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Where to Africa?
Posted Thu, 03 Mar 2005

Strive Masiyiwa

An audacity of hope?

Strive Masiyiwa, the chief executive of Econet Wireless International is exactly the kind of person the Zimbabwean government love to hate: young, determined, a visionary and very successful without their patronage.

At 43, he is leading a new African revolution in telecommunications, but his homeland took four years of legal battles to grant his company a licence to operate. Econet now operates in eight countries, including Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation with 125 million people but just 600,000 fixed lines; New Zealand, and United Kingdom.

Masiyiwa's love-hate relationship with the government intensified when he purchased the Daily News, Zimbabwe�s only private daily newspaper, which was shut down by the state earlier this year. The state felt that the newspaper was too critical of its operations and supposedly supportive of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). In fact, in 2003 Masiyiwa was being touted as an alternative to MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, who appears limited on the international stage. The running battles with the government prompted him to move to South Africa where he set up Econet Wireless International headquarters despite a desire to lead his growing business from home.

Masiyiwa still has hope for Zimbabwe. In a recent interview with BBC World Today Masiyiwa said �I'm sure anyone in my position would rather have achieved what they've achieved at home. It's an increasingly sad situation, and my prayer is that sooner rather than later we will begin to see some changes, which will improve the lives of the people".

Masiyiwa was a member of the coordinating committee which set up the Social Dimensions Fund (SDF), a government initiative to alleviate poverty in Zimbabwe. In 1995, he was appointed to serve on former US President Bill Clinton's Board of the Southern African Enterprise Development Fund. In 1999, he was named by the Junior Chamber International (JCI) as one of the "Ten Most Outstanding Young Persons of the World".

Joseph Kabila

Capitalising on a meteoric rise?

At 32, Joseph Kabila is Africa's youngest head of state. He succeeded his father as president of Africa's third largest country, the Democratic Republic of Congo. The young Kabila inherited a nation on the verge of economic and political collapse, and till today is still trying to return it to a state of normalcy.

Clearly an ambitious young man, it's unlikely that he will exit the political scene in central Africa any time soon. He was in command of the army when he was chosen quickly by his father's cabinet to take over the presidency. He spent most of his life in exile in Tanzania and Uganda where he received extensive military training. On assuming political office, he fired his father's entire cabinet, promising delivery and good governance. He has not succeeded much in bringing lasting peace and an admirable human rights record, but he has managed to take steps towards an economic recovery. Inflation has fallen dramatically. And the Congolese franc has been stabilised. Indications are that he will make himself available for re-election when the Congolese go to the polls sometime next year.

Kenneth Ofori-Atta

Banking on the Diaspora

After an illustrious career on Wall Street, Kenneth Nana Yaw Kuntunkununku Ofori-Atta decided to return home, to play his part in Ghana�s economic and social development. He is a great advocate of a campaign to encourage Ghanaians living abroad to return home. Recently, he told Reuters that, ��If one could quantify the human resource skill base as an export, then Ghanaians in the Diaspora would represent the most important human and financial capital base�.

At 45, he is an accomplished businessman and an opinion maker in the political arena. His dream is to establish a pre-eminent and indigenous West Africa Investment Bank providing all the capital market activities to effectively link the sub-region to the international markets and international fund flow.

For the moment he remains the Executive Chairman of Databank Financial Services Limited (Ghana), which he co-founded in 1990. He�s also a Board Member of several companies in Ghana. Notable amongst them are the SSB Bank Limited, Enterprise Insurance Company Limited, Home Finance Company limited, Aid to Artisans Ghana, Databank Foundation, ISSER Endowment Trust. He is also the Chairman of the Trust Bank of The Gambia.

Ken was the first African to testify in the U.S. Congress in support of the Africa Growth & Opportunities Act (AGOA). He has been honoured as a Global Leader of Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum in Davos. He is a member of the President of Ghana's Investor's Advisory Council and also a member of Technoserve International.

After studying at Achimota School in Ghana he proceeded to Columbia University where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Economics degree and then to the Yale School of Management in 1988 where he bagged an MBA. Before pursuing his MBA Ken worked with the Morgan Stanley & Co. in New York from 1984 to 1986. After his graduate studies at Yale he joined the Salomon Brothers Inc. also in New York.

He�s a steadfast believer in youth development. He was quoted in Ghana classifieds as saying his long term ambition was to retire to be a headmaster of a secondary to inculcate a renewed spirit of nationalism. It�s highly unlikely that he would end up a school principal, but certainly he will be playing a crucial role in shaping the economic future of the country.

Barack Obama

The new face of Africa

He is 42 years old and running to become the fifth black senator in history of the United States. By 2016, Barack Obama will be 54 - the perfect age to run for the presidency of the United States. It is an ambitious vision for this descendent of the Luo tribe in Kenya, but might just be the vehicle to thrust Africa onto the world agenda.

Obama is to Kenya what John F. Kennedy was to Ireland - the country's favourite American son and a source of hope for a better future. Recently, several top Kenyan politicians travelled to Boston for the Democratic Convention, where Obama was given the prestige to give the keynote address that began with a tribute to his father's humble roots on a Kenyan goat farm. Obama, a Harvard-educated law professor has been selected as the Democratic Party's candidate for Illinois state to contest for the US senator seat in November's elections. Many believe he will also represent the community and people of Africa in American politics. �To the Bush administration Africa has been an afterthought, as it has been that way throughout American history," he told the Kenya's Sunday Nation.

Barack Obama was born in 1961 in Hawaii to a Kenyan father and a white American mother. He moved to Chicago and became a community organiser for the inner city in a church-based group. He joined politics after graduating and practicing civil law in Chicago. He was elected as a Democratic nominee in March 2004.

Barack Obama Sr was born in rural Western Kenya, and later became a senior government economist during the Kenyatta regime. He met and married his mother while studying at Hawaii University but returned to Kenya to work. He died in a car crash in 1982.

Barack Obama has degrees from Colombia and Harvard Universities and is an instructor at the University of Chicago Law School. He is also the chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee, and the Chicago Annebery Challenge. He is a board member of the Woods Fund of Chicago, and was the first black president for the Harvard Law Review. He has written and published many articles and is the author of �Dreams of My Father,�. This African-American is causing stir in America and analysts toast him as one of the most brilliant and popular black politicians in the United States in recent times.

Malusi Gigaba

Thabo Mbeki�s clone?

By Moshoeshoe Monare

In his political report to the ANC Youth League congress, Malusi Gigaba shouted "Viva ANC, Viva!" four times. One could easily confuse his last report as president of the Youth League to that of an ANC leader, as he defended and praised the ruling party's policies at length.

"We have traversed the previous decade with great caution, taking a step backward if need be, in order to make two giant strides forward," he said in his 37-page speech at the Ancyl's 22nd congress. "The ANC has continued to uphold the view that economic growth and development must and will reinforce each other.� Certainly, Gigaba - who is turning 33 in exactly a week's time - was speaking against the backdrop of accusations that he has put his political career ahead of the interests of the ANCYL. His detractors say he has neglected the plight of the youth.

Once an ANC MP, Gigaba was recalled by the Youth League, which wanted him to give it his full attention. But in his last year as the longest-serving president of the league in the democratic South Africa, Gigaba was appointed deputy minister of home affairs following the April general election. "His ambition to become an ANC leader has swayed his position on a number of things in the youth structures," according to a former executive member of the Youth League. "He had actually become the mouthpiece and alter ego of President Mbeki. Look at his mannerisms. He is the younger version of Mbeki - and he sees his career in that fashion."

What appears to be Gigaba's personal invective against Democratic Alliance leader Tony Leon and others in the opposition has been likened to that which some perceive in Mbeki. Gigaba has said: "The principal representative of the racial and class forces of repression and exploitation is the DA." His recent elevation to real power in government is regarded by some as a reward after the Youth League rallied behind Mbeki in what was seen as a fairly brutal race against businessman Cyril Ramaphosa for the deputy presidency of the ANC - and the country. However, Gigaba's meteoric political rise has also been defended as a calculated career path within the ANC culture.

"Since its inception, the Youth League has always been a preparatory school for leaders in the ANC," Deputy President Jacob Zuma said in his address to the congress on Friday. Gigaba has also defended his closeness to the ANC, as well as the Youth League's apparently moderate approach towards the ruling party.

"We have rejected the falsehood that our organisation's militant past was predicated on being anti-ANC," he has said. "We have refused to define militancy to mean opposition to the ANC, as this would make Tony Leon the most militant among us." There are undoubtedly other positive opinions about Gigaba, not the least of which is what some describe as his "mellowed-down attitude".

This article is republished with permission of The Star and Independent Newspapers.

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