Investment Opportunities ...1a

As a secondary school student back in Nigeria, I was a fan of James Hadley Chase, author of many thrillers about western culture and their intrigue captured in well and easy to follow narratives. Typical of JHC writings, he uses metaphors to depict the follies of human nature and how easily taken some are. Two lines that have stayed with me all these years are: 'A sucker is born every second' and 'If you believe this you believe anything'. The two are very evident in anyone of us because as Africans, we are easily taken or impressed by something that on a face value look well but taken deeper, is often not what it appears to be.

This leads me to African Chamber of Commerce.

The African Chamber of Commerce, while it may appear the brainchild of Sanmi Akinmulero, was actually the efforts of Obinna Duruji and Richard Nwachukwu, who back in late 1980s, thought that it was necessary to organize a chamber to serve and help launch a new set of newly and just arrived Africans into the US business sector - DFW region. They did their best but just like many things, the organization faced mounting challenges and it still does. Somehow both by design and default, enter Sanmi Akinmulero, who at the time had an outfit called New Image Business Associates - NIBA.

The intention of NIBA is to again bring folks into the know about business and have workshops/seminars to help Africans integrate. NIBA struggled because it leadership while it portrayed good intentions and meant well in its objectives, was handicapped because the managerial capacity of the leadership is less than. It was in the ensuing confusion and desperation that Sanmi got involved with African Chamber leadership and somehow fooled them into getting him involved. Little did they know that Sanmi's intention was to hijack the Chamber and make it his personal petty organization and vehicle to fame. The African Chamber is nothing like its name conveys.

As to investments in Africa, there are always investment opportunities in Africa. As a matter of fact, Africa has more investment opportunities than any place on the face of the earth. What matters is, how do Africans go about the investments? Are Africans expecting the west to give the money for the investment or are they putting their money where their mouth is? 

I am yet to see African Chamber publish its annual report showing its financial standing and what verifiable investments it has helped actualize in Africa. For Mr. Akinmulero to keep himself relevant and appear a promoter of investments in Africa, he invites speakers who convey no new information about opportunities, and to me that is not what makes a chamber a vehicle for business and economic development.

The chamber does not have any paid staff, no budget and its board is picked by Mr. Akinmulero; and many do not attend board meetings and have distanced themselves. Listed as one of the board members is Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Washington, who never attended any board meeting nor is she familiar with the organization. One of the board members, former City Councilmember Don Hill, is standing trial for corruption in Dallas Federal Court. If anyone does not like Mr. Akinmulero's follow-me mentality since Sanmi cannot see himself play a second role, that person is edged out of the organization. The chamber is Mr. Akinmulero's source of livelihood and he keeps all records and proceeds close to heart.

On several occasions, I was approached by some to get involved. Back in the 1990s, Mr. Akinmulero wanted me to join and serve in some leadership position. I declined because at the time, I was Secretary of Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce but told Sanmi that we can collaborate. But even without the role at DBCC, I am not one disposed to malfeasance and managerial incompetence as displayed by the leadership of the African Chamber. Check the following lifted from Mr. Akinmulero's message as posted on the chamber website. In his own words:

In 2004, we worked with the city of Dallas and setup a bilateral trade agreement with the City of Tema, Ghana. In 2006, we setup another bilateral trade agreement between the City of Dallas and City of Nairobi, Kenya. And our work continues! In February 2007, Mr. Ross Perot, Jr., announced at our Annual African Economic Forum to open Perot Systems and establish hotel development in Kenya. Also, we are working on a direct flight between D/FW International Airport and African Airport Authority. We also, engaged in trade missions to several countries in Africa to promote trade, commerce and investments to the region.

Anyone not familiar with how city governments in US are set up will be fooled by the so called bilateral trade agreements between City of Dallas and Cities of Tema and Nairobi. In the first place, cities in US do not enter into bilateral trade agreements with foreign cities as trade agreement is an exclusive preserve of US Trade office. In other words, there is no such agreement and I challenge Mr. Akinmulero to post the agreement and say when it was signed and who are signatories to the agreement. What cities can do to engage other cities is promoted via what is called US Sister City Program, a token relationship that does not amount to anything. Again, the president makes a sweeping misrepresentation about Perot Systems and its investment plan for Kenya. There is no such plan or intention by Perot Systems to invest in hotel in Kenya. Mr. Perot, Jr., has continued to deny such comment as he no such plan. Also, there is no organization called African Airport Authority that DFW International Airport is working with to have direct flights.

Direct flights to countries are negotiated between the airlines and the country. DFW International Airport does not negotiate direct flight with any country. The business of DFW International Airport is to provide gate availability and landing requirements and conditions. DFW International Airport, for instance, will not tell American Airlines where to fly to nor will they negotiate flights to other countries and then turn around and tell American Airlines to now fly there. If people who are supposed to lead intentionally because they want to boost their ego offer misleading and false information, where lies the credibility factor that is the asset of effective leadership? Mr. Akinmulero is a good man but he has less collateral content when it comes to conveying facts and figures to make a case for the chamber. In his insatiable stance/posturing to be relevant, he does not check his utterances. Among folks who are not informed, he appears substantive but some can easily poke holes in his posturing and deflate his position. 

On the airport opportunities in Africa as presented by Maevis Limited at www.maevislimited.comit is no new information. The challenges Africans face in attracting reasonable and condition-changing investments to the continent is due to the half baked measures those that claim to promote the continent take. I am sure as Mr. Ayo Faniran spoke about the investments, he never mentioned the type of investment wanted, how much, what is equity and debt, duration, risks and rewards, etc. He probably talked in generality and shared information that when taken deeper has nothing. There are many services needed at airports.

Airports in Africa are the least sector in contributing to the overall revenue base of their economy. Take for instance, DFW International contributes about $21 billion in both direct and indirect business and economic development of the region. In Nigeria, Muritala Mohamed International Airport at Ikeja-Lagos, Nigeria's premier airport, does not make a $1b annually despite its unique location. There are no new major airports planned for Africa even Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport - Abuja, is nothing to write home about. While in Nigeria this March, I visited the airport and talked with some contacts at FAAN, the numbers are simply not there. Annual international flights; take off and landings, are fewer than 200 and international passenger traffic is less than 2 million. So when someone tells you about airport investments opportunities, if you know about investment in airport, you can ask questions but if you are like what James Hadley Chase wrote about 'if you believe this you believe anything', you probably will be jumping and down.

The bottom-line for me and some who are familiar with African Chamber and its leadership solely anchored and mismanaged by Sanmi Akinmulero, is that his posturing is only good for the easily impressed. The chamber is likely any organization run by Africans in US, it has no structure and cannot deliver on anything except showmanship, an image that is easily punctured when seasoned veterans look a little deeper.

If your sensitivity and or sensibility is torched and touched by this posting, you are excused. But if you a true believer who wants to see more from collective existence of organizations run by Africans in US, then you should ask good questions about anything so that you make good decision. Don't be 'a sucker' as depicted by James Hadley Chase.

ejike e okpa ii