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Is Africa on Donald Trump’s radar?
November 11, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Alastair Leithead*

President elect Trump with President Obama at a press appearance after post election meeting

President elect Trump with President Obama at a press appearance after post election meeting

Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election means an uncertain future for Africa.

His rival Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by a landslide – at least among those in Barack Obama’s ancestral village in western Kenya.

The mock poll in Kogelo gave Mr Trump just a quarter of the votes in a place he might not have heard of, were it not for his accusations that it was the outgoing president’s birthplace.

“The people of Kogelo are very much annoyed,” said one resident.

“Being a woman of great substance and Donald Trump being a reality show personality… Clinton should have won,” said one another.

But they would say that – President-elect Trump won’t get anything like the reception President Obama received last year when he came to Kenya.

He had strong connections here – his father was Kenyan – and he launched his Power Africa project, which aims to double the number of people with electricity across the continent.

Comedians stage a mock election in the village of Kogelo, the home town of Sarah Obama, step-grandmother of President Barack Obama, in western Kenya, Tuesday 8 November 2016Image copyrightAP
Image captionMrs Clinton won the mock election in Mr Obama’s ancestral village

President George W Bush brought the continent the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar) – which provided millions of people with the drugs to help them fight HIV.

The US spends billions in Africa through aid and investment, but there is uncertainty over what Mr Trump will do, or even how much he knows about the continent.

“Trump has said very little about Africa – I don’t think he knows much about Africa,” said Jakkie Cilliers, chairman of the Institute of Security Studies (ISS), a think tank in South Africa.

“It is just not on his radar – it seems like he will be an insular president focused on US interests – in some sense, isolationist.”

He questioned what it might mean for Pepfar or the African Growth and Opportunities Act (known as Agoa – a hugely valuable American free trade deal with African countries), and efforts to tackle malaria.

“The fact he doesn’t know that much is perhaps our best protection,” said Mr Cilliers, only half joking.

Trump’s bulging in-box

The other key pillar of America’s involvement in Africa is security.

The US military footprint has slowly and secretly been spreading across the continent in reaction to radical Islamist militants.

American trainers and Chadian soldiers next to a military plane
Image captionThe US military trains soldiers in Africa as part of its anti-terror tactics

There are drone bases and special forces troops watching, and acting against so-called Islamic State and al-Qaeda linked groups across the continent.

The key things that need to be in the new President Trump’s Africa in-box include:

How America manages its approach to Africa could have a major impact on stability across the continent.

“Obama has done the US proud with his strategic approach,” said Mr Cilliers.

The ISS put out what he called a “tongue-in-cheek” article a day before the vote, asking what would a Trump presidency would mean for Africa.

“About a third of American foreign aid is directed at health programmes, and much of that at Africa,” ISS researcher Zachary Donnenfeld wrote.

“This means that any reduction in American foreign aid will have far-reaching effects on health outcomes on the continent.

“If Donald Trump were elected and implemented the foreign policy he campaigned on, he could become the single most-effective recruiting tool for terrorist organisations across the globe,” he added.

But with a shift from aid to investment, isn’t a businessman a good man to have at the helm?

Kenyan tech entrepreneur Mark Kamalu is not convinced.

“We have investments in US dollars and the first direct impact is the markets tank and that’s a worry from a business perspective,” he said.

“The rhetoric we have heard, the hard-line stance, the America first nationalism, the volatile and lose language makes everyone who is not white and American wonder where they stand.”

Some will welcome his conservative values on homosexuality and abortion, but there is a lot of uncertainty over what President Trump will mean to Africa.

Elected with little by way of policy, the continent will have to wait and see how much of what he said on the campaign trail will translate into action.

*BBC

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Reporting Africa conference to explore how African media portrays continent
October 12, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

 

Eric Chinje

Eric Chinje

The African Media Initiative (AMI) will on 10 to 11 November 2016 host the Reporting Africa conference 2016 in Nairobi, Kenya in a bid to explore how  African media covers the continent beyond national borders.

According to Eric Chinje, AMI CEO, the conference will also explore how international media portrays the continent.

The conference will also focus on findings of a research that AMI has carried out on coverage of issues affecting the African continent.

Chinje said that his organisation has made plans for the forthcoming discussion to be graced by some of the top editors from all the 54 African countries.

This is also expected to facilitate wide ranging debate and deliberations on issues related to media coverage of the continent.

This is also expected to chart a new way forward for media organisations in Africa to play a more positive role in the continent’s development agenda.

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Africa: Will Rwanda Support for Kenya’s AU Chair Nominee Tip the Scales?
October 11, 2016 | 0 Comments

Kenya's nominee for the African Union Commission chair - Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed (file photo)

Kenya’s nominee for the African Union Commission chair – Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed (file photo)

Rwanda is supporting Kenya’s nominee for the African Union Commission chair – Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed – but it remains to be seen which way Tanzania and Uganda will lean.

Ms Mohamed was proposed for the job by Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, who cited her credentials in diplomacy and exemplary performance in her current docket.

She has been Kenya’s ambassador/permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, and served as the assistant secretary general and deputy executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme in Nairobi.

Ms Mohamed, who will be standing against candidates from the other regional blocs, stands a better chance of election if she gets support from all EAC member states.

Elections to replace Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who is stepping down after one term to prepare for a stab at the South African presidency, will take place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in January.

On Friday, a committee to vet candidates met in Addis Ababa.

Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Louise Mushikiwabo told The EastAfrican that her country would support Ms Mohamed, ruling out speculation that they would front the former president of the African Development Bank Donald Kaberuka or former EAC secretary general Richard Sezibera.

“She is the best woman for the job, and she is very much Rwanda’s candidate. She is highly qualified, has incredible diplomatic and managerial experience, and the right heart and mind when it comes to the strategic interests of our continent, as well as Africa’s active presence on the global scene,” Ms Mushikiwabo said.

Uganda’s International Relations State Ministry Permanent Secretary James Mugume said the country was yet to decide on whom to support, but would back the candidate the region agreed on between Kenya’s Ms Mohamed and Somalia’s Fowyiso Yusuf Haji Adan.

The nomination process for the chairperson was opened afresh after the AU Heads of State Summit in Kigali in July failed to elect a successor to South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who has been at the helm since 2012. At the Kigali summit, none of the three contenders for the position – Botswana’s Foreign Minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, her counterpart from Equatorial Guinea Agapito Mba Mokuy and former vice president of Uganda Specioza Wandira Kazibwe – obtained the required two-thirds majority after seven rounds of voting.

Ms Mohamed is expected to battle it out with Mr Mokuy, Somalia’s Ms Adan and the July elections lead candidate Ms Moitoi. Uganda withdrew its nomination of former vice president Specioza Kazibwe after she did not make it among the top candidates.

The SADC trade bloc, has, however, maintained that it will forward Ms Moitoi’s name because Ms Zuma did not serve her second term. Mr Mokuy had portrayed himself as the Economic Community Of West African States (Ecowas) candidate, yet it was Senegal that instigated the 28 states to boycott the elections due to lack of “high calibre” candidates.

Mr Mokuy had sought the support of Nigeria, the West African economic powerhouse, and Kenya, with a special appeal from President Theodore Obiang Nguema.

Another likely candidate is Senegalese diplomat and politician Abdoulaye Bathily, who is currently the UN Secretary General’s special representative for Central Africa.

Chad’s President Idriss Deby, who currently holds the AU rotational leadership, is also believed to have put forth the name of his Foreign Minister, Moussa Faki Mahamat, who served as prime minister between 2003 and 2005, and who would present a second candidate for the Central African bloc.

South Africa is said to have great influence on the SADC countries. This week, South African President Jacob Zuma will be in Nairobi for a three-day state visit, and it is expected that President Kenyatta will use the opportunity to drum up support for Ms Mohamed.

In the July elections, South Africa supported Ms Moitoi. Then South Africa’s international relations minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said the region would campaign with Botswana, and that South Africa was fully behind the SADC initiative. They have not come up with an alternative candidate.

Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria and Senegal, which led the Ecowas campaign to postpone the election, have also been pushing for a candidate.

In May, Senegal’s President Macky Sall raised concerns about the candidates with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. Senegalese diplomat and politician Abdoulaye Bathily who is currently the UN Secretary General’s special representative for Central Africa was presented as a candidate at the Kigali meeting, but was turned down because the nominations had closed.

In Mr Bathily, in particular, Ms Mohammed is likely to face a veteran of African politics with working experience in West and Central Africa, one whose participation in the Pan African Movement and socialist movements left him with contacts across the continent, including liberation movements in Ethiopia, Mozambique, Angola and South Africa.Additional reporting by Daniel Kalinaki and Edmund Kagire.

*Allafrica/East African

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Afri-Alliance to host first innovation bridge event in Botswana
October 4, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

afrialliance-cover4  Afri-Alliance is organizing its first out of five Innovation Bridge

Events (IBE) on 26 to 27 October 2016 in Botswana, in collaboration

with the 17th WaterNet Symposium, according to the AfriAlliance team.

The team says that the IBE aims to match universities, research

organisations, science councils and industrial companies showcasing

innovations in water  and   climate change with potential

collaborators, funders and investors to facilitate commercialisation

of the  innovations.

AfriAlliance partner WaterNet is the lead organizer, working closely

with the University of  Botswana – Okavango Research Institute.

The first IBE will be  composed of two elements, water and climate

change innovation exhibition on 26 October under the theme, “Building

Climate-Resilience in Agriculture and Water Sector”.

The focus of the exhibition will be on both soft and hard

technologies, technologies for farmers to cope better with drought for

example  new drought resistant crop varieties, making better use of

scarce water, as with systems of drip irrigation, water retention and

rainfall harvesting techniques.

A plenary session will be organized on 27 October under the theme,

“Bridging the gap between innovators, industry, funding partners &

policy makers”.

The event will include policy dialogues,  and plenary discussions.

The discussions will focus on Innovations & Technology in water and

climate change, the challenges faced by innovators, industry, funding

partners & policy makers, and possible solutions to these problems.

There will also be an opportunity for one-on-one meetings. Finally, a

combined focus group discussion to map the way forward will be

conducted.

AfriAlliance will organize a total of five Innovation Bridge Events

during the course of the 5 year project, in different regions.

The International Network of Basin Organisations (ANBO) recently issued a

call for proposals for the creation of an AfriAlliance Action Group

also commonly referred to as a working group or community of practice

that will provide seed money to bring together relevant stakeholders,

both African and European, experts and decision makers to jointly

demonstrate innovative ideas, engage in pilot activities and share

knowledge on specific issues on Africa’s development.

 

According to a statement sent to partners by the Global Water

Partnership-Southern Africa (GWP-SA), some of the themes to be

addressed by the proposed alliance will include integrated water

resource management, food security and agriculture, human capacity

development, climate change adaptation and mitigation including water

and climate data monitoring collection, forecasting and analysis.

 

It is reported that Africa is going to be one of the regions most in

need of innovative solutions for tackling water and climate change

related challenges.It is further added that the successful interaction

among relevant stakeholders from both Africa and Europe, in water

management is of principal importance when trying to generate,

increase and exchange knowledge and innovations that  address the

demands for solutions that have noticeable and high impact.

 

It is added that the lack of appropriate water related skills and

capacity in some parts of Africa and the widespread institutional

fragmentation within Africa as well as between Africa and Europe is a

major obstacle to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and

addressing water crises, many with severe climate change implications.

 

The lack of effective interactions between policy, research and

entrepreneurs in Africa means that current mechanisms to successfully

transfer relevant EU knowledge and technologies to African economies

or vice versa are not enough to accomplish market uptake and provide

solutions for pressing local water problems in Africa.

 

The main objective of the Afri-Alliance project, funded by the

European Commissions Horizon 2020 programme is for African and

European stakeholders to work together in the areas of water

innovation, research, policy and capacity development to prepare

Africa for future climate change challenges.

 

The Afri-Alliance project will reinforce water and climate change

research and social innovation and cooperation between Africa and

Europe through a mix of forward looking and bottom up innovation and

road mapping techniques.

 

Some of the areas the initiative will focus on will include integrated

water resource management, food security and agriculture and  human

capacity development, just to mention a few.

 

It is reported that for the first call for action groups, the total

funding available is Euro 77 500 for five action groups each expected

to receive seed funding of Euro 15 500s.

 

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Botswana to deport anti-gay US pastor Steven Anderson
September 20, 2016 | 0 Comments
Steven Anderson has said he stands by his views about homosexuality

Steven Anderson has said he stands by his views about homosexuality

Botswana is to deport controversial US pastor Steven Anderson after he said on a local radio that homosexuals should be “stoned to death”.

President Ian Khama told the Reuters news agency that he had personally ordered his arrest.

“We don’t want hate speech in this country. Let him do it in his own country,” he said.

Last week, South Africa barred Mr Anderson from visiting because of his critical remarks about homosexuality.

Homosexual acts are illegal in Botswana, as in many African countries

*BBC

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What Do Tourists to Africa Want? An Easy Visa Process
September 18, 2016 | 0 Comments

FILE - An elephant crosses a road made for Safari vehicles as tourists take photos in Tarangire National Park on the outskirts of Arusha, northern Tanzania, Jan. 16, 2015.

FILE – An elephant crosses a road made for Safari vehicles as tourists take photos in Tarangire National Park on the outskirts of Arusha, northern Tanzania, Jan. 16, 2015.

South Africa, Ghana and Senegal rake in cash from their tourism industries, but not Africa’s second-largest economy, Nigeria. A report released this week suggests tourists may pick where to visit based on how easily they can get visas.

Ghana and Nigeria are often seen as sister countries in West Africa. But one way they diverge is in their success at attracting visitors.

A report released by London’s Renaissance Capital this week says Nigeria gets about $500 million in revenue from tourism each year. That is just 0.1 percent of its $481 billion economy.

Ghana, in contrast, reaps a huge benefit from the tourist trade, according to Renaissance Capital global chief economist Charles Robertson.

“Now 0.1 percent of GDP is so much, so much lower than say Ghana, a couple of countries away, which gets over two percent of GDP, in fact it is 25 times more money, relatively, in Ghana than Nigeria,” said Robertson.

Ghana, in fact, ranks among the continent’s best tourism performers, along with Tanzania, Rwanda and Senegal. Nigeria is near the bottom, second only to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

These countries practice varying forms of democracy. But that is not what brings in tourists, Robertson says. Morocco and Jordan are monarchies and also major tourist destinations.

The continent’s top attractions are also free of the war and insecurity that pervades some African states. But that is not what attracts tourists either. South Africa is home to some of the most dangerous cities in the world but still gets between two and three percent of its GDP from tourism.

Robertson said people travel to countries like Senegal and Tanzania because they are easy to get in to.

“A lot of the countries that do well from tourism have a very easy visa regime,” said Robertson.

Rwanda recently overhauled its visa process to increase access, and is seeing benefits, Robertson said.

“They have introduced this open visa regime system as well, and they get four percent of GDP. That is at least 40 times more than what Nigeria does,” he said.

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s official tourism website does not even work, and visa costs can run into the hundreds of dollars.

Robertson says some African countries maintain tight visa requirements because their own citizens face onerous processes to get visas to other countries.

But with Nigeria’s economy in a recession, thanks in part to drops in the price and production of the country’s top export, oil, Robertson said growth in Nigeria’s tourism sector could only help.

*VOA

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A United Kingdom: The interracial marriage that made front page news
September 18, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Tim Masters*

Before she began working on her new film A United Kingdom, Amma Asante had never heard of Seretse Khama.

A United Kingdom stars David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike

A United Kingdom stars David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike

Now she’s bringing his story to the big screen and hopes it will illuminate a seemingly forgotten part of British post-war history.

In 1947, Seretse Khama, an African prince training to be a lawyer in London, met and fell in love with Ruth Williams, an English bank clerk.

But their interracial relationship and plans to wed and return to Seretse’s native Bechuanaland (modern Botswana) was greeted by fierce family and political opposition.

“We absolutely admit that none of us knew about this story before it came to us in the form of this project,” says the film’s director Amma Asante.

“Ten years ago financiers were saying we don’t make period projects about unknown people – they wanted Mozarts and Churchills and people that you knew about.

“But that’s been changing over the last few years and film is being allowed to expose stories that people haven’t heard of and audiences are proving that that interests them.”

The project was brought to Asante by David Oyelowo, who plays Seretse in A United Kingdom opposite Rosamund Pike as Ruth.

Introducing the film to the audience at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it had its world premiere, Asante described Seretse and Ruth as “people who held onto life with both hands”.

The film, she added, showed “the fall out that happened when they fell in love”.

Asante expands on the subject when we meet in a Toronto bar the following day.

“Someone described Seretse and Ruth as the Burton and Taylor of their time,” she laughs.

“She was this fashionable creature in these little black suits and he had this trilby hat. They were front page news.”

Based on Susan Williams’ book Colour Bar, A United Kingdom portrays how opposition to Seretse and Ruth’s marriage went much wider than their immediate families.

Amma Asante with David Oyelowo

Amma Asante with David Oyelowo

The South African government – about to introduce apartheid – could not tolerate the idea of an interracial couple ruling a neighbouring country.

It pressured Britain to stop the union by threatening to cut off the supplies of the uranium and gold Britain needed for its nuclear programme and to rebuild its post-war economy.

‘Highly politicised’

Asante, who grew up in south London as the child of Ghanaian immigrants, welcomes the number of other films on this year’s festival circuit – such as The Birth of a Nation and Loving – that examine racial prejudice from a historical perspective.

“We are in highly politicised times,” she says.

“America is just coming out of a period where it had its first black president and it might be about to vote in its first woman president.

“Britain just voted itself out of Europe. Some people said it had nothing to do with xenophobia, some people say it did.

“In these highly politicised times you get polarisation. There is very little in the middle. At that time the job of the film-maker is to reflect society and the conversations that are going on.

“A really tangible way to explore politics is through race.”

It was important to Asante that the African scenes were filmed in Botswana. She used some of the actual locations associated with Seretse and Ruth, such as the house where they first lived.

“We had to put the house back together, literally. It was a derelict shell,” she recalls.

“We recreated the looks of the rooms through old photographs. The hospital in the scene where Ruth gives birth to their baby is the actual hospital where Seretse was born.”

How well is the story known in Botswana?

“Not as well as I thought,” says Asante. “But I’m going to get lashed on Twitter from people saying ‘you didn’t get this right, you didn’t get that right’.

“But, in the way that [Asante’s previous film] Belle is now taught in schools, I hope this will also make a difference too, across Africa.”

_91202706_image1Seretse died in 1980, having been Botswana’s first president since 1966. Ruth, who had been the First Lady of Botswana until her husband’s death, died in 2002.

As our interview comes to an end, Asante reveals that Seretse’s grandson had attended the premiere the previous night.

Furthermore, Seretse’s son, Ian Khama, is now the fourth elected president of Botswana.

“We were in conversation with the president while we were making the film as well as many family members,” says Asante. “They certainly didn’t tell us the kind of film to make.”

She recalls how President Khama arrived in his helicopter while they were filming in a village.

“I remember him looking out of the corner of his eye at Rosamund and David and saying, ‘It’s really weird to see your parents coming back to life’.”

A United Kingdom opens in the UK on 25 November and will open the London Film Festival on 5 October.

*BBC

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Working Lives: The rise of Botswana’s rough diamonds
September 11, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Lerato Mbele*

The discovery of diamonds in the 1960s has helped transform Botswana

The discovery of diamonds in the 1960s has helped transform Botswana

When Botswana won independence 50 years ago, one journalist described the country as “an impoverished, arid and hungry land without hope of achieving economic stability”.

Half a century on and Botswana has turned into one of Africa’s fastest growing economies. Its capital, Gaborone, is a thriving city of just under a quarter of a million people with skyscrapers sprouting up in every corner.

Part of its sparkle comes from Botswana’s diamond mines, which account for a third of its GDP.

Another part is visible in the distance from those tall buildings – the vast desert landscape, home to one of Africa’s best preserved wildlife habitats that attracts a growing number of tourists.

But there are other issues too that are not far beneath the surface. An Aids epidemic still claims thousands of lives, unemployment is on the rise and there are tensions over aspects of life that have come with modernisation.

Diamonds are not forever

Poppie Moriana is a quality controller at the world’s largest rough diamond sorting and valuing operation.

It is a pressurised role but Ms Moriana is proud of having worked in the industry for 24 years.

“It fills me with great pleasure knowing that we are handling Botswana’s economy,” she says.

It has also helped her provide for her family – she has three ambitious young children who dream of being neurosurgeons and lawyers – and help out other family members.

“It has improved my life in many ways by working here [and] it’s all because of these diamonds.”

But despite the slogan, diamonds here are not forever. Botswana’s reserves are dwindling, with some predicting a significant drop in the economy once the mines are exhausted.

Peaceful coexistence

Fortunately, Botswana has another natural asset on tap, pristine wildlife. Safari tourism is booming and travel guide Lonely Planet put the country top of its list of places to visit in 2016.

David Sekudube is a senior conservation ranger at Mokolodi Nature Reserve, a 3,700 hectares reserve just south of Gabarone where you find giraffe, crocodiles, wart hog, rhino and big cats.

Originally a herd boy in his home village he moved here looking for work with his brother.

“I started when I was 19 years old in 1992,” he says. “I truly love animals. I really love conservation. It’s something that I’m teaching my own children so they understand how to co-exist with them.”

For decades Botswana has struggled with an Aids epidemic. Today, one in five people live with the condition, the third highest prevalence rate in the world.

Patricia Mokute has been an HIV counsellor for 10 years and helps local communities improve testing and treatment.

She says there is still a lot of stigma attached to having the disease and adds: “People were being judged. The stigma and discrimination came with the disease making it difficult for us to accept it. Sex is a taboo for us to talk about in our communities.”

Changing attitudes

But things are changing. “The statistics say HIV is high in Botswana but to me it’s not about the numbers, these are people that I’ve seen,” she says. “The numbers are coming down. We’ve really done a marvellous job.

“I feel so proud of myself because I am changing lives. I have touched so many lives in my years.”

Another person changing lives is Caine Youngman, an advocacy officer of Botswana’s first and only gay rights group – Lesbians Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (Legabibo).

Homosexuality is a contentious issue in Africa. In most countries on the continent gay sex is illegal, while attitudes towards the LGBT community are generally hostile.

After years of trying, the group finally achieved formal recognition after taking their fight to the high court – a victory which Mr Youngman says was “a step in the right direction”.

But he adds: “For us it’s still a long way to go because it’s not just the law. We’re trying to move the community and the law at the same time.”

For Mr Youngman, Africa’s struggle with homosexuality comes down to two things.

“We have issues of control. And then there’s patriarchy. We live in a testosterone-driven world because right now you see we have people who say they are OK with women being lesbians, but they are not OK with men being gay.”

But he believes things are changing. “I think things will get better. When I joined Legabibo in 2005, nobody wanted to engage with us in government offices. Now we have been invited to meetings, we sit in a ministry of health steering committee.

“Some people come out and they don’t experience hardships, they don’t get thrown out of homes. So that we did not have a few years ago, so I’m really hopeful about the future.”

Digging deep

The future is where Molefi Nkwete has set his sights. His Urban Soul fashion brand embodies Gaborone’s optimistic and vibrant city culture.

Starting out selling imported T-shirts from a backpack, he now has five stores and a respectable turnover. His shops sell sunglasses, trainers and bags imported from the US, alongside home-grown lines.

Popular with young customers are T-shirts with the Botswana national anthem on them. Mr Nkwete says it’s a creative way of raising patriotism amongst the youth.

His success was built without government loans or aid and all the profit he made was poured back into the business.

He says that many successful companies in Botswana are foreign-owned or financed but wants to see the focus on home-grown business so that they can grow.

“You know I wanted to have a better lifestyle and I knew a job wouldn’t give me that so you know I just had to just do this, build it and not even look back,” he says. “You have to dig deep. You have to dig deep and believe in yourself.”

*BBC

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Why young Africans are swapping the office for the farm
August 5, 2016 | 0 Comments
Claudius Kurtna wants everyone to enjoy the nutritional benefits of fish

Claudius Kurtna wants everyone to enjoy the nutritional benefits of fish

Farming has an unglamorous image across Africa. But this might be changing – the BBC’s Sophie Ikenye met some young professionals who packed in their office jobs and moved back to the family farm.

Six years ago Emmanuel Koranteng, 33, gave up his job as an accountant in the US and bought a one-way ticket to Ghana.

He now has a successful business growing pineapples in a village one-and-a-half hours away from the capital, Accra.

He says that even when he was far away from the farm, it was always in his thoughts.

Across the continent, Dimakatso Nono, 34, also left her job in finance to return to the family farm in South Africa.

‘Always a market for quality’

She left her lucrative job five years ago and moved from Johannesburg to manage her father’s 2,000 acre farm three hours away in Free State Province.

She says she wanted to make an impact.

“I knew that if I came to assist my father, I would be able to actually make meaningful change.”

She began by counting his cows.

“At the beginning, we were not sure about what the animals were doing and where they were in the fields, so for me it was important to ensure that every single day, every activity that we do is recorded.”

Life on the farm has not been easy.

This year’s drought across Southern Africa put an end to her apple, maize and sunflower crops.

So does she ever have days when she thinks she made the wrong move away from the corporate world?

“No, not at all, not for me.

“I’m not always on top of the world but on such days I appreciate the fact that if need to rest or recuperate, there’s no better place than here where you have the nature to support you.”

‘Make agriculture entrepreneurial’

But both young farmers have found it difficult to get funding for equipment.

For this reason, Mr Koranteng has decided to stay small.

“If you are small and you don’t have funding, don’t try to do anything big. It’s all about being able to manage and produce quality because if you produce quality, it sells itself,” he says.

But there is to be made money in farming.

A World Bank report from 2013 estimates that Africa’s farmers and agribusinesses could create a trillion-dollar food market by 2030 if they were able to access to more capital, electricity and better technology.

“Agriculture has a bright future in Africa,” says Havard University technology expert Calestous Juma.

Nutritious fish biscuits

But to encourage more young people to return to the land, he suggests a simple solution: A name-change.

“The best way to attract young people into farming is to define it as agribusiness – this entails making agriculture entrepreneurial and technology-driven.

And it also means making the finished product, rather than just growing crops and selling them.

“The focus should be on the full value chain – from farm to fork, not just production,” he says.

That is exactly what Claudius Kurtna is doing.

He farms fish in western Kenya.

But he doesn’t sell those fish.

Instead he makes them into high-protein, high-energy biscuits.

The 28-year-old entrepreneur wanted to make a product which had both a long shelf life and high nutritional value.

BBC Africa's Sophie Ikenye visits a fish farm with a difference in Kenya

BBC Africa’s Sophie Ikenye visits a fish farm with a difference in Kenya

The product has been certified by Kenya’s Bureau of Standards and local schools have ordered his biscuits.

“The motivation behind this was nutrition, for children in remote places from poor backgrounds, even refugees. Anywhere you can’t get fish in its natural state,” he says.

These biscuits aren’t made by hand, but by special machines, which are costly.

That is likely to be true for any farmer who wants to copy this model.

So for Mr Juma, in order to attract more younger people to farming, you need to provide funding with conditions they can meet.

“Agriculture needs the same types of credit and risk-reducing incentives that are given to industrialists.

“Young people are not averse to farming.

“They are averse to risk. They are human.

*BBC

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FIRST AFRICAN PASSPORTS GO TO PRESIDENTS OF RWANDA AND CHAD
July 18, 2016 | 0 Comments

The African Union wants to roll out the continental passport to millions of Africans.

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GHANA ALLOWS VISA-FREE TRAVEL FOR AFRICANS IN STEP TOWARDS CONTINENTAL PASSPORT
July 5, 2016 | 0 Comments

BY *

Ghanaian President John Mahama

Ghanaian President John Mahama

Ghana has begun offering visas upon arrival to all African nationals, a step towards creating a continent-wide zone of free movement.

The West African country rolled out the policy on Friday, allowing citizens of African Union (AU) member states to get visas for up to 30 days upon arriving in the country. Fifty-four African countries are members of the AU—the only country not in the bloc is Morocco, which resigned its membership in 1984 due to a row over the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

Ghana already allows visa-free travel for citizens of countries belonging to member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)—a regional economic bloc consisting of 15 countries including Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy. ECOWAS citizens will not be affected by the new policy.

It marks a step towards the vision outlined by the AU in its Agenda 2063 policy document, which includes the abolition of visa requirements for all African citizens in all the continent’s countries by 2018. The AU is also introducing an African passport at a summit in the Rwandan capital Kigali in July, which will initially be available only to heads of state, government ministers and permanent representatives of member countries at the AU. The AU eventually wants to roll the passport out among all African citizens.

Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama announced the policy in his state of the nation address in February, saying that the measure would “stimulate air trade, investment and tourism.” The decision was commended by AU Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who said that she was convinced “many other African countries will follow suit, in the interest of achieving an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa.”

But while welcoming the measure as potentially leading to increased air traffic into Ghana, airline operator Gloria Wilkinson warned that the country would have to ensure its security measures were tight to prevent possible abuse of the system. Wilkinson, the country manager of South African Airways, told Ghana’s Citi Business News that she was “confident that [the] government has considered the security aspect of such an initiative.” A leaked memo from Ghana’s Immigration Service suggested that Ghana and Togo were the next targets for militants following attacks in Mali, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast since November 2015.

*Newsweek

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The opposite of Brexit: African Union launches an all-Africa passport
July 1, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Anne Frugé*

AFRICAN_LEADERS_MUST_BE_BORN_AGAIN_0.26188900_1434106807__thumbOn June 13, two weeks before the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, the African Union announced a new “single African passport.” The lead-up discussion was much like the original debate on the European Economic Community, the E.U.’s predecessor. African passport proponents say it will boost the continent’s socioeconomic development because it will reduce trade barriers and allow people, ideas, goods, services and capital to flow more freely across borders.

But now the A.U. faces the challenge of making sure the “e-Passport” lives up to its potential – and doesn’t fulfill detractors’ fears of heightened terrorism, smuggling and illegal immigration.

The African e-Passport is part of a long-term plan for the continent

The e-Passport is an electronic document that permits any A.U. passport holder to enter any of the 54 A.U. member states, without requiring a visa. It will be unveiled this month during the next A.U. Summit in Kigali, Rwanda. Initially, the e-Passport will only be available to A.U. heads of state, foreign ministers and permanent representatives based in the A.U.’s headquarters in Addis Ababa, . The plan is to roll it out to all A.U. citizens by 2018.

The electronic passport initiative grows out of the A.U.’s Agenda 2063, a plan to mobilize Africa’s vast resources to strengthen the region’s self-reliance, global economic power and solidarity.

Why is the single African passport important?

The e-Passport is a step toward eliminating borders on the continent, aiming to enable deeper integration, increased trade and further development. Just as important, the passport is a powerful symbol of unity across Africa – and simultaneously a step toward connecting African countries economically and politically.

An A.U. passport represents the latest effort to create a common market spanning the continent, much like that in the E.U. Such efforts date back to 1963 with the creation of the Organization of African Unity. Pan-Africanistscelebrating the demise of the colonial state and hailing a United States of Africadesigned the O.A.U. to unite Africans and dissolve the borders between them.

Essentially, the O.A.U. sought to raise living standards by supporting leaders of anti-colonial struggles in their roles as heads of new states. In its quest to make the transition to independence as smooth as possible, the organization at times defended national sovereignty to a fault. For example, the decision to respect arbitrary colonial borders had far-reaching consequences, including numerous identity-based conflicts.

Over time, other entities arose to coordinate economic activity across national lines: the East African Community (1967), the Economic Community of West African States (1975), the Lagos Plan of Action for the Economic Development of Africa (1980) and the Southern African Development Community (1992), just to name a few.

In 2002, the A.U. replaced the O.A.U.

Moving away from the O.A.U.’s state-centric approach, the A.U. attempts to balance “the principle of sovereignty with the need to accelerate political rights and socio-economic growth and cooperation,” according to Matebe Chisiza, visiting scholar at the South African Institute of International Affairs. For example, the A.U. suspended 12 member states after “unconstitutional changes in government,” including Libya, Central African Republic, Egypt and Burkina Faso.

None of Africa’s regional organizations have yet been able to create a common market. This vivid dream has endured despite the enormous political and logistical challenges it would entail. Deeper economic integration is seen by many, including the World Bank, as the road to prosperity and stability. In fact, the A.U. is guided by this premise.

What might be the downsides of the e-Passport?

Opponents of the passport are concerned about a range of security risks. Detractors argue that visa-free travel would make it easier for terrorists to move within and between countries. Human traffickers and drug smugglers could take advantage of the new system. Disease and other public health crises could spread more rapidly in a borderless Africa. As has happened in Europe, an e-Passport may intensify competition for jobs and public services, leading to more xenophobic political rhetoric and attacks. Migration is already a contentious issue, as shown by deadly anti-immigrant riots in South Africa and Zambia and heated debates over refugees in Kenya.

Many elites favor the unrestricted movement of persons, goods and services. But if the effort is mishandled, such free travel may simply reproduce social inequalities — helping the well-off become richer and leaving behind the poor. We can see that already in the fact that only certain individuals will have the passport at first, which creates a hierarchy of citizens, only some of whom can travel freely.

Moreover, Bronwen Manby’s report for the Open Society Foundations describes how passports can become tools for repressive regimes to silence their critics. In 2007 alone Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Sudan and Zimbabwe denied or confiscated passports for a variety of opponents, including “from individual trade unionists, human rights activists, opposition politicians, or minority religious groups.” Fortunately, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria and Zambia have taken steps to put into law the principle that every individual has a right to a passport — even if the principle is upheld irregularly in practice.

The African Union can learn from the E.U.’s example

The E.U. offers a model that the A.U. can use to study both the progress and pitfalls of regional integration: managing a common currency, balancing economies of vastly different sizes and structures, and building solidarity within and across culturally diverse nations.

Brexit is a reminder of the challenges inherent in a shared political and economic space. The debates over debt, immigration and national identity that led to Brexit would only be magnified in Africa under the weight of industrializing economies, significant barriers to access in education and health care and ongoing conflicts over resources and identity.

An African passport is an exciting development that can spur growth and improve living standards. To capitalize on this potential, the A.U. needs to plan two steps ahead. Crafting thoughtful regulations will be essential to ensuring the e-Passport’s economic promise is genuinely available to everyone and not subject to abuse.

For example, integration needs to benefit the strong and the weak, the rich and the poor, with both productivity and industrial capacity increasing in tandem. When some countries deindustrialize at the same time that others expand their markets, the stragglers strain the common pool and fall into crisis.

Further, governments need to fight against a race to the bottom in which commerce follows the path of least restrictions. This point is especially important considering that demos-centered Pan-Africanism underpins the A.U.’s mission.

And implementation plans must address practical obstacles that prevent many Africans from obtaining basic identity documentation, such as weak civil registration systems, slow and costly bureaucratic procedures, and corruption. According to the World Bank, 37 percent of people in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have legal identification, a prerequisite for obtaining a passport.

In short, the path forward is to ensure fairness in integration. When the system rewards the few on the backs of the many, solidarity wanes and the unification project suffers.

*Washington Post.Anne Frugé is a PhD candidate in the department of government and politics at the University of Maryland.

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