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Michael Bloomberg & Mo Ibrahim talk politics and governance

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Michael Bloomberg & Mo Ibrahim talk politics and governance

They are arguably two of the world’s most respected business minds and they are not afraid to speak out on many global issues. In the margins of the highly-touted US-Africa Leaders’ Summit last August, renowned former mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg and the unflappable Sudanese millionaire Mo Ibrahim jointly and exclusively spoke to New African on a wide range of issues. From money, politics and philanthropy to good governance and the summit itself, Mike and Mo do not hold back in this light-hearted, yet poignant interview with Omar Ben Yedder.

NA: Congratulations on what many people say was a successful event – the Business Forum that you spearheaded during the US-Africa Summit. What are you views on it?

Michael Bloomberg: It generated genuine contacts between buyers and sellers that will turn into long-term relationships and that doesn’t usually happen. One of the reasons this Summit also worked was that the dinners we organised around it, got everyone out of their hotels with a chance to dialogue on a first name basis. The format of the Summit was designed so that delegates could sit and interact. This helped a lot in ensuring that business was done.                               
 
Mo Ibrahim: Most of these things are a waste of time but this was not.
 

NA: Michael, you are known as a problem-solver. You took the initiative to organise the successful Business Forum at this Summit. How did that evolve?

MB: In all fairness the idea came from the President and his Secretary of Commerce, Penny Pritzker. They had the idea and then they approached us and asked if we would be interested in participating. Bloomberg has a 20-year history in Africa. We have 8 offices, at least 160 people who work there.  Our philanthropy side has projects in around 40 African countries. We were therefore a logical partner for the Summit. Besides, we also have the expertise on how to structure an event. It was therefore a good symbiotic relationship.

NA: Former President Clinton said that the US needed this Summit more than the Africans did, hinting that the Americans would have more to lose. Do you agree with this?

MB: I would never criticise a former American President. But how do you measure that? For Africa it is a unique opportunity to deal with individual American businesses as opposed to a government-sponsored trade programme, of the kind China does. By the way, there is nothing wrong with what China does. They just have a different approach to it and there are some benefits to that, as well some detriments. But that is what they do.  

In America we  have lots of alternatives. For example,  if you don’t want General Electric jet engines, you can buy Pratt & Whitney jet engines. And you can have a different policy for jet engines than you have for locomotives, or turbines, or roads, or that kind of stuff. But at the end of the day you will create more American jobs, and you will create more African jobs as well.

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Written by Omar Ben Yedder

Omar Ben Yedder is the Publisher and Managing Director of IC Publications. After a short stint at investment bank Merrill Lynch, London, Omar joined the group in 2003. Omar's work and personal interests include media, development economics, leadership and education. Omar studied Economics and Languages at Durham University and also is a chartered management accountant. Omar is Tunisian, and is based out of London, spending two weeks a month on the road.

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