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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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Planet Earth Institute launches the PEI exChange, the first online matching platform for African development
July 8, 2017 | 0 Comments

Based on user-identified criteria, including countries and regions of focus, industries, skills and experience, the PEI exChange provides personalised matches to help users make their ‘Big Ideas for Africa’ happen.

  • The Planet Earth Institute NGO will launch the PEI exChange as part of its #ScienceAfrica UnConference on 20th July
  • The PEI exChange is the first online matching platform for individuals passionate about African development
  • The website is also the world’s only online portal dedicated to projects in Africa

The Planet Earth Institute (PEI) , an international NGO and charity, will launch the ​PEI exchange  during its ​#ScienceAfrica UnConference on 20th July​, 2017 . The PEI exChange  is the first online matching platform for all individuals working and interested in Africa.

While Africa has long been the subject of fascination, there are few specialised websites for the sheer range of professionals working on the continent. The PEI exChange is a new website that aims to connect all people working in and passionate about Africa. Based on user-identified criteria, including countries and regions of focus, industries, skills and experience, the PEI exChange provides personalised matches to help users make their ‘Big Ideas for Africa’ happen. These could include charitable projects, a new technology, a business plan, an academic collaboration or more.

Users will be matched with like-minded people who have the skills, expertise, and experience to support their projects on and for the continent. Once connected, the PEI exChange real-time chat function facilitates collaboration, allowing users to share contacts and expertise, build  networks, and create interest-focused groups.

The PEI exChange also features a ‘Big Ideas Map’, which displays projects, initiatives, businesses, and collaborations happening in and for Africa. Users can post their own projects, follow and support others, and stay up-to-date with challenges and opportunities on the ground.

The PEI exChange will be unveiled during the PEI’s fifth #ScienceAfrica UnConference, which is hosted by the Rt Hon Lord Boateng. Held under the banner of ‘Big Ideas For Africa: Celebrating the Continent’s Science and Technology Pioneers’, the UnConference aims to recognise the individuals and groups creating scientific and technological innovations that not only benefit  the continent, but also the world. Participants come from diverse backgrounds, including business, academia, policy and civil society. The UnConference will also be live streamed and people are encouraged to use the #BigIdeasforAfrica hashtag on Twitter to engage in discussion about science, technology and innovation in Africa.

The Rt Hon Lord Paul Boateng, PEI Chairman and Trustee, commented, “The latest digital technologies are a powerful way of fostering collaboration among the many talented individuals working to further sustainable and inclusive development in Africa. As such, I believe that the PEI exChange will be an invaluable resource and community for people who are passionate about the continent. This online matching platform and project portal has the potential to revolutionise the way people do business and good in Africa.”

The Planet Earth Institute (PEI) is an international NGO and charity working for the scientific independence of Africa. While other emerging regions have invested heavily in science and technology, Africa is falling behind in the race for scientific development. And we want that to change, fast.

All of our work is built around the three pathways we believe will help lead Africa to scientific independence: Higher Education, Technological Innovation and Policy and Advocacy. In other words, we want to support and strengthen higher education institutions, help incubate technologies able to drive scientific advancement and campaign for a science-led development agenda for Africa.

Headquartered in London with a core executive team, the PEI also has a regional office in Luanda, Angola.

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What are Israel’s goals in West Africa?
July 8, 2017 | 0 Comments

Tel Aviv is on a charm offensive in West Africa, taking advantage of Arab absence to court ECOWAS states.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with African leaders in Liberia pm June 4, 2017

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with African leaders in Liberia pm June 4, 2017

The presence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at last month’s Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) summit in Liberia was a clear sign of strengthened ties between Israel and the African organisation.

The Israeli prime minister became the first ever non-African head of state to address the ECOWAS summit.

“I believe in Africa, I believe in its potential – present and future. It is a continent on the rise,” Netanyahu said during his speech in Monrovia, adding that he had made strengthening Israel’s ties with the continent a top priority.

But Netanyahu’s presence at the summit, coupled with the absence of any Arab leaders, sent a clear diplomatic message.

Traditionally, Israeli leaders have not been well-received in Africa. North African states have Muslim majorities, close ties with the Middle East, and are supportive of the Palestinian cause.

Sub-Saharan African states fell out with Israel in the wake of the 1973 October War, referred to by Israelis as the Yom Kippur War.

But since 2016, Netanyahu has pursued a campaign of rapprochement with African nations, in the hopes of strengthening ties and winning African support for Israel.

Before his visit to Liberia, he said that his goal was to “dissolve this majority, this giant bloc of 54 African countries that is the basis of the automatic majority against Israel in the UN and international bodies”.

He is scheduled to return to the region in October to attend an Africa-Israel summit in Togo, where he is set to meet with leaders of 25 African countries to discuss cooperation in the areas of technology, development and security.

There are several main motivators behind Israel’s interest in West Africa.

Tying resistance to ‘terrorism’

Israel has seized on the appearance of “jihadi groups” in West Africa over the past few years as a golden opportunity.

The threat has provided a convenient opening to brand Palestinian resistance movements as “terrorists”, and to paint them in a similar light to violent West African movements.

In doing so, Tel Aviv has taken advantage of the fact that Africa’s political elite, swayed by Western media advancing an Israeli agenda, may not possess a deep knowledge of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Israeli officials who have visited Africa in recent years have focused on equating resistance with “terrorism”. Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman described Palestinian resistance movements, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, as “terrorists” during a 2010 visit to the Nigerian capital, Abuja, when he was Israel’s foreign minister.

This was done to rein in sympathy for the Palestinian cause among the majority-Muslim ECOWAS economic bloc, which represents a quarter of Africa’s inhabitants.

West Africa is also seen as a hub for the Lebanese community accused of financing Hezbollah, whose foreign funding has been a long-standing point of concern for Israel. Israeli intelligence and economic influencers have focused on the countries most prone to this Lebanese influence, such as Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire, establishing a number of investment institutions and encouraging Israeli businessmen to invest.

It has also set up security companies that collect intelligence on the presence of Hezbollah supporters in the country, while an Israeli-Canadian company, Visual Defence, handles security at Abidjan’s international airport and port, making the flow of individuals and goods through the country subject to Israeli monitoring.

Increasing trade with West Africa

Israeli trade with West Africa is still weak, as it has relations with only a few countries in the region. A 2015 report by the Israeli Export Institute found that Israeli exports to Africa represented only 1.6 percent, while imports from Africa were 0.5 percent.

This means that Israel has yet to take significant advantage of the 340 million-strong consumer base of the ECOWAS bloc, as well as its economic potential and varied natural resources.

But Israeli diplomacy over the past few years has paved the way for further progress.

On a visit to Africa seven years ago, Lieberman said that Israel was intending to enter the ECOWAS region in a strong and active manner, noting that friendly African nations, such as Nigeria and Ghana, would play a large role in facilitating the building of ties between Israel and ECOWAS.

Israel’s presence in West Africa is neither deep nor historical. However, Israel does have good relations with influential countries such as Nigeria, having formed a relationship after its independence from Britain in 1960.

Israel was a generous supporter of Nigerian separatists in the Biafran War of 1967 and has a large and economically influential community there. Tel Aviv has established important economic installations in the country, such as the huge construction firm Nigersal, and the electrical and mechanical engineering firm Etco Limited.

Israel also has strong relations with Ghana, cemented by then Israeli Foreign Minister Golda Meir’s attendance at Ghana’s independence celebrations in 1957. The founding father of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, who was raised in Protestant missions that believe in the return of the Jews to Palestine, was also influenced by the thinking of pro-Israel Jamaican activist Marcus Garvey.

The influence wielded by these two countries on decision-making in ECOWAS, as well as the strong relationship between Tel Aviv and President Alassane Ouattara of Cote d’Ivoire, doubtless contributed to the warm welcome Netanyahu received at the recent summit.

After a period of neglect, Israel wants its return to Africa to be built on solid foundations.

It has limited its focus to security, military and economic aspects, with a special emphasis on the economy in countries where it will not be able to achieve much popularity among the mostly Muslim populations.

For example, agriculture is a key aspect of the relationship between Israel and Senegal. By focusing on agriculture, Israel not only hopes to penetrate an economy that relies heavily on farming, but also to gain a foothold in the more conservative rural areas of Senegal, where 95 percent of the inhabitants are Muslim and 70 percent rely on agriculture or herding.

Africa-Israel summit

The upcoming Africa-Israel summit in Togo this October represents an advanced stage of normalisation between Israel and West African countries, in a vein similar to previous French-African, Indian-African, Chinese-African and Turkish-African summits, all aiming to establish economic influence.

Africa’s level of acceptance of Israel will depend on the size of its economic investments, the money it will be able to pump into regional infrastructure projects, and whether Netanyahu will fulfill his promise to spend $1bn in the region to improve green energy projects over the next four years.

An absence of Arab policies to contain Israeli influence in this region may allow Israel to expand its African footprint to other countries, such as Mali, Niger and Guinea.

North African nations such as Morocco, Mauritania, Tunisia and Algeria have failed to capitalise on the common historical, cultural and social ties that bind them with the West African region, which may contribute further to Israel’s rise in the region.

Still, Israeli penetration of the region will not come without challenges: West African regimes may worry that a close relationship with Israel could make them a target for armed Islamist groups, whose attacks have become a major source of concern for ECOWAS leaders.

*Al Jazeera

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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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Kenya builds up strong manufacturing base, as EAC takes a fifth of exports
July 4, 2017 | 0 Comments

East Africa Community (EAC) members accounted for a fifth of total Kenyan exports in 2016 according to ICAEW’s (the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) latest report. In Economic Insight: Africa Q2 2017 launched today, the accountancy and finance body says Kenya stands to gain considerably from stronger economic growth of regional partners, as it can take advantage of increased demand from these economies.

NAIROBI, Kenya, 4 July 2017, -/African Media Agency (AMA)/- The report, commissioned by ICAEW and produced by partner and forecaster Oxford Economics, provides a snapshot of the region’s economic performance. The report focusses specifically on Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, South Africa and Angola.

According to the report, the African continent accounted for 41% of Kenya’s exports in 2016 while Europe and Asia each accounted for approximately a quarter of total exports. Uganda held the position of Kenya’s largest single export destination accounting for 11% of total exports during 2016.

Agricultural products such as tea and flowers made up the bulk of exports. However, whilst the country has an advantage in terms of value-added compared to regional African peers, this story is not replicated beyond Africa. Receipts from these commodities are largely determined by factors such as global commodity prices and domestic weather conditions (affecting production), and not necessarily the state of world trade.
Michael Armstrong, ICAEW Regional Director, Middle East, Africa and South Asia said: “Kenya stands to benefit from stronger growth in the East Africa region as it is well positioned to take advantage of rising demand for manufactured goods. Furthermore, its location and relatively developed transport infrastructure will allow the country to act as the gateway into the East Africa region.”

The EAC is considered the most progressive trade bloc in Africa. Collaboration on regional infrastructure has reached a level rarely seen on the continent with construction of the $26bn Lamu Port – Southern Sudan – Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) corridor underway. Furthermore, a Single Customs Territory (SCT) system will take effect across the EAC from July 31, facilitating trade between member states by electronically connecting countries’ custom clearance systems. A pilot programme involving certain goods and entry points has generated positive results, and if implemented successfully, the SCT could significantly stimulate trade in the region by reducing the cost of doing business.

However, the bloc is not without its challenges as the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) recently cautioned against the signing of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the EAC and the European Union (EU) in its current form, which does not bode well for the EPA’s implementation. Kenya stands to lose the most without the agreement as it is not classified as a least-developed country, it would not receive duty-free and quota-free access under the EU’s Everything-But-Arms initiative.

Non-tariff barriers are another major concern for EAC member states. A monitoring tool identified 19 non-tariff barriers that remain unresolved, ranging from restrictions on Kenyan beef exports to Uganda, to the requirement that companies exporting to Tanzania should register, re-label and retest goods already certified by other partner states.

The full Economic Insight: Africa report can be found here: http://www.icaew.com/en/technical/economy/economic-insight/economic-insight-africa

1. ICAEW is a world leading professional membership organisation that promotes, develops and supports over 144,000 chartered accountants worldwide. We provide qualifications and professional development, share our knowledge, insight and technical expertise, and protect the quality and integrity of the accountancy and finance profession.

As leaders in accountancy, finance and business our members have the knowledge, skills and commitment to maintain the highest professional standards and integrity. Together we contribute to the success of individuals, organisations, communities and economies around the world.

Because of us, people can do business with confidence.

2. ICAEW is a founder member of Chartered Accountants Worldwide and the Global Accounting Alliance.

About Oxford Economics
Oxford Economics is one of the world’s foremost advisory firms, providing analysis on 200 countries, 100 industries and 3,000 cities. Their analytical tools provide an unparalleled ability to forecast economic trends and their economic, social and business impact. Headquartered in Oxford, England, with regional centres in London, New York, and Singapore and offices around the world, they employ one of the world’s largest teams of macroeconomists and thought leadership specialists.

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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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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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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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INNOVATIVE AND EFFICIENT LAND AND SOIL DEGRADATION CURBING MECHANISMS IN WESTERN CAPE PROVINCE, SOUTH AFRICA: LESSONS FOR OTHER AFRICAN COUNTRIES
June 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

By   Moses Hategeka*

“A combination of conservation agriculture production practices, that involve no-till, cover cropping, and crop rotation, encompassing, rotating of wheat and legume pasture on my more than 1900 hectares farm, has significantly increased my wheat yields, right from mid-1990’s, on average from, 2854kg/ha to 4072kg/ha, to, 5850kg/ha to7520kg/ha currently. Thus, I am now enjoying both financial profitability and farming sustainability, as the practice, has increased, organic matter on my farm soils, and so is, to other thousands of farmers, in Western Cape Province, who are doing the same”. Says, Francois Rossouw, a Western Cape Province farmer, who besides, wheat and legume farming, is also engaged in animal husbandry.

Indeed, during, my farming tour of his farm and other farms too recently, in Western Cape province, on a fact finding mission, on what farmers, in this province, have done, to curb land and soil degradation, which is on skyrocketing levels globally, I was amazed, by the clearly and strategically innovative and efficient phased strategies, that the provincial administration of Western Cape and farmers, adopted right from 1984 to date, and the capacity, the farmers in this province, have attained to conserve and improve soil fertility in a sustainable way.

It is important to note that, land and soil are the basis of life on earth, but a closer look, at an alarming soil nutrients depletion, and destruction of crop, grass, and forests lands, going on, in different regions of the world, reveals that, effort to ensure sustainable land use and protection of soils, is still insufficient, with Sub Saharan Africa Region, being the hardest hit, with land and soil degradation problems.

Globally, 33 percent of grasslands, 25 percent of croplands, and 23 percent of forests lands, have, for the over past three decades, experienced degradation. Land degradation, is on rise globally, and negatively affecting the livelihood of millions of people globally, and yet, every US dollar invested, in saving land and soils today, will save us five USA dollars in the future.

According to Professor Joachim Von Braun, ZEF Director and co-editor of the book, “Economics of land degradation and improvement- A Global Assessment for Sustainable Development”, soil is the most neglected natural resource, yet investments in land and soil are crucial for food supply, climate, and human security.

It is thus, very paramount, for, countries, regional, and global agricultural organizations, to work together, in a cohesive and collaborative manner, in the area of knowledge transfer, research, and development, and put in place and implement agricultural policies, that makes their farmers, to build capacity, to engage in production practices, that result in soil health attainment.

The provincial administration of Western Cape, has for the over past three decades to date, produced agricultural innovations, built efficient  agricultural scientific human resource, and massively trained the provincial farmers, to engage in agricultural production practices, that, promote soil health, which can be replicated in other African countries.

 Dr. Johann Strauss, a scientist in sustainable cropping systems, Directorate plant sciences, Western Cape Department of Agriculture, says, that land and soil degradation curbing measures, in Western Cape Province, were systematically and periodically done in phases.

From 1984 onwards, slow adoption of minimum tillage, this involved, massive training of the provincial farmers, on proper residue retention techniques, on their farmers. This improved organic matter in their farm soils, and in the six years, that followed, all the farmers recorded, improved yields.

In the mid 1990’s, Western Cape department of agriculture, massively, introduced no- till and crop rotation farming techniques, which in essence meant, and means, minimum soil disturbance and periodical rotating of crops on the farms. This was accompanied, with progressive introduction, of locally produced no- till planters, suitable for Western Cape local conditions.

Currently, about 90 per cent, of the farmers in Western Cape Province, have fully adopted, no-till, and crop rotation farming techniques, and presently, no- till planters, are available in abundance to farmers, at fair prices, at locally production centers, while others, are imported.

Besides cover cropping, and permanent soil cover, that is done by, many farmers in Western Cape area, to conserve and attain soil health, farmers in the province, also do regular soil monitoring and testing, and according to obtained outcome, fine-tune soil compounds, by adding or reducing specific inputs. Currently in Western Cape Province, there is a movement, to move away, from testing for macro elements (N,P,K), to microbial activity, as an indication of soil health.

Many farmers in the province, have and are embracing organic farming, preferring to use, more of organic inputs on their farms. Globally, demand for organically produced products, are on high demand, and this demand is projected, to continue skyrocketing, due to health benefits associated with consuming organic products, and luckily for Western Cape farmers, their department of agriculture, introduced sustainable certification initiatives, for their farmers, which have enabled them to access export markets.

How has these land and soil degradation curbing innovative approaches transformed the provincial agriculture?

 

Moses Hategeka

Dr. Johann Strauss, a scientist in sustainable cropping systems, Directorate plant sciences, Western Cape Department of Agriculture, confidently articulates that, these innovative approaches, have led, to increased organic matter in Western Cape soils, emphasizing that, in some scenarios, soil carbon has increased from less than 0.5% to about 2% and in some situations even 4%.

Water retention, has tremendously increased, to the extent that, many producers, have started to do away, with contour banks, to prevent erosion and water runoff.

Many farmers in Western Cape Province, are now more resilient, to the effect of climate change especially droughts, as their health soils, is no able to retain water for longer, and their soil cover practice, has decreased evaporation process.

The adoption of these innovative measures, have also made agricultural producers, in the Western Cape Province, more sustainable, as well as increasing their crop yields and farming profitability.

In sum, given that globally, one third of farming land is degraded mostly due to conventional tillage practices, with sub- Saharan Africa region, being the hardest hit region, African countries, together with, other key private and civil society players in Africa’s agricultural sector, must work hand in hand, through knowledge transfer, research and development, and proper training, to build the capacity of African farmers, to conserve and improve soil fertility in a sustainable way, like what the farmers in Western Cape Province in South Africa are doing. Innovations that are soil moisture and soil fertility improvement inducing, are key, to reducing hunger, attaining food security, and decreasing poverty.

Moses Hategeka, is a Ugandan based Independent Governance Researcher, Public Affairs Analyst, and Writer

Email: moseswiseman2000@gmail.com

 

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Aviation Africa summit and exhibition 2018 to be hosted by Egypt
June 23, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

Aviation Africa, exhibition and summit covering the full aviation and
aerospace spectrum across the African continent, is to hold its third
edition in Cairo on April 17 to 18, 2018, under the auspices of the
Egyptian Ministry of Civil Aviation, according to Alison Weller,
spokesperson.

According to Weller, the expo will be held under the theme ‘Building
blocks for North African revival’ and the two-day summit will focus on
the key drivers to grow business and opportunities across North
Africa. Alongside the summit will be an exhibition area featuring more
than 50 exhibitors.

His Excellency Sherif Fathi Attia the Minister of Civil Aviation of
Egypt said he welcomed the decision to bring the event to Cairo.“We
are working with the event organiser to shape the agenda for the
Summit,” he said. “There are key issues affecting Africa in general,
North Africa in particular in subjects like aviation security,
infrastructure needs and regional cooperation. The Egyptian government
is lending its full support to the event and will be inviting our
neighbours and friends across North Africa to be part of this
important event.”

EgyptAir is to be the host airline of the event. Chairman and CEO of
the Egypt Air Holding Group, Safwat Musallam said, “This event gives
an opportunity for all of our businesses to come together with
suppliers, customers and competitors under one roof. We are very
positive about the future but agree it is important that we can share
ideas and get new ideas too.”

Mark Brown chief executive of show organiser Times Aerospace, said
that they were pleased to have MoUs from all of Egypt’s airlines
including charter, cargo and low cost carriers. He said that these
will all have top executives taking part in the event and meeting with
exhibitors.
“We are expecting delegations from other African governments and
their civil aviation authorities and of course other airlines,
business aviation operators and from companies across the Middle East
and Africa,” Brown said.

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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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Is the U.S. taxpayer paying for French neo-colonialism in Africa?
June 22, 2017 | 0 Comments
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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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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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The funeral of Ivorian star Cheick Tiote is held in Abidjan
June 18, 2017 | 0 Comments
Pallbearers carry the coffin of Ivorian football star Cheick Tiote during his funeral ceremony in Abidjan.

Pallbearers carry the coffin of Ivorian football star Cheick Tiote during his funeral ceremony in Abidjan.

The funeral of Ivorian star Cheick Tiote was held in Abidjan on Sunday following his sudden death in China earlier this month.

Tiote died aged 30 after collapsing during training with his Chinese club Beijing Enterprises.

The former Newcastle United midfielder was honoured with a military funeral with a host of dignitaries and players in attendance.

His body was flown back home to Ivory Coast from China earlier this week.

Hundreds of people, including former Elephants coach Herve Renard, were at Abidjan’s international airport to receive Tiote’s body on Thursday.

Cheick Tiote won more than 50 caps for his country and was part of the Ivory Coast squad that won the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.

A number of his former team-mates attended the funeral, including Germany-based striker Salomon Kalou who said he, like so many others, was left devastated by the news of his death.

“He’s someone I respected as a human being but also as a football player,” Kalou told BBC Sport.

“I played six years with him in the national team and I played against him with Chelsea when he was at Newcastle, so we had a good relationship and I couldn’t miss this funeral for anything in the world.

“It’s unreal. It looks like a dream right now. We’re all here to show him love and to show him he’s always going to be in our hearts,” Kalou added.

England-based striker Wilfried Bony recalled how Tiote had been a mentor figure for him when he first started playing for the Elephants.

“From the beginning when I joined the team in 2010, he was one of the first players who came and talked to me about how to be here, my attitude, how to train, how I need to react with the other players.

“And Tiote was a player who loved to win who loved to be first, he never wanted to lose. He wanted always to be the best,” said Bony.

Mourners pay tribute to Cheick Tiote at his funeral in Abidjan on Sunday

Mourners pay tribute to Cheick Tiote at his funeral in Abidjan on Sunday

Ivorian Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly was joined by Ivorian Sports Minister Albert Amichia and President of the Ivorian football federation Augustin Sidy Diallo at the funeral in Abidjan as the country paid its last respects to its former international midfielder.

*BBC

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Caf to review how hosts were chosen for the next three Nations Cups
June 18, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Kennedy Gondwe*

"Our review process is that we go to those countries that bid for those competitions." Chiyangwa said that the change at Caf was driven by a sense of unfairness in the manner tournaments were awarded to hosts under its former president Issa Hayatou. "Our contestation on Hayatou to continue in office was the unfair awarding of tournaments to one region," he said. "Other regions were suffering, if you look at the background of the Issa Hayatou fall, it arises out of the fact that most of the competitions were being awarded to West Africa, not North Africa, not even Central Africa and not even Southern Africa," he added. "So the chance you have - should in our investigations a decision be arrived at to nullify the other competitions - you as Zambia, if you are ready, you may have an opportunity that arises in 2021."

“Our review process is that we go to those countries that bid for those competitions.”
Chiyangwa said that the change at Caf was driven by a sense of unfairness in the manner tournaments were awarded to hosts under its former president Issa Hayatou.
“Our contestation on Hayatou to continue in office was the unfair awarding of tournaments to one region,” he said.
“Other regions were suffering, if you look at the background of the Issa Hayatou fall, it arises out of the fact that most of the competitions were being awarded to West Africa, not North Africa, not even Central Africa and not even Southern Africa,” he added.
“So the chance you have – should in our investigations a decision be arrived at to nullify the other competitions – you as Zambia, if you are ready, you may have an opportunity that arises in 2021.”

Phillip Chiyangwa, vice president of the Confederation of African Football’s (Caf) Africa Cup of Nations committee, says Zambia may yet be given an opportunity to bid to host the 2021 Nations Cup.

Chiyangwa said Caf was reviewing the manner in which the 2019, 2021 and 2023 Africa Cup of Nations tournaments were awarded to West Africa by the previous Caf administration.

Chiyangwa, who is also head of the Cosafa region (Council of Southern African FA’s) spoke of his concerns in April and wants the tournaments to be more widespread.

“I am the giver and taker of competitions,” Phillip Chiyangwa said during a tour of Zambia last week.

As things currently stand, the 2019 edition will be held in Cameroon while Ivory Coast is set to stage the 2021 tournament and Guinea will be hosts in 2023.

That means the west of the continent would have staged Africa’s showpiece event for five consecutive tournaments, from 2015 – when Equatorial Guinea stepped in for Morocco – to 2023.

“I am currently reviewing what happened in the past, there may be possibilities in 2021 going forward, but the reason why I want to be ready with my region is to know which country wants what.

“If an opportunity arises there is no need for me to do last minute searches,” Chiyangwa said.

“Our review process is that we go to those countries that bid for those competitions.”

Chiyangwa said that the change at Caf was driven by a sense of unfairness in the manner tournaments were awarded to hosts under its former president Issa Hayatou.

Zambia FA president Andrew Kamanga and Caf's Phillip Chiyangwa meeting in Zambia last week

Zambia FA president Andrew Kamanga and Caf’s Phillip Chiyangwa meeting in Zambia last week

“Our contestation on Hayatou to continue in office was the unfair awarding of tournaments to one region,” he said.

“Other regions were suffering, if you look at the background of the Issa Hayatou fall, it arises out of the fact that most of the competitions were being awarded to West Africa, not North Africa, not even Central Africa and not even Southern Africa,” he added.

“So the chance you have – should in our investigations a decision be arrived at to nullify the other competitions – you as Zambia, if you are ready, you may have an opportunity that arises in 2021.”

 *BBC
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From Africa To Geneva And Back: Why A New Dad Returned To His Roots
June 18, 2017 | 0 Comments

By *

Carl Manlan, his wife, Lelani, and their two kids, Liam and Claire. Lizelle Krige

Carl Manlan, his wife, Lelani, and their two kids, Liam and Claire.
Lizelle Krige

Would you rather raise your kids in Europe or Africa?

That’s the question that Carl Manlan faced. Carl, who’s from the Ivory Coast, and his wife, Lelani, who’s from South Africa, started their family in Geneva, Switzerland, where they were working at the time. They have two children, a daughter named Claire, born in May 2012, and a son named Liam, born in September 2014.

Geneva is a great place to raise kids, Carl says. “Lots of opportunities to stimulate kids outside of the home, playgrounds for kids. You don’t really find that in most cities in Africa.”

But he wanted to be a dad in Africa. So he and his family moved to Johannesburg and then Accra, where he works as a chief operating officer for a foundation. I spoke with Carl about his decision to be an African dad in Africa.

What is behind your decision?

Raising my two African children in Geneva has limitations. There are experiences they will not be able to have because of the geographic location.

Like what?

In Geneva she could see pictures and images from Africa but the visual and sensory experience of being here is something I cannot replace, even with social media. In Ghana, we see many people, kids, selling things in the street. It’s something I saw growing up.

Does your daughter ask you why there are kids living on the streets?

She asked that question when we were driving her to school. Part of the explanation we gave her is that there are many children who cannot go to school, and they have to find a way to make a living.

What if she looks back and says, Gee, Dad, Geneva would have been a nicer place to live?

Maybe she would say, ‘My life in Geneva would have been much better.” But my answer would be, “It’s a decision we made as parents. We think it is important for our children to understand the continent where their parents come from, to be part of the local culture, to hear the local languages, to see the challenges we have to resolve as a society.”

Are you worried about health risks in Africa, where there are high rates of communicable diseases like malaria?

We focus on prevention — anti-mosquito spray and lotion on the body. And if something goes wrong we are fortunate to be able to access medical facilities.

Are you kind of the “new African dad”?

I wouldn’t say the ‘new African dad.’ But there are fathers taking a different role in Africa.

Meaning what?

As fathers, we cannot just relay on the nanny. Raising children is a commitment. If parents delegate that responsibility they may not be helping society. Because having children is a commitment we’ve made to society, to make sure they become good citizens. And becoming a good citizen starts at home.

Any other advice for new dads?

Enjoy!

What was your dad like?

My father was a doctor and used to travel a lot. It took a while to make time to connect. With my kids, when I travel for work I make sure we have a conversation about my traveling before I go. I explain what I’m going to do. When I come back I bring a book from the country I’ve been to. And as much as possible it’s 100 percent dedication to an activity for my children.

How did you connect with your dad?

Carl Manlan at 22 with his dad the doctor, Kassi Manlan, in a photo from 2000. Kassi died the next year. Courtesy Carl Manlan

Carl Manlan at 22 with his dad the doctor, Kassi Manlan, in a photo from 2000. Kassi died the next year.
Courtesy Carl Manlan

In my teenage years in Abidjan, he’d wake me up in the early hours, around 5 in the morning, and we’d go for a walk. During these walks he would speak about being a professional and what it entails, how as a medical doctor he was committed to save people’s lives and sometimes it means he cannot be home. Being able to walk with him when it was just the two of us is something I cherish a lot.

But he woke you up at 5! Teenagers love to sleep late, right?

I would look forward to the nudge in the early hours, that voice that troubled my sleep. I am grateful for those moments because it was our moment.

And he was very good at increasing the pace as a training in perseverance.

Going for an early walk became a habit. Even now I wake up early and I walk my walk. I’m not a runner but I walk my walk. It’s a quiet moment, a special moment. It gets me ready for the day.

Do you plan to teach that custom to your kids?

I don’t know if my children will want to do that. But I will definitely try and see what the reaction is.

*NPR

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Why migration from west Africa may start to slow
June 18, 2017 | 0 Comments

FOR 165 Senegalese, the journey of a lifetime ended in a fluorescent-lit, green-carpeted barn at the edge of Dakar’s international airport.

Dressed uniformly in new white sneakers and hoodies reading “RISING” in large letters, they perched on plastic chairs and ate their first meal back on home soil out of foil containers.

They had just returned from Tripoli, in Libya, on a flight put on by the International Organisation for Migration, a UN body. Of the 165, all but one were men, and all were young. They had been trying to get onto boats bound for Europe. Instead they had spent months—over a year for some—living on starvation rations in Libyan prisons.

And yet by their accounts, these are the lucky ones. “Today, to be back here, it is as good as if I made it to Europe,” says Mohammed Sylla, a 30-year-old trader. “Why did I want to go to Italy anyway? I was stupid.” He headed for Libya after trying to get to Europe through Morocco, but the moment he crossed the border from Algeria, it became “a hell”.

He describes being beaten up repeatedly by soldiers, and hiding in a forest for six days without food. Two other migrants he was with, from Guinea, were shot by militiamen in front of him. “I thought I would die for sure,” he says, his voice dipping to a whisper. Black people are imprisoned, he continues, and sold on for labour or ransom.

Centuries ago, Senegal, on the western edge of Africa, was a stopping point for European ships taking slaves to the new world. On Goree Island, off the coast of Dakar, tourists can gawp at buildings where human beings were once kept like cattle. Today, Senegalese go on grim journeys of their own volition, in hope of a better life. Of 37,000 arrivals to Italy in the first four months of this year, around 7% were from Senegal. In that time the number of migrants, mostly from the Middle East, crossing to Greece from Turkey dropped by over 90% compared with last year. By contrast, the number going to Italy increased—most of them from west Africa.

In Senegal it is possible to get a hint of what leads people to risk the journey to Europe. Kayar, a fishing village about 60km (40 miles) outside Dakar, is a place from where people have been seeking a way north for decades. On the beach, hundreds of wooden pirogues painted in dazzling colours crowd the sand; the buzz of saws at makeshift workshops fills the air. But fishing provides work only for a few months of the year, leaving young men with little to do. Instead, they dream up schemes for travelling north.

Ali Diong, a 35-year-old fisherman, often chats on WhatsApp with friends who have made it to Spain and Italy. “They can send money to their wives, they can pay for baptisms,” he says. “We who are still here depend entirely on our parents.” Every migrant’s plan is different, he says, but in order to pay for their journeys, people sell assets, such as their boats or motorcycles, or families chip in to raise the fare. It is risky, he admits. “But here there is nothing. You have to do something, and emigration is all you have.”

Kayar also offers hints of how illegal migration can be curbed. A decade ago, the area was a transit point for people trying to travel 1,500km across the Atlantic to the Spanish Canary Islands. According to Aliou Ndoye, the town’s assistant mayor, at the peak of that migration, in 2006, some 973 men from Kayar—which has a population of just 27,000—tried to cross. Hundreds of people died; some pirogues full of bleached corpses washed up in the Caribbean. Today, that route is all but closed, thanks to a deal Spain struck with Senegal to return migrants and patrol the coast for boats. Those who want to try to get to Europe face an even tougher journey. And from Kayar, fewer are going. Mr Ndoye reckons the number who have left this year is under 100. Those who do so now mostly head to Morocco instead of Libya. That is Mr Diong’s plan: “The desert is very dangerous, but I know the sea,” he reasons.

The trouble for European countries, desperate to curb the flow of boats across the Mediterranean, is that the message hasn’t reached other parts of Senegal yet. Jo-Lind Roberts-Sene, the representative of the IOM in Dakar, says that closer to the capital people have become more wary. But in more remote parts of the country, the idea that Europe is El Dorado persists. The majority of migrants going to Europe via Libya these days are leaving from south-east Senegal, which is separated from the rest of the country by the Gambia, and is far poorer. Migrants from there are usually farmers, and do not have much formal schooling. “They think they are aware of the dangers,” says Ms Roberts-Sene; but those who come back tell shocking tales.

That is certainly true of Thierno Mendy, a 37-year-old from eastern Senegal. “If I knew the journey would be like it was, I would never have done it,” he says. But failure is shameful, and many migrants are desperate to believe they have a chance. Massyla Dieng, a 50-year-old in Kayar who lived in Italy for ten years, says he has given up trying to persuade young men not to go. “When I say it is tough, they treat me like an enemy. They think I want them to fail.” Unfortunately, whatever the dangers may be, as long as a few are making it to Europe, the dream will never fully die.

This article appeared in the Middle East and Africa section of the print edition under the headline “What drives the huddled masses”
*Economist
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Are African footballers more likely to die on the pitch?
June 16, 2017 | 0 Comments
Cheick Tiote, who was 30, collapsed and died during training

Cheick Tiote, who was 30, collapsed and died during training

The recent death of Ivorian footballer Cheick Tiote on the pitch brought an outpouring of sadness in the world of football. This left us asking if there is any evidence to suggest that African players are more likely to die on the pitch than other players, writes Jordan Dunbar.

In the past few years there have been a number of players who have died while playing football.

Perhaps the most high profile incidents involved two African players; Cameroonian Marc Vivien Foe, who died during a game, and Congolese Fabrice Muamba, who had a cardiac arrest on the pitch but survived.

There is no official register of people who have died playing football. So instead we have used a list from Wikipedia as, though not ideal, it is the most complete we could find.

And we are looking at people who died playing the game, that is either in training or during a match.

Robert Mastrodomenico from Global Sports Statistics has done some calculations to give us a rough estimate.

Restricting himself to the last 10 years he found that 64 footballers had died during that period, but said it was not easy to figure out what all their nationalities were.

This means this list certainly has its limitations, and yet, he persevered to crunch the numbers and we think it still shows something interesting.

The analysis suggests that 26 of the 64 players who have died in the last 10 years are from African countries. That is nearly 40%.

Fifa, football’s world governing body, estimates that there are about 265 million people playing in recognised teams around the world. Around 17% of those are playing in Africa.

That is not an ideal measure as many African players are in leagues in other continents. But it is a useful benchmark.

Therefore, while Africans make up 17% of the world’s footballers they account for nearly 40% of the known deaths.

Overall, the biggest cause of death of footballers on the pitch was sudden cardiac death and this was particularly true for African players, as 25 of the 26 died from this cause.

Could African players really be more susceptible to sudden cardiac death?

Fans at Beijing Enterprise, the football club he Tiote was playing for when he died, paid tribute to the footballer

Fans at Beijing Enterprise, the football club he Tiote was playing for when he died, paid tribute to the footballer

Professor of cardiology Sanjay Sharma told the BBC that evidence from the US shows that sudden cardiac death amongst black basketball players is around three times more common than for white players.

But, he added, that is not the only place he has seen that pattern.

“There is data from the National Collegiate Athletic Association in the US that shows that the overall risk of sudden cardiac death during sport is around one in 48,000.

“But when someone actually examines this more closely that risk is considerably higher in black athletes; one in 18,000 in black males.”

Professor Sharma said that in the UK the Football Association has done research on young players. The death rate for white footballers in that sample is one in 25,000 but it is one in 4,000 for black players.

In other words, a black player is about six times more likely to die than a white player, though the chances are still very small.

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African footballers who died on the pitch

  • Former Gabon international Moise Brou Apanga died in training for Libreville 105 this April, aged 35
  • Cameroon international Patrick Ekeng died while playing for Dinamo Bucharest in Romania in May 2016, aged 26
  • Zambia’s Chaswe Nsofwa died during a club match in Israel in 2007, aged 28
  • Nigeria’s Samuel Okwaraji died playing a World Cup qualifier against Angola in 1989, aged 25

Read more: Africa’s growing on-field casualty list

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“The precise reasons aren’t clear,” said Prof Sharma. But he thinks that the evidence he looked at suggests black sports players are more likely to suffer from cardiac arrest because the wall of the left side of the heart seems to thicken more than players of other ethnicities.

“Which may be a situation that causes abnormal electrical disturbances that can cause a sudden death.”

Professor Sharma said this can be made worse by higher blood pressure during exercise.

Most of Prof Sharma’s research has looked at black players in the US and UK. But it turns out the picture is more complicated.

“There is going to be some genetic variation amongst the black population. Our information in the UK and from the US is based predominately among black athletes who have originated in West Africa.”

Cameroon players remembered Marc Vivien Foe after he died after collapsing during an international game in 2003

Cameroon players remembered Marc Vivien Foe after he died after collapsing during an international game in 2003

Prof Sharma added that while we do not have much data on East Africa, what we do have seems to indicate players from there do not suffer as badly as their West African counterparts.

Heart screening is rarer in poorer African countries so problems in players do not always get picked up.

“Overall the risk of sudden death is one in 48,000 to one in 50,000.”

The answer to the question “are more African football players dying?” is “perhaps”.

The lack of good data, the national and ethnic differences, as well as not enough monitoring means it is too difficult to give a definitive answer.

But the medical research seems to suggest that there are good reasons to think that this is a serious issue.

*BBC

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Cameroon driven by Foe memory at Confeds Cup
June 16, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Piers Edwards*

Marc-Vivien Foe died after collapsing on the pitch during the 2003 semi-final against Colombia

Marc-Vivien Foe died after collapsing on the pitch during the 2003 semi-final against Colombia

Cameroon will be driven by the memory of Marc Vivien-Foe when they contest the Confederations Cup for the first time since the midfielder’s death.

Foe died after collapsing on the pitch during the 2003 semi-final against Colombia in France.

The 28-year-old was later found to have suffered from a heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

The Indomitable Lions will end their 14-year absence from the Confederations Cup when Fifa’s World Cup dress rehearsal kicks off this weekend.

Cameroon open their Group B campaign against Copa America winners Chile on Sunday 18 June, in Moscow, before meeting Asian champions Australia four days later and then the world champions themselves, Germany, on 25 June.

Despite the passage of time, the memory of Foe – a Manchester City player at the time of his death – will be uppermost in their minds as the African champions take to the field in Russia.

“We want to play well for him – to honour and respect what he did for Cameroon,” midfielder Arnaud Djoum told BBC Sport.

“We want to show a good image of Cameroon for him first.

“In the dressing room, we try not to speak too much about it out of respect for him and his family.

“It’s something we keep really quiet but we know from each other that we have to give everything and play from heart – like he did.”

Scotland-based Djoum, who won the Nations Cup just five months after making his Cameroon debut, may feel the connection more closely than others given that he wears number 17 on his Indomitable Lions jersey – just as Foe did many years before him.

Arnaud Djoum wears number 17 on his Cameroon jersey - just as Marc-Vivien Foe did

Arnaud Djoum wears number 17 on his Cameroon jersey – just as Marc-Vivien Foe did

But instead of feeling any burden, the 28-year-old calls it “special” and “an honour” to wear the shirt – even though he says “it’s not an easy number to wear in this national team.”

Memories of Foe aside, Cameroon may also be mindful that their last appearance on the global stage was little short of disastrous.

Ahead of the 2014 World Cup, a bonus row initially delayed the Cameroon squad’s flight to Brazil where the team promptly crashed out after just two games.

Players clashed among themselves on the pitch during a 4-0 defeat by Croatia, which later became the subject of a match-fixing investigation – although nothing has ever been proven.

That World Cup came during a spell when Cameroon were in the relative doldrums – having failed to qualify for both the 2012 and 2013 Nations Cups – but their 2017 triumph in Gabon ended that lack of success in spectacular fashion.

Russia will be a true test of where this team are under Belgian coach Hugo Broos because African kings they may be, but how will they fare against the world’s finest?

“In the whole of the German team, they have great players – big, big players – so it will be interesting to see the level and compare if we are near this level or not,” said Djoum.

“Our team has a lot of confidence now, after the Nations Cup, and we want to prove that we deserved to win the trophy.”

Cameroon’s 2003 squad are the only African team to contest the Confederations Cup final, albeit losing to host nation France in a sombre affair in 2003, while South Africa reached the semi-finals when staging the World Cup warm-up event in 2009.

Can they perform similarly?

“We want to show that the teams in Africa can do good things,” said Djoum, who has played for Scottish side Motherwell since 2015.

Cameroon booked their ticket to Russia after winning the Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon

Cameroon booked their ticket to Russia after winning the Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon

“Previously in this competition, African teams did well so we want to show that we can play against these kinds of countries – like Germany and Chile – so that we can show that we have a good team as well.”

“With our team now, with our confidence, everything is possible. We are not scared of anybody. We will try to do our best and go as far as possible.”

While the on-pitch clashes with the likes of Chile’s Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal, Germany’s world-beaters and Australia will be challenging, so may the atmosphere off the pitch.

Plenty has been written about the racism in Russian football (despite the local authorities’ repeated denials), but Djoum – befitting his personality – is relaxed about the prospect.

“I think some of us have played before in Russia or a country like that. I’ve played in Poland,” he explains.

“I think everywhere is a bit racist – in every country you can find it – and in football, sometimes a few people try to use that against the player but you just have to try to put it away and be focussed on the pitch.

“Football is a game for everybody – it’s not about being racist.

“It doesn’t matter if you are white, grey or yellow, the most important thing is to just play football and enjoy.”

The Confederations Cup – which sees hosts Russia contest Group A alongside New Zealand, Mexico and Portugal – starts on 17 June with the final on 2 July.

*BBC

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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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Africa is tackling the threat of global warming one tree at a time
June 7, 2017 | 0 Comments
Global climate change is at Africa’s door step. As we celebrate World Environment Day today, what can we do to assuage its effects, questions Jung Hyun Park, Vice President and Managing Director of Samsung Electronics East Africa.
 NAIROBI, Kenya, 5 June 2017, -/African Media Agency (AMA)/- From the US to Thailand, the Caribbean and Kenya, this past month alone has seen countries across the world hit by devastating encounters with flooding.

As we witness these terrible events unfold, a question lingers at the back of our minds: Are we starting to see the more sinister effects of global warming at play?

Undoubtedly the wrath of global warming is expected to take its toll over the coming years, with the threat of everything from flooding to drought, the spread of disease and even lack of drinking water looming. According to National Geographic, the global average surface temperature has already increased between 0.6 and 0.9 degrees Celsius since 1906. As a result, ice across the world is melting.

The massive task before us in reducing the harmful effects of global warming almost seems insurmountable – but as J.M. Darhower was wise enough to point out: “Change happens little by little. Day by day. Hour by hour.”

And in the case of climate change – it just may happen one tree at a time.

The future relies on our forests
In fact, environmental advocacy group, the Environmental Defense Fund, is adamant that any realistic plan to reduce global warming sufficiently – and in time to prevent catastrophic effects – will rely in part on preserving our forests.

Nowhere does the need to save our forests ring truer than in Africa, where according to research from the Green Africa Foundation, the rate of annual deforestation exceeds the global annual average by 0.8%.

Deforestation is a particular problem in Kenya – in 2015 it was estimated that Kenya was losing a shocking 5.6 million trees daily. The effects of deforestation have been significant, leading to reduced rainfall and increased soil erosion, in turn causing food scarcity and other difficulties.

But the Kenyan government has taken a stand by setting itself the goal of planting a total of 20 million trees in and around Mount Kenya and other highland forests by 2024. It plans to increase forest cover and restore degraded land, and in so doing make a valuable contribution towards the war against climate change.

As such forest cover has already begun to improve. According to the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, coverage in Kenya is currently at 7%. The goal, however, is for this to increase to at least 10% by 2020.

It is an achievable target and one which will help us beat back the harmful ravages of global warming – country by country, forest by forest, tree by tree.

10 000 trees to start
Samsung Electronics East Africa is determined to be part of tackling this threat by playing a part in rehabilitating Karura Forest in Nairobi.

Recently, Samsung partnered with Friends of Karura Forest and Kenya Forest Service to help grow forest coverage in Karura Forest specifically, and Kenya in general, committing to planting 10 000 trees over the next two years.

Located in the northern part of Nairobi and covering 1 041 hectares, Karura Forest is one of the largest urban gazetted forests in the world. It is home to 50km of well-maintained trails in which visitors can walk, run or bike. As part of Samsung’s commitment, 5 000 trees will be planted in the forest this year and 5 000 in 2018. 200 benches and picnic tables have also been donated towards the initiative.

The benefits of a project like Karura Forest extend beyond reducing the effects of climate change. It also has a positive impact on the surrounding communities, in particular the Huruma and Deep Sea informal settlements that border the forest to the north and south, from which residents have been employed to plant the 10 000 trees donated by Samsung.

There is no doubt that we have a great deal of work to do if we’re going to leave a healthier world for future generations. Samsung firmly believes the task is not insurmountable though – little by little, inch by inch, we’ll succeed in taking our planet back.

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. For the latest news, please visit Samsung Newsroom at http://news.samsung.com
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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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Lucha continua: The youth movement striking fear into Congo’s elite
June 7, 2017 | 0 Comments

Neither an NGO nor a political party, Lucha has mobilised in innovative ways to ensure young people’s voices are heard in DRC’s tense environment.

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Cheick Tiote: Beijing player recalls former Newcastle midfielder’s collapse
June 7, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Zhijie Shao*

Cheick Tiote

Cheick Tiote

One of Beijing Enterprises’ players has recalled the “horrible” moment when Cheick Tiote fell to the ground in training and later died.

The former Newcastle United midfielder, 30, passed away on Monday, about an hour after he collapsed.

“He just collapsed right in front of me,” Jin Hui said in a post on social media platform WeChat Moments, and seen by BBC Chinese.

The 29-year-old said he joined with the first-aid efforts on the pitch.

“I still cannot believe this,” he added.

A club statement confirmed Tiote died at around 19:00 local time (11:00 BST).

“Beijing Enterprises Group FC mourn with deep grief over Mr Tiote’s death,” it read, adding that Tiote made an “outstanding contribution to the club”.

On Tuesday, members of an official fan club visited the Beijing’s home stadium to lay flowers on the pitch in a brief ceremony.

“They came this morning in the rain to pay tribute to Mr Tiote,” Chen Zhenting, a spokesperson for the fan club, told BBC Chinese. “We are in pain and very, very sad to see him die at such a young age.”

Chen said there would be further commemoration at Beijing’s home game against Harbin Yiteng later this month.

“On 24 June, we will pay tribute to the player, as he wore number 24,” Chen said.

“There would definitely be a silent tribute.”

The cause of Tiote’s death has not been announced, with the club waiting for the Ivorian’s family to travel to Beijing.

“We must wait until his family is here,” club spokesperson Yang Xiaoxiao said.

“We need to respect their opinion and not to speak more at this moment.”

Meanwhile, Beijing head coach Gao Hongbo has revealed the club has seen a request to postpone their next fixture rejected by opponents Meizhou Hakka.

“We hope the [Chinese] FA would offer some help to postpone the match on Saturday,” Gao added.

 

 

 

*BBC

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One man, four wives: The new hit reality TV show
June 7, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Megha Mohan*

Musa Mseleku and his four wives

Musa Mseleku and his four wives

A new hit reality TV show has restarted a debate over the traditional practice of polygamy in South Africa.

Musa Mseleku says he wants to change people’s perceptions of polygamy. And he’s getting some help – from his four wives.

The 43-year-old property developer, along with his wives and their 10 children, are the stars of a new reality show called Uthando Nes’thembu, which translates as “Love and Polygamy”.

The series, which premiered 19 May, is consistently a top trending topic on Twitter in South Africa, with thousands of tweets debating the place of this traditional set-up in modern society.

The show is filmed at the Mselekus’ rural homestead near Durban, in KwaZulu-Natal’s south coast. The four wives each have their own house but share the land.

“One of the biggest misconceptions [about] polygamous lifestyles is that it is a culture which seeks to oppress women,” Mr Mseleku tells BBC Trending radio. “That’s one of the reasons we wanted to do the show, to allow people to see that it’s not like that in our case. I want to show men that you can be in a polygamous relationship and also be a considerate husband.”

However, not everyone agrees. While several people expressed their appreciation for the show, some feel that the lifestyle is indeed restrictive.

Some tweeters, mostly female, picked up on an episode where Mseleku insisted on a 17:00 curfew for his wives. They also have to ask his permission if they want to hang out with their friends or drink alcohol.

“I believe that in each and every house, especially us as South Africans, we believe your husband is like your god,” Thobile Mseleku, Musa’s fourth wife, tells BBC Trending, “So you can’t just do what you wish, unless he gives you his blessing.”

The four Mrs Mselekus. Thobile (far left) says the women rarely have conflict and are "like sisters"

The four Mrs Mselekus. Thobile (far left) says the women rarely have conflict and are “like sisters”

Musa Mseleku adds that he also has restrictions imposed on him. He has to be home an hour earlier than his wives, he says, “so I can prepare for them all!”

Thobile and Musa have been married for nine years. When she met him, he already had two other wives, so she says that she knew what she was getting into. Her grandparents had also been part of a polygamous family.

She says that the four wives – the others are Busisiwe MaCele, Nokukhanya MaYeni and Mbali MaNgwabe – are like sisters and rely on each other for advice and help.

But the show, which explores how the four Mrs Mselekus balance their daily routine, careers (which include business and government jobs), household commitments and parenting duties, also shows the tensions within the family.

“Our biggest source of conflict is time,” Thobile Mseleku says. “It can be frustrating if we’re all going to go out together and one is ready and you have to wait for one of the other wives.”

Time, adds Musa, is something he thinks about a lot.

 

 

 

“I try to make sure that I divide my time equally between the women and my children.”

In South Africa, polygamy – while not adopted by the majority of people – is not illegal, nor specific to a particular religion. It is most common among the Zulu ethnic group, and South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma, himself a Zulu, has three wives.

Ndela Ntshangase, a lecturer in the school of Zulu studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, says that the polygamous unions in South Africa began to wane in the 19th century when white missionaries preached that conversion to Christianity entailed divorcing one’s “extra” wives.

“British colonisers pushed [monogamy] down the throats of black people through taxes that rose for each wife, and land allocations with insufficient space for polygamous family units,” Ntshangase says.

But can it work both ways? Would Musa Mseleku be OK with one of his wives taking another husband?

“No way,” he laughs, “I would die!”

Thobile says her husband’s attitude doesn’t bother her.

“We chose this life. We chose him and him alone.”

So is there room for a fifth wife?

“We are exploring that on the show,” Musa says, “so keep tuned in.”

 

 

 

*BBC

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Ecowas agrees to admit Morocco to West African body
June 7, 2017 | 0 Comments
Morocco's King Mohammed VI is strengthening his country's ties with the rest of Africa

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI is strengthening his country’s ties with the rest of Africa

West African regional group Ecowas has in principle approved Morocco’s membership application despite the country being in North Africa.

But Ecowas leaders meeting in Liberia said the implications of its membership still needed to be considered before Morocco could formally join.

King Mohammed VI was not at the summit because Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been invited.

Morocco’s application comes after it rejoined the African Union in January.

Morocco left the continental body in 1984 after it recognised the independence of Western Sahara.

Morocco regards Western Sahara as part of its historic territory and has spent much of the last three decades trying to strengthen ties with Europe at the expense of relations with Africa.

Ivory Coast President Alasanne Ouattara has confirmed that the decision had been agreed in principle but the details still had to be worked out.

Morocco, along with Tunisia which is seeking observer status with the organisation and Mauritania, which wants to return to the body, will be invited to the next meeting of heads of state in Togo in December, a senior Ecowas source told the BBC.

Rival bodyguards ‘clash’

Ecowas is made up of 15 West African nations, none of which shares a border with Morocco.

Members enjoy free trade and movement of people.

King Mohammed VI last week announced he would not be attending the summit in Liberia, because of the presence of Israel’s prime minister.

Morocco does not have diplomatic ties with Israel.

Mr Netanyahu addressed West African leaders on Sunday saying: “Israel is coming back to Africa and Africa is coming back to Israel.

“I believe in Africa. I believe in its potential, present and future. It is a continent on the rise.”

While in Liberia for the summit, his bodyguards scuffled with those of Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbe, according to reports in the Israeli media.

This trip comes nearly a year after Mr Netanyahu was in East Africa as part of his efforts to strengthen ties between the continent and Israel.

*BBC

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