August 17th, 2010
02:24 PM GMT
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The more I've been involved with Marketplace Africa (I've been the producer on the show since May), the more impressed I've become with the great sense of entrepreneurship of many Africans.

I'm based in Atlanta, in the U.S., and to try to tell the story of African business and investment all over the world, I dig around to find interesting stories of expats living in North America.

I've come across a Nigerian who lives in Houston, Texas, who founded a business tying gele, or head wraps, for women for weddings and major events.

Segun Gele is his celebrity name, built up partly because he is such a great self-promoter, but it’s not all in promotion alone. I found as I searched for other gele artists in the States and around the world that his name was definitely at the top of the list.

And his business started simply after he offered to help one woman tie her gele at a wedding in Atlanta. He did it so well; others at the wedding asked who tied her gele, then came to him to tie theirs. He quickly realized he could make a living doing it and now he travels the country constantly during wedding season. It’s the only business he’s ever done since he moved to the U.S.

Then I found another Nigerian, Chido Nwangwu, who after moving here decided the U.S. needed a newspaper that told the African story here in the States - connecting Africans living here with Africans on the continent.

USAfrica grew from a newspaper, to an online newspaper, the “first ever African owned U.S.-based online newspaper” to a glossy pictorial magazine called “Class,” to a photo website, a business journal and coming soon, a television network, and book publishing.

We found a Liberian, D.H. Caranda Martin, who learned from his grandmother the intricacies of making tea and coffee. He now makes fine food products with goods imported from 14 countries in Africa and sold in luxury hotels and restaurants. Even the famous New York chef, Marcus Samuelsson, uses his tea.

All of these stories have recently aired on Marketplace Africa, and there are many more to come. There are Canadians who decided to take a chance on investing in Africa (a tall order for many small companies), and who outsource work to Ethiopia and Ghana.

There is a UK-based clothing store that uses designers from around Africa who weave in African fashion in a beautiful way, making it more accessible to the rest of the world. The company's mission is to promote African entrepreneurs.

It is not hard to find amazing African entrepreneurs around the world, and we will continue to strive to bring those stories to the audience. Feel free to send any suggestions to us at

August 16th, 2010
10:23 AM GMT
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August 13th, 2010
07:39 PM GMT
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As you may have seen in our debut episode of "Q & A", CNN's Ali Velshi and Richard Quest battled it out to see who knew more about the all important commodity - wheat.

This was all part of a new segment on CNN that we're calling "Q & A" and where we are giving you - the viewer - the chance to have us answer questions on any topic that you want.

From pop culture, transportation, luxury living, finance, music - anything goes.

You choose the topics and in one minute, Richard and Ali will tell you everything you need to know.

BUT what happens when Ali and Richard go head to head? Who will win? Send us your questions and they’ll be quizzed – live on Q&A.

Here's your chance to test the experts and see if they really know their stuff.

Write in your suggestions of what topics you want covered.

Filed under: Q&AQuest Means Business

August 12th, 2010
01:30 PM GMT
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I never cared much about the currency markets before moving out of the U.S.

Euro, yen, dollar… those words zoomed by on the bottom of the business news tickers, the numbers behind them always fluctuating up and down, seemingly meaningless in my single currency world.

Then I moved to Japan, and like many American expatriates, I got a crash course on the impact of the currency market on my wallet.

When I moved here almost three years ago, the Japanese yen was hovering around 120, 110 versus the U.S. dollar. Now mid-August 2010, the yen is smack dab in the 80’s. The cost of living for me, and many people who are paid in dollars but live in a yen world, has gone up percentage wise double digits, through no fault of our own except for a weakening dollar.

Michigan native Paula Shioi remembers the days of the 300 yen versus the dollar, when she was in high school a few decades ago. Since then, the value of dollar has done nothing but go “down, down, down,” said Shioi. If the dollar strengthens versus the yen, “then I’d make a lot more money,” sighed Shioi.

But that’s not the way the markets are heading, said Professor Eisuke Sakakibara, at Aoyama Gakuin University.

Sakakibara has the unusual nickname of “Mr. Yen” in Japan, known for accurately predicting the trading level of the yen. But the public started calling him Mr. Yen in the late 90’s, when he worked at the Ministry of Finance, trying to influence the dollar-yen exchange rates through public comments.

Sakakibara continues to make public comments and forecasts where he feels the yen will head. Earlier this year, he predicted the yen would strengthen into the 80’s. I sat down with Professor Sakakibara recently, the yen 85 versus the dollar.

“I think it will head down to 80,” said Professor Sakakibara dispassionately, as I cringed at his words. “And I think by the end of the year, it will break the highest level of the yen in 1995, which is 79, 78.”

Really? Can it be? I asked, secretly hoping he’d take it back.

“Of course it’s possible,” said Sakakibara.

50? 60? Is that possible?

“No, I don’t think so,” he said, much to my relief. Then with the professorial kindness you’d expect from a wizened elder, Sakakibara explained the currency markets are not as important for the impact on American expatriates like me, but as a sign of the world’s changing economy order.

“It’s not necessarily the yen strength we should be talking about, but weakness of the dollar, weakness of the dollar and euro. The center of the gravity of the world economy is now shifting towards Asia. China, India, and East Asia, are gaining strength, relative to countries like the US and Europe. This is the trend.”

It’s why Sakakibara also doesn’t advocate currency intervention, absent sudden and large spikes or dips, because the currency reflects the changing world economy. Sakakibara talked on about his predictions of a common Asian currency, like the euro, for China-India-Japan. A currency that might one day take over the dollar as the world currency, as the U.S. economy loses its dominance in the next century.

Americans living overseas are just getting a front seat to the changing world economy. Personally painful at times, but a change that Mr. Yen says is coming, ready or not.

August 11th, 2010
05:24 PM GMT
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We're marking the start of a brand new segment on CNN International's Quest Means Business, where you, the reader, will have an opportunity to choose the topics that you want discussed.

Richard Quest will be teaming up with CNN's Ali Velshi to answer your questions on topics as diverse as technology, travel, finance, commodities and even pop culture.

Our first topic will be on an issue that is integral to many of our lives - wheat.

Sixty percent of the world relies on wheat as a staple part of their diet and many more consume it on a daily basis. Since mid-June, the price of wheat has surged more than 50 percent on world commodity markets, fuelled by Russia's decision to ban wheat exports after crops were devastated by drought.

The price surge shows that any variance or trouble spot in a large wheat-producing country - Russia is the world's third biggest wheat exporter - can be felt all over the world.

What drives sharp rises in world grain prices? Why is wheat so important? How does a price rise impact our decision to buy a loaf of bread?

Here's your chance to ask us and have your question answered.

August 10th, 2010
07:38 PM GMT
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I’ve often wondered about this topic – and right now, at the start of Ramadan, it seems more pertinent than ever. How does faith inspire business? Is there a place for religion in the workplace? And how can one’s beliefs be translated into the world of finance – if at all?

As part of CNN’s “Muslim in 2010” coverage, we’re gathering voices and opinions from Muslims around the world on their faith and the status of Islam today.

So I’d like to hear your thoughts.

I’m interested in hearing from you what it’s like to be a Muslim working in business today.

What are your hopes for the Middle East’s economy and what opportunities do you see for Muslims’ wider role in the world of finance?

I’d also like to know what you think are the challenges, both for the Middle East and for Muslims worldwide.

How does your faith inspire you? How do you balance your faith with life in a global economy? And can religion offer solutions to the tumultuous world of business?

Please do share your thoughts and opinions – I’m interested to hear them.

August 10th, 2010
06:32 AM GMT
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August 6th, 2010
05:56 AM GMT
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August 5th, 2010
01:50 PM GMT
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LONDON, England - UK banks are reporting better-than-expected half-year profits. The pound is up strongly against the U.S. dollar. Stocks appear to have restarted the slow but sure summer bump up. So, why shouldn’t London’s financial sector be in a better mood?

Square Mile Magazine celebrated its 50th issue by throwing an annual big party for bankers on Wednesday night in the heart of the Financial District, known as the City.

“We do these parties to give something back to our readers,” Editor Martin Deeson told me as a jazz band set up. “Bankers have had a tough couple of years, more unpopular than journalists the past couple of years. We want to make them feel good about themselves.”

More than 2,000 were expected on the night; to play a big of poker, to look at the latest Jaguar cars, have two free drinks (before having to pay their own way) or even get their picture taken on a pricey bed between two lively lingerie models.

So, is it a good time to be seen having fun again? Why not? The financial sector is something like 12 percent of Britain’s GDP. This is not just rich bankers spending their bonuses. These include insurance, private equity, law firms, management consultants, accountancy firms and yes all us journalists who cover all this.

To be fair, the people invited to the party were having a good time but it was not a $100 a bottle champagne night.

“It's better to keep a low profile, but a lot of people realize we work really hard, but this new tax that takes away 50 percent of our bonuses hits us quite hard,” argued Michael Bergman, a lawyer at Mint Equities.  “People here, they work hard, there is a high stress level, there is a high burn out level in the City and I don't see why people who stick with it shouldn't be well rewarded.”

I have to say the feeling from the thousand or so people there was cautious optimism about the economy, and I heard time and time again that the banks were hiring again. Still, it may be years before things "get back to normal."

Deeson said: "I think everyone knows that things have changed. It will be a long time before we go back to the boom time, massive bonuses, buying two Porsches, that kind of thing.”

Should it ever get back to those times again?

August 3rd, 2010
08:13 PM GMT
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NEW YORK - If imitation is one of the most sincere forms of flattery, than Steve Jobs should feel pretty good right about now.

BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion is so concerned that Apple's iPhone is starting to chip away at its corporate stronghold that it launched a new touch-screen smartphone to compete. Not only that, they held a glitzy media event in the New York City to unveil it. The phone goes on sale Aug. 12  in the U.S.; release in international markets is expected to follow in the next few months.

Taking a page right from Apple the venue was trendy and the music hip, but that is pretty much where the similarities ended.

Apple has cool in its DNA and well, RIM are engineers at heart. Company president Mike Lazaridis wore a suit and tie during the presentation. The other executives, while clearly knowledgeable, nervously struggled with the teleprompter. It was a little painful to watch.

In the end though press events are fleeting. It is the phone that counts and it looks like BlackBerry did its homework.

The Torch has a touch screen and a pull out keyboard, which appeal to people who still like a keyboard for email.

They also put a lot of work into the operating system to beef up their apps and connections to social networking.

I sat down with Lazaridis directly afterwards and he was really excited about the universal search and display functions.

Watch my interview with BlackBerry founder Mike Lazaridis

As we know, they face tough competition with Apple and Google. When I asked him why they were bothering to chase the consumer market he said: "We have learned that although every consumer is not a business person, every business person is a consumer."

Their core customer demands more than just security and he knows it.

It also seems that a tablet may be in their future. He said expect some more great mobile devices from RiM.

Speaking of security, he was much less forthcoming about the situation in the United Arab Emirates where officials are threatening a BlackBerry blackout if RIM doesn't provide government access to encrypted data for security investigations. BlackBerry messages are routinely encrypted.

When I asked him about the ban, Lazaridis adamantly defended their policy, saying "We will not give up the security of our product to our enterprise customers."

He would not say whether they were in discussions with the UAE or other governments in the region.

I'd love to know what you users out there think. Are you worried about BlackBerry blackout zones? Are you willing to give the Torch a try? Could this finally be an iPhone killer?

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Filed under: BusinessTechnology

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