Thursday, May 26, 2011

Coining the Acronym BRICA – Adding Africa's Name to World Regions & Economies in Economic Boom!

A FEEEDS® Series Blogspot (

We have all heard it! We have all read about it! Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) is in an economic boom, so let’s recognize it as so! Thus, FEEEDS® is coining today, on May 25, 2011, Africa Liberation Day, the acronym BRICA. Hence, adding Africa's name to the abbreviation of world economies and regions where economic growth, and other impact indicators - investment, foreign direct investment (FDI), high GDP’s - are collectively outpacing other areas -- even some of those identified in the current BRICS. Although South Africa is included in BRICS, let’s recognize all 17 economies in SSA that have put the Continent on the front economic and investment burner. Many (certainly not all) of the 17 SSA economies contributing to the good news, also had good governance and political stability on top of good macroeconomic reports (i.e. Rwanda was recently named the best world reformer by the World Bank). So, what are the facts! Here is a good checklist underscoring why the “A” must be added to any acronym discussing booming economic growth regions. So move over BRICS, and Welcome BRICA!

SSA’s Collective GDP & Other Growth Factors of Key Countries on the Move:

• McKinsey Global Institute noted that the collective GDP of SSA in 2010 was $1.6 trillion, with GDP’s in individual SSA countries up 4-5 per cent (;

• Debt dropped Continent-wide from 82% to 59% of GDP over last 5 years;

• Inflation dropped Continent-wide from 22% to 8%;

• Growing SSA’s middle class is approximately 331 million today, translating into growing consumers with purchasing power (Financial Times;

• In 2025, SSA will have approximately 1.1 billion people of working age (**World Bank speech 5/25/11).

• Average projected collective growth rate for 2012 is @ 6-7 per cent; Financial Times 5/19/11 article forecasts 7 per cent growth over next 20 years;

• Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) projected to rise from $41 billion in 2010 to 48.5 billion by year’s end, with FDI estimates for 2015 projected @ $150 billion (**World Bank speech, 5/25/2011);

• Single digit inflation for most of the 17 SSA growth countries;

• Diaspora remittances reportedly high over last 5 years adding to GDP, according to informal channels. NB: Data hard to confirm. SSA reportedly accounts for 73 per cent of world-wide remittances as of 2005 (;

• Improved infrastructure and market liberalization added to growth;

• Key areas of non-oil investment: Information, Communication, Technology or ICT, SSA has 500 million cell phone users, with Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, and Ghana topping the list (, Infrastructure Development, Housing Construction, Agriculture, and, Manufacturing;

• What 2 countries are investing the most FDI in SSA today?
1.) China (infrastructure)
2.) India (ICT & manufacturing & India is fourth largest SSA trading partner).

A Few of the Countries on the Move – What’s Their Current Reported GDP?

By percentage rates for 2010 GDP’s of 5% or above (From- & Global Finance Country Reports -

Angola – 9 *
Botswana – 9 (maintained high growth rate for last 10-15 years)
Democratic Republic of Congo – 7.2*
Ethiopia – 8
Ghana – 7 *
Gambia - 5
Malawi – 6.6
Mozambique – 6.5
Niger – 7.5
Nigeria – 8*
Liberia – 5.1
Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) – 9*
Rwanda – 6.5
Seychelles – 6.2
Tanzania – 6.5
Uganda – 5.1
Zambia – 7.6
Zimbabwe – 5.9

In sum, SSA is not only growing faster than Asia, with 6 out of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies on the Continent, but investment, business, and 331 million new consumers have spurred the region forward. This does not mean that everything is fine. Good governance, transparency, development (particularly in agriculture), and anti-corruption still need to improve in many countries on (and off) the list. In addition a number of the same countries noted above, also lag behind on reaching the all-important 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) in the remaining 4 years, particularly in health, education, and gender empowerment.

Although, FEEEDS® is coining the more inclusive BRICA acronym, the positive economic growth factoids noted above do not exclude the importance and need to address the other pillars of democracy -- good governance, transparency, anti-corruption efforts, respect for human rights, and social sector reform. Not all the countries on the economic growth list have addressed (or begun to address) these other key democracy issues. However, they will need to in order to maintain the projected positive economic forecasts for the long term, but more fundamentally it is what the people of this great Continent deserve. In addition, friends of Africa hope that many more SSA countries turn the economic corner, along side of greatly improving their democratic landscape. On the flip side, however, businesses from countries (e.g. U.S.) other than Brazil, India, and China are certainly missing out on Africa’s Rising.

*NB: Oil prices add to higher GDP’s of oil producing countries. **World Bank VP for Africa Speech 5/25/11

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Nigeria’s 2011 Elections: What’s on the Post-Election To-Do List? Improve Education & Health; Build Agriculture & Transform Energy Sector

The majority of international and local civil society observers saw the results of Nigeria’s election series on April 9, April 16, and April 26, 2011, as credible. However, they, along with the opposition also noted irregularities such as underage voting, improperly used ballots, and mishandled/misplaced ballot boxes, coupled with the sad fact of election violence killing nearly 800 as noted by Human Rights Watch (HRW Many of these same irregularities have been cited in past elections since military rule ended more than 30 years ago. However, in 2011, these improper actions were significantly reduced with much of the credit for this positive change going to the well-respected Chairman of Nigeria’s election Commission -- Professor Attahiru Jega.

With a credibility stamp on the overall 2011 election results, even with the irregularities and violence, the post-election landscape is going to be equally as important with the need to address some of the underlying development issues that could have contributed to election violence.

So how to reach out to all Nigerians, particularly the youth and especially the northern youth, so that they feel, as one nation, they can play a part in the country’s future? There are about 45 million youth in today’s Nigeria. And, from now to 2025 that 45 million is likely to reach 62 million if Nigeria’s population trajectory remains on track ( The post-election landscape will have to focus on some of the FEEEDS® issues, especially food security, education, development, and addressing evolving democracy efforts (e.g. anti-corruption).

Social sector reform in education, health, and housing as well as transformative institution building in those same sectors is needed so that youth and women, in particular, can play key roles in the country’s future. Transparent investment and value chain development in sectors such as agriculture, energy, and infrastructure, including taking renewables and appropriate technology into account, will be fundamental to Nigeria’s advancement over the next 20 years -- or more simply put -- for the nation’s next two generations. Changes in these areas will ensure self-sufficient food security, but also maximize the export potential of key commodities from rice and cassava to maize and cowpeas, including increasing trade of unique national products such as shea butter, palm oil, and coco, to northern Fulani and Hausa crafts, and indigenous textiles like indigo-based adire or ashoke. Addressing all of these issues will create two things: an educated and trained citizenry, and entrepreneurs and/or jobs.

If one travels throughout Nigeria (and I have to all 36 states), particularly in the North where negative human index indicator numbers are much higher (infant mortality, out-of-school girls, malnutrition), there is a visible need to respond to these socio-economic issues to meet the aspirations of young people at the poverty level or in the middle class. The youth, as well as Nigeria’s 74 million women, will need to have employment opportunities (entrepreneurial, vocational, or formal private sector). The young will need to feel hopeful about opportunities -- or at least know there are transparent frameworks (institutions, processes, and regulatory environments) -- allowing them to outline a way forward for their future. People are hopeful when transparent frameworks are in place. Without them, without hope, then there are few alternatives, leading to frustration or in some cases violence that breaks down often along religious and ethnic lines.

Looking at the violence that mostly took place in the North, and the fact that the 12 core Northern States went to opposition presidential candidate, retired General Buhari, (see stark red & green map, underscores the outreach still needed in the region. Two predominately Muslim states in the East, Adamawa and Taraba, went to the President-elect.

It is okay to have political differences within a nation -- most democratic countries do -- as democracy also means respect for differences in views, culture and religion. But differences cannot also include hopelessness because social sectors needs are not met for parts of the population. So what should be on the Post-Election To-Do list?

• Foster transparent frameworks (institutions and societal structures) so that Nigerians, no matter where they live, or what their political, religious or ethnic backgrounds are, believe that they have a level playing field allowing for a better future;

• Rebuild and resource education, adding possibly a universal program similar to nations like Uganda, and certainly include vocational and entrepreneurial training (too few donors assist with these);

• Creative value chain development using models such as Benin’s Songhai, Backpack farms, and programs like MARKETS (see TAP@blogitrrs;

• Improve micro credit and finance mechanisms; Current programs do not meet the high demand, and requirements for lending are too tough for many, especially for small holder farmers, women and entrepreneurs;

• Establish a more reliable and affordable mortgage program so anyone at any point on the social economic scale can count on a framework that provides housing. A viable and affordable mortgage system, available to all, does not exist in today’s Nigeria; Housing is a big issue for many.

All in all, Nigeria’s post election environment represents an opportunity for the country’s leadership to change the key paradigms that will provide a new enabling environment for a new Nigeria. Despite the good macroeconomic news in Nigeria and some visionary Governors (e.g. Lagos, Katsina, Akom Ibom, Rivers, Gombe, etc.), there are real poverty issues for many. I have also seen this poverty firsthand. Also, few job options exist for the educated. If some of the frameworks noted above are transparently addressed, then hopefully, this election -- with its international stamp of credibility -- will be a turning point for many in this nation of 152 million people.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sanders calls Nigeria's Lagos Governor Fashola an Extraorindary & Visionary Leader

Fashola sees April 2011 election results as credible; Jonathan worked the hardest.

CFA Chairman Straughter, Dr. Robin Renee Sanders, Lagos Governor Fashola, Nigerian Ambassdor to the U.S. Adefuye

I had the honor of personally hosting a luncheon on May 16, 2011 for the newly re-elected Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola (SAN) at the Army-Navy Club in Washington, D.C. in conjunction with the Constituency for Africa -- one of the leading U.S. advocacy organization focused on Africa. As I introduced the Governor, I underscored the extraordinary commitment, dedication, and vision of this extraordinary leader. The luncheon event was attended by 50 key civil society, academic, and private sector representatives interested in hearing the Governor's vision for one of Nigeria's most important states -- Lagos -- where the capital city of the same name (Lagos) heralds a population of 18 million.

Winning re-election with 82 per cent of the vote, Fashola told the assembled crowd that his vision for the next four years for his State focused on infrastructure development, particularly in mass transport (rail, bus, ferries), the housing and agricultural sectors, as well as on educational and training programs for youth. I have seen personally the transformation of Lagos from 2007-2010 during the time that I lived in Nigeria as a result of Fashola's leadership and I have no doubt that during the next four years he will continue to move the country's commercial capital forward.

Noting to the crowd "the importance of coming and seeing Nigeria first-hand," he told the U.S. group that they could not understand and invest in Nigeria unless they actually came to the country to appreciate the array of investment opportunities there.

In response to a question on the recent Nigerian elections where 22 million of Nigeria's 74 million registered voters participated in the April 2011 voting, Fashola acknowledged the irregularities in some polling places which he said needed to be addressed. He also stressed his concern about the violence that occured, but he added that the outcome of the election was credible and gave high points to President-elect Jonathan for "working the hardest" during the campaign and trying to reach out to Nigerians all across the country.(

In my view, the key now will be the next steps for the country, particularly efforts to address key social sector issues for Nigeria's nearly 64 million youth, and addressing the underlying causes of the violence (need for education, training, better health care, and job opportunities) in the country's north, where according to Human Rights Watch nearly 800 people reportedly lost their lives (

Most Africa watchers recognize the enormous and limitless potential of Nigeria to expand its global and economic leadership, but more needs to be done to address social sector issues and the extraordinary vision, dedication, and commitment by extraordinary individuals such as the results-oriented Governor Fashola of Lagos gives us all hope.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Commencement Speech – Robert Morris University – Graduating Class of 2011

Richness, Meaningful, and Unity of Purpose – RMU Making You a Change Agent in the 21st Century - By Dr. Robin Renee Sanders

Good afternoon graduates of Robert Morris University. I know this is a proud day for all of you, your families, and your friends. Today is not like any other day. [Because] it is days like today that call for a certain amount of reflection in both directions….where you have come from…and where you are going.

I had the pleasure last year to sit exactly where you are sitting now. I had the same two-directional challenge, two-directional reflection that you are experiencing right now – how you got to this moment in time, and where you are heading when you depart this great hall this afternoon. So given this reflective juxtaposition I wanted to share with you some of the things that were on mind that day, May 6, 2010, as they may be on yours this day, today, May 6, 2011. I also want to touch on some of the elements or sure footing that you have gained during your time at RMU.

What were the three word-phrases that came to mind, for me, when I thought of my time at RMU -- Richness in spirit, Meaningful in action, and Unity of Purpose. I remember writing this on the back of my program book last year as I sat where you are sitting today. I still have those notes, and whenever I think I am off track I go back to these word-phrases.

[You know] we are still in the first half of the 21st Century but so many world-changing events have taken place in not just the last 11 years, but in the last 12 months, … the last six months, event the last six days.

Probably unbeknownst to you … as you struggled to get those last papers and projects finished…and I do remember that well… you did not factor in your own role as a change-agent in the 21st Century…but you are. Your time at RMU –- is an incredible marker in your future as are the degrees you have just obtained – from masters in business, engineering, leadership and management, to doctorates in nursing, and information systems and communications [to name a few] – all are the leading disciplines needed today as our global and community needs are tremendous; our global and community challenges are tremendous; and our global and community worlds are changing at a nanosecond rate. But, what is also tremendous today, are the opportunities; they will be unlike anything that we have ever seen before.

[Let’s] reflect back on the unity of purpose that you have gained over the last 2-to-3 years at RMU and talk about taking that same effort with you as you move forward.

So what have you gained? You have gained cutting edge, specialized professional degrees that allow you to compete; that allow you to lead, direct, and [more importantly from my viewpoint] be innovative. We are in a society that is at a turning point as to where it wants to go for the remainder of this Century. This is the game point, right now, at this moment. This is meaningful.
But, when you step outside this afternoon, after this event, you will enter the realm of the second reflective direction that I mentioned earlier in my remarks -- Your Way Forward. So what are your impact indicators; meaning what will be the things that are important to you…to do…to change, to improve upon, and to give voice to? This second reflective direction should and must be transformative.

It will take a commitment from each and every one of you to be change-agents either in your communities or, if you chose, on the global stage. You can act and work locally but I encourage you, in doing so, to think globally. I know I am not the first to say this, but I believe in it so much. I know that many of you have heard the phrase social contract – generally meaning the responsibility that a government or institution has to its citizens or its members. However, you too, as new graduates also have a responsibility; let’s call this your social accord, your social compact. So what is going to be your social accord, your social compact to take the richness gained here and turn that into a unity of purpose for your communities, and this nation?

RMU made a social compact with you and this has been fulfilled today. Your next step will be the social compact you design for yourself…… think about what that is going to be. Then honor it, work toward it, make it real, and make it tangible, including reaching back and helping someone else. These are the building blocks of your impact indicators and can help you with your thoughts as you begin this next phase, this transformative phase of your life.

To underscore and illustrate this point, one of the most impactful books I read while I was at RMU was the Scientific Revolution by Thomas Kuhn. I remember initially thinking that it was about the changes in technology, about the nuts and bolts of the information age and where this new knowledge would take us. But the message was not about technology per se or a paradigm shift in what you do, but more so, about a shift in how you think, about how you see the world.

This is what you accomplished here -- a shift in thought, as you became more innovative, more imaginative, more creative, and certainly more curious. These are the impact indicators you have gained from your time at RMU, and that we count on you to use as you embark on this transformative phase.

I am currently working for one of the oldest non-governmental organizations in America, called Africare, which focuses on helping people in Africa build new lives, and giving voice to those less fortunate. Why? Because I care about the issues of food security, education, environment-energy, development, and respecting the principles of democracy, here in the United States and abroad – what I like to call the FEEEDS® issues, representing the first letter of all the things I have chosen that are important to me in this phase of my life. These are the impact indicators that are part of the design of my current social compact. When I lived in Portugal, many years ago, there was a wonderful idiomatic expression that I was thought was quite emotive – toca a pele –meaning when something is so fundamental to who you are, or where you are going, and what you want to do that it touches your skin. You must use these degrees and turn your RMU education into something that achieves this sense for you.

The professional and technical education you have received at RMU have given you the tools to contribute economically, philosophically, innovatively, and personally to our ever-changing world with theoretical, practical and applied knowledge.
It may be tough on occasions as you may be the only voice out there on a particularly issue, a new approach, a new medical breakthrough or paradigm of thought….but you need to know that this is ok too. Do not give that up.

There are wonderful examples of this today. I love social media and I admire Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame because he fundamentally created a paradigm shift in thought that has not only changed how we communicate with each other, but also how we communicate world-wide, and how we see the world, and what we want for and from our communities. It almost does not get any better than that in my view.

But I also know that many of you will show your communities that same kind of innovativeness, that same kind of creativity, that same paradigm shift in thought bringing new tools to the table in action, in models for business and engineering, in nursing, in technology, in education and for the environment in wherever your day after tomorrow takes you. Remember that I am talking about communities in the broad sense, with a big “C,” as communities are not only where you live but where you work, where you worship, and where you volunteer.

There is no script on what to do, or on how to do it -- but there are some parting suggestions that I want to share with you -- call it a “cuff list” if you wish that you can keep in mind as you take the unity of purpose gained here and transform it into the next phase of your life.
Just remember a few things:
-- The importance and respect for diversity and differences, both in culture and in thought;
-- Do not forget to check that sure footing [that you will be so fond of] from time-to-time because as you change, things are around you also change;
-- Be in touch with your communities, your families; and, certainly pay attention to what is happening in your state; in our country, and in the world. Be involved and not a by-stander -- moving ahead, and not standing still;
-- Set goals for yourself… but not in concrete. You will want the flexibility to grab on to new opportunities that arise, which may or may not, fit into the social compact you have designed for yourself. Be open to those opportunities;
-- Last but certainly not least [and this is probably the most important thing I can leave with you this afternoon] do not forget to Live Life in the Process.

I have intentionally used charged word-phrases such as community or global change-agents, impact indicators, and the importance of having a personal social compact because I want you to leave here this afternoon emboldened, energized, emotive, but not nonplused, and maybe even with a certain verve because your transformative phase awaits you.

So as I end my remarks, as one RMU graduate to another, I want to wish you well today and always. I feel honored to be here this afternoon, not only because I am immensely proud of all of you, but also because I am proud to be part of the RMU family. Take your richness of spirit, be meaningful in action, and use the unity of purpose that you have gained here, and go out and do great things. Thank you

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Africare-Atlantic Council-Carnegie Mellon April 19, 2011 Forum on Nigeria’s Legislative & Presidential Elections

Panelists and special speakers at Africare-Atlantic Council-Carnegie Mellon Nigeria Election Forum, from left-to-right: Dr. Gwendolyn Mikell, Mr. Reno Omokri, Mr. Oronto Douglas, Mr. El Rufai, Dr. Robin R. Sanders (former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria), Ambassador Adefuye (Nigerian Ambassador to the U.S.), Dr. Jendayi Frazer, and Dr. J. Peter Pham.

WASHINGTON, DC, Wednesday, April 20, 2011 – On April 19, Africare, in partnership with the Atlantic Council and Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for International Policy and Innovation (CIPI), organized a forum that focused on the “ Initial Assessment of Nigeria’s 2011 Election.” Most of the panelists were in Nigeria during the recent elections and gave firsthand accounts of what they saw on the ground. Many of the Forum’s presenters were in agreement that these latest elections – both parliamentary and presidential, held April 9th and April 16th respectively – were the most credible and well-organized national elections Nigeria has ever seen since the onset of its democratic experience (the country was ruled by military dictators for 30 years and made moves to establish democratic principles 11 years ago). Most panelists were optimistic about the future of Nigerian elections and noted that the problems identified during the elections could be worked on and did not affect the outcome of the elections.
On the other hand, Mr. Nasir El-Rufai, a prominent Nigerian political figure and former Nigerian Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, cautioned attendees about the dangers of too much self-congratulatory statements, given that there was not only a geographic split in the country in support for the two candidates (most of the North voted for opposition candidate General Buhari), but also that many in the country’s northern region felt that their votes were not reflected in the outcomes of the vote count. El-Rufai did add that the 2011 elections were much improved from the 2007, or 2003 votes, but that more work still needs to be done before they could be considered completely free and fair. El-Rufai continued by calling for even more electoral reforms, specifically electronic balloting and a centralized vote tally location, which would eliminate much of the human element of vote counting and transportation -- thus protecting every Nigerian’s vote.
Other key speakers included Ambassador Jendayi Frazer of Carnegie Mellon and former Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, who gave introductory remarks; Dr. Gwendolyn Mikell, Professor of Anthropology and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and Dr. J. Peter Pham of the Atlantic Council, both who served as official observers of the Nigerian elections; and, Mr. Reno Omokri, Founder, Build Up Nigeria Project, a non-governmental organization focused on youth. The event was moderated by Ambassador Robin R. Sanders, International Affairs Advisor and Communication Outreach Director for Africare, representing Africare’s President Dr. Darius Mans.

Other key speakers included H.E. Adefuye, Ambassador of Nigeria to the United States, and Mr. Oronto Douglas, Senior Special Assistant to President-elect Jonathan whose contributions were also both informative and lively. Overall, panelists agreed that the recent political violence and bloodshed that has taken place since the elections is of grave concern and that all parties should seek peace and address any concerns through legal processes. Key take away points included the importance women played in the voting process as noted by Professor Mikell and the large number of youth who participated in the elections, as mentioned by Mr. Omokri. In addition, the panelists highlighted the importance of the upcoming April 26, 2011, gubernatorial elections and the need for those to not only be peaceful, but also further address some of the challenges that were seen in the April 9th and April 16th elections in order to make them even more transparent. Everyone agreed that Nigerian President-elect Goodluck Jonathan will need to work after the election season to ensure that all disparate groups in Nigeria feel that they have a role to play in nation-building in order to create an environment where the country can grow and prosper politically, socially, and economically.

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