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A serious case of “Rub Kondo Fat” – Part 1

A serious case of “Rub Kondo Fat” – Part 1 thumbnail

Should the people of Sierra Leone Rejoice Unreservedly, or be a bit Worried? – We have come a long way, I was Secretary of  the National Association of Sierra Leone Organisations (NASLO) (UK) during the dark days of our civil conflict, and also Vice Chairman of the original Anglo Sierra Leone Chamber of Commerce, as we struggled to engage the British Government, and any  interested Business people, and investors in our country at that difficult time.  So, it was recently pleasing to hear a British Government Minister pledge their support of a revived Anglo Sierra Leone British Chamber of Commerce, and to note the impressive strides made by our present Leader, President Ernest Bai Koroma, and his dynamic First Lady Sia on our economic rebirth.  (Photo: Squadron Leader Winston Forde RAF Ret’d, author)

I have decided to write more than just a single article on national matters during this election year as this is going to be “Work in Progress” for some years to come as we catch up on the past lost 50 years, so I feel it would be sensible to stake out my back yard at the start.  A lot always depends on perceptions, and misconceptions if not misrepresentations,  and the  potential for confusion leading to lethargy is immense.  We must, therefore, agree on what we mean when we use certain phrases or we would not be singing from the same hymn sheet.  So I shall start with some definitions of basic if fundamental phrases, and concepts.

Lets start with poverty as Sierra leone is for ever being trumpeted as one of the World’s poorest countries.  The question must be, “Is it the country, or it’s people that are the poorest?”   When I read my book “The Story of Mining in Sierra Leone by Winston Forde”* I am very conscious that the country is not that poor, by any means!  The definition of poverty can vary. The United Nations: Fundamentally, poverty is a denial of choices and opportunities, a violation of human dignity. It means lack of basic capacity to participate effectively in society. It means not having enough to feed and clothe a family, not having a school or clinic to go to, not having the land on which to grow one’s food or a job to earn one’s living, not having access to credit. It means insecurity, powerlessness and exclusion of individuals, households and communities. It means susceptibility to violence, and it often implies living in marginal or fragile environments, without access to clean water or sanitation.  Whereas The World Bank believes that poverty is pronounced deprivation in well-being, and comprises many dimensions. It includes low incomes and the inability to acquire the basic goods and services necessary for survival with dignity. Poverty also encompasses low levels of health and education, poor access to clean water and sanitation, inadequate physical security, lack of voice, and insufficient capacity and opportunity to better one’s life.

As an added complication, different countries apply their own definition of poverty.  So, in the UK, one in five British children think that not owning a mobile phone is a sign of being poor whilst in Housing, a family is deemed to be poor unless each child has its own bed room.  On the other hand, in the USA, poverty is defined as a state of privation, and a lack of necessities, and is also defined as the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions.  For example, the poverty level of 2011 was set at $22, 350 (total yearly income) for a family of four.

*           Http://www.winstonfordebooks.com or via Amazon.co.uk

To put things in even firmer context, the rankings below were published in the United Nation’s 2010 Human Development Report and reflect the countries with the lowest human development.

1. Zimbabwe 22. Tanzania (United Republic of)
2. Congo (Democratic Republic of the) 23. Djibouti
3. Niger 24. Angola
4. Burundi 25. Haiti
5. Mozambique 26. Senegal
6. Guinea-Bissau 27. Uganda
7. Chad 28. Nigeria
8. Liberia 29. Lesotho
9. Burkina Faso 30. Comoros
10. Mali 31. Togo
11. Central African Republic 32. Nepal
12. Sierra Leone 33. Papua New Guinea
13. Ethiopia 34. Mauritania
14. Guinea 35. Madagascar
15. Afghanistan 36. Benin
16. Sudan 37. Yemen
17. Malawi 38. Myanmar
18. Rwanda 39. Cameroon
19. Gambia 40. Ghana
20. Zambia 41. Bangladesh
21. Côte d’lvoire 42. Kenya

Since 1970, there has been encouraging news emerging from developing countries. According to the UN’s 2010 Human Development Report, life expectancy in developing countries has increased from 59 years in 1970 to 70 years in 2010. School enrolment climbed from 55% to 70% of all primary and secondary school-age children. Also, in the last forty years, per capita GDP doubled to more than ten thousand U.S. dollars.

The World’s average Human Development Index (HDI), which combines information on life expectancy, schooling and income, has increased 19% since 1990 (and 41% since 1970). This reflects large improvements in life expectancy, school enrolment, literacy, and income. Almost every country has benefited from this progress. Only three countries have a lower HDI in 2010 than in 1970. Those three countries are Zimbabwe, Zambia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Poor countries are catching up with the wealthier countries, but not all countries made fast progress. For example, the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have progressed slowly, largely due to the HIV epidemic. Countries in the former Soviet Union have been held back by an increase in adult mortality.

To illustrate the income inequality between rich and poor countries, consider these facts: about 1.75 billion people live in multi-dimensional poverty, meaning extreme deprivation in education, health, and standard of living; 1.44 billion people out of the developing world’s 6.9 billion people live on $1.25 per day; 2.6 billion people are estimated to be living on less than $2 a day. Multidimensional poverty varies by region from three percent in Europe and Central Asia to 65% in Sub-Saharan Africa. To put Sierra Leone in the context of these horrific figures, our population stands at a mere 6 million people, hardly the billions mentioned who are living in such poverty.

Next I turn to what we mean when we describe regions or countries of the World.  For some decades the World was divided into “the Western countries (The West),”  Developing countries, under developed countries, and it was always debatable who belonged to which category.  Then there was China, Soviet Union, Russia, The European Union (with different countries taking part in the European Song Contest), The Arab countries, and Israel.  As The West faces another structural change with the declining years of the USA, and we witness the gradual appearance of China as the next World leading power, Africa is slowly emerging as a force to be reckoned with, as never before; indeed our time as World leader is yet to come.  But, alas, we have some confusion as to the identity of the true Africa.  To most, including the British Foreign Secretary who recently suggested the late Col Gadafi could flee his country to Africa as they debated his make belief future, Algeria, Libya, and Egypt are somehow not part of Africa.  Thus we have to refer to “Africa south of the Sahara” without really including South Africa in that lot, at least until they became the new rainbow Sate.  So we have a problem; when we say Africa, or Africans, what do we have in mind?  There are 54 fully recognised states in Africa, all of whom are members of the United Nations, and all except Morocco are members of the African Union; 9 non-sovereign territories plus 7 areas administered as separate parts of primary non African states.  A massive total of 841 627 750 people live in African countries speaking at least 3000 languages.   So one has to be quite judicious in attempting to label an organisation covering just 3 countries with some 16 million people only as embracing Africa.

One of the great success stories already rising out of Africa must bring much pride and hope to all of us for the future of our continent, and people.  The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) is an Africa-based and African-funded not-for-profit institution dedicated to the promotion and celebration of excellence in business leadership and entrepreneurship across Africa.  As a 21st century catalytic philanthropy, the Foundation is committed to the economic transformation of Africa by enhancing the competitiveness and growth of the African private sector. Founded in 2010 by Tony O. Elumelu, MFR, the Foundation identifies and addresses systemic challenges that inhibit African entrepreneurs.  “Africa has enjoyed the philanthropic investment of groups like the Rockefeller Foundation and is grateful,” said Founder Tony O. Elumelu, MFR, earlier this year in an interview. “Now it is time for Africans and African businesses to rise to the challenge.  Nobody is going to develop Africa except us.”  The Foundation brought together the first cohort for its African Markets Internship Programme (AMIP), which places students from Africa’s top business schools and top-tier business schools in Europe and the United States in highly structured programs at African companies in Accra, Lagos, and Nairobi. The Foundation has also partnered with the Association of African Business Schools to launch the African Management Initiative (AMI), an effort focused on substantially increasing investments in management education across Africa.

So, who is Tony Elumelu?  He was born in Jos, Nigeria, in 1963. He has two degrees in Economics from Nigerian schools. His Bachelor degree was from the Bendel State University and he has a Master of Science degree also in Economics from the University of Lagos. He is an alumnus of Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Programme. Tony Elumelu married Awele V. Elumelu, a medical doctor, in 1993 and has five daughters. He has four siblings including Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, a member of the Nigerian Federal House of Representatives.  Armed with such potent education, Elumelu began his professional banking career in 1985. He founded BGL Limited; an asset management company and became the pioneer Chief Executive Officer.  In 1997, he led a group of investors and turn-around experts to reposition the then distressed Crystal Bank into Standard Trust Bank.  In 2005, he led the acquisition and subsequent merger of the smaller Standard Trust Bank with the old United Bank for Africa (UBA). This acquisition by a smaller company was a first in the African sub-region. The integration was also done remarkably, in record time. He conceived of, and executed UBA’s 3 tier approach to financial sector dominance in Africa. He was the mastermind behind UBA’s spread to 20 African countries and expansions in the United States of America, the United Kingdom and France.  With him at the helm, the bank got an ‘A’ rating in the annual rating of banks worldwide with an estimated brand value of US$322 million and a listing as one of Africa’s 40 fastest growing companies (the African Challengers) in 2010 by the Boston Consulting Group.  He retired from UBA in August 2010 following a Central Bank of Nigeria limitation on CEO tenure.  With such a performance record he was an attractive CEO for the Banking Sector of the West.  But he stayed put in Africa, and founded the African proprietary investment company Heirs Holdings, after his retirement from United Bank for Africa. The company states its investment policy as being targeted at opportunities that will create economic prosperity and social wealth in Africa. Heirs Holdings is a long-term investor and is characterised by its deployment of patient capital.  The company’s favoured investment sectors are financial services, health care, infrastructure, real estate & hospitality, agriculture, and oil & gas. In 2011, Heirs Holdings gained a controlling interest in the Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc, a conglomerate that operates in the Energy, Agribusiness and Hospitality sectors.

Tony Elumelu has a distinctive Philosophy.  He is the originator of the term Africapitalism.  According to him, Africapitalism is an economic philosophy that embodies the private sector’s commitment to the economic transformation of Africa through long-term investments that create both economic prosperity and social wealth. Elumelu sees Africans taking charge of the value-adding sectors and ensuring that those value-added processes happen in Africa, not through nationalisation or government policies, but because there is a generation of private sector entrepreneurs who have the vision, the tools and the opportunity to shape the destiny of the continent. He insists that Africapitalism is not capitalism with an African twist; it is a rallying cry for empowering the private sector to drive Africa’s economic and social growth.  Above all, he subscribes to Michael Porter’s concept of Creating Shared Value (CSV). He studied under Professor Porter at Harvard Business School and Professor Porter is the Founding Patron of The Tony Elumelu Foundation. CSV refers to the idea that “companies must take the lead in bringing business and society back together.” It asserts that “businesses acting as businesses, not as charitable donors, are the most powerful force for addressing the pressing issues (society) face(s).”

Finally, in recognition of his achievements, and worth, in 2003, the Federal Government of Nigeria granted Tony Elumelu the title of Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR), a national honour.  In 2006, Elumelu was voted African Business Leader of The Year by the Africa Investor magazine and was recognised African Banker of the Year in 2008 by the African Banker magazine.  In 2009, the Nigerian President Umaru Musa Yar’adua asked him to serve on the Presidential Committee on the Global Financial Crisis.  He was awarded an honorary doctorate of science degree from the Benue State University and an honorary doctorate of business administration from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

I am particularly struck by the appointments made by this great son of Africa of those entrusted to manage his affairs.  Because he has enjoyed living in a country with such high Educational resources, and believes in Africans providing the answers to our future development ourselves he has put together a commendable team of Africans with an appropriately qualified international CEO, Dr. Wiebe Boer responsible for day-to-day operations, strategy development and execution of the Foundation.  Dr. Wiebe Boer, formerly Associate Director at the Rockefeller Foundation, one of the world’s leading charitable organisations with more than 90 years of commitment to Africa. His vision is for The Tony Elumelu Foundation to be a benchmark for 21st Century African philanthropy. The focus of Dr. Boer’s work in Africa has included impact investing, climate change, agricultural development, China’s engagement with Africa, and impact outsourcing. He joined the Rockefeller Foundation in 2008 after three years as a consultant with McKinsey & Company. He helped the government of Kenya develop a long-term economic development strategy. He also spent several years in Mauritania managing a USAID-funded food aid development project for World Vision. Born and raised in Jos, Nigeria, Dr. Boer earned his doctorate in history at Yale University and undergraduate degree at Calvin College, Michigan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA.

His Policy and Partnerships Manager, Serah Makka leads the foundation’s policy and advocacy engagement strategy and implementation.  The Research & Programmes Associate is Efe Odeleye who executes the foundation’s initiatives in the Leadership Development portfolio.  Dipo Adeoye oversees the Foundation’s impact investing portfolio and projects;Charles Anyanwu provides operational support with a leading role in executing the Leadership Development Department’s flagship program, AMIP, and managing the Foundation’s grants portfolio.  Finally, Ayodeji Balogun comes to the Foundation with experience as an entrepreneur and he has also spent some time as an analyst with Unilever Nigeria Plc. and Doreo Partners – an agricultural consulting firm.  I especially draw attention to this formidable staff of highly qualified Africans (all from south of the Sahara!) with a good understanding of their people and their needs to which I shall return in a later article.

It should prove helpful to also examine the subject of War that has informed Military Studies throughout the ages.  Wars have been started in many varied peculiar ways and for diverse reasons, prosecuted in sliding degrees of brutality, and ended in questionable ways, and circumstances in a host of theatres.  Indeed, it is not always so clear who started it, and who was responsible for ending it, and so the debate has persisted as to whether the Americans were responsible for ending World War II!  We do not have that many volumes that have examined the Sierra Leone conflict lasting from March 1991 to disarmament, and demobilisation by 2002, no analysis of the campaigns or the military tactics used on both sides, and no significant recognition of those who were sent to serve on UNAMSIL or the ECMOG Forces of ECOWAS, or the work of UNIOSIL that facilitated free and fair Elections in 2007.

We are even at a risk of forgetting what the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan did via some 17 500 UN Forces to support that War, General Kobi, and the brave soldiers from Nigeria who fought and died for our country, and liberated Freetown with hardly any colateral damage that could have made our recovery so much worse, and slower if nly he culd have commanded added logistical support when needed.  Generals win wars that politicians may have instigated.  Who really was responsible for the liberation of Sierra Leone?  Why should any individual continue to take that praise at every remote opportunity as a single act of delivery?

These then are the main parameters, and given upon which I hope to predicate my later articles in what should be seen as a series of linked thoughts. So until then, when we shall actually discuss the concept of “Kondo fat”, ar dae cam!

By Squadron Leader Winston Forde RAF Ret’d

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