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Trump’s America First Budget Puts Africa Last
March 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Ty McCormick*

Slash-and-burn cuts to the State Department and USAID would deepen the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.

Slash-and-burn cuts to the State Department and USAID would deepen the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.

NAIROBI — It gets more U.S. foreign aid than any other continent, the largest share of U.S. global health and disaster relief spending, and it hosts nine out of the world’s 16 U.N. peacekeeping operations — and four out of the five most expensive ones.

Sub-Saharan Africa is grappling with record levels of displacement and hunger due to conflict and drought, but President Donald Trump is proposing “deep cuts to foreign aid” that would hit this continent the hardest. According to the U.N., more than 20 million people are on the edge of starvation in just four countries, three of which are in Africa: South Sudan, Somalia, and Nigeria.

Trump’s “skinny” budget blueprint, released by the White House last week, aims to slash the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) budgets by close to 30 percent, while eliminating several executive agencies, including the U.S. African Development Foundation, which funds grassroots development projects in 30 African countries. The cuts are supposed to partially offset a $54 billion increase in defense spending.

On the humanitarian side, the demand is as great as it has ever been, including in Africa,” Gayle Smith, who ran USAID under President Barack Obama, told Foreign Policy. “This in essence calls on us to tie one hand behind our back, if not both, at a time when we are confronting huge challenges as well as huge opportunities.”

In addition to gutting America’s most important diplomatic and humanitarian organs, Trump aims to cut funding for the U.N. and affiliated agencies. State Department officials have reportedly been instructed to eliminate more than half of the United States’ annual $10 billion contribution to the U.N., cuts that would drastically reduce the world body’s ability to fight hunger, disease, and war.

“If implemented, President Trump’s ‘skinny’ budget would have a serious impact on Africa,” John Campbell, a former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria, told FP. “Most forms of foreign assistance would be eliminated. Contributions to the U.N. system, including peacekeeping, would be much reduced if not eliminated altogether.”

The blueprint leaves intact funding for HIV/AIDS and malaria treatment, both of which are critically important for Africa. But it hints at deep cuts elsewhere in the aid budget, including to initiatives aimed at countering the effects of climate change, which is already affecting parts of the continent through coastal erosion and desertification.

Until the Trump administration submits a more detailed budget proposal in May, it’s impossible to say which programs will be hit the hardest. Given that much of the State Department and USAID budget is fixed, however, it’s their discretionary spending on development and humanitarian relief that’s likely to get the chop, according to former USAID officials.

“Because they’re not going to close down embassies and lay people off, I don’t think, the cuts could be more draconian than 28 percent,” Andrew Natsios, who served as USAID administrator under President George W. Bush, told FP. “If you take it out of the foreign aid budget, which is discretionary, it would be more like a 50 percent cut. We don’t yet know how [Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson will allocate that, but I think it’s worse than it appears.”

Trump’s blueprint is just the opening salvo in what will be a months-long negotiation with Congress over the spending bill. Already, it has encountered stiff opposition, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell calling the “diplomatic portion” of the federal budget “very important” and Sen. Lindsey Graham, chairman of the subcommittee on state and foreign appropriations, saying the budget proposal is “dead on arrival.”

Although the budget is unlikely to pass in its current form, it sends a powerful message to one of the world’s most aid-dependent regions that the Trump era will be anything but business as usual. “We are entering a new territory here,” said a senior Kenyan diplomat who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “We don’t know yet what will happen, but we are fearing that it will leave a big hole in terms of the aid people are getting.”

The State Department and USAID together spent more than $8 billion on foreign assistance to sub-Saharan African countries in 2015, the last year for which there are data. (By comparison, Britain, the world’s second-largest bilateral donor, shelled out a little more than $3 billion.) Of that, they spent more than $1.13 billion on foreign disaster relief, including $717 million on Ebola response and hundreds of millions feeding and securing people in conflict zones like South Sudan, Central African Republic, and northern Mali.

Since then, things have only gotten worse. This month, the U.N. warned that the world is facing the worst humanitarian disaster since World War II, citing crises in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, and northern Nigeria. “The administration doesn’t realize it yet, but they are going to call up AID when there is a major disaster that threatens the U.S., like Ebola, and say, ‘What can you do about this?’” Natsios said.

It’s not just disaster relief that is threatened by Trump’s budget. The cuts would wipe out much of the development funding that, at least in theory, should create sustainable economies that are less susceptible to future crises. At $28.2 million, the 2017 budget request for the U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF) is less than the cost of an Apache helicopter. But its provision of small, direct grants to grassroots organizations means that its programs benefit 1.5 million people, mainly in impoverished trouble spots in Africa’s Horn, Sahel, and Great Lakes regions.

Trump’s blueprint eliminates USADF, meaning that dozens of development programs run by its African partners would come to a halt overnight. In South Sudan, where the U.N. recently declared a famine, that would mean terminating four sustainable agriculture programs that are worth a combined $670,000.

“The situation now is very critical, with many people depending on these funds,” said Albino Gaw Dar, director of the Foundation for Youth Initiative, the USADF’s partner organization in South Sudan. “The communities we are supporting will be devastated [by the cuts.] Their livelihoods will be devastated.”

More than 1,000 direct beneficiaries and between 5,000 and 10,000 indirect beneficiaries — mainly family members of those working on the projects — would be affected if USADF is forced to end its operations in South Sudan, according to Dar.

Peacekeeping is another area that could suffer in the Trump era. The budget blueprint caps U.S. spending on blue helmet operations at 25 percent of the peacekeeping budget, which in 2016 was $7.9 billion. (This year, the U.S. contribution amounts to almost 30 percent.) Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has indicated that her office will undertake a mission-by-mission review of peacekeeping operations, suggesting that those in Africa are especially deserving of scrutiny.

“If you look at the peace missions in Africa, it has been devastating to see the sexual exploitation, the fraud, the abuse that’s happening,” she said during her Senate confirmation hearing. Speaking generally about U.N. peacekeeping, she asked, “Do we need to shift and do things differently, or do we need to pull out?”

The missions in South Sudan, Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have been roundly criticized for their failure to protect civilians and for the criminal conduct of their peacekeepers. Last year, at least 311 people were allegedly abused by U.N. peacekeepers, the largest number by blue helmets in Congo. In July, peacekeepers in South Sudan reportedly stood by as civilians were raped in full view of their compound. But part of the reason these missions have performed so poorly is that they’ve been deployed to places where there is no peace to keep.

“It’s more expensive to deploy missions into zones of active conflict and into remote regions which lack even basic infrastructure,” said Paul D. Williams, an expert on peacekeeping at George Washington University. “Yet it is in precisely such areas where most of the large U.N. missions have been sent by the Security Council.”

Cutting funding to these missions, nearly all of which are in Africa, will only make them less effective, Williams said. “Trump’s budget proposal reveals this administration’s slash-and-burn approach to the U.N. is ideological. It is not the product of a thoughtful review process carried out and then implemented to find sensible reforms. This is an attack on an institution based on prejudice and ignorance,” he said.

The mission in Congo, which at $1.2 billion is the U.N.’s largest and most expensive, will be the first to come up for review during Trump’s presidency. Since American interests in Congo are less clear than in a place like Mali, where blue helmets have been drawn into a conflict with al Qaeda-linked militants, it will be something of a bellwether for peacekeeping in the era of Trump.

If the budget proposal is likely to be watered down substantially before it is signed into law, there are more subtle ways in which Trump’s administration is already leaving its mark on humanitarian operations in Africa. The president’s temporary travel ban, which caps the number of refugees entering the United States at 50,000, has brought refugee resettlement operations on the continent to a sudden halt. Church World Service, which is contracted by the State Department to run the only resettlement support center in sub-Saharan Africa, laid off more than 500 employees in the wake of Trump’s executive order. The organization had set its targets based on Obama’s pledge to resettle 110,000 refugees; overnight it found itself with virtually nothing to do.

Others in Nairobi’s massive aid worker community — the city serves as a hub for operations across East Africa — are feeling jittery about their jobs. Some, USAID contractors especially, are brushing up their résumés.

“Trump was supposed be the jobs president,” one contractor who works on a USAID-funded project said only half in jest. “Looks like he’ll be the biggest job killer Nairobi has ever seen.”

*FP/Yahoo

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France’s Le Pen calls for end to ‘Francafrique’ relations, CFA franc currency
March 24, 2017 | 0 Comments

N’DJAMENA French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen pledged on Wednesday to break with her country’s decades-old relationship with Africa known as “Francafrique” and abolish the CFA franc currency policy that binds Paris and its former colonies.

Francafrique describes an informal web of relationships Paris has maintained with its former African colonies and its support, sometimes in the form of military backing, for politicians who favor French business interests.

Le Pen, one of the frontrunners in the presidential election, spoke at the end of a two-day visit to Chad where she sought to outline her policies regarding the continent, which has long held an important place in French foreign policy.

“It was only in coming here and explaining that I am able to get around the lies of my political adversaries who don’t want Africa to hear me,” the National Front (FN) party candidate said at a news conference in the capital N’Djamena.

“I’ve come to condemn the policy of Francafrique that they’ve carried out. I have come to say I will break with this policy,” she said.

Former President Nicolas Sarkozy and incumbent Francois Hollande also vowed to end the Francafrique policy, but both kept France deeply involved in African politics and security matters.

Le Pen, a nationalist and vocal critic of the European Union, has spoken of her desire for France to abandon the euro currency.

In N’Djamena, she also called for an end to the CFA franc, a currency used in 14 west and central African nations, which is tied to the euro at a fixed exchange rate – with the peg guaranteed by the French Treasury.

“I understand the complaints of African states which consider as a matter of principle that they must have their own currency and that the CFA franc is a hindrance to their economic development. I completely agree with this vision,” she said.

In building the FN into a viable mainstream party, Le Pen has worked to shake off the baggage of its historical anti-semitism and deflect current accusations of racism and Islamophobia.

And while she sought to highlight that French citizens of African origin have the same rights and duties as any other citizens, she maintained the hard line on immigration that has solidified her support among many voters.

“Because France is sovereign, because it has its laws, because everyone who enters a country must respect these laws, foreigners living illegally in France will be sent home and French borders will be restored,” she said.

*REUTERS

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Challenges of the WHO Must be Turned to Opportunities-Ethiopia’s Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyus
March 23, 2017 | 1 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

If elected,Dr Tedros will be the first African to head the WHO

If elected,Dr Tedros will be the first African to head the WHO

Mounting a strong bid to be the next Director General of the World Health Organization, shortcomings must be turned to lessons and new challenges into opportunity, says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyus of Ethiopia.

Currently serving as Minister, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, and backed by the African  Union, Dr Tedros says a fresh view is needed to efficiently tackle the global health challenges of today. The upcoming elections present an opportunity for WHO to be led by someone who has lived and worked through some of the most pressing health challenges facing our world today, said Tedros a Former Minister of Health in his country.

Dr Tedros is no stranger to facing challenges. With a Ph.D. in Community Health, and a Master of Science in Immunology of Infectious Diseases, Tedros is a globally recognized expert and author on health issues. With stints as Chair for the Global Fund to fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria Board, Chair Roll Back Malaria Partnership Board, Co-Chair, Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Board, Dr Tedros is supremely confident of his ability to help the WHO reach its potential and create a healthier world.

A few weeks back, Dr Tedros presented his vision and candidacy to the 34 Member States of the Executive Board of the WHO. In the voting to shortlist candidates, Tedros received the highest number of votes in both rounds. Buoyed with such a strong showing and with growing support and endorsements across the globe, Dr Tedros found time off his hectic schedule to discuss his vision, campaign, and more on the WHO and global health issues. Together we can create a healthier world, and every country has a stake in that vision says Tedros.

DR. TEDROS ADHANOM you are running for the office of Director-General for the World Health Organization (WHO), how are things shaping up with that?

I am honoured by the African Union’s endorsement for my candidacy last year and re-affirmation this year. I am motivated by the enthusiastic encouragement I have received from many other governments and global health leaders around the world.  I am humbled by their confidence in me.

Since I launched my campaign over a year ago, I have met with Ministers, Heads of Delegations, and some Heads of States of over 180 of the 194 WHO Member States. These discussions have significantly shaped the priorities that I will pursue if I am elected Director-General. They have enriched my understanding of global health priorities and how these needs manifest themselves differently around the world. I am encouraged by the overwhelming alignment across Member States regarding most of WHO’s priorities, opportunities, and risks. I have also noted some areas of diverse interests and positions.

Several weeks ago, I presented my vision and candidacy to the 34 Member States of the Executive Board of WHO. I was honoured to receive the highest number of votes in both rounds of the short-listing of candidates from six down to three. I am encouraged by this early success and re-energised heading into the final stage of the election.

What is your motivation in seeking the WHO Director-General position and what makes you stand out as the best candidate for the job?

My motivation to become DG boils down to three main themes:

1) My passion for health

2) My belief in the power and potential of WHO; and

3) I have the skills and track record that can help realize WHO’s potential.

My passion for health starts from a personal level, growing up in a poor family in Ethiopia. I saw my own and countless other families in our community suffering because of poor access to health, unsafe drinking water, and food insecurity. My passion is rooted in a refusal to accept that people should live or die because of these things.

I believe in the power of WHO. I have personally seen the impact, WHO can have, as a partner to countries’ health programmes, to support and challenge us so that we can have more impact, on more people’s lives. We must turn WHO’s past shortcomings into lessons, and new challenges into an opportunity to evolve and adapt.

Tedros is a globally recognised expert and author on health issues

Tedros is a globally recognised expert and author on health issues

I believe what I have accomplished can help WHO reach its potential and create a healthier world. I have spent 3 decades learning, planning, innovating, building national capacity, coordinating partners, increasing domestic health spending, implementing comprehensive health sector reform, and managing our programs with accountability. I have remained committed and focused, translating reform into results. My vision for the WHO draws on lessons learned throughout my career: the health successes achieved here in Ethiopia, building international partnerships as Foreign Minister, and the intricacies of global health diplomacy and financing that I learned to navigate through international roles. I have chaired the Boards of the major global health institutions, overseeing their strategies and reforms, and helping to rebuild donor confidence.

A fresh view is needed to efficiently tackle today’s global health challenges. The upcoming election presents an opportunity for WHO to be led by someone who has lived and worked through some of the most pressing health challenges facing our world today.

What assessment do you make of the way the WHO has fared in the last few years and its response when the Ebola crisis struck parts of West Africa?

The Ebola crises shocked WHO to its core. However, it also offered an opportunity that

WHO launch serious reforms aimed at improving its ability to respond more rapidly and effectively to public health emergencies. Those reforms must be implemented with a sense of urgency to yield results and rebuild the confidence.

Though there have been challenges, WHO has been working to address them to be better prepared for the global health issues of today and tomorrow.

Tedros says that his background and experiences transforming the health sector in Ethiopia puts him in unique perspective to help the WHO turn challenges to opportunity

Tedros says that his background and experiences transforming the health sector in Ethiopia puts him in unique perspective to help the WHO turn challenges to opportunity

If elected to serve as DG, a top priority will be strengthening emergency preparedness, particularly in provision of increased support at country level to prevent, detect, and swiftly respond to disease outbreaks.  Going back to your question about Ebola, Nigeria and Senegal were able to contain the outbreak rapidly. This was due to better coordination, incident management systems, robust surveillance platforms and community engagement. This is why country capacity is so important. The relay of information from countries to regions and then to the headquarters is very important for an outbreak to not spread globally. But if there is weak capacity and if International Health Regulations are not fully implemented at the country level, then you cannot get the information flow and rapid response needed. That is why we need, as a global community, to work together to build capacity collaboratively – whether it is through South-South partnerships, gaining access to essential vaccines, and committing to fully implement International Health Regulations.

Can you explain the vision you have for the World Health Organisation? What will the WHO under the leadership of Dr. Tedros look like?

If elected, I will focus on five priorities:

My top priority is Universal Health Coverage. All roads lead to Universal Health Coverage, from Sustainable Development Goals to gender equality to emergency preparedness.

My second is to strengthen the capacity of national authorities and local communities to detect, prevent and manage health emergencies, including antimicrobial resistance.

My third is to put women, children, and adolescents at the centre of the global health development agenda, and to position health as a more powerful contributor to the gender equality agenda.

My fourth is to address health effects of climate and environmental change.

Lastly, in order to accomplish these, we will need to create a transformed WHO: one that is strong, effectively managed, adequately resourced, results- focused and responsive.

You can find out more about my vision for WHO at www.DrTedros.com.

May we know the support you have from the AU or the African bloc and in what other parts of the world are you hoping to get the necessary support to boost your chances of victory?

I am honoured to have received the endorsement of the African Union for my candidacy, and I am grateful for the support I have received.

I am campaigning on a vision that together we can create a healthier world, and every country has a stake in that vision. So in this campaign, I want to listen to and speak with people from every nation. To be successful, we all have to do this together, all 194 Member States.

If we are to build a healthier world together, we must recognize the unique challenges that each continent and each country has to face and not shirk or ignore any of them. This is, after all, a global effort.

You were Minister of Health in your native Ethiopia from 2005-2012, what did your leadership achieve for the health sector in Ethiopia?

When I began as Ethiopia’s Minister of Heath, our country faced extraordinary challenges. We took an honest look at the state of our health care system and at what would be required to expand health to reach all our fellow citizens in need.

We made a conscious decision to address the essential building blocks for health system-wide reform – investing in critical health infrastructure, expanding the health workforce, creating new financing mechanisms, improving service delivery, strengthening pharmaceutical supply, integrating information management, and investing in epidemiology/outbreak preparedness.

We worked with communities to identify health challenges and obstacles and, together, came up with workable and culturally acceptable solutions for each unique context.

As a result of working with teams across the country at each level, we were able to expand healthcare to tens of millions more Ethiopians. Through these initiatives, we were able to dramatically expand access to health services and meet ambitious health targets, translating reform into results: reducing child mortality by 67%; reducing maternal mortality by 71%; reducing malaria mortality by 75%;reducing mortality from tuberculosis by 64%; and reducing mortality from HIV by 70%.

 If you win the election you will be the first African to head the WHO, what would this mean to you?

Together we can create a healthier world, and every country has a stake in that vision says Tedros pictured here at the TANA Forum former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo

Together we can create a healthier world, and every country has a stake in that vision says Tedros pictured here at the TANA Forum former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo

It is one thing to tell countries what they should do, but it is an entirely different thing to have lived it and done it oneself, as I have. I have the ability to say that I designed the health reform, implemented it, and saw the results.

As someone who comes from a region hardest hit by many of the world’s biggest health challenges, I would bring WHO a fresh perspective about how much can still be done with limited resources. If elected, that will be recognition by our peers around the world that this type of frontline experience is paramount to successfully addressing health challenges not only here but around the world.

 Last May, you were presented with the Award for Perseverance during the Fourth Global Conference of Women Deliver in Copenhagen, Denmark; did you consider this an early endorsement for your bid?

That was a great honor. I would not say it is an endorsement of my candidacy, but I would say it is a recognition of the importance of gender equality to us all. I have long been a champion of empowering women since I have found from experience that inclusiveness and different ways of viewing issues tends to prompt innovative thinking and deliver results.

Leading on gender quality is a core value of mine and among my five leadership priorities for WHO. Investments in girls’ and women’s health and rights are investments in a healthy and more prosperous future. We see over and over again the untapped potential of women, because we disempower them, marginalize them, and undervalue them. When we do this, our societies are poorer today. Likewise, when we neglect the health and development needs of our children, our societies are poorer tomorrow. What a shame to lose both today and tomorrow, by not investing in women and children.

Healthy, empowered girls and women have the potential to build stronger communities, economies, and nations, and ultimately transform entire societies. For example, in Ethiopia, we trained over 38,000 women to be health extension workers, who bring local health services to communities across the country, and we built a Health Development Army, a 3-million strong organized women’s network that communicates directly with families to promote health practices and disease prevention across the country. This led to a major expansion of healthcare access.

I accepted the award on behalf of my colleagues and partners who tirelessly work to improve the lives of the girls and women over the last 30 years, and consider it an acknowledgment that similar efforts need to be replicated on a global scale.

The final elections are in May. What plans do you have to better introduce yourself to the world and reassure skeptics about your abilities to provide leadership for such an important global organization?

In May, all 194 countries that are members of the World Health Organization will each get an equal vote for the next Director-General.

I am speaking to people near and far from all regions of the world. Through these conversations, I am deepening my understanding of the needs and opportunities around the world, as well as demonstrating the successes and the lessons from our experiences in the health sector transformation in Ethiopia and my leadership roles with other international organizations. I am confident and hopeful that I will receive the necessary support to be successful in the final election in May at the World Health Assembly.

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World Bank Group Announces Record $57 Billion for Sub-Saharan Africa
March 20, 2017 | 1 Comments
Funds will scale up investments and de-risk private sector participation for accelerated growth and development

 

File Picture- President Kagame meets with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim in New York

File Picture- President Kagame meets with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim in New York

BADEN BADEN, Germany, March 19, 2017– Following a meeting with G20 finance ministers and central bank governors, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim today announced a record $57 billion in financing for Sub-Saharan African countries over the next three fiscal years. Kim then left on a trip to Rwanda and Tanzania to emphasize the Bank Group’s support for the entire region. 

The bulk of the financing – $45 billion – will come from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries. The financing for Sub-Saharan Africa also will include an estimated $8 billion in private sector investments from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a private sector arm of the Bank Group, and $4 billion in financing from International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, its non-concessional public sector arm.

In December, development partners agreed to a record $75 billion for IDA, a dramatic increase based on an innovative move to blend donor contributions to IDA with World Bank Group internal resources, and with funds raised through capital markets.

Sixty percent of the IDA financing is expected to go to Sub-Saharan Africa, home to more than half of the countries eligible for IDA financing. This funding is available for the period known as IDA18, which runs from July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2020.

“This represents an unprecedented opportunity to change the development trajectory of the countries in the region,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said. “With this commitment, we will work with our clients to substantially expand programs in education, basic health services, clean water and sanitation, agriculture, business climate, infrastructure, and institutional reform.

The IDA financing for operations in Africa will be critical to addressing roadblocks that prevent the region from reaching its potential. To support countries’ development priorities, scaled-up investments will focus on tackling conflict, fragility, and violence; building resilience to crises including forced displacement, climate change, and pandemics; and reducing gender inequality. Efforts will also promote governance and institution building, as well as jobs and economic transformation.

This financing will help African countries continue to grow, create opportunities for their citizens, and build resilience to shocks and crises,” Kim said.

While much of the estimated $45 billion in IDA financing will be dedicated to country-specific programs, significant amounts will be available through special “windows” to finance regional initiatives and transformative projects, support refugees and their host communities, and help countries in the aftermath of crises. This will be complemented by a newly established Private Sector Window (PSW)-especially important in Africa, where many sound investments go untapped due to lack of capital and perceived risks. The Private Sector Window will supplement existing instruments of IFC and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) – the Bank Group’s arm that offers political risk insurance and credit enhancement – to spur sound investments through de-risking, blended finance, and local currency lending.

This World Bank Group financing will support transformational projects during the FY18-20 period. IBRD priorities will include health, education, and infrastructure projects such as expanding water distribution and access to power. The priorities for the private sector investment will include infrastructure, financial markets, and agribusiness. IFC also will deepen its engagement in fragile and conflict-affected states and increase climate-related investments.

Expected IDA outcomes include essential health and nutrition services for up to 400 million people, access to improved water sources for up to 45 million, and 5 GW of additional generation capacity for renewable energy.

The scaled-up IDA financing will build on a portfolio of 448 ongoing projects in Africa totaling about $50 billion. Of this, a $1.6 billion financing package is being developed to tackle the impending threat of famine in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa and other regions.

*World Bank

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Johnson & Johnson Names Winners of First Africa Innovation Challenge
March 14, 2017 | 0 Comments
Competition Part of Company’s Eighty-Five Year Commitment to Supporting Entrepreneurs, Science Education Opportunities, and Health Systems across the Continent
CAPE TOWN, South Africa, March 14, 2017/ — Johnson & Johnson  today named the winners of the first Africa Innovation Challenge at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress. The initiative, which received nearly 500 submissions from innovators and entrepreneurs across the continent, sought the best ideas for new, sustainable health solutions that will benefit African communities. The Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies comprises the world’s largest healthcare business and its presence in Africa dates back to 1930, including business operations, public health programs and corporate citizenship. The Africa Innovation Challenge is part of the company’s comprehensive approach to collaborate with and support Africa’s vibrant innovation, education and health systems institutions.
In addition to the Africa Innovation Challenge winners, the company also announced today that it is a major partner of Women in Innovation and the Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa, programs that seek to substantially increase the number of women on the continent working in the sciences. These announcements follow the prior week’s opening of two new Johnson & Johnson regional offices in Ghana and Kenya, which along with our South Africa-based global public health headquarters, will support health system strengthening and public health programs.
“Africa is one of the fastest growing regions of the world, and Johnson & Johnson is proud to support this growth through strong collaborations that encourage innovation and accelerate advancements in the continent’s health systems,” said Paul Stoffels, M.D., Chief Scientific Officer, Johnson & Johnson. “We are seeing a surge of activity among entrepreneurs and health system leaders to develop important solutions that overcome longstanding health and societal challenges. By working together, we hope to bring meaningful solutions to patients and consumers more rapidly, to help cultivate the next generation of scientists, and to support Africa’s entrepreneurial base.”
Africa innovation challenge
The Africa Innovation Challenge, launched in November 2016, solicited novel ideas with a focus on three critical health areas: promoting early child development and maternal health; empowering young women; and improving family well-being. The three winning concepts embraced these themes as well as the goal of creating ongoing, sustainable businesses:

  • Project Agateka (Burundi) – The development of a sustainable solution to support girls who are unable to afford menstrual pads and underwear is an important need for young women. Project Agateka will provide a direct health solution as well as the opportunity for women and girls to generate income in Burundi. With the inclusion of health information, the initiative also provides health education to support improved sexual and reproductive health.
  • Project Kernel Fresh (Liberia) – Project Kernel Fresh sources natural palm kernels from smallholder women farmers, increasing their income. The entrepreneur cold presses the palm kernel oil to be used in organic cosmetics. The project will also create jobs for young women by training them to sell the products throughout Liberia.
  • Project Pedal Tap (Uganda) Seeking to prevent disease transmission, and a reduction of water use, Project Pedal Tap will develop hands-free solutions for hand water taps in Uganda. The entrepreneurs will create manufacturing capabilities, using mostly recycled materials, which will lead to an ongoing business.

“This was an extremely difficult competition to judge as there were many terrific ideas,” said Josh Ghaim, Chief Technology Officer, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. “The three winning projects demonstrated a strong benefit to local communities and the ability to empower young women, and they also have the potential to deliver ongoing economic support. We look forward to working with these entrepreneurs over the course of the next year to help them build sustainable operations.”
Each of the three winning recipients will receive funding as well as mentorship from scientists, engineers, and operations members from the Johnson & Johnson Consumer Research & Development organization and other areas of the company.
Supporting women in science and innovation careers
Globally there is significant gender inequality in the sciences. To help address this, Johnson & Johnson has made a strong commitment to increase the number of Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Manufacturing and Design (WISTEM2D) careers. Last year, the company entered into 10 partnerships with institutions around the

world to accelerate the development of WISTEM2D careers and supported other STEM initiatives globally.
With the sponsorship of Women in Innovation (WiIN), and through the collaboration with the Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA), the company expands its WISTEM2D commitment to Africa, where gender inequality in science and innovation careers mirrors gaps found around the world.
WiIN is a new mentoring program that will reach 1,000 female college graduates in Rwanda and provide them with communication leadership skills and encourage them to pursue a career in the sciences. The pilot program, which will begin in 2017 and seeks to expand to other African countries, will provide week-long, comprehensive instruction and mentorship to recent women college graduates on how to pursue and maintain a career in the sciences.

The AESA collaboration, which launched this month, will promote and accelerate the development of Africa’s research leadership, scientific excellence and innovation by encouraging and supporting WISTEM2D education and career development for young people, particularly females across the continent. The initiative will include entrepreneurial mentorship and internship programs for early career researchers, challenges, and other innovation initiatives. Throughout the year, employee volunteers from the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies will work with AESA to host WISTEM2D workshops and courses geared toward coaching scientific leadership and promoting entrepreneurship and innovation in Africa.

“African millennials and entrepreneurs represent some of the best talent in the world. Our presence at the Global Entrepreneurs Congress here in Johannesburg and other Africa based conferences like the Next Einstein Forum, programs like the Africa Innovation Challenge, and partnerships with organizations like Women in Innovation and the Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa reflect our confidence in Africa’s women and men and their potential to change the world through innovation,” said Seema Kumar, Vice President, Innovation, Global Health, and Policy Communication.
New regional operations in Ghana and Kenya
The new regional offices in Accra, Ghana and Nairobi, Kenya represent a novel approach to how Johnson & Johnson seeks to develop partnerships, products and service delivery models that address neglected and emerging health issues. Teams from the company’s consumer, medical device, pharmaceutical, global public health and Global Community Impact (GCI) groups will be located in a central office in each country, helping to bring an integrated approach to improving health outcomes in the region.
“The expansion of our companies’ operations in Africa allows Johnson & Johnson to continue to build innovative, collaborative opportunities that meet a variety of market needs, including developing new pharmaceutical products, service delivery approaches and advocacy for health issues impacting vulnerable communities,” said Alma Scott, Head of Africa Operations and Partnerships, Global Public Health. “Through regional engagement with health delivery partners, we seek to support locally-executable programs that drive health impact.”
About Johnson & Johnson in Africa
The Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies have a strong legacy in Africa. More than 80 years ago, South Africa was selected as the company’s third overseas location and has steadily expanded its footprint in Africa to 27 countries. Today, Johnson & Johnson operates three manufacturing plants and employs more than 1,500 employees in Africa who serve the region’s diverse health needs through our consumer, commercial, global public health and corporate citizenship programs.
Through innovation, collaboration and local engagement we are:

  • Cultivating Africa’s innovation through heath technology hubs;
  • Expanding R&D skills and capacity among African scientists;
  • Catalyzing healthcare infrastructure investments;
  • Enhancing collaboration with local health delivery partners;
  • Boosting education and training resources for healthcare workers;
  • Empowering African youth to thrive and become drivers of change;
  • Improving access to medicines
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African Challenges to African Development
March 4, 2017 | 0 Comments
By Ehiedu Iweriebor*
Ehiedu Iweriebor, Professor and former Chair of the Department of Africana and Puerto Rican/Latino Studies, Hunter College, City University of New York, USA

Ehiedu Iweriebor, Professor and former Chair of the Department of Africana and Puerto Rican/Latino Studies, Hunter College, City University of New York, USA

NEW YORK, March 3, 2017– The parlous story of African economic and social development since independence best expressed in the failure to achieve the autonomous capacity for self-actuated development and in particular to create conditions of national and continental modern mass production and prosperity is well known and need not be repeated. It is enough to re-state that Africa’s development failure was because of the leaderships’ choice to retain, maintain and expand the inherited exocentric colonial system of development incapacitation, primary commodity export, import dependency and poverty generation.

The progressive efforts of some African states and leaders to change the system and create self-reliant economies were stymied by the leaderships’ ideological inadequacies and dependency, the balance of payment crises of the late 1970s and 1980s and the subsequent economic crises and decline. This provided the avenue for Western multilateral imperialist agencies  the World Bank and the IMF – to successfully infiltrate into Africa, re-colonize African states and convert them into neo-colonial out-posts of the so-called neo-liberal consensus. This framework embodied in the Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAP) with its destructives conditionalities: currency devaluation, trade liberalization, subsidy removal, deregulation and privatization, re-directed the African states to focus on expanded raw materials production and exports and to abandon industrialization and development capacitation.

The application of these anti-development SAP dogmas in the 1980s and 1990s ushered in two decades of deepening indebtedness, serious economic crises, de-industrialization, socio-economic decline, deepening impoverishment and political repression. On the other hand, the period also saw the upsurge of popular democratisation struggles, civil rights campaigns, the restoration democracy, and the establishment of electoral democracy and the decline of military interventions in African politics. In the economic sphere, there were innovative dependency-reducing responses. This was because among businesses there was an increased re-orientation toward local sourcing of well-known agricultural and mineral endowments to expand production. This led to the emergence of new economic sectors and especially the expansion of cottage, small and medium scale consumer goods industries which were operationally autonomous due to the increased utilization of local resources for production and self-development.

In addition there was relative political stability and policy and institutional the support for businesses through the creation of enabling environments for attracting investments.

It was partly because of these new domestic conditions and the economic self-activation, and the partly because of return of better commodity prices in the first decade of the 21st century that the Western media fabricated and propagated the new view of “Africa Rising”. This became a very popular and re-assuring slogan among some African leaders, politicians and intelligentsia.

However, it was an insecure condition because a “Rising Africa” whose upsurge is generated by increased external demand for primary commodities is essentially insecure. It does not represent genuine African development that is based on expansive domestic production and prosperity generation. It merely reinforces African dependency on primary commodity export and its dependence on the importation of manufactured goods. It is evaporating with the speed with which it was proclaimed.

But there was a more consequential development story of this period that ushered in what this author describes as the Affirmative African Narrative phase of development. This is the progressive assumption by African businesses of the leadership role in promoting national and pan-African development. This new trend of African self-development is captured by the new concept of “Africans Investing in Africa” This is the process by which African industrial, service, and commercial enterprises began to make large-scale investments in many different African countries. The investments involve for example the expansion of Banks, telecommunication companies, trading companies and so on. Examples of these include Nigerians Banks like UBA, Zenith, Access, First Bank; South African banks like Standard Bank and Moroccan Banks; Telecommunication companies such as MTN of South Africa, ECONET of Zimbabwe and GLOBACOM of Nigeria. Others are Shoprite, Coca cola and South African Breweries.

While Africans investing in Africa is becoming common and commendable, it is important to emphasize that NOT ALL African investments in Africa are of equal economic importance or strategic development value. For example, African investments like Shoprite and similar companies which merely establish commercial or trading enterprises that do not add value to African economies are no different from traditional non-African FDI companies that are established to create captive markets for products from their home countries and thereby maximally exploit Africa.

On the other hand, African companies that make investments that are decisive and transformational are those that deliberately promote and advance African development capacitation, through local resource exploitation, mass industrialization, large scale industrial, agricultural and mineral production, and beneficiation for internal use.

In terms of investment for development capacitation through local resource utilization and valorization, the vanguard African company is the Dangote Group. In order to ensure that Africa achieves self-sufficiency in the critically important infrastructure development requirement – CEMENT – Dangote embarked on a pan-African investment strategy to establish integrated plants, or grinding plants or cement terminals in African countries according to their resource endowments. The Group’s ultimate objective is become the ascendant cement manufacturing company in Africa. There is no question that the Dangotean strategy of development capacitation through local resource exploitation, mass industrial production and domestic prosperity-generation is what Africa requires to become the self-actuated mover of its own development and to create a secure development upsurge and continental prosperity that does not depend on the vagaries of external demand for primary commodities.

This Dangotean transformational mission and project is now been threatened by what seems like the unwillingness of African countries to respect and maintain carefully crafted legal investment agreements as sacrosanct documents and binding commitments. Within the past year the Group has faced major challenges as a result of the failure of some African states to keep their sides of the bargain or agreements concluded with Dangote Group. This happened late last year in Tanzania when the government seemed to renege on some elements within the agreements reached with the Dangote Group to give it concessions and incentives for the massive investments of over $500 million dollars that the Group made in the construction of the monumental cement plant in Mtwara, Tanzania. This Dangote Cement plant with its 3 million metric tonnes per annum capacity is the largest cement plant in Eastern Africa. In addition to the cement plant, other associated Dangote development projects include the construction of a coal power plant and a jetty. While these are primarily beneficial to the Groups business, they also represent important investments and permanent additions to Tanzania’s power and sea transport sectors.

Together these projects have generated significant direct employment opportunities and as they mature and attain full production capacity the multiplier effects in various sub-sectors would be expansive and extensive, thereby creating prosperity and income in the community as well as revenues for the local, regional and national the governments. But due to the problems Dangote had to temporarily shut down the plant; and after negotiations and assurances that restored the original terms, the plant resumed production. This Dangotean Tanzanian experience of government infidelity to the sanctity of agreements can only create profound doubts among business people on the readiness of African states and leaders to move Africa forward.

But the Group’s challenges in Africa are not over. Just recently, in Ethiopia, the regional government of Oromo Regional State where Dangote’s new over $400 million dollar, 2.5 million metric tonnes per annum cement plant is located came up with new conditions that are bound to disrupt the operations of the Dangote plant. In what it claimed is an attempt to provide employment for jobless Oromo youth it decided to withdraw all mining licences and agreements already concluded with Dangote and similar other companies with mining concessions. In its place the regional government claimed that it would create youth owned companies that would now supply the minerals required by the cement and other plants.

This action of the Oromo regional government in illegally annulling legally approved mining agreements with the Dangote Group and other companies raise major questions on the genuine preparedness of African states, politicians, and bureaucrats to foster Africa’s self-development through Africans investing in Africa. Without question the action of these governments represents major challenges to Africans assumption of responsibility for their development and the emergent Affirmative Africa Narrative. In fact at its core, these anti-investment actions are a repudiation of the long-standing aspirations of Pan-Africanism and its advocates, and the practical commitment of the continental organizations like the former Organization of African Union (OAU) and the current African Union (AU) to promote African-led development through investments, intra-African trade and exchange, as instruments for creating secure African development and domestic prosperity-generation.

This is a good example of how some African leaderships’ represent serious obstacles to African development. Quite clearly any aspiration for Africa’s take off through self-actuated development as represented by the transformational efforts of Dangote and similar committed pan-African economic revolutionaries is weakened by such leadership unfaithfulness, irresponsibility and lack of serious commitments to African investors.

Despite these set-backs, it is important for African states and the continental and regional economic groups to reaffirm their commitment to African-led transformational industrial development as the basis for Africa’s capacitation for self-actuated development. In this light, it is imperative for the AU and its various economic agencies to design Continental Investment Protection Agreements that would commit African states to respect and uphold already approved agreements and avoid arbitrary nullifications of legally binding instruments. An additional guarantor is for each African state to negotiate investment protection treaties with each other. In fact this is especially indicated for countries such as Nigeria where investors are increasingly embarking on Pan-African development investments.

Finally, pan-African transformational investors like Dangote should remain committed and not be discouraged by these clearly disruptive actions of hapless, backward and anti-African development leaders. The Dangotes’ of Africa as continental transformational vanguards should remain firmly committed to their chosen paths of legal profit making and simultaneous contribution to Africa’s transformation, economic development, prosperity-generation, psychological liberation, and the restoration of Africans dignity and equality with others in the world. These are worthwhile and enduring ideals and challenges that transformational revolutionaries and societal game-changers are bound to encounter and overcome so as to create new worlds.

*Ehiedu Iweriebor is a Professor and former Chair of the Department of Africana and Puerto Rican/Latino Studies, Hunter College, City University of New York, USA.

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African Immigrant Population on Rise in US
February 19, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Salem Solomon*

A candidate for citizenship holds the American flag against his chest during the playing of the national anthem at the start of a naturalization ceremony for 755 new United States citizens at Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves baseball team in Atlanta, Friday, Sept. 16, 2016. The ceremony, in honor of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, was the largest in Georgia this year and the 755 citizens sworn in marks the number of home runs hit by former Braves player Hank Aaron. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

A candidate for citizenship holds the American flag against his chest during the playing of the national anthem at the start of a naturalization ceremony for 755 new United States citizens at Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves baseball team in Atlanta, Friday, Sept. 16, 2016. The ceremony, in honor of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, was the largest in Georgia this year and the 755 citizens sworn in marks the number of home runs hit by former Braves player Hank Aaron. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

The United States is becoming an increasingly attractive destination for African immigrants, with their numbers more than doubling since 2000. Although many are coming from war-torn countries, the immigrants also include large numbers of highly educated professionals.

According to a new study from the Pew Research Center, as of 2015, there were nearly 2.1 million people living in the U.S. who were born in Africa. That number is up from 880,000 in 2000 and only 80,000 in 1970.

Monica Anderson, a research associate and the author of the study, said the numbers are doubling approximately every decade and she sees that trend continuing.

“In 1980 only 1 percent of refugees admitted to the U.S. were from an African country and today that share is about 37 percent. That is one major factor that is driving the growth of African immigrants but it doesn’t tell the entire story,” she told VOA in an interview.

Anderson says various clusters of vibrant immigrant populations are reshaping places like Minnesota, which is home to 25,000 people of Somali origin, about one-fifth of the foreign-born population in the state.

Nigerians make up the largest African diaspora population in the U.S. at 327,000, followed by Ethiopians at 222,000 and Egyptians at 192,000, Pew found. The top destinations for African immigrants to the U.S. are Texas, New York, California and Maryland.

“Many of these places in the U.S. are …having a larger share of African immigrants than they had before,” Anderson said. “In different clusters in the U.S., African immigrants are really reshaping the immigrant population there.”

Still small portion of immigrant population

Despite the increases, African immigrants still make up a relatively low percentage of the total immigrant population. Randy Capps, director of research for U.S. programs at the Migration Policy Institute, said there are both historical and geographic reasons for that.

“It’s a long distance from Africa and the number of people in Africa with sufficient incomes to migrate that far has been relatively small,” he said. “And secondly we didn’t really open up channels for legal African migration to the U.S. substantially until the 1965 Immigration Act and so, like Asian immigrants, there just weren’t very many African immigrants here until starting at that time.”

The Immigration and Nationality Act signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson, ensured that quota systems based on national identity were eliminated and allowed the acceptance of immigrants of all nationalities equally. Immigrant families were able to reunite due to this act, also known as the Hart-Celler Act, and skilled immigrants were encouraged to migrate easily.

Today’s African immigrants include tens of thousands of refugees from Somalia, Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Eritrea. But it also includes highly-educated doctors, engineers and others immigrating to the country in search of a better life.

Capps said that, as of 2013, 38 percent of sub-Saharan African immigrants had a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to 28 percent of all U.S. immigrants and 30 percent of the U.S.-born population.

Will Trump Stop the Flow?

It remains to be seen how changes in U.S. immigration policy could affect the flow of immigrants from Africa. An executive order signed by President Donald Trump halted immigration from three African countries and paused the U.S. refugee resettlement program.

That executive order was halted by a federal court, but the Trump administration has promised a revision.

Another proposal by U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., would reduce the number of green cards issued by the U.S. from 1 million to 500,000.

“I see it as more of an open question as to whether fewer students will come, fewer visitors will come, or whether it will be harder for people to sponsor their relatives. I think it’s just too soon into the Trump administration to know if that’s going to be the case,” said Capps.

But barring a major change, African immigration is likely to continue to rise since the U.S. continues to have a strong economy offering opportunities to immigrants.

“The U.S. has a pretty open job market, a strong job market now,” says Capps. “It’s a large job market relative to a lot of other countries that African immigrants might go to and a lot of the African immigrants here are doing quite well. So I think without something more drastic, a bigger change in U.S. immigration policy, there are still going to be very strong pull factors to come to the United States.”

*VOA

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Research Calls for New Approach to Youth Employment Training Strategies in Africa
February 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

Youth Livelihood Diaries Shed New Light on Working Lives of African Youth

 

Sarah Bafumba,(right) ,a Youth Researcher in discussion with Hamidah Nyahzi (left), a respondent in Uganda during the study.Photo Jennifer Huxta ,The MasterCard Foundation

Sarah Bafumba,(right) ,a Youth Researcher in discussion with Hamidah Nyahzi (left), a respondent in Uganda during the study.Photo Jennifer Huxta ,The MasterCard Foundation

Kigali, Rwanda, February 17, 2017 Innovative research released today by The MasterCard Foundation is making the case for a new approach to youth employment training strategies in Africa. Invisible Lives: Understanding Youth Livelihoods in Ghana and Uganda, released today at the Young Africa Works Summit in Kigali, Rwanda, sheds light on the working lives of African youth. The report, produced in collaboration with Low-Income Financial Transformation (L-IFT), argues that international development programs favour skills training for formal sector careers over training that can be applied to multiple jobs in the informal sector. The result is that their efforts fall short of reaching the millions of unreached youth on the continent who engage in mixed livelihoods.

“To reach a critical mass of young people, fundamental shifts in our approach to skills-building, access to finance and entrepreneurship support are necessary,” says Lindsay Wallace, Director of Learning and Strategy, The MasterCard Foundation. “Development efforts must strengthen social, education and economic systems, and promote inclusive growth that will provide the most vulnerable and marginalized young people with opportunities to improve their lives.”

Invisible Lives set out to explore how young people integrate mixed livelihoods into their working lives, what challenges this approach poses, and how best to design interventions for young people in the informal sector. The research used a diaries methodology to document the working lives of 246 youth ages 18-24 from Ghana and Uganda over a one-year period, honing in on questions around behaviour, income, economic activities, and time management. While these data speak to the realities of employment in Ghana and Uganda, the research suggests that these also reflect emerging trends across Africa.

 

Invisible Lives highlights the extraordinary lengths that young people go to in order to achieve sustainable livelihoods. Findings of the Invisible Lives research indicate that:

 

  • Young people in Africa diversify their livelihoods, undertaking a mix of informal sector employment, self-employment, and agriculture-related activities to sustain their livelihood.
  • Agricultural production is central to young people’s livelihoods, but agricultural incomes were meagre. Many young people run small enterprises that can be easily started, stopped, and restarted as needed. The most successful young people in both Ghana and Uganda diversified their income and risk by growing multiple crops, raising a variety of livestock, and pursuing a wide range of additional activities.
  • Both formal and informal wage employment is rare and sporadic, or elusive. While the informal sector, which constitutes about 80 percent of Africa’s labour force, provided more wage employment opportunities for young people, they were by no means abundant.
  • Support networks are critical for young people and they play an extensive role in their lives, not only providing support in the form of advice regarding where to look for and how to find employment, skills development, and business guidance, but also proving instrumental in accessing financial resources needed.
Anne Marie van Swinderen

Anne Marie van Swinderen

“Respondents who participated in this study generously shared experiences from their lives over the course of a full year,” explains Anne Marie van Swinderen, lead researcher on Invisible Lives from Low-Income Financial Transformation (L-IFT). “Data from the study shows us that these young people readily take up all opportunities that come their way, with enormous energy and positive spirit. Through the L-IFT diaries methodology, these young respondents and the young researchers who interviewed them, also grew a great deal, simply through the act of asking and answering questions about their diversified livelihoods.”

In addition to providing new information on the employment and risk-mitigation strategies of young working Africans, the research maintains that youth who participated in this study were largely invisible to both development organizations and their own governments, and did not have any access to support services, training or finance capital.

Nakagubo Manjeri(left) participated in the study.Photo Jennifer Huxta ,MasterCard Foundation

Nakagubo Manjeri(left) participated in the study.Photo Jennifer Huxta ,MasterCard Foundation

The MasterCard Foundation works with visionary organizations to provide greater access to education, skills training, and financial services for people living in poverty, primarily in Africa. As one of the largest private foundations, its work is guided by its mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to create an inclusive and equitable world. Based in Toronto, Canada, its independence was established by Mastercard when the Foundation was created in 2006.

The Youth Livelihoods Program seeks to improve the capacity of young men and women to transition to jobs or create businesses through a holistic approach which combines market-relevant skills training, mentorship, and appropriate financial services. Through our partnerships, our program is supporting innovative models that help young people transition out of poverty and into stable livelihoods. Since 2010, the Foundation has committed $US402 million to 37 multi-year projects across 19 countries in Africa. More than 1.8 million young people have been reached through the Youth Livelihoods program

 

 

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Corruption Weary Africans Taking Anger To The Polls-TI 2016 CPI Index
February 15, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

John Mahama or Ghana (in suit) and Yahya Jammeh of Gambia both lost elections in 2016

John Mahama or Ghana (in suit) and Yahya Jammeh of Gambia both lost elections in 2016

If affable candidates like former President John Mahama of Ghana lost elections last year, it may in part have been due to corruption.The finding is contained in the recently published 2016 corruption perception index of Transparency International.

“In countries like Ghana, which is the second worst decliner in the 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index in the region, the dissatisfaction of citizens with the government’s corruption record was reflected in their voting at the polls,” Transparency International said in a statement that accompanied the release.

Africa did not fare so well said Samuel Kaninda Regional Advisor for Africa at Transparency International. In a skype interview, Kaninda who was on mission in Accra, said  the recently released perception index found a co-relation between democracy and good governance. Countries with a history of free elections and a stable democracy faired comparatively better as compared those where democracy and the rule of law are still struggling to take root.

On the countries that did well, Cape Verde and Sao Tome and Principe emerged as the most improved in Africa. Both countries held elections, which got rave reviews from observers. For his efforts and management style, Jorge Carlos Fonseca was rewarded with another term of office. In Sao Tome and Principe, there was a smooth transition of power, a feat that still eludes many countries in the continent.

For the democratic advances it has made, corruption in Ghana was described as rampant. Corroborating statements in the TI Release, Samuel Kaninda believed that the outcome of the recent election mirrored the anger and disappointment of Ghanaians who voted out a sitting President.

Despite high profile arrests and pompous amounts recouped from corrupt politicians, Nigeria failed to see any significant improvement in the index. The doctrine of change that brought the Buhari APC led government to power has so far been a mirage. Nigerians are increasingly voicing out their frustrations and should things not change before the 2019 elections, the APC may be in for a rude awakening.

 

Africa should seek the partnership of the international community to fight illicit flows of capital from the continent says Samuel Kaninda

Africa should seek the partnership of the international community to fight illicit flows of capital from the continent says Samuel Kaninda

The situation was similar in South Africa, trailed by sleazy tales of corruption with fingers pointing directly at President Jacob Zuma himself. Though serving his second and last term of offices, there have been growing calls for Zuma to step down. Down and bruised, Zuma has so far weathered the storm, but his battered image is taking a toll on ruling ANC. That it took heavy military Presidents to quell a mutiny from the opposition before Zuma could make a recent state of the Union Address speaks volumes on the situation Mandela’s own country.

With elections due later this year, if corruption were to be a decisive factor, President Uhuru may have some blushes as little progress has been made during his first term.

On the category of countries that equally fared poorly are the regulars like Somalia, South Sudan, Guinea Bissau, Central Africa, Chad, Burundi, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Cameroon, DR, Congo and the Republic of Congo.

Fighting corruption should be task for everybody said Samuel Kaninda in response to solutions for the way forward. Besides the framework that countries need to put place, the civil society has to step up its role.

Transparency International is willing to engage with countries in the continent and the wider international community in the quest for lasting solutions, Kaninda said. With growing attention from the international corporate world, Kaninda said corporations coming to Africa need to be clearly identified .Institutions and clear-cut rules need to be put in place to curb incidence of corruption, he said.

Corruption is not an issue of the South or the North, Kaninda said in response to a question on illicit outflows of money from Africa. Without these massive flows, Africa will not be talking about Aid but Trade,  said Kaninda. African governments should engaged in discussions with the rest of the world especially those that provide safe haven for massive loots from Africa so as to curb this trend which saps Africa of resources needed for its own development ,said Kaninda.

 

 

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Italy sets up fund to help African countries stop migrants
February 2, 2017 | 0 Comments

Over 5,000 migrants died attempting the Mediterranean crossing last year

Italy adds 200 mln euros to EU efforts

* EU leaders to give political backing on Friday

* Agencies sound alarm over conditions for migrants in Libya

By Steve Scherer and Gabriela Baczynska*

Migration: A boat with African migrants spotted by the Navy at sea near Lampedusa, Italy.Source Daily Mail

Migration: A boat with African migrants spotted by the Navy at sea near Lampedusa, Italy.Source Daily Mail

ROME/BRUSSELS, Feb 1 (Reuters) – Italy launched a new fund on Wednesday to help African countries control their borders, in the latest of a slew of measures pushed by the European Union to stop migrants reaching Europe.

EU leaders meeting in Malta on Friday are expected to give their backing to the new drive to stem African migration to Europe. It includes stepping up training of Libya’s coastguard and financing for the U.N. agencies for refugees (UNHCR) and migration (IOM) to improve dire conditions for migrants there.

“The strategic objective is to help (African countries) control their external borders and to stop departures,” Italy’s Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano said in Rome, announcing the 200 million-euro ($216 million) Italian fund.

African countries can request training and equipment to beef up border controls, with Libya, Tunisia and Niger the three main partners for now, Alfano said.

The voyage from Libya across the Mediterranean to Italy is currently the main route to Europe for migrants. A record 181,000 made the journey last year, most on flimsy boats run by people-smugglers.

More than 5,000 are believed to have died attempting the crossing in 2016.

Smugglers operate with impunity in Libya, which has been in turmoil since the 2011 overthrow of leader Muammar Gaddafi.

RAPE AND TORTURE

On a visit to NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday, Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj appealed for more international support for his government, which is challenged by various factions.

“One of the challenges we face as the government of national accord is to gain more international support and of course NATO is one of those major international institutions on which we count,” he said.

He asked for NATO’s help in building Libya’s security capacities “in order to fight more effectively against terrorism and … illegal migration”.

The EU’s executive European Commission last week proposed mobilising a further 200 million euros to help countries in Africa prevent the movement of migrants before they even embark across the sea for Europe.

The bloc is looking at providing funding to improve conditions in migrant camps in Libya. The United Nations sounded alarm last year that migrants there suffer arbitrary detention, forced labour, rape and torture.

The EU says most of those coming from Africa are economic migrants and wants to send them back. The UNHCR’s director for Europe, Vincent Cochetel, said however nearly 40 percent of those arriving in Italy had a case for international protection.

“This is not a detail,” he said on Twitter this week, calling on the EU leaders meeting in Malta to “factor in … elementary considerations of humanity”.

*Reuters

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Africa: Nigeria Opposes Mass ICC Withdrawal
January 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda

The plan the African Union (AU) members to collectively withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) may suffer a setback as Nigeria and some other countries are opposed to it.

Foreign minister Geoffrey Onyeama said in a statement in Abuja on Friday that Nigeria did not subscribe to the AU strategy.

The minister said that when the issue came up during a meeting, several countries opposed it.

He said Nigeria and others believed that the court had an important role to play in holding leaders accountable.

The only voice

“Nigeria is not the only voice agitating against it, in fact Senegal is very strongly speaking against it, Cape Verde and other countries are also against it.

“What they (AU) did was to set up a committee to elaborate a strategy for collective withdrawal.

“And after, Senegal took the floor, Nigeria took the floor, Cape Verde and some other countries made it clear that they were not going to subscribe to that decision,” he said.

Mr Onyeama said a number of countries also said that they needed time to study the proposal.

He said that Zambia, Tanzania, Liberia, Botswana and a host of others were not willing to withdraw from the court.

Mr Onyeama stressed that each country willingly acceded to the 1998 Rome Statue on the setting up of the court.

 “Each country freely and willingly acceded to the Treaty, and not all of the members of the AU acceded, each country acceded individually exercising its own sovereign right.

“So, each country, if they want to withdraw, has the right to do that individually.

Publicly declared

Three African states in 2016 publicly declared their intention to withdraw from the court.

Burundi, South Africa and The Gambia applied to withdraw, with reports that Namibia, Kenya and Uganda were also contemplating quitting the ICC.

The court has repeatedly been criticised by African states as an inefficient, neo-colonial institution of the Western powers to try African leaders.

The argument was supported by the fact that nine of the 10 situations under investigation, with three others under preliminary investigations, involved African countries.

However, as noted by the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM), “the rift is often caused by a neat difference in priorities.

“Where one gives more importance to peace processes, while the other gives more weight to obtaining [international] justice.”

African state parties to the Rome Statute make up the biggest regional membership, comprising 34 of the 124 members.

*Allafrica

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Can Trump Save Africa and the African Diaspora After the Mixed Legacy of Obama?
January 9, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Dr. Roland Holou*

President Obama shakes hands with President-elect Trump

President Obama shakes hands with President-elect Trump

It is hard to address the perspectives on Africa at the beginning of 2017 without mentioning the Chinese influence in Africa and the impact of the election of President Donald Trump on the legacy of President Barack Obama, the first African American to be elected as President of the USA. When President Obama was elected in 2008, several people thought he would be the savior of Africa and its Diaspora. However, the feelings towards his legacy are diverse.

President Obama might have done what he could to strengthen democracy and boost economic growth in Africa for instance by extending the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) while investing in the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). By organizing the very first U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, he helped the US to revisit its strategy for Africa. Soon after Obama leaves office, some of his legacies in the USA (e.g. Obamacare, “immigration reform”, Medicaid expansion, minimum wage increase, overtime benefits, paid pregnancy and sick leave, civil rights enforcement, criminal justice reforms, progressive tax reforms, tax credits for low-income people, etc.), may be brought down or replaced by something else.

Although several people of African descent including some top civil rights movement leaders are disappointed by the legacy of Mr. Obama, it is worth noticing that he was sandwiched not only between some spiritual and racial strongholds, but also between the strategic forces that brought him to power and the tactical opposition he had to deal with once he managed to enter the White House, which was built by enslaved Africans whose descendants are still struggling in the Americas.

The Africans and their stakeholders must reflect on Mr. Obama’s “inability” to do the things that they once thought he could. Unfortunately, many people cannot or do not want to understand that, to some extent, the power of an American President like Mr. Obama is not as strong as that of some Presidents who can even choose to stay in power even if the result of the presidential vote says otherwise. The timing of the presidency of Obama might have also affected his performance as he inherited the worst economic crisis in the USA since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Yet, as he was preparing to leave office, the statistics showed that the US economy is stronger than when he took office. We need to acknowledge Obama for his efforts regardless of his weaknesses, and also thank God for having allowed an African descent to lead the “world’s #1 nation” for 8 years.

Many Africans would have loved that Mrs. Hillary Clinton be elected as the President of the USA in 2016. However, although she won the popular vote by nearly 3 million ballots, the Electoral College favored Mr. Trump. Several people of African descent did not come out to vote for Hillary as they did for Obama, therefore playing a role in the election of Trump who, during his “thank you tour”, acknowledged the African Americans for staying home during the election! The election of Mr. Trump could also be a divine set up that fits the end time as it was prophesied by the renowned Malawian Prophet Shepherd Bushiri (Major1), one of the most successful businessmen and ministers in the world.

Unlike Mr. Obama whose election brought hope to Africa and its Diaspora before they realized 8 years later that, one man at the White House cannot save them, the election of Mr. Trump seems to bring fear on some people as if Trump can sink Africa while trying to “Make America Great Again” as emphasized during his revolutionary campaign. Analyzing Mr. Trump’s campaign and the people he is choosing to fill his cabinet positions, it may sound at first glimpse that his policies may not favor the people of African descent. For instance, some people think that Mr. Trump may reduce or redesign US aid towards Africa. However, this should not scare anyone. For example, although not a descendant of Africa, President George W. Bush did a lot of great things for Africa and some well-known African leaders still believe that he  helped Africa more than Mr. Obama whose father was from Kenya.

Moreover, although foreign aid benefits some Africans, Africa is not supposed to be living on certain foreign “aid” which usually are strategic loans with high interest that are typically undetectable by the profane. Instead of counting on these “aids”, Africa should be seeking better opportunities that can allow it to put its own people to work and better manage its priceless human and natural resources that some people are still poaching for free. Therefore, let’s hope that, as a businessman who can negotiate deals, Mr. Trump ends up crafting some great agreements that can contribute to the ongoing efforts to advance Africa and its Diaspora.

Roland Holou

Roland Holou

Despite these controversial realities, there is hope for Africa and the African Diaspora if they can understand that their “salvation” will not come from any government in the East or West, but from themselves with the help of God Almighty, who did not predestinate Africa to be the headquarter of poverty despite its rich lands and smart intellectuals. That is why I still believe that the Africans must better partner with each other without forgetting the huge untapped potential of the African Diaspora that some leaders unfortunately refuse to realistically incorporate into their strategic agendas. Instead of putting their hope on people who usually disillusion them, the Africans need to keep up all good fights while counting on God to develop themselves and the motherland. As for the unspoken racial discrimination and the other forms of injustice, let’s not forget that, there is a God who will judge very soon!

*Dr. Roland Holou is a scientist, a businessman, an international consultant and expert in agribusiness, agriculture, agronomy, biotechnology, Diaspora engagement, Africa’s development, international trade and development. To learn more about his work or contact him, please visit www.DiasporaEngager.com, www.AfricanDiasporaLeaders.com and www.RolandHolou.com

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