Friday, February 17, 2017

Personal Brands on Social Media - Where’s Yours?

Perhaps you are blown away by the amount of personal branding that is taking place on social media. Nowadays, it seems as if everybody has a brand. If you’re trying to figure things out, this Master Your Brand column is just for you. Specifically, this column will address the following scenario:

You have launched a personal brand, but you are not building valuable and engaged communities, and are not seeing the impact and financial reward you hoped to receive.

Two points. I know where you are. And, you are not alone. 

As an experienced marketer, here’s how I define personal branding: A personal brand is the attachment of stories, theories, ideologies and philosophies to a person or living creature. 

Already branded yourself but don’t see any growth?

Personally, there’s nothing more disappointing than wasting my hard-earned money. If you’ve done any consulting work, then you know how to build and manage or build and deliver for the client to manage. I have done a lot of both.  I have built many personal brands that are still going strong today because they had a strong management plan. And, I have built brands that remain unpublished while their owners seek resources to invest in their upkeep. Building and maintaining a brand requires a consistent stream of uninterrupted time and capital resources. If you’ve already taken the plunge and now want to kick start your brand into high gear, consider the following questions: 

  1. Do you have a clearly articulated mission for your personal brand? 
  2. Do you have time to share or have a budget to hire someone? This can start out on a contract basis. 
  3. Have you identified your community of followers, understand their need to interact with your brand, and do you know their online and buying behaviors? 
  4. Do you have branded materials and messaging already created and ready to be shared? 
  5. If you were to sell something, do you have access to the resources to deliver it? 

If you have not created your mission statement, my book, Seen and Sustained, will help you. You may download it from The book will also share what other brands have done, and it helps you create a tactical schedule as well so that you maintain a consistent level of activity. You get to set your own pace or your brand’s, however, the goal is to start. And, remember that your resume is also a marketing document, so if you don’t choose the personal brand approach through online channels and social media, consider having an electronic business card created for yourself. You’ll still need to determine your brand mission, and you can use the above information to begin the process. 

Visit MBE magazine’s Winter Issue 2017 for the rest of the story.


Akia (Garnett) Ashmond Brew, MBA, is director of marketing for the International Economic Development Council, an author, and an international speaker. She is also chairman of Brandbuilder, and an adjunct published professor of business, marketing, and consumer behavior at Trinity University in Washington, D.C. Follow Akia on social @AkiaGarnett and visit her blog –

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Africa Not Holding Its Breath For Trump on Trade

By Grant Clark, Urban News Service  

After a two-year election campaign and weeks into his presidency, Africans still have no idea how Donald J. Trump plans to deal with this continent of 54 nations. 

Since the launch of his political career, Trump has barely mentioned Africa, home to six of the 12 fastest-growing economies in the world, let alone share insight into his foreign policy thinking. All Africans, and anyone interested in U.S.-Africa relations, have got to go on are a few disparaging tweets, posted in the years before his run for office. 

In one 2015 tweet, he called South Africa, the continent’s economic powerhouse, a “total and very dangerous mess”.

In another, he said: “every penny of the $7 billion going to Africa as per Obama will be stolen.”

Officially, the response to Trump’s presidency by African leaders has been muted. 
But when two African countries were recently included in the executive order banning travel to the U.S. from six predominately Muslim countries, the outgoing head  of the African Union Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, lashed out, saying “The very country to whom our people were taken as slaves during the transatlantic slave trade, has now decided to ban refugees from some of our countries."

On social media and privately, many Africans regard Trump’s tone and his silence on Africa as part of a general negative attitude towards their continent.  “When you watch the news in African countries, people are alarmed by what they see coming from the White House,” said Kwaku Nuamah, a lecturer at American University’s School of International Service in Washington.

But given America’s track record on African trade and investment, some in African business circles say they are neither surprised nor alarmed by the absence of any foreign policy direction on Africa.  “Many people were expecting closer relations [with the U.S.] while Obama was in there but that didn’t happen,” said Kebour Ghenna, director of the Ethiopia-based Pan-African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a body representing African business.

“And they don’t expect that to change with Trump,” Ghenna said. 

Nuamah agrees. “Expectations are very low. Whatever [Trump] does will exceed expectations,” he said.

The three previous U.S. administrations all had high-profile programs aimed at boosting aid, trade and investment in Africa. In 2000, President Bill Clinton enacted the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA), which enabled qualified African nations to grow exports by allowing duty-free access to American markets. President George Bush introduced the President’s Emergency Plan For Aids Relief (PEPFAR), providing billions of dollars in aid to fight the continent’s HIV/Aids pandemic.

President Obama maintained both those initiatives and launched a few of his own, in historic fashion. In his second term, he announced a $45 billion energy project seeking to electrify 60 million African homes and businesses as well as other efforts to promote Americans doing business in Africa.  

Obama went on to become the first American president to host a U.S-Africa Summit with African heads of state at the White House in 2014, intended to strengthen relations. Yet his efforts paled in comparison to those of another foreign power deeply engaged with Africa: China. It was a disappointment for some in a president with personal ties to the motherland.

China surpassed the U.S. as Africa’s biggest trading partner in 2009. Sino-African trade has grown in leaps and bounds since, rising to $210 billion in 2013 – more than double that of the U.S-Africa trade in goods that year.

America’s trade with African nations, on the other hand, dropped from $125 billion in 2011 to $99 billion the following year to $85 billion in 2013, according to Washington-based think tank, the Brookings Institution. Last year, Obama announced that U.S direct investment in Africa had risen 70 percent during his presidency.  But it still lagged behind China.
At an annual China-Africa Summit in South Africa in 2015, China pledged to invest another $60 billion in loans and investments into African development.  The main sectors benefiting were transportation, such as rail and road infrastructure development, energy and mining.  

Meanwhile, Trump has all but declared a trade war with China. Should he fulfill campaign promises, they could include officially labeling China a currency manipulator and bringing trade cases against China in the U.S. and with the World Trade Organization (WTO). 

Whether Trump will decide to take his fight to the Chinese on African soil is anyone’s guess, although some analysts suggest that his “America First” outlook suggests a dialing back of American engagement on the global stage. 

But challenging China as a competitor for economic dominance in Africa is a battle the U.S. is unlikely to win, Ghenna said.  “There is already a momentum with China that is difficult to restrain.”


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Where did the black banks go?

(Part 1 of a two-part series)
By Patrice Gaines, Urban News Service
(750 words)

America has half as many black-owned banks as existed 15 years ago.
“People assume [black bankers] don’t know what they are doing,” said Alden McDonald, CEO of New Orleans-based Liberty Bank and Trust. “Put yourself in these shoes: We are located in communities in which all of the large banks have moved out of because it’s not profitable for them to do business there.”

The number of black-owned banks fell 54 percent between 2001 and 2016, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. 

iberty Bank and Trust CEO Alden McDonald cuts the ribbon at Liberty Bank Sci Academy Senior Science Lab in New Orleans.

Photo: Liberty Bank Facebook page 

Historically, these banks have stimulated and revitalized their communities while also financing customers whom major banks have shunned. 

“From 1888 to 1934, African-Americans owned more than 130 banks in the U.S., and the number of black-owned businesses rose from 4,000 to 50,000,” McDonald said at a January ceremony in which the U.S. Treasury Department named an annex the ”Freedman’s Bank building” after the bank Congress incorporated to help “freed” blacks transition from slavery.

Integration ended that economic boom. Black business districts disappeared as black consumers spent their dollars elsewhere. Many black banks, the institutions that extended loans for start-ups and renovations, disappeared as well.

Today, black banks are struggling to overcome the ripple effects of the Great Recession, in which they suffered more than larger banks. And only a few black banks qualified for the federal bailouts that major financial institutions gleaned.

“Even though we are now hearing some good news,” FDIC chairman Martin J. Gruenberg said to black bankers in 2014, “we know that in many of the communities you serve, the pace of recovery is lagging.” 

Exactly why these banks have disappeared is complex, but black bankers say the cost of doing business, the financial instability of their communities and counterproductive federal policies have created overwhelming challenges.

While the number of black-owned banks plunged from 48 to 22 over the last 15 years, Hispanic banks grew from 31 to 39, such Asian institutions from 69 to 78, and Native American ones from 14 to 18, the FDIC reports. Overall, the number of non-minority banks dropped 37 percent, from 2001 to 2016 — 9,549 to 6,020. 

“It was very unfortunate that major financial institutions — big banks — received a large portion of the TARP money when institutions like Capitol Bank received none or very little,” said George Andrews, former CEO of Capitol Bank & Trust in Atlanta, which closed in February 2015. “To add insult to injury, big banks received TARP money after they played a large part in creating the downturn in the economy with the unscrupulous lending practices they engaged in.”

The Troubled Asset Relief Program, nicknamed TARP, empowered Washington to purchase assets and equity from financial institutions to strengthen that sector. Few black banks qualified for these funds.

A Harvard Kennedy School study found last year that smaller banks also lost substantial market share after 2010’s Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, designed to prevent the collapse of major financial institutions. Meanwhile, larger banks dramatically increased their market share.

Dodd-Frank adds compliance costs to black bankers’ day-to-day operations, they say.

“But I would say it’s the overall impact of the economy that has hurt black banks most,” said Michael A. Grant of the National Bankers Association.

Black bankers also say some federal policies have created an environment in which black banks are losing business to larger, more stable institutions.

Grant cites the Treasury Department’s New Markets Tax Credits program. It has given tax credits as incentives to invest in underserved neighborhoods since 2000. But larger banks swoop in, make investments, then receive tax credits, black bankers say. Meanwhile, their own applications get rejected, never mind their service to poor communities.

Some $3.5 billion in New Markets Tax Credits were allocated to 76 entities across America, Black Enterprise reported last July, but “no funds were awarded to the nation’s minority banks.”

If these tax credits were issued “in a more fair and equitable way, it would cause millions of dollars to flow to these [black] banks,” Grant said.

“Meanwhile, my expenses are twice as much because I have to do more counseling to my borrower,” said a frustrated McDonald of Liberty Bank. “I may have to have guard service because I am in a high crime area. My deposits are much smaller.

“We have tried speaking to everybody we could, but no policy changes have been made. I don’t want lip service and talk about I’m doing a good job. Help me do a better job and I can help twice as many people.”