Friday, May 25, 2018

The Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) by Papa Owusu, Impact Investing Intern

Photo: Mr. Owusu, CIR Intern, Franklin and Marshall, Ms. Muyangwa, Director, Africa Program at the Wilson Center, Mr. Zheng, CIR Intern, Georgetown University.

        The Wilson Center's event on opportunities and challenges of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) was insightfully supportive of the new trade agreement. Trade refers to the transfer of goods and services from one person or entity to another, often (but not always) in exchange for money. A Free Trade Zone (FTZ), is a geographic area where goods may be traded without the imposition of any barriers by customs authorities. These barriers include tariffs and quotas. Free Trade Zone examples include the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Southern African Development Community Free Trade Area.  The AfCFTA seeks to create a unified continental market with minimal trade and migration barriers and unified trade policies to facilitate the easy movement of people, goods and services. Currently, 44 of 55 African Union member states have signed the agreement.

Non-signing states such as Nigeria may fear that the agreement will undermine national interests in trade, employment and local industry. They may also fear the agreement will impact revenue generation. Other issues with the agreement relate to the possibility of dumping cheap goods in neighboring states, thereby damaging local industries. These fears are valid and need to be considered in the final agreement. Existing trade agreements address some of these issues to a limited extent. For example, the World Trade Organization rules address dumping.

    The AfCFTA is expected to greatly benefit the continent. First, it should result in greater regional integration and make Africa a bigger player on the international trade scene. The United Nations Economic commision for Africa estimates that AfCFTA could lead to a 52.3 percent increase in regional trade. Further, AfCFTA is expected to make the continent more attractive to investors due to reduced trade barriers and a greater ability to take advantage of economies of scale.

      The panelists at the Wilson Center ( H.E. Dr. Arikana Chihombori Quao, Permanent Representative of the African Union to the United States of America, Donald Kaberuka
African Union High Representative for Financing of the Union and Peace Fund and 7th President of the African Development Bank (2005-2015), H.E Étoundi Essomba, Ambassador of Cameroon to the United States and, Co-Chair of the African Ambassadors’ Group, H.E. Kerfalla Yansane
Ambassador of Guinea to the United States) noted that AfCFTA is a first step towards realizing the vision of African co-operation expressed by African independence leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah, of Ghana.

       A key warning is that complementary measures, like better internal infrastructure linking member countries, are necessary to fully realize the benefits of AfCFTA. The African transportation infrastructure was designed, historically, by colonial powers to move people, goods and resources from the interior of the continent to the ports. There is little by way of internal continental transportation infrastructure. The map at left shows the PLANNED highway system. Even this effort has been delayed. This remains a huge issue.

       The main takeaway from the event was that the AfCFTA has the potential to make Africa more integrated and a bigger economic player in the world market. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

William Michael Cunningham to participate at the FCC Supplier Diversity Workshop

WASHINGTON - May 21, 2018 - PRLog -- The Federal Communications Commission's ("FCC's") Office of Communications Business Opportunities ("OCBO") and Media Bureau ("MB"), and the FCC's Advisory Committee on Diversity and Digital Empowerment ("ACDDE") will host a one-day supplier diversity workshop for small, minority-owned, women-owned and other diverse businesses.

The workshop will teach small business entrepreneurs how to navigate corporate supplier diversity programs; identify successful strategies utilized by diverse entrepreneurs who do business with corporate entities; and enable one-on-one networking between participating firms and workshop participants to increase awareness about the expectations of procurement managers responsible for goods and services contracting. Workshop presentations and one-on-one consulting will be provided by representatives from various industry sectors, including voice, video and data providers, Internet Service Providers, cable operators, broadcasters, public sector agencies, and tech companies.

Mr. Cunningham will discuss strategies to increase social and financial return for corporate entities: in 2009, his firm, Creative Investment Research, provided to Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) Company social and financial credit ratings for community development banks serving areas of high social need within PG&E's service territory. PG&E made risk controlled investments in several minority and community based institutions. Performance data for the portfolio showed that it outperformed all alternatives. See:

The procurement workshop will be held at FCC Headquarters, 445 12th Street SW, Washington, DC, on Monday, June 4, 2018, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. EDT, in the Commission Meeting Room (TW-C305).

To register or for additional information about the "Supplier Diversity Workshop" please contact OCBO at (202) 418-0990 or by email -

Saturday, May 19, 2018

William Michael Cunningham at Blockchain for Social Impact Conference 2018

WASHINGTON - May 18, 2018 - PRLog -- William Michael Cunningham will moderate a panel on the Future of Impact Investing at the Blockchain for Social Impact Conference 2018, to be held on Friday, June 1, 2018. The United States Institute of Peace in Washington, DC will host the conference.

The Conference is being organized by the ConsenSys Social Impact team, and will focus on "areas where blockchain technology could be instrumental in revolutionizing existing systems and making a significant impact." The Conference will focus on four major global challenge areas: Agriculture, Infrastructure, Democracy, and Refugees.

Conference organizers noted,

"As blockchain becomes the shared infrastructure for more and more people to collaborate with one another, participate in global marketplaces, access essential services, and protect their personal data and assets, it is the responsibility of the larger tech community and governments around the world to make sure this technology reaches the vulnerable populations who need it and stand to benefit from it the most."

Specific breakout sessions will be held on the following areas: Identity management, refugee resettlement, supply chain, energy, financial inclusion, human rights, democracy, and voting.

Mr. Cunningham will moderate a panel discussion titled: The Future of Impact Investing. He will be joined by Decker Rolph from Calvert, Kevin Gordon Barrow, Founder & CEO, Mark Labs, and David Nage, Managing Director at Apeiron Ventures, NYC.

For more information and to RSVP, please see:

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by Papa Yaw Owusu, Impact Investing Intern

The most recent Africa Policy Breakfast, “Crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo” (DRC) was held on May 16th and hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus Foreign Affairs & National Security Task Force. The discussion considered options for regional and international responses to the situation in the DRC, a Central African country rich in natural resources, with 79 million people. The country has industrial diamonds, cobalt, and copper along with about 50% of the potential hydroelectric power for the continent.

The Policy Breakfast started with a brief introduction to the current crisis in the DRC and moved onto discuss potential solutions. The country has experienced many conflicts, causing the displacement of 1.7 million people in 2017. This tumultuous period can be attributed to a myriad of overlapping factors including the destabilizing historical role of Western countries vis a vis the DRC's colonial past, the corrupting influence of foreign corporations who value monetary interests over African lives, the weakened state of civic institutions, as well as ongoing ethnic and political conflicts.

Given the above, it is evident that the situation has complex and deep-rooted causes which have significantly and negatively impacted both the Congolese and others in the region. In point of fact, these conflicts were on display at the Breakfast itself. During the DRC’s US ambassador's talk, in which he gave a rosy version of events in keeping with his government's stance, he was met with a series of disapproving jeers.

Ultimately most members of the discussion panel agreed that the first step in resolving the situation should include the resignation of the DRC's current president, Joseph Kabila. Mr. Kabila has extended his tenure as President by manipulating the DRC's constitution. (This may be a warning to the US under trump.)

We hope that there are more events like this, with greater depth, providing deeper insight into the DRC's tragic situation.