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ReConnect Africa is a unique website and online magazine for the African professional in the Diaspora. Packed with essential information about careers, business and jobs, ReConnect Africa keeps you connected to the best of Africa.

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News from the UK and around the world

Britain's population will hit 72.4 million by 2050. A UN report found its status as top destination in Europe for migrants will soon cause its population to overtake Germany's, making it the most peopled country in the EU.

Century Films, an award winning TV Company, is developing a new documentary about members of the African Diaspora who are returning to the Continent.

If you are a currently living in the UK and are either thinking about or are in the process of re-locating then we would like to hear from you. For an informal chat about your plans for the future or to simply find out more about the documentary, please e-mail Rob Miller:  robert.miller@centuryfilmsltd.com

With a $50,000 Building Education grant from Siemens Building Technologies, Inc., North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University will begin to launch a timely series of coursework and other programs designed to seed and foster academic excellence in professional disciplines associated with architectural/engineering and building energy management through its College of Engineering. A portion of the grant will also be used to fund three $5,000 scholarships for incoming freshman entering the College of Engineering. Siemens Building Technologies Building Education program is active nationwide supporting STEM initiatives and green curricula development. The goal is to provide students opportunities that will lead to careers in energyr-elated fields, including environmental and energy engineering as well as 21st century green technician jobs. The program partners with professional and philanthropic organizations such as the Association for Career Technical Education and the Ford Motor Company Fund.

IBM announced that it has ranked #3 overall on the 100 Best Corporate Citizens List, outranking all other information technology companies on the list. The annual list is published by the Corporate Responsibility Officer (CRO) Magazine. CRO's 100 Best Corporate Citizens List is the only such list based on 100% publicly-available information and ranks Russell 1000 companies on their performance in seven key areas: Environment, Climate Change, Human Rights, Philanthropy, Employee Relations, Financial and Governance. IBM's 2007-2008 Corporate Responsibility Report was issued in November reflecting how social and business strategies are connected and integrated and includes performance and results in the areas of governance, supply chain, environmental performance, employment policies and practices, client solutions and community engagements.

The Recession Poll is a survey of 2,000 established London small and medium sized enterprise (SME) owners on how they are coping with the recession and plan to manage their business during 2009. According to the poll, London's small and medium businesses are finding it harder to battle through the recession with 63% of those surveyed reporting that the recession had affected their business (up from 48% in October 2008). The most commonly cited difficulties were falling sales (52%); decreasing turnover (29%); and having less access to finance (9%). However, 58% of those surveyed are not only optimistic about weathering the storm – they're actively planning to grow their business during 2009. Most businesses that planned to grow want to do so aggressively by: seeking out new business opportunities (46%); offering new products and services (20%); and targeting new geographical markets (9%). London's SME owners are refusing to get bogged down in the doom and gloom – even as the recession begins to bite. More small and medium businesses are feeling better equipped to survive the recession than their larger counterparts - 73% of businesses now, compared with 53% in October 2008.

Recruiter Magazine reports that the public sector is now the second biggest employer of accountancy contractors in the UK. Research, from contract services provider Giant Group, shows 37% of accountancy contractors are employed by the government. This is up from 34% in the last quarter. Overall the public sector accounts for 19.5% of the UK workforce.

A new website has been launched to help third sector groups overcome the recession. Umbrella organisation the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO) has unveiled their Recession Support portal in a bid to provide groups with the practical advice and guidance they need to emerge through the economic downturn. The website, which is free to use and also available to non-members of ACEVO, includes various guides written by a range of experts covering key topics such as finance, management and career development. It will also include the latest recession news, along with links to other useful organisations, sector events and training courses. For further information about the new portal, visit the Recession Support website

The Coca-Cola Company has announced that it has committed US $30MM over the next six years to provide access to safe drinking water to communities throughout Africa through its Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN). Implemented by The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, RAIN will provide at least 2 million Africans with clean water and sanitation by 2015. According to the World Health Organization, more than 300 million Africans lack access to safe drinking water, and millions of them die each year from preventable waterborne illnesses. Up to half of the region's population at any one time suffers from diseases related to unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation. The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation currently has water projects in 19 African countries – Angola, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Cote d' Ivoire, Kenya, Mali, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia – reaching over 300,000 people. These water projects are all implemented in partnership with local communities in each country. They also contribute to The Coca-Cola Company's aspirational water stewardship goal of returning to communities and to nature an amount of water equivalent to what we use in all of our beverages and their production.

The 1975 Equal Pay Act is "no longer fit for purpose" according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). The body is calling for radical reform of the act, including obliging larger companies to publish the number of men and women in each pay band to help identify segregation in workplaces and underlying reasons for the pay gap. It also wants to ban “gagging” clauses so employees are allowed to discuss their pay. Equal pay laws are almost exclusively reliant on individual women bringing lengthy and costly tribunal cases when they experience discrimination, a system that produces more conflict than change, the EHRC said. The commission has also published a guide for employers on high-risk pay systems - the types of scenarios that are increasingly ending up in court – and how to avoid them.

African Caribbean people affected by cancer in Lambeth, Newham and Hackney are being invited to become awareness volunteers for The Prostate Cancer Charity and help to spread the word about their increased risk of developing the disease. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK, and risk increases with age. However, African Caribbean men are three times more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than white men. To recognise this fact, The Prostate Cancer Charity has appointed a specialist project manager to work within the African Caribbean community to raise awareness of the disease and to train Community Champions to spread the word. Sarah Toule is looking for African Caribbean men who have experienced prostate cancer and their partners and friends, to step forward and give talks to others in the three boroughs. The Older and Wiser project will launch to coincide with the Charity’s first ever Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, which will involve thousands of people across the UK joining forces to raise awareness of the disease. African Caribbean men who would like to be involved in the Charity’s volunteer programme, are invited to contact Sarah Toule at Sarah.Toule@prostate-cancer.org.uk or on 020 8222 7149. For general queries about prostate cancer, call The Prostate Cancer Charity's confidential Helpline 0800 074 8383.

Female entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland are urged to get a helping hand in growing their business by signing up to take part in a free support scheme. Fully funded by Invest Northern Ireland, the Booster Programme will involve a series of workshops, seminars and networking events, as well as offering six days intensive training covering a range of key business topics, including marketing, exporting and leadership. The initiative, to be managed by women’s enterprise experts YTKO, aims to provide female entrepreneurs with the skills, confidence and know-how they need to take their business ideas to the next level. The Booster Programme is available to female entrepreneurs that meet a range of criteria, including: own (or 50% own) a business that has been trading for at least 18 months that has an annual turnover above £100,000 (with the potential to be above £250,000 within three years), are involved in manufacturing or the tradable services sector, are ambitious, committed to learning and developing their skills, and applying their learning experience to accelerate the growth of their business. For further information about the Booster Programme and to register an interest in taking part, visit the Enterprising Women website.

The Welsh strand of a major £12.5 million match fund aiming to encourage female entrepreneurship has been launched. Finance Wales, the Assembly Government's investment arm, will manage the Aspire Fund – a risk-capital scheme investing in high-growth, women-led businesses. Provided across the UK by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, the Government is making £12.5 million available to match fund other private sector co-investors. Female entrepreneurs with viable business ideas can apply for commercial investments ranging between £100,000 and £2 million. The fund is available to businesses that have an attractive and viable business proposition, already have a private sector co-investor in place, have 30% or more female representation at board or senior executive team level and are more than 30% owned by women (excluding third-party investors, such as venture capital funds and business angels). For further information about the Welsh strand of the Aspire Fund, visit the Finance Wales website.

Unemployment rates have spiked higher for Latinos and Blacks in the USA than whites during the current economic crisis, reports The Associated Press (AP). Since December 2007, unemployment for Blacks has risen 4.5 points to 13.4 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. During that same period, unemployment for whites has increased only 2.9 points to 7.3 percent. Part of the reason Black and Latino jobless rates are high is because they are concentrated in industries that have been hard hit by the economy, such as construction and service sectors. Blacks also didn't reap as much benefit as whites from the economic boom times. Unemployment rates for Blacks have been double that of whites since the government began tracking the rates by race in the 1970s. Latinos and Blacks in white-collar professions are also feeling the pain, mainly because they are often newer arrivals to those professions than their white counterparts, according to the AP.

Charities and community groups across the UK and Ireland can scoop a helping hand with getting to grips with the internet by entering a long-running competition. Established in 2000, BT’s Connecting Communities Awards can provide successful entrants with a brand new laptop computer and free broadband connection for a year. The scheme aims to tackle digital exclusion and increase the opportunities for people to use IT and the internet. A BT survey carried out last year discovered that 33% of people in the UK are “digitally excluded” by having no access to computers or the internet. The awards are open to entries from any UK or Ireland-based charity or community organisation that can show how improving IT and internet access will benefit their local area. Social enterprises, Community Interest Groups or profit-making bodies are ineligible. A new category has also been introduced this year, with up to five organisations encouraged to team up and apply for a Cluster Award, which aims to enhance networking and collaborations between local groups. As well as each participant receiving a free laptop and one year's broadband connection, Cluster Awards will also offer packages of specialist equipment, such as digital cameras and printers, along with a range of online support and advice. For further information about the scheme, visit the BT Community Connections website.

A new £4 million fund has been launched to help charities, community groups and social enterprises in England successfully bid for public service contracts. Futurebuilders England’s Cashflow Fund will offer short-term support, including bridging loans, reserves cover and overdraft guarantees, to third sector organisations interested in bidding for a share of the £20 billion worth of contracts predicted to be made available over the next two years. Tailored funding packages ranging from £50,000 will be available to help groups cover the short-term cashflow needs – or developmental capital – they require to bid for, and subsequently win, contracting opportunities. The Cashflow Fund is open to applicants that are a third sector organisation that is based in, or mainly benefits, people living in England. The £4 million will be allocated on a first come, first served basis, with interested organisations urged to get in touch with Futurebuilders England and discuss their ideas as soon as possible.

Some of the best business brains in Scotland are set to help the voluntary and community sector become more enterprising. The Scottish Government has awarded £186,200 for a consortium to provide mentoring and one-on-one skills development for third sector staff. The group, comprising the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, Forth Sector, Edinburgh Business Development and the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), will offer assistance to a broad range of organisations, including social enterprises, credit unions, community groups and charities. Announcing the initiative at a conference on "Creating a Sustainable Third Sector" in Edinburgh, Finance Secretary John Swinney claimed that a thriving voluntary and community sector could play a vital role in helping Scotland overcome the economic downturn.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has revealed that a new programme will launch next month to help innovative businesses increase their export capabilities. The £3.5 million Gateway to Global Growth initiative will offer specialist, tailored financial and legal advice, enabling firms to overcome the economic downturn by taking advantage of overseas market opportunities. Mr Brown announced the scheme, which is aiming to support more than 1,200 companies over the next two years, at a special summit with 100 of the UK's biggest exporters. He told them that companies which export tended to be "more resilient" in a downturn, pointing to figures from December's SME Business Barometer Survey which revealed that 42% of exporters had increased their turnover in the past 12 months, compared to 23% overall. The new programme, he said, will be an important tool to help businesses now as they make the most of the opportunities we know are still out there. The £3.5 million Gateway to Global Growth started operating from April, helping SMEs to access foreign markets where they see potential for their business.

In 1987, the World Bank, with funding from the Government of Japan, established the World Bank Graduate Scholarship Program (WBGSP) for graduate studies in subjects related to economic development. Each year, the Program awards scholarships to individuals from World Bank member countries to undertake graduate studies at renowned universities throughout member countries of the Bank. To apply for a JJ/WBGSP scholarship under the Regular Program, an applicant must be a national of a World Bank member country eligible to borrow, have at least 2 years of recent full time professional experience acquired after a university degree, in the applicant's home country or in another developing country and hold a bachelor's degree or its equivalent. Eligible applicants should propose a program of study related to development at the master's level, in fields such as economics, health, education, agriculture, environment, natural resource management, or other development. The proposed program of study should start during the academic year 2008/2009 for a maximum duration of two years. For more information and an application see: (http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/WBI/

The non-profit Center for Sustainable Innovation (CSI) has announced the release of a new model for measuring and reporting corporate sustainability performance. Referred to as the True Sustainability Index(TM) (TSI), CSI's model consists of only 15 indicators that sustainability managers can use to assess the full triple bottom line performance of organizations. SRI professionals and third-party analysts will also find the TSI useful in their attempts to understand, rate and rank the sustainability performance of organizations as a basis for making investment decisions. Unlike other sustainability indexes, the TSI is made up of metrics that are context-based, meaning that they express organizational performance relative to actual social and environmental conditions in the world. Water consumption, for example, is measured against renewable supplies; solid wastes are measured against landfill capacities; and impacts on social and economic conditions are measured against societal needs. The model released is an early prototype – an 80-percent solution – and remains a work in progress.

Olympic Champion Ed Moses and leading healthcare attorney Joy Stephenson have launched Mojo Marketing & Media, the first entertainment company whose mission is to encourage people to develop their personal social conscience, take action and get involved in making a positive difference in the lives of others. Mojo combines the power of entertainment with the immediacy of interactive experience in creating socially-responsible marketing vehicles that raise awareness for charities. Mojo is an outgrowth of its founders' experience in healthcare, charity, sports and entertainment and stems from their commitment to increase social responsibility and community involvement via creative avenues. Mojo will produce original, compelling family-friendly content – including music, movies, sports, docudramas, concerts and reality-based content – that spreads the word about what organizations can do for communities and individuals and what communities and individuals can do for these organizations. Mojo is especially relevant now as charities face an ever-growing demand for their services at a time when some are being forced to close their doors. All Mojo productions are charity neutral and offer viewers and participants a way to get immediately involved in socially-responsible organizations or causes in their own communities and beyond. Mojo will work with a wide array of charities, depending on the focus and location of the project, and all charities will be screened to ensure they are organized for the public benefit and recognized as such by the IRS.

Two hundred of IBM's future leaders from nearly 40 countries will participate for international assignments to emerging markets in 2009 as part of the company's Corporate Service Corps program, part of the Global Citizen's Portfolio initiative. Now in its second year, IBM's so-called "corporate Peace Corps" is sending teams of employees to nine emerging countries to work on projects that intersect economic development and information technology. In 2009, IBM is sending participants for the first time to Brazil, China, Malaysia and South Africa and will return to Ghana, the Philippines, Romania, Tanzania and Vietnam. The assignments are being selected to use the skills IBM employees possess in areas such as information technology, business consulting, marketing, finance and supply chain management. According to Stanley S. Litow, Vice President, Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs, IBM, "The Corporate Service Corps helps high-potential employees develop smarter leadership skills while engaging organizations in emerging markets and helping them grow their business. Not only do participants learn first-hand how business is done in local communities, but they share what they know with colleagues back home and gain a personal understanding of what it means to be a global citizen." Last year, the Corporate Service Corps worked on 36 projects that helped local businesses, non-profit organizations and governmental institutions improve their use of new technologies and expand their global reach. The Corporate Service Corps groups IBM employees in teams of 8 to 10, representing dozens of different countries and business units. An important design point for the program is to provide high-performance employees the chance to build networks with people they might never interact with. This will also enable employees to bring different perspectives and expertise to solving problems, as well as encourage interaction with people from different cultural backgrounds and traditions. More than 5,000 high-potential employees applied for 200 openings in the program this year, making it one of the most competitive employee programs ever created.

A survey by budget hoteliers Travelodge has revealed that British workers, evidently more entrepreneurial than traditionally thought, are apparently swindling their bosses by more than £1bn a year, through making up false expense claims. Travelodge discovered that the typical worker manages to claim an extra £17 per month – that's £204 a year – through falsifying their expenses. Some of the more outrageous claims include a new motorbike, a private number plate for a BMW, hiring a private investigator to find evidence to start divorce proceedings, a pet hamster called Barry for the office, lap dancers and £1000 hair extensions. Further research findings identified a smug 43% of British workers believe swindling expense claims is a legitimate way of making extra cash and 45% of people said all their colleagues are 'doing it'. An astonishing 84% of those polled said they didn't feel guilty about inventing claims. Despite rampant claims fiddling, only eight per cent of employees have been caught and sacked for fiddling their expenses. A shocking 60% of managers have let their team members get away with making a false expense claim. The top three expense scams exposed by respondents were: ask for extra taxi receipts and use them to claim back false taxi transport, add extra mileage when submitting an expense claim; and use a cheap restaurant to entertain a business client and use an expensive restaurant for personal use. When submitting the claim use the expensive receipt.

A new study suggests that while women are contributing more to the bottom line in families with dual incomes, men are experiencing more conflict over work/life balance, USA Today reports. A total of 59 percent of fathers in dual-income families said jobs and family life interfere with each other, up from 35 percent in 1977, according to a telephone survey by the nonprofit Families and Work Institute. For mothers, reported conflict between family and work rose from 40 percent to 45 percent in the same time period. Sociologists attribute the jump in conflict experienced by men to the fact that men are now spending more time taking care of children. Conflict hasn't risen as fast for women, they say, because stress from juggling work and family was already high. The survey of 3,500 workers also showed that 60 percent of men and women disagreed with the idea that men should bring home the bacon while women should take care of the family. Woman are also adding more to a family's bottom line. The survey showed that the annual income contributed by women in two-income families rose to 44 percent in 2008. More than a quarter of those women earned 10 percent more than their partners.

A group of philanthropic organizations, including social venture funds, foundations, business assistance providers and international development firms, have announced the launch of a new economic development network that would increase investment in small and growing businesses in the developing world. Supporters of the network said poverty reduction would require expanded support for small business owners in emerging markets who are ineligible for smaller microfinance loans and are often overlooked by traditional sources of investment because their businesses are not yet big enough. Based in Washington, DC at the Aspen Institute, the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs has garnered the financial backing of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Citi Foundation, Google.org, The Lemelson Foundation, Omidyar Network, The Rockefeller Foundation, Shell Foundation and Skoll Foundation. To-date, thirty-five organizations have joined the network, which organizers said would collectively manage more than $750 million during the next five years. The creation of the network marked a major step forward in addressing a well-documented disparity between investment in small and growing businesses compared to other business sectors in emerging markets. According to research conducted for the network by Dalberg Global Development Advisors, the volume of loans made in both the microfinance and small-scale private equity sectors were each six times greater than those made within the small and growing business sector. "The developing world is currently missing out on an engine of job creation and economic growth because entrepreneurs are unable to access appropriate finance and business training," said Chris West, director of the Shell Foundation. "Through the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs, we have the potential to change this situation - unlocking latent, much-needed entrepreneurial potential."

A new "equality standard" is being developed for the police to help increase public confidence in forces across England and Wales. Eleven forces, including the Metropolitan Police and Greater Manchester Police, will be piloting new diversity approaches, developed by the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA), over the coming three months. The trials will then be analysed and incorporated into an equality standard that will be available to all forces by the end of the year. The standard is aimed at helping the police assess the extent to which they have developed beyond basic equality legislation compliance, improve ways of delivering services and make better use of skills and resources. There will be a particular focus on improving long-standing problems with the recruitment, retention and career progression of under-represented groups.

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