U.S Businessman Jerome Almon says it is time for African-Americans to bank more on Africa and matching words with actions, he is launching a venture that will attract hundreds of billions of new investments in the continent. Almon, a veteran who also runs a successful entertainment company says investing in the continent will create wealth and opportunities for Africans and will also be economically beneficial to Africans in the U.S. Countries like India and China have made great progress in part because of strong ties and it is time for African Americans to have the same level of engagement with Africa said Almon in an interview to discuss his initiative with Ajong Mbapndah L
Mr Almon, you have been in the news recently with an ambitious plan to get African Americans invest about $230 billion by 2017, can you break down the vision in very simple terms for us?
It is a simple plan that ask a simple question, “Why should we have to ask others for help when we can help ourselves as Africans. African Americans spend well over a trillion dollars annually, and it does us no good, however investing in Africa through tourism, business ventures, and so on makes Africa financially independent while increasing the wealth and opportunities of Africans on the Continent and in America and it creates a cycle of economic growth for every country and its people in Africa and it makes all Africans everywhere more financially wealthy. It’s just common sense that we do it. We have complete power and control to do as we want with our money and resources-let’s do what’s best for us.
How did you conceive the idea and from the initial reactions you have got, how receptive is the public to your vision?
I looked around and saw nothing but opportunity for the African diaspora to help-especially African Americans with the huge amount of hard currency we spend every year and said to myself it’s time for us to do our share. Africans in every other region of the world were and are doing more than their share. Bottom line it works. The reaction to the plan at first was shock, but when the information was reviewed the people saw how reasonable and workable the plan was and really liked it. The amount of money is less than 8% of African American’s consumer spending. We were once on top of the world economically from Zimbabwe to Timbuktu to Egypt, let’s get back where we belong.
Definitely much could change in Africa with that kind of money, how do you think the money can be raised especially with the economic challenges that many African Americans are facing now?
It is very important that Africans in America not accept whatever they hear in the corporate media. African Americans are constantly told they are poor even though we spend more money than the GDP of all the countries on Earth with the exception of 15 (out of 229 ranked). We are as poor as Bill Gates is-which is not at all. If we spent our money among ourselves as Africans the way the Chinese, Europeans, and Indians, we would create more jobs than there are Africans in America. Equally we are not experiencing an economic downturn in the African American community, we are experiencing the lack of basic economic literacy and the lack of maximizing our potential in this area. For example, my hometown Detroit is bankrupt, but it is not bankrupt due to the lack of money as my website www.detroit1st.com shows. Africans in Detroit spend $30 billion a year, which would make Detroiter’s wealthier than over half the countries on Earth. If you convince someone that they are poor, they will behave as if they are poor. That is why the economic relationship with Africa is so important, think of what would happen if we as Africans followed such a common sense system with all of Africa’s natural resources?! The huge population of young people that can be the next innovators that produce the next Apple or Google, the large amount mineral wealth and natural resources that Africa has puts us as a people in a unique position. It is a matter of just seeing what is right in front of our eyes. The money is there, that cannot be disputed, it is a matter of consolidating it for African advancement. Through a basic media education program with 10 simple facts will allow us all to have a blue print to work from. The biggest issue is not that people don’t have the money and don’t want to help, they don’t know how to help and where to send the money. African Americans give away $12 billion annually to charities that don’t help Africans-American or otherwise. I say let’s spend and invest that $12 billion amongst Africa and Africans. Once you get the truth it compels you to act, it is impossible not to. Look at the fact that Africans from the Continent send more money back to Africa than all the foreign aid combined! There is endless potential if the North American, Caribbean, European, Australian, and South American Africans join in. Actually, it is normal for a society to invest 10% of its GDP into the economy, so we can do it-it happens every day. Any economic distress African Americans have is caused by our lack of doing business with Africans and Africa period. If Africans in America invested in Africa, there would be no poor African Americans-economically this is indisputable.
We have seen a few celebrities with projects in Africa like Oprah Winfrey and a school in South Africa, Isaiah Washington with a foundation in Sierra Leone etc, but many will agree there is still a strong disconnect between African Americans and Africa, why is it that the bonds are not as strong as those between Indian Americans and India or Latinos and South America?
The answer to that question is simple-we haven’t tried. A simple PR and marketing campaign from the African Union and its 54 members directed to African Americans saying “come back home-see what we can do as a people for ourselves, let’s talk, let’s do some things that benefit us all. African Americans should initiate a similar program of gaining membership in the African Union, adopting an African country to visit and work with, and most importantly right now reaching out to the 54 African embassies in America and finding out what Africa needs from us. We will find out that we can do so much together- we have to think big not small. African Americans should also learn an African language, this is a bond that the Chinese, Indians, and Latinos have-a common language. It is natural that we do this, so let’s do it. Our fate in America is the same as Africans everywhere else. It’s a matter of leadership, we need new leadership to compliment current leadership and move Africa and Africans to the next level.
We understand this idea is new, so what is the road map, the plan of action, beyond the first step to get word out there when do we see the first concrete steps towards the realization of the vision?
We must control our own message, currently most news on Africa is filtered through the non African media. We have enough money and the human talent to have an African Al Jazeera with branches in Africa and America. This also allows us to educate and end misconceptions we have of Africa and other Africans, which also provides great business opportunities in advertising and business ownership globally. Next we need to set time tables and specific goals in regards to the funds and projects. This can be easily done with a diaspora conference in Africa and in America and making maximum use of the internet and social media. The most important thing in this area is SHOW the people what great results come from the cooperation. We need to set a top 10 list of priorities such as education, economic literacy, infrastructure projects, GDP goals, and so on. We have to look at this as a grand project with grand results which requires a grand executable plan. These simple steps are 90% of the solution. African Americans are spending the money anyway, why not in Africa, why not on African goods and services? We can all be wealthy together or poor together, I say let’s be wealthy as a people. Let’s help fund projects such as The Great Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia. The dam cost around $5 billion dollars
Are there partners you have identified besides African Americans especially in the continent?
I have been contacted by the office of the President of Sierra Leone, the South African government, African Canadian groups, Ugandan, Kenyan, the office of the President of Rwanda through a journalist in East Africa, the government of Tanzania, Nigerian, Angolan, and Namibian businessmen and dozens of other Africans from as far away as Hong Kong. The key is working with the leadership and people in Africa to partner them with Africans in the West and getting lines of communication open and resources to the needed area as efficiently as possible.
As much as things are changing in the continent, there are still leaders in power for over thirty years and counting, corruption is still too rife for comfort and there are countries where democratic values are not respected, how can such realities affect your project?
Democracy is a powerful thing-it automatically changes a lot of things. And one of things it does is create a middle class by its very nature, and that ends the chance of such prolonged rule. At a certain stage in development it is not viable, nor acceptable. Presidents and Prime Ministers come and go, but the country and the people still need power plants, roads, bridges, and technology. The concentration has to be on improving the average African’s life, and the rest will take care of itself. The West, China, India all faced the same issue and concentrated on the economic and infrastructure issues at hand and the democracy came along with the progress in these areas. All of my research and experience in this area shows that poverty creates dictators, and prosperity creates transparency and freedom.
Personally are there any countries that you have visited or some you consider as the kind of models of development and progress you will like to see across the continent?
Ironically, it is Germany, Canada, and China. Germany is a very efficient country. It was the world’s largest exporter up until 5 years ago. When you consider that the country has less than a third of the population of the US and 7% of China’s population, it is amazing. I always saw this as a model for Africa-especially South Africa. With Canada you have nearly as much efficiency and you have a very modern country in terms of infrastructure and human rights. Also with Canada you have a country the size of the US with 1 tenth of the population, which is very similar to most African countries. Canada is also a great model to borrow from in terms of its modern infrastructure and facilities such as hospitals. The country also mirrors African American economically, with our consumer spending being almost identical to Canada’s GDP. This allows for us to see what we SHOULD have with the amount of money we spend. Finally, there are more Africans in America than there are Canadians on Earth, look what they do with their resources and look what we Africans in America do with ours. We should have everything Canada has in America, but also each African country. We can easily do this. With China we see where we should be as a whole. China and the Chinese diaspora are moving as one economically and have been really seriously since the 1980’s-look at the result. If we adopt such a philosophy for Africa with its unmatched mineral and natural wealth we can be where China is in a relatively short period of time. China went from and agrarian society in the 1950’s to dominating the world economically today through its 5 year plan economic system. In these countries we see our potential and future, the keys are having the right vision, efficient execution of a workable plan, and constant monitoring of the feedback data and progress to make the plan more efficient.
With such a great vision, people will love to know who Jerome Almon, we see there is information about music labels you are, involvement in show biz etc, can you tell us who Jerome Almon is and the kind of experiences he has that should make people believe that this is a serious vision and this is something he can provide the right leadership for?
My background is in economics and political science, I have worked on the UN Delphi Project out of Belgium, I have attended America’s best Universities, and I have the real world experience-which is most important. I have managed one of the busiest retailers in the world. I speak working Zulu, German, Arabic, and English. I am a paratrooper and own a successful entertainment company that produces events that have 1.5-2.5 million fans per event. But what I am most proud of is my studying the history, geography, and culture of Africa. I have spent countless hours talking to Africans from university, African military officers, and African academics about Africa. My heroes were and are mostly continental Africans such as Jerry Rawlings, Haile Selassie, Thomas Sankara, Jomo Kenyatta, Nelson Mandela, Kwame Nkrumah, Samora Machel, Julius Nyerere, Jose Dos Santos, Kenneth Kaunda, Anwar Sadat and on and on. I have studied Africa since I was 8 years old. It is Africa FIRST for me always.
After reading this interview if people got interested what should there do, how can they get involved, support or find out more information?