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An interview with Moïse Katumbi, DR Congo’s would-be president
July 18, 2017 | 0 Comments

“The same people who betrayed Mobutu are now with Kabila, telling him he’s God, telling him he’s whatever. It’s bullshit.”

BY JAMES WAN*

Moïse Katumbi (left) with Zeinab Badawi (right) speaking at a RAS and Africa All Party Parliamentary event in the UK. Credit: Sheila Ruiz.

Moïse Katumbi (left) with Zeinab Badawi (right) speaking at a RAS and Africa All Party Parliamentary event in the UK. Credit: Sheila Ruiz.

For a man many see as the natural heir to the presidency of the vast and populous Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Moïse Katumbi cuts a fairly reserved figure. A gentle and sometimes bashful tycoon-turned-politician, one gets the sense that if he were his biblical namesake, his instinct would be to strike a behind-the-scenes deal with the Red Sea rather than command it to part with booming authority.

Whatever his approach, however, it has put him in good stead. The son of a Jewish father from Greece and a Congolese mother, Katumbi, now a youthful 52,  first made his mark in business. He inherited a role in the already-successful family company in Katanga province, but expanded its activities in mining and logistics. All of which helped make him one of the Congo’s richest people.

From 2007 to 2015, he was  governor of Katanga, which saw impressive economic growth and development. Under his presidency of the Lubumbashi football team TP Mazembe, the club has won the African Champions League three times.

Now Katumbi wants to be president of the country. If free and fair elections were held, he probably would be. He has significant popularity and the support of much of the opposition. But when he’ll get a chance to test this hypothesis is anyone’s guess.

President Joseph Kabila, who has led the DRC since 2001, was meant to step down when his second mandated term expired on 19 December 2016. But he simply failed to organise elections. Protests escalated until an agreement was made on 31 December that a transitional government would be established − with Kabila still as president − and that elections would be held in 2017. Yet more than halfway through the year, the polls are no closer and the electoral commission recently announced that they have been delayed indefinitely.

Moreover, in 2016, Katumbi was sentenced to 36 months in absentia for selling a property illegally. The charges are widely considered to be politically-motivated, but they mean he is stuck in exile in Brussels.

African Arguments caught up with the wannabe Congolese president:

You’ve said repeatedly now that you’ll be returning to the DRC shortly. Do you know when yet?

I’m going as quick as possible. I went with my lawyer to the High Commission for Human Rights in Geneva and got a good answer, so I’m definitely going back. I miss my country and my people.

Do you have a date?

The date is soon. I’m like a general. I need to plan everything properly.

You have much support in the DRC, but many also distrust you, including various grassroots movements that are doing much of the mobilising on the ground today. They see you as someone who’s always lived in luxury, eating at expensive restaurants and flying in private jets, while two-thirds of Congolese live in poverty. Why should they believe in you?

In a democracy, not everyone will love you. The majority would like me to run as president. I was first a businessman. 95-97% know the true story about Moïse Katumbi. I was a hardworking person, 30 years in business, a successful businessman. I didn’t go bankrupt.

When I started as governor of Katanga, the province was sending $150 million to the national level per annum. After one year, it went to $3 billion because I fought corruption. When I am president, all the people will see the change. They can look on my website, they can talk to Katangese people to see my contribution.

How will you convince the doubters?

Kabila is attacking me – only me – because he knows in the first round I will win the elections. When I arrived as governor of Katanga, Congo was producing just 8,000 tonnes of copper per annum. I stopped exports of unprocessed material and told people to build new factories. We went from 8,000 tonnes to 1.3 million tonnes.  My province was the size of France, with 4.5 million people. Within one year, the population doubled as people came from their provinces to look for good governance and jobs.

You criticise Kabila now, but you were very close to him for many years. How are substantively different from him? What specific policy changes would you make if you were president tomorrow?

I can’t deny I worked with Kabila. The constitution allowed me two terms, which I did. President Kabila today is illegal. He finished his mandate in 2016. The difference between us first is that I respected the constitution. I didn’t kill anyone. I didn’t jail anyone.

What is important is the future. I would first establish the authority of government and law. I’d fight corruption. Create jobs. We need to have a strong economy. How? First, you need energy. Congo has a lot of water and no energy. I would call the private sector and all partners to help us and use money you have locally to improve energy.

You need to create the middle-class. Also transparency, which is very important in the mining sector and all sectors. You’ve got the best place for tourism. You have to develop this. And develop education. The future of Congo is not mining but the brains of our young people. And develop agriculture. At the moment, our money is going to other countries for imports. We need to create jobs in agriculture. And the money must go to the central government and be published. You must not violate the budget. The president is going over the budget sometimes by 700%.

Surely everyone, including Kabila, would largely agree that all these things are important. What specifically would you do?

What I say is that I’ve done it when I was the governor. It’s not just theory. Take education. When I started, we had 300,000 students at school and less than 10% were girls. I built good infrastructure and paid teachers well. We went to over 3 million children after 9 years, 50% of whom were girls. When I began, we were importing 98% of our agriculture. When I left office, we were importing 25%, because I put everyone to work on agriculture.

The main difference you emphasise between you and Kabila seems to be that he violated the constitution. If he’d stepped down last year, would he have been a good president?

Kabila missed the train. He was supposed to leave on time, not kill the people. If he left, the international community and Congolese would be happy. No matter what he did wrong, people would respect him as the first president to bring democracy.

He did good things, he did bad things. Now everything has become very bad because of the killing.

From Kabila’s perspective, his strategies have worked. The elections are no closer, while the opposition’s divided. Veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi has passed away. You’re in exile. And the wealthy businessman and recent critic of Kabila, Sindika Dokolo, has just been sentenced to a year in prison. What’s your plan to change things?

These are short manoeuvres. You think Sindika Dokolo can steal $1 million? His father was the first black banker in the country. Because Dokolo is telling Kabila to step down, the president’s only strategy is to take him down with fake charges, like he did with me. He thinks this is successful, but this is a short road.

And how will you bring that road to an end?

We are bringing it to an end because our constitution gives us the right to remove him. At the moment, he doesn’t have any legal frame. The people are going to chase Kabila because Article 64 of our constitution allows us. We’re going to say “Mr President, the game is over”. In life, you have to always be true. You can’t be clever to more than 80 million people. The end is sure to come this year. Kabila will no longer be president.

Yes, but how will you bring this about? At the moment, he seems to hold all the cards.

Killings is not a card, killing is evil.

But it helps keep him in power.

It works for some time. You have read widely. All the people who killed, what is their end? Their end is very bad.

Perhaps, but sometimes only after decades of rule.

For us, it is not going to take decades. Congo is not other countries. 80 million people need change. Kabila should wake up.

Ok, so would you encourage people to go onto the streets to force this change?

Yes. I’m also going on the streets and will encourage the people, because today people are dying and no serious investors have come to the country since 2016.

Going back to Dokolo, there are rumours the two of you are forming a political alliance. Is this true?

Sindika is a Congolese brother first. He’s a businessman and just inaugurated a cement factory in Angola. He works hard. He wants to contribute to change in Congo. You see how they are killing pregnant women and children in the Kasai. Sindika wants change in the country like any Congolese person.

Given you share that goal, does it make sense to join forces?

Not just the two of us. I was with Sidika Dokolo and Félix Tshisekedi. It’s all the Congolese people, civil society, everyone. We need real change. Congolese people today are determined. I have met a lot of Congolese children born in Europe who want to go back and contribute.

Before you resigned from the ruling coalition, you talked to President Kabila. He offered you something, but you declined. What happened in that meeting?

I went to see the president to tell him “Mr President, in life there is a time to come to office and a time to go”. I said Congo is not about you, it’s about 80 million people. It’s not about Moïse Katumbi, it’s about the people.

I advised him not to continue, but to have the first peaceful democratic transition. The same people who betrayed Mobutu are now with Kabila, telling him he’s God, telling him he’s whatever. It’s bullshit. He should look at how Mobutu was finished because the people of Congo at that time needed change.

*Culled from African Arguments.James Wan is the editor of African Arguments. Follow him on twitter at @jamesjwan

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Marrakech to host The World Premier high-level dialogue of leaders on Women, Agriculture and Sustainable Development September 11- 12, 2017 at the Four Seasons Hotel, Marrakech, Morocco
July 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

(Marrakech July 15, 2017.)- BELIEVE IN AFRICA (BIA), will be hosting is second Believe in Africa Day conference on Monday September 11 – 12, 2017, at the Four Seasons Hotel, in Marrakech, Morocco

Believe in Africa has chosen Morocco, the picturesque “Western Kingdom – a place the sun sets,” for this year’s “Woman and Agriculture” conference.  Hosting this conference in the Africa continent closer to home will bring together a cross-fertilization of ideas and home grown solutions from more than 500 delegates representing the diverse face of leading Africans in politics, business, regional/international experts in financing, technology and innovation, climate change and access to markets, including the voices of members of non-governmental organizations and institutions. By bringing people together, BIA 2017 will be the place where the pivotal role African women play, and contribute, in agriculture and sustainable development will be discussed and honoured.

 

Our choice of Morocco is not fortuitous. With the efforts deployed by His Majesty King Mohammed VI, King of Morocco with his clear vision and leadership in advancing African economic integration and enhancing the collaboration between, and within, African countries, was the inspiration behind our decision to choose Morocco for this year’s conference, for the first time in the African continent, “said Mrs. Angelle KWEMO, president of the association and president of the Congress.  She added that “Women and Agriculture” wishes to create a platform to empower women.

Angelle Kwemo

Angelle Kwemo

 Morocco is one of the most economically dynamic African countries. Geographically, and strategically located, Morocco is a bridge to Europe and the U.S. for Africa and a leader for South-South trade. It is certain that during this Congress we will learn a lot from the Moroccan experience in developing and expanding its agriculture sector. With the strong support of our conference partner, the OCP Group, world leader in phosphates and derivatives production, this conference will bring visibility to women who work daily in fields across Africa, concludes Mrs. Kwemo.

Another partner is the United Nations Women organization and BEYA Capital, a pioneer Casablanca-based climate investment and advisory firm that joined several global partners to organize the innovative Global Climate Finance Action Summit 2016 (GCFA 2016) during COP22. GCFA Summit made history by convening high-level international public and private sector leaders to discuss scaling actionable solutions to unlock climate finance flows towards developing countries, with a particular focus on Africa. Mustapha MOKASS, Founder & CEO of BEYA Capital stated “Women are the backbone of Africa food security and Climate change mitigation. Empowering them equals empowering the world”. He added “we are proud to join Believe in Africa in this historical event to showcasing concrete financial solutions to African women entrepreneurs’ projects to Climate Change Adaptation as a prelude to the upcoming gathering of GCFA Investors Platform on September 18/19 during NY Climate Week and during upcoming COP23 in Bonn (Germany).”

To drive our stimulating BIA 2017 agenda, we welcome our strategic partners, Washington Media Group, Reseau des Femmes Artisanes du Maroc (RESFAM), Africa 24 TV, Forbes Africa, AllAfrica.com, Horizon Africa, Inside Consulting and others will soon be joining us in moving our agenda forward.

Believe in Africa (www.believeinafrica.org) is an African diaspora-led initiative founded by former U.S. congressional staffers and African leaders in the U.S. to empower Women and young Africans, to harness the power of the African Diaspora, educate policy makers and the public about African economic growth and highlight the continent’s gradual rise in the global community.

 

 

 

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Africa: Tribute to Babacar Ndiaye – Titan of Africa
July 15, 2017 | 0 Comments

Photo: Africa Economy Builders Babacar Ndiaye (right) presenting the Africa Economy Builders Award to Ambassador Harold E. Doley, Jr. in Abidjan in April.

Photo: Africa Economy Builders
Babacar Ndiaye (right) presenting the Africa Economy Builders Award to Ambassador Harold E. Doley, Jr. in Abidjan in April.

New Orleans — The Greek mythological Titan of Forethought, Prometheus, dared to disobey Zeus’ wishes by sharing fire and heat with humanity. His punishment was to be shackled to the Caucasus Mountains (The derivation of Caucasian comes from the people of the Caucasus Mountains.).

This humane act for humankind led to eternal condemnation. Each day, the eagles ate Prometheus’s organs, but because he was a Titan (i.e. god), the organs grew back. Prometheus endured this daily fate until Hercules broke his chains.

Babacar Ndiaye, who passed away in Dakar yesterday, lived the life of Prometheus. He did what he knew was right and paid the price many times over.

Many people that he helped throughout his life hurt him and hurt him dearly. I personally saw him reconcile with each one of those people, even though just one of those blows could have been mortal.

Babacar was a religious man who knew the Koran as well as the Old and New Testaments and understood that we are all One. He recognized that Ishmael, Abraham’s first son, was the forbearer of Islam. He knew the Old Testament teachings that Noah son Ham’s descendants are Black, cursed to always be the servant of servants (slaves). In the New Testament, Babacar liked to point out that two men carried the cross to Calvary, Jesus and Simon of Cyrene, a black man.

God and history created Babacar, who was a compilation of Prometheus, Ishmael, Ham and Simon of Cyrene.

Bababcar is recognized for his decade (1985-1995) as president of the African Development Bank (AfDB). What is lesser known is that he orchestrated the quadrupling of the capital of that Bank and that he secured the first AAA rating for an African institution or sovereign country. He also was instrumental in creating Shelter Afrique, the African Export-Import Bank and the African Business Roundtable.

One little known anecdote is that – when the superpowers agreed in 1991 that the next Secretary General of the United Nations should be an African – Babacar Ndiaye was next in line for the position, had Boutros Boutros-Ghali not prevailed following a stalemate in the voting. Another unknown gem is that Babacar was asked by Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi to deliver his wish to Washington to reconcile with the United States.

Perhaps most important was Babacar’s behind-the-scenes contribution to ending apartheid. In 1985, the year Babacar became AfDB President, Hughlyn Fierce, senior executive vice president of Chase Bank in New York, won approval for the Bank to refuse to renew the debt of South Africa. This decision immediately put the white government in default, forcing the closure of the foreign currency exchange window and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

Less than 60 days later, President P.W. Botha gave his Rubicon speech in Durban and spoke of the ‘new’ South Africa. Within a matter of weeks, Nelson Mandela was moved from prison to a halfway house, and the lengthy negotiations that led to the country’s first non-racial elections in 1994 were underway.

Babacar quietly supported Chase Bank in extraordinary ways, and It was the cooperation of these two men of color – Fierce and Ndiaye – which helped to bring about this remarkable change.

Throughout his career, Babacar handled tens of billions of dollars. Yet he did not die a wealthy man in monetary terms.  What he accomplished was to do his job extraordinarily well.

Now that his earthly chains have been broken, we need not cry for Babacar. We should, however, mourn the fact that Africa has lost a great titan to whom we all are indebted..

*Allafrica.Ambassador Harold E. Doley, Jr. (Ret.) was the first U.S. Executive Director to the African Development Bank and Fund.

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China focuses on its military footprint in Africa, setting stage for new rivalry with West
July 14, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Fabio Scala*

While the United States is scaling back its international positions amid a significant reduction in State Department’s budget that will affect international aid, another superpower, China, is working to substantially increase its international engagement.

For years China has been spending enormous sums of money buying political influence, including in Africa. But China is now revving up its military engine, looking to step up where opportunities allow it amid an uncertain commitment from the West.

One of China’s top geographical priorities is Africa. This is because Beijing sees an opening, as Africa is being neglected by both Europe and the United States. For the West, the continent is always analyzed through the lenses of illegal migration, terrorism, and the extraction industry. The continent is largely seen first as a source of problems, and rarely an opportunity. China too has been focusing on natural resource acquisition, but it has also committed investments and manpower to build infrastructure and export its technical capabilities to its African partners. As these investments expand, Beijing is now seeking to protect the billions it already committed in the continent by flexing its military muscles.

The Chinese military has been on overdrive these past days. In the Mediterranean, on the northern tip of the African continent, the Chinese navy is conducted live-firing drills this week. It committed a destroyer, a frigate and a support ship in drills that took place on July 10. The group is headed next to Russia, where it will join its Russian counterpart in St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad to perform joint exercises.

This week also, China is inaugurating its military base in the strategically located Djibouti, a country transformed into an open military fortress for many foreign forces, include those of France, Italy, Japan, the Unite States, and soon Turkey and Saudi Arabia. China argues that its Djibouti presence will be for peacekeeping and humanitarian aid in Africa, but rivalry with the US and the protection of Chinese assets and investments in East Africa, and elsewhere in the continent are critical drivers to China’s military focus there. This week, several navy ships left the port city of Zhanjiang in China’s southern Guangdong province, headed to the small port of Obock, in the of the Gulf of Tadjoura, Djibouti. The port is linked to the Gulf of Aden, allowing it easy reach to the troubled Middle East.

China’s presence in Africa is pretty ubiquitous, and that includes the Southern Africa region too. Also this week, the Chinese military made a symbolic gesture to Mozambique when it pledged $18 million to build new Mozambican Armed Forces barracks in Maputo. The gesture is symbolic indeed, but there are major implications on the long run in the aftermath of the high-profile visit of Chang Wanquan, the Chinese Defense Minister to Maputo. During the visit, the two parties highlighted China’s commitment to training Mozambican soldiers, but they are also planning a Chinese involvement in military infrastructure and logistics.

This Chinese charm offensive in Mozambique is taking place as the Southern African country has witnessed a reduction of aid from Western donors amid a major financial scandal that has rocked Mozambique. But it is also happening as Mozambique prepares to produce a significant amount of gas from the northern Rovuma basin, off the coast of Cabo Delgado. Although symbolic for now, the Chinese investment in Mozambique is likely to accelerate in the near future, and that would include a growing military presence to protect such investments.

China’s interest in Africa is no secret. It begun years ago and in 2015, its leadership renewed their commitment to Africa with pledged investment of $60 billion going forward. China’s footprint can be found in many places across the continent, making it the continent’s biggest economic partner, surpassing by far the colonial powers, who have been neglecting the continent. The Chinese presence can be found in sectors like highways and railways, ports and housing. It is also in engineering and energy, in places like Djibouti, Ethiopia, Angola, Nigeria, Tanzania, Zambia and of course North Africa. The Chinese engagement is now expanding into the military world, and that could create the next area of conflict in the world, post-Daesh.
*The North Africa Journal

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The CFA Franc: French Monetary Imperialism in Africa
July 13, 2017 | 0 Comments
By Ndongo Samba Sylla*
A cartoon with a hand holding a key emerging from a jacket of the colours of the French flag. The key of for a padlock which holds the French nations to the much maligned CFA Franc currency used by former French colonies in West Africa

A cartoon with a hand holding a key emerging from a jacket of the colours of the French flag. The key of for a padlock which holds the French nations to the much maligned CFA Franc currency used by former French colonies in West Africa

Ndongo Samba Sylla argues that the CFA franc – officially created on 26 December 1945 by a decree of General de Gaulle – used across much of Africa today is a colonial relic. For those hoping to export competitive products, obtain affordable credit, work for the integration of continental trade, or fight for an Africa free from imperialist control, the CFA franc is an anachronism demanding orderly and methodical elimination.

On 11 August 2015, speaking at the celebrations marking the 55th anniversary of the independence of Chad, President Idriss Deby declared, ‘we must have the courage to say there is a cord preventing development in Africa that must be severed.’ The ‘cord’ he was referring to is now over 71 years old. It is known by the acronym ‘CFA franc’.

The pillars of the CFA franc

Like other colonial empires – the UK, with its sterling zone; or Portugal, with its escudo zone, France had its franc zone. The CFA franc – orginally the French African Colonial franc – was officially created on 26 December 1945 by a decree of General de Gaulle. It is a colonial currency, born of France’s need to foster economic integration among the colonies under its administration, and thus control their resources, economic structures and political systems.

Post-independence the CFA franc was redesignated: for the eight members of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) – Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo – it became the African Financial Community franc; for the six members of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CAEMC) – Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Chad – the Central African Financial Cooperation franc. The two zones possess economies of equal size (each representing 11 per cent of GDP in sub-Saharan Africa). The two currencies, however, are not inter-convertible.

As established by the monetary accords between African nations and France, the CFA franc has four main pillars:

Firstly, a fixed rate of exchange with the euro (and previously the French franc) set at 1 euro = 655.957 CFA francs. Secondly, a French guarantee of the unlimited convertibility of CFA francs into euros. Thirdly, a centralisation of foreign exchange reserves. Since 2005, the two central banks – the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) and the Bank of Central African States (BEAC) – have been required to deposit 50 per cent of their foreign exchange reserves in a special French Treasury ‘operating account’. Immediately following independence, this figure stood at 100 per cent (and from 1973 to 2005, at 65 per cent).

This arrangement is a quid pro quo for the French ‘guarantee’ of convertibility. The accords stipulate that foreign exchange reserves must exceed money in circulation by a margin of 20 per cent. Before the fall in oil prices, the money supply coverage rate (the ratio of foreign exchange reserves to money in circulation) consistently approached 100 per cent, implying in theory that Africans could dispense with the French ‘guarantee’. The final pillar of the CFA franc, is the principle of free capital transfer within the franc zone.

The CFA franc: for and against

Despite its exceptional longevity, the CFA franc by no means enjoys unanimous support among African economists and intellectuals. Its critics base their analysis on three separate arguments. Firstly, they condemn the absence of monetary sovereignty. France holds a de facto veto on the boards of the two central banks within the CFA franc zone. Since the reform of the BCEAO in 2010, the conduct of monetary policy has been assigned to a monetary policy committee. The French representative is a voting member of this committee, while the president of the WAEMU Commission attends only in an advisory capacity. Given the fixed rate of exchange between the CFA franc and the euro, the monetary and exchange rate policies of the franc zone nations are also dictated by the European Central Bank, whose monetary orthodoxy entails an anti-inflation bias detrimental to growth.

Secondly, they focus on the economic impact of the CFA franc, construed as a neocolonial device that continues to destroy any prospect of economic development in user nations. According to this perspective, the CFA franc is a barrier to industrialisation and structural transformation, serving neither to stimulate trade integration between user nations, nor boost bank lending to their economies. The credit-to-GDP ratio stands around 25% for the WAEMU zone, and 13% for the CAEMC zone, but averages 60%+ for sub-Saharan Africa, and 100%+ for South Africa etc. The CFA franc also encourages massive capital outflows. In brief, membership of the franc zone is synonymous with poverty and under-employment, as evidenced by the fact that 11 of its 15 adherents are classed as Least Developed Countries (LDCs), while the remainder (Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Congo, Gabon) have all experienced real-term economic decline.

Finally, they maintain that membership of the franc zone is inimical to the advance of democracy. To uphold the CFA franc, it is argued, France has never hesitated to jettison heads of state tempted to withdraw from the system. Most were removed from office or killed in favour of more compliant leaders who cling to power come hell or high water, as shown by the CAEMC nations and Togo. Economic development is impossible in such circumstances, as is the creation of a political system that meets the preoccupations of the majority of citizens.

For its partisans, in contrast, the underlying logic of the CFA franc lies not in neocolonialism, but in monetary cooperation. The under-development of the franc zone nations is attributed to factors independent of their monetary and exchange policies, in particular to their political instability and the poor economic policies of their leaders.

The CFA franc is characterised as a credible and stable currency, a significant virtue given the experience of most currency-issuing African nations. This counter-argument is, however, flawed: experience shows that nations like Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, which post independence withdrew from the franc zone and mint their own currency, are stronger economically than any user of the CFA franc.

It is also claimed that the CFA franc has allowed inflation to be pegged at a rate considerably lower than the African average. For its critics, however, the counterpart of this low inflation rate is weak economic growth and the creation of fewer jobs. Not to mention that this low average inflation rate does not prevent cities like Dakar from ranking among the most ‘expensive’ in the world.

In fact, the terms of the debate are quite simple. The CFA franc is a good currency for those who benefit from it: the major French and overseas corporations, the executives of the zone’s central banks, the elites wishing to repatriate wealth acquired legally or otherwise, heads of state unwilling to upset France etc. But for those hoping to export competitive products, obtain affordable credit, find work, work for the integration of continental trade, or fight for an Africa free from colonial relics, the CFA franc is an anachronism demanding orderly and methodical elimination.

From forbidden topic to emerging social movement

In October 2016, a group of African and European economists published a book entitled [in translation] Liberate Africa from Monetary Slavery: Who Profits from the CFA Franc? The date was not selected at random; it coincided with a meeting of the franc zone’s finance ministers, central bank governors and regional institutions. In the wake of the public debate sparked by the book, people are beginning to speak out.

France maintains the position that the CFA franc is an ‘African currency’, existing only as a support to Africans, who retain their ‘sovereignty’. Some heads of state, like Alassane Ouattara in Côte d’Ivoire and Macky Sall in Senegal take the same line. Unlike Idriss Déby, Macky Sall describes the CFA franc as ‘a currency worth keeping’. Ouattara goes further, insisting that the currency is a matter for experts and thus not a subject for democratic debate. From this standpoint, any critic of the CFA franc must by definition know nothing about it.

Yet, alongside radical economists and intellectuals, the critics of the CFA franc also include former international officials like Togo’s Kako Nubukpo (ex-BCEAO), Senegal’s Sanou Mbaye (ex-African Development Bank, and Guinea-Bissau’s Carlos Lopez (ex-UN Economic Commission for Africa), as well as African bankers like Henri-Claude Oyima (President-Director General of BGFI Bank).

From a taboo subject raised only by a handful of African intellectuals and politicians, the CFA franc debate is starting to enter day-to-day conversation and to attract the attention of activists. A social movement is developing to demand the joint withdrawal of African nations from the CFA franc. On 7 January 2017, on the initiative of ‘SOS Pan-Africa’ (‘Urgences Panafricanistes’), an NGO set up and run by the activist Kemi Séba, anti-CFA demonstrations were organised in several African and European cities, and in Haïti. The mobilisations varied in size according to country, bringing together intellectuals, pan-Africanist and anti-globalisation activists and others. SOS Pan-Africa has since issued a symbolic appeal for Africans to boycott French products.

The current alternative to the CFA franc in West Africa is the joint currency planned for members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The new currency was due to enter circulation in 2015, but this has since been deferred until 2020. The new deadline may or may not be met, but one thing seems increasingly clear: the CFA franc no longer has a future.

*Ndongo Samba Sylla (@nssylla) is  Research and Programme Manager for the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. He is the editor and author of a number of books including The Fair Trade Scandal.This article was first published on the Review of the African Political Economy (ROAPE) blog
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Angolan president’s son-in-law handed 1-year prison sentence for fraud
July 13, 2017 | 0 Comments

Sindika Dokolo [Photo Credit: Angop]

Sindika Dokolo [Photo Credit: Angop]

The son-in-law of Angolan President Jose dos Santos said on Thursday that a Congolese court had sentenced him in absentia to one year in prison for real estate fraud.

Sindika Dokolo, a Congolese businessman and art collector, is married to dos Santos’ billionaire daughter, Isabel, and is an outspoken critic of Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila.

He denounced Wednesday’s verdict, delivered by a court in the capital Kinshasa, as politically motivated.

“This conviction is so crude. It seems that Kabila and the intelligence service are no longer even concerned about appearances,” Mr. Dokolo told Reuters.

He said he had previously been acquitted in the same case.

Kabila’s chief political rival, the former governor Moise Katumbi, was also convicted of real estate fraud last June shortly after he announced his candidacy to stand in an election to replace Kabila.

That election was originally scheduled for last November but has been indefinitely postponed, triggering violent street protests in 2016 that killed dozens of people.

The government says the delays are due to challenges registering millions of voters.

Opposition leaders accuse Kabila of trying to cling to power.

A Congo government spokesman said he was not aware of Dokolo’s conviction.

Authorities have repeatedly rejected allegations that Congo’s justice system is targeting Kabila’s opponents.

Dokolo has emerged in recent months as one of Kabila’s fiercest critics, especially on Twitter, following the president’s refusal to step down when his constitutional mandate expired in December.

After Wednesday’s verdict, Dokolo wrote on Twitter: “I have just inaugurated a $400 million factory.

Kabila has condemned me to one year in prison over a plot of land.”

He also posted a photo of himself alongside Angolan Defence Minister Joao Lourenco, the ruling party’s candidate to succeed dos Santos in an election next month, writing that Lourenco has “a deep mastery of the DRC dossier”.

Relations between Congo and Angola, longtime allies, have soured over the past year due to growing Angolan frustration over Congo’s political instability and an insurrection in central Congo that has sent 30,000 refugees spilling across the border since August 2016.

In December, Angola withdrew military trainers it had sent to Congo, where wars at the turn of the century killed millions and sucked in more than a half-dozen neighbouring countries.

*(Reuters/NAN)

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Countdown to Next Einstein Forum Global Gathering 2018 Kigali begins
July 12, 2017 | 0 Comments

KIGALI,Rwanda, 10 July 2017 -/African Media Agency (AMA)/- On the heels of a successful Africa Science Week, the Next Einstein Forum (NEF) announces the NEF Global Gathering 2018 will be held 26-28 March 2018. An initiative of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) in partnership with the Robert Bosch Stiftung, the NEF will hold its second global forum for science in Kigali, Rwanda, under the patronage of H.E. President Paul Kagame.

“We’ve started the countdown to the NEF Global Gathering 2018 where more than a thousand of Africa’s and the world’s brightest minds will gather to highlight the contributions of Africa’s scientists and innovators to the global scientific community, discuss good science policy and how to go from policy to implementation and see the impact of global scientific research on daily life. Our aim is to highlight a holistic approach to doing science and technology, one that encourages cutting edge research and development, and incubation and commercialization with a central focus on how science can help achieve sustainable development and reduce poverty and inequality,” said Mr. Thierry Zomahoun, AIMS President and CEO and NEF Chair.

The NEF Global Gathering 2018, in line with the NEF’s Dakar Declaration, will focus on four areas under the central theme of Connecting Science to Humanity: Connectivity, Ubiquity and Mobility; Precision Health; Climate, Energy, Food and Growth; and building Africa’s Scientific Capacity. Participants will hear from Nobel laureates and renowned scientists, early career researchers and budding innovators, policy and civil society leaders, and leaders of industry.

“The government of Rwanda is happy to co-host the NEF Global Gathering 2018 as it falls in line with our commitment to making Rwanda a knowledge based economy and a regional science and innovation hub. We have invested heavily in attracting scientific and technological talent as we build the country’s scientific base and the Next Einstein Forum is part of several initiatives that are helping do just that. We are planning exciting side events that will inspire young students and up and coming researchers,” said Hon. Dr. Papias Malimba Musafiri, Rwanda’s Minister of Education.

NEF Global Gatherings include exciting sessions such as NEF Fellow Spotlight Sessions, live online discussions with special guests, discovery sessions that unpack ground breaking discoveries and the NEF’s signature continental innovation competition.

“We’re excited to be an organization that is focused on building the pipeline of African researchers and innovators. More than 50% of the inaugural NEF Global Gathering 2016 held in Dakar, Senegal, were under the age of 42 and we expect nothing less for this edition. As well, beyond participation, we have committed to having women take up at least 40% of speaker spots. We believe this will enrich our discussions and conclusions,” said Mr. Zomahoun.

Side events will focus on bringing science to the public through tech events, public lectures and other cultural events. A preliminary program will be available in September 2017. For more information about how to support or exhibit at the NEF Global Gathering 2018 write to partner@nef.org.

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of Next Einstein Forum

About the Next Einstein Forum
Launched in 2013, the Next Einstein Forum (NEF) is an initiative of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) in partnership with the Robert Bosch Stiftung. The NEF is a platform that connects science, society and policy in Africa and the rest of the world – with the goal to leverage science for human development globally. The NEF believes that Africa’s contributions to the global scientific community are critical for global progress. At the centre of NEF efforts are Africa’s young people, the driving force for Africa’s scientific renaissance. The NEF is a unique youth-driven forum. At our headline biennial scientific events, 50% of participants are 42 or younger. Far from being an ordinary science forum, the NEF Global Gatherings position science at the centre of global development efforts. The next NEF Global Gathering will be held on 26-28 March 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda. In addition, through our Communities of Scientists, we showcase the contributions of Africa’s brilliant youth to Africa’s scientific emergence through its class of NEF Fellows, who are Africa’s top scientists and technologists under the age of 42, and NEF Ambassadors, who are the NEF’s 54 science and technology ambassadors on the ground.The NEF is also working together with partners such as the African Academy of Sciences, Ministers’ of Education, Science and Research across Africa, foundations and other global scientific and private sector companies, to build an African scientific identity. By bringing together key stakeholders, the NEF hopes to drive the discussion from policy to implementation by leveraging buy in and best practice results from Africa and the world. Have a look at our benchmark Dakar Declaration.Finally, the NEF is telling untold stories of scientific research and innovation across the continent through our various platforms. We want to recalibrate what ‘innovation’ means in Africa. We want to make the link between science and technology, even basic sciences, to everyday life. We want the public involved in science and we have recently concluded the first coordinated Africa Science Week – an annual three to five day celebration of science and technology through coordinated science events across the continent. We believe the next Einstein will be African.

The NEF has been endorsed by the African Union Commission, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Governments of Rwanda, Senegal and South Africa, the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) and a growing number of private sector and civil society partners from across the world who are passionate about positioning Africa’s scientific community as an influential member in the global scientific community, which will ensure sustainable human development in Africa and other parts of the world.

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Macron Got A Lot Wrong About Africa … But Made One Good Point
July 12, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Viviane Rutabingwa*


French President Emmanuel Macron speaks a Press conference after a meeting of European Union leaders at the Chancellery on June 29, 2017 in Berlin, Germany.
Michele Tantussi/Getty Images

At a press conference at the G20 summit in Hamburg on July 8, French President Emmanuel Macron answered a question from a Cote d’Ivoire journalist.

The reporter asked why there was no Marshall Plan for Africa.

Macron’s response included these comments: “The challenge of Africa is completely different, it is much deeper. It is civilizational today. Failing states, complex democratic transitions, the demographic transition.” He later said, “One of the essential challenges of Africa … is that in some countries today seven or eight children [are] born to each woman.”

Many commentators have called these statements racist, problematic and arrogant. And many of us Africans agree.

The Audacity Of Macron

The French colonial empire ruled over much of North, West and Central Africa from around 1830 until 1960. During this time, African peoples were labeled “French subjects” but as a rule could not own property or vote.

By the time the last French colonial country — Gabon — fully gained its “independence” in 1960, France had left behind a legacy of colonization, slavery and pillage.

President Macron, as the leader of France, speaks on the status of Africa with this backdrop looming behind him. In 1884, a French statesman and leading proponent of colonialism, Jules François Camille Ferry, stated: “The higher races have a right over the lower races, they have a duty to civilize the inferior races.” He called it France’s “mission civilisatrice” or “civilizing mission.” That idea was at the core of French colonial ideology. And now in 2017, President Macron declares the problems in Africa “civilizational.”

It is concerning to see the casual manner in which a head of state can play into racist stereotypes of the African continent and African women. Africa is a continent of 54 dynamically different countries. Each of them — like any other country on earth — has strikingly different needs and issues to face — and a conglomerate of local individuals and organizations working hard to address them.

When Macron in his comments refers to “failed states, complex democratic transitions, demographic transition, infrastructure, porous borders, drug trafficking, arms trafficking, human trafficking, violent fundamentalism, Islamist terrorism….,” he plays into the tiresome trope that “Africa is a country, everyone is poor and can’t help themselves.”

Which country is he speaking of? Could it be Rwanda, one of the fastest growing economies globally and a country that is always high up on the list of gender equality: almost 64 percent of parliamentarians are women compared to just 22 percent worldwide? Or perhaps is he referring to Botswana, which has demonstrated remarkable economic progress by jumping from a low-income to a middle-income country within a few decades.

It has been discussed ad nauseum why the rhetoric that there’s one story for all of Africa is damaging to the progress of African countries and the dignity of African people.

Birth Rate Misinformation

And then there is the matter of children.

Niger is the country with the world’s highest fertility rate — 7.6 children per mother, according to World Bank data. But the number of children per African woman in many African countries is lower and is generally declining. The data in 2015 shows 3.5 in Namibia, 5.6 in Nigeria, 4.3 in Kenya (down from 7.9 in 1960).

In 2015, on average, according to World Bank data, a Sub-Saharan African mother gives birth to 4.9 children.

I’m distressed by the ease at which this president throws out an extreme number to paint an inaccurate and stereotypical picture of African mothers.

Moment Of Clarity

French President Emmanuel Macron with Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. EPA/Christophe Petit Tesson

French President Emmanuel Macron with Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. EPA/Christophe Petit Tesson

Despite my criticisms of Macron’s comments, I do believe he made a pertinent point when he said: “If we want a coherent response to Africa, then Africans must develop a series of policies that are far more sophisticated than a simple Marshall plan.”

That observation mirrors statements made by African heads of states as well as many researchers and academics who have been pushing for alternative models to help the countries of Africa grow.

In her book Dead Aid, the acclaimed author and International economist Dambisa Moyo observes that African peoples — for decades — have been pointing to the inherently ineffective and actually destructive nature of Western aid programs. Too often these programs bring in foreign personnel and do not invest in grassroots efforts. And they fail to recognize that one size does not fit all.

Despite this bit of clarity, Macron’s comments dig up the ever hidden stems of old imperial notions. His words remind many of us Africans of the terror our ancestors and elders went through during the years of imperial rule.

And yet I’m not entirely sorry that Macron said what he said. His comments were a much-needed reminder that we must keep demanding accountability from imperial nations — a goal that president Macron himself seems to agree with. In a speech in Algeria in February, he called colonization “a crime against humanity.”

Well said!

*NPR Viviane Rutabingwa was born in Nairobi, Kenya, at the twilight of the Ugandan civil war to Ugandan parents and grew up in Kenya, Burundi and Uganda. She now divides her time between Uganda and Canada. She is a public health professional with a focus on the uninsured and refugees. a Global Health Corps alumni and a founding member of A Place For Books. She tweets @Rootsi

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Africa: Crafting an African Victory for the World
July 8, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Carl Manlan*

Photo: VOA News

Photo: VOA News
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaking at a press conference in Geneva launching his candidacy to head the World Health Organization (WHO).

On May 25, 1963,  Africans gathered in Addis Ababa to create the Organisation of African Unity, the precursor to today’s African Union. It stood tall in the minds of Africans who decided to unite for a common cause. It demonstrated our ability to set aside differences in order to make the world a better place.

Now, on 1 July 2017, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of Ethiopia will stand at the helm of the the World Health Organisation with the ambition to reform, transform and make global health and agile partner of economic transformation for the world.

Dr. Tedros’ historical election marks a turning point in Africa’s ability to speak with one voice. Fourteen years ago, in 2003, Africa put forward four candidates for the same position. In disunity, we failed. But just like Washington, Brussels and New York, we turned Addis Ababa into the centre of African political and economic decision-making. The emergence of Dr. Tedros and his victory a WHO are telling tales of an Africa that is taking centre stage strategically by building consensus in Addis Ababa.

For example, Africans defined a strategy for the Sustainable Development Goals’ negotiation through  the Common African Position. We shifted the paradigm and the world took notice that Africa, in the midst of the challenges, has public sector leaders and diplomats that are harnessing data to inform policies.

 WHO

WHO
The new head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Furthermore, the African private sector is partnering in the transformation as it made clear during the Ebola outbreak. Ultimately, Africa is becoming a stronger partner to the world because it has developed an internally agreed framework for the negotiations with the world. It is in this context that I see Dr. Tedros’ victory as an African victory. The seeds of 1963 germinated,  but the first real bloom will appear on July 1 when Dr. Tedros formally assumes office at the WHO headquarters.

I feel confident that Dr. Tedros is the right person at the right time to lead the transformation of the WHO. He has experience beyond health leadership and understands that health permeates all levels and areas of governance in Africa and beyond. Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan broke a glass ceiling  for Africans in international organizations. But Dr. Tedros is the first African politician to be succeed from outside UN the system. This is a big step forward.

 In crafting an African victory, Ethiopia learnt from the challenges of previous African ministers of health. As a former Ethiopian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Tedros wove his narrative into local, continental and global health diplomacy. Not only did he lead the transformation of community health delivery in Ethiopia, he was instrumental in leading public private partnerships as Chair of The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. His victory with 133 votes, beyond his personal achievements is an expression of the changing nature of intra-African political relations. We are making progress and we should acknowledge the work of African public servants in spearheading transformation in Addis Ababa and in 55 African capitals.

Furthermore, given Dr. Tedros’ central role in key negotiations – such as the third international conference on financing for development (FfD) – he has the critical understanding of issues beyond health to draw new human and financial resources to make his mandate (better health for all) successful. He has the leverage to make health a priority in countries where diseases continue to arrest economic development or in places where viral threat create global issues as we saw with Ebola in 2014.

The achilles’ heel in this African victory is African’s ability to provide new resources for WHO under Dr. Tedros to show that we can solve African and global health problems with African resources. With his election, he just reached the beginning of the road, the farthest any African had ever reached, by embracing diversity and taking others along. Dr. Tedros will need cash and competency as member countries contribute less than third of its $2.2 billion budget. Dr. Tedros will require African resources to transform aspirations into tangible achievements so that we fund our unity and strengthen our forefathers’ foundation. Ultimately, it is the moment for Africa’s middle class to step forward and we cannot blink, even when our tax reforms are delayed, limiting our ability to contribute like those in the middle class in the Americas, Asia, Australia and Europe.

In 1963, the search for unity prevailed. In 2017 an African backed by an entire continent convinced the world of a victory that appeared, at first, impossible. Dr. Tedros’ success is for the world. He neither went fast nor went alone. Once the dust settles, African’s ability to shift the burden of responsibility from Overseas Development Assistance will be what makes Dr. Tedros’ victory a historic moment.

*Aspen Instutute/Allafrica.Carl Manlan is an economist and Chief Operating Officer of the Ecobank Foundation. He is a 2016 Aspen New Voices Fellow.

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How the Democratic Republic of the Congo Beat Ebola in 42 Days
July 4, 2017 | 0 Comments
Children in Guinea get their feet disinfected in the West African Ebola outbreak of 2015

Children in Guinea get their feet disinfected in the West African Ebola outbreak of 2015

The latest outbreak was swiftly contained by a fast, decisive response, acting as a model for containing infectious diseases in remote places.

By ED YONG*

As anti-climaxes go, it was a most welcome one. On May 11, the Ministry of Health of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) notified the World Health Organization that one of its citizens had been infected with the Ebola virus. The announcement marked the start of the country’s first Ebola outbreak since the historically unprecedented West African epidemic that infected 28,000 people between 2014 and 2016, and killed more than 11,000.

But after just 42 days, it was all over.

With the last confirmed patient having tested negative for the virus for the second time in a row, the WHO declared an end to the outbreak on Sunday. Just four people had died, and just four more had become infected.

This swift resolution was partly a matter of luck. The virus hit the remote and sparsely populated Likati region, which is 1,300 kilometers away from the capital city of Kinshasa, and nestled deep in equatorial rainforest. “People weren’t moving around in the way they were during the West African outbreak,” says Anne Rimoin from the University of California Los Angeles, who has worked in the DRC for 15 years. “So it was a very small outbreak in and of itself.”

But just as importantly, once the first cases were confirmed, the response was fast, decisive, and coordinated—all qualities that were initially missing in West Africa. The DRC response shows that when everything goes right, Ebola can be quickly brought to heel, even when it hits poor, remote places. “With the end of this epidemic, DRC has once again proved to the world that we can control the very deadly Ebola virus if we respond early in a coordinated and efficient way,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s new Director-General, in a statement.

The DRC has had eight run-ins with Ebola since 1976, and has proven to be remarkably successful at controlling the virus. In 2014, for example, while West Africa was struggling with its historically unprecedented epidemic, the DRC managed to contain its own separate outbreak after just 66 cases and 49 deaths. “In the West Africa outbreak, nobody was looking for Ebola. It wasn’t on a list of things that people were worried about, or even among the top suspects at the time,” says Rimoin. “But in the DRC, when you see something that resembles Ebola, it’s one of the first things that come to mind.”

The symptoms of Ebola are greatly exaggerated in the popular press. It’s not a disease of apocalyptic hemorrhaging from every orifice, and symptoms can easily be mistaken for other maladies. In this case, the first patient—a 45-year-old man who contracted the virus on 22 April—initially went to see a traditional healer. When that didn’t work, he took a taxi to a health center—and died on the way. (Both the driver, and a third individual who cared for the man, also eventually died.) The center quickly suspected Ebola and immediately sent samples to a national laboratory in Kinshasa. The staff there had the right knowledge, training, and connections—they ran some preliminary tests while also calling international colleagues. Rimoin flew over with the latest diagnostics.

 After the first positive case was confirmed, the government immediately notified the WHO, which activated their emergency protocols. That inaccessibility of Likati was both a blessing and a curse—it made it harder for the virus to spread, but also harder for health workers to reach the infected zone. Fortunately, after the sluggish response to the West African Ebola epidemic, the WHO had set up a $41 million contingency fund to ensure that money would be readily available for future emergencies. This fund allowed them and other organizations to quickly rent helicopters for flying personnel, generators, and supplies into Likati. “Within 24 hours, we could start airlifting,” says Ibrahima-Soce Fall, director of the health security and emergencies cluster at the WHO’s African office.

The team set up a base camp and field lab in the grounds of a former convent. Health workers immediately started tracking anyone who had contact with infected individuals, eventually tracing 583 such contacts. There weren’t any good maps of the area, so the volunteers used their cellphones to start charting the region. They spread out through the region’s villages to improve accessibility by fixing bridges and forest tracks. With training from UNICEF and the WHO, they taught local communities how to stop Ebola from spreading, how to safely bury people who die from the disease, and how to disinfect affected homes.

In the end, the outbreak was so small that it’s unclear if this fast response made much of a difference. But with diseases like Ebola, it’s far better to be accused of overreacting than of being lax. “It’s a good sign of things to come,” says Rimoin. “It wasn’t necessarily needed in this case, but it showed that the world is much more capable of managing outbreaks.”

The response was so effective that even though this was the first Ebola outbreak where a potential vaccine was available, it wasn’t necessary. Around 300,000 doses had been stockpiled. None were used. “This is a candidate vaccine, which still has some steps before it is fully licensed,” says Fall. “The WHO expert committee recommended to use it in the event of an outbreak, on health workers and [people who had been in contact with cases.] But because the outbreak was rapidly controlled, we didn’t need to use it.”

The outbreak may be over, but the response continues. For the next 90 days, the WHO will continue to strengthen health services in the region, to ensure that local volunteers are trained to spot possible symptoms should the disease arise again. That, after all, is what preparedness is all about. A country’s ability to control diseases in a crisis depends on everything that it sets in place during peace-time.

“This is clearly not the last outbreak,” says Rimoin. “But this time we did better. And every time, we do better.”

*The Atlantic

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Mugabe donates $1 million to African Union
July 4, 2017 | 0 Comments
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe arrives at the African Union headquarters during the opening ceremony of the 29th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and the Governments, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia July 3, 2017. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe arrives at the African Union headquarters during the opening ceremony of the 29th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and the Governments, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia July 3, 2017. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said on Monday he was donating $1 million to the African Union (AU), hoping to set an example for African countries to finance AU programmes and wean it off funding from outside donors.

For years, about 60 percent of AU spending has been financed by donors including the European Union, World Bank and governments of wealthy non-African countries.

Mugabe, who has held power in Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980, has said reliance on foreign funds allows big powers to interfere in the work of the AU.

The 93-year-old Mugabe told an African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, he had auctioned 300 cattle from his personal herd in May to fulfil a promise made to the continental body two years ago.

“Africa needs to finance its own programmes. Institutions like the AU cannot rely on donor funding as the model is not sustainable,” Mugabe said in comments broadcast on Zimbabwe’s state television.

“This humble gesture on Zimbabwe’s part has no universal application but it demonstrates what is possible when people apply their minds to tasks before them.”

The African Union’s 2017 budget is $782 million, increasing from $416.8 million last year. African leaders in July 2016 agreed in principle to charge a 0.2 percent levy on some exports to help finance AU operations.

Zimbabwe, whose economy was devastated by a drought last year, does not disclose its contributions to the AU. The top five African contributors are Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria and South Africa.

*Reuters.(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by James Macharia and Andrew Roche)

 

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The DRC is revisiting its mining code. Why reform is long overdue
June 30, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Ben Radley*

(FILES) This photo taken on March 3, 2010 shows copper being extracted by the Malta Forrest compagny in Kolwezi, in the southeastern Democratic Republic of Congo’s province of Katanga.  AFP PHOTO / GWENN DUBOURTHOUMIEU

The government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) recently announced plans to reintroduce the shelved changes to the country’s mining code.

The current mining code, introduced in 2002, was based on a draft prepared under the auspices of the World Bank. Its primary objective was to relaunch the industrial mining sector following the Congo Wars of 1996 to 2003 by opening it up to foreign investors. While it has been successful in achieving this goal, the benefits to Congolese people are more difficult to discern.

Today the DRC is Africa’s largest copper producer and the world’s largest cobalt producer. Its mining sector contributes 22% of GDP and 28% of government revenue. Yet the most recent Human Development Report ranks the DRC 176 out of 188 countries, with a life expectancy of 59 and 77% of the population living below the income poverty line.

The latest round of changes were originally submitted to parliament in March 2015, but the amendment process was suspended due to collapsed commodity prices and fierce industry opposition.

It’s now back on the agenda. As in the past a major debate will ensue between the Congolese Government, civil society and the DRC mining industry. The strongest opposition to the proposed changes comes from the large multinational mining corporations, who argue that increasing taxes will hold back the sector’s potential.

However, a review of the major tax changes reveals them to align with regional standards. The DRC’s high operating costs are offset by the equally high quality of its mineral deposits, and the current tax rate exerted over the sector is low. In addition, reviving the reform process presents an opportunity to address a number of concerns related to transparency and local development.

Debunking industry myths

In the past, propositions that provoked the most debate were those that tried to reduce the tax advantages enjoyed by mining companies. The most important proposed tax changes to the DRC’s mining code are:

increasing taxes on profits from 30% to 35%;

increasing the government’s stake in new mining projects from 5% to 10% and;

increasing royalties from 2% to 3.5% for copper and cobalt.

When compared to mining tax regimes in other African countries, the proposed changes do not place the DRC outside of the norm. Most African countries demand a 10% government stake in mining projects. The proposed copper royalty tax is also within the range imposed by many governments in the region, such as Zambia (6%), Ghana (5%) and Tanzania (4%).

Likewise, the DRC’s proposed profit tax is within the range of other countries, though it sits at the top end. Both Cameroon and Ghana impose the same 35% profit tax as the DRC is considering.

But the mining industry’s response to these comparisons is twofold. They say the DRC provides an extremely challenging operational environment, with exceptionally high transport and power costs. And they say what matters is not individual tax rates, but the overall tax burden (including both formal and informal taxes).

Both points are questionable.

Costs, and the opaque world of taxes

A report published last year by the Natural Resource Governance Institute – which works with governments on natural resource management – shows the DRC’s production costs to be extremely favourable compared to regional competitors. In 2013 the average production cost of copper in the DRC was $3,672 per tonne. This same cost was $4,582 in Zambia and $4,931 in South Africa.

High quality Congolese mineral deposits appear to offset high operational expenses to generate low production costs (and therefore high profits). Indeed, last year the research firm BMI reported that the DRC will remain a “destination of choice” for mining investors in the coming years due to its low production costs and high quality minerals.

The concern about the overall tax rate as opposed to individual tax changes is entirely legitimate. Yet the few non-industry studies that exist suggest this overall rate to be extremely low. Research by Professors Stefaan Marysse and Claudine Tshimanga – prominent political economists working on the DRC – revealed a tax rate of 21% for one of the country’s largest copper mines, well below the World Bank’s recommended 46% tax rate for the country.

Similarly, a recent fiscal study conducted by the German Society for International Cooperation found that between 2011 and 2014, total state revenue collected by the mining sector amounted to a mere 6 percent of total mining sector revenue for the same period.

What’s been left out

Yet there’s a danger that the heated debates about tax rates and royalties will drown out the urgency of addressing other big issues, many of which have been left out of the draft revision. Global Witness – a non profit focused on the links between natural resource exploitation, conflict and poverty – has been calling attention to these omissions. These include the removal of “crucial regulations banning politicians and senior army figures from owning mining rights”, an opaque tender process and insufficient beneficial ownership disclosure requirements.

In addition, many mining companies have signed “conventions” with the DRC government that exist outside of the tax and legal structure established by the country’s mining code. There’s no provision within the current draft to address this loophole.

Lastly, for a number of years Congolese civil society has been pushing hard for improvements to the code on environmental and local development issues. For example, existing policy provides little guidance on critical issues such as forced displacement. Only three of the mining code’s 344 articles refer to the relationship between title holders and people living in title holders’ concessions.
Time to seize the opportunity

The DRC’s mining code is 15 years old. Extremely advantageous fiscal incentives were included back in 2002 to attract foreign investors to the country. Yet they have minimised the benefits of increased mining production to the Congolese government and people. The proposed tax changes bring the DRC up to date with today’s regional standards and should be supported.

But when the DRC’s parliament reopens in September, its members would do well to incorporate civil society concerns on key transparency, environmental and local development issues. Fail to do so, and Congolese people – particularly those directly affected by mining projects – will be locked into another decade or more of inadequate mining legislation. Change is long overdue, and the opportunity must not be missed.

*culled from Conversation

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Africa: Don’t Abandon Patriotism, KK Reminds Africa
June 29, 2017 | 0 Comments

Kenneth Kaunda

Kenneth Kaunda

First Republican president Kenneth Kaunda has reminded Africa not to abandon the patriotism that its founding fathers exhibited when they stood by each other to liberate the continent from colonial bondage despite geographic locations.

Dr Kaunda said good neighbourliness was the cornerstone that the founding fathers built on Africa and liberated it from colonial bondage, and it was important that the current generation did not forget this component of history.

The former head of State said it was important that Africans worked together in love because where there was love, people could overcome any challenges.

Dr Kaunda said this yesterday when visiting Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo paid him a visit at his residence in Lusaka’s State Lodge area.

“Our neighbours may be from another region or origin. They may even be from another political party. We are all brothers and sisters. We work together to do our part in God’s work. With love we can overcome great challenges,” Dr Kaunda said.

He said Africans should not allow themselves to be divided on account of colour, ethnicity, language or religion.

Dr Kaunda said African countries had in the past helped one another attain independence from the colonial masters, and this mutual support should be sustained in the interest of good neighbourliness.

 He hailed the Ghanaian leader for his election to the presidency, which coincided with Ghana’s 60th independence anniversary.

Dr Kaunda said Mr Akufo-Addo’s visit would nourish the deep relations between Zambia and Ghana, which dated many years back when Kwame Nkrumah worked to liberate the continent.

President Akufo-Addo said the warm relations that existed between Zambia and Ghana symbolised love and solidarity.

He said Ghana under his administration would continue to work closely with Zambia to improve existing relations for the betterment of people in the two states.

Mr Akufo-Addo said this was living up to the relationship that existed from the days before independence foe the two countries.

He said Dr Kaunda was an icon of this generation, and that Africa was one people and that he would work with his counterparts to defend the rights of the people on the continent.

*Culled from Times of Zambia

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Continental Free Trade Area Is Africa’s Path To Self-Reliance & Prosperity” – President Akufo-Addo
June 29, 2017 | 0 Comments
President Akufo-Addo was speaking at a State Banquet held in his honour by the President of the Republic of Zambia, His Excellency Edgar Lungu, on Tuesday, June 27, 2017

President Akufo-Addo was speaking at a State Banquet held in his honour by the President of the Republic of Zambia, His Excellency Edgar Lungu, on Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has urged African leaders to hasten the coming into being of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA).

According to President Akufo-Addo, “if we remain resolute and see to its realisation, we will obtain a major boost to the development of our economies, and a considerable reduction on our dependence on foreign goods and services. It is the path to collective self-reliance and prosperity.”

It will be recalled that Heads of State and Governments who attended the 28th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union, in January this year, signed up to the implementation of the CFTA.

The purpose of the free-trade area is to ensure significant growth of Intra-Africa trade, as well as assisting countries on the continent use trade more effectively as an engine of growth and for sustainable development.

The CFTA will also reduce the vulnerability of the continent to external shocks, and will also enhance the participation of Africa in global trade as a respectable partner, thereby reducing the continent’s dependence on foreign aid and external borrowing.

President Akufo-Addo was speaking at a State Banquet held in his honour by the President of the Republic of Zambia, His Excellency Edgar Lungu, on Tuesday, June 27, 2017, when he made this known.

He noted that for a continent that has made the choice of pursuing integration, Africa has not done much in liberalizing and promoting trade amongst member countries.

“Research has shown that countries or groups of countries with the largest share of world trade are located within regions with the highest share of intra-regional trade. Trade between African nations remains low compared to other parts of the world,” he lamented.

In 2000, intra-continental trade accounted for 10% of Africa’s total trade, and increased marginally to 11% in 2015. Trading amongst members of the European Union, for example, amounted to 70% in 2015. Intra-African trade is still estimated at less than two percent (2%) of global trade.

“With these very low levels of trade and investment co-operation in Africa, we must put in place deliberate measures aimed at expanding trade and business collaborations to improve the prospects for prosperity of our peoples,” he added.

The coming into effect of the CFTA, the President was confident, would bring progress and prosperity to the African peoples.

With Africa’s population of 1.2 billion set to expand to 2 billion people in 20 years, the President stressed that “this means that a genuine continental market in Africa should be in our economic interest, for it will present immense opportunities to bring prosperity to the peoples in our continent with hard work, creativity and enterprise.”

It is for this reason that President Akufo-Addo noted that “we should no longer delay the process of African integration. A functioning, common continental market has to be a very fundamental objective of all the peoples and governments on the continent, an objective that will consolidate the process of structural transformation of our national economies on which we must be engaged.”

Intensify Ghana & Zambia links

President Akufo-Addo, in his remarks, also called for the intensification of the links between Ghanaian and Zambian enterprises.

With Zambia and Ghana recording similar GDP growth rates in 2016, i.e., 3.3% and 3.6% respectively, as a result of high fiscal deficits, low investor confidence, falling commodity prices and low agricultural productivity, President Akufo-Addo explained that the time has come for the two countries to move away from being mere producers and exporters of raw materials.

“There can be no future prosperity for our peoples in the short, medium or long term, if we continue to maintain economic structures dependent on the production and export of raw materials. Unless we industrialise, with the goal of adding significant value to our primary products, we cannot create the necessary numbers of good-paying jobs that will enhance the living standards of the masses of our country,” he said.

To this end, President Akufo-Addo outlined a number of policies he has initiated since assuming office in January 2017, which has shifted the focus of Ghana’s economy from taxation to production.

He also applauded his Zambian counterpart for his recently approved National Development Plan, on the theme “Accelerating development efforts towards vision 2030 without leaving anyone behind”.

The Zambian programme is hinged on the pillars of economic diversification and job creation, reduced poverty and vulnerability, reduced developmental inequalities, enhancing human development, and conducive governance environment for economic diversification, to create a diversified economy for sustained growth and economic development is highly commendable.

“The transformation of our two economies we seek through these measures should make our enterprises and businesses very competitive in Africa, and beyond,” he added.

*Presidency Ghana

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Congo’s lobbyists seek allies in Washington amid election turmoil
June 29, 2017 | 0 Comments

BY MEGAN R. WILSON*

Embattled Congolese President Joseph Kabila

Embattled Congolese President Joseph Kabila

Lobbyists for the Democratic Republic of Congo are courting Washington insiders with a dinner at the Capitol Hill Club on Wednesday, a private Republican enclave across the street from congressional office buildings.

The event is being spearheaded by Bob Livingston, a former Republican congressman from Louisiana, whose firm recently signed a $45,000 contract to represent the country, according to an invitation to the “dinner and discussion”set to last about two and a half hours Wednesday evening.

The Livingston Group’s contract is a small slice of a larger, $5.6 million lobbying and public relations campaign that the DRC recently began in the United States.

An invitation to the Capitol Hill Club event says that topics to be discussed include the DRC’s election process, terrorism, public health and economic cooperation with the United States.

“Please consider joining us for dinner with members of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) Delegation to the US. The Delegation includes senior members of the government as well as advisers to President Kabila,” the invitation reads.

“In May, we met with the Special Envoy and found him to be conversant on the issues of greatest interest between our two countries. President Kabila recognizes and understands very well the expansion of radical Islam into Central Africa, and the DRC’s critical role on the front lines. President Kabila very much wants to share information with the US and develop a collaborative effort to address this threat,” it says.

“President Joseph Kabila also appreciates the need to address human rights issues confronting the government,” the invitation continues.
The Livingston Group did not immediately respond to questions about the event, including who will be there and how many people are expected to attend.

The delegation’s visit is happening against the background of growing turmoil in the DRC, including mass killings, economic decline and allegations of torture and corruption.

Kabila has defied a constitutional requirement to step down from office despite having already served the maximum two terms. The government says that voter rolls are out of date and the state does not have the money to conduct an election.

While Kabila struck a deal with a coalition of opposition members in December, the month elections were supposed to occur, watchdog groups argue there has been no progress on holding an election.

“Holding fancy cocktail receptions that the Congolese people are paying for seems very inappropriate when the government has not fulfilled any of the benchmarks from the accord it signed with the opposition last year,” said Sasha Lezhnev, the associate director of policy at the Enough Project, which is focused on conflicts and corruption in Africa.

Several current and former DRC officials are in Washington to hold meetings with nonprofit organizations and U.S. government employees.

Lezhnev, who was in one off-the-record roundtable with the Congolese delegation on Wednesday, said the various participants had a “healthy dose of skepticism” about the delegation’s presentation.

Another detail about the trip: Raymond Tshibanda, the former foreign minister who now serves as the special envoy of Kabila, had his notes written on a Trump International Hotel-branded notepad.

The Embassy of the Democratic Republic of Congo in Washington did not answer an email from The Hill asking whether the delegation was staying at the Trump International Hotel, which is still owned by President Trump and is located a half-mile from the White House.

Watchdog groups and Democrats have raised concerns that Trump is profiting from the visits of world leaders and diplomats, in violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution. They also warn foreign governments could try and curry favor with the Trump administration by staying at the D.C. hotel.

The United States has slapped targeted sanctions on the DRC, citing human rights violations, and the House last year approved a resolution that warned the country that there could be more if they didn’t make moves to curb the abuse and move forward with their election.

“Until the Congolese government comes out with time-bound, concrete plans to implement the democratic transition agreement, the US should continue to escalate the financial pressure on the regime,” Lezhnev said.

In the meeting, the topic of sanctions was reportedly not broached by the delegation.

But there could be more coming, however, as the United Nations recently called the region a “landscape of horror.”

Zeid Raad Hussein, the U.N. commissioner for human rights, said that a government-funded militia is committing atrocities against villages thought to harbor anti-government forces, including torture and mass killings.

Forty-two mass graves have been found recently, more than 3.5 million people have been displaced and the government has been cracking down on dissenters, independent media and human rights groups.

An economic crisis is also brewing, and there are reports that Ebola has returned to the country.

Eight other firms, including Alston & Bird and Aselus Strategies, also represent the DRC, according to disclosures with the Justice Department. Alston & Bird features former Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.), and Aselus Strategies was founded by Adnan Jalil, a former Trump campaign official who worked on the transition.

The Congolese delegation to the United States includes Tshibanda; Oly Ilunga, the minister of public health; Ambassador to the United States François Nkuna Balumuene; and Fridolin Kasweshi, the former minister of infrastructure and public works.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.), an outspoken critic of the country, declined to meet with the delegation, according to a committee aide.

“Kabila continues to make excuse after excuse,” Royce said in an emailed statement. “Democratic principles must be respected, Kabila must step down, and credible elections must happen. Period.”

Earlier this year, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., called for cuts to its peacekeeping budget in the Congo due to Kabila’s actions.

“The U.N. peacekeeping mission is mandated to partner with the government,” she told the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. “In other words, the U.N. is aiding a government that is inflicting predatory behavior against its own people. We should have the decency and common sense to end this.”

*Source The Hill

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Quett Masire (1925-2017), the great African leader you’ve never heard of
June 29, 2017 | 0 Comments
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International Trademark Association CEO visits Africa to cement collaboration on trademarks and Intellectual Property rights systems
June 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

The International Trademark Association (INTA) CEO, Mr. Etienne Sanz
de Acedo who is visiting Africa and Zimbabwe in particular for the
first time has convened meetings with key stakeholders especially in
the Intellectual Property (IP)rights sector to cement collaboration
and support trademarks and related rights systems with the continent.

According to Susan Mwiti, Documentations and Communications Officer
for the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO)
Acedo’s mission is to understand how to better serve and increase INTA
membership in Africa as well as strengthen ties and cooperation with
ARIPO, government departments, the Judiciary and academic institutions
responsible for or who have a stake in the effective use of trademarks
for development.

INTA is the global association of trademark owners and professionals
dedicated to supporting trademarks and related intellectual property
in order to protect consumers and to promote fair and effective
commerce. Recently, INTA has been paying more attention to Africa.
INTA CEO, Mr. De Acedo, says his priorities are “to becoming truly
global” and “engaging as many constituencies as possible.”

INTA undertakes advocacy work throughout the world to advance
trademarks and offers educational programs and informational and legal
resources of global interest.

At ARIPO, the CEO met with the agents, attorneys and brand owners
based in Zimbabwe.

Mr. Acedo, accompanied by the ARIPO Director General, Mr. Fernando dos
Santos, is also expected to meet with the Zimbabwean Chief Justice,
Justice Luke Malaba and Vice President, Vice President Emmerson
Mnangagwa.

INTA has seven member organizations in Zimbabwe and in Africa 248
members from 37 countries. Globally, it has more than 7,000
organizations from 190 countries. INTA members collectively contribute
almost $12 trillion to global GDP annually. For comparison, the 2015
annual GDP of the top three markets was $10.9 trillion (China), $16.2
trillion (European Union) and $17.9 trillion (United States).

The Association’s member organizations represent some 30,000 trademark
professionals and include brand owners from major corporations as well
as small- and medium-sized enterprises, law firms and nonprofits.
There are also government agency members as well as individual
professor and student members.

The not-for-profit Association was founded in 1878 by 17 merchants and
manufacturers who saw a need for an organization “to protect and
promote the rights of trademark owners, to secure useful legislation
and to give aid and encouragement to all efforts for the advancement
and observance of trademark rights.”

The African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) is
an Inter-governmental organization (IGO). It was created under the
Lusaka Agreement that was concluded and signed in Lusaka, Zambia on
December 9 1976. Membership of the Organization is open to all
African States members of the United Nations Economic Commission for
Africa (ECA) or the African Union (AU).

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Something is happening in Congo-Brazzaville
June 24, 2017 | 0 Comments
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The Race to Solar-Power Africa
June 22, 2017 | 0 Comments

American startups are competing to bring electricity to communities that remain off the grid.

Bill McKibben*

Solar panels power a solar drip irrigation system for a collective women’s garden in Kalale, Benin. The system provides a cost-effective, clean way to irrigate crops, especially in the long, dry season.Pic credit Face to Face Africa

Solar panels power a solar drip irrigation system for a collective women’s garden in Kalale, Benin. The system provides a cost-effective, clean way to irrigate crops, especially in the long, dry season.Pic credit Face to Face Africa

In eighteen months, entrepreneurs brought electricity to hundreds of thousands of people in places that the grid failed to reach.
Illustration by Oliver Munday / Photographs courtesy Mathieu Young / Off-Grid Electric

The cacao-farming community of Daban, in Ghana, is seven degrees north of the equator, and it’s always hot. In May, I met with several elders there to talk about the electricity that had come to the town a few months earlier, when an American startup installed a solar microgrid nearby. Daban could now safely store the vaccine for yellow fever; residents could charge their cell phones at home rather than walking to a bigger town to do it. As we talked, one of the old men handed me a small plastic bag of water, the kind street venders sell across West Africa—you just bite off a corner and drink. The water was ice-cold and refreshing, but it took me an embarrassingly long moment to understand the pleasure with which he offered it: cold water was now available in this hot place. There was enough power to run a couple of refrigerators, and so coldness was, for the first time, a possibility.

I’d come to Daban to learn about the boom in solar power in sub-Saharan Africa. The spread of cell phones in the region has made it possible for residents to pay daily or weekly bills using mobile money, and now the hope is that, just as cell phones bypassed the network of telephone lines, solar panels will enable many rural consumers to bypass the electric grid. From Ghana, I travelled to Ivory Coast, and then to Tanzania, and along the way I encountered a variety of new solar ventures, most of them American-led. Some, such as Ghana’s Black Star Energy, which had electrified Daban, install solar microgrids, small-scale versions of the giant grid Americans are familiar with. Others, such as Off-Grid Electric, in Tanzania and Ivory Coast, market home-based solar systems that run on a panel installed on each individual house. These home-based systems can’t produce enough current for a fridge, but they can supply each home with a few lights, a mobile-phone charger, and, if the household can afford it, a small, super-efficient flat-screen TV.

In another farming town, in Ivory Coast, I talked to a man named Abou Traoré, who put his television out in a courtyard most nights, so that neighbors could come by to watch. He said that they tuned in for soccer matches—the village tilts Liverpool, but has a large pocket of Manchester United supporters. What else did he watch? Traoré considered. “I like the National Geographic channel,” he replied—that is, the broadcast arm of the institution that became famous showing Westerners pictures of remote parts of Africa.

There are about as many people living without electricity today as there were when Thomas Edison lit his first light bulb. More than half are in sub-Saharan Africa. Europe and the Americas are almost fully electrified, and Asia is quickly catching up, but the absolute number of Africans without power remains steady. A World Bank report, released in May, predicted that, given current trends, there could still be half a billion people in sub-Saharan Africa without power by 2040. Even those with electricity can’t rely on it: the report noted that in Tanzania power outages were so common in 2013 that they cost businesses fifteen per cent of their annual sales. Ghanaians call their flickering power dum/sor, or “off/on.” Vivian Tsadzi, a businesswoman who lives not far from the Akosombo Dam, which provides about a third of the nation’s power, said that most of the time “it’s dum dum dum dum.” The dam’s head of hydropower generation, Kwesi Amoako, who retired last year, told me that he is proud of the structure, which created the world’s largest man-made lake. But there isn’t an easy way to increase the country’s hydropower capacity, and drought, caused by climate change, has made the system inconsistent, meaning that Ghana will have to look elsewhere for electricity. “I’ve always had the feeling that one of the main thrusts should be domestic solar,” Amoako said. “And I think we should put the off-grid stuff first, because the consumer wants it so badly.”

Electrifying Africa is one of the largest development challenges on earth. Until recently, most people assumed that the continent would electrify in the same manner as the rest of the globe. “The belief was, you’d eventually build the U.S. grid here,” Xavier Helgesen, the American co-founder and C.E.O. of Off-Grid Electric, told me. “But the U.S. is the richest country on earth, and it wasn’t fully electrified until the nineteen-forties, and that was in an era of cheap copper for wires, cheap timber for poles, cheap coal, and cheap capital. None of that is so cheap anymore, at least not over here.”

Solar electricity, on the other hand, has become inexpensive, in part because the price of solar panels has fallen at the same time that the efficiency of light bulbs and appliances has dramatically increased. In 2009, a single compact fluorescent bulb and a lead-acid battery cost about forty dollars; now, using L.E.D. bulbs and lithium-ion batteries, you can get four times as much light for the same price. In 2009, a radio, a mobile-phone charger, and a solar system big enough to provide four hours of light and television a day would have cost a Kenyan a thousand dollars; now it’s three hundred and fifty dollars.

President Trump has derided renewable energy as “really just an expensive way of making the tree huggers feel good about themselves.” But many Western entrepreneurs see solar power in Africa as a chance to reach a large market and make a substantial profit. This is a nascent industry, which, at the moment, represents a small percentage of the electrification in the region, and is mostly in rural areas. There’s plenty of uncertainty about its future, and no guarantee that it will spread at the pace of cell phones. Still, in the past eighteen months, these businesses have brought electricity to hundreds of thousands of consumers—many of them in places that the grid failed to reach, despite a hundred-year head start. Funding, much of it from private investors based in Silicon Valley or Europe, is flowing into this sector—more than two hundred million dollars in venture capital last year, up from nineteen million in 2013—and companies are rapidly expanding their operations with the new money. M-Kopa, an American startup that launched in Kenya, in 2011, now has half a million pay-as-you-go solar customers; d.light, a competitor with offices in California, Kenya, China, and India, says that it is adding eight hundred new households a day. Nicole Poindexter, the founder and C.E.O. of Black Star, told me that every million dollars the company raises in venture capital delivers power to seven thousand people. She expects Black Star to be profitable within the next three years.

Like many of the American entrepreneurs I met in Africa, Poindexter has a background in finance. A graduate of Harvard Business School, she worked as a derivatives trader before leading business development at Opower, a software platform for utilities customers that was acquired by Oracle last year. (Unlike many of these entrepreneurs, who tend to skew white and male, Poindexter is African-American.) She decided to start the company in 2015, after she began to learn about energy poverty. She recalled watching TV coverage of the Ebola epidemic in Liberia. “There was a lot of coughing in the background, and I was thinking, That’s someone with Ebola,” she said. “But it wasn’t. It was from the smoke in the room from the fire.” Last year, in the Ghanaian community of Kofihuikrom, one of the first towns that Black Star served, the company erected twenty-two solar panels. Today, the local clinic no longer has to deliver babies by flashlight. The town chief, Nana Kwaku Appiah, said that he was so excited that he initially left his lights on inside all night. “Our relatives from the city used to not come here to visit,” he said.

When I visited the Tanzanian headquarters of Off-Grid Electric, in the city of Arusha, the atmosphere was reminiscent of Palo Alto or Mountain View, with standing desks and glassed-in conference rooms for impromptu meetings. Erick Donasian, the company’s head of service in Tanzania, grew up in a powerless house three miles from the office and joined the company in 2013; he said that, along with his enthusiasm for the company’s goals, one attraction of working there is that it is far less formal than many Tanzanian businesses, where “you have to tuck your shirt in, which I hate the most.” Off-Grid’s Silicon Valley influence was clearest in the T-shirt Helgesen wore. It read “Make something people want,” and sported the logo for Y Combinator, Silicon Valley’s most famous incubator, where Helgesen’s wife had recently developed a bartering app.

Helgesen, who is thirty-eight years old and lanky, with hair that he regularly brushes out of his eyes, grew up in Silver Bay, Minnesota, a small town on the shore of Lake Superior. At fourteen, he came up with the idea of leasing the municipal mini-golf course for a summer, and tripled revenues by offering season passes and putting on special promotions for visiting hockey teams. As a sophomore at Notre Dame, in 1999, he set up a Web site that posted the college’s freshman register online, so that, as he put it, “you’d actually know who that cute girl you saw in anthro class was.” Helgesen started similar sites at other colleges, but, he told me, “I wasn’t as good a programmer as Zuckerberg. Even if I’d gotten it completely right, it would have been more Friendster than Facebook.” His first major company, Better World Books, founded in 2002, took the model of charity used-book drives and moved it online. It’s now one of the biggest sellers of used books on Amazon, and has helped raise twenty-five million dollars for literacy organizations, including Books for Africa.

Helgesen made his first trip to Tanzania in 2006, to visit recipients of Better World’s funding and to go on safari. “I was staying at a fancy lodge near Kilimanjaro, and I remember thinking, How do things really work around here?” Helgesen said. He paid a local man to take him to the nearest village. “I was peppering him with questions: ‘Do young people go to the city?’ ‘How much does coffee sell for?’ ” The experience, he said, “flipped my mind-set from ‘People in Africa are poor and they need our help and our donated books’ to ‘This is what an emerging economy looks like. This is young people, this is entrepreneurialism, this is where growth will be.’ ” During a second trip to Africa, he went scuba diving in Lake Malawi (“to see the cichlid fish, which keep their babies in their mouths”), and was invited to dinner by his scuba instructor. “It was a decent-sized town, maybe twenty thousand people, but absolutely no electricity,” Helgesen said. “It was all narrow alleys—they were bustling, but they were pitch-black.”

In 2010, Helgesen won a Skoll Scholarship to Oxford, for M.B.A. students seeking “entrepreneurial solutions for urgent social and environmental challenges,” and spent the year researching the renewables market. He found two like-minded business partners, and, in 2012, they set up shop in Arusha. At first, they planned to build solar microgrids to power cell-phone towers and sell the excess electricity to locals, but, Helgesen said, “it became clear that that was a pretty expensive way to go.” So they visited customers in their homes to ask them what they wanted. “Those conversations were the smartest thing we ever did,” Helgesen said. “I remember this one customer, she had a baby, and she would keep the kerosene lamp on low all night, as a night-light. It was costing thirty dollars a month in kerosene. And I was, like, Wow, for thirty dollars a month I could do a lot better.”

Helgesen decided to “start with the customer, and the price point they could pay, and build the business behind that.” Matt Schiller, the thirty-two-year-old vice-president of business operations, said that, in some ways, it is an easy sell. “If we talk to a hundred customers, not one says, ‘I’d rather have kerosene,’ ” he told me. “Not one says, ‘I’d like the warm glow of the kerosene lights.’ In fact, when we were designing the L.E.D.s, we focus-grouped lights. And the engineers assumed they’d want a warmer light, because that’s what they were used to. But, no, they picked the bluest, hardest light you can imagine. That’s modernity. That’s clean.”

There were solar panels in sub-Saharan Africa before companies like Off-Grid arrived, but customers generally had to pay for them up front, a forbidding prospect for many. “Cost is important to the customer at the bottom, but risk is even more important,” Helgesen told me. “A bad decision when you’re that poor can mean your kids don’t eat or go to school, which is why people tend to be conservative. And which is why kerosene was winning. There was no risk. You could buy it a tiny bit at a time.”

Off-Grid, like several of its competitors, finances the panels, so that people can pay the same small monthly amounts they were paying for kerosene. Customers in Tanzania put down about thirteen dollars to buy Off-Grid’s cheapest starter kit: a panel, a battery, a few L.E.D. lights, a phone charger, and a radio. Then they pay about eight dollars a month for three years, after which they own the products outright. The most popular system adds a few more lights and a flat-screen TV, for a higher down payment and about twice the monthly price. Customers pay their bill by phone; if they don’t pay, the system stops working, and after a while it is repossessed. That scenario, it turns out, is uncommon: less than two per cent of the loans in Tanzania have gone bad.

Despite Off-Grid’s Silicon Valley vibe, it faces challenges unfamiliar to software companies. Aidan Leonard, Off-Grid’s Arusha-based general counsel, told me that the company “requires a lot of people walking around selling things and installing things and fixing things. There’s a lot of hardware—someone’s got a physical box in their house, and a panel on the roof, and they have to pay for it on a monthly basis.” Poindexter, of Black Star, put the problem more bluntly. “We’re a utility company,” she told me, and utilities are a difficult business.

In America, utilities are burdened with infrastructure, such as the endless poles and wires that come down in storms. Off-Grid doesn’t have to worry about poles, and the wires only run a few feet, from panel to battery to appliance. Still, the company is working with technology that is brand-new and needs to be made cheaply in order to be affordable. When solar energy first came to Africa, it was expensive and unreliable. Arne Jacobson, a professor of environmental-resources engineering at Humboldt State University, in California, is a couple of decades older than most of the entrepreneurs I met in Africa. He got his doctorate studying the first generation of home solar in Kenya, in the late nineteen-nineties. “In Kenya, I was trying to understand the quality of the panels that had started to flood the market,” he said. Much of the technology had “big troubles. Chinese panels, panels from the U.K., all this low-quality junk coming in. Later, L.E.D.s that failed in hours or days instead of lasting thousands of hours, as they should. People’s first experiences were often really bad.”

Jacobson has spent his career in renewable energy; he helped build the world’s first street-legal hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicle, in 1998. He now runs Humboldt’s Schatz Energy Research Center. (“You want to know why a lot of early solar research happened in Humboldt?” he asked me. “Because there were a lot of back-to-the-land types here, and they had cash because they were growing dope.”) After seeing the unpredictability of solar technology, he created, in 2007, what he calls a “de facto consumer-protection bureau for this nascent industry.” The program, Lighting Global, which is run under the umbrella of the World Bank Group, tests and certifies panels, bulbs, and appliances to make sure that they work as promised. Jacobson credits this innovation with making investors more willing to put their money into companies such as Off-Grid, which has now raised more than fifty-five million dollars. His main testing lab is in Shenzhen, China, near most of the solar-panel manufacturers. He also has facilities in Nairobi, New Delhi, and Addis Ababa, and some of the work is still done in the basement of his building at Humboldt, where there’s an “integrating sphere” for measuring light output from a bulb, and a machine that switches radios on and off to see if they’ll eventually break.

Because many of Off-Grid’s potential customers have experience with bad products, or know someone who has, the company takes extra steps to build trust with its clients. After an Off-Grid installer shows up on his motorbike, he opens the product carton with great solemnity; in an Ivorian village, I watched along with seventeen neighbors, who nodded as the young man held up each component, one by one. He then climbed onto the roof of the house, nailed on a solar panel about the size of a placemat, and used a crowbar to lift up the corrugated-tin roof to run the wire inside. He screwed the battery box to the cement-block wall and walked the customer through the process of switching lights on and off several times, something the man had never done before. The company also offers a service guarantee: as long as customers are making their payments, they can call a number on the box and a repairman will arrive within three days. These LightRiders, as the company calls them, are trained to trouble-shoot small problems. They travel by motorcycle, and if they can’t make repairs easily they replace the system with a new one and haul the old unit back to headquarters.

This sales-and-installation system presents some engineering challenges. When the company expanded into Ivory Coast, last year, it had to redesign its packaging to fit on the smaller motorcycles used there. It also runs into problems coördinating coverage across a vast area where most houses don’t have conventional addresses. “We had to build our own internal software to make it possible,” Kim Schreiber, who runs Off-Grid’s marketing operations in Africa, said. “We optimize, via G.P.S. coördinates, the best routes for our riders to take. The LightRider turns on his phone every morning, and he has a list of his tasks for the day, so he knows what parts to take with him.”

Solar companies also contend with the complexity of the mobile-payment systems. In Ghana, where many customers don’t use mobile money, Poindexter’s Black Star team instead sells scratch cards from kiosks, which give customers a code they need to enter on their meter box to top up their account. Off-Grid delivers these codes over the phone, but the company still needs a call center, manned by fifteen people, to help customers with the mechanics of paying. Nena Sanderson, who runs Off-Grid’s Tanzanian operation, showed me the steps entailed in paying a bill through a ubiquitous mobile-money system called M-Pesa. There are ten screens, and the process ends with the input of a sixteen-digit code. “And I have a smartphone,” she said. “Now, imagine a feature phone, and imagine you may not know how to read, and the screen is a lot smaller, and it’s probably scratched up. Mobile money is a great enabler, but it’s not frictionless.” One of Off-Grid’s competitors, PEGAfrica, has printed the whole sequence on a wristband, which it gives to customers.

Because one of the biggest obstacles to the growth of solar power in the region is the lack of available cash, many of these companies are essentially banks as well as utilities, providing loans to customers who may have no credit history. That can make it hard to figure out what to charge people. “What you see in this space is at least eight to ten decent-sized pay-as-you-go solar companies, all trying to parse through what the actual end price to the customer really is,” Peter Bladin, who spent many years in leadership roles at Microsoft and now invests in several of these firms, told me. Bladin first started studying distributed solar—solar electricity produced near where it is used—in Bangladesh, where the Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus used his Grameen microcredit network to finance and distribute panels and batteries. Lacking that established financial architecture, companies in sub-Saharan Africa are constantly experimenting with different plans: Off-Grid began by offering ten-year leases, but found that customers wanted to own their systems more quickly, and so the payments are now spread out over three years. PEGAfrica customers buy their system in twelve months, but the company gives them hospitalization insurance as a bonus. Black Star is a true utility: the customers in the communities where it builds microgrids will always pay bills, but the charges start at only two dollars a month. (The business model depends on customers steadily increasing the amount of energy they buy, as they move from powering televisions to powering small businesses.) Companies like Burro—a Ghanaian outfit launched by Whit Alexander, the Seattle entrepreneur who founded Cranium games—sell lamps and chargers and panels outright, saving customers credit fees but limiting the number of people who can afford the products.

This uncertainty about the most practical financial model reflects the fact that in sub-Saharan Africa there is a great deal of economic diversity, both between countries and within them. One morning, I found myself walking down a line of houses in the Arushan suburb of Morombo. At the first house, a two-room cinder-block structure with a broken piece of mirror on one wall, a woman talked with me as we sat on the floor. The home represented a big step up for her, she said—she and her husband had rented a place for years, until they were able to buy this plot of land and build this house. She had a solar lantern the size of a hockey puck in her courtyard, soaking up rays. (Aid groups have distributed more than a million of these little lamps across the continent.) She assured me that she planned to get a larger solar system soon, but, for many of Africa’s poorest people, buying a lantern is the only possible step toward electrification.

Next door, a twenty-six-year-old student named Nehemiah Klimba shared a more solidly built house with his mother. It had a corrugated-iron roof on a truss that let hot air escape, and we sat on a sofa. Klimba said that, as soon as he finished paying off the windows, he was going to electrify. He and his mother were already spending fifteen dollars a month on kerosene and another four dollars charging their cell phones at a local store, so they knew they’d be able to afford the twenty dollars a month for a solar system with a TV.

One door down was the fanciest house I’d seen in weeks. It belonged to a soldier who worked as a U.N. peacekeeper, and the floors were made of polished stone. There was an Off-Grid solar system on the roof, but it was providing only backup power. The owner had paid a hefty fee to connect to the local electric grid, so he faced none of the limitations of a battery replenished by the sun. In his living room, he had a huge TV and speakers; a stainless-steel Samsung refrigerator gleamed in the kitchen.

“This is how the solar revolution happens—one hot sales meeting at a time,” Off-Grid’s Kim Schreiber whispered to me as we watched one of the company’s salesmen, an Ivorian named Seko Serge Lewis, at work. We were visiting the village of Grand Zattry with Off-Grid’s Ivory Coast sales director, Max-Marc Fossouo. A couple of dogs tussled nearby; a motorbike rolled past with six people on board. In the courtyard next to us, a woman was doing the day’s laundry in a bucket with a washboard. Her husband listened to the sales pitch from Lewis, who was showing him pictures on his cell phone of other customers in the village.

“That’s to build up trust,” Fossouo said. He’d been providing a play-by-play throughout the hour-long sales call. “This customer is on a big fence,” he said. “He’s stuck in the trust place. And I’m pretty sure the decision-maker is over there washing the clothes anyway.” Fossouo was born in Cameroon and went to school in Paris. In his twenties, he spent seven summers in the U.S., selling books for Southwestern Publishing, a Nashville-based titan of door-to-door marketing. (Rick Perry is another company alum; so is Kenneth Starr.) “I did L.A. for years,” he told me. “ ‘Hi, my name is Max. I’m a crazy college student from France, and I’m helping families with their kids’ education. I’ve been talking to your neighbors A, B, and C, and I’d like to talk to you. Do you have a place where I can come in and sit down?’ ” All selling, he said, is the same: “It starts with a person understanding they have a problem. Someone might live in the dark but not understand that it’s a problem. So you have to show them. And then you have to create a sense of urgency to spend the money to solve the problem now.”

The man turned down Lewis’s pitch. He was worried that he wouldn’t be able to make the monthly payments in the lean stretch before the next cacao harvest. “That’s crap,” Fossouo whispered, pointing again to the man’s wife. “He loves this woman, he can move the world for her.” When we went to the next house, Fossouo took over. This prospect was a farmer and schoolteacher, and they talked in his classroom, which had a few low desks with shards of slate on top. Fossouo had the man catalogue everything that he was spending on energy: money for kerosene, flashlight batteries, even the gas for the scooter that he borrowed when he needed to charge his phone. Then Fossouo showed him what he had to offer: a radio and four lights, each with a dimmer switch. “Where would you put the lamp?” he asked. “In front of the door? Of course! And the big light in the middle of the room, so when you have a party everyone could see. Now, tell me, if you went to the market to buy all of this, how much would it cost?” Fossouo tried angle after angle. “You have to think big here,” he said. “When I talked to your chief, he said, ‘Don’t think small.’ If your kid could see the news on TV, he might say, ‘I, too, could be President.’ ”

“This is great,” the man said. “I know you’re trying to help us. I just don’t have the money. Life is hard, things are expensive. Sometimes we’re hungry.”

Fossouo nodded. “What if I gave you a way to pay for it?” he asked. “So the dollar wouldn’t even come from your pocket? If you get a system, people will pay you to charge their phones. Or, if you had a TV, you could charge people to come watch the football games.”

“I couldn’t charge a person for coming in to watch a game,” the man said. “We’re all one big family. If someone is wealthy enough to have a TV, everyone is welcome to it.”

The hour ended without a sale, but Fossouo wasn’t worried. “It takes two or three approaches on average,” he said. “You always have to leave the person in a good place, where he loves you stopping by. This guy wants to finish building his house right now—his house is heavy on him—but it won’t be long.” As we talked, the first prospect came over, asking for a leaflet and a phone number. His wife, he said, was very interested.

The arrival of electricity is hard for today’s Westerners to imagine. Light means differences in sleeping and eating patterns and an increased sense of safety. I talked with one Tanzanian near Arusha who had traded in a kerosene lamp for five Off-Grid bulbs, including a security light outside his door that went on automatically when it got dark. “Crime is here,” he said, “but also dangerous animals. Especially snakes. So it’s good to have lights.” Everywhere I went, I met parents who said that their children could study at night. “You can feel the effects with their grades now at school,” one Ivorian father said. Several town chiefs told me that they hoped to get classroom computers, and one planned to mechanize the well so that townspeople would no longer need to pump water by hand. Farmers in West Africa were getting daily weather reports from Farmerline, a Ghanaian information service that uses G.P.S. to customize the forecasts. “If a farmer puts fertilizer on the field and then it rains, he loses the fertilizer—it washes away,” Alloysius Attah, a young Ghanaian entrepreneur who co-founded the service, told me. “And the farmers say they can’t tell the rain anymore. My auntie could read the clouds, the birds flying by, but the usual rainfall pattern has shifted.”

“Our killer app is definitely the television,” Off-Grid’s Schreiber said. “If the twenty-four-inch is out of stock, lots of people won’t buy.” Wandering through newly electrified towns, I saw teen-agers watching action movies. Black Star’s Poindexter told me, “There was a kid in town that I liked, Samuel, and when I came back after the power was turned on his arm was in a cast. He’d watched a karate show on TV, and he and his friends were playing it, and he broke his arm. I was horrified—I was, like, society is not prepared for this. And then I remembered that I did the same thing after I watched ‘Popeye’ as a kid. I ran right into the hedge and had to get twenty stitches. That’s kids and TV.”

In Daban, after I asked what the most popular program was, everyone began laughing and nodding. “ ‘Kumkum’!” people shouted. “Kumkum Bhagya,” an Indian soap opera set in a marriage hall and loosely based on Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility,” airs every night from seven-thirty to eight-thirty, during which time village life comes to a standstill. “All the chiefs have advocated for everyone to watch, because it’s about how relationships are built,” the local chief, Nana Oti Awere, said. Of course, the changes brought about by electrification will affect local communities in unpredictable ways that will play out over many years. One mother I spoke to explained that the TV “keeps the children at home at night, instead of roaming around.” The Ivorian farmer who told me about the effects on his children’s grades went on to say, “In the old time, you had to go outside and talk. Now my neighbor has his TV, I have my TV, and we stay inside.”

A decade ago, most experts would have predicted that foreign aid, rather than venture capital, would play a central role in bringing power to sub-Saharan Africa. Off-Grid Electric has been funded by sources including Tesla and Paul Allen’s venture fund, Vulcan. Allen, one of the world’s richest men, is worth twenty billion dollars, or roughly half of the G.D.P. of Tanzania, a country of almost fifty-four million people. Should he be able to make yet more money off the electrification of African huts? There’s more than a whiff of colonialism about the rush of Westerners and Western money into Africa. As Attah, the young Ghanaian who helped found Farmerline, put it, “There are a lot of Ivy Leaguers coming to Africa to say, ‘I can solve this problem, snap, snap, snap.’ They’re doing good work, but little investment goes to community leaders who are doing the same work on the ground.”
“I don’t know what that is, either—it could be the Olsen twins.”

The Westerners I spoke to, though they pledged to hire more local executives, didn’t think that the drive to help was incompatible with the desire to make money. As Poindexter put it, “There is a level of responsibility that I feel, and that I think any appropriate investor needs to have, about extraction versus contribution. I am not willing to be an extractive capitalist here, but I think that capitalism has an extremely important role to play in these communities.” Helgesen—who, despite his occasional oblivious tech-dudishness, spends most of his time in very remote places trying to provide power—is unapologetic about his company’s funding sources. Billionaires, he says, have the capital to make companies grow fast enough to matter. “Paul Allen didn’t invest because he thought it was the easiest way to make more money,” Helgesen said. “I got an awful lot of ‘no’s along the way from people who wanted easier money.” In any event, it’s not clear that other sources of funding are available, at least from the U.S.: Trump, pulling out of the Paris climate accord earlier this month, said that the country would not meet its pledge to help poor nations develop renewable energy, dismissing the plan as “yet another scheme to redistribute wealth out of the United States through the so-called Green Climate Fund—nice name.”

Even when aid agencies are well funded, they haven’t always delivered. Over the last decade, a strong critique of aid, ranging from William Easterly’s “The White Man’s Burden” to Dambisa Moyo’s “Dead Aid,” has laid much of the blame for Africa’s continued underdevelopment on the weaknesses of sweeping programs planned from afar. Still, aid agencies and global-development banks have a useful role to play in the energy transition. It will be years before it makes financial sense for solar companies to expand to the most remote and challenging regions of the continent. As new companies launch, they will need an infusion of what Helgesen calls “ultra-high-risk capital.” Private investors will supply it, he says, “but they want forty per cent of your company in return, which makes it hard to raise capital later on, because you’ve already sold off such a big chunk.” Some aid agencies have funded private ventures in the early stages, to help them get off the ground or reach new geographic areas. U.S.A.I.D. gave Off-Grid five million dollars toward its early costs, and, over the past few years, a Dutch development agency has given the company several hundred thousand euros as it has extended into the impoverished lakes region of Tanzania, where it otherwise wouldn’t have been profitable to go. Currency risks pose another problem: Poindexter told me that when she builds a Ghanaian microgrid she has invested in an asset with a twenty-year life span in a country where inflation is highly unpredictable. “We just had an election in the U.S. with huge consequences for policy,” she said. “But over here every election is potentially like that.” And, like anywhere in the world, national governments can make things easier by establishing clear policies. Rwanda’s leaders, for instance, specified the regions in which the rapidly developing country planned to extend its grid, thereby delineating where solar would be needed most.

“African leaders used to think solar was being pushed on them,” Clare Sierawski, who works on renewable energy with the U.S. Trade and Development Agency in Accra, said. “But now they all want solar. It’s a confluence of things. Mostly, it’s getting cheaper. And governments were tuned in to it by the Paris accord.” Ananth Chikkatur, who runs a U.S.A.I.D. project in the city, had just returned from taking thirteen high-ranking Ghanaians on a trip to study solar power in California. “Renewable energy should not be considered an alternative technology,” he said. “It’s becoming a conventional technology now.” Rwanda is not the only nation expanding its grid, and many countries are turning to large solar farms to generate power. Burkina Faso, for instance, has plans for solar arrays across its desert regions.

Distributed generation, however, is especially essential in rural areas, and it is growing fast—maybe, according to some observers, too fast. The investor Peter Bladin told me that the push for quick returns on investment could lead some companies to try to “squeeze more out of poor households” and warned about “mission drift, trying to make money off the backs of the poor in a dubious way.” Earlier this year, three principals from the impact-investment firm Ceniarth, which had put money into Off-Grid and similar companies, said that it was backing out of the industry for the time being. In an open letter, they wrote that the hype of venture capitalists and the lack of government regulation “puts consumers at risk and places a great deal of responsibility on vendors to self-police.” The gush of money, they cautioned, “may be too much, too fast for a sector that still has not fully solved core business model issues and may struggle under the high growth expectations and misaligned incentives of many venture capitalists.” Helgesen, unsurprisingly, disagreed with their analysis of investor over-exuberance. “It’s like looking at a Palm Pilot and saying, ‘This is not so great,’ ” he said. “Or even an iPhone 1. The iPhone 1 was a necessary step to the iPhone 7. People who have raised real money have not raised it on the premise that we’ll be selling the same stuff in ten years.” But he wasn’t waiting for the technology to mature. “We have to think about the future, and we have to sell something people want today,” he said.

Most customers I met had little interest in the fact that their power came from the sun, or that it was environmentally friendly. Since these communities weren’t using power previously, their solar panels fight climate change only in the sense that they decrease pressure to build power plants that consume fossil fuel. But some observers hope that the experience in Africa—which today has more off-the-grid solar homes than the U.S.—could help drive transformation elsewhere. Already, a few dozen American cities have pledged to become one-hundred-per-cent renewable. (Pittsburgh did so the day after Trump held up its theoretically beleaguered citizens as a reason for leaving the climate accord.) The U.S. has already sunk a fortune into building its electric grid, and it may seem far-fetched to think that users will disconnect from it entirely. But, as Helgesen told me, “As batteries get better, it’s going to be a lot more realistic for people to stop depending on their utility.” He thinks that, in an ideal world, technological change could lead to cultural change. “The average American has no concept of electrical constraint,” he said. “If we accept some modest restrictions on our power availability, we can go off-grid very quickly.”

For many people in the countries I visited, solar power is creating a new hope: for electric fans. When I was there, Off-Grid Electric was expanding from the relatively cool highlands around Mt. Kilimanjaro to the scorching, humid lowlands of West Africa, and in every village we visited the message was the same: The TV is great, the light bulb is great, but can I please have a fan? Many homes are poorly ventilated; windows are expensive, and can attract burglars. Fans, however, draw a comparatively large amount of current, threatening to quickly drain the battery that a solar panel has spent the day filling. And, unlike light bulbs or televisions, fans have moving parts that easily break. “Our customers tend to make heavy use of their equipment,” Off-Grid’s Schreiber said. Still, she promised one village after another that fans were coming soon.

Shea Hughes, Off-Grid’s product manager, is one of the employees charged with delivering on that promise. Hughes told me that he hopes to someday make Off-Grid’s product powerful enough to perform industrial tasks: pumping water for irrigation, milling cacao, and so on. “I’m confident solar is capable of doing that,” he said. “You just add more panels and you get to the power requirements you need. And as the price drops, well . . . ” He had recently been to a consumer-electronics fair in China. “I was amazed to see the prices,” he said.

For the moment, though, a workable fan would be nice. “We’d always thought a fan would take too much power for the current systems we’re selling,” Hughes said. “But the people in Ivory Coast were so insistent that we went back and looked at it.” Because of the emerging market for super-efficient appliances, in the U.S. and elsewhere, some manufacturers had a product that, as long as you kept it set to medium, drew only eight and a half watts. (The standard incandescent light bulb that hung in American hallways for generations drew sixty.) “We’ve told the manufacturer to eliminate the high-speed option,” Hughes said. “Now medium is high. And in our tests people are satisfied with the air speed. But they say the battery tends to run out at 3 or 4 A.M., and they typically sleep till 6 A.M. So it’s not perfect, but it’s getting there.”

*The New Yorker

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Sudan: China’s Original Foothold in Africa
June 22, 2017 | 0 Comments

Thanks in part to U.S. neglect, China’s footprint in Sudan has grown exponentially over the past 20 years.

By Joseph Hammond*

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir (L) attends a signing ceremony with Chinese President Xi Jinxing at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China (September 1, 2015). Image Credit: REUTERS/ Parker Song

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir (L) attends a signing ceremony with Chinese President Xi Jinxing at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China (September 1, 2015).
Image Credit: REUTERS/ Parker Song

China’s legacy in Sudan is immediately visible in downtown Khartoum. Near where the Blue and White Nile join to form the world’s longest river sits the People’s Friendship Cooperation Hall, a gift from China to the People’s Republic to Sudan that dates to 1976.

The complex, which includes a conference hall, meeting rooms, a theater, and banquet hall, stretches for nearly a kilometer along the Nile. The building has aged well and remains one of Africa’s modernist architectural gems; a Chinese extension in 2003 expanded and refurbished the building without impacting its charm In 2014, the People’s Friendship Cooperation Hall hosted the third China-Africa People’s Forum while Chinese sources hailed Sudan as an important country in Africa.

The building is not far from where the British Empire suffered one of its greatest defeats in 1885. That year General Charles George “Chinese” Gordon was killed when the besieged Imperial garrison at Khartoum was overrun by Mahdist forces. A British-led force sent to relieve him arrived just hours too late to lift the months long siege. Before his death in Sudan, Gordon was heavily decorated by the British Empire for his role in suppressing the Taiping Rebellion in China, which the Communist Party of China in recent years has come to see as an anti-imperialist uprising. As such “Chinese” Gordon provides a compelling historical link in Sudanese-Chinese relations, as both countries can claim to have suffered under the same colonial oppressor.

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Chinese-Sudanese relations date to 1959, when Sudan became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to recognize China. Today, China is the largest investor in Sudan, as it is in the continent as a whole. But China’s relation with Sudan is exceptional because of the absence of competition from the United States. Other than Coca-Cola, very few American products are readily available to Sudanese consumers.

Sudan has been under U.S. sanctions since 1995 in part due to the country’s past ties to terrorists like Osama bin Laden. That same year President Omar al-Bashir signed Sudan’s first oil deal with China.

“It is surprising, the coincidence that U.S. sanctions began around the same time China invested in our oil industry,” a Sudanese government official offers sarcastically.

Yet China’s oil empire in Sudan began rather reluctantly. When first approached by Bashir’s government to invest in oil concessions, the Chinese officials suggested Sudan look to Chevron instead.

In June 1997, the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company was established with the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) taking 40 percent ownership and Malaysia’s Petronas taking 30 percent. India’s ONGC Videsh acquired 25 percent when a forerunner of Canada’s Talisman Energy had to leave due to sanctions.

China has invested in other aspects of the industry until it controls as much as 75 percent of the Sudanese oil industry. Sudan currently produces 133,000 barrels of oil per day — a fraction of what it produced before the south of the country seceded in 2011, taking most of the country’s proven oil reserves with it. Today, Chinese companies are looking for new oil deposits in Sudan as increasing oil production is one of the government’s priorities.

“China’s first experience in investing in Africa was in Sudan,” says Ibrahim Ghandour, Sudan’s foreign minister. “They started in oil but, now have other interests in trade, mining, and construction.”

However, in one area Chinese involvement in Sudan is exaggerated: China has been falsely accused of being an major source of armaments for Sudan. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s arms transfer database, arms from Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine made up the majority — 77 percent — of imports into the Sudanese arsenal from 2007-2016. China was responsible for a modest 19 percent of all military exports to Sudan over the same period.

China’s presence in Sudan is not without controversy. For example, Sudanese labor law requires that international companies consist of staff which is 80 percent Sudanese, but the foreign minister admits that Chinese companies have failed to comply with this. However, he insists that the Sudanese benefit more than locals in many other African countries from Chinese companies.

“Yes, Chinese companies are in violation of this but, it is the smallest possible violation. Within the oil industry today most of the engineers and technical experts in Sudan and South Sudan are Sudanese. They were trained in China, and we see more and more of them… Sudan is the only country in Africa where over time more locals have gotten jobs from Chinese companies,” says Ghandour.

Though not typically seen as a part of the Belt and Road Initiative, Sudan sees itself as playing a critical role in the development of China’s plan to link East Asia with western Europe. The Sudanese government believes Port Sudan on the Red Sea will be an important loop on that belt.

“We are in discussions with China to work with them on developing a new free-trade area near Port Sudan, which will focus on attracting Chinese companies and of course support the One Belt, One Road Initiative,” says Sudan’s state minister for investment, Osama Faysal. “However in the long term American companies may have a competitive advantage in Sudan due to their spending on R&D.”

If the United States was reluctant to engage in transaction diplomacy back in 1996, when Sudan offered to turn over Osama bin Ladenfor sanctions relief, China has proved a willing partner. Now the Trump administration is poised to lift economic sanctions on Sudan later this year, but it will be a while before the knockoff “Starbox” coffee shops and Khartoum fried chicken eateries disappear.

Khartoum is talking about new business opportunities with American companies and the wider world. That said, despite some resentment among the local Sudanese toward the Chinese, China’s influence will likely continue unabated.

Elsewhere in Africa, China has thrived by under-cutting the competition and accepting higher risks than American companies. However, China’s influence will survive for political reasons as well.

Bashir, who has ruled Sudan since 1989, has pledged to step down in 2020. However, Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party has no intention of yielding power, and in this regard is consciously emulating China. China was the only non-Muslim country outside Africa invited to the fourth national congress of the NCP held this year. Communist Party of China officials — fluent in Arabic — furiously scribbled notes during Bashir’s speech. A few rows away an NCP party member wore a lapel pin from the China Executive Leadership Academy in Pudong, known in Sudan as CELAP, where some NCP leaders have undergone leadership training. As the party has reformed itself as part of a national dialogue initiated in 2014, China has presented an explicit model where competition takes place within parties, not between them.

“China offered a completely different model of human development a model very different than Europe and Britain,” says Ibrahim Mahmoud, the vice president of the NCP who led the reform. “That is an example we are closely following.”

*Culled from The DiplomatJoseph Hammond is a fellow with the American Media Institute and former Cairo Correspondent for Radio Free Europe. He has been contributing as a freelancer to The Diplomat since 2010.

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Is the U.S. taxpayer paying for French neo-colonialism in Africa?
June 22, 2017 | 0 Comments
By *
FRENCH PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON DURING VISIT TO MALI, MAY 12, 2017 (REUTERS)

FRENCH PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON DURING VISIT TO MALI, MAY 12, 2017 (REUTERS)

At the end of his first week in office, newly-elected President Emmanuel Macron visited French troops in the West African country of Mali. Macron flew into Gao, the largest city in Mali’s north, where political unrest and ethnic strife have raged for more than five years. He met some of the 1,600 French soldiers stationed there, at the largest French military base outside of France.

The French had intervened in its former colony in January 2013 in an effort to drive out al-Qaeda-linked groups which had taken advantage of the unrest and conflict created by a rebellion of the ethnic Tuaregs in 2012 to try to take control of the central government in Bamako, Mali’s capital. This rebellion spread throughout the Sahel; an eco-climatic and biogeographic zone of transition in Africa between the Sahara to the north and the Sudanian Savanna to the south covering more than 3.053 million km².

Before one can explain the role played by the U.S. in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel, it is important to understand the continuing role of the French Government and army in the region. France established military bases in Africa during the colonial period and maintained a military presence in Africa after the ‘flag independence’ of its former colonies in the 1960s. The independence struggle of French Africa resulted, with the exception of Guinea, in the notional independence of the African states, each with a flag, a national anthem, a football team, and a continuing dependence on France under the terms of a Colonial Pact. The terms of this pact were agreed at the time of independence as a condition of the de-colonialization of the African states.

The Colonial Pact Agreement enshrined a number of special preferences for France in the political, commercial and defence processes in the African countries. On defence, it agreed to two types of continuing contact. The first was the agreement on military co-operation or Technical Military Aid (AMT) agreements. These covered education, training of soldiers and officers of African security forces.

The second type, secret and binding, were defence agreements supervised and implemented by the French Ministry of Defence, which served as a legal basis for French interventions within the African states by French military forces. These agreements allowed France to have pre-deployed troops and police in bases across Africa. In other words, French army and gendarme units present permanently and by rotation in bases and military facilities in Africa, run entirely by the French.

For the past half-century, the secretive and powerful “African Cell” has overseen France’s strategic interests in Africa, holding sway over a wide swath of former French colonies.

The Colonial Pact was much more than an agreement to station soldiers across Africa. It bound the economies of Africa to the control of France. It made the CFA franc the national currency in both former colonial regions of Africa and created a continuing, and enforceable, dependency on France.

In summary, the colonial pact maintained French control over the economies of the African states:

    • it took possession of their foreign currency reserves
    • it controlled the strategic raw materials of the country
    • it stationed troops in the country with the right of free passage
    • it demanded that all military equipment be acquired from France
    • it took over the training of the police and army
    • it required that French businesses be allowed to maintain monopoly enterprises in key areas (water, electricity, ports, transport, energy, etc.)
    • it required that in the award of government contracts in the African countries, French companies should be considered first
    • it didn’t matter if Africans could obtain better value for money elsewhere, French companies came first, and most often got contracts
    • the African states must make a contribution to France each year for the infrastructure created by the French colonial system and left behind when independence was granted

France not only set limits on the imports of a range of items from outside the franc zone but also set minimum quantities of imports from France. These treaties are still in force and operational.

The system is known as Françafrique. These policies of Françafrique were not concocted by the French National Assembly or the result of any democratic process. They were the result of policies conducted by a small group of people in the French President’s office, the ‘African Cell’, starting with Charles de Gaulle and his African specialist, Jacques Foccart. For the past half-century, the secretive and powerful “African Cell” has overseen France’s strategic interests in Africa, holding sway over a wide swath of former French colonies. Acting as a general command, the Cell uses France’s military as a hammer to install leaders it deems friendly to French interests and to remove those who pose a danger to the continuation of the system. Sidestepping traditional diplomatic channels, the Cell reports only to one person: the president.

GENERAL CHARLES DE GAULLE SPEAKING AT THE AFRICAN-FRENCH CONFERENCE IN BRAZZAVILLE, CONGO, 1944.

Under Chirac, African policy was run by the President himself. He worked with the “Cellule Africaine” composed of African Advisor Michel De Bonnecorse, Aliot-Marie (the Defence Minister) and DGSE chief Pierre Brochand. They were aided by a web of French agents assigned to work undercover in Africa, embedded in French companies like Bouygues, Delmas, Total, and other multinationals; pretending to be expatriate employees.

Under Sarkozy the “Cellule Africaine” was run by the President and included Bruno Joubert and an informal adviser and Sarkozy envoy, Robert Bourgi. Claude Guéant, secretary general of the presidency and later interior minister, played an influential role. Hollande’s “Cellule Africaine” was composed of his trusted friends: Jean-Yves Le Drian (Minister of Defence); the chief of his personal military staff, General Benoît Puga; the African Advisor Hélène Le Gal, and a number of lower-level specialists from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and the Treasury.

EMMANUEL MACRON MEETS MALI PRESIDENT IBRAHIM BOUBACAR KEITA IN MALI (REUTERS/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON)

It isn’t clear yet who will make up Macron’s African Cell.

What is important about the effects of Françafrique on African states is that the French resisted any locally-engendered change in the rules and had troops and gendarmes available in Africa to put down any leader with different ambitions. During the last 50 years, a total of 67 coups happened in 26 countries in Africa; 61% of the coups happened in Francophone Africa. The French began the ‘discipline’ of African leaders by ordering the assassination of Sylvanus Olympio in Togo in 1963 when he wanted his own currency instead of the CFA franc.

  • In June 1962, the first president of Mali, Modiba Keita, decreed that Mali was leaving the CFA zone and abandoning the Colonial Pact. As in Togo the French paid an African ex-Legionnaire to kill the president. In November 1968 Lieutenant Moussa Traore made a coup, killed Modiba Keita, and became President of Mali.
  • The French use of African ex-Legionnaires to remove Presidents who rebelled against the Colonial Pact, the CFA or Françafrique became commonplace. On January 1st, 1966, Jean-Bédel Bokassa, an ex French foreign Legionnaire, carried out a coup against David Dacko, the first President of the Central African Republic.
  • On January 3, 1966, Maurice Yaméogo, the first President of the Republic of Upper Volta, now called Burkina Faso, was victim of a coup carried out by Aboubacar Sangoulé Lamizana.
  • On 26 October 1972, Mathieu Kérékou who was a security guard to President Hubert Maga, the first President of the Republic of Benin, carried out a coup against the president.

There were several other assassinations managed by the French which took place without the use of Legionnaires. These included:

  • Marien Ngouabi, President of the Republic of the Congo was assassinated in 1977.
  • In Cameroon, Felix Moumie, who was the successor to previously-assassinated Reuben Um Nyobe, was murdered by thallium poisoning in Geneva on October, 15 1960. His killer was a French agent, William Bechtel, who posed as a journalist to meet Moumie in a restaurant and poisoned his drink.
  • François Tombalbaye, President of Chad was assassinated by soldiers commanded by French Army officers in 1975. Then, in December 1989 the French overthrew the government of Hissan Habre in Chad and installed Idriss Deby as President because Habre wanted to sell Chadian oil to U.S. oil companies.
  • Perhaps the most tragic was the assassination of Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso in 1987. Thomas Sankara seized power in a popular coup in 1983 in an attempt to break the country’s ties to its French colonial power. He was overthrown and assassinated in a coup led by his best friend and childhood companion Blaise Compaoré on French orders.
  • In March 2003 French and Chadian troops overthrew the elected government of President Ange-Felix Patasse and installed General François Bozize as President when Patasse announced that he wanted French troops out of the Central African Republic. A few years later the French deposed Bosize as well.
  • In 2009, the French supported a coup in Madagascar by Andry Rajoelina against the elected government of Marc Ravalomanana who wanted to open the country to investments by international companies in mining and petroleum and refused to allow Total to unilaterally raise its contracted price for oil by 75%.
  • The French used its troops in the Ivory Coast to provoke an attempted overthrow of the democratically-elected government of Gbagbo. When the rebellion to oust Gbagbo failed, the French troops divided the country into two areas and continued to plan coups against Gbagbo. When Gbagbo won the election in 2010, despite French interference, the French troops (and the UN ‘peacekeepers’) used helicopter gunships to attack the Ivorian citizenry and took over the country in 2011.

French Military Involvement in Africa

The current problem for France is that it maintains wide engagement of its military in operations outside of metropolitan France. These are very expensive. There are currently 36,000 French troops deployed in foreign territories. Such operations are known as “OPEX” for Opérations Extérieures (“External Operations”).

Since colonial days France has stationed its troops across Africa in permanent bases. These participate in controlling the internal politics of the African nations of Franćafrique as well as their borders.

These included:

  • Côte d’Ivoire, where the French troops in Operation Licorne and its helicopters recently overthrew the government of Gbagbo and supervised the killing of numerous Ivoirian citizens in collaboration with UN Peacekeepers.
  • Chad, with the Epervier mission. Established in 1986 to help re-establish peace and maintain Chad’s territorial integrity, and establish and protect the government of Deby.
  • France has been present in Mali since January 2013 in support of the Malian authorities in the fight against terrorist groups. 2,900 men were deployed with the Serval operation.
  • Since December 2013, France also has operated in the Central African Republic in support of the MISCA, the African Union peacekeeping operation. 1,600 men are deployed with the Sangaris operation.

France also supports the participation of African soldiers in peacekeeping operations through the Reinforcement of African Peacekeeping Capabilities (RECAMP) program.

These terrorists are not, for the most part, invading foreigners coming to seek domination, power or advantage. They are locals who have taken up the Salafist ideology to further their joint aims of setting up an Islamic State and in preserving the smuggling routes across the Sahel.

Recently the French have concentrated their troop deployments in West Africa to fight the rising threat of Islamic fundamentalism. Around 3,000 soldiers remain in the expansive Sahel area of Africa to check Islamist violence and arms trafficking, with no specified exit date. French forces are organised around four base camps, each with its own focus, and with headquarters based in the Chadian capital of Ndjamena. Their primary aim is not entirely the suppression of fundamentalist forces; their primary aim is to safeguard the French Areva uranium mines in Niger which provide France with fuel for its nuclear power programs.

This operation is known as Operation Barkhane (the name refers to a sickle-shaped sand dune). It is an effort to streamline French military activity in the region and to retain the military power but reduce the costs of duplication of tasks. Following diplomatic agreements with Chad, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania (the “Sahel G-5”), over 3,000 French troops are involved in securing the Sahel-Sahara region in cooperative operations involving G-5 troops. Other assets deployed in the operation include 20 helicopters, 200 armoured vehicles, 200 trucks, six fighter-jets, ten transport aircraft and three drones.

The initiation of Operation Barkhane brought to an end to four existing French operations in Africa; Licorne (Côte d’Ivoire, 2002-2017), Épervier (Chad, 1986-2014), Sabre (Burkina Faso, 2012-2014) and Serval (Mali, 2013-2014). Licorne is coming to an end in June 2017 (though 450 French troops will remain in Abidjan as part of a logistical base for French operations) while the other operations were folded into Operation Barkhane. Operation Sangaris (Central African Republic, 2013-present) is classified as a humanitarian rather than counter-terrorism mission and the deployment of some 2,000 French troops will be reduced 1,200 French soldiers who will remain in northern Mali. Existing French military deployments in Djibouti, Dakar (Senegal) and Libreville (Gabon) are expected to be scaled back significantly.

FRENCH SOLDIERS DURING CEREMONY IN BANGUI, DECEMBER 19, 2013, MARKING THE TRANSFER OF AUTHORITY OF THE MULTINATIONAL FORCE OF CENTRAL AFRICA (FOMAC) TO THE AFRICAN-LED INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT MISSION TO THE CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (MISCA), MANDATED BY THE UNITED NATIONS. (IVAN LIEMAN, AFP)

France’s problem in maintaining its military presence in Africa is that it has run out of money. It cannot afford to maintain such a strong military posture in Africa. It has been able to get the assistance of its European Union partners in a Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) in programs like EURFOR in Chad which notionally confronts the terrorist organisations with European troops, but the funds needed to provide a real challenge to the terrorists are wanting.

The notion of intrinsic forces is important in the evaluation of warfare in the Sahel. These terrorists are not, for the most part, invading foreigners coming to seek domination, power or advantage. They are locals who have taken up the Salafist ideology to further their joint aims of setting up an Islamic State and in preserving the smuggling routes across the Sahel. The ancient salt caravans across the Sahel from Mali making their way to Europe and the Middle East have evolved into caravans of drugs, diamonds and gold from Mali to Europe and the Middle East. The large revenues earned from this smuggling have helped fund the AQIM, the MNLA, MUJAO and other bands and have generated financial and political support from the Wahhabi extremists of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. The collapse of Libya under Qaddafi left these smugglers without a protector so the radical extremists who supplanted Qaddafi offered the smugglers of the Sahel the same protection as before and lots of weapons.

The Sahel is still a major centre of illicit trafficking in goods. The tribes of Northern Mali are emboldened and protected by terrorist organisations in the barren wastes of Northern Mali and live, symbiotically, with the terrorist forces. Their paths are overlapping. While the tribes continue their smuggling, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) engages in illegal taxation in its areas of control, ISIS in Libya is active in human and narcotics trafficking, and Boko Haram generates significant revenues from trade in cocaine and heroin.

The trafficking overlaps the terrorist threats. It is matched by a large influx of weapons. Conflict Armament Research, a UK organization that monitors armaments transfers and supply chains, published an important report in late 2016, “Investigating Cross-Border Weapon Transfers in the Sahel.” The report confirms that a flow of weapons from Libyan dictator Qaddafi’s stockpiles after his fall played a major role in the Tuareg and Islamist insurgencies in Mali in 2012.

That same stockpile supplied weapons systems that included man-portable air defence systems to insurgents throughout the Sahel region. But, the report documents that weapons flows since 2011 are no longer predominately from Libya. Instead, the weapons now come from African countries with weak control of their own weapons stockpiles, notably the Central African Republic and Ivory Coast. Sudan has also been an important source since 2015 of weapons used by insurgents in the Sahel. The report posits that the jihadist attacks in 2015 and 2016 on hotels and government installations specifically in Mali, Burkina Faso, and the Ivory Coast also included weapons from a common source in the Middle East, these Iraqi assault rifles and Chinese-manufactured weapons are also used by the Islamic State.

The Logistical Challenge In Opposing the Terrorist Threat

The terrain of the Sahel does not lend itself to conventional warfare. There are broad expanses of sand and dunes, broken up by small villages and, occasionally, a town or city. There are no petrol stations, wells, repair shops, water stores, food stocks or fuel reserves in most of the region. Trucks and buses, as well as conventional armour, are difficult to transport in such a terrain. Air bases are usually suited only to small aircraft and lack the scissor-tables, cranes, fork-lifts and loading equipment which allow the free flow of cargo.

On the positive side, in the war in the Sahel the lack of ground cover and a tree canopy in the region enables a strategy of using the most modern weapons, the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) which can seek out, observe and destroy small and mobile enemy forces. This has meant that the logistical demands of the war in the Sahel has generated a strategy of the use of high-tech weaponry deployed by Western forces combined with African troops on the ground as garrison forces for towns and cities.

Warfare, in general, in Africa requires a policy of expeditionary war. This is a polite way of saying that massed troop formations have no real use as there are few opposing forces of equal size to fight. African insurgents are bands and groups of often irregular soldiers. Across most of Africa troops must pass through jungles, deserts, mangrove swamps and hostile terrain to get to the enemy, often under heavy fire from the bush. The enemy of the peacekeepers is rarely an army battalion of any strength. Large-scale troop concentrations can sit in a city or town and maintain order, but they rarely can take the battle to the enemy. African armies have virtually no equipment which will allow them to fight an expeditionary war. This is a war of helicopters – in and out movement of troops to desert encampments or remote landing zones or the shooting up of ground formations by helicopter gunships when the enemy can be located.

This is how African wars are fought. Except for rented MI-8 and MI-24 helicopters leased from the Ukraine and Russia, most of Africa is bereft of air mobile equipment. They are certainly bereft of African pilots (other than South Africans and a small band of Angolans and Nigerians). There are very few African military aircraft capable of fighting or sustaining either air-to-air combat or performing logistics missions. Either they don’t exist or they are in such a state of disrepair that African combat pilots are unwitting kamikazes.

FRENCH HELICOPTER FLYING OVER A RIVER IN MALI. (MARC TESSENSOHN / BUNDESWEHR)

There are very few airbases in the bush which allow cargo planes to land safely when a war is on given that every rebel group has its share of rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and mortars. There are no fuel reserves at the airports outside most African capitals, and there are no repair facilities. There is no air-to-air refuelling, except that provided by foreign militaries. Indeed, except for Denel in South Africa and the main airbase in Ethiopia there are no places on the continent which perform sophisticated aircraft or weapons maintenance.

Most Western European armies themselves don’t have sufficient helicopters or heavy-lift capacities. The Africans have less. This lack of transport is critical to moving out the wounded. This takes its toll on the soldiers. This is mirrored in the lack of effective battlefield communications. In Africa the phone system doesn’t work in peacetime; why should it work in a period of war? Sending orders and receiving information between the central staff and outlying units is a ‘sometimes’ process. It sometimes takes days to contact units operating far from command headquarters.

Despite the good wishes of the French and the other Europeans, success relies on an active U.S. participation and engagement. The French have requested the support of the U.S. military (through NATO) in its ambition to retain control of its former African colonial empire.

Europeans are not really ready to assist in the Sahel, despite EU plans. In 2015 when Angela Merkel made the grand gesture of sending weapons to Kurdish rebels fighting ISIL, she learned that her cargo planes couldn’t get off the ground. At the time, the German military confessed that just half of its Transall transport aircraft were fit to fly. Of its 190 helicopters, just 41 were ready to be deployed. Of its 406 Marder tanks, 280 were out of use. In 2016 it emerged that fewer than half of Germany’s 66 Tornado aircraft were airworthy. The French Transall fleet is out of date and few are being replaced.

FRENCH TRANSALL DEPLOYED TO MALI. THE SAHEL REGION IS ARID, AND KNOWN FOR ITS DUST STORMS, WHICH CAN CREATE WEAR AND TEAR ON MILITARY EQUIPMENT.

This matches the debacle of the European military effort to conduct warfare on its own; starting in Kosovo. The Europeans wanted to show they had some independent military capability. The amount of bombs, missiles and other tactical devices used in the first two weeks of the Kosovo campaign exceeded the total arsenal storage of the totality of the European Community. The amount spent per day on the bombing of Kosovo, including indirect costs, amounted to over $12.5 million. It would have been far cheaper to buy Serbia than to bomb it. NATO could have offered each Serb $5,000 a head plus moving costs and still saved money. Under NATO rules the US was obliged to pay two-thirds of these costs.

This was just as true in Libya. The Europeans (calling themselves NATO) quickly ran out of ammunition, bombs and money. The US spent almost $1.5 billion in the first wave of attacks by the French and British. As Secretary of Defence Gates said in his speech, “Despite more than 2 million troops in uniform – not counting the U.S. military – NATO has struggled, at times desperately, to sustain a deployment of 25,000 to 45,000 troops — not just in boots on the ground, but in crucial support assets such as helicopters; transport aircraft; maintenance; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and much more.” He went on, “We have the spectacle of an air operations centre designed to handle more than 300 sorties a day struggling to launch about 150. Furthermore, the mightiest military alliance in history is only 11 weeks into an operation against a poorly armed regime in a sparsely populated country – yet many allies are beginning to run short of munitions, requiring the U.S., once more, to make up the difference.”

That is the key point in analysing the struggle against terrorism in the Sahel. Despite the good wishes of the French and the other Europeans, success relies on an active U.S. participation and engagement. The French have requested the support of the U.S. military (through NATO) in its ambition to retain control of its former African colonial empire.

There is an ironic side to the French requiring assistance from NATO to support its neo-colonial policies. France withdrew from being a full member of NATO in 1966, and remained separated for decades. The reason for withdrawal was that France believed NATO was not militarily supportive enough. France’s effort to develop its own non-NATO defence capability, including the development of its own nuclear arsenal in the 1960s, was to ensure that the French military could operate its own colonial and post-colonial conflicts more freely. Under de Gaulle, France had attempted to draw NATO into France’s colonial conflicts (on France’s side). De Gaulle claimed that Algeria was part of France and thus was part of NATO. Therefore, NATO was required to intervene to assist France in putting down Algerian independence movements. After the British and Americans refused to assist with French colonialism, de Gaulle expelled NATO troops from France and set up a more independent French military. Now that France is back in NATO it is making the same request of its partners as De Gaulle.

The Germans lead the EUTM Mali, which trains Mali’s armed forces, and EUCAP Sahel Mali, which is training and advising the country’s police, gendarmerie and National Guard. The Eucap Sahel Mission, under the command of the German diplomat Albrecht Conze, is co-ordinating European aid to the region. Gunther Nooke, Angela Merkel’s representative to Africa, a Commissioner for Africa at the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, has proposed a “German Marshall Plan” for Africa to relieve a continent struggling with terrorist bands in the region coupled with a drought which is causing mass famine. However, no money is yet attached to such a plan.

WOMEN AND CHILDREN AWAITING AID IN MALI. (UNHCR IMAGE)

The US has its own strategic interests in fighting Islamic terrorists in the Sahel because they pose a major danger to US business interests in the area; a threat to political stability in Africa as a whole which has produced a human tide of refugees. Most importantly, terrorism in the Sahel produces a major source of revenue to the international terrorist structures of Al-Qaeda, Daesh and the myriad sub-groups of these in the Middle East as well as Africa.

The US has agreed to support the French and European efforts to fight terrorism in the Sahel but has been unwilling to commit US regular forces to fighting on the ground. It has offered training, equipment and Special Forces participation in military programs in the Sahel and frequently arranges mass exercises to make sure the trained remain so.

The U.S. Military Presence in Africa

The US is at war in Africa and has been so for many years. The US has had practical experience in African wars. America has been fighting wars in Africa since the 1950s – in Angola, the DRC, Somalia, the Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Morocco, Libya, Djibouti to name but a few countries.

In some countries they used US troops, but in most cases the US financed, armed and supervised the support of indigenous forces. In its support of the anti-MPLA forces in Angola it sent arms and equipment to the UNITA opposition. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Larry Devlin of the CIA was an unofficial Minister of Mobutu’s government; the US ran its own air force in the Congo at WIGMO.

US airmen supported the South African forces in Kwando, Fort Doppies and Encana bases in the Caprivi from WIGMO. At these bases one could also find soldiers from Southern Rhodesia (in their DC3s) and German, French, Portuguese and other NATO troops. One of the largest of these bases was at Wheelus Field, in Libya. Wheelus Air Base was located on the Mediterranean coast, just east of Tripoli, Libya. With its 4,600 Americans, the US Ambassador to Libya once called it “a Little America.” During the Korean War, Wheelus was used by the US Strategic Air Command, later becoming a primary training ground for NATO forces. Strategic Air Command bomber deployments to Wheelus began on 16 November 1950. SAC bombers conducted 45-day rotational deployments at this staging areas for strikes against the Soviet Union. Wheelus became a vital link in SAC war plans for use as a bomber, tanker refuelling and recon-fighter base. The US left in 1970.

Another giant U.S. base was Kagnew Field in Asmara. The base was established in 1943 as an Army radio station, home to the U.S. Army’s 4th Detachment of the Second Signal Service Battalion. Kagnew Station became home for over 5,000 American citizens at a time during its peak years of operation during the 1960s. Kagnew Station operated until April 29, 1977, when the last Americans left.

A PAIR OF AIRMEN RETURNING TO THE GROUND AFTER THEIR PLANE AT WHEELUS FIELD, LIBYA, 1957. THE AIRFIELD WAS USED TO TEST THE NEW TECHNOLOGIES FOR THE US MILITARY. (NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC IMAGE)

However, with the end of the Cold War, the US has found itself fighting a much more difficult and insidious war; the war with Al Qaeda. This is much less of a war that involves military might and prowess. It is a war against the spread of drug dealing, illicit diamonds, illicit gold, human trafficking and the sheltering of Salafists (Islamic militants) who use these methods to acquire cash which has sustained the Al Qaeda organisation and now Daesh throughout the world. It is a conflict between organised international crime and states seeking to maintain their legitimacy.

There are now several ‘narco-states’ in Africa. The first to fall was Guinea-Bissau where scores of Colombian Cartel leaders moved in to virtually take over the state. Every day an estimated one tonne of pure Colombian cocaine was thought to be transiting through the mainland’s mangrove swamps and the chain of islands that make up Guinea-Bissau, most of it en route to Europe. This was equally true of Guinea under President Lansana Conte whose wife (and her brother) was shown to be kingpins in the Guinean drug trade. Many in the National Army were compromised and active participants.

This drug trade has spread to Senegal, Togo, Ghana and Nigeria. There are very few jails anywhere in the world which are not home to West African ‘drug mules’ tried or awaiting trial or execution. This drug trade is spreading like wildfire in West Africa, offering rich remuneration to African leaders, generals or warlords well in excess of anything these Africans could hope to earn in normal commerce.

PRES. BILL CLINTON, THIES MILITARY BASE, SENEGAL, APRIL 1998, WITH US ARMY AFRICA CMDR. IN CHIEF GEN. JAMES JAMERSON.

According to a US Congressional Research Service Study published in November 2010, Washington has dispatched anywhere between hundreds and several thousand combat troops, dozens of fighter planes and warships to buttress client dictatorships or to unseat adversarial regimes in dozens of countries, almost on a yearly basis. The record shows the US armed forces intervened in Africa forty-seven times prior to the now-concluded LRA endeavour. The countries receiving one or more US military intervention include both Congos, Libya, Chad, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Rwanda, Liberia, Central African Republic, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Eritrea. Between the mid 1950’s to the end of the 1970’s, only four overt military operations were recorded, though large scale proxy and clandestine military operations were pervasive.

Under Reagan-Bush Sr. (1980-1991) military intervention accelerated, rising to eight, not counting the large scale clandestine ‘special forces’ and proxy wars in Southern Africa. Under the Clinton regime, US militarized intervention in Africa took off. Between 1992 and 2000, seventeen armed incursions took place, including a large-scale invasion of Somalia and military backing for the Rwandan Kagame regime. Clinton intervened in Liberia, Gabon, Congo and Sierra Leone to prop up long-standing troubled regimes. He bombed the Sudan and dispatched military personnel to Kenya and Ethiopia to back proxy clients assaulting Somalia. Under Bush Jr. fifteen US military interventions took place, mainly in Central and East Africa.

Most of the US’ African outreach is disproportionally built on military links to client military chiefs. The Pentagon has military ties with fifty-three African countries. The Bush Administration announced in 2002 that Africa was a “strategic priority in fighting terrorism”. Henceforth, US foreign policy strategists, with the backing of both liberal and neoconservative Congress members, moved to centralize and coordinate a military policy on a continent-wide basis forming the African Command (AFRICOM) and Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA). These organise African armies, euphemistically called “co-operative partnerships,” to support anti-terrorist activities in the continent. U.S. special operations teams are now deployed to 23 African countries and the U.S. operates bases across the continent.

A Ghanaian instructor gives a brief to U.S. Soldiers during  at the Jungle Warfare School in Akim Oda, Ghana May 20.

In his 2015 article for TomDispatch.com, Nick Turse disclosed that there are dozens of US military installations in Africa, besides Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti (the Main Operating Base). These numerous cooperative security locations (CSLs), forward operating locations (FOLs) and other outposts have been built by the US in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Senegal, the Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, and Uganda. According to Turse, the US military also had access to locations in Algeria, Botswana, Namibia, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, Zambia and other countries.

Gen. Charles F. Wald divided these into three types:

    • Main Operating Base (MOB) is an overseas, permanently manned, well protected base, used to support permanently deployed forces, and with robust sea and/or air access.
    • Forward Operating Site (FOS) is a scalable, “warm” facility that can support sustained operations, but with only a small permanent presence of support or contractor personnel. A FOS will host occasional rotational forces and many contain pre-positioned equipment.
    • Cooperative Security Location (CSL) is a host-nation facility with little or no permanent U.S. personnel presence, which may contain pre-positioned equipment and/or logistical arrangements and serve both for security cooperation activities and contingency access.

There are a large number of UAV bases as well.

AFRICOM’s two forward operating sites are Djibouti’s Camp Lemonnier and a base on the United Kingdom’s Ascension Island off the west coast of Africa. Described as “enduring locations” with a sustained troop presence and “U.S.-owned real property,” they serve as hubs for staging missions across the continent and for supplying the growing network of outposts there.

One of the most important of these bases is in Niamey, the capital of Niger, and nearby at Agadez, into which the U.S. has just spent $100 million on improvements. N’Djamena, in Chad, has been heavily used in the battle against Boko Haram.

AFRICOM’s Programs

The main thrust of AFRICOM programs involves the training and equipping of local forces. It engages in regular exercises with African armies and conducts JCET training programs. Most of these involve working alongside and mentoring local allies.

SOCAFRICA’s showcase effort, for instance, is Flintlock, an annual training exercise in Northwest Africa involving elite American, European, and African forces, which provides the command with a plethora of publicity. More than 1,700 military personnel from 30-plus nations took part in Flintlock 2016.

AMISOM TROOPS IN SOMALIA. AMISOM IS A COLLABORATION BETWEEN THE AFRICAN UNION, UN AND THE SOMALIAN GOVERNMENT. AMISOM’S 22,000 TROOPS ARE PRESENT TO FIGHT AL SHABAB, A EXTREMIST PARAMILITARY GROUP.

There are a wide range of programs in addition to the U.S. participation in various UN programs like AMISOM in Somalia:

Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Initiative/Partnership (formerly Pan Sahel Initiative) (TSCTI) – Targeting threats to US oil/natural gas operations in the Sahara region Algeria, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Senegal, Tunisia, Nigeria, and Libya.

Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance Program (ACOTA) (formerly African Crisis Response Initiative) (ACRI)) Part of “Global Peace” Operations Initiative (GPOI) – Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia.

International Military Training and Education (IMET) – Brings African military officers to US military academies and schools for indoctrination; Top countries: Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, and South Africa.

Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) (formerly Africa Center for Security Studies) – Part of National Defence University, Washington; provides indoctrination for “next generation” African military officers; this is the “School of the Americas” for Africa, all of Africa is covered.

Foreign Military Sales Program – Sells US military equipment to African nations via Defence Security Cooperation Agency; Top recipients: Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Zimbabwe.

African Coastal and Border Security Program – Provides fast patrol boats, vehicles, electronic surveillance equipment, night vision equipment to littoral states.

Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) – Military command based at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti; aimed at putting down rebellions in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Somaliland and targets Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti.

Joint Task Force Aztec Silence (JTFAS) – Targets terrorism in West and North Africa. Joint effort of EUCOM and Commander Sixth Fleet (Mediterranean); based in Sigonella, Sicily and Tamanrasset air base in southern Algeria; Gulf of Guinea Initiative, US Navy Maritime Partnership Program Trains African militaries in port and off-shore oil platform security; Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Congo-Brazzaville, Congo-Kinshasa, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Nigeria, Sao Tome & Principe, Togo.

Tripartite Plus Intelligence Fusion Cell – Based in Kisangani, DRC to oversee “regional security,” i.e. ensuring US and Israeli access to Congo’s gold, diamonds, uranium, platinum, and coltan; Congo-Kinshasa, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda.

Base access for Cooperative Security Locations (CSLs) and Forward Operating Locations (FOLs) – U.S. access to airbases and other facilities in Gabon, Kenya, Mali, Morocco, Tunisia, Namibia, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Uganda, Zambia, Algeria.

Africa Regional Peacekeeping (ARP) – Liaison with African “peacekeeping” military commands East Africa Regional Integration Team: Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, Kenya, Madagascar, Tanzania. North Africa Regional Integration Team: Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya. Central Africa Regional Integration Team: Congo (Kinshasa), Congo (Brazzaville), Chad.

Regional Integration Teams: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Angola. West Africa Regional Integration Team: Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Niger, Western Sahara.

Africa Partnership Station (APS) – Port visits by USS Fort McHenry and High Speed Vessel (HSV) Swift. Part of US Navy’s Global Fleet Station Initiative. Training and liaison with local military personnel to ensure oil production security Senegal, Liberia, Ghana, Cameroon, Gabon, Sao Tome & Principe.

Claiming that this was a battle against “terrorism” the French were able to pass on the costs of their reoccupation of their former colonies using European, UN and, mainly, US taxpayer money.

The U.S. Taxpayer Is Paying For French Neo-Colonialism

The U.S. military is engaged in over 34 nations in Africa in the fight against terrorism and the growth of the various Al-Qaeda and ISIL affiliates in the region. One of the key problems in conducting this ongoing battle is that the political situation in each francophone country is determined by the needs of Françafrique to keep their chosen President in power; not necessarily what Africans want. A good example is Mali, where the French intervened militarily in January 2013 to stop an uprising of various militant groups in the north.

As the price for this assistance, France signed a new defence agreement with Mali, which would allow it to maintain a considerable military presence in the country. The agreement’s eleven pages of mostly general statements say that French military troops and civil servants will be allowed to stay in Mali, build military bases, operate, if needed, with Malian troops, etc., for the next five years. The five years’ term, as written in the document, is renewable.

This was a great triumph for France. Ever since the inauguration of the first President of Mali, Modibo Keïta, Mali had resisted the military aspects of the Colonial Pact. The last French soldier departed Mali in 1961. Keita refused to sign the defence protocols. Keita didn’t allow French military bases or troops on Malian soil. Even after the French had him assassinated by Lt. Moussa Traore, the Malians continued to refuse the defence pact. Traore’s successors Alpha Oumar Konare and Amadou Toumany Toure also refused, despite huge diplomatic and economic pressure. The most France could get in Mali was a 1985 military cooperation accord which allowed France to give military training and technical assistance to Malian troops.

Now, after engaging French troops to fight the Islamic forces in the North, France took over military control of Mali. After having defeated the invaders, and chasing them out of Timbuktu and other northern cities, and disarming factions of the rebellions, the French military banned the Malian army from Kidal, the central city of the northern Azawad region. The territory is claimed by different rebel groups, but it is under the de facto control of the mainly Tuareg MNLA (National Movement for Liberation of the Azawad). France allowed the rebels to occupy the area, reorganise and later gain a place at the post-war negotiations table.

France has openly supported the MNLA for a long time and insisted they be a party to the negotiations with the Malian government who did not want to negotiate with the Tuareg rebels. Then the French put on the agenda the division of Mali into two parts, despite the Malian refusal. There was a short interval of peace before hostilities started again.

The French, realising they could no longer afford the military costs of the Malian war, persuaded the UN to send peacekeepers to Mali. In December 2013, France announced a 60% reduction in its troops deployed in Mali to 1,000 by March 2014. Interim peace deals were agreed but were quickly broken. By August 2016 there continued to be attacks on foreign forces. More than 100 peacekeepers have died since the UN mission’s deployment in Mali in 2013, making it one of the deadliest places to serve for the UN.

UN PEACEKEEPERS CARRY COFFINS AT BAMAKO, FEBRUARY 17, 2016, AT A TRIBUTE TO SEVEN GUINEAN UN SOLDIERS KILLED. (HABIBOU KOUYATE / AFP)

The French were satisfied that the bulk of the expenses for the capturing of Mali in the web of Françafrique were being paid for by the “international community” (the UN, the US, and ECOWAS). In 2015, the European Union also joined to promote France’s ambitions. France got its military pact with Mali and control of the country. This seemed such a good idea, France then expanded its ambitions to pursue the military options of Operation Barkhane based in Chad to cover Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger and make sure that the costs of this expansion of the reach of Françafrique were being passed on to the ‘international community’; the large part of which is the US taxpayer (directly and indirectly).

The same situation emerged in Niger and the Central African Republic. The French intervened militarily in domestic disputes which they created, and took over de facto control of the countries. Claiming that this was a battle against “terrorism” the French were able to pass on the costs of their reoccupation of their former colonies using European, UN and, mainly, US taxpayer money. Both African countries remain at war with domestic enemies in conflicts created by France and perpetuated by French policies towards reinstalling the rigours of Françafrique; all in the name of counter-terrorism. The UN, the EU and the U.S. don’t get a chance to decide who is the enemy in francophone Africa; this is decided by France. They only get to pay for it and use their military to train the soldiers who keep Françafrique in place.

Perhaps NATO will soon make it clear to the new Macron Government that the United States is capable of choosing its own enemies and, as in the time of DeGaulle, it is not in the business of preserving French neo-colonial rule on the continent.

*Dr. Gary K. Busch, originally did the article  for Lima Charlie News

Dr. Busch has had a varied career-as an international trades unionist, an academic, a businessman and a political intelligence consultant. He was a professor and Head of Department at the University of Hawaii and has been a visiting professor at several universities. He was the head of research in international affairs for a major U.S. trade union and Assistant General Secretary of an international union federation. His articles have appeared in the Economist Intelligence Unit, Wall Street Journal, WPROST, Pravda and several other news journals. He is the editor and publisher of the web-based news journal of international relations www.ocnus.net.

Lima Charlie provides global news, insight & analysis by military veterans and service members Worldwide.For up-to-date news, please follow them on twitter at @LimaCharlieNews

 

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Innovation is the key to keep Africa moving forward
June 22, 2017 | 0 Comments
Africa month recently reminded us of just how far we’ve come as a continent. Sthe Shabangu, Lead: Public Relations, Public Affairs and Corporate Citizenship, Samsung Africa Office urges leaders and innovators not to forget what still needs to be done.
Sthembile Shabangu, Public Relations, Public Affairs and Corporate Citizenship - Samsung Africa Office

Sthembile Shabangu, Public Relations, Public Affairs and Corporate Citizenship – Samsung Africa Office

NAIROBI, Kenya, 20 June 2017, -/African Media Agency (AMA)/- In the wake of Africa month it’s easy to be proud of all that we are achieving as a continent. According to the African Development Bank, Africa is the continent with the world’s second fastest growing economy.

There’s little doubt that our vibrant continent is making great strides towards a bright future, with our economy expected to grow by 3.4% in 2017 and 4.3% in 2018, according to research in the African Outlook Report.

Children are being left behind
But the 110 million children in Africa who, according to the Internet for Education in Africa report, have never seen the inside of a classroom would likely tell us that it’s not enough – and they would be right.

Children across Africa’s rural communities are being left behind – and with more than 70% of the continent’s population living in rural areas, this is a major problem. The same report shows that at least half the population resides more than 25km from the nearest fibre connection. It’s clear that while we may be celebrating the growth of connectivity in cities, last-mile connectivity is still a major stumbling block.

Many diseases; few doctors
Education is not the only challenge that requires our urgent attention. Equally troubling and of no less importance is the healthcare sector. With serious diseases like Ebola, malaria, cholera, meningitis and HIV/AIDS still threatening a great number of African lives, we have our work cut out for us. In fact, Brand South Africa reports that while Africa shoulders one quarter of the global disease burden, it is home to just 2% of the world’s doctors.

Despite the serious situation, Africa’s health care systems still lack the capacity to research, produce and deploy the health care solutions we so desperately need.

This issue was highlighted at the recent World Economic Forum Africa Summit, where it became evident that the private sector will play a vital role in improving healthcare on the continent. It is in the private sector that the resources to invest in people and product development exist.

Changing lives one Digital Village at a time
As Samsung has discovered first hand, each investment, whether in education or health care or perhaps even both, has the potential to transform hundreds of lives at a time.

Just last year we partnered with UNESCO in Tanzania to provide innovative education and healthcare solutions to the Maasai community in Ololosokwan, Ngorongoro.

Together, we established a multi-donor programme comprised of a Samsung Solar-Powered Internet School, a Samsung Solar-Powered Health Centre, a Solar-Powered Tele-Medicine Centre and a Solar-Powered generator.

While the Internet School contains an interactive whiteboard, Samsung Galaxy Note PCs and a printer, the Health Centre provides a variety of eye, ear, blood, dental and pre- and post-natal screening and treatments. The Tele-Medicine Centre, on the other hand, provides prescription and expert healthcare assistance through the use of tele-conferencing made possible by the internet and Samsung Tablets, ultimately enabling greater access to qualified medical assistance where before there was none.

Samsung also launched West Africa’s first digital village in Volo in the Volta region of Ghana, where it is partnering with government, local health services and international stakeholders including UNESCO.

Similar to the initiative in Tanzania, the Village is comprised of a Solar-Powered Internet School, Solar-Powered Tele-Medical Centre, Solar-Powered Health Centre and Solar-Powered Generator.

Not only is the Village instrumental to the improvement of healthcare and education in the region but it also helps local traders to develop their businesses through the aid of an alternative, low-cost energy source.

Through innovations like these, we believe it’s possible to start changing the status quo. We established a similar Digital Village in the community of Matshiding in Mpumlanga with the goal of making healthcare accessible to more people.

Because the Village drastically reduces the distance that patients have to travel to access medical care, almost 700 patients visit the Village each month to access basic healthcare services.

It’s true that we still have a great deal of work to do if we want to see our incredible continent continue on its path of transformation, but I firmly believe that the key to our success lies in the power of innovation.

Indeed Samsung’s innovations have been changing millions of lives since we first set foot in Africa many years ago. The drive to serve as a catalyst for transformation across the continent is in our DNA. And just as it’s been our mandate to inspire innovation in Africa, so Africa has inspired us.

When it comes to innovation, the limits to what we as a dynamic and developing continent can achieve are few. We have only to look to ourselves.

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of Samsung Electronics.

About Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.
Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. inspires the world and shapes the future with transformative ideas and technologies. The company is redefining the worlds of TVs, smartphones, wearable devices, tablets, cameras, digital appliances, medical equipment, network systems, and semiconductor and LED solutions.
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Heated words as EU tries to limit Africa migration
June 22, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Eszter Zalan and Andrew Rettman*

Mogherini said deportees from Libya freely “chose” to go home

Mogherini said deportees from Libya freely "chose" to go home (Photo: ECHO/M.Eick)

Mogherini said deportees from Libya freely “chose” to go home (Photo: ECHO/M.Eick)

EU efforts to reduce the amount of migrants coming from Africa are seeing “first results”, amid flaring political tension on immigration.

The numbers of people in transit in Niger had fallen drastically and voluntary deportations from Libya had more than doubled thanks to EU projects, Federica Mogherini, the head of the EU foreign service, said in Luxembourg on Monday (19 June).

There were 5,000 people in Niger in May en route, most likely, to the EU, compared to 70,000 in the same month last year, she said.

The EU, the International Migration Organisation (IOM), and the UN had also sent 4,500 people back home from Libya in the first few months of this year compared to 2,000 in all of last year.

Mogherini said the deportees freely “chose” to go home and that the EU gave them logistical and financial support.

She added that the Libyan coastguard, with the help of EU advisors and boats, had recently rescued 16,000 migrants at sea.

The EU programmes in Africa and the Middle East come amid divisions in Europe on how to handle the situation.
Heated exchange with Germany

Foreign ministers from Austria and Hungary held a heated exchange on the issue with “a large EU country” at the EU meeting on Tuesday, Hungary’s Peter Szjiiarto told press afterward.

Szjiiarto, who was alluding to Germany, said it wanted to focus on refugee reception while they wanted to focus on security.

He said irregular migration from Africa and the Middle East must “stop” and that people who wanted to live in the EU should be screened at centres in the region instead of in Greece or Italy.

“Just imagine how many people’s lives could have been saved” if that had already been the case, he said, making a link between the refugees and terrorist attacks in the EU.

Austria’s Sebastian Kurz said: “The Mediterranean-Italy route must be closed to stop illegal migration”.

The Swiss-based IOM says 77,004 people came to the EU via the Mediterranean this year up to 14 June, compared to over 214,000 in the same period last year.

Another 1,828 people died en route, compared to 2,909 in the period last year.

The majority of current migrants, 65,450, were Africans going via Libya to Italy, while 7,967 were mostly Syrians and Iraqis going via Turkey to Greece.

‘Advice and assist’ mission

Germany has taken in the most migrants in the EU and supports mandatory quotas for burden-sharing with Greece and Italy.

But Hungary, together with the Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia, has boycotted the EU migrant quotas, amid legal action in the EU court in Luxembourg and by the European Commission.

The EU on Monday attributed the new numbers in Niger and Libya to a mixed bag of projects in Africa and the Middle East.

These include so called migration compacts with five African states – Nigeria, Niger, Senegal, Ethiopia, and Mali – which tie EU aid and trade to stemming flows of people.

They also include EU-funded security missions in Mali and Iraq designed to stabilise the countries and curb smuggling as well as humanitarian aid for refugees in Syria.

Mogherini said on Monday that the EU foreign service would consider the deployment of an “advice and assist” mission to work on reform of Iraqi security services “rapidly, within the coming months”.

*Source  EU Obaserver

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CCA U.S.-Africa Business Summit Spotlights African Business in Washington DC
June 21, 2017 | 0 Comments

-Business Summit hosted in Washington DC from June 13-16, 2017.

The 2017 Summit focused on the “U.S. Stake in Africa” and aimed to shape and promote effective U.S.-Africa trade and investment policies under the Trump Administration. Honorable Wilbur Ross, U.S. Secretary of Commerce, President Filipe Nyusi of Mozambique, and Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) were some of the high-level public sector participants who advocated for greater U.S.-Africa trade and investment.

CCA hosted a prelude to the 2017 U.S.-Africa Business Summit in Washington, DC on June 13 on Capitol Hill with a Congressional Dialogue on Africa which featured House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce and Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa Karen Bass.

Dr. Jeffrey Sturchio, CCA’s Chairman of the Board and CEO of Rabin Martin, officially opened and welcomed participants to the Summit on June 14. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross delivered the keynote address encouraging U.S.-Africa bilateral trade agreements. “The critical question that decision makers in Africa, including many of you, must ask is this: As these upward growth trends continue, with what types of partners do you want to collaborate?” said Sec. Ross during his keynote remarks, “I believe that, the more African nations partner with U.S. businesses, the better off both the United States and Africa will be.” Sec. Ross stressed the importance of bilateral trade agreements over larger multilateral agreements and the Trump administration’s stance on compliance with eligibility requirements for agreements such as AGOA.

Other speakers including President Filipe Nyusi called for greater U.S. investment and partnership in and with Africa, but President Nyusi stressed the need for diverse investors in industries such as tourism and agribusiness. “It easier to enumerate what is not grown in my country rather than list what is produced. Mozambique can almost grow everything,” said President Nyusi. “We urge and encourage the American business people to take advantage of the enabling business environment, and investment opportunities and potential that exist in Mozambique to diversify their interventions.”

The AfDB President, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina also emphasized the importance of U.S.-Africa partnerships. Dr. Adesina pushed for the U.S.-Africa business relationship to go beyond trade, to investment. “Africa offers you all ‘The Deal of the Century’, and America should not be left behind,” said Dr. Adesina. “Think of a continent where household expenditures will rise to $1.4 trillion in the next three years. Think of the continent where business to business investments will rise to $3.5 trillion in the next eight years. Think of the continent where the population by 2050 will be the same as India and China taken together today. Think of the continent that will brim with huge demand from a rising youth population that will reach 840 million by 2050, all buying and owning consumer products.”

As the leading U.S. business association solely focused on U.S.-Africa trade and investment, the sessions at CCA’s biennial signature event – the U.S.-Africa Business Summit – primarily featured private sector solutions and how public sector actors could support business through an enabling environment. More than 140 speakers including leading private sector executives across CCA’s core sectors discussed challenges and opportunities related to the theme of the conference.”The Summit provided one of the first opportunities and an excellent platform for African leaders, U.S. and African CEOs and other stakeholders to engage with the Trump Administration on the important issues impacting the U.S.-Africa economic relationship” said Florie Liser, CCA’s President and CEO.

Regional integration on the continent was also a strong underlying theme throughout the Summit. ECOWAS President H.E. Marcel de Souza and Liser signed an MoU to facilitate business in the West African region. ECOWAS, which covers 15 countries and includes some 340 million people, is an excellent partner for CCA and its many member companies interested in expanding business ventures in West Africa, said ECOWAS President De Souza. CCA President and CEO Florie Liser noted that “under this MOU, CCA and the ECOWAS Secretariat will be working together to help both U.S. and African companies operating in ECOWAS countries by improving the doing business environment and, among other things, organizing trade and reverse trade missions.

The 2017 U.S.-Africa Business Summit was proudly sponsored by leading American and African businesses and organizations including: Chevron Corporation; ExxonMobil Corporation; Zenith Bank; Acrow Bridge; General Electric; AGCO Corporation; AllAfrica Global Media; Petrolin Group; Procter & Gamble; Anadarko Petroleum Corporation; The Boeing Company; Caterpillar, Inc.; DAI; Development Finance International, Inc.; Fairfax Africa Fund; Philip Morris International; Varian Medical Systems; Visa, Inc.; East Africa Trade Hub; South African Airways; Covington and Burling LLP; and Manchester Trade Limited.

About Corporate Council on Africa (CCA)
Corporate Council on Africa is the leading U.S business association focused solely on connecting business interests between the United States and Africa. CCA uniquely represents a broad cross section of member companies from small and medium size businesses to multinationals as well as U.S and African firms. Learn more at www.corporatecouncilonafrica.com

Media Contact:
Michaela Ehimika
mehimika@corporatecouncilonafrica.com
202-263-3531

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Africa Could Help Feed the World – If Its Fertile Land Doesn’t Vanish
June 19, 2017 | 0 Comments

Photo: Mujahid Safodien/IRIN

Photo: Mujahid Safodien/IRIN

Ouagadougou — The 23rd World Day to Combat Desertification was celebrated in Burkina Faso’s capital of Ouagadougou on June 15 with a call to create two million jobs and restore 10 million hectares of degraded land.

Three African heads of state took part in the celebrations: Ibrahim Boubacar Kéita from Mali, Mahamadou Issoufou from Niger and Roch Kaboré from Burkina Faso. The Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Monique Barbut also attended the event.

Two-thirds of the African continent is desert or drylands, and nearly 75 percent of agricultural land is estimated to be degraded to varying degrees.

According to the UNCCD, two-thirds of the African continent is desert or drylands. This land is vital for agriculture and food production, but nearly 75 percent is estimated to be degraded to varying degrees.

The region is also affected by frequent and severe droughts, which have been particularly devastating in recent years in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel.

“Degraded lands is not an inevitable fate. Restoration is still possible. However, what will be more difficult is to feed 10 billion human beings in 30 years. The only place where there are still lands to do that is Africa. We need these lands to feed the whole planet. Therefore restoring lands is assuring food security for the whole planet,” said Barbut.

The high-level meeting that gathered 400 experts from around the world ended in the Call from Ouagadougou, urging citizens and governments to tackle desertification by restoring ten million hectares of land and by creating two million green jobs for youth, women and migrants.

“By 2050, the African population will double to two billion people,” Barbut noted. “I fear that as the population depends up to 80 percent on natural resources for their livelihoods, those resources will vanish given the great pressure on them.”

She added that young people emerging from this demographic growth will need decent jobs.

“In the next 15 years, 375 million young people will be entering the job market in Africa. Two hundred million of them will live in rural areas and 60 million will be obliged to leave those areas because of the pressure on natural resources.”

 According to UNCCD, it is critical to enact policies that enable young people to own and rehabilitate degraded land, as there are nearly 500 million hectares of once fertile agricultural land that have been abandoned.

Talking specifically about Burkina Faso, which hosted the celebration, Batio Nestor Bassiere, the minister in charge of environmental issues, said, “From 2002 to 2013, 5.16 million hectares, 19 percent of the country’s territory, has been degraded by desertification.”

The situation is similar in most African countries. That’s why “it’s nonsense to sit and watch that happening without acting, given that the means for action are available,” said Barbut.

The Call from Ouagadougou comes from a common willingness to save the planet and Africa particularly from desertification. Gathered to discuss the topic “Our land, our house, our future,” linked to the fulfillment of the 3S Initiative (sustainability, stability, and security in Africa), the Call from Ouagadougou also invites African countries to create conditions for the development of new job opportunities by targeting the places where the access to land can be reinforced and land rights secured for vulnerable populations.

Development partners and other actors have also been called on to give their contributions. They were invited to help African countries to invest in rural infrastructure, land restoration, and the development of skills in chosen areas and among those facing migration and social risks.

For that, the UN agency in charge of the fight against desertification and its partners can rely on the firm support of the three heads of state who came for this 23rd World Day to Combat Desertification.

The President of Burkina Faso Roch Kaboré let the audience know that they are all “engaged to promote regional and global partnerships to find funds for investment in lands restoration and long term land management, wherever they will have opportunities to speak.”

Representing the African Union, Ahmed Elmekaa, Director, African Union/SAFGRAD, said drawing attention to the resolutions of desertification, land degradation and drought and on climate change are at the top of the African Union’s environmental agenda.

Taking advantage of the celebration, the national authorities gave the name of the very first executive secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, Hama Arba Diallo, to a street of the capital Ouagadougou. Experts from many countries also had the opportunity to visit sites showing the experience of Burkina Faso in combating desertification.

At a dinner ceremony held immediately following the closure of the ceremony, the UNCCD announced the winners of the Land for Life Award, Practical Action Sudan/UNEP from Sudan; Watershed Organization Trust from India. The Land for Life China award was given to Yingzhen Pan, Director General of National Bureau to Combat Desertification, China.

*IPS/Allafrica

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Why do opposition coalitions succeed or fail?
June 15, 2017 | 0 Comments

Some sweep to power. Many more crumble. Why? And which way will Zimbabwe’s 2018 coalition go?

BY NICOLE BEARDSWORTH*

Morgan Tsvangirai and Joice Mujuru join hands in a bid to win the 2018 elections in Zimbabwe.

Morgan Tsvangirai and Joice Mujuru join hands in a bid to win the 2018 elections in Zimbabwe.

For the past two decades, the phenomenon of the opposition coalition has gained growing traction and interest across Africa.

In 2000, a group of opposition parties in Senegal joined forces as the Sopi (or “Change”) alliance. Together, they defeated the incumbent president and ended 40 years of one-party dominance.

In 2002, Kenya’s opposition repeated the trick. In the 1992 and 1997 elections, losing parties had cumulatively gained over 60% of the vote. But this time around, they grouped together as the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC). This united opposition swept to power, removing the party that had governed Kenya since 1963.

Since then, pre-electoral coalitions have changed governments again in Senegal, as well as in Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Nigeria and The Gambia.

When elections are held in 2018, Zimbabwe hopes to join this growing list.

Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDC-T) and Joice Mujuru’s National People’s Party (NPP) have agreed – in principle – to team up. A host of other opposition parties have also provisionally joined, including: Welshman Ncube’s MDC, Dumiso Dabengwa’s Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU), Simba Makoni’s Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn (MKD), Tendai Biti’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and Elton Mangoma’s Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe (RDZ).

This would be a broad and impressive coalition, bringing together many well-known faces and politicians who have electoral support outside of traditional opposition strongholds. But for every successful opposition alliance Africa has seen, there have been several more that have crumbled after early optimism or fallen flat at the ballot box.

Why do coalitions sometimes become more than the sum of their parts and generate a huge surge of support? Why do they often fragment and collapse?

Fighting each other vs. fighting together

One crucial indicator of whether an opposition coalition will succeed is how polarised the political landscape is. This can determine the degree to which parties are able to join forces coherently and without undermining their own reputation and principles.

According to political scientist Nicolas Van de Walle, opposition coalitions only work when they appear capable of winning and thus prompt members of the ruling party to defect. These defectors not only bolster the ranks of the opposition, but can bring supporters with them and sway undecided voters.

Ahead of Nigeria’s 2015 elections, for example, the All Progressives Congress was significantly strengthened by mass defections from the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Similarly, in Zambia in 2016, dozens of defectors from the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) and Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) drastically improved the electoral fortunes of the United Party for National Development (UPND).

However, this strategy is not straightforward. To begin with, it can be difficult to encourage members of the ruling party to cross the aisle. And when they do, it can be tough to persuade opposition supporters to vote for someone who was, until recently, part of the government.

The more deeply polarised the political landscape, the harder this is.

Uganda, for example, is at the other end of the spectrum to Nigeria or Zambia where defections are not particularly costly. In Uganda, the main opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) has long defined itself in stark contrast to the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM). It emphasises the persecution it has experienced at the hands of the ruling party, which it characterises as illegitimate and unjust.

This makes it hard for the FDC to encourage defections from the NRM, which it consistently attacks in no uncertain terms. Moreover, when figures within the ruling party do defect, it can be risky for the FDC to bring them into the fold without undermining its own image.

In 2016, the FDC faced a dilemma when the opposition alliance it was part of voted for the recently-expelled former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi to be its flag-bearer. The FDC was confronted with the prospect of backing a former insider in the very government it had long denounced. Afraid of alienating its base and diluting its anti-regime brand, the FDC decided to leave the coalition.

When it comes to Zimbabwe, the environment looks similarly polarised, especially between the main opposition MDC-T and the ruling ZANU-PF. The MDC-T claims to be the democratic saviour to the ZANU-PF’s illegitimate authoritarianism; ZANU-PF presents itself as the liberator hero to the MDC-T’s foreign subservience.

But unlike the FDC in Uganda, the MDC-T seems to be – at least in principle – less averse to allying with the long-standing government insider, Joice Mujuru. Nevertheless, the fundamental irreconcilability between the images of the MDC-T and ZANU-PF brings a certain riskiness to this decision. What does it say about the vociferous opposition party that it now says it is prepared to stand alongside a former ZANU-PF stalwart and vice-president? How will its supporters react?

In Zimbabwe, however, there are added complications arising from the fact that the hostile political climate also stretches to relations between some opposition parties. The MDC-T, for example, has used polarising rhetoric not just to condemn the ruling party, but also to criticise the opposition groups that emerged from a split in 2005. Tsvangirai’s faction branded this MDC breakaway as “sell outs” and “traitors”.

This rhetoric made attempts at a rapprochement in 2008 and 2013 more difficult. It will also make joining forces trickier ahead of 2018, especially given that many opposition groups have splintered even further since then. The PDP, for example, is the result another split in the MDC-T from when Tendai Biti walked out in 2014. And the ZRD is the result of fissure in the PDP.

It can be difficult to build stable and effective structures when so many bridges have been burned.

Who will lead the coalition?

The main hurdle at which most opposition coalitions fall is in picking its leader. This contest is often keenly fought, particularly since the benefits of the presidency are so great in most African countries.

The decision of who should be the figurehead is least contentious when there are recent and reliable indicators of party strength, such as the results of parliamentary by-elections. With this data, it is more straightforward to work out which candidate has the most recognition and support.

However, this kind of information doesn’t guarantee an easy process. In Zambia, for example, the opposition UPND won a series of unexpected by-elections victories between 2011 and 2016. Its candidate Hakainde Hichilema also garnered 46.7% of the vote in the 2015 presidential by-election, losing by just 27 000 votes.

Nevertheless in 2016, when the UPND tried to form a coalition with opposition leader Edith Nawakwi – who got 0.9% in 2015 – Nawakwi insisted that she should lead the alliance. She said that she had supported Hichilema in a 2006 coalition and that now it was his turn to support her. The parties went their separate ways.

In Uganda 2016, the choice of who should head up the coalition was also a source of disagreement and ended up breaking apart the alliance. In this instance, the uncertainty over the relative popularity of the two potential candidates made it harder to judge who would be the best-placed candidate.

The FDC’s Kizza Besigye had the broadest national reach and most organised structures, but had not surpassed 37% in three previous presidential runs. Meanwhile, former PM Mbabazi was an unknown quantity as an opposition figure, but was well-known nationally and had insider knowledge about the ruling party’s election strategies. When Mbabazi was chosen, the FDC refused to back him and left, leading to the breakdown of the coalition.

Zimbabwe’s nascent coalition is now in a similar situation. Tsvangirai is a veteran opposition figure with a proven track record of mobilising supporters, while Mujuru is an untested but well-known former ruling party insider with support in ruling party strongholds and close contacts in the intelligence services and police. It is uncertain which figure would draw the most voters and which will prevail in the contest to lead the coalition.

In terms of measuring the MDC-T’s support, the series of splits and a three-year electoral boycott make it difficult to judge. But the 2017 Afrobarometer survey suggests that the opposition has lost ground since the 2013 elections, when Tsvangirai got just 34% of the vote. According to the study, the opposition is trusted by just 32% of the population, compared to 65% who trust the president and 56% the ruling party.

This may give more ammunition to those who’d prefer to see Mujuru as the flag-bearer. But it remains to be seen if the MDC-T would accept this outcome, or make the same decision as the FDC in Uganda.

Keeping the lower ranks happy

However, it is not just the leader of the coalition that matters. Political parties are comprised of hundreds of functionaries with their own ambitions and goals, and alliances frequently collapse as a result of vested interests at lower party echelons.

Ahead of Zambia’s 2011 elections, for example, a pact between the two largest opposition parties at the time – the UPND and the Patriotic Front (PF) – was apparently scuppered by PF Secretary-General Wynter Kabimba. Kabimba had his own presidential ambitions and knew that he would be pushed down the pecking order under a coalition.

A similar thing happened in Zimbabwe in 2013. In that situation, two of Tsvangirai’s inner circle that reportedly opposed a coalition with the breakaway MDC due to fears of losing their own positions in the hierarchy.

These concerns also arise around parliamentary races. Opposition parties that typically compete for the same seats face much more internal resistance to coalitions than those with different, complimentary constituencies.

In Kenya, for example, coalitions are frequently formed between relatively geographically contained, ethnic-based parties. Because the parties within these groupings – such as the recently formed National Super Alliance – rarely compete for the same seats, coalitions in Kenya face relatively little resistance from the lower ranks.

By contrast, negotiations between the two MDC factions in Zimbabwe in 2007 ultimately failed, partly because the MDC-T insisted on contesting two seats held by the other party in the opposition’s shared stronghold in Matabeleland. Both sides refused to back down.

Ahead of 2018, Zimbabwe’s opposition groups will face these discussions once again. But it is possible that they will be easier this time around. Because of repeated fragmentation, many of the resulting parties looking to form a coalition are smaller and newer.

This may mean that they are less able to make strong demands. It may also mean that negotiations are more about bringing party leaders on board than appeasing each grouping’s structures. Because of this, the talks may bypass complex internal party dynamics and side-step vested interests lower down the party chain.

Zimbabwe 2018: Can a coalition win?

While 45% of Zimbabweans polled by Afrobarometer expressed support for the idea of an opposition coalition, there are still many answered questions and tricky challenges facing the nascent coalition in the run up to 2018.

Can the animosity between different factions be put aside? Will opposition supporters accept the inclusion of Mujuru, a decades-long ZANU-PF insider?

How will the presidential candidate be picked, based on what calculations and agreements? And how will those less pleased by the choice react?

Will a coalition deal involve running joint candidates in each constituency? And if so, how will those asked to shelve their ambitions respond?

These are tricky questions. But in many ways, they are just the start. Even once these dilemmas are resolved, there is still the ultimate question of whether even a perfectly-coherent and functional opposition coalition has much chance of winning. Bringing together a range of opposition parties is the first step in defeating the ruling party, not the final blow.

On this front, the prospects for the opposition in Zimbabwe do not look particularly rosy.

Trust in the opposition is low. Old methods of party mobilisation using organised labour are no longer an option given skyrocketing unemployment and informal livelihoods. And the impact of new social movements – such as #ThisFlag and #Tajamuka – is likely limited given that they are predominantly urban-based.

Meanwhile, ZANU-PF has shifted into election mode, doling out urban land in an effort to shore up support and turning the screws on vocal opponents. The ruling party may be riven with internal factionalism, but it’s unclear if the opposition can turn this to their advantage.

The MDC-T remains the most organised opposition party with the largest organisational reach. If it could make it work, a broad coalition would bolster its ranks and could give it further appeal. But there remain serious concerns in the opposition including poor strategic thinking, complacency, a tendency towards authoritarianism and internal fractionalisation.

Even if the 2018 vote is a straightforward contest between a ruling party and a truly united opposition, the election is still likely to be one of fairly poor choices.

*African Arguments

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Multinationals Leading Quest To Adopt Continent’s web address Dot Africa
June 14, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Jean –Pierre Afadhali

Lucky Masilela

Lucky Masilela

Multinationals are leading the quest to adopt Dot Africa, the continent’s web address that was recently delegated to a South African company.

Africa’s web address was unveiled early this year to give the continent an online identity, following the delegation by the worldwide web administrator, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names & Numbers (ICANN).

In an exclusive interview with PanafricanVisions at Africa Internet Summit held recently in Nairobi,Kenya ;Mr. Lucky Masilela ,CEO of ZA Central Registry NPC (ZACR), the company that manages the web address; revealed over 760 multinationals have applied for Africa’s cyberspace name as of 29 May.

“We are quite happy, this is the highest of domain names sold during sunrise in the world,” said Mr. Masilela

The “record” was not independently verified, but the launch phase of domain registration known as’ sunrise’ allows companies that hold intellectual properties of their brand names to pre-register names that are the same to their trademark in order to avoid Internet names’ theft.

The period that ended on the 2nd June saw international brands including names such as BMW and Apple register the Africa’s web name to show their presence on the continent market.

According to Masilela, South African companies followed in acquiring DotAfrica.

The current phase known as ‘Landrush’ is meant for premium high value names, meaning names that can be commercialized.

“For instance ‘Banks.Africa’ can be applied to get all banks under that domain names,” explained the CEO of ZACR ,the company that runs Africa’s web address through its subsidiary called Registry Africa Ltd, adding that other high value names includes domain names with short characters.

ZACR said the price for a domain name for a year will be less than 20 dollars the wholesale.

“Your registrar will put some other services like hosting and it goes to 25-30 dollars but for us we are selling to registrars at a wholesale price,” he noted

While getting more organizations to register their brand under the recently launched Africa’s web name is a milestone; it appears there is still a long way to go to convince more African companies and others organizations that operate on the continent to adopt the internet name.

“For us it is a journey,” said Masilela “It is going to take a lot to convince them (businesses)”

“We need to provision this name to the African community that they need to trust this name,”

According to internet marketing experts, the Africa’s domain name will help companies operating in Africa to market their business online, allowing them to brand their pan African market presence.

“We are going to be visiting different countries and work with local registrars to ensure that there is uptake of the name,” revealed the CEO who was attending Africa Internet Summit.

General Availability will commence on 4 July 2017, and this is when the general public can apply for their .Africa domain names.

During this phase any organization or business can apply Africa’s Internet name.

“It is the market open for anybody including myself, I can go and apply the name,” Mr Masilela explained, adding it is first come and first served stage!

According to the South African Internet Company, all these phases are meant to avoid Intellectual properties rights conflicts, amid increasing domain names theft in the cyberspace.

The South Africa Company has signed an agreement with African Union to use undisclosed amount of revenues generated from the commercialization of DotAfrica, in financing the continent ICT development projects.

 

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AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT BANK In India
June 11, 2017 | 0 Comments

Bow ties, flashing smiles and the big sell 9th June 2017

African Development Bank president Akinwumi Adesina and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi

African Development Bank president Akinwumi Adesina and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Africa’s biggest bank takes its annual meeting to India as it courts new investors and seeks a massive capital increase The worst is behind us, it is time to invest. That mood music – for the presidents, prime ministers, finance ministers, bankers and chief executives – played throughout the African Development Bank’s annual meeting in Gandhinagar, near Ahmedabad, on 23-25 May.

Master of ceremonies was the AfDB’s ever upbeat President, Akinwumi Adesina, whose team clearly picked the right host city this year. With Europe and the United States distracted by crises nearer to home, India’s government and companies are bullish on Africa. India’s business-minded Prime Minister and relentless national booster, Narendra Modi, wants to build on the fast-growing trade ties with the continent (AC Vol 58 No 2, Global shocks, local differences).

Modi’s diplomatic air miles rival those of China’s President Xi Jinping (AC Vol 57 No 8, Economy thwarts Buhari). ‘Since 2015, I have visited six African countries, South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, Mauritius and Seychelles,’ Modi said when opening the meeting. ‘Our President has visited three countries, Namibia, Ghana and Ivory Coast. The Vice-President visited seven countries, Morocco, Tunisia, Nigeria, Mali, Algeria, Rwanda and Uganda.

I am proud to say that there is no country in Africa that has not been visited by an Indian minister in the last three years.’ As New Delhi and Beijing well know but many Europeans seem to have forgotten, much of African diplomacy is about showing up. India’s rising Africa enthusiasms helped Adesina’s project. The Nigerian former Agriculture Minister wants investors and Bank shareholders to share his view that Africa is heading for another growth surge. Only then can he push through his expansion plans for the AfDB.

They include a capital increase, a hard sell at the best of times. The AfDB struggled to get financing for its concessional lending arm, the African Development Fund, last year. These are not the worst of times but they remain fragile (see African economy Feature, The great growth divide). The African Economic Outlook, launched at this meeting, forecast growth of 3.4% in 2017; it had fallen to 2.2% last year, its lowest in decades. Commodity prices have stopped sliding but are by no means robust. High five

The AfDB’s new investment agenda, summed up as the ‘high-five’ (power, agriculture, regional integration, industrialisation and quality of life) is clearer than last year. The Bank had a record 2016: disbursements hit $6.5 billion; approvals, $12.5 bn. Each AfDB dollar disbursed has a fourfold multiplier effect, says Adesina. The Bank is ramping up guarantees for investors in risky-looking infrastructure projects. Its private equity infrastructure outfit, called Africa 50, has mobilised $854 million and aims for $1 bn. by December.

regional governors are sceptical, though. Some talk about inconsistencies in the financial reporting. Others say the Bank is not getting value for money from its proposed investments. They cite former AfDB head Babacar Ndiaye’s ambitious expansion of the AfDB in the 1990s, which provoked bitter political disputes and the bank losing its AAA credit rating (AC Vol 37 No 7, Funding fall-off). Others gripe about management. A new set of directors has been recruited but there have been high-profile exits, such as Senior Vice-President Frannie Leautier from Tanzania and Senegalese Communications Director Ismaila Dieng. A large cohort of Nigerians has arrived in the Bank. ‘Some of them are on American or South African passports. We are being ignored,’ complained a senior Bank official from a small African country. However, Adesina’s focus on agriculture could pay off handsomely.

His proselytising for farmers fitted well with the tours showcasing India’s agricultural revolution. The AfDB’s quiet espousal of industrial policy – still anathema to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund – continues. The former Chief Economist at the World Bank, China’s Justin Lin, and the AfDB’s new Chief Economist, Célestin Monga of Cameroon, argued at their joint book launch for a new generation of special economic zones, to strengthen local companies (AC Vol 49 No 6, The people versus Biya). ‘Industrial policy doesn’t have to be just linked to manufacturing,’ explains Ethiopia’s Abebe Shimeles Abebe, acting Director of the AfDB Research Department. India’s agro-processing sector is an example.

When Modi was Chief Minister of Gujarat State, of which Gandhinagar is now the capital, there was a relentless pursuit of growth, sometimes at the expense of political accountability. Modi’s brand of populism and high-growth economics propelled him to the prime minister’s office. Much of his success lay in administrative competence although Gujarat’s double-figure growth reflected an upturn across the entire country. A professor at the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad, Anil Kumar Gupta, says Modi’s efforts to raise the productivity of small farmers underpinned the state’s growth, particularly the building of small dams and irrigation systems.

Under Modi, some 45% of land was irrigated, a 15% improvement, and many more farmers prospered, spreading their wealth into far-flung villages. African delegates examined India’s latest farm technology in an exhibition hall next to the Bank meeting. They included a system of solar panels linked to water pumps – roughly $1,500 for a 1HP pump, enough to irrigate a hectare. Subsidised by the national government for 50% of the cost and 40% by the state government, the farmer has to pay just $150. It allows farmers to grow several crops a year and control it with an application on a mobile phone. ‘Fashionomics’

Replete with his signature bow-tie, Adesina spoke of the need to change mindsets in farming: ‘We need to make agriculture the coolest thing for the youth.’ Stars of India’s film industry, ‘Bollywood’, and Nigeria’s ‘Nollywood’ took the stage together for a session of ‘Fashionomics’. Their mind-bending mission was to describe – in a star-studded drama – the chain of production, from high fashion to the textile industry and then to the cotton growers. Next, Ghana’s former President, John Mahama, joined a chorus of young African ‘agripreneurs’ on stage to explain that agriculture is serious business.

The way, says Mahama, to show that agriculture is cool, is to ‘show that you can make serious money’. There are other Indian policies that Africa might imitate. For the Chief Executive Officer of the Nairobi-based African Guarantee Fund, Felix Adahi Bikpo, the advantage of coming to Ahmedabad was that the chaos and colour and mass poverty visible from the road reminds African delegations that India has much in common with the continent. ‘It is not so different from back home, and yet they have power, they are building.’ Modi rocked India with his ‘demonetisation’ policy: to move the country away from a cash economy and towards a formal banking sector. Over 250 million free bank accounts were created with biometric identity cards, allowing more accurate targeting of subsidies. Large denomination notes were outlawed and replaced, angering the politicians and businesspeople who had stashed huge sums. ‘The people who were crying foul were doing so not because they had sympathy for the common man but because it would hurt them most,’ a British-based academic told Africa Confidential.

He pointed to a cash haul of $43 mn. found by Nigerian anti-corruption enforcers in a Lagos flat in April. Some Nigerian officials looking to give a fillip to their government’s anti-corruption campaign have been studying the ‘Modi effect’ – high-growth economic strategies twinned with an authoritarian style of pushing through public policy.  The African Bank’s Love Affair with Asia Bringing the African Development Bank annual general meeting to India is a bold statement of intent by the hosts.

The arrival of the yearly jamboree followed a long courtship by New Delhi. The Export-Import Bank of India had worked hard to drum up interest. China’s US$3 trillion ‘One Belt One Road’ infrastructure programme plans massive investment along a modern version of the old Silk Road linking China to Europe. India is boycotting it, which shows how Asian rivalries could be projected on to Africa. New Delhi is partnering with Japan to create an ‘Asia-Africa growth corridor’. Tokyo sent its deputy Finance Minister to the AfDB gathering in Gandhinagar (which is named after the late Mahatma Gandhi) to make the case.

A cultural evening featuring Indian and African dancers showed the breadth of ties. ‘Historically, communities from western India, especially Gujarat, and the eastern coast of Africa have settled in each other’s lands,’ said India’s Premier, Narendra Modi. ‘The Siddhis of India are said to have come from East Africa. The Bohra communities in coastal Kenya date back to the twelfth century. Vasco da Gama [a Portuguese explorer] is said to have reached Calicut with the help of a Gujarati sailor from Malindi.’

Trade between India and Africa thrived during the last commodity boom. Bilateral trade was at $1 billion in 1995; in 2015, it hit $75 bn.; it should break $100 bn, by 2018, according to the AfDB. Like Japan and China, India focuses on East Africa and long has done so: the gas and coal reserves in Mozambique and Tanzania attract Indian heavyweights such as the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited and Coal India; the big consumer markets of South Africa and Kenya are targets for Indian exporters. Modi wants India to claim the next 30 years just as China’s ‘peaceful rise’ has dominated the last 30.

New data from Yi Fuxian, at the University of Wisconsin’s School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison, suggests India’s population (1.33 billion) overtook China’s (1.29 billion) at the end of last year. The AfDB’s own turning to Asia continues. Its meeting next year will be in Busan (ex-Pusan), South Korea. Taken with its meeting in Shanghai in 2007, that makes three Asian safaris in eleven years. By contrast, Europe has hosted the Bank just once in that period.

*Africa Confidential

 

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Former winners Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Zambia lose at home
June 10, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Oluwashina Okeleji*

Tokelo Rantie put South Africa 1-0 up against Nigeria in Uyo

Tokelo Rantie put South Africa 1-0 up against Nigeria in Uyo

Former African champions Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Zambia all suffered home defeats on Saturday in their first group qualifiers for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.

Nigeria, who failed to qualify for the last two editions of the tournament, fell to their first competitive defeat to South Africa, losing 2-0 in Uyo in the Group E match.

Second-half goals from Tokelo Rantie and Percy Tau sealed a deserved win for Bafana Bafana against three-time African champions Nigeria.

Rantie opened the scoring with a brilliant close-range header in the 54th minute.

Tau broke free in a swift counter-attack, putting the ball around goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi before slotting home in the 81st minute.

Nigeria fluffed chances in the first half as Wilfred Ndidi, Oghenekaro Etebo and Simon Moses failed to score.

It was second time lucky for coach Stuart Baxter who was in charge when Bafana beat Nigeria 2-1 in the 2004 Nelson Mandela challenge at home.

Friday: Grp L: Cape Verde v Uganda (postponed to Sunday)
Grp A: Sudan 1-3 Madagascar Grp G: DR Congo 3-1 Congo
Grp E: Libya 5-1 Seychelles Grp I: Burkina Faso v Angola (1800)
Saturday: Grp C: Mali v Gabon (1900)
Grp B: Malawi 1-0 Comoros Grp A: Senegal v Equatorial Guinea (2000)
Grp C: Burundi 3-0 South Sudan Grp H: Ivory Coast 2-3 Guinea
Grp K: Zambia 0-1 Mozambique Sunday:
Grp I: Botswana 0-1 Mauritania Grp G: Zimbabwe v Liberia (1300)
Grp B: Cameroon 1-0 Morocco Grp H: CAR v Rwanda (1400)
Grp J: Niger 0-0 Swaziland Grp D: Benin v The Gambia (1500)
Grp K: Guinea-Bissau 1-0 Namibia Grp F: Ghana v Ethiopia (1530)
Grp E: Nigeria 0-2 South Africa Grp D: Algeria v Togo (2100)
Grp F: Sierra Leone 2-1 Kenya Grp J: Tunisia v Egypt (2200)
Grp L: Tanzania 1-1 Lesotho

The twelve group winners plus the best three group runners-up will qualify for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations along with the hosts Cameroon.

Seydou Doumbia’s brace was not enough for Ivory Coast as the Elephants were beaten 3-2 at home by Guinea in Group H.

Doumbia gave the home side a 15th minute lead, before Guinea equalised in the 32nd minute.

Naby Keita’s shot was spilled by goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohouo and Abdoulaye Sadio Diallo pounced on the rebound to put the visitors level.

Doumbia grabbed his second goal in the 62nd minute, but four minutes later France-based Francois Kamano made it 2-2.

However, the impressive Naby Keita sealed the stunning win for Guinea in the 79th minute to complete a bad start for new Ivory Coast manager Marc Wilmots.

The defeat for Ivory Coast in Bouake came just five days after the death of former Ivorian international Cheick Tiote.

In Ndola, former winners Zambia were left stunned by a late goal as they lost 1-0 to Mozambique at home in Group K.

Mozambique left it until the 89th minute to earn their first ever win over Chipolopolo with Germany-based Stanley Ratifo scoring the goal.

2012 African champions Zambia dominated the encounter for long spells but failed to turn their superiority into goals.

The Mambas made them pay for their profligacy when Ratifo finished brilliantly from a cut-back to stun the home side.

Elias Pelembe should have doubled the lead in added time but goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene rushed out of his box to stop the Bidvest Wits winger.

Coach Abel Xavier and the Mambas held on to celebrate a first triumph over Zambia in 18 attempts.

In the other Group K game, Guinea-Bissau beat visitors Namibia 1-0 thanks to a powerful header from Jerson in the 24th minute.

Veteran striker Aristide Bance scored twice as Burkina Faso beat Angola 3-1 in Group I.

 

Aristide Bance
Aristide Bance struck twice for Burkina Faso in their win over Angola.

Bance’s opening goal in the 22nd minute was quickly cancelled out by Gelson Dala a minute later.

Bance then restored the lead from the penalty spot just before half-time with Chelsea winger Betrand Traore scoring the third in the 79th minute.

Also in Group I, Mohamed Abdellahi Soudani’s second-half strike sealed a famous 1-0 win for Mauritania away to Botswana.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Gerald Phiri Junior scored the only goal as Malawi began their Group B campaign with a 1-0 home win over Comoros in Blantyre.

The South Africa-based winger hit a free-kick from outside the 18 yard box which flew over the wall and into the right corner on 31 minutes .

The flames had several chances but failed to punish a resolute Comoros.

It is a first competitive win for Malawi’s coach Ronny Van Geneugden who took over in April.

Malawi have taken an early advantage in the group after hosts Cameroon beat Herve Renard’s Morocco 1-0 in Yaounde.

Vincent Aboubakar
Vincent Aboubakar scored Cameroon’s only goal in their 1-0 win over Morocco

A 29th minute goal from Vincent Aboubakar gave the Indomitable Lions the victory which puts Morocco bottom of Group B after the opening round of matches.

Cameroon qualify automatically as hosts for the 2019 Nations Cup, but their group matches still count as qualifiers for their opponents.

After the victory, Cameroon’s coach Hugo Broos confirmed that defender Oyongo Bitolo would definitely miss the Fifa Confederations Cup later this month.

The player was stretchered off the pitch after suffering a knee ligament injury which Broos said would keep him out of the game for seven months.

Burundi began their 2019 Nations Cup campaign in triumphant fashion by beating South Sudan 3-0 in Group C on Saturday.

The Swallows secured all three points with first half goals.

Cedric Amissi set the tone with the opening goal in the 15th minute.

Gael Duhayinnavyi added the second ten minutes later before Fiston Abdul Razak made it three in the 30th minute.

Mali face Gabon later on Saturday in the other Group C match.

In Freetown, goals from Julius Woobay and and Umaru Bangura penalty helped Sierra Leone make a winning start to their Group F campaign as they beat Kenya 2-1.

Kenya had Brian Mandela sent off but they did get a consolation goal through Michael Olunga. Ghana take on Ethiopia in that group on Sunday.

Spain-based Cedric Bakambu grabbed a brace as DR Congo beat neighbours Congo Brazzaville 3-1 in Group G.

Bakambu scored opened the scoring in the 20th minute.

Thievy Bifouma equalised for the visitors on the stroke of half-time.

Bakambu grabbed his second after 56th minute before Newcastle defender Chancel Mbemba ensured victory in the 90th minute.

The Group L match between Cape Verde and Uganda – scheduled for Saturday – had to be postponed to Sunday after some members of Uganda’s squad were delayed in Dakar en route to Praia.

In the other Group L game Tanzania drew 1-1 with Lesotho in Dar es Salaam.

Mbwana Samata put Tanzania ahead with Thapelo Tale hitting the equaliser for the visitors.

On Friday, Libya and Madagascar opened the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign with impressive victories.

Libya beat Seychelles 5-1 in Group A and in the first qualifier for Cameroon 2019, Madagascar were 3-1 winners away to Sudan in Al-Obeid in Group E.

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Montreal: the latest hotspot for Africa’s rulers to keep their wealth?
June 7, 2017 | 0 Comments
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