Thursday, February 28, 2013

Forbes’ 30 Under 30: Africa’s Best Young Entrepreneurs

By Mfonobong Nsehe

Young entrepreneurs are changing the face of Africa. I set out to produce a list of the 30 Africans under 30 years old who are making the most dramatic impact across the continent. To do so, in November I enlisted an outside panel of 12 judges from across Africa to help identify this group of outstanding entrepreneurs and innovators under the age of 30.

Cut across Real Estate, Financial Services, Manufacturing, Media, Tech, Green tech, Healthcare, Agriculture and Fashion, the 30 young African entrepreneurs, disruptors and innovators featured on this list are impatient to change Africa. Together, they represent the entrepreneurial, innovative and intellectual best of their generation.

They’re solving problems like healthcare and electricity shortages, proffering innovative solutions to waste management, building virtual and physical communities and creating lots of jobs. A few of them are manufacturing the foods we love, designing exquisite clothing for our women and some are developing some cool apps for mobile phones across Africa.

Of course, this list is by no means official or exhaustive, but this is the closest you’ll get to a definitive list.

A round of applause for Africa’s 30 Under 30 – the continent’s best young entrepreneurs, today’s disruptors and tomorrow’s brightest stars:

Jonathan Liebmann, South African
Real Estate developer, CEO of Propertuity

Liebmann, 28, is the Managing Director of Propertuity, a South African Real Estate development company and the brains behind the construction of the Maboneng Precinct, a thriving cultural district in the east side of Johannesburg’s CBD. Once a neglected and deteriorating neighborhood housing abandoned industrial complexes, Liebmann transformed Maboneng into a vibrant urban mixed-use community complete with Art galleries, artist studios, retail spaces, offices and artist studios. Read more about Jonathan Liebmann, Propertuity and Maboneng Precint here.

Patrick Ngowi, Tanzanian
CEO, Helvetic Solar Contractors

Nine years ago, Patrick Ngowi, 28, received a small loan from his mother to start off a business. He started off selling Chinese mobile phones, but when he discovered that a tiny fraction of Tanzanians enjoyed any access to stable and reliable electricity, he knew he had to rectify that problem. Ngowi set up Helvetic Solar Contractors Limited, a company that is a pioneer in the supply, installation and maintenance of solar systems throughout the Northern Circuit of Tanzania. Helvetic Solar Contractors is the first company in the Northern Circuit to cater for Solar needs. The company did about $3 million in revenues last year. Read more about Patrick Ngowi and Helvetic Solar here.

Lorna Rutto, Kenyan
Green Tech Entrepreneur, Founder, EcoPost

Lorna Rutto, 28 is the founder of EcoPost, a profitable social enterprise which manufactures aesthetic, durable and environmentally friendly fencing posts using plastic waste, a more environmentally friendly alternative to timber. EcoPost collects this plastic waste (such as polypropylene and polyethylene) and manufactures fencing posts from it. Rutto has earned international acclaim for her efforts in providing an alternative waste management solution to Kenya’s plastic menace. Read more about Lorna Rutto and Ecopost here

Justin Stanford, South African
Founder & CEO, 4Di Group

Stanford, 28, is a software entrepreneur and venture capitalist. Seven years ago, he cornered the exclusive and lucrative distribution rights for ESET, a Slovakian anti-virus software package. Today, Stanford’s ESET Southern Africa operates the ESET brand in the region and sells ESET’s range of internet security products in about 20 sub-Saharan countries, recording over $10 million in annual turnover. He controls about 5% of the anti-virus market in Southern Africa. Stanford is also the founder of 4Di Capital, a Cape Town-based venture capital fund. Read more about Justin Stanford here.

Rapelang Rabana, South African
Founder, Yeigo Communications

Rapelang Rabana, 28 is the CEO and founder of Yeigo Communications, an innovative Cape Town-based company which develops software for telecoms-related services including Voice over IP, Instant messaging, SMS messaging and push email services. In 2008, Telfree, a Swiss mobile telecommunications firm acquired a 51% stake in Yeigo. Read more about Rapelang Rabana here.

Kimiti Wanjaria & Ian Kahara, Kenyan
Founders, Serene Valley Properties

Both in their late 20s, Kimiti Wanjaria and Ian Kahara are part of a group of four co-founders of Serene Valley Properties (SVP), a Real Estate development company in Nairobi that constructs and sells residential properties to Kenya’s ever-growing middle class. SVP is behind the development of Sigona Valley project, a KSh350m (US$4.2m) gated residential community outside Nairobi. Read more about Wanjaria and Kahara here.

Evans Wadongo, Kenyan
Chairman, SDFA Kenya

Wadongo, a 26 year-old Kenyan engineer designed a solar-powered LED lantern called MwangaBora (Swahili for “Good Light”), an invention which is fast replacing smoky kerosene lamps and firelight in rural Kenya. Wadongo has been distributing thousands of these lanterns throughout rural Kenya where there is little or no electricity. His organization, Sustainable Development For All (SDFA) sponsors an empowerment initiative that teaches poor Kenyans how to reproduce these solar lanterns and sell for profit. Read more about Evans Wadongo here.

Ludwick Phofane Marishane, South African
Founder, Headboy Industries

Marishane, 21, is the founder of Headboy Industries, a South African company which developed and owns the patent for Drybath, the world’s first germicidal bath-substituting skin lotion/gel. Read more about Marishane and Headboy Industries here.

Cosmas Ochieng, Kenyan
Founder, Ecofuels Kenya

Cosmas Ochieng, a 26 year-old Kenyan entrepreneur runs Ecofuels Kenya, an East Africa firm which produces environmentally friendly, green biofuels and organic fertilizers from renewable indigenous sources such as the croton nut. Read more about Ecofuels here.

Eric Muthomi, Kenyan
Founder, Stawi Foods & Fruits

The 26 year-old Kenyan entrepreneur is the founder of Stawi Foods and Fruits, an innovative start-up which procures bananas from smallholder farmers in rural Kenya and processes them into banana flour. Read more about Eric Muthomi and Stawi Foods here.

Joel Mwale, Kenyan
Founder, Skydrop Enterprises

Mwale who is 20 years old runs SkyDrop Enterprises, a rainwater filtration and bottling company which produces low-cost purified drinking water, milk and other dairy products in Kenya. Mwale founded Skydrop in December 2009 and the company now employs over 20 people. Read more about Joel Mwale and Skydrop here.

Verone Mankou, Congolese
Tech Entrepreneur, Founder & CEO, VMK

Verone Mankou is the founder of VMK, a tech company focused on mobile technologies, specifically in the design, in Africa, of Tablet PCs & Smartphones. In 2011 VMK presented the Way-C, its first Android Tablet PC. The Way-C retails at USD $300 and is available in the Congo and France. VMK also manufactures an African-themed Android smartphone called Elikia. Mankou is 26. Read more about Mankou and VMK here.

Opeyemi Awoyemi, Olalekan Olude & Ayodeji Adewunmi, Nigerian
Founders, Jobberman

The trio founded Jobberman, Nigeria’s biggest job search engine and aggregator. Jobberman went live in August 2009, and today the site attracts over 50,000 unique users each day. Through simple, yet cutting-edge technology, Jobberman helps link qualified personnel to the right job opportunities. Jobberman is one of the few companies in Nigeria’s tech space that enjoy venture capital backing. Read more about Awoyemi, Olude and Adewunmi and Jobberman here.

Oluwaseun Osewa, Nigerian
Founder, Nairaland

Nigerian geek Oluwaseun Osewa is the founder of Nairaland, Africa’s largest online forum. He founded the site in March 2005 as a general purpose discussion forum with a bias towards issues of interest to Nigerians. The site took off. Nairaland now has close to 1 million registered users and is the most popular Nigerian website today. For perspective: In Nigeria, Nairaland gets more visits than Wikipedia. Nairaland earns its revenue through its ad inventory. Read more about Oluwaseun Osewa and Nairaland here.

Ashley Uys, South African
Founder, Medical Diagnostech

Ashley Uys’ company, Medical Diagnostech develops and markets affordable and reliable medical test kits for malaria, pregnancy, syphilis, malaria, HIV/ Aids for South Africa’s rural poor. The company’s Malaria pf/PAN (pLDH) Test kit can reportedly detect all strains of malaria and indicate within 30 minutes whether the malaria treatment provided is effective. Last November, Medical Diagnostech won $120,000 in prize money at the SAB Foundation 2nd Annual Social Innovation Awards. Uys is 29. Read more about Ashley Uys and Medical Diagnostech here.

Sizwe Nzima, South African
Founder, Iyeza Express

The 21 year-old South African entrepreneur runs Iyeza Express, an innovative enterprise which helps reduce overcrowding at public health facilities by collecting and delivering medication from public clinics and hospitals on bicycles to residents of the Western Cape who are on protracted medication. Read more about Sizwe Nzima and Iyeza here.

William Kamkwamba, Malawian

Meet the boy who harnessed the wind. Born in Malawi, William was only 14 years old when he built an electricity-producing windmill from junkyard scraps in order to provide a steady source of water for his family’s farm and village in Masitala Village, Wimbe. With a bicycle dynamo and chain ring, tractor fan, rubber belts and bamboo poles, William succeeded in building a functioning windmill that provided energy for two radios and four light bulbs. Fuelled by the modest success of the initial windmill, William set out to build a larger windmill to help with irrigation for his entire village. Kamkwamba is currently studying for a degree in Environmental studies and Engineering at Dartmouth College in the USA.

Sandra Appiah and Isaac Boateng, Ghanaian
Co-founders, Face2Face Africa

Sandra Appiah, 23 and Isaac Boateng, 28, both Ghanaian nationals are the founders of Face2Face Africa (F2FA), a New York city-based new media company with a mandate to restore Africa’s image within the global community. The company has three divisions: an outfit that publishes a magazine which explores African development, culture, entertainment and fashion, an events business and a thriving website. Read more about Sandra Appiah, Isaac Boateng and Face2Face Africa here.

Ola Orekunrin, Nigerian
Medical Doctor, Founder, Flying Doctors

A Nigerian healthcare entrepreneur and medical doctor, Orekunrin, 25, is the founder of Flying Doctors Nigeria, West Africa’s first Air Ambulance Service. Flying Doctors Nigeria provides urgent helicopter, airplane ambulance and evacuation services in Nigeria and other countries across West Africa. Read more about Ola Orekunrin here.

Andrew Mupuya, Ugandan
Founder, Youth Entrepreneurial Link Investments (YELI)

In 2008 Andrew raised $18 from family and friends and started making paper bags on a small scale. In 2010 he registered his company, Youth Entrepreneurial Link Investments (YELI), which is now the first locally registered paper bag and Envelope-producing Company in Uganda. The company now employs about 15 Ugandans and YELI is a leading supplier of paper bags and envelopes to local hospitals, retail outlets, roadside sellers and local flour manufacturers. Between 2008 and now, YELI has produced more than half a million paper bags. Andrew Mupunya is 20. Read more about Andrew Mupuya here.

Chude Jideonwo & Adebola Williams, Nigerian
Founders, Red Media/ The Future Project

Jideonwo and Williams are co-founders and Partners of Red Nigeria- a leading full service media-content, communication and Development Company in Nigeria. The firm also owns The Future Project (TFP) – a strategic social enterprise/change communications firm which hosts theannual Future Awards, Nigeria’s most important awards for outstanding young Nigerians. Read more about the duo here.

Mark Kaigwa, Kenyan
Partner, Afrinnovator

Mark Kaigwa, 25 is a multi-talented creative director, filmmaker, digital marketer and entrepreneur. Kaigwa is a co-founder and partner at Afrinnovator, a venture which aims to put Africa on the map by publishing exploits across African innovation, technology and start-ups. He is also Partner at African Digital Art – the web’s leading resource for creative inspiration in animation, illustration, photography and design from Africa. Read more about Mark Kaigwa here.

Arthur Zang, Cameroonian

Last year, Arthur Zang, a 25 year-old Cameroonian engineer invented the Cardiopad, a touch screen medical tablet. With the Cardiopad, heart examinations such as the electrocardiogram (ECG) can be performed at remote, rural locations while the results of the test are transferred wirelessly to specialists who can interpret them. The device spares African patients living in remote areas the trouble of having to travel to urban centers to seek medical examinations. The Cardiopad is expected to become commercially available in 2013. Read more about Arthur Zang here.

Thula Sindi, South African
Fashion Entrepreneur, Founder, Thula Sindi

The 28 year-old is one of Southern Africa’s best-known young fashion designers. After completing his studies at the London International School of Fashion he landed his first job as head designer at Vlisco, a Dutch textile company. He quit shortly afterwards to launch his eponymous self-titled clothing label which designs, manufactures, and markets delicately crafted women’s clothing. Read more about Thula Sindi here.

Farai Gundan, Zimbawean
Founder, Farai Media

The Zimbabwean-born media personality and Internet entrepreneur is the founder of Farai Media, an Africa-focused online mobile and advertising platform. She is also a co-Founder of AfricaTripDeals, a global distribution system for travel to Africa. Read more about her here.

Follow me on Twitter @EmperorDIV. Email me at mnsehe (at) forbes dot com.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

President Obama Unveils First Full-Length Statue of Black Woman In Capitol

Picture: Charles Dharapak/Associated Press – President Barack Obama, accompanied by, from left, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev., House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., applaud at the unveiling of a statue of Rosa Parks, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Office of the Press Secretary

February 27, 2013


United States Capitol

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Speaker, Leader Reid, Leader McConnell, Leader Pelosi, Assistant Leader Clyburn; to the friends and family of Rosa Parks; to the distinguished guests who are gathered here today.

This morning, we celebrate a seamstress, slight in stature but mighty in courage. She defied the odds, and she defied injustice. She lived a life of activism, but also a life of dignity and grace. And in a single moment, with the simplest of gestures, she helped change America — and change the world.

Rosa Parks held no elected office. She possessed no fortune; lived her life far from the formal seats of power. And yet today, she takes her rightful place among those who’ve shaped this nation’s course. I thank all those persons, in particular the members of the Congressional Black Caucus, both past and present, for making this moment possible. (Applause.)

A childhood friend once said about Mrs. Parks, “Nobody ever bossed Rosa around and got away with it.” (Laughter.) That’s what an Alabama driver learned on December 1, 1955. Twelve years earlier, he had kicked Mrs. Parks off his bus simply because she entered through the front door when the back door was too crowded. He grabbed her sleeve and he pushed her off the bus. It made her mad enough, she would recall, that she avoided riding his bus for a while.

And when they met again that winter evening in 1955, Rosa Parks would not be pushed. When the driver got up from his seat to insist that she give up hers, she would not be pushed. When he threatened to have her arrested, she simply replied, “You may do that.” And he did.

A few days later, Rosa Parks challenged her arrest. A little-known pastor, new to town and only 26 years old, stood with her — a man named Martin Luther King, Jr. So did thousands of Montgomery, Alabama commuters. They began a boycott — teachers and laborers, clergy and domestics, through rain and cold and sweltering heat, day after day, week after week, month after month, walking miles if they had to, arranging carpools where they could, not thinking about the blisters on their feet, the weariness after a full day of work — walking for respect, walking for freedom, driven by a solemn determination to affirm their God-given dignity.

Three hundred and eighty-five days after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, the boycott ended. Black men and women and children re-boarded the buses of Montgomery, newly desegregated, and sat in whatever seat happen to be open. (Applause.) And with that victory, the entire edifice of segregation, like the ancient walls of Jericho, began to slowly come tumbling down.

It’s been often remarked that Rosa Parks’s activism didn’t begin on that bus. Long before she made headlines, she had stood up for freedom, stood up for equality — fighting for voting rights, rallying against discrimination in the criminal justice system, serving in the local chapter of the NAACP. Her quiet leadership would continue long after she became an icon of the civil rights movement, working with Congressman Conyers to find homes for the homeless, preparing disadvantaged youth for a path to success, striving each day to right some wrong somewhere in this world.

And yet our minds fasten on that single moment on the bus — Ms. Parks alone in that seat, clutching her purse, staring out a window, waiting to be arrested. That moment tells us something about how change happens, or doesn’t happen; the choices we make, or don’t make. “For now we see through a glass, darkly,” Scripture says, and it’s true. Whether out of inertia or selfishness, whether out of fear or a simple lack of moral imagination, we so often spend our lives as if in a fog, accepting injustice, rationalizing inequity, tolerating the intolerable.

Like the bus driver, but also like the passengers on the bus, we see the way things are — children hungry in a land of plenty, entire neighborhoods ravaged by violence, families hobbled by job loss or illness — and we make excuses for inaction, and we say to ourselves, that’s not my responsibility, there’s nothing I can do.

Rosa Parks tell us there’s always something we can do. She tells us that we all have responsibilities, to ourselves and to one another. She reminds us that this is how change happens — not mainly through the exploits of the famous and the powerful, but through the countless acts of often anonymous courage and kindness and fellow feeling and responsibility that continually, stubbornly, expand our conception of justice — our conception of what is possible.

Rosa Parks’s singular act of disobedience launched a movement. The tired feet of those who walked the dusty roads of Montgomery helped a nation see that to which it had once been blind. It is because of these men and women that I stand here today. It is because of them that our children grow up in a land more free and more fair; a land truer to its founding creed. And that is why this statue belongs in this hall — to remind us, no matter how humble or lofty our positions, just what it is that leadership requires; just what it is that citizenship requires. Rosa Parks would have turned 100 years old this month. We do well by placing a statue of her here. But we can do no greater honor to her memory than to carry forward the power of her principle and a courage born of conviction.

May God bless the memory of Rosa Parks, and may God bless these United States of America. (Applause.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

President Obama’s Call with Egypt’s President Morsi – Readout

White House Photo

Office of the Press Secretary
The White House

February 26, 2013

President Obama spoke with Egyptian President Morsy today to reaffirm the United States’ strong commitment to the Egyptian people as they continue their transition to democracy. The President welcomed President Morsy’s commitment to serving as a President for all Egyptians, including women and people of all faiths, and emphasized President Morsy’s responsibility to protect the democratic principles that the Egyptian people fought so hard to secure. President Obama encouraged President Morsy, and all political groups within Egypt, to work to build consensus and advance the political transition. The two leaders also discussed Egypt’s economic situation and the importance of implementing reforms that have broad support and will promote long term growth. The two Presidents discussed regional security, and President Obama welcomed Egypt’s continued role in advancing regional peace and maintaining the ceasefire in Gaza. The President noted that Secretary Kerry will be traveling on March 2 to Egypt, where he will meet with government and opposition leaders and members of civil society, and will emphasize the need for all Egyptians to work together to build their democracy and promote economic stability and prosperity.


U.S. Issues Statement on Signature of Framework Agreement for the DRC

Picture Courtesy of US Department of State
Office of the Spokesperson
For Immediate Release

February 25, 2013


Signature of Framework Agreement for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Region

The United States strongly supports the initiative of the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and ten other African heads of state in signing the Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the Region, witnessed by three African regional bodies and the United Nations.

The continuing security and humanitarian crisis in eastern DRC highlights the urgent need for accelerated reforms within the DRC and increased cooperation among key countries in the Great Lakes region, particularly the DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda. We commend all the signatories for acknowledging their essential responsibilities in promoting regional peace and security. We urge the DRC to seize the opportunity to uphold its commitments to an extension of state authority in the east, to security sector reform, and to improved governance. It is equally imperative that the DRC’s neighbors respect its sovereignty and territorial integrity by preventing external support to armed groups. We encourage all parties to live up to the spirit and letter of their joint framework agreement.

The framework needs to be a foundation, both within the DRC and in the region, for a sustained and serious dialogue to ensure that the signatories hold each other accountable for their commitments. The United States urges the signatories to quickly establish concrete follow-up mechanisms for implementing the framework at the national and regional level, and with the participation of key stakeholders, including the international community, local communities, and civil society. We are prepared to support this process. In this regard, we look forward to the appointment of a high-level UN envoy to lead international support for the framework’s implementation. We also support a close and comprehensive review by the Security Council of the UN peacekeeping operation in the DRC, which will also have a critical role in supporting dialogue and security.

Both the region and the international community must support the Congolese people and the region in breaking the long cycle of conflict and violence. We urge all parties to take advantage of this opportunity to ensure that the future of the DRC and the region is more peaceful and prosperous than the past.

Continental African Leadership Council Hosts First ’13 Community Event in MD

President Obama with CALC Director, Dr. Okere
File Photo, September 28, 2012

Hyattsville, MD
February 19, 2013

By Frederick Nnoma-Addison

The Continental African Leadership Council (CALC) has hosted its first 2013 community event in the state of Maryland. The workshop attended by a cross section of the African immigrant community focused on immigration, homeowner relief and foreclosure prevention. Some of the subjects covered at the event included immigration fraud, Loan modification, refinancing and new bank servicing standards. Representatives of Maryland’s Attorney General, Doug Gansler, housing counselors, immigration attorneys from the African Diaspora community and other experts provided information and conducted free one-on-one counseling sessions for attendees of the workshop.

Continental African Leadership Council (CALC) is a branch of the Maryland Democratic Party Diversity Leadership Council. The council provides their constituents vital information through such events and seeks to create opportunities through engagement with public officials. The council represents Maryland’s African-American, Latino, Asian & Pacific Islander American, Continental African, Veterans and Military Families, Women, and LGBT communities.

In an interview with Dr. Sylvester Okere, Director of CALC, he explained that one important goal of CALC is to organize Africans to engage in the political and democratic process in the United States. According to him, “Politics is about numbers and the more numbers we can show the better represented we will be.” He cited the impact that Hispanics have on the immigration debate in the country and explained that African nationals in the United States would have a louder voice in the same debate if only they were better organized. At the end of the session CALC’S Anta Sane (Chief of Staff) announced an upcoming International Women’s Day scheduled for March.
CALC was created in 2010 when Maryland’s Governor Martin, O’Malley established the Diversity Leadership Council to encourage individual ethnic groups to get involved in the democratic process in the state. For more information about the CALC and its activities send an email to –

Watch VOA News interview with CALC Director

Friday, February 22, 2013

U.S. Presidential Delegation Attends Inauguration of H.E. Ernest Bai Koroma – Sierra Leone

Office of the Press Secretary
The White House

February 20, 2013

President Barack Obama today announced the designation of a Presidential Delegation to the Republic of Sierra Leone to attend the Inauguration of His Excellency Ernest Bai Koroma on February 22, 2013.

The Honorable Carrie Hessler-Radelet, Acting-Director of the Peace Corps, will lead the delegation.
Member of the Presidential Delegation:
Ms. Kathleen FitzGibbon, ChargĂ© d’Affaires, United States Embassy to the Republic of Sierra Leone


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

U.S. State Dept. Announces Apps4Africa 2012 Business Challenge Winners

Office of the Spokesperson

February 20, 2013

The U.S. Department of State is pleased to announce the winners of Apps4Africa 2012: Business Challenge, an Africa-wide competition to develop sustainable technology-based solutions to youth unemployment. Selected from nearly 300 applications from 27 countries by an international panel of judges, the winning teams are:

*  SliceBiz (from Ghana): a web and mobile investment platform that uses crowd sourcing to connect promising startups with young investors in Africa.
*  Prowork (from Nigeria): a web and mobile project management tool that enables businesses to create and assign tasks and track project status in real-time.
*  Ffene (from Uganda): a low-cost business management platform that helps small and medium-sized businesses simplify accounting, generate reports, and manage customer relations.

These young technology entrepreneurs—and the many others who competed this year—are the faces of a growing trend of innovative African start-up companies.

This year’s Apps4Africa competition, sponsored by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs and coordinated by private sector partner Appfrica International, builds on the success of two previous competitions—Apps4Africa 2010: Civic Challenge and Apps4Africa 2011: Climate Challenge—which also encouraged the development of mobile, web, and desktop applications to address local challenges in Africa. This year’s competition was also supported by the Department’s Liberalizing Innovation Opportunity Nations (LIONS@FRICA) partnership. The closing ceremony for the 2012 competition will take place on March 6 in Kampala, Uganda. The winning teams will be awarded cash prizes and follow-on mentoring.

For more information please visit

Monday, February 18, 2013

Statement by Secretary Kerry On Republic of The Gambia’s National Day

Office of the Spokesperson
Department of State
Washington, DC

February 18, 2013

On behalf of the American people, I send best wishes to the people of The Gambia as they celebrate 48 years of independence on February 18. On this joyous occasion, know that the United States looks forward to working with you to advance democracy, peace, and prosperity.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Senegalese Teens Shoot For U.S. Basketball Glory

Photo and story courtesy CNN Inside Africa

From Adeline Chen and Errol Barnett, CNN

It’s hard not to notice Aziz N’Diaye. Standing at seven feet tall, the starting center for the University of Washington’s basketball team is a dominant force in American college basketball.

His towering height and physical power, coupled with his impressive shot-blocking and rebounding skills, make the senior a serious prospect for a professional basketball career. But the imposing center’s past is just as compelling as his promising future.
N’Diaye’s long journey to college basketball started several years ago on the other side of the Atlantic.

“I’m originally from Dakar, which is the capital of Senegal,” explains N’Diaye, whose introspective tone contrasts with his imposing stature. “I was going to a smaller high school over there … for two years and I got offered to come to the States to finish my high-school career.”

The place that jump-started N’Diaye’s dream of playing in the NBA was the Sports for Education and Economic Development in Senegal (SEEDS) academy, a boarding school that gives eager young men from the West African country the opportunity to study and play basketball, with the possibility of being recruited to play on a bigger stage in the United States.

Located in Thies, western Senegal, SEEDS uses sports as a vehicle to empower and support youth in the country while offering them quality education and helping them to improve their athletic skills. The academy provides up to 30 youngsters a year with a place to live, study and train, sheltering their dreams for a better future in a country where less than 20% of children make it to high school.

“As Africans, we have a responsibility to build our community,” says Amadou Gallo Fall, who started the SEEDS foundation in 1998, before opening the boarding school in 2003. “Those days are over where other people came, saw tremendous potential and resources that exist here and you know, exploited to their benefit or advantage. It’s about empowering our youth, making them see that there’s a pathway to success.”

Fall, who also serves as the NBA’s vice president for development in Africa, is one of basketball’s most prominent figures in the continent. His vision to start SEEDS and help his fellow countrymen stems from his own personal experience as one of the first Senegalese to earn an education through basketball in the United States. As Africans, we have a responsibility to build our community.

Back in the late 1980s, Fall played for the University of the District of Columbia after his basketball talents were discovered by a member of the Peace Corps in Senegal. “Everything started from there,” says Fall, who also pursued an MBA from Georgetown University while in the United States.

After graduation, Fall worked for the Senegalese national team and later he accepted a position as international scout for the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks. Along the way, his desire to enable youth in his country to follow in his footsteps and gain a quality education grew even bigger.

Fall realized that the power of sports to mobilize youth and give them a platform to fulfill their goals could be used for a bigger impact. The result was the establishment of SEEDS.

“To me, it was about how these young people could use their God-given talent to get an education, because that happened with me,” he says. “Most of them didn’t realize that possibility existed. So really, my thing was, how do we help them identify that this opportunity exists? At some point I thought, in order to have a bigger impact, to reach more people, we wanted to really create something back in Senegal where it would be about, how do we use sports and the power of sports to contribute in the efforts of socio-economic developments in Senegal and Africa and beyond?”

SEEDS has so far sent more than 40 Senegalese youngsters to study in the United States, giving 25 of them the chance to play at American colleges.

For youngsters like N’Diaye, the lure of a quality education coupled with a chance to pursue his dream of one day playing in the NBA were enough to make him decide to go to SEEDS. “It was a good academic school,” he says. “It’s like, people going there, having the opportunity, the chance of traveling with basketball and having the chance of going to some camps and have some coaches take a look at them and see where their skill is at. “At the end of the day, I wanted to come to the States because here, sports and education, they combined it.”

Thursday, February 7, 2013

U.S. Special Envoy To OIC Hussain Travels to Cairo

Photo courtesy of State Department

Department of State
Washington, DC

February 7, 2013

Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Rashad Hussain is participating in the OIC Heads of State Summit held in Cairo, Egypt February 6-7. On the margins of the summit, Special Envoy Hussain will hold bilateral meetings with Egyptian leaders, Secretary Generals of the OIC and Arab League, and other leaders from OIC and Arab League countries. He will discuss a number of issues including the situations in Syria and Mali, U.S. engagement with Muslim communities around the world, and religious freedom in OIC countries, including for Christian and other communities.

President Barack Obama announced the appointment of Rashad Hussain as Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on February 13, 2010. The OIC is comprised of 56 nations and is the second largest international body after the UN.

As Special Envoy to the OIC, Mr. Hussain seeks to deepen and expand the partnerships that the United States has pursued with Muslims around the world.

Mr. Hussain has also served as Deputy Associate Counsel to President Obama, focusing on national security, new media, and science and technology issues. Mr. Hussain worked with the National Security Staff in developing and pursuing the New Beginning that President Obama outlined in his June 2009 address in Cairo, Egypt. Before joining the White House, Mr. Hussain was a member of the legal staff for the Presidential Transition Team. Mr. Hussain previously served as a Trial Attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice. Earlier in his career, Mr. Hussain was a legislative assistant on the House Judiciary Committee, where he focused on national security-related issues.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) Program - Facts

Photo source:

Department of State
Washington, DC

February 6, 2013

* ACOTA is a program within the Office of Regional and Security Affairs, Bureau of African Affairs at the Department of State. It began as the Africa Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI) in 1997 with the mission of enhancing the capacity of African partner nations to participate in worldwide multinational peace operations. ACRI was restructured as ACOTA in 2002 and incorporated into the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI) when GPOI was initiated in 2004 (

* The ACOTA Program Office (APO) manages the program and policies in collaboration with the Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and Africa Command (AFRICOM). The program provides extensive field training for African peacekeepers plus staff training and exercises for battalion, brigade, and multinational force headquarters personnel. ACOTA also provides equipment for African multinational peace operations’ trainers and peacekeepers.

* The decision by a partner nation to deploy ACOTA-trained troops is a sovereign national decision. An ACOTA partner’s participation in multinational peace operations normally falls under a mandate from the United Nations, the African Union (AU), or a regional organization such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

* As an international partner, ACOTA seeks to complement and support allied peacekeeping training efforts and welcomes their participation in training events.

* The ACOTA program training is conducted by Department of State civilian contractors. Additionally, U.S. active duty military serve as mentors/trainers to troop contributing countries.

* Typical training packages include command and staff operations skills, multinational peace support operations command, post exercises and peace support operations soldier skills field training. A keystone of the ACOTA program is that all training and equipping is tailored to match an individual partner’s needs and capabilities.

* Respect for international standards of human rights is a fundamental concept incorporated throughout the training. ACOTA stresses Human Rights, HIV/AIDS awareness, combating sexual and gender-based violence, identifying and reporting child soldiers and their exploitation, identifying and reporting trafficking-in-persons, and the protection of civilians and innocents, among numerous other humanitarian and gender issues.

* ACOTA introduces the partner military to a range of multinational peace operations, such as small unit leadership, convoy escort, checkpoint operations, disarmament operations, safe weapons handling, management of refugees and internally displaced persons, negotiations, rules of engagement and command and control.

* Training includes extensive “train-the-trainer” activities to establish an enduring multinational peace operations training capacity in each partner nation. Maintenance of trainer skills and refresher training as required are part of the long-term ACOTA program.

* Since 1997, ACOTA has provided training and non-lethal equipment to 254,228 peacekeepers from African partner militaries in 257 contingent units. ACOTA’s 25 partners include Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda and Zambia.

* These partners have sent peacekeeping contingents to varied missions such as Sudan (AMIS, UNAMID, UNMIS and UNMISS), Sierra Leone (ECOMOG and UNAMSIL), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC/MONUSCO), The Central African Republic (MISAB, MINURCA, MICOPAX, and MINURCAT II), Ethiopia-Eritrea (UNMEE), Cote d’Ivoire (ECOMICI and UNOCI), Liberia (ECOMIL and UNMIL), Burundi (OMIB and ONUB), Kosovo (UNMIK), Lebanon (UNIFIL), Somalia (AMISOM), Chad (MINURCAT II), and humanitarian relief efforts in Mozambique.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

President Obama Calls On Kenyans to Commit to Free & Fair Elections

Picture Courtesy The White House
February 5, 2013

The White House
Washington, DC

“This is a moment for the people of Kenya to come together, instead of tearing apart. If you do, you can show the world that you are not just members of a tribe or ethnic group, but citizens of a great and proud nation.”

Today, President Obama released a message calling on all Kenyans to commit to support the goal of free, fair and peaceful elections on March 4, and underscoring his commitment to the U.S.-Kenya partnership. The March elections are the first under Kenya’s progressive new constitution. They represent a historic opportunity for Kenya to put the region on a path to greater prosperity.

Habari yako. Over the years, I have been greatly moved by the warmth and spirit – the strength and resolve – of the Kenyan people. And I’ve been grateful for my connection to Kenya, and the way you’ve welcomed me and my family to your beautiful country – from my father’s village in Alego, to bustling Nairobi.

In my visits, I’ve seen your progress. Kenya has lifted people from poverty, built an emerging democracy and civil society, and sustained a spirit of hope in the face of great difficulty. After the turmoil of five years ago, you’ve worked to rebuild communities, reform institutions and pass a new constitution.

Now, Kenya must take the next step in March, with the first national elections under your new constitution.
We all know what makes for successful elections. Kenya must reject intimidation and violence, and allow a free and fair vote. Kenyans must resolve disputes in the courts, not in the streets. Above all, the people of Kenya must come together, before and after the election, to carry on the work of building your country.

The choice of who will lead Kenya is up to the Kenyan people. The United States does not endorse any candidate for office, but we do support an election that is peaceful and reflects the will of the people.

This election can be another milestone toward a truly democratic Kenya defined by the rule of law and strong institutions. If you take that step, and reject a path of violence and division, then Kenya can move forward towards prosperity and opportunity that unleashes the extraordinary talents of your people – especially young people. If you continue to move forward, you can build a just Kenya that rejects corruption, and respects the rights and dignity of all Kenyans.

This is a moment for the people of Kenya to come together, instead of tearing apart. If you do, you can show the world that you are not just members of a tribe or ethnic group, but citizens of a great and proud nation. I can’t imagine a better way to mark the 50th anniversary of Kenyan independence. And I say to all of you who are willing to walk this path of progress-you will continue to have a strong friend and partner in the United States of America.

Friday, February 1, 2013

John Forbes Kerry Is Sworn In As 68th U.S. Sec. of State, Replaces Hillary Clinton

U.S. Department of State
Washington, DC

On February 1, 2013, John Forbes Kerry was sworn in as the 68th Secretary of State of the United States, becoming the first sitting Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman to become Secretary in over a century.

Secretary Kerry joined the State Department after 28 years in the United States Senate, the last four as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Secretary Kerry was born on December 11, 1943 at Fitzsimons Army Hospital in Aurora, Colorado, one of four children of the late Rosemary Forbes Kerry and Richard Kerry, a Foreign Service Officer.

Shortly before he graduated from Yale University, John Kerry enlisted to serve in the United States Navy, and went on to serve two tours of duty. He served in combat as a Swift Boat skipper patrolling the rivers of the Mekong Delta, returning home from Vietnam with a Silver Star, a Bronze Star with Combat V, and three Purple Hearts.

Back in the United States, Kerry began to forcefully speak out against the Vietnam War, testifying at the invitation of Chairman J. William Fulbright before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, asking the poignant question, “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?” He also began a lifelong fight for his fellow veterans as a co-founder of the Vietnam Veterans of America, and later as a United States Senator who fought to secure veterans’ benefits, extension of the G.I. Bill for Higher Education, and improved treatment for PTSD.

In 1976, Kerry received his law degree from Boston College Law School and went to work as a top prosecutor in Middlesex County, Massachusetts where he took on organized crime, fought for victims’ rights, and created programs for rape counseling. He was elected Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts in 1982, and two years later, he was elected to the United States Senate where he served for 28 years.

As a Senator, Kerry served since 2009 as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman where he became a Senate leader on key foreign policy and national security issues facing the United States including Afghanistan and Pakistan, nuclear nonproliferation, and global climate change, building on his previous Senate work that included helping to expose the Iran-Contra scandal and leadership on global AIDS. As chairman of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs, he worked to learn the truth about American soldiers missing in Vietnam and to normalize relations with that country. As Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, in 2010, John Kerry was instrumental in renewing the New START Treaty, a vital nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia that helps steer both countries away from dangerous nuclear confrontations. The New York Times wrote that through his service as Chairman, “Kerry now practices his brand of diplomacy as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee but also, remarkably, as a kind of ex-officio member of Obama’s national security team, which has dispatched him to face one crisis after another in danger zones like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sudan.”

In his 28 years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry chaired the Asia and Middle East subcommittees where he authored and passed major legislation on international drug trafficking, international money laundering, humanitarian aid, and climate change, and he helped negotiate the UN’s genocide tribunal to prosecute war crimes in Cambodia.

He also held senior positions on the Finance, Commerce, and Small Business Committees, as well as served as a member of the bipartisan Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, where he worked across party lines to try and reduce the country’s debt and strengthen our economy. Prior to his departure from the Senate, Kerry was the seventh most senior Senator.

Kerry was the Democratic nominee for President of the United States in 2004.

Secretary Kerry is the author of best-selling books, including A Call to Service: My Vision for a Better America and This Moment on Earth, a best-selling book on the environment which he co-authored with his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry. Together they are proud of a blended family that includes two daughters, three sons, and three grandchildren.

U.S. Commemorates 100th Anniversary of Birth of Civil Rights Activist Rosa Parks

Picture Courtesy of Ella Baker Center

Office of the Press Secretary

February 1, 2013



On December 1, 1955, our Nation was forever transformed when an African-American seamstress in Montgomery, Alabama, refused to give up her seat on a city bus to a white passenger. Just wanting to get home after a long day at work, Rosa Parks may not have been planning to make history, but her defiance spurred a movement that advanced our journey toward justice and equality for all.

Though Rosa Parks was not the first to confront the injustice of segregation laws, her courageous act of civil disobedience sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott — 381 days of peaceful protest when ordinary men, women, and children sent the extraordinary message that second-class citizenship was unacceptable. Rather than ride in the back of buses, families and friends walked. Neighborhoods and churches formed carpools. Their actions stirred the conscience of Americans of every background, and their resilience in the face of fierce violence and intimidation ultimately led to the desegregation of public transportation systems across our country.
Rosa Parks’s story did not end with the boycott she inspired. A lifelong champion of civil rights, she continued to give voice to the poor and the marginalized among us until her passing on October 24, 2005.

As we mark the 100th anniversary of Rosa Parks’s birth, we celebrate the life of a genuine American hero and remind ourselves that although the principle of equality has always been self-evident, it has never been self-executing. It has taken acts of courage from generations of fearless and hopeful Americans to make our country more just. As heirs to the progress won by those who came before us, let us pledge not only to honor their legacy, but also to take up their cause of perfecting our Union.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim February 4, 2013, as the 100th Anniversary of the Birth of Rosa Parks. I call upon all Americans to observe this day with appropriate service, community, and education programs to honor Rosa Parks’s enduring legacy.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of February, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.


U.S. Observes African American History Month – February 2013

~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. August 28, 1963
March on Washington
Photo Courtesy The Capital View

Office of the Press Secretary

January 31, 2013




In America, we share a dream that lies at the heart of our founding: that no matter who you are, no matter what you look like, no matter how modest your beginnings or the circumstances of your birth, you can make it if you try. Yet, for many and for much of our Nation’s history, that dream has gone unfilled. For African Americans, it was a dream denied until 150 years ago, when a great emancipator called for the end of slavery. It was a dream deferred less than 50 years ago, when a preacher spoke of justice and brotherhood from Lincoln’s memorial. This dream of equality and fairness has never come easily — but it has always been sustained by the belief that in America, change is possible.

Today, because of that hope, coupled with the hard and painstaking labor of Americans sung and unsung, we live in a moment when the dream of equal opportunity is within reach for people of every color and creed. National African American History Month is a time to tell those stories of freedom won and honor the individuals who wrote them. We look back to the men and women who helped raise the pillars of democracy, even when the halls they built were not theirs to occupy. We trace generations of African Americans, free and slave, who risked everything to realize their God-given rights. We listen to the echoes of speeches and struggle that made our Nation stronger, and we hear again the thousands who sat in, stood up, and called out for equal treatment under the law. And we see yesterday’s visionaries in tomorrow’s leaders, reminding us that while we have yet to reach the mountaintop, we cannot stop climbing.

Today, Dr. King, President Lincoln, and other shapers of our American story proudly watch over our National Mall. But as we memorialize their extraordinary acts in statues and stone, let us not lose sight of the enduring truth that they were citizens first. They spoke and marched and toiled and bled shoulder-to-shoulder with ordinary people who burned with the same hope for a brighter day. That legacy is shared; that spirit is American. And just as it guided us forward 150 years ago and 50 years ago, it guides us forward today. So let us honor those who came before by striving toward their example, and let us follow in their footsteps toward the better future that is ours to claim.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim February 2013 as National African American History Month. I call upon public officials, educators, librarians, and all the people of the United States to observe this month with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.