A book celebrating a festival of ideas on brand Africa 



This week I’m just introducing my new book, “De/constructing brand Africa: A Practitioner’s Perspective – a collection of articles with links to podcasts and videos on trade, investment and tourism promotion”.The 408-page book will be published during the last week of this month, July. In it I argue that the advent of globalisation – characterised by hyper-competition for foreign direct investment and tourism; and service/product brands’ access to and dominance in the markets – has catapulted the countries’ competitive identities to the centre of international relations. The book seeks to answer how can Africa claim her stake in the global marketplace? It endeavours – through its autonomous and yet interdependent chapters – to suggest, uncompromisingly without being prescriptive – practical solutions grounded in time-tested and tried global theoretical formulations but contextualised within pan-African epistemologies for relevance and suitability to the continental realities. Although it draws on academic texts for validation, the narratives are presented accessibly in a journalistic fashion. It is a kind of a theoretical guide – without being didactic and pedantic as it’s written accessibly and eloquently decorated with bits and pieces of anecdotes interspersing theory and practice of nation brand management. Most significantly, since it is a compilation of my personal reflections, they are presented from a first person perspective and thereby communicating my voice authentically.

This book attempts to contribute to the efforts to change the narrative in brand Africa and to help her reclaim her original position as the cradle of civilisation whose essence was best captured by Pliny the Elder who mused: “Ex Africa semper aliquid movi” – “out of Africa there is always something new”. This approach later formed the crux of scholarship of such luminaries as Cheik Anta Diop and other scholars who contributed to the 8-volume UNESCO General History of Africa.

There are forty chapters that tackles themes on investment promotion, destination marketing and trade facilitation crystallised within a nation brand management. The overarching objective is the advancement of intra-African trade in line with the ideals of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). These chapters are not arranged chronologically, as I’ve mentioned earlier, so a reader is free to move to any chapter depending on the topic that they’re most interested in or they may read one chapter after another according to the common themes they address. Links are given to podcasts and YouTube videos to listen to the author’s interviews or presentations. These links will be activated by clicks in the e-book version.

The riveting chapters include “Managing investor perceptions by knowing what’s relevant or significant in their decision making during the decade of the COVID-19 pandemic,” “Towards forging a global transvergent pan African identity,” “The nation brand battlefield is in the mind: De/constructing Simon Anholt’s nation brand denialism,” “Brand re/engineering – A season of hope,” “Equitable distribution of resources as a strategic mechanism to redress societal ills – A brand architect’s perspective,” “Mythology builds brand iconoclasm – who is your muse?,” “Engendering structured mechanism for driving economic development as a basis for Africa’s integration,” “Arts, culture and heritage at the coalface of place branding,” “Africa’s market potential is a veritable economic tool for transforming the agricultural sector,” “We’re emerging as thought leaders on the AfCFTA,” “Resourcing human capital for the realisation of the pan African integration ideal,” “Public diplomacy is the art and science of persuading and attracting foreign publics without coercion,” “Visionary leadership, underpinned by progressive principles, isn’t for the fainthearted,” “Geared to empower the youth,” “Inculcating a culture of THINKING at the core of road safety,” “Sekhukhune – The Land of the Legends,” “Branding is a revenue generator,” “Investment Promotion is premised on the art snd science of marketing,” “Stakeholder management anchors strategic partnerships,” “The role of media in opening market access opportunities for “Made in Africa” service and product brands,” “Transport infrastructure development as a vehicle for Africa’s integration,” “Towards a regional cultural integration: Towards the conceptualisation of the  Limpopo Transfrontier Cultural Bonanza,” “Gauteng City Region – The hub, with its myriad of spokes, of Africa’s tourism wheel,” “Visionary leadership, underpinned by progressive principles, isn’t for the fainthearted,” “The challenges of the SMEs in a declining economy – Views from the coalface,” “The last mile – “Teach(ing) them to yearn for the vast and endless sea…”, “Deepening the oneness of Africa through a direct structured CEO engagement mechanism”, “Building the economy through the beautiful game of golf”, “The Nelson Mandela iconoclasm as an ingredient of South Africa’s foreign policy communications”, “Towards developing an empowering ecosystem for enterprise development,” “It’s a “one step forward, two steps back” for Africa in global soft power rankings”, “When the “hand of God” shows its power,” “A brand – A promise made, a promise kept,” “On the influence of brand ambassadorship,” “Dimakatso Malwela – Serving the delicacies of life in a glass”, and “Text in context: Viewing Mandla Dube’s “Silverton Siege” from a third cinema perspective.”

What others say about the book?

Dr Nimrod Mbele (PhD), presenter of “Beyond Governance” on ChaiFM (also Group CEO: Knowledge Anchors Group): “As change agent, defender of democracy and social activist grounded in Pan Africanist ethos, Saul Molobi continues to stick his neck out by delivering yet another sterling book, on “De/constructing brand Africa: A Practitioner’s Perspective”. I am privileged to have interviewed him on several occasions at 101.9 Chai FM on issues relating to Africa’s trade and investment strategies which he eloquently addressed to the listener’s delight.  Quintessentially, he is able to provide practical insights, strategies and tactics that are informed by years of experience as a public servant in various national and international missions. His ability to juxtapose Africa’s recovery transcend marketing and communication propositions but elevate critical ethical leadership underpinned by meritocratic imperatives. As a broadcaster, scholar, and corporate governance practitioner, I find Saul intellectually gifted, accessible and humble which is a rare quality given his industrious achievements…”

Dr Temba Masilela, Deputy CEO: Human Sciences Research Council:“Congratulations on the book, Saul Molobi! I don’t know anyone who has thought more deeply (in theoretical, historical, contemporary, and practical terms) about brand Africa, its communicative configurations, and the ways in which they impact domestic resource mobilization and international trade. That you come at the subject with passion and from a background of political activism, corporate practice, public diplomacy, and entrepreneurship makes it all the more relevant and powerful. That you appreciate and communicate with a self-deprecating sense of humour is a vital element in your street credibility and popularity. Much more than just another voice or influencer!”

General Ishola Williams (Rtd), Executive Director of the Pan Africana Strategic and Research Group: “The author, Saul Molobi, has put together his thoughts, ideas and praxis borne out of his years of experience as a Public Diplomat; an expert in brand management; and in related political, socio-economic and business in addition to historical issues and personalities.

“The book in a way has confirmed Saul Molobi as Paul, the public intellectual in South Africa and increasingly throughout Africa with his weekly news portal, Jambo Africa Online.

“As a member of the Board of the PanAfricana Strategic and Policy Research Group (headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria), his book is an enabler of the indispensable synergy between Africana people worldwide and it is expected that they will benefit from it as it integrates in various chapters not only the issue of branding but also its relation to issues of interests and concern to all who love South Africa and the Continent in the struggle to leapfrog into people-focused development.

“He challenges us to put on our thinking caps and working gloves for action by the followers and the leaders they choose to reflect on his ideas, believe in them, push for them, fight for them, gain their confidence of policy and decision makers  through collaboration, partnership and champions in order to press on until the ideas become actionable policy…” 

Forging strategic partnerships 

The publisher, Brandhill Africa™, is exploring partnerships with corporates and event managers that may be interested in buying the book in bulk. These could be for their clients or stakeholders as corporate gifts; gifts for conference delegates; or even golfers. As a company, we will be presenting the book to the CEOs of economic development agencies across the continent. These are the CEOs in fifteen African countries that we’ve been working with in our CEO Forum and the number will reach 25 by this December. Furthermore, we will be using it as a basis for our economic diplomacy programme which we will be offering to national, provincial and municipal governments; diplomatic missions; economic development agencies; tourism agencies; corporates; civil society organisations; and academic institutions.

Special printing will be done for partners purchasing over 500 copies with their brand fully acknowledged as a sponsor on the imprint page.

Pre-publicity of the book

To listen to the podcast of an hour long interview on the book with Dr Nimrod Mbele in his “Beyond Governance Show” on Chai FM, please click here.
Pre-order sales of the book

To pre-order your copy for R395, please deposit into the following bank account and email proof of payment to info@brandhillafrica.com. If you’re outside of Johannesburg, please add R90 for a courier service (Pick n Pay/Spar/Engen). 

Bank: FNB; Account Holder: Brandhill Africa (Pty) Ltd; Bank Account Number: 62921064490; Branch: Killarney; Branch Code: 250655.

For bulk buying at a discounted price, please email info@brandhillafrica.com for an offer.

Please do note that the 30% commission rate normally charged by the retailers is re-invested into setting up a medical research fund project managed by Brandhill Africa Foundation. 

DRC Investment Summit: The awakening of an African giant 

By Cindy Euston-Brown

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), like many other emerging countries around the world, is looking at agriculture and infrastructure development as a springboard to economic development and job creation.

Agriculture and infrastructure (hard and soft) investment provides both short and long-term economic benefits. In the short term, they create jobs and economic activities such as special agroprocessing zones, roads, bridges, storage facilities, hospitals, schools, power plants etc. They create an ecosystem that allows food production, construction and related services companies to work and create jobs.

Ben Leyka, DRC Invest Acting Chief Executive Officer said “despite global disruptions, the DRC should remain committed to reviving its construction sector, develop its agriculture industry and drive policy reform that will attract private sector investment”. The impact of the COVID 19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict on food prices, food and nutrition security in Africa might derail some of the progress made so far unless there’s a focus on reaching sustainability and resilience in food systems.

DRC Invest is pleased to announce the upcoming DRC Investment Summit, taking place from 27-29 June 2022 in Kinshasa. The Summit will focus on “building a sustainable agrifood ecosystem in DRC” workshop on the 27 June as well as feature investment ready projects that have been fully developed in agriculture, energy, healthcare, fintech, transport, ICT infrastructure etc. and secure the necessary capital as we promote DRC as an investment and business destination.

The Summit is a global meeting place for investment in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – bringing together global investors, businesses, developers, government officials and policy makers to attract and retain investment as well as discuss trends that influence economic growth in the DRC.

The inaugural Summit will bring over 650 high level participants targeting over US$10 Billion worth of investment as well as highlight its commitment to a market economy, where obstacles to private investment are removed. DRC is open for business and it is moving towards business friendly policies and engagement.

While the potential that the country offers is undoubted, the question remains: will it be achieved? Businesses and governments will need to work harder to capture the opportunity; the country’s productivity and growth will be driven by both governments and businesses by focusing on mobilising more domestic resources, aggressively diversifying the country’s economy, accelerating infrastructure development, deepening regional integration, creating tomorrow’s talent and entrepreneurs, formulating financially informed policies, ensuring healthy urbanisation and attracting public and private investment.


For project submission please contact Diane Kayumba at diane.kayumba@drcinvest.com and for more information about the Summit, please contact Cindy Euston-Brown at cindy.eustonbrown@drcinvest.com or visit www.drcinvestsummit.com.

H.E. Wamkele Mene: Unpacking the role of trade and investment promotion in advancing the AfCFTA

HE Ambassador Wamkele Mene, the Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), will be addressing the continent in a webinar as part of the Africa Month celebrations on Friday, 6 May 2022, from 11h00 to 13h00 (CAT).

The theme of the webinar is: “The role of trade and investment promotion in advancing the AfCFTA.”

Since the beginning of 2021, the AfCFTA has being earnestly rolled out by Ambassador Mene with the support of the African leadership with utmost keenness. 

The journey of the realisation of the AfCFTA goals has begun with notable support from the Heads of States and other prominent leaders in the continent. It therefore becomes logical to celebrate the humble few steps this initiative has taken in its 16th  months of formal operationalisation. 

Intensive participation by the business community is another aspect that needs close monitoring given the centrality of this community in driving trade and investment in the continent. State-owned companies do have a vital role to play as well. The organisers of the event are therefore looking forward to the participation of this sector in the event.

Diplomats, in the continent, are expected to participate in their numbers given the need for them to guide their countries in the advancement of the initiative. 

Interest from the rest of the world cannot be discounted given the way in which Africa’s trade and investment is interwoven with the rest of the world – thus, this event will add to the noble efforts of updating the global business community. In other words, updating and sharing on developments thus far is not for continental consumption and benefit but also for investors whether already or intending to invest in the continent.

The potential that the AfCFTA has for the continent is huge. Notwithstanding the benefits and prospects, challenges ahead are also strewn on the road for the realisation of a sizeable intra-African trade. Furthermore, it is not only trade but also investment – in all its different forms – that is crucial for the realisation of the AfCFTA vision. 

Ambassador Mene is keen to share progress and challenges he has gone through since the advent of this initiative. 

The Programme Directors of the event will be Dr Nimrod Mbele (Chai FM: “Beyond Governance Show” presenter) and Thabiso Sikwane (a seasoned broadcaster and published author). 

And the programme will be as follows:

Welcome Remarks: Sisa Njikelana, CEO: Sinakoyoli Consulting

Context – The Africa IPA CEO Forum: Saul Molobi, Group CEO & Chairman: Brandhill Africa

Poetry Rendition: Ms JahRose Japhta (Internationally-acclaimed South African poet)

Keynote Address: H.E. Mr Wamkele Mene, SG: AfCFTA

Respondents: H.E. Mr Youssef AMRANI, Ambassador of Morocco to South Africa (Morocco); Mr Ben Leyka, CEO: DRC Invest (Democratic Republic of the Congo); Mr José Miranda, Grow Africa Director: Zutari (Angola); Mr John Karegwa, CEO: Invest in Africa Conference (Kenya/Netherlands)

Vote of Thanks: Masingita Masunga, Brand Ambassador: abOVEnormal Sports and Fitness Gear.

The Brandhill Africa and Sinakoyoli Consulting – through the former’s platforms: Jambo Africa Online (a weekly news portal) and the Biashara Services and Products Africa (BiSPA) Conference and Exhibition (which is a series of December annual conferences interspersed with quarterly webinars) – are the organisers of this august event. The event is partly sponsored by Zutari, an engineering services company with a presence across Africa and the Middle East.

The following are the Zoom Login Details:

Meeting ID: 557 094 5594

Passcode: 682852

For further clarity, please contact: Saul Molobi on +27 11 759 4297, +27 83 635 7773,  saul.molobi@brandhillafrica.com or please visit: www.brandhillafrica.com and www.jamboafrica.online









6TH MAY, 2022


Mr. Saul Molobi, Group Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, the Brandhill Africa Group 

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning.

I am delighted to join you today and to be among such distinguished participants and friends. 

Let me start by thanking the organisers, Brandhill Africa Group, for the invitation to address this Seminar.

Let me also recognise the good work you have been doing, in advocating for investor-friendly regulatory environment; and opening market access opportunities for “Made in Africa” service and product brands. 

In this regard, I want to congratulate you on the recognition as the “Best Brand” at the “Brand Leadership Award 2021” by the World Branding Congress and also on the initiative you have taken to organise today’s Seminar, on the theme: ‘The role of trade and investment promotion in advancing the AfCFTA’.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

The significance of trade and investment in the economic prosperity of countries, both developed and developing cannot be overemphasised. 

For instance, many studies on international trade, both theoretical and empirical, have shown a strong positive impact of trade on economic growth, especially in sub-Saharan African countries.

Currently, however, Africa accounts for only about 2% of world trade and less than 3% of world GDP, despite its enormous endowments in natural resources, including 60% arable land, 90% raw material reserve, 50% of bauxite reserve, 40% gold reserve, and 33% of the diamond reserve. Not to mention all the agricultural products such as coffee, tea, cocoa, groundnuts, the continent is endowed with.

Demonstrating the critical importance of trade to growth, some estimations have shown that increasing Africa’s share of world trade by 1 percentage point, from the current 2 to 3%, for example, would generate about $70 billion of additional income annually for Africa.

It is also worrying that, African countries do not trade with each other that much, with no more than 18 percent of trade taking place between African countries. In contrast, in Europe, about 70 percent of trade happens within the continent, and in Asia it’s just 51 percent.

Africa’s trade continues to follow the “colonial economic model” – exporting a very narrow range of primary commodities to countries in the North and importing manufactured (capital) goods. And as you know, this model ties Africa’s fortunes to the volatility of the primary commodities market which is detrimental to the continent’s economic development as well as undermines its ambition for greater integration.

With the AfCFTA, we are on course to reversing this “historical anomaly”, where most of the trade undertaken by African countries is with the rest of the world, and involves primarily raw material exports, inclusive of extractive materials like oil and minerals, while importing manufactured goods, such as automobiles, electronics, and pharmaceuticals, among others.

Indeed, in today’s increasingly interdependent global economy, Africa cannot delink itself from trading with the outside world. However, the continent can reduce its vulnerability to external shocks and improve its trade and economic performance if our market integration is deepened and we do more of our external trade with each other. Thus, a major lesson to be drawn from the systemic shocks in the global economy, including the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, is the need for Africa to promote intra‐continental trade. 

And there is great potential for increasing intra-African trade and generating sustainable outcomes through increased regional trade. Studies show that, if effectively implemented and complemented with efforts to boost trade-related infrastructure, the AfCFTA is likely to significantly boost intra-African trade. 

Since intra-African trade involves a higher share of manufactures and processed products (than Africa’s trade with the rest of the world), growing such trade can create new opportunities for manufacturing and processing industries in Africa, and in turn generate high numbers of decent jobs, especially for the teeming, youthful African population.

Studies show that what Africa sells within Africa has more value added than what Africa sells to the rest of the world, which is mostly raw materials. That means intra-African trade creates more employment in the source country than Africa trading with the rest of the world. We look to gain more industrial and value-added jobs in Africa because of intra-African trade. 

Intra-African trade is also attractive for Africa’s SMEs, which make up the vast majority of Africa’s firms. SMEs typically face lower barriers to entry into regional markets than into international ones. Engaging in regional trade and integrating into regional value chains is easier for such firms, but also provides them with opportunities for learning (by doing. Integrating into regional value chains can be a stepping stone for African SMEs (and larger firms) to internationalise their business. 

The World Bank (2020), estimates that implementing the AfCFTA will increase the volume of intra-African trade by 81% by 2035, and grow the volume of total African exports by 29%. It will also diversify intra-African trade as it would encourage more industrial goods as opposed to extractive goods and natural resources. 

To boost trade, African countries need to enhance their productive capacity to produce the goods and services that are in demand and which can be competitive in continental and global markets. Key to building this capacity is the creation of a vibrant enterprise sector, the bedrock of economic development.

Both domestic and foreign direct investment (FDI) can play important roles in meeting this challenge, by contributing directly to the creation of productive capacity and, in the case of FDI, by serving as a catalyst for the growth of domestic enterprises.

That is why trade and investment promotion are crucial in our circumstances. And that’s why this Seminar is critical and timely. 

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

To enhance trade and investments (both FDI and intra-African investments), on the continent, several areas need to be developed and existing ones strengthened. 

Key actions include developing common rules and regulations – protocols – on trade and investment to harness the expected static and dynamic effects of trade and investment flows, as well as the implementation of the Action Plan for Boosting Intra-African Trade, covering the seven clusters, namely, trade policy, trade facilitation, trade finance, trade information, productive capacity, trade-related infrastructure and factor market integration. 

In this regard, the main thrust of the AfCFTA Protocol on Trade in Goods is to boost intra-African trade through the progressive elimination of tariffs and non-tariff barriers among the member countries, while the Protocol on Trade in Services is about improving the competitiveness of services and promoting cross border trade in services in Africa, boosting FDI and promoting industrial development. 

We have also operationalized the Protocol on Dispute Settlement, with the establishment of the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) and the Appellate Body. As you know, in a free trade area, trade disputes are bound to arise and the inauguration of the AfCFTA DSB in April 2021, signals the readiness of the AfCFTA dispute settlement infrastructure to take up any disputes that may arise in the course of trading among the State Parties, particularly disputes arising from the instance or occurrence of unfair competition, dumping, among others to boost intra-African trade and investment.

The conclusion of protocols on Investment, Competition Policy, Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs), Digital Trade and Women and Youth in Trade, will further strengthen the investment and business environment in Africa and enhance the attractiveness of Africa to investors.

The AfCFTA Protocol on Investment is expected to enhance investment governance and policy coordination and cooperation across the continent. The Protocol is expected to address barriers to investment entry in Africa, reduce time and costs of investment approvals, enhance transparency, improve efficiency and address fragmented investment regulatory frameworks on the continent. Investors and investments will be protected and also have access to remedies when rights are violated. 

Under the Protocol on Intellectual Property Rights, patents and licenses, among other intellectual property rights for investors’ goods and services will be protected not just in the host country but on the whole continent. IPRs will provide incentives to inventors to develop new knowledge and the right to obtain a patent for an invention, for example, will encourage the investment of money and effort in research and development. 

With the competition policy, we want to create an environment where businesses will conduct themselves in a competitive manner in order to effectively compete globally. The idea is to allow competitors to enter the market while at the same time promote consumer welfare. Besides, some studies have shown that cross-border cartels do exist in Africa.  This makes cross-border regulation of market competition in Africa critical. Therefore, the AfCFTA Competition Protocol when it comes into force, will create an opportunity to deal with cross-border cartels, which seem rampant in the region.

The majority of traders in Africa are women. However, the contribution of women to trade is much lesser than expected because of non-tariff barriers that typically constrain the trading activities of women and women-owned enterprises. 

The AfCFTA, through the Protocol on Women and Youth in trade, intends to effectively address the constraints women and youth in trade face and create an environment that allows them to utilise the agreement by accessing wider markets, improve on their competitiveness and grow their businesses.

Ladies and Gentlemen

It is also important to highlight the role of financial integration in attracting investments to the continent. 

The advent of the AfCFTA presents opportunities for African financial markets to expand, which would facilitate cross-listing, efficient pricing, increased competitiveness in regional and global value chains and more opportunities for innovative business financing.

The AfCFTA can also constitute a vehicle to channel investment to actively support small and medium-sized enterprises on the continent, through the formulation of common rules for financial services. 

Regarding regional payment systems, a major development is the recent launch of commercial roll-out of the Pan-African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS) by the Afreximbank and the AfCFTA Secretariat in January this year.

The continent-wide digital payment system would serve as a platform for the processing, clearing and settling of intra-African trade and commerce payments, leveraging a multilateral net settlement system. Its full implementation is expected to save the continent more than US$5 billion in payment transaction costs each year.

By simplifying cross-border transactions and reducing the dependency on hard currencies for these transactions, PAPSS is set to boost intra-African trade significantly and underpin the implementation of the AfCFTA.

The PAPSS is a major leap in releasing the continent from overdependence on external players and factors in achieving a long yearned-for acceleration in intra-continental trade and investment. 

Furthermore, successful regional trade under AfCFTA will connect the region’s more developed and less developed countries, promote the growth of value chains and lay the foundations for increased cross-border trade in the process. 

To kick-start the process of developing value chains for the continent, and thus reduce its vulnerability to external shocks, the AfCFTA Secretariat, in collaboration with partners, have launched an AfCFTA Private Sector Engagement plan, to promote industrialisation in Africa through regional value chains, as part of the implementation of the agreement. 

The Plan focuses on four initial priority sectors or value chains, namely agro-processing, automotive, pharmaceuticals, and transportation and logistics for quick wins, based on the potential for import substitution and existing production capabilities on the continent.

Significantly, interventions designed in these value-chains have the potential to add over US$11 billion annually in production and over US$5 billion annually in intra-Africa trade – more than double the current contribution of these value-chains to intra-Africa trade. This increase in production and trade could create over 700,000 jobs, 55% of which will be for women and youth.

With this, businesses and investors are in a better place to make sound decisions on where to invest to seize AfCFTA opportunities. And those areas where further improvements need to be made are also pointed out to create stronger chances for a Made-in-Africa Revolution.

These are the quick wins that we are prioritising for the implementation of the AfCFTA to be successful and reduce Africa’s over-dependence on imports and stimulate intra-Africa trade and investments.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

Today, as African countries build back from the severe impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, we must address key bottlenecks to trade and investment, leveraging the AfCFTA.

To bring more investments to Africa, we have to work towards addressing very important business environment issues and put in place new and innovative financial instruments that should help boost capital flows in Africa by making investments less risky and more attractive.

Our end goal, however, is to attract quality investment that will deliver the sustainable development needs of the continent. With this, we can address the challenges of industrialisation, infrastructure development and youth unemployment, among others. 

As Secretariat, we are, committed to implement the AfCFTA in such a way that it would significantly boost intra-African trade and enhance our investor profile. Indeed, we have to implement the trade and investment rules that we have agreed on to become a much more attractive investment destination than we have ever been.

It bears emphasizing that although the AfCFTA Agreement was negotiated at the continental level, much of its implementation and gains will be at country level. The agreement must, therefore, be translated and contextualized to domestic realities.

African countries must strategically take advantage of it to derive its full benefits. For those that have developed national AfCFTA strategies, they need to effectively implement it, while those that are yet to do so take steps to identify opportunity export sectors and value chains that can benefit from the AfCFTA market access openings, and the measures needed to support them for urgent implementation. 

The AfCFTA is a milestone for Africa’s journey towards prosperity. The agreement is poised to transform the continent’s economic landscape, creating a single market for goods and services, business and investment. 

I am confident that this Seminar will help promote prosperous trade and investment between and among African countries.

I look forward to hearing the outcomes of this Seminar.

With these remarks, I wish you all the very best in your deliberations and discussions.

Thank you

Remembering Fela

By Mandla Zibi

He was the strange one, the weird one, he called himself ‘Abami Edo’. His followers sometimes called him the Black President. He was once described as Bob Marley and Che Guevara rolled into one. But According to a prominent New York City museum director, for over thirty years, until 10 years ago, the “most important cultural figure in Africa in the past 100 years” was virtually unknown in America outside of the African-American community.

Which is not surprising, given the kind of artist Fela Anokulapo Kuti was, and the cultural/artistic ideas he espoused. Unlike Marley, his songs could last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, which rendered his music very radio unfriendly. Asked once by a Western journalist why he could not record a three-minute track, he replied that it was impossible for him. Anyway, he retorted, could anyone ask that of Beethoven?

The Guardian Newspapers’s Peter Culshaw says in the 1980’s Motown wanted to set up an African label and the company offered Fela a million-dollar deal. This despite his  stubborn refusal to play old material, which would ensure that live audiences would never hear his hits. Writes Culshaw: “Rikki Stein, one of [Fela’s] then managers, was hugely excited and flew to Lagos to discuss the deal. Stein says that Fela’s response was to contact the spirits via his personal magician, Professor Hindu. The spirits refused to let him sign for another two years and Fela further insisted on only leasing his back catalogue.” Stein goes on to say: “Even then, Motown went along with, but after two years, in April 1985, the very month that Fela was about to sign, the Motown guy got sacked and the deal was off.”

Sir Paul McCartney, the Beatles megastar, was in Lagos in the late seventies and saw Fela on stage for the first time. It was the best thing he had ever seen. “When Fela and his band eventually began to play, after a long, crazy build-up, I just couldn’t stop weeping with joy. It was a very moving experience.’

McCartney then floated the idea of recording with some of Fela’s musicians, but when Fela caught wind of this, he denounced McCartney from the stage  for trying to steal  black music.

Variously called a musical visionary, rebel extraordinaire, pan-African revolutionary, polygamist, prodigious dope smoker and a slew of other epithets both good and bad, Fela in many ways was hard to define. What is certain though is that Fela the inventor of Afrobeat (a potent brew of jazz, American funk and traditional Yoruba rhythm); when few were prepared to speak up for the downtrodden and dehumanized in late 20th century Nigeria, he threw all caution to the wind and called the monster by its true name, to its face. For that, he paid a heavy price: harassed, beaten and tortured by the authorities, he was jailed more than 200 times.

Fela was born Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti in 1938 in Abeokuta, a small town north of Lagos, the former capital. His family is described as upper middle class: his father was an Anglican priest, as was his grandfather. His mother was a celebrated feminist and aristocrat who had gone to the Soviet Union to receive the Lenin Peace Prize and also had met China’s Chairman Mao. His two brothers were well known doctors in Nigeria. Fela was also first cousins with Wole Soyinka.

Sent to London in 1958 to study medicine, he decided to study music instead at Trinity College of Music, the trumpet being his favourite instrument.  He formed the band Koola Lobitos and in 1963 patented Afrobeat, a fusion of highlife, funk, jazz, salsa,
calypso and traditional Nigerian Yoruba music.

In 1969, Fela and his band spent 10 months in Los Angeles in the United States. While there, Fela discovered the Black Power movement through Sandra Smith (now Sandra Izsadore), a follower of the Black Panthers. The  visit heavily influenced his political views, as well as his music, resulting in Fela renaming his band Nigeria ’70.

Ok, it’s too long to send at once. I will be send it in pieces. Here is part 2:

Having attracted the attention of the US Immigration and Naturalization Service regarding the lack of  work visas, Fela and his band had to beat a hasty retreat home, but not before recording the highly regarded “’69 Los Angeles Sessions”.

Back home in Lagos, the band changed direction; love themes went out the window and hard social issues became the sole preoccupation. It was the beginning of an amazing transformation. Fela declared a Lagos surburbian commune  sovereign territory – in effect independent of the Nigerian state. He called it the  Kalakuta Republic, essentially a recording studio, and a sprawling compound which became home to the band and it’s numerous hangers-on. He leased a well known hotel nightclub,  named it Afro-Spot and later christened it the Afrika Shrinel. It quickly became the ground zero of Fela’s cult following in Nigeria and West Africa. Each newly leased nightclub (Fela kept moving  around Lagos) became a place of pilgrimage for fans as well as a stage on which many international pop stars and other notables encountered Fela at his best. It was at the Shrine that he also conducted his famous “Yabis”; consciousness-raising word-sound Yoruba traditional rituals, with himself as Chief Priest. Fela also gave himself a new name: “Anikulapo”, meaning “He who carries death in his pouch”. He was quoted as as saying,”I will be the master of my own destiny and will decide when it is time for death to take me.” He dropped the “Ransome” part of his surname asking, ” Do I look  like an Englishman?”

Scoring hit after hit, Fela quickly became not just another Nigerian music superstar but a political dissident and cultural phenomenon. His bitingly eloquent public diatribes against government corruption and incompetence, and his habit of naming names and mocking or insulting his victims in song proved too much for Nigeria’s  successive military strongmen. Starting in mid to late 1970’s, raid after raid by the military rained on the Kalakuta Republic.

Following Fela’s release of the hit album “Zombie” in 1977,  which was a scathing attack on the military and it’s zombification of the soldiery and by extension, of society itself, the government struck. A thousand soldiers attacked the Kalakuta Republic, handing Fela a severe beating and throwing his elderly mother (whose house was located opposite the commune) out a high window. She later died from her injuries.  The commune was burned, and Fela’s studio, instruments, and master tapes were destroyed. The Shrine also suffered the same fate. Fela believed that had it not been for the intervention of a commanding officer, his death would have been a certainty.

The tragedy only made Fela stronger and more defiant. He led a march to a military barracks at which he symbolically condemned  the then current dictator, General Olusegun Obasanjo by presenting his mother’s coffin. Obasanjo is  now one of Africa’s elderly statesmen. (He was also Fela’s former primary school classmate)

The following year saw Fela scandalising Nigeria by marrying 27 of his dancers, singers and composers at a single ceremony.  Apparently it was to make them respectable, which was consistent with his progressive, if eccentric, agenda, as women entertainers generally had little social status in Nigerian society.

He later divorced all of them, reportedly claiming that marriage causes jealousy and selfishness, and that no man had the right of ownership over a woman’s body’s natural

 That same year Fela was deported from Ghana after rioting broke out during a concert in Accra, caused by the playing of the “Zombie” song by the band.

Despite the setbacks, Fela upped the ante by forming a political party, the Movement of the People (MOP), “to clean up society like a mop”, under the banner of “Nkrumahism” and “Africanism”.

The following year, 1979, as part of Nigeria’s first elections for more than a decade, Fela put himself forward for President but his candidature was refused. By this time he was a full blown radical Africanist, having again created a new band called Egypt ’80, embodying the idea that Egyptian civilization, knowledge, philosophy, mathematics, and religious systems were inherently black African and must be claimed as such. ” I have to make Africans aware of the fact that Egyptian civilization belongs to the African. So that was the reason why I changed the name of my band to Egypt 80.”

Throughout the 80’s Fela
continued making superb music while suffering the blows of brutal successive regimes brooking no opposition and indifferent to the misery of the poor and marginalised. He was seen as the only one who could defy power and speak truth to it. He was fearless.

Eventually, the beatings and jailings took their toll. By the early 90’s Fela had noticeably slowed down his musical output. One of his last projects was the  anti-apartheid “Beasts of No Nation” album. The cover showed U.S. President Ronald Reagan, UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the then South African State President PW Botha as vampires, blood dripping from their fangs. The title reportedly derived from Botha’s statement that “this uprising [against the apartheid system] will bring out the beast in us.”

Whispers about Fela began surfacing,  about a disease that he had contracted and for which he was refusing treatment. Some said it was AIDS, but others, including women he had been associated with, scotched the rumours. Ironically, Fela had been reported to have publicly declared HIV/AIDS as a white man’s disease.

It was on 2 August 1997 that Nigeria and the world heard that Fela Kuti had died. To the end, Fela had refused to be tested to determine the cause of his weight loss and skin lesions. Following a family decision after Fela’s passing, his brother, Dr Beko Ransome-Kuti, publicly disclosed the cause of death. It was an act which one commentator said “allowed Aids awareness in Nigeria to leave the dark ages’. In that sense, Fela’s death paradoxically helped save a lot of lives.

More than a million mourners filled the streets of Lagos for the funeral. According to his son Femi Kuti: “For two days, people didn’t do any work in Lagos! This is the first time in the history of Lagos they have not had a complaint of robbery, rape or anything. Because all the robbers, the bad boys, they loved him, you know? Everybody was busy at the funeral.”

His other son Seun, who now helms his father’s old Egypt 80 band, says Fela “was a gift, an inspiration to Africa. There will never be another like him. But things in Nigeria are even worse now, and however hard it is to live up to his legacy, we have to carry on the fight for liberation and consciousness.

“There are a lot of things about Fela’s life and work that are fascinating on a purely aesthetic level,” said Michael Veal, a professor of ethnomusicology at Yale University and author of ”Fela: The Life and Times of an African Musical Icon.” ‘

“His music is great. He was a very charismatic performer. Visually he was very striking. But at the same time, while all this interesting aesthetic stuff is happening, you’ve got someone who has really put their life on the line to speak as a voice for the dispossessed and to dramatize the struggle of his society.”

To read about the resuscitation of Fela Kuti’s memory on the world stage, check out “FELA! On Broadway”. This hit musical took the US by storm, winning three Tony Awards in 2010.