Special Report

The Next 100 Days: Positioning Africa At The Forefront Of The Biden Administration



On Wednesday, U.S. President Joe Biden was sworn into office, ushering in a new administration, new foreign policy and a new approach to U.S. trade and investment in Africa.

For its part, the Trump administration had not been short on growing U.S. private sector involvement in Africa, specifically under its trademark initiative, Prosper Africa.

Designed to strengthen bilateral trade and investment, the initiative was launched in 2019 and supported by the Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development (BUILD) Act.

Signed by former President Trump in 2018, the BUILD Act consolidated the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and USAID’s Development Credit Authority into the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), doubling the limit on investments from $29 billion under OPIC to $60 billion under the DFC.

Serving as a critical instrument of American foreign policy, the DFC aims to mobilize private investment in emerging markets and generate returns for American taxpayers.

Out of the $29.9 billion in active commitments globally, $8 billion has been directed to Africa alone, making it the second-largest recipient of investment following Latin America.

With a rapidly growing, increasingly urbanized population – and associated needs for energy and infrastructure development – the African continent should be at the forefront of a U.S. investment agenda, in terms of developing a mutually beneficial, long-term relationship characterized by sustainable energy development and cooperation.

Advocating for Natural Gas Abroad

The African natural gas value chain represents a critical avenue for foreign investment and export opportunities, including the creation of onshore U.S. manufacturing jobs.

The Total-operated Mozambique Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) project, for example, secured its largest share of senior debt financing from the U.S. Export-Import Bank, which aims to support U.S. exports for the development and construction of the LNG plant and create an estimated 16,700 American jobs over its five-year construction period.

In terms of U.S. LNG exports, the relative proximity of certain sub-Saharan markets to North America renders the cost of transporting U.S. LNG to the continent as 20-40 percent less than transporting it to North Asia.

As a result, the export market potential for U.S. companies looking to sell excess LNG supply to Africa – as a result of the country’s recent major investments in new liquefaction capacity – is substantial, coupled with Africa’s own large-scale energy needs.

As part of the Democratic Party platform, President Biden has targeted the elimination of billion-dollar oil and gas subsidies in the U.S. and called on other developed countries to do the same.

While the proposition is unlikely to pass U.S. Congress, it suggests that the Biden Administration may follow the likes of Europe, in terms of restricting fossil fuel investment and signaling its commitment to climate change action.

To date, U.S. oil majors (ExxonMobil, Chevron) have been less radical in their commitment to reducing carbon emissions and retooling investment strategies than their European counterparts (Total, Shell). If the U.S. can continue to lend support to gas development abroad – particularly in Africa, in which gas is positioned as a relatively clean burning fossil fuel able to deliver energy to scale – then it can cement its role as a leading provider of finance, infrastructure and technology to Africa’s energy transition.

Facilitating a Mutual Energy Transition

President Biden has been expectedly liberal in his stance toward a U.S. energy transition: in addition to once again committing the country to the Paris Agreement, he has pledged to transition the national economy to net-zero emissions by 2050, utilizing the revenues retained from subsidy cuts to fund a two-trillion-dollar climate action plan.

That said, U.S. support of renewables should not be limited to the domestic market, and if the country plans to increase its fund allocation toward stimulating green business, then Africa represents a worthwhile recipient.

The energy sector is already considered an investment priority by the DFC, attracting $10 billion in commitments to date.

In sub-Saharan Africa, total investment in power project development available to U.S. companies is estimated by Power Africa at $175 million.

Meanwhile, universal electricity access by 2030 will require the construction of more than 210,000 mini-grids, mostly solar hybrids, connecting 490 million people at an investment cost of almost $220 billion, according to the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program. U.S. renewable-focused firms are well-equipped to meet African demand for renewable investment, offering an influx of technology, flexible capital and technical expertise, coupled with a free-market competition approach and reduced barriers to entry.

In addition to attracting external investment to reach continent-wide clean electrification goals, Africa is rich in minerals needed to fast-track the U.S. along its own energy transition.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, is estimated to contain one million tons of lithium resources and is a global leader in the production of cobalt, copper, tantalum and tin.

Such minerals are required to meet growing market demand for ‘green’ batteries that have the capacity to fuel U.S. clean energy by powering carbon-free grids, electric vehicles and green technologies.

Countering Chinese Influence

In terms of foreign policy, enhanced U.S. presence in Africa represents a strategic counter to Chinese influence, in the midst of an ongoing trade war between the two economic superpowers.

The DFC offers a dynamic alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which has faced criticism due to its debt-heavy approach targeting government-to-government financing, along with its procurement to Chinese – and not African – firms and state-owned enterprises for the development of large-scale infrastructure projects. Criticism aside, China has been able to successfully extend its influence across the Global South because of the financial backing it receives from its government.

Public sector support serves to alleviate perceived risk by providing a governmental vote of confidence – which the DFC has sought to do through reinsurance models that boost underwriting capacities and guarantees on behalf of American exports and contractors.

Political risk insurance also seeks to protect U.S. investments against risk associated with currency exchange, expropriation, foreign government interference and breach of contract.

As it stands, bilateral trade between the U.S. and Africa is – for lack of a better word – underwhelming, decreasing from $31.3 billion in the first six months of 2019 to a paltry $12.7 billion over the same period in 2020.

Last July, the U.S. began negotiations with Kenya over a free trade agreement targeting duty-free access for Kenyan goods to the U.S. market. If an agreement is reached – and it appears unlikely, given President Biden’s proclivity for multilateralism and his anticipated prioritization of the African Continental Free Trade Area – it could serve as a trading model for other sub-Saharan countries and to enhance commercial engagements.

In short, the pieces of the puzzle for U.S. private sector-led growth in Africa are there; it is now up to the Biden Administration to put them together.

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She Was Demoted, Doubted And Rejected. Now, Her Work Is The Basis Of The Covid-19 Vaccine




(CNN)Covid-19 vaccines are starting to roll out in several countries, a momentous breakthrough that hopefully signals a light at the end of this dark pandemic. For Katalin Karikó, the moment is particularly special.

Karikó has spent decades of her career researching the therapeutic possibilities of mRNA, a component of DNA that is considered to be one of the main building blocks of life.

Through multiple setbacks, job losses, doubt and a transatlantic move, Karikó stood by her conviction: That mRNA could be used for something truly groundbreaking. Now, that work is the basis of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Karikó, 65, began her career in her native Hungary in the 1970s, when mRNA research was new and the possibilities seemed endless. But the call of the American dream (and more researching and funding opportunities) took root.

In 1985, she and her husband and young daughter left Hungary for the US after she got an invitation from Temple University in Philadelphia.

They sold their car, Karikó told The Guardian, and stuffed the money — an equivalent of about $1,200 — in their daughter’s teddy bear for safekeeping.

“We had just moved into our new apartment, our daughter was 2 years old, everything was so good, we were happy,” Karikó told the Hungarian news site G7 of her family’s departure. “But we had to go.”

She continued her research at Temple, and then at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine. But by then, the bloom was off the rose of mRNA research, and Karikó’s idea that it could be used to fight disease was deemed too radical, too financially risky to fund. She applied for grant after grant, but kept getting rejections, and in 1995, she was demoted from her position at UPenn. She also was diagnosed with cancer around the same time.

“Usually, at that point, people just say goodbye and leave because it’s so horrible,” she told Stat, a health news site, in November. “I thought of going somewhere else, or doing something else. I also thought maybe I’m not good enough, not smart enough.”

From doubt to breakthrough

But she stuck with it.

Eventually, Karikó and her former colleague at the University of Pennsylvania, Drew Weissman, developed a method of utilizing synthetic mRNA to fight disease that involves changing the way the body produces virus-fighting material, she explained on CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time.”

That discovery is now the basis of the Covid-19 vaccine, and some have said both Weissman and Karikó, now a senior vice president of the Germany-based BioNTech, deserve a Nobel Prize.

“If anyone asks me whom to vote for some day down the line, I would put them front and center,” Derek Rossi, one of the founders of pharmaceutical giant Moderna, told Stat. “That fundamental discovery is going to go into medicines that help the world.”

While recognition, after all of this time, must be nice, Karikó says scientific glory isn’t what’s on her mind right now.

“Really, we will celebrate when this human suffering is over, when the hardship and all of this terrible time will end, and hopefully in the summer when we will forget about virus and vaccine. And then I will be really celebrating,” she told CNN’s Chris Cuomo.

Karikó said she plans to get the vaccine soon, along with Weissman, and she said she’s “very, very confident” it will work. After all, it was their discoveries that contributed to it.

In the meantime, Karikó said she allowed herself a little treat to celebrate the vaccine news: a bag of Goobers, her favorite candy.

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Special Report

How Israel Airforce Can Attack 3000 Targets in 24hours



On Tuesday at noon, something absolutely wrong happened- an Israeli jet fighter was shot down by the Hezbollah in neighbouring Lebanon. The Israelis summoned all their airpower might into action.

In a simulated situation, the entire air force is scrambled to participate in a broad offensive against Lebanon, including attacks against infrastructure such as bridges, power plants and airports spanning 24 hours.

During the drill, the IAF proved its ability to strike at 3,000 Hezbollah targets within a 24-hour period.

“We practiced defending Israel’s skies against cruise missiles and operating our active [aerial] defense system against the rockets that they will want to use to target air force bases and densely populated areas,” a senior IAF officer said.

“We practiced attacking high-value targets in quantities in a way we never did before,” the officer added. “It was 24 hours with more than 3,000 targets attacked, causing severe damage to the operations of the enemy.”

Despite the limitations imposed by the covid-19 pandemic, about 85% of IAF personnel participated in the exercise, which involved all branches, including technicians, ammunition officers and reservists, who were called up to participate.

One of the main tasks simulated was achieving air superiority over Lebanon. This was achieved by destroying all elements that could threaten Israeli aircraft, including antiaircraft launchers, especially in southern Lebanon and Beirut, where Hezbollah has its headquarters.

Two weeks ago, Hezbollah tried to shoot down an IAF drone over Lebanon. The surface-to-air missile missed, and the drone continued its reconnaissance mission, the IDF said at the time.

While the drill focused on Hezbollah and Lebanon, the IAF considers the North as a single front and understands that Hezbollah also operates in Syria and that Iran is present throughout what is referred to as the “Shi’ite Crescent,” spanning Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, the senior officer said.

“We look even further east, but we operate there only in response to [incidents],” he said. Lt.-Col. S., commander of the 201st Squadron that flies the F-16I and participated in the drill, told local media his unit practiced a wide range of missions, including collecting intelligence and using many types of munitions in attacking multiple targets.

“This drill demonstrated a response to a mistake the other side made,” he said. “It shows the enemy what the air force will do in response to an attack on a fighter jet.”

During the 60 hours of the exercise, the entire staff of the squadron, including pilots and technicians, practiced loading and unloading different types of munitions onto and off of their fighter jets, all of which participated in the drill, S. said.

“We’re talking here about lifting munitions weighing tons… We basically did everything we will do in a war, except actually flying to the operational area, and dropping the bombs,” he said.

Another aspect of the exercise was getting the participants into the mood of the drill and hoping that reservists, who are considered a vital element in the air force, drop their day-to-day lives and attend.

“On Sunday morning we got the call that the drill is starting,” S. said. “It caught us by surprise. We changed all our plans and started operating in war mode.” “People who planned to be with their loved ones on Valentine’s Day had to cancel the plans,” he said.

“Our reservists who planned on going to work on Sunday and Monday had to call their bosses or their colleagues and tell them they couldn’t come.”

“But above all, it was a mental exercise,” S. said. “Just after the lockdown and the uncertainty, people understood that this is what they have to do, and they attended the drill.”


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Special Report

World War II Veteran Denied ‘Kagame Cow’



Epimaque Ngashotsi aged 101 is one of the few living distinguished Rwandans that have a remarkable contribution to Rwanda’s liberation and the defeat of the Nazi regime in Germany. Taarifa visited him for a casual conversation.

The 2-meter-tall World War II veteran and Inyenzi fighter with an acute memory, now lives a humble life with his two granddaughters in remote Kamamesa village in Gatsibo district.

“I was born in 1920 at Gahini village part of present day Kayonza district,” Nyagashotsi told Taarifa from the comfort of his home on a Sunday afternoon.

Growing up through an entire century, Nyagashotsi says that his main food has been beans, potatoes, sorghum bread and large amounts of milk.

In 1941, Nyagashotsi was a very energetic young man and vividly remembers when he was enlisted into Britain’s colonial King’s African Rifles under the 7th Battalion. He was sent to Nairobi, Kenya for World War II- a conflict that involved virtually every part of the world during 1939–45.

Nyagashotsi was fighting on the side of Britain against a tyrannical Adolph Hitler of Nazi Germany that sought to conquer the world.

At the end of World War II, Nyagashotsi was decorated with a service medal and returned to Rwanda.

The World War II veteran married in 1952 and later had his first child- a girl in 1953. He was hard working and had managed to raise 50 cows.

From 1959 to 1961, the situation in Rwanda was tense with extreme ethnic violence targeting the Tutsi- some political analysts describe the period as a Social Revolution which saw the country transition from a Belgian colony and a monarch to an independent republic.

The revolution began in November 1959, with a series of riots and arson attacks on Tutsi homes and forcing hundreds of thousands into exile.

Nyagashotsi remembers that Parmehutu militia wrecked havoc across the country as they hounded every Tutsi they came across.

A helicopter hovered over villages and dropped match boxes so that the Parmehutu militia would set ablaze homes of Tutsi families.

“My house was burnt, cows looted and eaten by Parmehutu militia,” he says, adding that he fled immediately and crossed to Uganda just like other 336,000 Tutsi that fled to neighbouring countries and living there as refugees.

Exiled Tutsi refugees restless for an immediate return to Rwanda, were split between those seeking negotiation and those wishing to overthrow the new regime.

“I was bitter that the extremists had grabbed the country from us. I was determined to fight and rescue my country from the extremists,” Nyagashotsi sharply recounts the tense period that saw pooling of exiled refugees leading to the creation of an armed militia known as ‘Inyenzi‘.

In late 1963, the Inyezi launched an attack that approached the capital Kigali. The extremist Parmehutu government fought back and defeated these rebels and killed thousands of the remaining Tutsi in Rwanda. The defeated rebels retreated into Uganda and there was no more threat.

“King Kigeli V Ndahindurwa found us at Kazinga and told us that we were not strong enough for a fight against the government forces. He told us to instead train the youth and mobilise them to liberate their country,” Nyagashotsi explains adding that he actively took part in the attacks against government but were defeated because of poor weapons and lack of war skills.

Indeed in the 1990’s refugee youths grouped under the Rwanda Patriotic Front/Army attacked and forced the government into negotiations. But inside the country, a genocide against the Tutsi was being executed leading to the killing of more than a million Tutsi before RPF took control and stopped the Genocide in 1994.

The King’s African Rifles (KAR) was a multi-battalion British colonial regiment raised from Britain’s various possessions in East Africa from 1902 until independence in the 1960s. It performed both military and internal security functions within the colonial territories, and served outside these territories during the World Wars.

A message to President Paul Kagame

The war hero is full of words of wisdom. He also has a message for the president.

“I would thank him very much for his leadership. I fought for this country, am an old man now and am very poor. You should come to my rescue. This is what I would tell President Kagame,” Nyagashotsi noted.

Nyagashotsi was listed by local authorities among those that would benefit from the one-cow-per family program. He has never received this cow and thus feels devastated.

He told Taarifa that local leaders in his area have repeatedly blocked him from accessing the cow. “My village leader asked for Rwf2,000 to get me the cow. He told me other beneficiaries give him about Rwf20,000 to Rwf50,000 to be put on the list. I refused and told him that in my entire life I have never given or received a bribe.”

With this back and forth chase to get a ‘Kagame cow’ as he calls it, Nyagashotsi is angry at his local leaders, “there is a problem of local leaders, I don’t know whether they have a different government.”

Referring to a parcel of documents, Nyagashotsi says that he has been among those listed for VUP direct financial support from government. VUP is an Integrated Local Development Program to Accelerate Poverty Eradication, Rural Growth, and Social Protection.

“I kept walking about 5 kilometres to the Sector office but was told someone else receives my cash. I complained and one day was given Rwf10,000 and the sector officials promised to remove the person (a wife of our village (mudugudu) leader) and replace my name.”

A bitter Nyagashotsi said nothing was done and nowadays receives nothing, “I have given up on the VUP money and I wish the president may help me one day. I can’t keep walking many kilometers to ask for this money because am now an old man.”

Nyagashotsi Epimaque is a decorated World War II soldier, his medal was burnt in his house by Parmehutu militia in 1959

Patriotism and youth

Nyagashotsi is concerned that the Rwandan youth are reckless and should mind their health. “They are consuming too much crude alcoholic concoctions which affects their health. They need to regulate and eat health food and change their behaviour.”

According to this WW II veteran, the Rwandan youth should consider enlisting in the army to ensure that they guard the country and the progress achieved, “I don’t regret fighting for this country and also mobilized my sons to join the liberation struggle,” Nyagashotsi advises the youth to love their country and be ready to defend it.

Comparing the Rwanda in the early 50s and today, Nyagashotsi could not hide his emotions because for him Rwanda today is “paradizo” (paradise), “in our past, Rwanda was very backward and underdeveloped including violence. Today, we are very safe and the country has greatly developed.”

While, in Uganda, Nyagashotsi was working at Kigungu landing site in Entebbe on the shores of Lake Victoria- One day President Field Marshal Idi Amin had driven to the site sandwiched by ruthless commandoes. Amin noticed a very tall Nyagashotsi and recognized him because they had all served in the 7th battalion of Britain’s colonial King’s African Rifles.

“Here is a real soldier and my comrade we served together in the KAR in Kenya,” Amin said as he quickly approached Nyagashotsi and hugged him twice and exchanged pleasantries.

“Amin gave me Shs50,000 (aprox U$7000) it was allot of money and was really grateful that the President recognized me,” Nyagashotsi remembers.

Below: Watch full-length video conversation with the centurion Nyagashotsi.

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