has long held substantial cultural significance for them. Hai//om San Chief David //Khamuxab said, “We are very glad to receive this concession, and we will work hard and hope that the concession will change our livelihoods by bringing activities such as joint venture partnerships to our community.”

U.S. Trade Rep. Ron Kirk on Changes to Preference Programs for Dev. Nations

File Photo

Presidential Proclamation Makes South Sudan Eligible to Receive Benefits, Addresses Eligibility of Other Countries under AGOA and GSP

Washington, D.C. — United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk commented today on important changes to two of the United States’ key trade preference programs – the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP). Trade preference programs are designed to enhance the economic growth of developing countries through increased access to the U.S. market.

The attached proclamation, signed by President Obama today, designates the Republic of South Sudan as eligible for AGOA benefits, which means that South Sudan can now take advantage of duty-free access to the U.S. market for certain products. This important step for South Sudan follows a similar action in March of this year, which designated the Republic of South Sudan as a GSP beneficiary country. Additionally, Congress passed legislation signed by President Obama in August which added South Sudan as a sub-Saharan African nation that could be considered for AGOA eligibility once it met the criteria.

“In the face of many challenges, South Sudan has made measurable progress since becoming an independent nation in July 2011,” said Ambassador Kirk. “President Obama’s designation of South Sudan as an AGOA-eligible country will help support its continued economic growth through increased trade and investment – which is a proven tool for sustained development.”

While extending AGOA benefits to South Sudan, following an annual review of all countries’ eligibility, the President has also determined that the Republic of Guinea-Bissau and the Republic of Mali shall not be eligible to receive AGOA benefits in 2013. Each of these countries suffered a coup d’état in 2012 and the consequent political instability, human rights abuses, and corruption led to these decisions.

Among other actions, the proclamation also terminates St. Kitts and Nevis from eligibility under the Generalized System of Preferences because it has become a high-income country as defined by the World Bank. The termination will become effective January 1, 2014. St. Kitts and Nevis will remain eligible for trade preferences under the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA).

Background on U.S. Trade Preference Programs Congress created the GSP program in the Trade Act of 1974 to help developing countries expand their economies by allowing certain goods to be imported to the United States duty-free. Under the GSP program, 127 beneficiary developing countries, including 44 least-developed countries, are eligible to export up to 5,000 types of products to the United States duty-free. In 2011, the total value of imports that entered the United States duty-free under GSP was $18.5 billion. For more information on the GSP program, please visit the GSP page of USTR’s website.

AGOA was established in 2000 to provide eligible sub-Saharan African countries with duty-free access for a broader variety of products than is available under GSP, including apparel, footwear, and some agricultural and processed food products. For more information on AGOA, visit the USTR’s website here.

The CBERA program, established in 1983, allows duty-free entry into the United States for about 5,501 products from beneficiary countries, including almost all products covered under the GSP program. More information on the CBERA program can be found here.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

D’Banj and Kayswitch Sign Exclusive Pan African Deal with Sony music

Photo and story courtesy of Face2faceafrica.com

Nigerian afro pop and multiple award winning artiste, Dapo Oyebanji, popularly known as D’Banj, has signed on to global music powerhouse, Sony, in an exclusive ground-breaking pan-African strategic deal.

The breakthrough deal includes a multi-album, worldwide exclusive contract with emerging Nigerian singer-songwriter Kayswitch, and a strategic partnership with D’Banj’s Nigerian record label DB Records, whose catalog includes artists and producers such as J.Sol, Jay Sleek and DeeVee.

Speaking on the importance of the deal to Sony, Managing Director of Sony Music Entertainment Sean Watson said: “Partnering with D’Banj is a seminal event for us at Sony Music Entertainment Africa. We’ve always admired his talent and to be able to assist with bringing D’Banj’s music to millions of fans, established and new, across the continent is an honour for us. We are very excited about being a part of it.”

The Koko master, DBanj who now runs his own label DB records after controversially leaving the defunct Mo-Hits records, also said of the partnership deal: “Partnering with the leading music company in Africa is a natural fit for me and DB Records to ensure my music can be available to my fans across every corner of Africa and in countries where they’ve never been able to access my music in a legitimate way, instantly as it’s released anywhere else in the world.

It’s a new era for Africa, the birthplace of music and I’m excited about this very powerful partnership with Sony Music through which we will give birth together to a new era with endless opportunities for my fans, producers, artists and the start of a new time for a revolution in music from Africa. Nothing is impossible”

D’banj is one of Nigeria’s largest musical exports. One of his first endorsements earlier in his career was a $500,000 Globacom deal. Last year, he got signed on to Kanye West’s G.O.O.D music label.

Dbanj will be joining household names such as Usher, Chris Brown, R Kelly, Alicia Keys, P!nk, Christina Aguilera, Pitbull, Britney Spears, Jamie Foxx, Justin Timberlake, Ke$ha, T-Pain and Miguel, and in Africa, Keko at Sony.

The signing of D’banj and KaySwitch is part of Sony Music Entertainment Africa’s belief that Africa is an important & exciting music development frontier. The company has set its sights on becoming the primary partner of the best Africa has to offer and has confidence that through such partnerships, African musicians can achieve new Pan African and Global success.

President Obama Calls President Kagame – Readout

Photo courtesy of makingitmagazine.net

Office of the Press Secretary
The White House
Washington, DC

December 18, 2012

President Obama spoke today with President Kagame to discuss the situation in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). President Obama underscored that any support to the rebel group M23 is inconsistent with Rwanda’s desire for stability and peace. President Obama emphasized to President Kagame the importance of permanently ending all support to armed groups in the DRC, abiding by the recent commitments he made in Kampala along with Presidents Kabila and Museveni, and reaching a transparent and credible political agreement that includes an end to impunity for M23 commanders and others who have committed serious human rights abuses. President Obama expressed his belief that from this crisis should emerge a political agreement that addresses the underlying regional security, economic, and governance issues while upholding the DRC’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and noted that he had also delivered this message to President Kabila. President Obama and President Kagame also discussed the longstanding governance problems in the DRC. President Obama welcomed President Kagame’s commitment to moving forward in finding a peaceful solution for eastern DRC.

U.S. to Facilitate Next Congo Basin Forest Partnership

Office of the Spokesperson
Department of State
Washington, DC

December 18, 2012

Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Dr. Kerri-Ann Jones and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Cynthia Akuetteh today announced the appointment of the next facilitator of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP). Matthew Cassetta, currently the cultural affairs officer at the U.S. Mission to the European Union, will assume the role of facilitator beginning in May, 2013.

The Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP) was launched in 2002 at the World Summit on Sustainable Development by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell and Central African government leaders. It is an informal association of more than 60 government, research, private sector, and NGO partners, with the shared goal of promoting the conservation and sustainable management of the Congo Basin forest ecosystems. The Partnership aims to streamline and strengthen partners’ programs and initiatives through communication and collaboration, in line with the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. CBFP members work to protect the region’s biodiversity, promote effective forest governance, and improve living standards in the region, all of which support the regional Central African Forests Commission (COMIFAC) strategic plan, the “Plan de Convergence.”

By design, the CBFP does not have a secretariat or permanent staff and does not play a direct part in program implementation or financing. Instead, the CBFP provides a unique and flexible platform for political discussions and problem solving. Partner governments voluntarily lead the effort on a two-year rotating basis by providing a “facilitator.” The facilitator convenes events; sustains dialogues and promotes cooperation among the partners; identifies priorities; and represents the partnership in relevant meetings in the region and internationally. The United States will assume the facilitator’s role for the second time next May, following Canada (2010-2012), Germany (2008-2009), France (2005-2007), and at its inception, the United States (2003-2004).

U.S. Issues Statement on International Migrants Day, 2012

Victoria Nuland
Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC

December 18, 2012

On this 12th International Migrants Day, the United States recognizes the more than 214 million migrants in the world today, who constitute more than three percent of the world’s population. The United States’ overarching migration mission is to protect and assist asylum-seekers and other vulnerable migrants, and to advance effective and humane international migration policies, in order to enhance stability and security and promote human rights. Our work through multilateral institutions, including the International Organization for Migration, and bilateral partnerships promotes international practices that respect the dignity and human rights of all migrants. In addition to engaging in multilateral policy forums, the United States plays a critical role in assisting the world’s most vulnerable migrants who have been affected by humanitarian crises.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Libyan Officials Attend Border Security Training in the U.S.

Photo courtesy of docstoc.com

Office of the Spokesperson
Department of State
Washington, DC

December 13, 2012

The U.S. Department of State’s Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) program has provided funding to U.S. Customs and Border Protection to conduct an International Border Interdiction Training (IBIT) for thirteen officials from the Libyan Ministry of Defense and the Customs Authority. The IBIT course began on December 10 in McAllen, Texas, and will run through December 14, 2012. This course is comprised of classroom and practical training, which seek to improve participants’ ability to carry out effective inspection, detection, and interdiction of illicit material and illegal immigration across land borders.

IBIT is designed to share best practices with Libyan border enforcement officials, and bolster U.S.-Libyan cooperation on nonproliferation. In particular, the program will focus on reducing the illicit transfers of weapons, narcotics and any other contraband across borders, and contribute to national and regional security and stability. Additionally, IBIT will stress the important role effective border security plays in facilitating legal trade and promoting economic development. This is the third border security activity undertaken by the Departments of State and Homeland Security with the government of Libya, and is part of a larger collaborative program between our governments to improve Libyan border security.

U.S. State Department’s Zeenat Rahman To Travel to Uganda and Zambia

Photo courtesy of flickr.com

Office of the Spokesperson
Department of State
Washington, DC

December 13, 2012

Special Adviser for Global Youth Issues Zeenat Rahman will travel to Kampala, Uganda, December 13-16, and Lusaka, Zambia, December 17-20.

In Kampala, Special Adviser Rahman will attend TEDxYouth@Bukoto, a forum to showcase young Africans’ innovative solutions to some of Africa’s most pressing challenges. Using the theme “Our Moment,” the event will demonstrate how young people are harnessing their collective energy and potential to create a new future for themselves and their communities. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Office of the Special Representative to Muslim Communities, the Office of Global Youth Issues, and U.S. Mission Uganda, TEDxYouth@Bukoto will feature 11 speakers who will share their inspirations, ideas for social good, and their visions for the future of Africa. Many of the speakers are alumni of one of the many Department of State programs in Africa designed to encourage local talent to address local challenges.

While in Uganda, Special Adviser Rahman will participate in the Second Annual Muslim Youth Development Conference and in a roundtable discussion with the Embassy’s youth council, the Youth Advisors to Washington. She will also meet with youth-focused civil society groups, including Restless Development Uganda and the Children’s AIDS Fund Uganda.

In Lusaka, Zambia, Special Adviser Rahman will meet with the Ambassador’s Youth Council, students, young entrepreneurs, alumni of State Department exchange programs, and Muslim youth leaders. She will participate in a meeting of the Embassy’s Civil Society Strategic Working Group, which focuses on democracy and governance issues, as well as a town hall with youth. She will also be interviewed by youth journalists, and will engage with young people in Malawi via digital video conference. Additionally, Special Adviser Rahman will travel to Livingstone to discuss environmental conservation efforts in Victoria Falls, take part in a social media training workshop with local youth leaders, participate in a radio interview, and meet with youth to emphasize the importance of sports diplomacy, especially for young women and girls.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

U.S. and Seychelles Initial Open Skies Agreement

Office of the Spokesperson
Department of State
Washington, DC

December 12, 2012

Today, delegations representing the United States and the Seychelles initialed the text of a U.S.-Seychelles Open Skies Agreement. The Agreement, which will be applied on the basis of comity and reciprocity pending entry into force, will liberalize our bilateral aviation relationship.

This agreement will allow for the strengthening and expansion of our trade and tourism links with the Seychelles, to the benefit of American and Seychellois businesses and travelers. It will provide a basis for the expansion of air service and should encourage increased price competition by airlines, while safeguarding aviation safety and security.

For more information about Open Skies, please visit: http://www.state.gov/e/eb/tra/ata/

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Secretary Clinton’s Statement on Republic of Kenya’s National Day

Office of the Press Secretary
Department of State
Washington, DC

December 11, 2012

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I am delighted to send best wishes to the people of Kenya as you celebrate 49 years of independence this December 12. Jamhuri Day is an opportunity for Kenyans to honor your commitment to liberty, democracy, and statehood and to look toward the historic challenges and opportunities of the year ahead.

Kenya’s national elections on March 4, 2013, are an opportunity for Kenya to take another bold step in implementing its new constitution and strengthening its democracy. We hope that all Kenyans, no matter their gender, ethnicity, religion, or geographic affiliation, will exercise their right to vote and help ensure Kenya’s elections are free, fair, and peaceful. The United States is a friend and partner, and we stand together with all Kenyans committed to the promise of the new constitution.

Congratulations on this special day, and best wishes for a year filled with peace and prosperity.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

U.S. Ambassador Lyman travels to South Sudan

Office of the Spokesperson
Department of State
Washington, DC

 December 11, 2012

Ambassador Princeton Lyman, U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, travels to Juba, South Sudan today for a series of high-level meetings with government officials, members of civil society, and representatives of international organizations working in South Sudan.

Ambassador Lyman’s visit comes at a critical time in the delayed implementation of the historic agreements between Sudan and South Sudan signed on September 27. The Sudanese and South Sudanese people deserve swift and complete implementation of these agreements, as called for by the AU Peace and Security Council in its October 24 communiqué.

Special Envoy Lyman will engage South Sudan on the resolution of outstanding issues, such as the disputed area of Abyei, and the implementation of the crucial agreements, including the creation of the safe demilitarized border zone and the resumption of oil production between the two countries. Special Envoy Lyman will also underscore the United States’ commitment to supporting South Sudan’s economic development and growth as a full-fledged democracy that respects human rights and the rule of law.

Following his visit to South Sudan, Special Envoy Lyman will proceed to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to attend the meeting of the Joint Political and Security Mechanism being convened by the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel Chairman Thabo Mbeki.

The White House recently announced that Ambassador Lyman will step down in the new year as U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan after two years of service, notably marked by helping to shepherd the creation of an independent South Sudan. Special Envoy Lyman will serve in his position until the President names a new envoy.

Secretary Clinton’s Statement on Burkina Faso National Day

Office of the Press Secretary
Department of State
Washington, DC

December 11, 2012

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I am delighted to send best wishes to the people of Burkina Faso on your 52nd anniversary of independence this December 11.

Our two countries share a commitment to promoting democracy, economic development and regional stability. The United States is dedicated to supporting Burkina Faso’s efforts to expand economic opportunities, strengthen democratic institutions and maintain regional security. We are working together to boost agricultural productivity, improve girls’ access to education, strengthen maternal and child health services and increase food security. We look forward to building upon the strong bond between our two countries to support peace and prosperity for all the people of Burkina Faso.

As you celebrate your National Day with family and friends, know that the United States is your partner. We are committed to this relationship for a brighter future for all Burkinabe.

Monday, December 10, 2012

U.S. Issues Statement On Successful Presidential Elections In Ghana

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 10, 2012

The United States congratulates President John Dramani Mahama and the people of Ghana for the successful election on December 7. Nearly 80% of the electorate voted, continuing the Ghanaian tradition of widespread public participation in the democratic process. This is the sixth successful presidential and parliamentary election since 1992, and further demonstrates the people of Ghana’s commitment to democracy and the rule of law. The United States encourages all parties to accept the results and to use the appropriate legal processes to resolve any electoral disputes. The United States places a high value on its long-standing friendship and partnership with Ghana and the Ghanaian people. We look forward to strengthening our bonds by working with President Mahama and the people of Ghana to ensure prosperity, peace, and further democratic development of Ghana and the region.

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President Obama Issues Statement On Princeton Lyman’s Departure from Sudan





White House Photo


THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 10, 2012

For the last two years, Ambassador Princeton Lyman has served as my Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, building on a long legacy of dedicated service in the United States government. Princeton has done a tremendous job in helping to realize the promise of an independent South Sudan, and working toward the international vision of Sudan and South Sudan living side by side in peace. I have valued his extraordinary service, which has been appreciated by the United States and the international community. The people of Sudan and South Sudan, who have suffered so much, have the opportunity to seize a brighter future because of Princeton’s efforts to urge both sides to put the interests of their people first. I am deeply grateful for Princeton’s steadfast and tireless leadership, and wish him and his family well.

President Barack Obama

U.S. Dep. Sec. Burns Holds Roundtable with Journalists in Algiers

Algiers, Algeria
December 6, 2012

Deputy Secretary Burns: Good evening everyone. It’s a pleasure to see all of you this evening and it’s certainly a pleasure to be back in Algiers, which I’ve visited many times over the years. This visit, coming soon after the visit of Secretary Clinton and the U.S. Algeria Strategic Dialogue earlier this fall, is another opportunity to strengthen our constructive and strategically important bilateral relationship. I had excellent and wide-ranging discussions earlier today with President Bouteflika, the Prime Minister, and other senior Algerian officials.

We continue to work together to deepen our ties with the government and the people of Algeria across a broad, mutually beneficial agenda, including, trade and investment, security cooperation, diplomatic partnership, democratic reform, and cultural and educational programs.

In the past year, Algeria has taken further steps to strengthen its democracy. We were encouraged by the roughly 21 million Algerian voters who participated in elections earlier this year to determine who would occupy the National Popular Assembly. These elections – and I would note the high number of women elected- were a welcome step in Algeria’s progress toward democratic reform.€€

Algeria has dealt with terrorism on its own territory and was one of the first countries to condemn the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. Since that time, we have intensified contacts in key areas of mutual concern and are encouraged by Algeria’s strong support of international counterterrorism efforts, including our partnership in the Global Counterterrorism Forum.

The rise in terrorist and criminal activity in the northern Sahel is a threat to the entire region and beyond. We applaud Algeria’s resolve to stem the proliferation of weapons, drugs, and fighters across the Sahel, and strongly support these efforts.

Our two countries share concern over instability in Mali and its negative impact on regional security. We call on all of Mali’s neighboring countries to increase their border patrols to curb the flow of arms, drugs, fuel, and fighters into Mali. We support efforts to facilitate a political dialogue with non-extremist groups in northern Mali. We understand Burkina Faso in its role as lead mediator for ECOWAS is preparing a framework for negotiations. We continue to call for a coordinated international effort to accelerate the beginning of serious political talks between the rebel groups and the interim Government of Mali. Algeria has an important role to play in this process.
The United States highly values our relationship with the Government and people of Algeria, and is committed to deepening our cooperation in the months and years ahead.

And now I am glad to take questions. Please.

Question from Hacene Ouali (El Watan): My question is on Mali, there is a talk on Political solution or a military solution. Is the U.S. in favor of a military intervention in the north of Mali? Thank you

Deputy Secretary Burns: There are a number of different dimensions to the challenge in Mali today: Political crisis within Mali; a humanitarian crisis resulting in refugees and internally displaced persons; and a security crisis which is a shared concern of the United States and Algeria, particularly the danger of violent extremist groups using northern Mali as a safe haven. A successful strategy to deal with all those challenges also has to have several dimensions. We’ve worked with others in the international community to help deal with the humanitarian challenge posed by the refugee crisis. As I said in my opening remarks, we strongly support Algeria’s leadership in fostering political dialogue, including between the Tuareg and the interim Government in Mali. And in response to the security risk posed by the situation in Mali, we certainly support increased counterterrorism cooperation, cooperation with Mali’s neighbors as well as with the interim Government in Mali, and we believe that an African led multinational force supported by the international community may be necessary. Thanks.

Question from Beatrice Khadige (Agence France Presse, AFP): we read a lot of news talking about an opposition between the positions of France and the United States over the Mali issue, could you confirm there are differences or nuances or finally you agree more than what is said? What is exactly the situation?

Deputy Secretary Burns: I just laid out what the American approach is to the crisis in Mali. All I would add is that we work very closely with our partners in France on this challenge and I think we have a shared view of the nature of the threat that’s posed and we look forward to continuing to work closely together in the weeks and months ahead.

Question from Karim Kebir (Liberté): Good evening. Mr. Burns, your visit coincides with the visits of foreign officials whose countries are interested in the crisis in Mali including the UK envoy and the African Union special envoy and the presence of the members of Ansar al-Din who are negotiating. Have you met with them?

Deputy Secretary Burns: I had the meetings I described to you before. All I would add is that it’s a mark of the important role that Algeria plays in working with its neighbors and working with the international community to deal with the challenges in Mali that you have so many visitors and envoys here. We believe Algeria’s role in dealing with this crisis is extremely important and we look forward to strengthening our cooperation on this issue.

Question from Béatrice Khadige (AFP): Do you consider important that Algeria participate along with Mauritania in a West African force, if necessary, to free Northern Mali?

Deputy Secretary Burns: Algeria can obviously speak for itself in terms of the position that it takes. All I would stress again is that we value greatly Algeria’s role in dealing with the crisis in Mali and the challenges that it poses to the entire region. And we certainly look forward to deepening our cooperation with Algeria as well as with others in the region and the international community in the weeks ahead.

Question from Hacene Ouali (El Watan): Can we say today that there a convergence of views among all the international actors, i.e. ECOWAS, Algeria, France, and the United States on the solution to the Malian crisis?

Deputy Secretary Burns: I think there is a great deal of shared concern about the situation in Mali in all of its dimensions in terms of the humanitarian challenges, the political challenges, the security challenges, that it poses. And I do believe that there is an increasing convergence of view amongst the key players in how best to deal with those challenges. And given the urgency of the situation and the nature of the threats we are going to continue to work hard to deepen our cooperation.

So thank you all very much. It’s nice to have the chance to meet with all of you.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Uganda Hosts TEDx Event to Showcase African Youth Leadership

Photo courtesy twitter.com

Department of State
Washington, DC

December 7, 2012

Speakers and youth leaders from across Africa will participate in TEDxYouth@Bukoto, to be held on December 14, 2012 in Kampala, Uganda. This forum will showcase innovative solutions to some of Africa’s most pressing challenges – solutions that have been envisioned and implemented by Africa’s most dynamic and creative young change-makers. Using the theme “Our Moment,” the event will show how young people are harnessing untapped energy and potential to create a new future for themselves and their communities. These youth leaders have been working closely with the U.S. State Department to develop leadership, media, and entrepreneur skills.
Presented by the U.S. State Department’s Office of the Special Representative to Muslim Communities, the Office of Global Youth Issues, and U.S. Mission Uganda, TEDxYouth@Bukoto will feature 11 speakers who will share their inspirations, ideas for social good, and their vision for the future of Africa. Many of the speakers have been empowered by one of many U.S. State Department programs in Africa designed to encourage local talent to address local challenges.

Confirmed speakers include women’s empowerment advocate Precious Simba; Nandimobile.com founder and BloggingGhana executive Edward Amartey Tagoe; Emmanuel Bukenya, founder of a company that builds stoves that use low-cost, readily available fuels such as agricultural wastes; Spoken Word Rwanda founder Diana Mpyisi, who showcases poetry and spoken word from young Rwandans; and Sudanese stage actor Nahla Alamin, who teaches Sudanese youth to use theater to express themselves.

Hosted by the U.S. Embassy in Kampala, the event will be live streamed to a global audience and will feature interactive participation on Twitter, using the #TEDxYouthBukoto tag, and on Facebook. Information can be found at the TEDx website.

African Slave Traditions In The U.S.

By Adeline Chen and Teo Kermeliotis, CNN

(CNN) — Along the lush sea-islands and the Atlantic coastal plains of the southern East coast of America, a distinctive group of tidewater communities has stuck together throughout the centuries, preserving its African cultural heritage and carving out a lifestyle that is uniquely its own.

The Gullah/Geechee people are direct descendants of West African slaves brought into the United States around the 1700s. They were forced to work in rice paddies, cotton fields and indigo plantations along the South Carolina-Georgia seaboard where the moist climate and fertile land were very similar to their African homelands.

After the abolition of slavery, they settled in remote villages around the coastal swath, where, thanks to their relative isolation, they formed strong communal ties and a unique culture that has endured for centuries.

“The Gullah/Geechee Nation is an extremely tightly knit community,” says Chieftess Queen Quet, who was chosen to represent the Gullah/Geechee people in 2000. “It is as tightly knit as a sweet grass basket that’s sewn together and as tightly knit as a cast net is sewn together — there’s strength in it and that means if you pull on it, you can’t just get it to break apart.”

Brought to America from rice-producing Sierra Leone and other surrounding countries, the enslaved Africans came from a wide variety of ethnic groups. For many of them, the first contact with the New World was Sullivan’s Island — just off Charleston, South Carolina — a place of huge emotional value for the Gullah/Geechee community to this day.

“This is the landing point for over 40% of all the African people enslaved in North America,” says Queen Quet. “It represents a place of pain; it also represents a place of connection because we’re standing at the shore and we’re looking eastward — we’re looking back home, we’re looking to our mother, the mother land, mother Africa.”

Carlie Towne, minister of information of the Gullah/Geechee Nation, says the Africans brought to the island were quarantined in pestilence houses to make sure they didn’t have any diseases.

“A lot of people refer to this as the Ellis Island, but it’s not, because we did not come freely,” says Towne. “It didn’t kill the spirit, because we are here today and paying homage today to our ancestors. It actually gave us a sense of community, of living together. Everything we did, it was a way for us to actually become who we are. It actually made us stronger and we continue today the legacy of our ancestors.”

To this day, the Gullah/Geechee people are trying to hold steadfastly to the way of life of their African ancestors, passing on their traditions from one generation to the next.

They gather sweet grass to practice the ancient African art of basket making; they pay homage to their West African traditions by keeping alive the ring shout music folk tradition; they make a living by fishing shrimps and harvesting oysters, using handmade nets and casting them the way their ancestors did centuries ago.

“I fished with my father ever since I’ve been seven or eight,” says Ricky Wright, vice president of the Gullah/Geechee Fishing Association. “It passes down because it’s just a natural thing for us — my parents did it, I’m quite sure my parents’ parents did it, and it just descended down.”

It is this natural connection that helps the Gullah/Geechee community tie their past to their future survival.

“[It's] almost like history repeating itself, what goes around comes around,” says Wright. “OK, we’ve entered the computer age, but we still have to have hands-on for most of the things we do and fishing is like hands-on. You’ve got to do it to know it — to keep the culture strong is to keep what you do intact.”

Another key trait marking the population’s distinctive cultural identity is the use of an English-based creole vernacular known as Gullah. Professor Salikoko S. Mufwene, of the department of linguistics at the University of Chicago, says the enslaved Africans and their descendants created the dialect in response to their own linguistic diversity.

“It is English modified under the influence of African languages,” he says. “Any population that appropriates the language that is not their own, they are going to modify it.”

Estimates about the current number of Gullah/Geechee people vary and exact figures are hard to verify. Gullah/Geechee leaders say that an approximately one million people belong to the nation, while other reports put the number closer to 250,000.

Mufwene says that after the Second World War there were several migrations out of the region towards cities like New York and Washington in search of jobs. He adds, however, that many of those who’d depart would often become disenchanted with life in the city and return back home.

What seems to be more certain is that Gullah/Geechee people have preserved the cultural heritage of their ancestors more than any other black Americans in the United States.

“We have the highest retention of African tradition in America,” says Towne. “African-Americans have assimilated more so they don’t have those African traditions that we have — they don’t treasure them, they don’t honor their tradition like we do. And we’ve been able to hold onto that because of isolation, because of the strong will and our self-determination. We still eat the same foods [as] our ancestors [when they] came from Africa.”

Mufwene agrees. He says the Gullah/Geechee people cook differently from continental African-Americans and the ways they interact with each other are very reminiscent of traditional life in Africa.

“They have also kept animal tales that are very similar to animal tales in Africa,” he adds. “The characters are not exactly the same, because the ecology has changed, but the themes of the tales are very similar to the themes that you find in Africa.”

Back on Sullivan’s Island, overlooking the vast ocean that brought her ancestors to the shores of enslavement, Towne says Gullah/Geechee people should lose not lose sight of their past.

“This is actually the bloodline of our people, the water,” she says. “I must come here and my children come here. And my children’s children must come here too. Because we must never forget.”

Friday, December 7, 2012

New U.S. Embassy in Libreville, Gabon Dedicated

State Department Photo

Office of the Spokesperson
Department of State
Washington, DC

December 6, 2012

In an important symbol of America’s commitment to an enduring friendship with the Gabonese Republic, U.S. Ambassador to Gabon, Eric Benjaminson, dedicated the new U.S. Embassy in Libreville today. Gabon Prime Minister, Léon M’ba; Assistant Secretary for Administration, Joyce Barr; and Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) Managing Director, Rodney Evans, participated in the ribbon-cutting and official opening ceremonies.

Occupying a ten-acre site in the Sabliere neighborhood, the $107 million multi-building complex provides a centralized location for the mission, as well as a state of the art, environmentally sustainable workplace for embassy personnel.

Sorg Architects of Washington, DC, is the architect of record and B.L. Harbert International, LLC of Birmingham, Alabama constructed the project.

The Embassy’s permanent art collection features works by celebrated Anglo-American, African-American, and Gabonese artists, curated by the Office of Art in Embassies. The artworks are organized around a theme relating to creatures of the forest – a formative force in Gabonese life. The collection also includes a commemorative portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the namesake of the road in front of the new embassy.

The new facility incorporates numerous sustainable features, most notably energy efficient building systems, low-flow water fixtures, and recycled materials. The facility has been registered with the U.S. Green Building Council for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) certification.

Since 1999, as part of the Department’s Capital Security Construction Program, OBO has completed 95 new diplomatic facilities and has an additional 40 projects in design or construction.

OBO’s mission is to provide safe, secure, and functional facilities that represent the U.S. Government to the host nation and support our staff in the achievement of U.S. foreign policy objectives. These facilities should represent American values and the best in American architecture, engineering, technology, sustainability, art, culture, and construction execution.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Jacobs Travels to Ethiopia

Photo courtesy of wn.com

Office of the Spokesperson
Department of State
Washington, DC

December 6, 2012

Special Advisor for Children’s Issues Ambassador Susan Jacobs will visit Ethiopia from December 7-13. She will meet with Ethiopian Government officials to discuss intercountry adoptions and the implementation of the Pre-Adoption Immigration Review (PAIR) program. Jacobs will also meet with non-governmental organizations to discuss the importance of standards of practice to protect children and families.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Two of the World’s Richest Men Join Forces to Fight Against Polio in Nigeria

Picture and story courtesy of face2faceafrica.com
Story by Edna Owusu-Ansah

Two of the world’s wealthiest men, one rated the richest man in Africa by Forbes and the other, the wealthiest man in the United States joined forces last week in the battle against polio, a disease that has surged in Nigeria despite eradication efforts.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Aliko Dangote’s Foundation announced an alliance during a ceremony in the Nigerian city of Kano. Nigeria is one of only three countries still considered to have endemic polio, alongside Pakistan and Afghanistan. Why this is so is an enigma.

The two foundations have signed a four year alliance to provide funding, equipment and technical support to the Kano state government to strengthen polio immunization.

Eradicating polio “will be Kano’s gift to Nigeria and Nigeria’s gift to the world,” Jeff Raikes, the head of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said at the ceremony.

Dangote, whose company specializes in cement, flour, and real estate said “myself and Bill Gates met in New York and agreed to partner and intervene in polio eradication. There is no reason for any one of us not to assist in keeping our people healthy,” said Dangote, who is from Kano.

Recently, Forbes labeled Dangote Africa’s richest man, while the magazine says Gates is the richest man from the United States — as well as “the planet’s most generous person.”

The amounts the two foundations intend to commit in the partnership were not disclosed. But sources say it is a fairly huge amount.
Since 2003, Kano has been especially hard hit by the transmission of the polio virus in Nigeria following the state government’s suspension of immunizations for 13 months. The suspension followed allegations by some Muslim clerics that the vaccine was laced with substances that could render girls infertile as part of US-led Western plot to depopulate Africa.

Despite the recommencement of polio immunizations, Kano has continued to record polio cases as many parents still reject the vaccine. According to the most recent World Health Organization weekly report on polio, Nigeria accounts for 104 of the 193 cases so far recorded worldwide this year, with Kano having 22 cases.

In 2011, Nigeria recorded 62 polio cases, including 17 in Kano. The WHO said earlier this year that an Islamist insurgency in the country’s northeast was harming efforts to eradicate polio due to insecurity.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and its largest oil producer, has pledged to stop polio virus transmission by the end of 2013, although it has failed to meet previous deadlines to stamp out the crippling disease. Lets keep our hopes high. We hope to see a major progress and impact with this collaboration.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Secretary Clinton To Travel to Morocco, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates

Photo courtesy of cbsnews.com

Victoria Nuland
Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC

December 5, 2012

From December 11-13, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will travel to Marrakech, Morocco to participate in a meeting of the Friends of the Syrian People. This latest meeting provides an opportunity to consult with like-minded governments in the region and around the world on how best to continue support for the Syrian opposition and on efforts to end the bloodshed. While in Morocco, she will also meet with King Mohammed VI, as well as senior Moroccan government officials, to discuss bilateral and regional issues.
She will then travel to Tunis, Tunisia to co-host the 9th Forum for the Future Ministerial with the Government of Tunisia on December 13. This year’s Forum welcomes increased levels of civil society, private sector, and government participation and focuses on the key themes of women’s empowerment, freedom of expression and association, and economic governance and entrepreneurship. Secretary Clinton will also meet with senior Tunisian government officials to discuss progress in the country’s transition to democracy as well as bilateral and regional issues.

Secretary Clinton will conclude her trip in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates and participate in the 3rd ministerial meeting of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) on December 14. The centerpiece of the meeting will be the announcement by Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed of the opening of the first-ever International Center of Excellence on Countering Violent Extremism, which the GCTF set in motion at its September 2011 launch. The Center will provide a venue for training, dialogue, collaboration, and research to counter violent extremism in all of its forms and manifestations by bringing together the experts, expertise, and experience that exist in countries around the globe. The Secretary will also meet with senior Emirati government officials to discuss regional and bilateral issues.

African Union and United States Hold Third Annual High Level Meeting

Office of the Spokesperson
Department of State
Washington, DC

 December 5, 2012

The United States and the African Union (AU) met on November 28 and 29, 2012 in Washington for the third annual U.S.-AU High Level Meetings. The discussions focused on how the AU and the United States can work together to address challenges and opportunities of mutual interest in order to promote global peace and development. The U.S.-AU talks provided an opportunity to discuss a number of cross-cutting issues, including the leadership role the AU plays throughout the continent in promoting a prosperous Africa at peace with itself.

This third annual round of U.S.-AU High Level Meetings covered the full range of mutual priorities, including strengthening democratic institutions and good governance; spurring prosperity through trade, investment, and regional economic integration; advancing peace and security, including in several current conflict situations; and promoting opportunity and development by improving health conditions and educational opportunities in Africa, and enhancing agriculture and bolstering the infrastructure of the continent, as well as by empowering women and youth in all spheres of life.

The two sides shared deep concern over delays in the implementation of the historic agreements reached by Sudan and South Sudan on September 27 and reiterated their strong support for the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel’s proposal to resolve the conflict in the Abyei region. The two sides expressed grave concern over the renewed fighting and the consequent rapid deterioration of the humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The United States applauded the AU for its growing role in addressing the multifaceted crisis in Mali, both through political mediation and in developing plans for the creation of an African-led international military force. On Somalia, the United States congratulated the success of the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in combating al Shabaab extremists and liberating Mogadishu and its environs, and both sides pledged continued support to AMISOM and to the new Somali Government as it seeks to create political stability and establish responsive, inclusive governance.

The AU delegation, led by AU Commission Chairperson Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, met with several senior Obama Administration officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Deputy National Security Advisor Michael Froman, USAID Administrator Raj Shah, Under Secretary of State Maria Otero, Under Secretary of State Robert Hormats, and Ambassador-at-Large for International Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer. On November 29, AU Chairperson Dlamini Zuma helped launch the new PEPFAR Blueprint on HIV/AIDs Shared Responsibility with Secretary Clinton. The high-level AU delegation also met with Millennium Challenge Corporation CEO Daniel Yohannes, Senator Christopher Coons, and Congressman Christopher Smith. Both the United States and the AU look forward to continued engagement on the range of critical issues of interest to both parties as they strive to foster a stable and strong global community.

Independent Film Shines Light on Auma Obama, President Obama’s Kenyan Sister

Auma Obama at her family’s homestead in the village of Kogelo, Kenya, in 2008


By Catriona Davies, CNN

When Barack Obama won the U.S. election four years ago, his Kenyan half sister Auma was with her family at their homestead, watching the historic occasion on television.

It was a night Auma Obama remembers well. “We had a lot of people visiting to watch with us,” she says. “There was a lot of excitement because it had been such a tough race. There was a sense of relief that all the hard work had paid off.”

Alongside Auma and her family was filmmaker Branwen Okpako, who was making a documentary about Auma, “The Education of Auma Obama, ” which is being shown in London Tuesday to coincide with the U.S. election and as part of the Film Africa festival.
“I will never forget that period in their homestead,” says Okpako. “It was indescribable. Imagine something like that is happening to your family, yet so far away.”

Okpako, 43, a Nigerian-born filmmaker living in Germany, became friends with Auma when they were both film students in Berlin in the early 1990s.

“We were two of four African women studying at the film school at the time and we talked a lot about how the African continent was portrayed in film and how we wanted to change it,” says Okpako.

Auma shares a father — Barack Senior — with her younger half brother, Barack. The pair did not meet until after their father died in 1982 and Barack got in touch with Auma to explore his Kenyan roots.

Okpako had the idea for a film about her friend Auma in the run-up to the 2008 election. Auma recalls: “I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic when Branwen first suggested the film, but I agreed because she is a friend and I trusted her. If it had been a stranger, I don’t think I would have done it.”

Okpako says Auma was initially reticent about the film because of the huge media interest in her family that came with Barack Obama’s rise to prominence. “It has put me in the limelight in a way that wouldn’t have happened otherwise,” says Auma. “I don’t like talking about my family but it’s great if it gives me the chance to talk about my work with deprived and underprivileged children.”

Auma, who lives in Nairobi, traveled with Okpako to the family’s homestead in the village of Kogelo, where her grandmother lives and Barack Senior is buried.

“We were sitting together for 10 days waiting for the election and reflecting how we got to this moment in time,” says Okpako. “We were reading the newspapers and reading the statistics, but of course we didn’t know what was going to happen. It was intense and full of anticipation. “The film deals with that moment in time when history was made, but also how they got to that moment.” She adds: “All the family was there, the grandmother, all the cousins. Once the result was known everybody in the village came into the compound to celebrate. There must have been hundreds of people there.”

Also on Inside Africa: ‘Zambezia’: 3D animation puts South Africa film in the picture Auma Obama grew up in the family’s homestead in Kogelo before moving to Germany where she spent 16 years as a journalist, broadcaster and studied for a PhD in German literature. She then lived for a period in the United Kingdom before returning to Kenya, where she works now as a social worker and youth advocate. The film is partly a fly-on-the-wall documentary about the family watching the 2008 election from their homestead, and partly uses interviews and old footage to tell the family’s story.

Okpako traveled with Auma Obama to many significant places in her life to trace her story. She had hoped to interview Barack Obama for the film, but was unable to arrange time with the president.

“I thought it would be good to have him as a small character in a film about an African woman, but it wasn’t possible,” she said.
The president did, however, get to hear about the film when the cameraman’s mother-in-law visited the White House with German chancellor Angela Merkel and told him about it.

“He asked for a copy and we sent it, but I don’t know if he has watched it,” says Okpako. “I think it would be interesting for him to see what his Kenyan family was doing that day.”

Also on Inside Africa: Artist joins Nigeria’s ‘cultural explosion’
“The Education of Auma Obama” will be shown in London on this year’s election day, Tuesday, November 6, as part of the Film Africa festival, and Okpako will be there for a question and answer session with the audience.

Auma says she has to work on election day, but she will still be watching events unfold. “I follow my brother’s career as closely as any sibling would,” she says. “It’s important for me to know whether or not he is happy in his job,” she adds. “He makes me very proud because he has a tough job and does it 100% to his ability.”

The film premiered at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival and has won awards at the PanAfrican Film Festival in Los Angeles and the Africa International Film Festival in Lagos.

Statement by U.S. on Burkina Faso Parliamentary and Local Elections




Mark C. Toner
Deputy Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC

December 4, 2012

We congratulate the Burkinabe people on their peaceful participation in Sunday’s parliamentary and local elections. Millions of voters across the country successfully cast their votes for more than 6,000 candidates for 127 seats in parliament and thousands of local races. We welcome initial reports that voting was generally peaceful and well-run. We encourage election officials to thoroughly investigate all reports of irregularities and we look forward to the announcement of official results on December 7.

Monday, December 3, 2012

U.S. & Nigeria Conclude Trade & Investment Agreement Summit In Abuja

For Immediate Release

US Trade Representative
December 3, 2012

Abuja, Nigeria – The United States and Nigeria today held the seventh meeting of the U.S.-Nigeria Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council in the Nigerian capital city of Abuja. Discussions focused on several common objectives, including market access, cooperation in the World Trade Organization (WTO), issues affecting the commercial environment, local content restrictions, implementation of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), intellectual property rights, and improving the bilateral investment climate between the United States and Nigeria. Discussions were led for the United States by Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for African Affairs Florizelle B. Liser and for Nigeria by Nigerian Minister of Trade and Investment Olusegun Olutoyin Aganga.

Nigeria is one of the most important countries in sub-Saharan Africa, and has significant strategic importance for the United States. As the largest market in West Africa, Nigeria plays a central role in the regional economy, and policies implemented in Nigeria have an effect that reverberate throughout the region.

Total U.S.-Nigerian trade was valued at $38.5 billion in 2011, up nearly 12 percent from 2010, largely due to higher oil export volumes and prices. U.S. imports from Nigeria were valued at $33.7 billion in 2011 and consisted almost entirely of crude oil. U.S. non-oil imports from Nigeria consisted primarily of agricultural products, such as cocoa, tobacco, rubber, feeds and grains, and nuts. U.S. exports to Nigeria were valued at $4.8 billion in 2011, an 18.4 percent increase from 2010. Nigeria is the world’s largest importer of U.S. wheat, with purchases valued at $1.2 billion in 2011. Other major U.S. exports to Nigeria include transportation vehicles and processed petroleum products, such as gasoline and kerosene.

The United States and Nigeria have worked cooperatively together over the years to make significant strides towards improving the environment for business and trade. The U.S.-Nigeria TIFA is part of a comprehensive U.S. effort to support the Nigerian Government’s work to advance trade and economic development. The U.S.-Nigeria TIFA Council is working to develop specific initiatives to expand economic opportunities for workers, farmers, businesses, and consumers in both countries.

The United States-Nigeria TIFA was signed in 2000. It provides a mechanism for regular, high-level dialogue on enhancing U.S.-Nigeria economic ties and improving coordination on multilateral and bilateral trade and investment issues.

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United States Hosts U.S.-Moroccan Business Development Conference

Photo courtesy of stratsisincite.wordpress.com

Office of the Spokesperson
Department of State
Washington, DC

December 2, 2012

On December 4, Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Jose W. Fernandez and Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Beth Jones, in cooperation with the Bureau of Energy Resources, will convene a business development conference in Washington D.C. that will bring together representatives from both U.S. and Moroccan business communities. The Moroccan delegation will be led by Minister of Industry, Trade and New Technologies Abdelkader Aamara, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Aziz Akhannouch, and Minister Delegate for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Youssef Amrani. Deputy Secretary of State Thomas R. Nides will provide opening remarks. The conference will take place at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. Attendees will discuss ways to increase bilateral trade and enhance business development in sectors such as aerospace, agriculture, automotive, and renewable energy and infrastructure.

The U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement, implemented in 2006, is one of the United States’ most comprehensive free trade agreements; it eliminated tariffs on 95 percent of traded goods. The FTA has bolstered trade and investment between our two countries, resulting in two-way trade valued at $3.79 billion in 2011. Currently, there are more than 120 American businesses operating in Morocco, which have invested $2.2 billion and have created more than 100,000 direct and indirect jobs. However, in order to achieve the FTA’s full potential, the United States is providing $1.5 million in assistance designed to attract foreign investors to Morocco, to foster local economic development, and strengthen the legal and regulatory framework. Secretary of State Clinton has set a goal of increasing trade from Morocco to the United States, and the Morocco Business Development Conference aims to do just that by raising awareness among U.S. businesses of opportunities to trade with, and invest in Morocco.

U.S. Ambassador Terence McCulley Promotes Trade with Africa

Office of the Spokesperson
Department of State
Washington, DC

November 30, 2012

U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria Ambassador Terence P. McCulley will promote business opportunities between Nigeria and America on a two-week, four-city tour in the United States December 2-14, 2012. The tour is part of the “Doing Business in Africa” (DBIA) campaign, launched by the Acting Secretary of Commerce Dr. Rebecca Blank on November 28, which helps American businesses identify opportunities for United States commercial and trade relationships in Africa. On June 14, 2012, President Obama issued the U.S. “Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa,” under which the United States will pursue four objectives in the region: strengthening democratic institutions; spurring economic growth, trade and investment; advancing peace and security; and promoting opportunity and development. As part of spurring economic growth, trade, and investment, the Strategy specifically calls for the development of a “Doing Business in Africa” campaign. This campaign will leverage the federal government’s trade promotion, financing, and strategic communications capabilities to help U.S. businesses identify and seize opportunities in Africa, and to help them overcome any challenges they face to establishing business relationships with Africa.

On December 5, the Ambassador will lead a substantial Nigerian delegation to New Orleans to attend business meetings and attend the International Workboat Show – the largest commercial marine tradeshow in North America – plus conduct site visits to companies and educational institutions. The Ambassador will also participate in a Tulane Energy Institute Round Table.
In Orlando on December 11, the Ambassador is leading a large private and public sector delegation to Power-Gen International. Power-Gen International offers the delegation the opportunity to join over 20,000 attendees from 92 countries to do business with the over 1,200 exhibiting companies.

While in the United States, Ambassador McCulley will also meet with business, academic, and diaspora representatives in Houston and Atlanta.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

South Africa’s Thulani Madondo Nominated One of CNN’s 2012 Top 10 Heroes

Photo courtesy of thce.co.za

Story courtesy of cnn.com

Kliptown, South Africa (CNN) — Brian Munyai has spent nearly all of his 22 years living in a small metal shack that has never had electricity or running water.

He shares a pit latrine with his neighbors. He bathes in a bucket with water drawn from the communal tap. At night, he reads by an oil lamp.

Conditions like this are typical for the nearly 40,000 people who live in the slums of Kliptown, a district in the largely black township of Soweto, South Africa. Generations of families have lived in these ramshackle homes just 15 miles from Johannesburg, the economic capital of the country. The community has long suffered from high rates of unemployment, crime and school dropouts, and the end of apartheid more than two decades ago did little to change the situation.

“Living in Kliptown … I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy,” Munyai said. “We are simply trying to survive.”
Raised by his aunt, who often struggled to find work, Munyai found basic necessities like food and clothing difficult to come by. But although his circumstances didn’t make it easy, he was determined to get an education. “I spent a lot of time without a school uniform,” he said, recalling the embarrassment he felt being different from classmates from middle-class neighborhoods. “Going to school with a hungry stomach … it was very tough.”

Director Thulani Madondo believes that each student’s success is helping lift the community out of poverty.
Munyai worked hard, however, and in high school, he heard about the Kliptown Youth Program. The after-school program, commonly known as KYP, provided him with intensive tutoring that helped him pass his senior exams and find funding to attend the University of Johannesburg. He recently earned a national diploma in banking.

“This program actually changed my future,” Munyai said. “(Without it), right now, I would not be standing here and saying that I went to university.”

Stories like this motivate Thulani Madondo, the director and co-founder of KYP. A lifelong Kliptown resident, he has a goal of helping people like Munyai change their lives and their community through education.

Right now, Madondo’s group provides academic support, meals and after-school activities to 400 children.
“There are more than 10,000 children in the community, so working with 400 might seem like nothing,” Madondo said. “But if (they) are dedicated … we can make a difference.”

Madondo, 30, grew up in a family of nine and faced many of the same struggles Munyai endured. Financial pressure forced all of his older siblings to drop out of high school. But Madondo washed cars and worked as a stock boy to earn money to stay in school, and he became the first member of his family to graduate from high school.

Ultimately, he couldn’t afford to go to college, which was a disappointment.
“It was hard. … You feel like you have no power over your future,” Madondo said.

It’s that mentality that Madondo and several other young Kliptown natives were looking to change when they founded the program five years ago. Rather than wait for the government to come to the rescue, they decided to take matters into their own hands.
“We didn’t want to see other young people going through what we’d gone through: no uniforms … feeling hungry in class,” Madondo said. “We know the problems of this community, but we also know the solutions.” Helping them, I feel excited. We want them to realize there’s something they can contribute to this world.

For starters, the program requires a commitment from its members. Every child must come in with a parent or guardian and sign a contract. The deal is simple: Students must agree to stay in school and attend mandatory tutoring sessions twice a week; in exchange, KYP agrees to provide uniforms, books and school fees for any student who cannot afford them. “We’re not just giving handouts,” said Madondo, whose group is funded by corporations and private donations. “We’re making kids earn whatever they get.”

The organization opens the doors to its headquarters every weekday at 7 a.m. to hand out sandwiches for students to take to school. At 2 p.m., when students flood through the gates after school, everyone gets a hot meal and the chance to have some fun. But every Monday through Thursday at 4 p.m. sharp, students hit the books in the tutoring program. Primary school students are tutored by the program’s staff twice a week; on alternate days, professional teachers work with the high school students to prepare them for the matriculation exams required at the end of 12th grade.

On Fridays and Saturdays, students play sports or enjoy cultural activities like drumming or dancing. Books can be borrowed from the program’s library — the only one in the community — and there are nearly 300 Internet-accessible laptops that were donated through the nonprofit One Laptop Per Child.

“Not every child will want to be in the books every day,” Madondo explained. “We’ve got to come together for fun while we also come together for academics. “It’s a formula that’s kept the program’s members out of trouble and, more important, on track in school. Teachers report that the group’s members have increased confidence, greater participation in class and better grades. And over the past four years, nearly every member has passed his or her matriculation exams.

So far, 21 members, including Munyai, have gone on to a university. While the Kliptown program doesn’t have the resources to pay for all of its members’ higher education, it does provide some financial assistance and helps members find ways to finance the rest. The organization also tries to help the other members find internships or jobs.

Madondo can be seen rushing around the program’s complex six days a week. Although he’s always busy, he’s someone who everyone believes they can count on and look up to.

“Thulani, to be honest with you, he’s my role model. He’s my brother. He’s my friend,” Munyai said. “Actually, he’s a hero.”
The commitment of Madondo and his staff has inspired many former students to follow in their footsteps, strengthening the organization from within. Older high school students often help tutor or run activities for the younger children, and several members have come back to work for the organization after completing high school and college.

“It’s such a great thing to give back,” said Munyai, who makes time to tutor at least twice a week. “We can actually help the new generation to succeed. A little can go a long way.”

That “Kliptown helping Kliptown” philosophy is an important part of what the program is all about. Madondo believes that each
student who succeeds is paving the way to lift their family and their community out of poverty. When asked about their potential careers, the students’ answers run the gamut: scientist, lawyer, editor, accountant.

“Helping them, I feel excited,” Madondo said. “We want them to realize there’s something they can contribute to this world. … We’re trying to give them the sense that everything is possible.”

Friday, November 30, 2012

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Blank Launches Doing Business in Africa Campaign

Source: Department of Commerce website

November 28, 2012

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank today announced the launch of the “Doing Business in Africa” campaign at an event in Johannesburg, South Africa. This campaign is part of a larger U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa, which President Obama issued in June. The “Doing Business in Africa” campaign will promote economic growth, trade and investment in Africa. In her remarks, the Acting Secretary emphasized the United States’ ongoing commitment to deepening economic ties with these nations. She also shared a message from President Obama (PDF) in support of the campaign.

The United States is pursuing four objectives in Sub-Saharan Africa: strengthening democratic institutions; spurring economic growth, trade and investment; advancing peace and security; and promoting opportunity and development. The new Doing Business in Africa campaign is a key part of this effort. It leverages the federal government’s strengths as assets in trade promotion, financing, and more. Goals of the campaign include helping U.S. businesses identify and seize opportunities in Africa, and helping them overcome any challenges they face to establishing business relationships with Africa.

Also as part of her trip to South Africa, Dr. Blank met with a multi-sector trade mission led by the Department of Commerce’s Under Secretary for International Trade, Francisco Sánchez. This delegation is comprised of representatives from 13 U.S. firms who were traveling to Lusaka, Zambia; and Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa.

Sub-Saharan Africa presents enormous opportunities to the American private sector. According to the World Bank, its GDP totaled approximately $1.25 trillion in 2011, and six of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world are in Sub-Saharan Africa. U.S. total merchandise exports to Sub-Saharan Africa tripled between 2001 and 2011.

President Obama Delivers Remarks on the Observance of World AIDS Day – Dec. 1

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

November 29, 2012

This Saturday, December 1st, on World AIDS Day, we will come together as a global community to stand with people affected by HIV/AIDS, to remember those we have lost, and to renew our commitment to ending the pandemic once and for all. We have made great strides in combating this disease, and an AIDS-free generation is within sight. Here in the United States we are implementing a National HIV/AIDS Strategy and concentrating our efforts in communities where HIV rates are highest, including among gay men, Latinos, and African Americans. We are investing in comprehensive HIV prevention and care, including through the Affordable Care Act, to prevent infection and ensure that all people living with HIV have access to life-extending treatment. Testing for HIV remains a top priority, and thanks to ongoing scientific advancements, finding out your HIV status has never been easier and treatment is more effective than ever.

Today, I am pleased my Administration will make public new data that demonstrates we are on track to meet the ambitious treatment and prevention targets I announced on World AIDS Day a year ago. As of today, we are treating over 5 million people with lifesaving medicines for AIDS, up from 1.7 million in 2008, and, as I pledged last year, we are on track to treat 6 million people by the end of 2013. This year, we have also reached over 700,000 HIV-positive pregnant women with antiretroviral drugs that will prevent them from passing the virus to their children. As we meet these new targets, we are joined by a growing number of countries and the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, who share our commitment to doing more so that more may live. As we continue this important work with our partners around the world and here at home, let us remember the lives we have lost to AIDS, celebrate the progress we have made, and, together, recommit to ourselves to achieving our shared vision of an AIDS-free generation.

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About World Aids Day

World AIDS Day is held on 1 December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day and the first one was held in 1988.

Around 100,000 are currently living with HIV in the UK and globally an estimated 34 million people have HIV. More than 25 million people between 1981 and 2007 have died from the virus, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.

Today, many scientific advances have been made in HIV treatment, there are laws to protect people living with HIV and we understand so much more about the condition. But despite this, people do not know the facts about how to protect themselves and others from HIV, and stigma and discrimination remain a reality for many people living with HIV. World AIDS Day is important as it reminds the public and Government that HIV has not gone away – there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.

World AIDS Day is an opportunity for you to learn the facts about HIV and put your knowledge into action. Find out how much you know by taking our online quiz: Are you HIV aware? Test your knowledge and awareness by taking the quiz and act aware by passing the quiz on and sharing it with your friends on Twitter and Facebook.

If you understand how HIV is transmitted, how it can be prevented, and the reality of living with HIV today – you can use this knowledge to take care of your own health and the health of others, and ensure you treat everyone living with HIV fairly, and with respect and understanding. Click here to find out the facts.

You can also show your support for people living with HIV on World AIDS Day by wearing a red ribbon, the international symbol of HIV awareness.

World AIDS Day is also a great opportunity to raise money for NAT (National AIDS Trust) and show your support for people living with HIV. If you feel inspired to hold an event, bake sale or simply sell red ribbons, click here to get started. If you’d like to see what other events are taking place — click here and find out more.

Although World AIDS Day is a great opportunity to get the public talking about HIV and fundraise, we need to remember the importance of raising awareness of HIV all year round. That’s why NAT has launched HIVaware — a fun, interactive new website which provides all the information everyone should know about HIV. Why not use what you have learnt on World AIDS Day to Act Aware throughout the year and remember, you can fundraise at any time of year too — NAT is always here to give you suggestions and ideas.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

African Union Chairperson Dlamini-Zuma Delivers Remarks With Secretary Clinton


African Union Chairperson Dlamini-Zuma and Secretary Clinton On DRC

Photo courtesy of state.gov

Treaty Room
Washington, DC

November 28, 2012

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good afternoon, everyone. It is such a personal pleasure for me to welcome the Chairperson here for our high-level meetings. This is our third high-level meeting, and we highly value the relationship and the increasing cooperation that we are enjoying with the African Union. And of course, I want to congratulate the Chairperson for becoming the first woman chair of the African Union.

I want to start by saying a few words about the ongoing situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The humanitarian impact of this conflict in the eastern part of the country is devastating. More than 285,000 people have been forced to flee their homes since this rebellion began back in April. They are in critical need of assistance. Health workers in Goma have been killed and abducted. Members of civil society, human rights activists, judicial authorities throughout the Democratic Republic of Congo have received death threats. The United States strongly condemns these tactics of fear and intimidation. And those who abuse human rights must be held accountable.

Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson has been in the region holding discussions with leadership from the DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda to try to help bring about a ceasefire. We strongly support continued cooperation among the leaders of these countries and throughout the region and commend the African Union for its recent decision to send a special envoy to the Great Lakes.

With regard to the M23 rebel group, there is only one way forward: They must meet their commitments under the Kampala Accords to cease their attacks, withdraw from Goma, and pull back to the July lines. Under the Kampala Accords, President Kabila’s government has agreed to hear and address the grievances of the M23 leaders, and we call on leaders and governments from throughout the region to halt and prevent any support to the M23 from their territory.

Now this is just one issue that illustrates the importance of enhanced, strong cooperation between the African Union and the United States. First, on peace and security, we strongly support the AU missions in Somalia and Darfur as well as the AU’s facilitation efforts in Sudan and South Sudan. And we are working to support the AU’s leadership with respect to the crises in Mali, and as I said, eastern DRC.

The AU is the partner who is best able to empower and mobilize the resources and the will throughout the continent to address crises, and we are very pleased to see this strong role getting even stronger. Secondly, we want to work together to promote credible elections and foster good governance, strong transparent institutions, and democracy. Third, we want to enhance trade and investment between the United States and Africa. As I never tire of saying, seven of the world’s ten fastest-growing economies are located in Africa. And we want to do more to really see greater prosperity across the continent.

We have a lot of work ahead of us. This high-level meeting builds on President Obama’s presidential policy directive on Sub-Saharan Africa, and we are going to do all that we can to promote peace and prosperity. So it’s a great pleasure to have this meeting, which is a two-day set of meetings here in the State Department and in agencies across our government, and to work together on a framework for implementation with timelines and accountability, something that both the Chairperson and I believe strongly in doing, so that everyone knows what we are trying to achieve together.

So, thank you so much.

CHAIRPERSON DLAMINI-ZUMA: Well, thank you very much. We are very happy to be here, and our approach to this meeting is that we have to have a balance between dealing with crises and peace and security matters with development, because we feel that these are two sides of the same coin. If we delay development, there’ll be more crises and more instability. But at the same time, if we don’t deal with the security situation, we can’t develop. So that balance for us is very important. And going forward, we are working as the AU towards a prosperous Africa which is at peace with itself and the world. And so all our efforts are geared towards those – towards that vision. And we have had very fruitful discussions. And obviously, discussions are as good as the follow-up, and we are going to make sure that we follow up on all the decisions that – and discussions that we’ve had. Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Good. We’ll take two this evening. We’ll start with CNN, Jill Doughterty.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you. I wanted to ask you about tomorrow. The Palestinians go to the United Nations, asking for non-observer status. We know that the U.S. objects, and we know many of the reasons. But why are you adamant about it at this point when Mahmoud Abbas could use some shoring up at home – he’s losing support – and even as Hamas is gaining support?
And then if I could ask you one question on Benghazi: Some are saying since the State Department is responsible for embassies, why wasn’t it you who was on the talk shows on Sunday, as opposed to Ambassador Rice?
Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first with regard to the Palestinian question, I have said many times that the path to a two-state solution that fulfills the aspirations of the Palestinian people is through Jerusalem and Ramallah, not New York. We have made very clear to the Palestinian leadership – you know I met with President Abbas just last week – that we oppose Palestinian efforts to upgrade their status at the UN outside of the framework of negotiations to achieve a two-state solution, because no matter what happens at the United Nations, it will not produce the outcome that this government, this President, and certainly I strongly support. And the only way to get a lasting solution is to commence direct negotiations, and we need an environment conducive to that. And we’ve urged both parties to refrain from actions that might in any way make a return to meaningful negotiations that focus on getting to a resolution more difficult. So I may have more to say about that later, but certainly that’s our overall view.

Let me just say, first of all, that Susan Rice has done a great job as our Ambassador to the United Nations. And of course, this decision about my successor is up to the President, but I’m very happy he has the opportunity with a second term to make a decision. And I’m not going to answer any hypothetical questions about what could’ve happened but didn’t happen. I’m looking forward to being able to discuss all of the issues pertaining to this after the conclusion of the Accountability Review Board. My responsibility was to appoint such a board, which I did immediately. They have been hard at work. We are hoping that they will be finished with their work very soon, and we intend to make the results of their investigation publicly, and at that time I will be able to address all of these issues.

MS. NULAND: Last one this evening, (inaudible).

QUESTION: Madam Chairperson, Madam Secretary, can Rwanda be part of the solution in Kivu if it continues to deny that it’s part of the problem, specifically its support for M23? And do you think President Kagame has any personal responsibility to bear on what’s going on there now?

CHAIRPERSON DLAMINI-ZUMA: Well, our approach to this matter is that it doesn’t help us in fingerprinting – finger-pointing. We just need a solution. And we met in Kampala on Saturday, the summit took decisions that the M23 must be out, that there must be a special force, a neutral force to deal with that area, and that President Kabila should listen and evaluate the concerns of the M23. And so for us, what is important is to get that resolution of that problem, and the rest will be taken care of because Rwanda is part of the Great Lakes. They have taken a decision that there must be a neutral force there. And Rwanda was there. It supported that decision that M23 must move out of Goma. Rwanda was there. It supported that decision. So for us, that’s what is important.

SECRETARY CLINTON: And I would fully support the Chairperson’s comments. We have consistently called on all parties, including Rwanda, to play a positive role in helping to bring about a peaceful resolution of this conflict. And that includes ending any and all support for the M23. Any military assistance from anyone to the M23 is in violation of the UN arms embargo. And we were very heartened by the results of the Kampala summit. And as the Chairperson said, now we want to see it implemented. There was an agreement. There’s a path forward. But it is up to the parties now to hold themselves accountable, and each other, for acting on those agreements.

Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Thank you all very much.