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Growing Chorus at African Policy Breakfast for more Global Outrage against Boko Haram
February 10, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

12687908_1306798262679645_8540608631380560285_nBoko Haram and its regional impact was the topic of the February 2016 African Policy Breakfast Series in Washington D.C.   Hosted by US Congresswoman Karen Bass the aim of the event was toprovide a setting for members of Congress and representatives from diverse sectors and backgrounds to discuss critical and timely issues specific to U.S.-Africa policy.” 

Addressing over 200 policy makers, civil society actors and about seven Ambassadors, Keynote Speaker Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs, Department of State, started the dialogue with an over view of U.S efforts to help in the fight against Boko Haram . From sharing intelligence, assisting with equipment and deploying troops as is the case with Cameroon; Assistant Secretary Greenfield called for greater outrage in the face of continuous atrocities from the Islamic sect.

“We can no longer accept these monstrosities… it is important that we all stand up and say African Lives Matter,” Ambassador Greenfield said to rousing applause from the audience.

 

During the panel discussion, the issue of Nigerian corruption was brought up with force, however; it was reiterated by many including Moderator Mr. Nii Akuetteh, Executive Director of the African Immigrant Caucus, that “before starting to discuss this, let’s not forget that when approaching the issue of corruption, we must note that the issue is not something new or isolated to President Jonathan’s term but has been a continuous problem in Nigeria for decades.” This is not a Jonathan issue Nii Akuetteh said. 

During the question and answer section of the breakfast, much was said about the US position on the matter of corruption. A breakfast patron openly said that, “the US government is afraid and is prioritizing security over actual governance reform,” in Nigeria. 

In reference to comments attributed to U.S Secretary of State John Kerry lauding Nigeria for the sacking of 50 government officials over some 9 billion dollars, a question was asked whether the Buhari Administration was actually taking anti-corruption measures or settling scores with real and perceived enemies. 

In response, Ambassador Reuben E. Brigety II, who is currently Dean, Elliott School of International Affairs George Washington university and former US Ambassador to the African Union confidently stated, “The answer probably is yes, which is to say that it may very well be some of both, they are not mutually exclusive propositions.” He went on to mention how in diplomacy, unfortunately there are tradeoffs that have to be made regarding how far one can push on certain issues or how one works on a core interest.  

Dr. Raymond Gilpin, Dean, Africa Center for Strategic Studies, National Defense University followed up by mentioning that regarding the resources on the continent of Africa, they are either wasted or squandering generally. The challenge for the Buhari’s administration is to put systems in place that identify and prevent future mistakes from happening, instead of just apportioning blame.

 

Also on the panel was Sam Okey Mbonu of the Nigerian –American Leadership Council who offered insight on what the civil society could do to play a more constructive role in developments affecting Africa.

Speaking earlier, Rep Frederica Wilson (D-FL), who has worked tireless to seek clarity on the whereabouts of the Chibok girls, challenged participants at the breakfast to keep up the pressure on the Nigerian government until satisfactory answers are provided.  Rep Wilson distributed fliers, shared pictures of some Boko Haram atrocities and called on concerned activists to use protests, and all social media tools available until the girls are brought back.

It is worth mentioning that the attacks from Boko Haram and the missing Chibok girls were a big campaign issue with the opposition APC using it with great effect to discredit the government of President Goodluck Jonathan, though his government with insignificant US government support , had almost rolled back Boko Haram gains from almost every part of Nigeria. 

Now in power, Nigerians are still expecting the APC to deliver on its promises. Though the Nigerian Government claims that the war against Boko Haram has been won, attacks from the sect continue to ravage and instill fear in several communities. The Administration has also been sending nuanced messages when it comes to the Chibok girls. Even out of power, Jonathan continues to be the subject of barbs from APC Chieftains which have so far failed to ruffle him. The former President was recently quoted as saying he will continue to refrain from criticizing or commenting on the actions of his successor as there will be an unnecessary distraction. 

Scheduled to last for two hours, there were some participants who wanted the issues in discussion to go beyond Boko Haram as there were questions on cyber security, Somalia, Ethiopia and the crisis in the D.R.Congo which according to one visibly angry Congolese was not getting enough attention.

 

 

 

 

 

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African leaders urge passage of Electrify Africa Act
January 28, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Tony Elumelu and Aliko Dangote*

Dangote, Elumelu at World Economic Forum Davos

Dangote, Elumelu at World Economic Forum Davos

In the next week, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on the Electrify Africa Act, passed by the Senate under unanimous consent late last year. This bill directs the President to establish a multiyear strategy to assist countries in sub-Saharan Africa implement national power strategies and develop an appropriate mix of power solutions, including renewable energy, to provide access to reliable, affordable, and sustainable power in order to reduce poverty and drive economic growth.

On behalf of the African Energy Leaders Group (AELG), a high-level public-private partnership launched last year, we welcome the leadership of the U.S. Congress on this issue. It is our view that the Electrify Africa Act will provide a durable strategic framework to address the challenges of energy poverty on the continent by leveraging a private sector-led, market-based approach which is essential to the sustainability of this effort over time. If passed, Electrify Africa will be the most significant legislation to advance U.S. commercial relations with the continent of Africa since the initial passage of AGOA, 15 years ago.

A wide range of energy sources exist on the continent. Yet, more than 600 million Africans lack access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services. Hundreds of millions are also denied access to basic nutrition, quality education, medical services and sanitation due to lack of adequate energy supply. Recent surveys of African businesses reveal that energy costs account for 40-60 percent of operating expenditure (more than 10 times what it is in the United States), dramatically increasing the cost of doing business in Africa. The effect of the power deficit on our economies is damaging and tangibly constrains development.

Africa has the largest rates of extreme poverty and the fastest population growth of any region. The rapid industrialization and sustained economic development necessary to provide jobs for this growing population simply cannot be achieved on a weak power base

We have been encouraged by the increasing awareness among both African and U.S. political leaders on these issues, and by the willingness of the private sector to invest alongside governments in meeting the growing demand for power on the continent. Through the much-lauded Power Africa Initiative, the United States is helping to provide assistance for policy reforms and transactions which expand infrastructure and strengthen regulations in the power sector. This is not only good for Africa, as these initiatives benefit U.S. companies seeking access to new and rapidly expanding markets for their equipment, expertise and products.

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) is another critical development instrument which supports U.S. investments in Africa’s energy sector. However, it is hampered by well-intentioned yet counterproductive restrictions on carbon emissions for projects financed even in the lowest emitting countries of the world.  In order to better leverage U.S. resources towards implementing the objectives of the Electrify Africa Act, we encourage Congress to follow this legislation with a strong reauthorization of OPIC that includes the flexibility to align with the national realities and priorities of the countries you wish to help and considers the full range of energy options available to them. In this regard, we must work together to identify an appropriate balance between poverty alleviation and environmental protection.

We applaud the efforts of all those who have championed the Electrify Africa Act, and urge the House of Representatives to pass this legislation without delay. From our perspective, this bill would codify access to electricity in Africa as a long-term U.S. foreign policy priority, for the benefit of millions of Africans and for U.S. companies doing business on the continent.

*The Hill.Dangote is president of the Dangote Group. Elumelu is chairman of Heirs Holdings and founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation. Both are co-founders of the African Energy Leaders Group.

The African Energy Leaders Group, launched at the World Economic Forum in January 2015, is a working group of high-level African business leaders and heads of state. In line with the targets of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative (SE4All), one of the group’s primary goals is guaranteeing access to reliable, affordable energy services for all Africans by 2030, through regional power pools and innovative public-private partnerships

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Rotary gives US$35 million to end polio worldwide
January 16, 2016 | 0 Comments

African nations in line for $15 million to keep the continent polio-free

160Rotary  announces $35 million in grants to support the global effort to end polio, including $15 million to support polio eradication efforts in 5 African countries.

In 2015, Africa proved a hub of historic progress against the paralyzing disease. Nigeria – the last polio-endemic country in Africa – was removed from the World Health Organization’s list of endemic countries in September, following one year without a new case of the wild virus. The last wild polio case on the African continent was in August 2014.

“We are closer than ever to achieving a polio-free world,” said Michael K. McGovern, chair of Rotary’s International PolioPlus Committee.  “To ensure that no child ever again suffers the devastating effects of this disease, we must all ensure that the necessary funds and political will are firmly in place in 2016.”

Today, just two countries – Afghanistan and Pakistan – are reporting a single strain of the wild virus.

To sustain this progress, and protect all children from polio, experts say $1.5 billion is urgently needed.   Without full funding and political commitment, the disease could return to previously polio-free countries, putting children everywhere at risk.

Rotary’s funds will support efforts to keep 5 countries in Africa polio-free: Nigeria ($5,5), Cameroon ($1.6 million), Chad ($2 million); Ethiopia ($4.1 million), and S0malia ($1,8 million). Additional funds will be support polio eradication efforts in endemic and at-risk countries: Pakistan ($11.4 million), Afghanistan ($6 million), Iraq ($1,6 million) and India ($600 000). Finally, ($350 000) in funds will be dedicated to polio research.

Rotary launched its polio immunization program PolioPlus   in 1985, and in 1988 became a spearheading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative  with the WHO, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was later joined by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Since the initiative launched, the incidence of polio has plummeted by more than 99.9 percent, from about 350,000 cases a year to 70 confirmed to date in 2015.

Rotary has contributed more than $1.5 billion and countless volunteer hours to fight polio. Through 2018, every dollar Rotary commits to polio eradication will be matched two-to-one by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation up to $35 million a year.

Rotary  brings together a global network of volunteer leaders dedicated to tackling the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges. Rotary connects 1.2 million members of more than 34,000 Rotary clubs in over 200 countries and geographical areas. Their work improves lives at both the local and international levels, from helping families in need in their own communities to working toward a polio-free world.

*APO

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Africa: The Growth-Governance Puzzle in Africa
January 12, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Richard Joseph*

Photo: AfricaPlus/African Leadership Some African leaders with 20 years in power, from top left to bottom right: Omar al-Bashir, Sudan; Idress Deby Itno, Chad; Yoweri Museveni, Uganda; King Mswati III, Swaziland; Denis Sassou Nguesso, Republic of the Congo; Paul Biya, Cameroon; Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe; Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, Angola; Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasongo, Equatorial Guinea.

Photo: AfricaPlus/African Leadership
Some African leaders with 20 years in power, from top left to bottom right: Omar al-Bashir, Sudan; Idress Deby Itno, Chad; Yoweri Museveni, Uganda; King Mswati III, Swaziland; Denis Sassou Nguesso, Republic of the Congo; Paul Biya, Cameroon; Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe; Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, Angola; Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasongo, Equatorial Guinea.

Why did sub-Saharan Africa experience such a prolonged economic downturn starting in the mid-1970s? And why has it experienced such a sustained economic upturn since the mid-1990s?

A consensus did emerge that the former trend was caused by bad governance, bad policies, declining investments, and unfavorable terms of trade. But what accounts for the positive growth rates over the past two decades, and why are they seen under such a diverse array of political systems? Finally, will African countries grow out of mass poverty, or will we see a new equilibrium of economic expansion without structural transformation – the latter understood as increased productivity, more and better-paid jobs, diversified exports, and vastly improved infrastructures? While we have become more aware of the growth-governance puzzle, resolving it remains elusive.

The disappointing growth performance of sub-Saharan Africa during the first three decades of independence was called a puzzle.[1] In 2016, it is the sustained economic turnaround that remains puzzling. Although surveys of the statistical data often paint a glowing picture, certain questions persist. Since Africa was overly dependent on international aid flows and the export of mineral commodities for decades, why did that scenario begin shifting? Second, since the quality of growth remains deficient–in terms of its inclusiveness and ability to create jobs–are the progress reports misleading?[2]

Steven Radelet is one of the undeterred optimists about economic progress in Africa and other less-developed areas.[3] He continues to stress the critical contribution made by good governance, including democratization, to such progress. Africa today is seen through split screens: one depicts steady progress while another shows communities struggling to meet basic needs and coping with abysmal infrastructure.

The largest countries in the continent–the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, and Sudan–remain in a time-warp of highly predatory and dysfunctional governance. Popular disenchantment, even in a country often praised for its democracy such as Ghana, is now aired in international forums.[4] Meanwhile, authoritarian regimes in Ethiopia and Rwanda exceed their democratic counterparts in growth and socio-economic progress.

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‘The Looting Machine’ explains why Africa isn’t rising
January 4, 2016 | 0 Comments

By JAMES GIBNEY*

dt.common.streams.StreamServerIn one of Africa’s most celebrated surprises of 2015, Nigerian voters unseated President Goodluck Jonathan. The election of Muhammadu Buhari defied expectations of electoral fraud and violence, and his anticorruption platform sparked hopes for reform and economic growth.

Yet progress on both fronts has been slow and uneven. To understand why, pick up Tom Burgis’s The Looting Machine, a bracing look at why a continent blessed with one-third of the world’s hydrocarbon and mineral wealth remains mired in poverty and dysfunction.

A former Africa correspondent for the Financial Times, Burgis goes beyond the tales of spectacular venality among Africa’s “Big Men” – the world’s four longest-serving rulers are in African countries bursting with oil or minerals – to explain how the continent’s “resource curse” is sapping its development.

Nigeria is a case in point. Africa’s biggest oil producer gets more than 90 percent of its foreign earnings and two-thirds of its tax revenue from oil exports. Yet there are many reasons why that hydrocarbon bounty is a mixed blessing.

For starters, it can drive up the value of a nation’s currency, making other exports less competitive and imports more attractive. As Burgis points out, textiles used to be Nigeria’s most important manufacturing industry. But cheaper Chinese imports smuggled in by Nigerian gangs (an illicit trade worth more than $2 billion a year) have devastated the industry – one example of why Africa produces just 1.5 percent of global manufacturing output, despite its abundance of cheap labor.

Billions of dollars in oil revenues are also a tempting pot of money for bent politicians. One 2012 report said corruption had swallowed up $37 billion worth of Nigeria’s oil money over the last decade. That surpasses the annual economic output of more than half of the nations in Africa as well as Nigeria’s annual federal budget.

Such corruption has other toxic effects. Dirty money from bribes and kickbacks has to be laundered, and because those doing the cleaning don’t care so much about profit or productive investment, their infusions of cash distort the value of assets.

Nigeria’s reliance on oil for tax revenues also creates a perverse political dynamic: As Burgis puts it, “the ability of rulers of Africa’s resource state to govern without recourse to popular consent.” Instead of having to do right by taxpayers to win their votes, politicians focus on controlling and dispensing mineral wealth to bolster their patronage networks.

“Politics becomes a game of mobilizing one’s ethnic brethren,” Burgis notes – a contest with dangerous destabilizing effects in Nigeria’s fractious polity. In fact, as one Nigerian governor explains, if he failed to share the wealth, ill-gotten or otherwise, “I’ve got a big political enemy.”

Nigeria is far from the exception. At least 20 African countries are what the International Monetary Fund calls “resource-rich”: that is, their natural resources account for more than one-quarter of exports. Risking limb if not life, Burgis gamely takes readers around some of them, from the coltan mines of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Guinea’s rich bauxite and iron ore deposits to the diamond fields of Zimbabwe.

Even as the names and histories of the different predatory leaders blur, one thing is clear: Their looting depends on an all-too-willing cast of outside partners, whether Western mining and oil companies that plunked down bribes and abetted massacres, shady Israeli middlemen or shell companies in the British Virgin Islands.

Particularly disquieting is Burgis’s description of the unsavory role played by the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation, which backed visibly corrupt, environmentally destructive, or just plain inequitable oil and mining ventures in Chad, Guinea and Ghana – all countries it was supposed to be helping.

If Burgis’s book were to be made into a movie, though, the star villain would have to be Samuel Pa, the bespectacled, bearded Zelig behind some of the continent’s most dubious recent resource deals. Over the course of several decades, Pa parlayed the connections he made as a Chinese intelligence operative and arms merchant into a sprawling, secretive consortium based in Hong Kong known as the 88 Queensway Group, not to mention a spot on the U.S. Treasury’s sanctions list.

Western criticism of China’s growing presence in Africa, Burgis writes, nonetheless carries a “distinct whiff of hypocrisy” that might make even King Leopold blush. Moreover, ordinary Africans stand to gain much from the $1 trillion or so that Chinese entities will reportedly plow into their continent by 2025.

That said, the tale of Pa and Queensway, which has its tentacles wrapped around oil holdings in Angola and Nigeria, diamond mines in Zimbabwe, and agriculture in Mozambique (to name just a few of its ventures), reeks of sulfur and brimstone. As several seasoned African mining executives told Burgis, the Queensway Group reminded them of Cecil John Rhodes, the forerunner of those who “use the conquest of natural resources to advance political power and vice versa.”

One of the best hopes for curbing this rapacity and corruption may be to impose greater transparency on Africa’s outside business partners. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, for instance, recently proposed a rule requiring U.S.-listed oil, gas and mining companies to publish details of their payments to governments.

Even China may see the writing on the wall. A few months after Burgis’s book came out this year, he reported that Pa had been detained in one of China’s deepening anti-corruption probes. Guess that scotches the prospect of any Pa Scholarships in the future.

*Source Bloomberg/Concord Monitor

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The Year Decisive Blows Did Not Cage Boko Haram
January 1, 2016 | 0 Comments
Olonisakin

Olonisakin

AS it was expected, the six-year-old Boko Haram insurgence was a big campaign issue for politicians in the year’s general elections. The general election was postponed to enable to military to wage a decisive battle against the insurgents with the new ammunition the former President Goodluck Jonathan acquired. The terrorists were effectively pushed back for elections to hold in the North East.

Following his election and inauguration on May 29, President Muhammadu Buhari has put the matter on the front burner of his government. In the first few days, the president rallied for the support of neighbouring countries such as Niger, Chad, Cameroun and Republic of Benin as well as those of regional powers in the sub-regions for support against the fundamentalists.

Buhari used his travels to get the support of the United States and European powers to contribute in terms of funds and equipment towards fighting the menace.

To prosecute his war against Boko Haram insurgence, President Buhari on Monday, July 13, fired the military chiefs his government inherited from the past administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan and appointed a new set of officers.

The new service chiefs were decorated with their new ranks on August 13, following their confirmation by the Senate on August 4. The service chiefs are General Abayomi Gabriel Olonishakin, chief of Defence Staff; Lieutenant-General Tukur Y. Buratai, chief of Army Staff; Vice-Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas, chief of Naval Staff and Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, chief of Air Staff.

In his speech to the new military chiefs, Buhari asked them to wipe out the Boko Haram insurgency in three months and also charged them to ensure that armed banditry, kidnapping, and other forms of criminality were phased out within the same period.

The president asked the service chiefs to re-professionalise the military and ensure troops were well trained and equipped before going to battle. “You should also ensure that they abide with the newly enforced rules and relations of international standards while carrying out their assigned tasks,” he said. “In particular you must protect innocent civilians and respect the rights of combatant. This no doubt will earn the support of local communities and the respect of our allies and support of international community,” Buhari told the new service chiefs.

Since the military’s renewed vigour against the insurgence, no fewer than 500 former members of the Boko Haram sect have surrendered. The military have also rescued thousands of innocent Nigerians from the captivity of the sect.

That notwithstanding, the level of criminality did not appear to abate. In fact, while the war against the Boko Haram appeared to be succeeding with recapture of several villages under Boko Haram insurgents, suicide bombings were on the increase. It was estimated that more than 500 lives were terminated through suicide bombings across North-Eastern part of the country.

Buratai

Buratai

Despite the situation, the military brass have consistently assured the nation that the already decimated Boko Haram insurgents would be eliminated from the country by the end of December 2015 as directed by President Buhari. But this may be a tall order with December fast speeding to an end.

Another worrisome development was the increase in the spate of kidnapping across the country. Between July and September, the situation got to new level with kidnapping of some prominent personalities who were made to pay ransom before gaining their freedom.

Prominent among those who went through the ordeal are Toyin Nwosu, wife of Steve Nwosu, deputy managing director of Sun Newspaper; Donu Kogbara, a columnist on Vanguard newspaper; Martha Binabo, wife of Nestor Binabo, a former acting governor of the state, and Kehinde Baruwa, Afikpo zonal manager of Nigerian Breweries Limited, among others.

It was, however, the adoption of Olu Falae, former secretary to the federal government and a former presidential, from his farm on Monday, September 21, the day he turned 77, by the Fulani herdsmen that caused political tension and anxiety across the country. Eventually, Falae regained his freedom on Thursday, September 24, following the intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari who gave Solomon Arase, inspector-general of Police and leaders other security agencies as marching order to ensure safe and speedy rescue of the former minister of Finance. Arase said no ransom was paid to the kidnappers but it later came to light that the family paid as much as N5 million to secure his release. Five suspects have been charged to court on the matter.

*Real Magazine

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Money Sent by African Diasporans to Home Countries Help Pay for Education and Life Necessities
January 1, 2016 | 0 Comments

By *

2015-12-22-1450783671-5462575-MoneyTransfer-thumbThe holidays are a time when Africans living abroad often spread good cheer and gifts by sending money home to their loved ones on the continent.

Africans in the Diaspora sent home $33 billion in 2014 to their relatives or friends to help pay for living expenses, education, health care and even to start a business.

The money sent to home countries from diasporans living abroad, also called remittances, are often the financial lifeline sustaining many African families, benefitting some 120 million people across Africa. Diasporans’ money to family members outpaces international assistance from donor countries, and is the largest international flow of financial resources to Africa.

The remittances are making a significant impact on household spending and improved livelihoods of whole communities. Due to remittances to families, living expenses and emergencies are paid for making life easier in very difficult economic circumstances.

Still, African diasporans pay more to send money to their home countries compared to Diaspora groups in other regions of the world. In some cases, African diasporans pay twice the global average, according to the World Bank. South Africa, Tanzania, and Ghana are the most expensive sending countries in Africa, with fees averaging 20.7 percent, 19.7 percent, and 19.0 percent. Nigerians living overseas sent home $21 billion in 2014, according to the World Bank.

Western Union and MoneyGram are the top money transfer companies in Africa. A diasporan sending money to Africa will frequently incur what economists call a “super tax”, where the sender pays exorbitantly high fees, sometimes up 50 percent more than the global average, reducing the actual amount of funds transferred.

A recent World Bank study revealed that remittances are also boosting the usage of new technologies such as mobile phones in African households. In fact, Africa is the fastest growing region for mobile markets.

The limited access to traditional banking and financial services, particularly in rural communities, is prompting Africans to tap into these services through mobile banking.

The rise of mobile money transfer systems is good news for Diasporans. In 2014, mobile money transactions in sub-Saharan Africa skyrocketed to $656 million, and is expected to more than double to $1.3 billion by 2019, cited a report by Frost & Sullivan.

Increased competition among money transfer operators will help to drive down the high remittances fees to African countries.

While lower money transfer costs are certainly welcome, many Diasporans have raised questions about whether there is a way to guarantee that money sent home is used for its intended purpose.

Yet, ensuring that money sent to Africa goes for its intended purpose can be a sensitive subject to broach with loved ones, given an already tight household budget. However, some Diasporans have expressed a need for a simple, immediate and direct money transfer system to pay for family members’ expenses.

AAI is collecting information on how and why Africans in the Diaspora send money home to family members in their home country. Take the ‘Why Do You Send Money Back Home to Africa?’ survey, and share with other diasporans.

*Source HuffPost.President and CEO, Africa-America Institute (AAI)

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Clinging to power: the African leaders who won't stand down
December 22, 2015 | 0 Comments

By Marc JOURDIER* [caption id="attachment_23196" align="alignleft" width="959"]A controversial referendum in October 2015 allowed Congo-Brazzaville President Denis Sassou Nguesso to extend his 31-year rule (AFP Photo/Thierry Charlier) A controversial referendum in October 2015 allowed Congo-Brazzaville President Denis Sassou Nguesso to extend his 31-year rule (AFP Photo/Thierry Charlier)[/caption] Kinshasa (AFP) – The fate of Blaise Compaore, who was ousted after a bloody uprising in 2014 after 27 years as president of Burkina Faso, has not been enough to deter other African leaders from clinging to power long after their constitutions demanded they go.

In 2015, two African presidents amended their constitutions to allow them to seek another term — or more.

Denis Sassou Nguesso, who has now led Congo-Brazzaville for more than 31 years, and Paul Kagame, Rwanda’s head of state since 1994, both ordered referendums which will allow them to run again in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

In neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, Joseph Kabila is due to stand down in 2016 after 15 years at the helm, but fears are mounting he too could stay on as the country endures a period of uncertainty.

The president has shown no sign of preparing to leave office and is now calling for a “national dialogue” to allow for a peaceful vote. Opponents view the demands as a trap, which could allow his supporters to put off polls for two to four years until they can organise “credible” elections.

Meanwhile, to the east of the DR Congo, Burundi has been in crisis since April, when president Pierre Nkurunziza sought a third term in a move that even some in his own camp judged unconstitutional.

[caption id="attachment_23198" align="alignright" width="300"]Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza delivers a speech after being sworn-in for a controversial third term in power, at the Congress Palace in Kigobe district, Bujumbura on August 20, 2015 (AFP Photo/Landry Nshimiye) Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza delivers a speech after being sworn-in for a controversial third term in power, at the Congress Palace in Kigobe district, Bujumbura on August 20, 2015 (AFP Photo/Landry Nshimiye)[/caption]

The situation deteriorated when Nkurunziza was re-elected in July, on a ballot that was boycotted by the opposition. The country has since spiralled into violence and there are fears in the international community this could break out into genocide.

“The limit of two presidential terms in African constitutions goes back to the late 1990s,” said Thierry Vircoulon, associate researcher at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI).

“It was a lesson drawn from (the results of) autocratic regimes and presidency for life,” he told AFP.

– Testing the limits –

But these limits were quickly broken, beginning with Togo in 2002, followed by Chad and Uganda in 2005, where Idriss Deby Itno and Yoweri Museveni have been in power since 1990 and 1986 respectively.

Constitutions in Angola, Djibouti and Cameroon have also been changed to allow incumbents to stay in power, as well as in Zimbabwe, where 91-year-old Robert Mugabe has been president since 1980.

“The basic tendency (in central Africa) over the last few years has not between towards greater democracy, but in the opposite direction,” said Vircoulon.

“Civil wars and peace agreements have not changed the way of doing politics in these countries,” he added.

But this has not been the case everywhere on the continent.

In Burkina Faso, it was Compaore’s attempts to change the constitution which led to a popular uprising and pushed him into exile in October 2014.

After a year which saw an attempted putsch, the people of Burkina Faso in November elected a new president in polls which were judged to be transparent and credible.

In Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, Muhammadu Buhari’s victory in March presidential elections led to the first democratic transfer of power in the country’s history.

In a recent note, however, strategic consulting firm Control Risks said it was “unlikely” the changes in Burkina Faso and Nigeria would bring about others elsewhere in Africa in 2016.

*Source AFP/Yahoo]]>

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W. African leaders seek ban on full-face veil to prevent attacks
December 19, 2015 | 0 Comments

By Ola Awoniyi in Abuja, Stephanie Findlay in Lagos* [caption id="attachment_23110" align="alignleft" width="300"]Full-face veils including the niqab, worn by the two women at right in this July 23, 2015 photo from Abidjan, capital of the Ivory Coast, would be barred from wearing such veils in member states of ECOWAS if proposed new bans are enacted (AFP Photo/Issouf Sanogo) Full-face veils including the niqab, worn by the two women at right in this July 23, 2015 photo from Abidjan, capital of the Ivory Coast, would be barred from wearing such veils in member states of ECOWAS if proposed new bans are enacted (AFP Photo/Issouf Sanogo)[/caption] Abuja (AFP) – West African leaders said Thursday they were seeking to “forbid” women wearing full-face veils in an effort to curb the growing number of female suicide bombers unleashed by Boko Haram jihadists.

The president of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, told reporters at the close of a two-day summit in Abuja that leaders must take “measures that would forbid this kind of dress that will not allow security personnel to be sure of their identities.”

Losing swathes of territory to the Nigerian army, Boko Haram jihadists have since July started using young women and girls as suicide bombers by hiding explosives in their loose-fitting clothes.

The radical Sunni group has also used the tactic in Cameroon, Chad and Niger — countries that have already enforced bans on veils this year.

The region is reeling from a spike in female suicide bombings as a weakened Boko Haram shifts its strategy from raiding villages to relying on explosives in its quest to overthrow the government and create a hardline Islamist state in northeast Nigeria.

“Certain dress codes, which make identification of the persons concerned difficult, may considerably hinder actions geared towards protecting people and properties,” said Ouedraogo, who said countries should enforce a ban “in line with their national realities.”

– Forced to become human bombs? –

Almost a third of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims live in Africa, with the religion predominant in the northern half of the continent.

In May this year, the Republic of Congo became one of the first African countries to issue a ban, followed by Chad and Cameroon after multiple female suicide bombers, wearing full face veils killed and maimed scores of people.

Authorities in Cameroon even went so far as to say it had banned “the manufacturing, sale and wearing of the burqa”.

But despite facing criticism that the bans infringe upon religious freedom, African leaders increasingly say national security trumps personal liberties.

In Gabon, police have received orders to increase surveillance of women wearing the garments. And following the arrest of four imams accused of links to Boko Haram, officials in Senegal announced it too is considering a ban.

The veil now arouses distrust amongst many Africans.

“We have the right to defend ourselves and, if possible, ban the full veil for women,” said Adamou Ide, a writer in Niger.

“Because unfortunately it is through them that the criminals can move around and commit horrible crimes.”

Today, Nigeria sees regular female suicide bombing attacks in the six-year-old Boko Haram insurgency which has claimed more than 17,000 lives.

The young age of many of the bombers indicates that some may be forced into violence.

Other Nigerian girls are unaware they will be blown up with an external remote, according to Leila Zerrougui, the UN secretary-general’s special representative on children and armed conflict.

A vigilante civilian and four female suicide bombers were killed Wednesday at a checkpoint in northeast Nigeria after one of them detonated her explosives.

A local official said that four girls between the ages of nine and 12 were stopped at the checkpoint, but the information was not confirmed by another source.

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has vowed to end the Boko Haram insurgency by the end of this month, but the deadline looks likely to be missed as attacks persist.

*AFP/Yahoo]]>

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Afrique Telecom, Eutelsat and Wikimédia France to offer free access to French-language Wikipedia in Africa
December 2, 2015 | 0 Comments

Afrique Telecom, Eutelsat and Wikimédia France combine skills in large-scale initiative to extend free access to French-language Wikipedia in Sub-Saharan Africa via Wi-Fi hotspots [caption id="attachment_22790" align="alignleft" width="300"]The partners :From left to right : Michel AZIBERT - Eutelsat, Nathalie MARTIN - Wikimedia Foundation, Philippe TINTIGNAC - Afrique Telecom The partners :From left to right : Michel AZIBERT – Eutelsat, Nathalie MARTIN – Wikimedia Foundation, Philippe TINTIGNAC – Afrique Telecom[/caption] Afrique Telecom  is progressively deploying Internet solutions over Sub-Saharan Africa in combination with Eutelsat’s satellite capacity. Its “TamTam” service extends access to the Internet in rural areas using Wi-Fi hotspots for collective access. In a new step announced today, “TamTam” will be used to offer free access to French-language Wikipedia content for many thousands of users. This initiative, starting in French-speaking Africa, supports Wikimédia France’s strategy to promote free access to educational content, in particular through Wikipedia. In order to offer free, unlimited access, Afrique Telecom has developed a server located at “TamTam” hotspots that will locally host French-language Wikipedia content. The content will be updated regularly via a satellite link provided by Eutelsat. A major pilot project Afrique Telecom’s ambition is to roll-out “TamTam” to between 4000 and 8000 hotspots in the next two years. Eutelsat has agreed to finance servers hosted by the first 1,000 hotspots as a springboard that will also measure the impact of the service. The Wikimedia movement has made a priority of improving accessibility and content creation on Wikipedia for so-called “Southern” countries. There is still a large gap between Northern and Southern countries in terms of the number of readers and contributors to Wikimedia platforms as well as content on Southern countries. French-speaking Africa is a priority action area for the Wikimédia France Foundation, as a complement to its Afripédia project. Wikimédia France, an association for free knowledge-sharing, was founded in 2004 to promote and support all projects hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation in France. Wikimédia France does not produce or host any Wikimedia Foundation projects, but strives to enrich them and raise their profile through its members’ support of its actions. Founded in 2005, Afrique Telecom (NYSE Euronext Paris: MLAFT, ISIN code: FR0011233659)  is an innovative telecommunications service operator offering economic models of satellite-based connectivity solutions that are unique on the market. The expertise of Afrique Telecom’s development teams is acknowledged in Africa for their work to reduce the digital divide on the continent. With more than 4000 stations in operation, Afrique Telecom is one of the leading players in satellite-based connectivity in Sub-Saharan Africa. Established in 1977, Eutelsat Communications (Euronext Paris: ETL, ISIN code: FR0010221234) is one of the world’s leading and most experienced operators of communications satellites. The company provides capacity on 38 satellites to clients that include broadcasters and broadcasting associations, pay-TV operators, video, data and Internet service providers, enterprises and government agencies. Eutelsat’s satellites provide ubiquitous coverage of Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia-Pacific and the Americas, enabling video, data, broadband and government communications to be established irrespective of a user’s location. Headquartered in Paris, with offices and teleports around the globe, Eutelsat represents a workforce of 1,000 men and women from 37 countries who are experts in their fields and work with clients to deliver the highest quality of service. *APO]]>

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Corruption on the rise in Africa poll as governments seen failing to stop it
December 2, 2015 | 0 Comments

Transparency International estimates 75 million Africans paid a bribe in the past year Corruption-cartoon-of-a-police-boss-by-Basati-via-SomalilandsunA majority of Africans say corruption has risen in the past 12 months and most governments are seen as failing in their duty to stop the abuse of power, bribery and secret deals, according to a new opinion poll from Transparency International (Transparency.org). In the report People and Corruption: Africa Survey 2015, part of the Global Corruption Barometer, Transparency International partnered with Afrobarometer, which spoke to 43,143 respondents across 28 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa between March 2014 and September 2015 to ask them about their experiences and perceptions of corruption in their country. The majority (58 per cent) of Africans in the surveyed countries, say corruption has increased over the past 12 months. In 18 out of 28 countries surveyed a large majority of people said their government is doing badly at fighting corruption. Despite these disappointing findings, the bright spots across the continent were in Botswana, Burkina Faso, Lesotho and Senegal. Citizens in these countries were some of the most positive in the region when discussing corruption. For the first time, people reported business executives as highly corrupt. Business ranked as having the second highest levels of corruption in the region, just below the police. The police regularly rate as highly corrupt, but the strongly negative assessment of business executives is new compared to previous surveys. Many Africans, particularly the poor, are burdened by corruption when trying to get access to key basic services in their country. 22 per cent of people that have come into contact with a public service in the past 12 months paid a bribe. Of the six key public services that we asked about, people who come into contact with the courts and police are the most likely to have paid a bribe. 28 per cent and 27 per cent respectively of people who had contact with these services paid a bribe. Across the continent, poor people who use public services are twice as likely as rich people to have paid a bribe, and in urban areas they are even more likely to pay bribes. “Corruption creates and increases poverty and exclusion. While corrupt individuals with political power enjoy a lavish life, millions of Africans are deprived of their basic needs like food, health, education, housing, access to clean water and sanitation. We call on governments and judges to stop corruption, eradicate impunity and implement Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals to curb corruption. We also call on the people to demand honesty and transparency, and mobilize against corruption. It is time to say enough and unmask the corrupt,” said Transparency International Chair José Ugaz. pesayachai_bwanamdogoIt is increasingly clear that citizens are a key part of any anti-corruption initiative. However, the survey finds that corruption reporting mechanisms are often seen as too dangerous, ineffective or unclear. More than 1 out of 3 Africans thinks that a whistleblower faces negative consequences for reporting corruption, which is why most people don’t report. “Our work as civil society is clear: we have to spread a message of hope across the continent. Corruption can be tackled. People need to be given the space to stand up against it without fear of retaliation and governments need to get serious about ending the widespread impunity.” Transparency International recommends:

  • Governments strengthen and enforce legislation on corrupt business people and anti-money laundering to curb the high volume of illicit flows from the continent. This could address the negative perception of business if those profiting are held to account.
  • Governments establish right to information and whistle-blower protection legislation to facilitate the role of civil society in making public institutions more transparent, accountable and corruption-free.
  • Governments show a sustained and deep commitment to acting on police corruption at all levels by promoting reforms that combine punitive measures with structural changes over the short- and medium-term. Cracking down on petty bribery has direct impact on the most vulnerable in society.
  • The African Union and its members provide the political will and financing needed to implement the review mechanism established for its anti-corruption convention.
Unless it’s stopped, corruption slows development and economic growth while weakening people’s trust in government and the accountability of public institutions. *APO]]>

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Boko Haram destroys Nigerian military base; 107 troops MIA
December 2, 2015 | 0 Comments

By IBRAHIM ADULAZIZ and MICHELLE FAUL*

YOLA, Nigeria (AP) — Boko Haram destroyed a Nigerian military base as soldiers fled and only self-defense fighters prevented the insurgents from retaking a northeastern town, residents said Monday.

Nigerian-MilitaryThe civilian fighters held Gulak town after soldiers ran away Sunday night until the military sent reinforcements who fought off the extremists, former council chairman James Ularamu told The Associated Press.

The military base was burned down, said Ularamu.

Sunday night’s attack came as a military intelligence officer confirmed that 107 soldiers remain missing nearly two weeks after a Nov. 19 battle. The attackers drove off with an army T-72 tank and dozens of new camouflage uniforms, according to the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak on the issue. Nigeria’s military has denied dozens of soldiers are missing. [caption id="attachment_22761" align="alignright" width="221"]The Buhari APC led government promised a December dateline to flush out Boko Haram The Buhari APC led government promised a December dateline to flush out Boko Haram[/caption] Premium Times newspaper first reported the soldiers from the 157 Battalion, including their commanding officer, were missing in action along with the tank, three artillery guns and eight trucks including one carrying 60,000 rounds of ammunition.

The military has reported that it destroyed dozens of Boko Haram camps and freed more than 1,000 kidnap victims in recent weeks. But Boko Haram has stepped up the tempo and range of its attacks, with raids and suicide bombings in the past week in Niger, Cameroon and northern Nigeria.

Early Sunday the extremists kidnapped dozens of girls and set ablaze hundreds of buildings in Bam in Borno state, said resident Mallam Ali.

The setbacks come as Nigeria’s government admitted it cannot crush by December the 6-year uprising that has killed some 20,000 people.

*Source AP/Yahoo]]>

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