Thursday, January 14, 2016

Christian Council is ‘Xenophobic’ - Chief Imam's spokesperson

Sheikh Dr Osman Nuhu Sharubutu - National Chief Imam

A spokesperson for the National Chief Imam, Sheik Aremeyaw Shaibu has lambasted the Christian Council of Ghana (CCG) for their stiff position against the housing of two Guantanamo ex-detainees in Ghana.

He described the council as “Xenophobic” – and questioned the Christianity in them – “Why can’t they show love to our Muslim brothers?”

Three major Christian groups — the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference (GCGC), the Christian Council of Ghana (CCG) and the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council (GPCC) - have asked the government to demonstrate that it is a listening one by sending the two former Guantanamo Bay prisoners back to where they came from.

The John Mahama-led administration brokered a deal with the Obama government to house in Ghana, two ex-detainees from the dreaded Guantanamo Bay military facility over a period of two years.

The three bodies have expressed worry over the pact which has been shrouded in secrecy - “The whole process lacks transparency,” the CCG pointed out in a statement.

“We are of the strongest view that, the inadequate public consultation and broader consensus building by government is exposing our nation and the entire sub-region to terrorist attack, and must be reversed,” the Council noted.

But speaking on NEAT FM’s morning show dubbed Ghana Montie, Sheik Aremeyaw Shaibu said he sides with the president on the position he has taken relating to this matter.

"The impression is being created that...they are of a certain brand. But they have not been accused...the president has been clear and succinct on this matter, and yet we've this kind of reaction...and that is what pains my heart....They're human beings; they've a right to life...they've a right to human dignity, they need a place to put their lives together...i agree with the president on the position he has taken," he indicated.

He pointed out that the Islamic fraternity is well pleased that the two ex-detainees are in Ghana reiterating that they are not terrorists as claimed.

“Even if they [Detainees] were to be Christians, we [Muslims] would accept them here, so why can’t the Christians? I will urge all Christians to rather welcome these detainees. They are not terrorists,” he noted.

To him, the brouhaha surrounding the resettling of the detainees in Ghana for the past few days shows how “intolerant” we are.

“Ghanaians and Christians must demonstrate the love Christ gave them. They must demonstrate that love beyond themselves. That is what I am expecting from the Christians and not this intolerance.”

An angry Sheik Aremeyaw Shaibu then rhetorically quizzed – “Are Christians clean?” and catalogued a litany of Christian atrocities dating back in history to drum home his view that violence in the name of religion is not the preserve of only Muslims.

“They should prove to us that Christians are clean. All over the world, the history is there for all to see. Even in the Crusades, the IRA in Ireland...all these things are there, we know about it....The Christians in Central Africa Republic are killing Muslims, and recently the Pope visited the place....," he stated.

When the sit-in host of the show, Kwame Ajetiah (AK47) drew his attention to the fact that the backlash from the Christian Council and other religious bodies was not because of the duo's religious background, Sheikh Shaibu dismissively said; "i don't agree. Once the three major Christianity groups have come out the way they've, they have made it religious! But i am saying that it is a human issue....but one can conclude that because they're not Christians that is why the Christian Council is reacting in that manner...that is it, i have that feeling."

He further stated that from their various statements and having listened to the commentary on the issue, one underlying factor that comes up is that because of the background of the two ex-detainees, they should either be sent back to their own country or resettled in Saudi Arabia; an Islamic state.

"What they are saying is that these are Muslims so take them back to their Muslim area...but Ghana is not a Christian country, Christians dominate but this country is not a Christian country...there is a difference between a predominantly Christian country and a Christian country. Ghana is not a Christian country," he emphatically stated.

Clearly riled by the action of the three major Christian leadership groups, Sheikh Shaibu said he believed there is a certain agenda against Muslims in the country as evidenced by their action (GCGC, CCG and the GPCC issuing a statement on the matter re-echoing one another's thought).

"There's a certain ganging up against Muslims in this country," he fumed.

When his attention was drawn to the fact that he was unnecessarily whipping up religious sentiments by his remarks, he shot back; "extremism does not happen in a vacuum."

Quizzed by the host whether before the issue of the resettlement of the two ex-detainees came up, there had been an occasion where the three major Christian groups voiced their concern antagonising the Muslim community in such manner, he replied; "Oh yes, oh yes!"

Nana Aba attacked for asking 'unnecessary' question

Nana Aba Anamoah

Social media platform, Twitter went haywire following Television personality, Nana Aba Anamoah’s question to President John Mahama at the Tuesday media encounter.

The devout Manchester United fan sought to find out what the president would describe as the biggest headache as president and how he manages to ease pressure.

“What keeps you awake at night?” she asked the President who replied, “I hardly sleep…God bless me with sleep. I’m a good sleeper…If anything keeps me awake, it is just how to make this country a better place.”

Some people have taken a dislike to her question. According to them, her question was totally irrelevant.

However, others have commended her question arguing that the country is currently experiencing many challenges big enough to keep the president awake at night.

Read the tweets below, what do you think? Was Nana Aba Anamoah’s question necessary?

Eris Property Group launches African Real Estate Fund venture

Eris Property Group CEO, Warren Schultze says his company is collaborating with Momentum Global Investment Managers on launching an African Real Estate Fund focused on Sub-Saharan Africa.

Property services and development company Eris Property Group and Momentum Global Investment Managers are collaborating on setting up an African Real Estate Fund focused on Sub-Saharan Africa.
High stakes for high return, if you can stick it out for the long term – investors are buying into a boom in sub-Saharan African real estate.

Forecasts for 20-per-cent net annual returns from investing in shopping malls, office blocks or industrial complexes in countries from Zambia to Kenya are drawing in new investors, despite more immediate concerns in some countries about Ebola, terrorism or political stability.
In that vein, Eris Property Group is currently involved in launching a R2.6 billion (US $250-million) African Real Estate Fund in collaboration with Momentum Global Investment Managers, a fellow subsidiary in the MMI Group.
The investment vehicle, will focus initially on shopping malls and office buildings in key African locations including Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Ghana and Rwanda.
Commenting on the venture, Warren Schultze, CEO of Eris Property Group (Pty) Ltd, said "Many African economies are growing at a rapid rate with GDP growth of approximately 7% per annum in certain African economies. Any dramatic change to the landscape creates investment opportunities."
Schultze adds that there is currently a shortage of office and retail space in many African countries, and these countries may offer investors potential returns in excess of what is currently achievable locally in South Africa.
"The South African IPD Index reflects average total returns from property of roughly 17.5%, but this may be difficult to sustain and thus investing in Africa may be a more viable option," he said.
As Africa’s fast-growing population gains spending power and moves into cities, demand for real estate will grow, fund managers say. Urbanization and population growth will boost the number of people in cities globally by 2.5 billion over the next three decades, with much of that growth in Africa and Asia, a recent United Nations study said.
“The No. 1 reason [to invest] is return – 18 to 20 per cent on an annual basis, if you are in for the full eight years,” said David Lashbrook, head of Africa investment strategies at Momentum. “The investors we are looking at targeting are institutions who can be locked up for the whole eight years.”
According to David Morley, head of real estate at private equity firm Actis, “The desire of the increasingly middle class to meet, socialize, shop and spend their leisure time in facilities or retail developments that are on a par with what you find around the world is not going to abate, it is going to continue.
Why real estate?

Building costs in many African countries are high, real estate specialists say, partly because many materials have to be imported. But potential rents are also high – at a monthly $25 to $30 a square metre for high-end office blocks in cities like Rwanda’s capital Kigali, or Ghana’s capital Accra, compared with less than $20 in Johannesburg.

There are currently eight Africa-focused, unlisted real estate funds targeting $1.25-billion in capital, according to data provider Preqin.

Around 69 per cent of capital raised for African real estate funds between 2009 and 2013 was focused on sub-Saharan Africa, excluding South Africa, up from 40 per cent from 2006 to 2009.

Private equity funds look to attract institutional investors and traditionally do offer higher returns, due to the risks of investing in unlisted companies which may be less transparent.

But Ghana and Nigeria already have real estate investment trusts – similar to mutual funds – which can be listed on stock markets and make it easier for retail investors to access the sector. Kenyan legislation to allow REITs is expected to go through this year.

The REIT market worldwide totals more than $1-trillion, according to consultancy EY, in more than 30 countries. The market is less well established in emerging markets, but countries such as Mexico and Brazil have REITs.

Stanlib is among fund managers looking to set up a Kenyan REIT. It already has a fund listed in Johannesburg, which focuses on listed African real estate in countries such as Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mauritius, as well as South Africa.

Keillen Ndlovu, head of listed property funds at Stanlib, said the 200-million-rand ($18.82-million) fund had trebled in size this year and was accessible to retail investors.

Investors are focusing on commercial properties rather than residential due to a limited supply of private housing and the lack of mortgage markets in Africa.

“We are not at that stage, we have been shown quite a few residential projects, there might be a chance – we have seen a few mixed developments,” said Mr. Lashbrook at Momentum.

“If you are building residential, in a lot of these countries there is no mortgage market.”

Returns of 20 per cent or more don’t come without significant risks. Africa has been hitting the headlines for the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and attacks in investment favourites Nigeria and Kenya, including last year’s attack by the al-Shabaab Islamist group on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall.

But real estate specialists say that while Ebola may devastate countries like Sierra Leone and Liberia, it is a short-term issue, whereas they seek long-term gains from property.

Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea also do not rank among the main sub-Saharan markets targeted for real-estate investment.

Terrorism may add to the building costs of shopping malls, due to security and insurance costs.

“There is a concern, that’s one of the first questions that come in – you do get more political risk,” Mr. Ndlovu said.

But the risk of terrorism is not unique to Africa, investors point out. A bigger issue is land security, with documentation varying widely from country to country, and within countries.

That adds to the risk of investing in residential property, although Stephen Bailey-Smith, head of Africa research at Standard Bank in London, who recently built a beach house in Ghana, says the residential sector will eventually open up to investors.

“If you go into any city in Africa, you can see the need for decent housing is infinite,” he said.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Meet the woman teaching Ghana’s kids to code

Ghana Code Club founder Ernestina Edem Appiah

This week, we’ve had the honor of speaking to Ghana Code Club founder Ernestina Edem Appiah about her rise from IT secretary to coder, business owner, NGO founder, and spearhead of coding in Ghanaian schools!

Thanks for chatting with us Ernestina! Can you tell us what the Ghana Code Club is about?

Technology is reinventing the world. Kids need new skills to prepare them for a successful career in the future but the current ICT (Information Communications Technology) curriculum does not include them which is quite alarming. This is where Ghana Code Club comes in. It is a volunteer-led, after-school digital fun club that equips children between the ages of 8-17 years with coding skills. We have piloted with five schools and are ready to be launched into the majority of schools in Ghana during the first quarter of 2016.

What events in your life and career led you to create the Ghana Code Club?

I always dreamed of leading a team of IT professionals in creating cutting-edge solutions for Africa. This passion emerged when I worked for an IT firm in Accra back in 2000 as a secretary. I admired the IT consultants so much, especially the only lady among them. I remember I took home only about 10 percent of what the IT professionals earned at the time. I wanted to enroll on an HTML course (HTML is the standard coding language used to create webpages) but the little money I earned I used to take care of my siblings. Instead of waiting forever, I decided to teach myself any way I could. I got in touch with a web designer who for a small fee introduced me to the basics of HTML. I practiced anytime I got the chance and within weeks, I was designing my own websites.

Eventually, with more confidence in my skills, I took out a classified ad promoting myself as a virtual assistant and took on four clients, including one web-based telecom company in the USA. In 2004, I was able to resign as a secretary, rent an office, and eventually hire people to provide additional support.

A mere company’s secretary who was almost not noticed turned it around to become a business owner with international clients, paying employee salaries, mentoring people, assisting start-ups financially in my own small way, paying for college education fees for not less than five people – all because of that small change I made in my life and the new skills I learned!

I was so grateful and so happy with my progress that I wanted to do something to empower others with the kind of skill set that got me this far. I registered the NGO, Healthy Career Initiative in 2007 with the objective of empowering students with the skill set they will need to thrive in the 21st century—but unfortunately, it remained relatively inactive due to my heavy workload. Then I got married and had children and things slowed down even further as I realized I needed to work from home and be there for my kids when they needed me.

One day, when my boy was 5, I was searching the Internet for a simple programming platform to start teaching him and came across a blog about kids learning to code in the UK and the kind of things they were building that triggered my enthusiasm for my inactive NGO. All of a sudden, I wanted Ghanaian kids to create the same exciting digital stuff kids in the developed world were creating. Things like interactive stories, websites, games, and animation. Immediately, I put plans together and Ghana Code Club was born.

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is being in the classroom with the kids feeling empowered that they have created things that can be used by another person from any part of the world. The smiles on their faces make me feel wonderful and hopeful that these kids will go on to develop the digital footprint of Ghana and Africa and impact the world as a whole.

Do you think Ghana needs to place more importance on technology and connectivity? How would this change the country?

Technology is the catalyst to development in every country, so Ghana also needs to emphasize its importance and steer resources towards technological advancement.

Every home should have access to a computer and the Internet. Then if kids can get trained in the right skills, the country will breed more entrepreneurs, innovators and problem solvers who are needed in every ministry to develop logical thinking, persist at tasks, and learn to collaborate to develop the nation and the world.

What are your aims for 2016?

We aim to launch into 20 or more schools within the first quarter of 2016, reaching no less than 20,000 children. We also hope to organize an inter-school competition to see the impact of creativity, problem-solving, and collaborative skills within our code club members. We then hope to establish a training center that will assist deprived children who, in one way or another, wish to participate in our code clubs but are unable to. We are always looking for support and donations to carry out our plans successfully!

Ghana is a special country - Pastor Chris

Pastor Chris Oyakhilome

Preacher, tele-evangelist, best-selling author, and mentor, Pastor Chris Oyakilome has described Ghana as a “very special country” in Africa.

He made the statement about the oil-producing West African country at the communion service which was streamed live on all the Loveworld Stations of his ministry.

He said: “God sent me to Ghana, I am not coming to Ghana because it is a nice country but I am coming to Ghana because God asked me to.”

He said his presence will be a great blessing to Ghana.

It is evident that in crusades held by Pastor Chris, many miracles and healings take place, resulting in the transformation of individuals who were oppressed and had lost hope. He teaches and dissects the word of God, bringing knowledge, resulting in the salvation of many.

Pastor Chris is expected to hold a crusade in Ghana on Friday 5th February 2016. The programme is dubbed ‘Night of Bliss with Pastor Chris’.

The much anticipated all night special service is expected to take place at the Black Star Square, also known as the Independence Square from 4pm till dawn. The program is free for everyone.

I didn’t take $300m to accept ex-Gitmo detainees – Mahama

President John Mahama has rejected claims that Ghana made monetary gains from the US government to host two former Guantanamo Bay detainees in the country.

There were media reports that claimed the President and his government received about $300 million from the US before accepting the request from the US.

“There is no monetary consideration and the US itself would have disclosed if there was any monetary consideration. What you are seeing on social media that I collected $300 million to accept these detainees is absolutely untrue.”

He was speaking at a media interaction at the Flagstaff House.
He also said they had received assurances that the two detainees posed no security threat to Ghana.

“We did a comprehensive appraisal of the situation when the request came in from the US to take the detainees…The two detainees were said to be the lowest risk inmates of Guantanamo Bay,” he added.

We’ll soon “overcome” dumsor – Mahama

President John Mahama has assured that the power crisis that has afflicted the country for the past three years will soon be “overcome”.

According to him, his government is closer to providing a permanent solution to the crisis that has seen the power minister resign his post.

Power minister Dr. Kwabena Donkor relinquished his office on January 1, this year, after failing to fix the crisis as promised upon his assumption of office.

Addressing the media at the Flagstaff House Tuesday, Mr. Mahama who fell short of giving timelines said the end to the power rationing is very close.

“...We need to forecast our demand and plan generation to be in tune with our of the major sectors that take my time and attention is the power sector... we have made a great effort and as close as we are at solving dumsor, we still have a gab.

“...In a short while, we will be able to overcome dumsor, ..I have learnt to leave (timelines) to the technical people to talk about ...but we now, as a result of the work that we did, have sufficient generation; the problem now is the fuel... we are fortifying the power sector to make it more robust and lasting,” he stated.

Essien impresses in a vital away win at Kalloni

Micheal Essien continues his impressive form for Panathinaikos in a vital away win at Kalloni.

The former Chelsea midfielder inspired the resurgent visitors into their fourth win in the last five matches.

Panathinaikos inflicted a 0-2 reverse on the home side surge back into their third place in the Greece Super ligue.

The 34-year-old lasted 73 minutes on the field for the high-flying visitors who seems to have primed at the appropriate time.

The Black Stars midfielder bossed affairs from the defensive midfield position to steer Panathinaikos past the struggling Kalloni in the Greek top flight.

The summer arrival from Chelsea endured a difficult start to his career in Greece but has since returned to form for the title-chasing side.

The veteran midfielder left the pitch with 17 minutes left as they look to extend the playing career of the former stand Ford crowd favourite.

Second half goals from Nikolas Kaltsas and Olivier Boumah replaced PAOK with Panathinaikos on the third slot in the Greece top flight. Micheal Essien has since featured 8 times for Pana on his return from the treatment table.

Mahama: NPP playing propaganda with teacher trainee allowance

President John Mahama has said the opposition New Patriotic Party’s promise to restore allowances of teacher trainees if they win the 2016 election is mere propaganda.

According to him, the upgrade of teacher training institutions to tertiary institutions made it difficult for them to continue enjoying the benefit of allowances.

“...We raised them to tertiary institution and brought them to the same level as the University of Education, Winneba, and the University of Cape Coast is also training teachers”

“So If these ones (tertiary institutions) we don’t pay teacher trainee allowances; we say go for student loans, but then if these ones that are also are tertiary institution and degree awarding, we say we will pay you teacher training allowances, then there is no sense of equity,” Mr. Mahama told the media at the flagstaff House Tuesday .

The 2016 running mate of the main opposition NPP flagbearer Dr Mahamudu Bawumia and his flagbearer Nana Akufo-Addo have promised to restore the allowance should they win the November polls.

In the view of Dr. Bawumia, the basis for the suspension of the allowance by the NDC government is untenable.

But the President believes such utterances are unhealthy for policy development in the country.

“It is not necessary for us to inject politics into policy making...We must allow policy to work so they can be reliable and predictable”.

Fear road accidents more than Gitmo detainees – Mahama

President John Mahama has allayed fears about the entry into Ghana of the two Guantanamo Bay detainees.

The President says due diligence was done before the ex-detainees were allowed into the country, hence the possibility of them causing any havoc in the country is almost improbable.

Speaking at a press conference to set the records straight on the suspects and other national issues, the President said the safety and security of this country remains the greatest concern and he will not take any decision that will jeopardize the safety and security of the country.

“This is a beneficial relationship and I believe that we should calm the hysteria and phobia. Ghana will continue to receive God’s favour and be a safe place,” he said.

The arrival of Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby for a two-year stay as part of a deal reached between the United States of America and the Government of Ghana has generated a lot of public uproar.

The two, suspected to have links with terrorist group Al-Qaeda, have been in detention for 14 years after being picked up in Afghanistan.

Their suspected links to this terrorist group make government’s case even worse. Many people believe the ex-detainees may be used as a conduit for future terrorist attack on Ghana.

However the President says this argument is flawed. He said together with the National Security, and government of the United States, it was ensured that the two detainees pose the least risk to Ghana.

“When America asked, we decided to do an assessment. America did same and gave us their risk category…it was the lowest. It has also been established that they played no operational role in Afganistan.

“Our own national security visited the camp several times and conducted extensive assessment and interview of these detainees before they were brought here,” he said.

President Mahama said there is no need to be alarmed since the ex-prisoners will be under a 24\7 surveillance and cannot plan anything sinister under the watchful eye of the security agencies.

In any case, having them in Ghana gives the country an opportunity to monitor them and this will be done with the help from the US government, the President noted.

“We took this decision after a lot of assessment and consultation and the point about terrorism is that what you should fear is what you don’t know not what you know.

“Indeed, any Ghanaian is more in danger of dying from road accident than from these Guantanamo detainees because they are with our security service and they are under surveillance. What we should fear is someone coming in to create havoc,” he added.

According to the President, all the two detainees want is to live a normal life and Ghanaians should be compassionate enough and assist in making this desire possible.

Although the president is certain that Ghana is under no terrorism threat, he said the various security agencies are being trained to be able to deal with any situation of such nature in case they do occur.

“I have assessed the risks involved with the detainees and I believe that our security is not endangered because they are in our country. Several countries have done it and I do not think that we should feel ashamed for doing it,” he stressed.

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