Dr. Leonard Madu

Dr. Leonard Madu

Dr. Leonard Madu is President of the African Caribbean Institute of Nashville and African Chamber of Commerce. He is also a Fox TV foreign affairs analyst and writes from Nashville, Tennessee. 

 

A few months ago, the Nigerian Army announced that it had uncovered several caches of sophisticated weapons in the Nigerian city of Kano. It stated that these arms were found in houses owned by Lebanese nationals. These include anti tank guns, rocket propelled grenades, anti aircraft missiles, rifles and thousands of rounds of ammunition. The army announced that these arms were meant for the Boko Haram terrorist group currently fighting the Nigerian government, courtesy of Hezbollah of Lebanon. It announced the arrest of four Lebanese nationals whom it claimed were working for Hezbollah. Army spokesman Captain Ikedechi Iweha stated “all those arrested have undergone Hezbollah training........the arms and ammunition were to be targeted at facilities of Israel and Western interests in Nigeria”.

However, the Lebanese Consul in Kano, Khallel Muslim an stated that the house where the arms were found belonged to a Sierra Leonean named Abdu Hassan Tahir.  About 75% of the 31,000 Lebanese nationals currently living in Nigeria are Maronite Christians and Sunni Muslims, with the Shiites in the minority. They have been largely peaceful and law abiding.

An astute observer of Islamic politics will notice that the Nigerian army has been careful to avoid mentioning the confessional status of those arrested. The army did not state whether they are Sunni or Shiite Muslims or Christians. This is very important and relevant. If they are Sunni, the possibility of helping Hezbollah smuggle arms is zero. If they are Christians, that will be impossible. If they are Shiite-what interest does a Shiite organization like Hezbollah have in strengthening and supporting a Salafist Sunni organization like Boko Haram. There are about 70 million Sunni Muslims in Nigeria and 5 million Shiites.

An alliance between Shiite Hezbollah and Sunni Boko Haram will be unusual given the antagonism that exists between the two sects.  Fast forward. After the death of Mohammed a crises over his succession arose in Islamdom. One group wanted his son in-law Ali to inherit his mantle and succeed him. Another group wanted the next leader to be elected based on capability. Therefore a schism arose. Those who wanted his son in-law to succeed him became known as Shiites, while those who wanted the leader to be elected became known as Sunnis. The Shiites believe the Mahdi has already been here and will return from hiding, while the Sunnis believe the Mahdi is yet to emerge into history.

The Sunnis have a hierarchical structure of leadership-Grand Ayatollahs, Ayatollahs, Hojatolislams, etc, while the Sunnis don’t. Despite their differences, they also have commonalities-both sects believe in the five pillars of Islam and the Koran. 90% of the world's Muslims are Sunni, while 10% are Shiite. There are only four majority Shiite nations in the world-Iran, Iraq, Bahrain and Azerbaijan. Lebanon is 40% Shiite. In short, the Sunnis do not recognize the Shiites as legitimate Muslims, but as heretics and syncretism.

A lot of the conflicts in the Middle East and the Islamic world have had the Sunni-Shiite antagonism behind it. Majority of the Arab governments opposed the Shiite Islamic revolution in Iran; because it threatened the Sunni dominated governments in the Gulf. Saudi Arabia sent in troops to suppress the majority Shiite rebellion in Bahrain, because it threatened the minority Sunni regime in that country. Majority of the Arab governments except Syria, supported Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran as a way of containing the spread of Shiism. Hamas, a Sunni organization did not support Hezbollah during their conflict with Israel. Also, Hezbollah a Shiite organization did not support Hamas during their conflict with Israel.

The current conflict in Syria is a microcosm of the conflict between the two sects. Bashir Assad and those who currently run Syria are from the Alawite sect, an offshoot of the Shiites and those trying to overthrow the regime are majority Sunni. That is why Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt are supporting the rebels, while Iran and Hezbollah are supporting President Assad. Currently in Egypt and Pakistan, Shiites are been hunted down and slaughtered by their Sunni compatriots. In Lebanon, they are at each other’s throat in the city of Sidon.  With the above facts in mind, Hezbollah does not have any political, religious or ideological reasons to arm and strengthen the Sunni Boko Haram rebels.

However, should Hezbollah choose to send arms into Nigeria, it can do so through its affiliate in Nigeria- the Islamic Movement in Nigeria. A Shia organization, it was founded in 1980 by Ibrahim Yacoub El Zakzaky, a Shia Muslim cleric who was educated at Ahmadu Bello University. Born in Zaria where the organization has its headquarters, Zakzaky has nine children and has been jailed several times by the successive military regimes. He is a follower of Sayed Qutb, the intellectual face behind the brotherhood and whose ideas form the basis of Al Qaeda's ideology today. A protégé of Iran, Zakzaky is creating a radical socio economic, political and military system that resembles that of Hezbollah in Lebanon.  Like Hezbollah, the Islamic Movement in Nigeria has a newspaper Al Mizan, a radio station called Shuhada and a television station in the making. Al Mizan, published in Hausa is reported to be the largest mass circulation newspaper in Nigeria today. But most ominously, it has an army like Hezbollah called the Hurras.

The Hurras are trained and equipped by Iran's Revolutionary Guards. Their fortified compound in Gyellesu, Zaria is a no go area for even the president of Nigeria. Recently, Kaduna State Governor Muktar Ramallan Yero was prevented from driving into the compound with his police escorts to visit an ailing friend. He was forced to alight from his car and walk into the compound on foot by the Hurras. This behavior infuriated the Sunni youths in Zaria who promptly attacked the compound and tore down the gate.  A spokesman for the movement Dr. Abdullahi Danladi states that Governor Yero was refused entry into the compound with his escorts “because of the caliber of people living in Gyellesu for security concerns”. Who lives in that compound that is more important than the governor of the state?. Your guess is as good as mine. In 2007, a fiery anti Shia cleric Umar Danshiya was assassinated in Sokoto by members of the Shia movement. This infuriated the authorities in Sokoto who promptly demolished the Islamic Center belonging to the Islamic Movement.

The Islamic Movement in Nigeria is quietly building a state within a state in Zaria. With a support base of 1,000,000 subscribers and supporters, it is a matter of time before they strike out like Hezbollah in Lebanon. In anticipation of when that time will come, Zakzaky has thoroughly compromised the Nigerian army, police and other security agencies. President Jonathan and army chief Ihejirika were correct when they stated that terrorists have infiltrated Nigeria's security agencies. In my opinion, they are more dangerous than Boko Haram. Hezbollah does not need individual Lebanese to carry arms to Nigeria when it has a competent surrogate that can handle the job. When it does, those arms will be going to the Shiite Islamic Movement in Nigeria and not Sunni Boko Haram.

On July 3, the Egyptian military forcefully removed the first democratically elected civilian president in Egypt. Mohammed Morsi was removed after a protracted demonstration against his regime by millions of frustrated Egyptians. The Defense Minister, General Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi had warned Morsi of the impending action if he does not find a timely and satisfactory solution to the differences with his opponents. Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood rode to power on the back of  a popular revolution that overthrew Egypt's long time tyrant, Hosni Mubarak.

Since Morsi and the brotherhood came to power under the Freedom and Justice Party platform, tensions have increased in Egyptian society. There has been increased strife between Christians and Muslims. Christians are terrified and are emigrating in large numbers to the United States and Europe. The plan of the Brotherhood was to drive all Christians out of Egypt as happened in Iraq after Saddam Hussein's overthrow. The economy was in a free fall because foreign investors were scarred to invest and wealthy Arab nations like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and The United Arab Emirates with held their financial assistance to Egypt. Tourists stayed away because of insecurity and uncertainty. Unemployment was skyrocketing

and prices of basic commodities were getting beyond the reach of the average citizen.

Moreover, Morsi was issuing bizarre decrees and gradually concentrating power in his hands, setting the stage for another dictatorship. Nobody knew how governmental decisions were made and transparency was thrown out of the window. The founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan Al Banna had articulated a one party theocracy for Egypt, millions of Egyptians were beginning to believe that Morsi and the Brotherhood were slowly dragging them towards Theocratic State. Egypt is an Islamic nation, but Egyptians do not want an Islamic or a theocratic state. In addition, Morsi was trying to drag Egypt into the Syrian quagmire, and the army was very nervous about that. Hence the stage for confrontation was set.

After all is said and done, strategic errors made by Morsi and the Brotherhood led to their down fall. First, as a civilian, Morsi should have avoided an early confrontation with the leadership of the army. The manner in which he removed Marshall Tantawi and the military leadership that handed over power to him did not sit well with the army. He should have left Tantawi as Minister of defense until he consolidates power. This is a consequence of inexperience and proved costly. Secondly, he promised to appoint a Christian as a Vice President but reneged on that promise. That alienated the Christian population and deepened the mistrust between Christians and Muslims.

Third, the moderate Gulf states led by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were not comfortable with a radical Brotherhood regime in Egypt and saw it as a threat to their own governments. Their reaction was to with hold economic assistance to Egypt, thereby exacerbating economic difficulties. Fourth, Morsi and the Brotherhood became too comfortable and failed to take a lesson from the past. In the 1940's, the British prevented the founder of the Brotherhood Hassan AL Banna from taking a seat in parliament after he was elected, and in the 1990's the Algerian army prevented an Islamic party from taking power after it won an election. This action led to a brutal civil war. Fifth, Morsi failed to learn that no far reaching social and political transformation can take place in a any country with the old order still in place. The army is always a representative of the old order. You cannot build a new order on the back of the old order.  The old order must be swept away. Allende in Chile and Mossadegh in Iran made the same mistakes and paid the price. Khomeini and the Mullahs in Iran learnt that lesson and are still in power.

Now that the deed has been done, what is next for Egypt?. The army has been careful to project its action as a “corrective action” backed by popular will, not a classic coup. It has quickly assembled a civilian caretaker government under the Presidency of Adly Mansour, a Mubarak era judge. In order to assure Egypt's friends in the United States and Europe, Mansour has appointed Mohammed el Baradei, former Chief of the Atomic Energy Commission as Vice President for foreign affairs. The Egyptian army receives about $1.5 billion from the United States annually and will lose this assistance if Washington sees the military action as a coup. However, the United States and other European nations are quietly sympathetic to the Egyptian army. The United States is going ahead to supply Egypt with the f-16 jets that were in the pipeline before Morsi's overthrow. Moreover, since Morsi's fall, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have pledged a sum of $12.1 billion dollars to the new regime. This is the money they withheld from the Brotherhood regime.

The dust has not yet settled in Egypt. The possibility of civil war in Egypt is real.  Brotherhood inspired Muslims are accusing Christians of being behind the overthrow of a Muslim ruler, and are instigating attacks on Christians. Unlike before, Christians have vowed to fight back. The Brotherhood have refused to join the Mansour caretaker government and may likely go underground and start a violent confrontation with the army. They are well organized and well armed. They have turned violent before under Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak and could do it again.

However, one thing is clear-majority of Egyptians are proud to belong to an Islamic nation but do not want a theocratic state.  And the Christian minority is glad that attempts by the Brotherhood to Iraqinize them have been prematurely aborted by the army. 

The Nigerian governors forum was formed in 1999 as a forum for the governors to supposedly discuss issues of mutual concerns to their various states and the country in general.  It has been reported that the governors used the the National Governors Association of the United States as a template. However, unlike  their counterparts in the United States, the Nigerian Governors elect their chairman and vice chairman for two year terms. The National Governors Association of the United States do not elect their chairs and vice chairs. It rotates automatically every year between the democrats and the republicans, thereby avoiding contentious elections and aggrandizement of power.

On May 24 this year, the Nigerian governors held their so called election for a new chair and vice chair. Governor Rotimi Amaechi of the Rivers state, who was the chairman ran again for the position. However, almost half of the governors-predominantly from his own party PDP- opposed  his desire for a second term and preferred Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State.  Amaechi reportedly had the support of 19 governors, while 16 were opposed to him.

The opposing governors led by Imoke of Cross River State, Mimiko of Ondo State, Obi of Anambra State, Uduaghan of Delta State and Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State, stated that they reached a consensus agreement to rotate the chair between the north and the south, and hence no need for an election. Since Amaechi is from the South and has already served for 2 years they reasoned, it is time to shift it to the North, hence the choice of Jonah Jang as chair (PDP-North) and Governor Mimiko (LP-South). However, Governor Amaechi and his own supporters insisted on having an election in which he claims to have been  re-elected to a second two year term. Since then, you have two competing factions of the NGF with no side in the typical Nigerian  fashion giving an inch.  It is noteworthy that despite his Igbo name-not trying to be sarcastic-no Igbo governor deemed it necessary to support or vote for him in the so called election. I guess since he and his Ikwerre folks said they are not Igbo, why bother. Okorocha was straddling the fence. Likewise, no governor from the South-South supported Governor Amaechi.

But why is Amaechi trying to cling on to the chairmanship after serving for two years. One wonders why a governor with infinite responsibilities to take care of in his state, will want the added distractions of this position. The simple answer is that the governors forum has taken a life of its own and become a center of opposition to the President, instead of been a forum for constructive discussions and problem solving amongst the governors.  Given Governor Amaechi's current political predicament vis a vis the Presidency, it is not difficult to see why he would want to cling to that position. Understandably, Amaechi has Presidential ambitions, but the forum should not be used as a lunch pad for actualizing such ambitions. The forum was created as an association of willing equals. There is nothing in the law or in the constitution that created the forum. Any governor is free to join or not to join. In this regard, the chairman should be seen as the coordinator of twelve triumvirates, a temporary primus inter pares and not as the boss or headmaster.

The governors know how to resolve this issue quickly, but most of them are grandstanding in order to create distractions from their own domestic problems and at the same time keep the Presidency unbalanced prior to 2015 elections. They have not taken the right roads which are-First, Amaechi should do the statesmanlike thing and resign as chairman. Second, Governor Jang should agree to serve for only one year and hand over to somebody else. Third, the Governors agree on automatic rotation of the chair and vice chair between North and South every year. This would remove the incentive for aggrandizement of power and at the same time ensure that every governor gets his or her turn as chair or vice chair. Fourth, the Governors should have their meetings at a neutral place, not at the lodge of the governor who happens to be the the chair as has been the case. Fifth, instead of trying to play the role of the federal legislature and executive, the forum should adopt a lower profile.  In the United States, few Americans know about the existence of the National Governors Association, despite the fact that it has been around for decades. This is because they focus on issues of common interests to their respective states, sensitize the president on their needs and avoid becoming a bastion of opposition to the federal government. The governors are elected  to govern their states, and not to become instrumentalities of Presidential destabilization.

As usual after giving  poor Nigerian folks high blood pressure with their shenanigans, most of these governors will jet out to Abu Dhabi and Dubai to spend some money, instead of going to Tinapa Resort in Cross River State where that money will help support Governor Imoke's tireless efforts to turn it into Africa's biggest resort. `

A few years ago, I led a delegation of clergy and lay persons to a meeting at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, New York. After I was introduced to speak, two well educated ladies walked up to me and asked, “where is Tennessee?”. I couldn't believe it. I was shocked, bewildered, baffled and amused at the same time. I responded to their question with a question. 'Are you serious or joking?'  They responded, “We are serious. We think it is probably in that part of the country where rednecks are still lynching folks and people walking bare footed”, they responded. I was incredulous to say the least. However, they are not alone in their negative perception of Nashville and Tennessee.

So where is Nashville and what makes it tick?. Set amid the gentle rolling hills and farmlands of central Tennessee, Nashville is the capital city of Tennessee. It was named after Charles Nash, a revolutionary war hero. Tennessee shares borders with Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Alabama Virginia, Mississippi, Missouri and Arkansas.  Tennessee has a population of about 6.5 million people and an area of land of about 41,217.12 square miles.

According to the 2010 census, Nashville has a population of 601,222(city proper), and 1,589,934  for the 13 county metro area.  It is the second largest city in Tennessee after Memphis.  Country music's founding city, Nashville is home to more than the Grand Ole Opry.  It is a major hub for health care, music, publishing and transportation industries.

Nashville  is the center of country music in the United States and is home to the famous Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame. Since 1925, Nashville's Grand Ole Opry has been the longest continuously running live radio broadcast in the world. The music industry is one of the largest employers in the city and a major engine for the tourist industry.

Nashville is the health care capital of the United States. It is home to more than 300 health care companies, including  HCA, the largest private operator of hospitals in the world. The health care business contributes over $30 billion a year to the Nashville economy and about 200,000 jobs. Over 30 well equipped first class hospitals are located within the Nashville metro area. These include Vanderbilt University Medical Center, St. Thomas Hospital, Centennial Medical Center, Southern Hills Medical Center, Vanderbilt Children's Hospital (the best in the world), Tennessee Christian Medical Center, Williamson Medical Center, Select Specialty Hospital, Veterans Administration Hospital, Skyline Medical Center, Stone Crest Medical Center, Bellevue Baptist Medical Center, Summit Medical Center, Middle Tennessee Medical Center, Parthenon Pavilion, Rolling Hills Hospital and Metro General Hospital. Vanderbilt's Ingram Cancer Center is one of the best in the country.

As the crossroads of American culture, Nashville has educational offers for everyone. Nashville is called the “Athens of the South” because of its high concentration of colleges and Universities. There are over 25 colleges and Universities  located within metropolitan Nashville. These include Vanderbilt University, Tennessee State University, Fisk University, David Lipscomb University, Nashville School of Law, Belmont University, Aquinas College, Nashville State Community College, Trevecca Nazarene University and Cumberland University. Meharry Medical College, which trains almost half of the African American physicians in the United States is also located in Nashville, as well as American Baptist College which is a mecca for church ministers. Meharry  is the best in the United States when it comes to tropical diseases as exists in Africa. The first President of Malawi, Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda was educated at Meharry. The first Black Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, Bishop Abel Muzorewa was also educated in Nashville. Over 75, 000 students are enrolled in colleges and Universities in the Nashville metro area.

Popularly known as the “protestant Vatican”,  Nashville has over 1,000 churches of all denominations. It is the headquarters of United Methodist Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, the National Baptist Convention, USA, the National Association of Free Will Baptists and Thomas Nelson Publishing, the world's largest producer of bibles. The American Baptist College, which specializes in training pastors is located in Nashville.

Nashville has been lauded as one of the best places to locate a business in the United States. Nissan North America has its largest North American assembly and manufacturing plant in metro Nashville, as well as the headquarters of Dell Computers and Dollar General Corporation. The largest hotel in the world-the 3,000 room Gaylord Opryland Entertainment and Amusement Center-is located in Nashville.  Other major corporations with headquarters in Nashville include Firestone(largest tire manufacturer in the world. Owns the huge rubber plantation in Liberia), Hospital Corporation of America (HCA)( largest operator of hospitals in the world), Shoneys, Captain D's, Genesco Shoe Company, Gibson Guitars Company (world's best known and respected maker of guitars), Ingram Industries(operates the largest fleet of barges in the world), Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) (largest private corrections company in the U.S) and Purity Dairies. Oak Ridge, the energy capital of the world is located a few miles from Nashville. Oak Ridge National played a major role in designing and assembling the first nuclear bombs dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

According to the 2010 census, the city is 60.5% White (56.3% non Hispanic White), 28.4% African American and 3.1% Asian. There are about 120,000 immigrants in metro Nashville. Of this number, 60,000 are Latinos, 25,000 Asians, 15,000 Africans( including 5,000 Somali refugees and 2,500 South Sudan refugees), and 11,000 Kurds (the largest concentration of Kurds in the United States). Nashville is now euphemistically called “little Kurdistan”, because of the large number of Kurds who were resettled here after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

Nigerians, Ghanaians, Kenyans, Liberians, Senegalese, Tanzanians and Sierra Leonians make up the remaining African contingent. However, the city pays more attention to Latinos and Asians, leaving Africans carrying the bag and the crumbs.

For those who want to visit Nashville, it is accessible by air, land and river. It has an international airport, which services all the major airlines.

The Caribbean has always been associated with fun, beaches and carnivals. But it is much more than that. It is not just a fun destination, but a vibrant business destination. The $20 billion tourist industry plays a big role in the Caribbean economy, but business travelers are also drawn by off shore finance and banking interests, pharmaceuticals and energy. The Caribbean is the third largest market for U.S. Exports in Latin America, behind Mexico and Brazil. Despite the upturn in the world economy, the Caribbean economies have proved resilient and expanded. The unprecedented infusion of Chinese funds have bolstered the Caribbean economies tremendously.

Economically, Trinidad and Tobago is head above all members of the 15 nation CARICOM group because it has the most advanced and diversified production structure in the region. It has a heavy industrial sector-machinery, steel, oil refining, methanol, etc and a light manufacturing sector-glass, batteries, air conditioning equipment. Currently, it is ranked the number one single site exporter of  ammonia and methanol in the world.

The Jamaican economy is dependent on services which account for nearly 65% of the GDP. Most foreign exchange is derived from tourism, remittances from abroad and bauxite/alumina. Remittances from the diaspora account for about 15% of the GDP.

In Belize, no sector of the economy is closed to foreign investors, but special permits and licenses are required for activities mostly reserved for Belize citizens-internal transportation, sugar cane cultivation, accounting and merchandising-may not be granted to foreigners. The govt also sells citizenship to those willing to pay from $35, 000 to $50, 000 for the honor. Priority areas of invest ment are agroindustries, food processing, tourism aquaculture and horticulture, light manufacturing and assembly plants.

With a population of about 60, 000 and a GDP of $661 million, St. Kitts and Nevis does not have a personal income tax. With one exception, foreign investments are not subject to any restrictions and foreign investors receive national treatment. The only restriction is to obtain an Alien Landholders License for foreign investors seeking to purchase property for residential or commercial purposes. Qualified companies enjoy full exemptions from taxes on corporate profits for up to 15 years. Priority sectors are tourism, financial services, information technology and agriculture.

Haiti continues to suffer from lack of investments, partly because of limited infrastructure and insecurity. The apparel sector accounts for 90% of Haitian exports and nearly one tenth of the GDP. Remittances from the diaspora are the primary source of foreign exchange and accounts for 20% of the GDP. And more than twice the earnings from exports. The new government has granted important concessions to new industries not competing with local production. Companies that locate outside metro Port Au Prince will receive 100% tax exemption for 5-15 years. Key sectors for investment include tourism, agribusiness, apparel, etc.

St Lucia has  significantly diversified its economic base in the last decade, by creating a light manufacturing base that includes metal sheeting, corrugated cardboard cartons, sporting goods and apparel. It has no income tax, no inheritance tax, no property tax and no capital gains tax. Investment sectors include manufacturing, tourism, international financial services, information and communication technology and agro processing.

Barbados, Bahamas, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada and St, Vincent and the Grenadines have investment sectors based on financial services, tourism, information technology and agriculture.

Which countries are the best and easiest to invest in?. According to the Wold Bank's Doing Business 2012,  ten CARICOM countries top the list of the best places to do business in the Caribbean. These are in descending order-St. Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Bahamas,  Barbados, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis and Belize.  According to the report, Trinidad and Tobago top the list in protecting investors, Jamaica is tops in starting a business, and St. Lucia is number one over all in doing business. Haiti was rated the worst among CARICOM  countries.

The criteria used in choosing these countries include, ease of starting a business, steady electricity, protecting investors, paying taxes, resolving insolvency, dealing with construction permits, employing workers, getting credit, registering property, enforcing contracts and trading across borders.

As an exporter, what kinds of  goods and products should I export?. Household consumer goods, building materials, computers, cosmetics, food processing and packaging equipments, drugs and pharmaceuticals, automotive parts and services and telecommunication equipments and services.

What are the language problems to be encountered?. Apart from Haiti and Suriname, all the CARICAM countries are English speaking.

African Caribbean Institute and allied organizations have been partnering Caribbean businesses with those in the United States and Africa and educating business persons on how to do business in the Caribbean.

In the past, most of the U.S. Business community regarded Black  Africa as the exclusive domain of the former European colonial masters. With the unprecedented economic and political changes that have taken place in the last decade, American investors have come to realize the vast potential of Africa as a place to invest. From Ethiopia's and Mozambique's impressive growth rate, to Rwanda's spectacular economic reforms, Africa is seeing a dramatic economic and political transformation. This trend is spurred by the emergence of better democratic governance, creating more trades than aids, improved business policies, a liberalized market oriented economy and improved infrastructure.

Today African economies are growing faster than any other part of the world. Of the ten fastest growing economies in the world, seven (7) are in Africa-Ethiopia, Tanzania, Mozambique, Ghana, Republic of the Congo, Zambia and Nigeria. International finance agencies predict that by 2018, Nigeria will be the biggest economy in Africa, instead of South Africa. By 2025, the Nigerian economy will hit the hit the one trillion dollar mark.  Over the past 6 years, Rwanda  has been rated as the second most reformed economy in the world after Georgia. Direct foreign investment in Africa for the year 2011/2012 totaled about $50 billion.

What do you need to know before embarking on a business venture to Africa?One of the first mistake people do is to see Africa as one entity, instead of about 53 different entities with different languages and culture. Most of these African countries, adopted the language and business culture of their former colonial masters. The Francophone countries like Ivory Coast, Gabon, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Mali have a different business culture from the Anglophone countries like Nigeria, Gambia, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, etc. On the other hand, the Lusophone countries like Angola, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau, and Cape Verde have a different business culture, while Equatorial Guinea has a Hispanic business culture. In addition to these, one has to understand and deal with the locallanguages and culture.

With all these complications and obstacles in mind, how does one navigate the African business terrain successfully?. First, you have to have an agent or adviser who understands the cultural nuances of the continent and has political connections.

Secondly, you have to show patience and take a long term view. Don't be in a hurry to sign a contract, because Africans generally take their time. Third, keep quite, listen and observe before offering an opinion. Fourth, don't complain publicly about anything-no water, electricity, bad roads, corruption, etc. Instead, confide in your close African Friend. Fifth, avoid conversations about politics and religion. Politics can get you detained or declared persona non grata, while religion will get you more unwanted enemies. Sixth, Keep the racial issue in the back burner. Race should not be an issue in interactions with Africans who tend to be color blind. Africans do not see the White man as “oppressor”, but instead as an outsider. Seventh, avoid using your left hand to eat or shake hands. Africans regard it as an insult to eat with your left hand or shake hands. The left hand is regarded as the “devil's hand”. Eight, never call anybody by their first name, unless specifically authorized. Always use Mr, Monsieur, Senor, Dr., Chief or whatever their honorific title is. Nine, the key to doing business and developing professional relationships in Africa is socializing. Socialize with the local people, because socialization builds the personal trust that is a prerequisite to doing business in Africa. Ten, confirm the bona fides of a potential business partner, in order to avoid been duped. Eleven, beware of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 which bars Americans doing business overseas from giving or receiving bribes.

What kind of  business opportunities are available for investors and exporters?. Although about 70% of  U.S. Business with Africa is in crude oil from  Angola, Nigeria, Gabon, Republic of the Congo and Equatorial Guinea, manufactured items head the list of exports to Africa. These include drilling equipments,  motor vehicle parts, computers, telecommunication products, construction machinery, aircraft and parts, household goods and agricultural machinery. Investors can invest in agriculture, tourism, mining of solid minerals, infrastructure, household goods, telecommunications, health care and education.

Which are the easiest countries to do business in and which are the best to invest in. The World Bank and IFC Doing Business 2012, lists 10 countries as the easiest to do business in. In descending order, these are 1. Mauritius, 2. South Africa 3. Rwanda  4. Botswana  5. Ghana  6. The Seychelles 7. Namibia 8. Zambia  9. Uganda

10. Kenya.  The World Bank used eleven criteria in choosing these countries. These are getting electricity, registering property, protecting investors, paying taxes, enforcing contracts, resolving insolvency, dealing with construction permits, startinga business and employing workers. However, being one of the easiest countries to do business, does not mean one of the best to invest in. The ten (10) best countries in Africa to invest in are South Africa, Nigeria, Angola, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Ghana, Botswana, Mauritius, and Kenya. These  countries have a stabilized democratic political climate, liberalized free market, potential market( large populations), huge domestic raw material base, abundant and inexpensive labor force.  Nigeria leads the continent with the number of newly registered companies yearly, with 70,000. South Africa comes second with 30,000 and Kenya comes third with 22, 000.The worst countries to do business in Africa, include Chad, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Liberia, Burkina Faso. It is significant that there are no Francophone countries on the list of the best places to do business or invest.

African Caribbean Institute of Nashville and allied organizations has been in the forefront of pushing for investments and exports to Africa and the Caribbean, by holding regular business seminars, workshops and lectures. Its program of partnering African and Caribbean businesses with those in the United States and Canada has become a model. It also provides technical assistance to small business wanting to dobusiness in Africa.

 

*Dr. Leonard Madu is President of  African Caribbean Institute and Chamber of Commerce. He is also a Fox TV analyst and writes from Nashville, Tennessee.

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Tuesday, 26 February 2013 01:10

Obama's Luo People

Since Barack Obama became President of the United States, interest has increased about the Luo people of Kenya and the other Luo speaking nationalities in general. So, who are the Luo people?

Of the over 42 ethnic groups that make up Kenya, the Luo are one of the most important. The Luo ethnic group is the third largest community in Kenya and makes up to 14% of the entire population. Also found in Uganda, Tanzania and Sudan, they are part of a larger group of ethnolinguistically related Luo peoples from South Sudan to Tanzania. They speak the Dholuo language. Luo speaking peoples include the Acholi of Uganda and South Sudan, and the Langi, Padhola and Alur of Uganda. There are about 12 sub groups within the Luo ethnic group. Although originally cattle herders, they have adopted fishing and subsistence agriculture.,

Culturally, the Luo are one of the few ethnic groups that do not circumcise their males as an initiation to manhood. Instead in Luo traditions, initiation involves the removal of six teeth from the lower jaw. Marriage is important to the Luo who traditionally practiced have polygamy. Men are allowed to marry up to five wives, though this is not common anymore. Bride price is negotiated and money and cattle are paid by the groom to the bridal parents. Also among the Luo, wife inheritance used to be common. If a man dies, one of his brothers or close relatives inherits his widow and must meet all of her marital inheritance. In the modern era, wife inheritance is slowly fading away. The incidence of HIV/AIDS has led to the promotion of circumcision among the Luo.

Like most ethnic groups in Kenya and Africa, the coming of the Europeans changed their religious beliefs. Most Luo consider themselves as Christians. Nevertheless, the spirits of of their ancestors play an important role in their spiritual beliefs. The Luo traditionally believe in after life and a supreme creator, whom they called Nyasaye. The first ritual in a Luo persons life is called Juogi, the naming ceremony. The child is supposed to assume some of the mannerisms of the ancestor he or she is named after. If the ancestor is quiet or talkative, he or she is supposed to acquire the same mannerisms.

The Luo ethnic group have been a major player in Kenyan political life since pre-colonial times. Unlike many other Kenyan ethnic groups, they did not have their land taken by the European settlers. Though they were not particularly prominent in the Mau Mau rebellion, they played an active part in Kenyan independence.  At independence, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, a Luo, became the first Vice President of Kenya, before falling out with President Jomo Kenyatta. Despite their prominence, the Luos have always felt marginalized and disenfranchised by the more numerous Kikuyu. In 1969, a prominent Luo politician, Tom Mboya was assassinated. Most Luos believe he was assassinated on the orders of President Kenyatta, who saw him as a potential presidential challenger. In the 1980's  another prominent Luo personality Robert Ouko, was also assassinated. Ouko was Foreign Minister of Kenya before he fell out with then President Daniel Arap Moi. Again, fingers were pointed at President Moi. The riots that broke out 2007 after the election of Nwai Kibaki(Kikuyu) over Raila Odinga (Luo), was part of the Luo frustration at feeling marginalized politically.

Some prominent Luo politicians include former Vice President,Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, former Minister of Economic Planning and Development,Tom Mboya, former Minister of Defence, Achieng Oneko, former Foreign Minister, Robert Ouko, current Prime Minister, Raila Odinga and Barack Obama, Sr. 

Sunday, 24 February 2013 10:19

Who are the Wolofs?

The Wolof are a very dark skinned, tall regal looking people who are very ethnocentric. They are found in Senegal, Gambia and Mauritania. They make up 44% of the population of Senegal, 16% in the Gambia and 8% in Mauritania. Although the Mandinka are 42% of Gambia's population, the Wolof language is spoken by most people, particularly in the capital Banjul. Wolof is the language of the Wolof people and and majority of non Wolof Senegalese speak Wolof. Overall, there are about 10 million Wolof speakers in Senegal, Gambia and Mauritania. Though still primarily an agrarian society, living in small villages, they hold disproportionate share of important positions in government and commerce. Wolofs are known to have played a very important role in the slave. As a result, some of the most important slave ports are in Senegal

The Wolof are famous for their hospitality. Called “teranga”, hospitality is one of the central values of  their culture and which any westerner living with them needs to emulate or risk been branded as a greedy person.

Majority of Wolofs are Muslims. Most of them are Sufis. About 90% of Wolofs are Muslims, 6% traditional African religion and 2% Christians. The Islam of the Wolof is very tolerant and emphasizes meditation and spirituality. Since the Wolof embraced Islam in the 10th century, it has been inseparable from Wolof culture. However, Wolof society is by far freer than most Muslim communities. Women are free to appear in public. One important feature of Wolof Islam is that it is centered around membership of one of the three main brotherhoods. About 30% belong to the Mourides, about 60% to the Tijaniya and 10% to the Qadiriyes. During the French colonial rule, the Brotherhoods were the means through which the Sufi form of Islam was spread. These Brotherhoods center around submission to spiritual guides or Marabouts. These guides then become the guarantors of salvation and the channel through which God's blessings flow.

Though orthodox Islam occupies a central place amongst Wolof's, “traditional” Islam, a syncretic mix of Sufi Islam and traditional African religion predominates .

Many of the pre-existing African religious practices have been given an Islamic dress. It is in traditional Islam where people deal with important issues of life, health, death and advancement in life.

The Wolof has been more affected by the West than other Senegalese ethnic groups, but they have the most highly developed sense of national unity than other groups in Senegal. In 1946, the Wolof of Senegal were awarded French citizenship and many Wolofs own homes in France. They are a major element of the civil service and play an important part in the political life of the country. They are highly urbanized and are dominant in such cities such as Dakar and St. Louis. They also dominate the retail trade in Senegal.

Culturally, clothing is very important to the Wolof who are style conscious. To a Wolof, what you wear says a lot about you. The Wolof are known to be trend setters in West Africa. They are driven by the need to maintain appearances, even if it means accumulating huge debts. The Wolof are also well known for the tradition of story telling, which is done by griots who have kept West African history alive for thousands of years through words and music. The griot profession is handed down from generation to generation and gives voice to generations of West African society.

The family unit is also very important to the Wolof. Many Wolof are also polygamous, but polygamy doesn't have to be considered natural to many of the Wolof who soon after obtaining a second wife, are divorced from their first.

There has been a long running insurgency in Senegal's Casmance region against supposedly Wolof domination. Since independence, most of Senegal's presidents have been Wolof. The election in 2012 of Macky Sall, a Tukolor, broke the trend.

Some prominent Wolof include  former Presidents  Abdoulaye Wade and Abdou Diouf and writer Cheikh Anta Diop. 

 

 

*Dr. Leonard Madu is President of the African Caribbean Institute of Nashville and African Chamber of Commerce. He is also a Fox TV foreign affairs analyst and writes from Nashville, TN.

There are three religious systems in Africa. Traditional African religions, Islam and Christianity. Before the arrival of Islam and Christianity, majority of Africans practiced traditional African religions, while Christians and Muslims were in the minority. Africa was the first continent into which Islam expanded from Arabia. In 639 AD, seven years after the death of Prophet Mohammed, the Arabs advanced towards Africa and reached the Horn of Africa, North Africa and the Maghreb region. It was not until the beginning of the 20th century that a massive Christian and Muslim expansion began, at the expense of traditional African beliefs. North Africa has more Muslims, while Black Africa has more Christians.

During the 20th century, almost 40% of Africans moved from traditional African religions to different shades of Christianity. This represents the largest religious movement that has occurred in history. Today, about 488,800,000 Africans are Christians or 47% of the population. Of this number, about 350,000,000 are Catholics. In 1902, there were about 1 million Catholics. Currently, Black Africa is home to about 21% of the world's Christians. It is reported that currently over 6 million Muslims are converting to Christianity every year in Africa.

Islam has also kept place with the Christian expansion in Africa. In 1900, there were about 11 million Muslims in Africa. Today there are over 421,900,000 Muslims in Africa, majority of them in North Africa. They presently constitute about 40% of the population. There are about 150,000,000 Muslims in Black Africa or 15% of the World's Muslims. Africa has the highest percentage of Muslims in the world-52%. It was easier for Islam to make inroads into Black Africa than Christianity, because it left the African way of life undisturbed, while Christianity did not.

Black Africa is one of the most religious places in the world. In sharp contrast to Europe, Russia and the United States, very few people in Africa are religiously unaffiliated. Atheism is seriously frowned upon. Africa is the only continent that harbors Christians and Muslims in almost equal numbers. In a sense, one can say that Islam is an Afro-Asian religion in that almost all Muslim nations are in Africa or in Asia. There are few Muslims in Albania, Kosovo, Bosnia and Russia. Christianity on the other hand can be said to be an Afro-Western religion in that most Christian nations are in Africa or in the Western world. Although there are millions of individual Christians in Asia, the Philippines can be said to be the only Christian nation in Asia. In this regard, Africa can be said to be the most ecumenical continent in the world. This ecumenism arises out of the capacity of traditional African religions to tolerate and accommodate alternative religious cultures. In most countries in Africa, few evidence of widespread anti- Christian or anti-Muslim hostility can be observed.

In the 1960s, when most countries in Europe, Asia and the Americas were still struggling to divorce religion from its politics, Africans were setting the trend. It should be remembered that the first President  of Senegal-an overwhelming Muslim nation-Leopold Senghor was a Christian intellectual. Gambia, Tanzania, and Burkina Faso, three nations that have a Muslim majorities saw no problems in electing  David Jawara, Julius Nyerere and Maurice Yameogo respectively as its first presidents.  All three were were Christians. Also, most African families are multi religious including mine. The father could be Muslim, the wife Catholic, the  daughter Baptist, the son Methodist, the brother Buddhist and the in laws traditional African religion. The late King Mutesa 11 of Uganda was a Christian, but his uncle and chief adviser, Prince Badru Kakungulu was a Muslim. Most Christians and Muslims still consult traditional religious healers, believe in jujus, observe African rituals and participate in events to honor their ancestors. The Yoruba ethnic group of Southwest Nigeria symbolize this religious tolerance to its core. Split evenly between Muslims and Christians, the Yorubas make no distinction whatsoever between both religions when it comes to their daily lives, and the accommodating powers of traditional African religion manifests itself more within this ethnic group than with any other group in Africa.

However, this is not to say that there are no tensions  between the two faiths  once in a while, but most of the time what appears to be religious strife on the surface, may indeed reflect another kind of strife underneath. The Boko Haram in Nigeria say they are fighting to install an Islamic state, but most Nigerians believe  it is a secret  political and ethnic movement wearing a religious garb. The conflict in Sudan was not between the Muslims and Christians as some people thought, but a conflict between the non Arabized Black Southern Sudanese on one hand, and the Arab and Arabized northern Sudanese on the other. In  Mali, the current rebellion by the Tuaregs has more to do with ethnicity than with religion. Though the rebellion has a religious connotation, it is an attempt by the Tuaregs to get a fair share of power now monopolized by the Bambara ethnic group. The opposition to Alassane Ouattara in the Ivory Coast was not because of his Muslim religious background as some people have insinuated, but because of his northern Dioula ethnicity. The Baoule's from the South see themselves as the natural rulers of the country, and thus they see  Ouattara as an interloper and outsider.

The conventional wisdom has been that Africans lack sensitivity and tolerance for people of other faiths and religions. Nothing can be further from the truth. Africa is an ecumenical continent, accommodating and tolerating religious pluralism. Africans are more likely to kill each other because of ethnicity, than religion. 

 

 

*Dr. Leonard Madu is President of the African Caribbean Institute and African Chamber of Commerce. He is also a Fox TV foreign affairs analyst and writes from Nashville, TN.

Friday, 18 January 2013 10:08

Who are the Sunnis and the Shiites?

In 622 AD, Mohammed founded the first Islamic State in Medina, a city in Saudi Arabia, north of Mecca. There are two branches of the religion he founded. Sunnis and Shiites. In the Christian world, it is similar to Catholics and Protestants. About 70-90 percent of Muslims are Sunnis, while about 10-20 percent are Shiites. 

Sunni is an Arabic word for followers-followers of Mohammed. Shiite came from Shiat-Ali “partisans of Ali”, after the Prophet's cousin and son in law whom they favored to be Caliph. In time, they became known as Shiite. 

Though they have differences, they also have commonalities. Both believe in the five pillars of Islam-daily prayers, fasting during Ramadan, alms giving, pilgrimage to Mecca, and belief in one unitary god. Both also believe in the Koran, praying in the direction of Mecca and observing the same dietary and general social restrictions. 

They also have differences. The Sunnis recognize the first four Caliphs as Mohammed’s successors. They recognize the heirs of the four Caliphs as legitimate religious leaders. These heirs have ruled continuously in the Arab world until the breakup of the Ottoman empire at the end of World War one.  Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey abolished the Caliphate in 1924. In contrast, the Shiites believe that only the heirs of the 4th Caliph, Ali, are legitimate successors of Mohammed. Another difference  concerns the Mahdi “the rightly guided one”, whose role is to bring a just global Caliphate into being. For the Shiites, the Mahdi has already been here and will return from hiding. Sunnis believe that the Mahdi is yet to emerge into history. Another difference is that the Shiites have a hierarchical structure of leadership like the Grand Ayatollahs, Ayatollahs, Hojatolislams, Mullahs, etc. The Sunnis don't have such a leadership structure. 

The Shiites are dominant in Iraq, Iran, Bahrain, Lebanon and Azerbaijan. They form the second largest sect in Pakistan. This area is known as the Shia Crescent. There are few Shiites in Nigeria, and they are concentrated in the town of Sokoto. However the Sunnis are dominant in the rest of the Islamic countries like Indonesia, Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Jordan, Niger, Algeria, Morocco, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Malaysia, the Comoros, Libya, Tunisia, Mali, Burkina Faso etc.  Majority of the Muslims in Nigeria, China and India are Sunnis.  It is important to note that India has more Muslims than the entire Arab world put together. There are about 177 million Muslims in India. Also with the exception of Egypt, Nigeria has more Muslims than any Arab country. There are about 70 million Muslims in Nigeria. 

A lot of the conflicts in the Middle East are fueled by the Sunni-Shiite conflict. The rebellion in Bahrain was led by the majority Shiites against a minority Sunni led govt. With the support of the United States, Saudi Arabia sent in troops to help the minority Sunni led government put down the insurrection. It is not in the interest of the United States for a Shiite  government to take power in Bahrain, because of the influence Iran will exert. 

The opposite is the case in Syria. The current rebellion in Syria is led by the majority Sunni population (90%) against a minority Alawite led government. The Alawites are an offshoot of Shiism. Iran which is a Shiite state, is a strong supporter of the Assad regime because of this religious connection. The United States and Saudi Arabia are supporting the Syrian opposition because of Iran's connection to the Assad regime. 

The Sunni Shiite divide also played a significant role in the Iran-Iraq war. With the exception of Syria-which has a Sunni majority but an Alawite minority government-all the majority Sunni countries supported Iraq, primarily because of the fear of Shiite expansion. Moreover, in Sunni dominated countries, the Iranian revolution was not seen as an Islamic revolution, but as a Shiite revolution, and therefore not welcome. Pakistan is currently experiencing a conflict between the sects. 

A lot of the Islamic terrorist groups also follow the divide. The Muslim Brotherhood is a Sunni organization, so also is Osama Bin Laden's Al Qaeda, as well as Hamas in Gaza and the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Hezbollah and Amal in Lebanon are Shiite dominated organizations.

 

Dr. Leonard Madu is President of the African Caribbean Institute and African Chamber of Commerce. He is also a Fox TV foreign affairs analyst and writes from Nashville, TN.

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