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Moammar Gadhafi’s son wants to be the next president of Libya
March 20, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Joe Tacopino*

Moammar Gadhafi, AP

Moammar Gadhafi ,AP

The son of former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi reportedly wants to run for president of the country in elections later this year.

The candidacy of Saif al-Islam Gadhafi — who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity — was announced by the Libyan Popular Front party on Monday, according to London’s Telegraph newspaper.

Saif al-Islam, 45, is currently in hiding. The political party said they would address the country about his plans.

Human rights activist Khaled Guel told the pan-Arab newspaper al-Araby al-Jadeed that things are so bad in Libya that people want Gadhafi to take over.

“The humanitarian situation is deteriorating and the path forward is unclear,” said Guel.

“Therefore many Libyans now believe that the only way to save the country is through Saif al-Islam.”

Moammar Gadhafi was killed in 2011 after overseeing a bloody suppression of an uprising against him.

Saif al-Islam was held by a militia for six years and released last year and granted amnesty by a local government.

A court in Tripoli, however sentenced him to death, in absentia, in 2015 for crimes committed during the revolution.

He is accused of inciting violence and murdering protesters.

*New York Post

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Roll up your sleeves and start thinking BIG – how to get ICT in Africa right
March 20, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Murray Steyn*

Whether one subscribes to the Africa Rising narrative (a term perhaps coined by this analysis of Africa’s prospects, published by The Economist in 2011)) or a more moderate outlook for the continent, the fact is that the ICT sector has the most to gain from Africa’s economic advancement, and the most to contribute to it too.

There isn’t a single industry – from mining to manufacturing, education to entrepreneurial endeavours of every flavour, from city construction to individual actualisation – that will not be advanced by reliable, affordable access to the Internet. I don’t think there’s another sector in the world that can make such a momentous promise.

The opportunity for ICT companies of all sizes – from neighbourhood ISPs to cross-national carriers – is significant, particularly for home-grown ICT operations that surely know our continent and its markets better than any imported from overseas. Increasingly, local ICT players are collaborating to offer competitively-priced and technologically-sound solutions that are outperforming those presented by international competitors.

Many of these would only be possible through wholesale product offerings by large network operators like Internet Solutions. This may appear to be a counter-intuitive business model but for those that invested in the infrastructure and licences on which new competitors grow their market share, there is a lot of opportunity to be had in reallocating network capacity.

Below are some of the trends we’re seeing in the wholesale ICT sector, specifically looking to Africa:

Local carriers are also entering partnerships with third-party service providers

The days of operators owning the entirety of their own networks – from first- to last-mile – are over. And that’s fine. As I’ve mentioned, where some licensees have adopted business models based on owning their infrastructure, other operators have opted to partner with existing network players to bring innovative services to the market faster.

What is interesting is that even at a very local level, where one could argue that infrastructure investment is fairly contained, ISPs are recognising the benefit of outsourcing network, data centre and other assets to experienced partners. By concentrating on what they do best, which is likely servicing their customers, even the smallest ISP has the means to build a thriving business.

Red tape and regulation still hampers cross-border operations

Africa is the continent with the most countries – 54 to be exact. It’s comprised of countless tribes, innumerable languages, political instability, infrastructure challenges and more than enough regulation to go around.

The fact is that African policy-making has not been able to keep up with the exponential growth of technology, devices and their applications. As such, regulation is reactive rather than supportive, and appears to handicap development rather than encourage it.

Perhaps the solution is that foreign companies – even African ones – get closer to policy-makers in their new markets to better mitigate the risks of changing policy. Perhaps more involvement, lobbying, and monetary and other investment from the get-go will lead to better mitigation of the risks associated with policy change.

Asian operators have their eyes on Africa too

China and India are two Asian markets that not only survived the global recession but thrived despite it.

Their respective population bases, and size of their economies, provide economies of scale that are driving the growth of their ICT sectors, while the number of science and engineering students in both countries looks to sustain this growth and innovation well into the future – and into foreign territories like Africa.

Perhaps it’s true that many African ISPs lack the financial and experiential muscle of Asian competitors, but how many of these can boast genuine pan-African development agendas, and partnerships with local companies to overcome infrastructure challenges?

As Ayanda Dlamini, Business Development Manager at LGR Telecommunications, said recently: “Africa has both the resources and the resourcefulness to develop a thriving ICT sector delivering solutions fit for purpose in Africa.  The outlook is very healthy. All we need to do is take action and seize the opportunity.”

Beware of competing on cost

When it comes to Internet connectivity and access, cheapest is not necessarily best. Consumers want speed. In our experience, the arguments against unreliable connections are about as vociferous as those against high data costs.

The fact is that the speed vs. cost debate comes down to the market one is serving. A less sophisticated market has yet to learn that fast becomes cheap, whereas an experienced market of users with more high-end devices and applications comes to realise that if they can’t get data at the price they’d prefer to pay for it (i.e. free), then speed and bandwidth capacity is something they simply won’t compromise on.

My advice to ISPs entering new African territories – whether into a new country or a new neighbourhood – is to research your market thoroughly to understand who your consumers are and what they need. Then structure and price your offering accordingly.

Doing business in Africa is complicated, but it’s far from impossible. After all, Internet Solutions has been doing so for more than 20 years. We have invested in long distance and last-mile networks – the latter is especially challenging given that customers are geographically dispersed and often in underdeveloped locales.

Importantly, we have built and maintained relationships with trusted, in-country service providers. We understand exactly how consumers use data and can project future usage patterns as populations grow and disposable income increases.

What remains is the increasingly vital component of customer service, which we entrust to our wholesale clients

*Murray Steyn, Executive Head: Wholesale at Internet Solutions

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In Africa, Trump’s firing of Tillerson a new sign of neglect
March 20, 2018 | 0 Comments

By RODNEY MUHUMUZA*

Former Secretary of State Tillerson with President Buhari of Nigeria

Former Secretary of State Tillerson with President Buhari of Nigeria

Ask some Africans what they think of President Donald Trump and they just shake their heads. That sense of indifference appears to have deepened after Trump fired his secretary of state at the end of Rex Tillerson’s first Africa tour last week.

Tillerson’s visit was widely seen as a Trump peace offering after the uproar over his reported vulgar remarks about African nations and his administration’s neglect of the world’s second most populous continent. The former secretary of state had been seen as a restraining influence on Trump and had clashed with the president over several foreign policy matters.

Now many Africans are tamping down their expectations of Trump even more. The U.S. president has rarely spoken about any priorities for a continent where many of its 50-plus nations have long relied on U.S. support for everything from health care to security.

Tillerson’s trip to Africa, including to the headquarters of the continent-wide African Union, had been widely seen as an effort to repair damage to relations. Now, with his firing, some in Africa feel they are starting anew with the Trump administration.

Tillerson’s departure is a sharp indication of Trump’s less-than-positive attitude toward the continent, some say.

“That, in my opinion, is adding insult to injury,” said Ted Alemayhu, an Ethiopian-born American who is running for Congress to represent California’s 39th District.

While in Africa, Tillerson tried to project a more positive image of the continent, saying its rapid economic growth and fast-growing populations mean its future is increasingly linked to America’s.

He visited some of Africa’s most prominent economies in Nigeria, Kenya and Ethiopia and highlighted U.S. security issues with stops in Chad and Djibouti, the site of the only permanent U.S. military base on the continent.

Tillerson also sought to reassure African nations that aid would continue even as the Trump administration pursues deep cuts in foreign assistance, announcing at the end of his visit $533 million in humanitarian aid for countries such as South Sudan and Nigeria.

Nigeria’s foreign affairs minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, told The Associated Press that “we don’t see any change happening” in relations with the U.S. after Tillerson’s firing.

Unlike Trump, recent U.S. leaders engaged substantially with Africa.

Bill Clinton created a signature trade program known as the African Growth and Opportunity Act, and George W. Bush launched an HIV treatment program, PEPFAR, that has boosted the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of AIDS patients across Africa.

Barack Obama enjoyed goodwill throughout the continent, even though some in Africa felt he fell short of expectations as the son of Kenyan man.

Trump has not indicated any possible initiatives for Africa.

Trump “has no need, as he has discovered,” to engage with the continent, said Timothy Kalyegira, a prominent social critic in Uganda. “The feeling is that he is a free agent. If he wants to visit Africa, it’s fine. If he doesn’t want, it doesn’t matter.”

Trump has not named an assistant secretary of state to oversee the continent, nor an ambassador to key countries like South Africa. And Africa got a mere seven paragraphs on the very last pages of Trump’s National Security Strategy.

That lack of attention has left room for other countries such as China to step up their influence.

With its offers of concessional loans that help finance the ambitious infrastructure projects of some African governments, China’s footprint is widening. And African leaders like Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni have said they would rather do business with a partner who does not lecture them about good governance and respecting human rights, giving China the thumbs-up.

In Djibouti, China’s development of its first overseas military base just a few miles from the U.S. base has illustrated the broader competition between the U.S. and China playing out across the continent.

Even as some argue that the Trump administration’s focus on Africa is notable in counterterror efforts if not in other issues, some Africans say they have given up on the U.S. president.

“Africans have nothing to take Trump seriously,” said Befekadu Hailu, a prominent Ethiopian blogger. “He already proved himself ethno-centrist and exclusivist, no friend to Africa.”

*Fox News/AP

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Buhari puts off ACFTA free trade deal signing
March 20, 2018 | 0 Comments

“This is to allow more time for input from Nigerian stakeholders”.

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari arrives for the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia January 28, 2018 [Photo/Tiksa Negeri/Reuters]

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari arrives for the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia January 28, 2018 [Photo/Tiksa Negeri/Reuters]

Nigeria has officially put off signing the framework agreement for establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) following protests by major labour unions, which warned that the deal would harm the local economy.

The country’s foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement Sunday night that President Muhammadu Buhari has cancelled his trip to the Rwandan capital Kigali, where African heads of state were scheduled to ink the agreement this week.

Cancelled trip

“President Buhari has cancelled his trip to Kigali, Rwanda, to attend an Extra-Ordinary Summit of the African Union on Tuesday, March 21, to sign the framework agreement for establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area,” according to the statement by Tope Elias-Fatile, the foreign ministry spokesman.

“This is to allow more time for input from Nigerian stakeholders,” it added.

The Nigerian federal cabinet last week approved the signing of the deal, which it said would boost the country’s export, “spur growth and boost job creation as well as eliminate barriers against Nigeria’s products and provide a Dispute Settlement Mechanism for stopping the hostile and discriminatory treatment directed against Nigerian natural and corporate business persons in other African countries.”

ACFTA

ACFTA, a brainchild of the African Union to deepen regional integration, had been in the works since January 2012 – with Nigeria as one of its major promoters. However, local labour unions and big corporations have always been against it.

Last week, Nigeria’s trade and investment minister Okechukwu Enelamah acknowledged the continuous opposition to the deal, but he added that efforts were afoot to get the buy-in of all the stakeholders before the signing.

*Al Jazeera

 

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Scores lose millions to Savana Brokerage as grift scheme hits Ghana.
March 20, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Papisdaff Abdullah

Thousands of customers of an online investment scheme in Ghana, Savana Brokerage, are counting their losses as the digital platform has been inaccessible for weeks.

It is estimated that funds amounting to over GHC2million was invested across the country by Ghanaians.

Regulatory institutions including the Bank of Ghana and the Securities and Exchange Commission; are yet to comment on the development but Panafricanvisions can confirm that Savana Brokerage has no license to receive and invest funds in the west African country.

 Background

Per the address on the website before it went down, Savana Brokerage is a Kenyan Company pointing to a location in Nairobi.

According to the website, the company started operations in Ghana from 2014.

They were operating three packages; Knight Package, Queen Package and Kings Package.

Knight Package was a weekly form of investment – every customer was to invest more than GH 50. You were promised 10% on your money on weekly basis so you get 40% return on your capital at the end of the month.

Queen package; you get 60% on your investment money after a month.

Kings Package promised 100% return on an investment. The investment was to last for three month.

To invest, the victims say, the money is to be paid through an MTN Merchant and the operators of the scheme get access to the funds.

Currently, telecommunications network MTN appears to have blocked all the merchant accounts. But there are huge monies stack in the accounts.

The merchants are not able to go for the funds due to some irregularities and tax issues. The accounts are also under investigation by the telecom company.

When contacted, an official of MTN said the company is not in the position to comment on the issue.

Customer reaction

Since the website went down about two months ago, customers have begun galvanizing themselves for a class action.

They have formed regional and intercity Telegram and WhatsApp groups to push their concern.

One of the affected customers said, “the caliber of people who have invested in Savanna belong to the Elite. Some students also used their Student Loans and Fees to invest. I know someone who has invested GHC60,000. He is going mad. This is a very troubling development.”

The customers are hopeful that they might retrieve some of the funds due to the fact that MTN has blocked the merchant accounts which has about GHC2 million.

This development comes on the back of the infamous DKM troubles which robbed thousands of investors in Ghana of their money.

Investigation

Some customers have lodged complaints with the Criminals Investigations Department of the Ghana Police Service. Telecommunications network MTN has also begun intensive investigations into the matter.

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Ghana’s cabinet approves draft RTI Bill, forwards to parliament.
March 20, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Papisdaff Abdullah

Vice President of the Republic of Ghana, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia

Vice President of the Republic of Ghana, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia

Vice President of the Republic of Ghana, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia has stated that cabinet has approved and forwarded a reconsidered version of the Right to Information (RTI) Bill  to parliament for consideration and passage.

It has been 22 years since a Right to Information RTI Bill was drafted under the auspices of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA),a policy think tank.

Proponents of the bill again waited 6 years for the Executive arm of government in 2002 to draft the first RTI Bill. The draft Executive Bill was subsequently reviewed in 2003, 2005 and 2007 but was never laid in Parliament until February 5, 2010.

Pressure group, Right to Information Coalition has taken it upon themselves to mount pressure on the government to get the bill laid before parliament rises on Friday March 23 following fears that the government of Ghana was deliberately delaying the process.

Addressing a gathering at the official launch of the Norfund’s West Africa Office in Ghana, Vice President Dr. Bawumia said the revised bill has been forwarded to parliament. He told the Norway-Ghana Business and Investment Forum that the bill if approved will go a long way to augment the fight against corruption and also boost investor confidence.

“Cabinet has given approval to the Right to Information Bill to be laid in parliament for debate and approval because it is very very critical that we pass the Right to Information Bill and it is our hope that it will add additional feather in our fight against corruption,” he stated in his address.

Dr Bawumia noted, “One major milestone that we have reached in the fight against corruption as a government is transparency in the terms of good governance.”

Touching on Norfund’s decision to set up an office in and to invest in Ghana, Dr. Bawumia drew the attention of Norfund to the fact that government has initiated several projects that they can take advantage of and invest in.

“We believe the right foundations for business development has been laid and we invite as many of you to see Ghana as the best destination for your investments. Government will continue to pursue several other programmes aimed at further improving the business climate for both local and foreign investors,” he noted.

The Norfund office in Accra will be headed by Naana Winful Fynn. Prior to joining Norfund, she was a Director at Sagevest Holdings, an investment holding company based in Accra, Ghana.

Addressing the forum, Miss Winful Fynn, indicated that Norfund is excited to be in Ghana and the institution is looking forward to investing in the country particularly in the three major areas of interest namely clean energy, financial institutions and Food and agribusiness.

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Zimbabwe crowns first ‘Miss Albino’ in bid to tackle stigma
March 18, 2018 | 0 Comments
Miss Albinism Zimbabwe 2018 winner Sithembiso Mutukura poses for a picture with her crown after a beauty contest featuring people with albinism in Harare, Zimbabwe, on March 16, 2018. (Photo: Aaron Ufumeli, EPA)

Miss Albinism Zimbabwe 2018 winner Sithembiso Mutukura poses for a picture with her crown after a beauty contest featuring people with albinism in Harare, Zimbabwe, on March 16, 2018.
(Photo: Aaron Ufumeli, EPA)

Sithembiso Mutukura beat 12 other contestants to claim the crown at Zimbabwe’s first-ever Miss Albinism beauty contest — an achievement she hopes will inspire others living with the rare disorder.

“We must continue to advocate for our rights and I hope my win will empower the girl child,” the 22-year-old social work student said.

“I have gone through a lot, but I want people living with albinism to be brave and persevere in life.”

During the event in Harare on Friday night, the contestants had to respond to questions on stage and model a range of gowns and traditional African robes. Mutukura was awarded $85 in prize money after being named the winner.

Pageant organizer Brenda Mudzimu said a lack of funds had made it difficult to get the initiative off the ground. In the end, the contest only attracted one sponsor, but Mudzimu says she hopes to one day make the event international.

“This will be an annual event which will later be advanced to Miss Albinism Africa and Miss Albinism World because we want to reach all corners of the world,” she said.

In many African countries, people with albinism routinely face discrimination and persecution because of the way they look. The genetic disorder prevents skin cells from producing melanin , resulting in abnormal pigmentation of the skin, hair, and eyes. People with the condition also suffer from vision problems and are susceptible to skin cancer.

“The pageant aims to instill confidence in girls living with albinism in Zimbabwe as well as reduce the stigma,” Mudzimu said.

Tapuwa Muchemwa, a Zimbabwean government representative who was the guest of honor at the pageant, said the country’s leaders “strongly advocate that people with albinism deserve their right to life and security and to be protected as well as the right not to be subjected to torture and ill-treatment.”

The rate of albinism in Africa is much higher than in other parts of the world. Communities in some countries believe albinism can bring magical powers, wealth and good fortune — a superstition that has led to attackers kidnapping and murdering albinos to sell their body parts to witch doctors on the black market.

According to the United Nations, there have been over 600 attacks on people with albinism documented in 28 countries in sub-Saharan Africa over the past decade. Many more cases are thought to go unreported.

*USA Today/DW.com

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UNAIDS Regional Director now President/CEO of ARDN
March 18, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Hassan Zaggi*

Regional Director for West and Central Africa and Senior Adviser to the Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Dr. Djibril Diallo,

Regional Director for West and Central Africa and Senior Adviser to the Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Dr. Djibril Diallo,

The Regional Director for West and Central Africa and Senior Adviser to the Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Dr. Djibril Diallo, has been appointed as the President and Chief Executive Officer of African Renaissance and Diaspora Network, Inc. (ARDN). The appointment takes effect from March 25, 2018.

Dr. Diallo has held several management positions with the United Nations (UN) for more than three decades

ARDN is an internationally operating NGO headquartered in New York, with the status of a United States 501(c)(3) public charity.

ARDN’s mission, according to findings, is to accelerate the attainment of the African renaissance by advocating for and supporting UN programs, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Reacting to the appointment of Dr. Diallo, the UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé, promised to continue to work closely with him to enable him succeed in his new task.

“We look forward to continued close collaboration between UNAIDS and ARDN with Djibril in the lead,” Michel Sidibé said in a message to all UNAIDS staff.

According findings by The AUTHORITY, Dr Diallo in his capacity as the chief executive officer of ARDN, will lead the organization’s “Pathway to Solutions” initiative, which aims to popularize the UN SDGs and to also increase public understanding of the role and functions of the UN.

On his part, Constance B. Newman, a Senior Fellow of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council, disclosed that after over 9 months of extensive consultations, the “A Pathway to Solutions” strategic plan was presented to the UN Deputy-Secretary-General on 19 December 2017, at a coordination meeting held at the UN headquarters.

Newman further noted that: “Dr. Diallo’s expertise in international relations, diplomacy and human development will be critical at a time when the international community is pursuing, in tandem, the SDGs, the implementation of the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024), and the African Union Agenda 2063.

“We are confident that under his leadership, ARDN will be well-poised to contribute to the world we want – one defined by peace, justice, freedom, respect, social progress, equal rights and human dignity, tolerance, solidarity and sustainability – starting with Africa and the African diaspora.”

Speaking on his appointment, Dr. Diallo said that he was deeply humbled by the trust and confidence placed in him.

“I’m deeply humbled by the trust and confidence that has been placed in me. I’m excited to see what I can do in this new capacity to advance the United Nations’ hope and vision of a better world.

“When we talk about Africa and the diaspora, we’re ultimately talking about the entire world. ARDN is built on the fundamental principle that we are stronger together.

“Today, more than ever, it’s important that we remember and reflect on this. This planet earth is the only home we have, and we are one human family,” Dr Diallo further noted.

With over 35 years of experience at the UN, Dr. Diallo’s work for peace, sustainable development and protecting the most vulnerable has been recognized by numerous national and international organizations.

A steadfast supporter of youth, Dr. Diallo initiated the first-ever UN Youth Leadership Summit in 2006, bringing together youth leaders from 192 countries, with a vision toward gender parity in participation. He speaks twelve languages.

*Authority NIG

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2026 World Cup: Morocco promise ‘compact’ tournament after presenting bid book
March 18, 2018 | 0 Comments
Football fans celebrated in the streets in November after Morocco qualified for its first World Cup since 1998

Football fans celebrated in the streets in November after Morocco qualified for its first World Cup since 1998

Morocco have promised a “compact” tournament if they are named the host nation for the 2026 World Cup.

The North African nation presented its bid book to Fifa on Friday and is the only rival to a joint bid from Canada, Mexico and the United States.

All the host cities are within a 550km radius (342 miles) of Casablanca and a maximum 75 minutes flight time apart.

A ‘Legacy Modular Stadium’ concept also means that some of the stadia can be downscaled after the tournament.

The 2026 World Cup will be expanded to feature 48 nations, at least 60% of which will be located within three hours of Morocco’s time zone, Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), making the bid more attractive to the European audience and sponsors.

This is Morocco’s fifth attempt to host the World Cup after making bids for the 1994, 1998, 2006 and 2010 finals. The host for the 2026 tournament will be decided in Russia on 13 June.

*BBC

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Mauritius President Gurib-Fakim to resign – lawyer
March 18, 2018 | 0 Comments
Ameenah Gurib-Fakim became the first woman to be appointed president in 2015

Ameenah Gurib-Fakim became the first woman to be appointed president in 2015

Africa’s only female head of state, Mauritian President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, has resigned and will leave office on Friday, her lawyer says.

Ms Gurib-Fakim has been engulfed by an expenses scandal.

She denied any misconduct amid claims that she made large personal purchases on a charity bank card.

But on Saturday, just days after she rejected any idea of resigning, her lawyer Yusuf Mohamed told local media she would be stepping down.

The president has issued no statement.

The country’s prime minister had originally said she would stand down last Monday.

When Ms Gurib-Fakim failed to do so, this led to fears of a constitutional crisis on the Indian Ocean island nation.

Local L’Express newspaper reported in February that the country’s first female president, a renowned scientist, had used a credit card given to her by the Planet Earth Institute (PEI) in London to buy jewellery and clothes abroad.

According to the paper, she was given the card for serving as the NGO’s unpaid director and it was to be used to pay for the promotion of a doctorate programme named after the president.

Ms Gurib-Fakim’s office said she “had an identical credit card from the same bank [and] inadvertently used the card from the PEI for expenses not linked to her mission”.

It added that $27,000 (£19,335) had been refunded and Ms Gurib-Fakim would defend herself with “legal action”.

In a statement to the BBC, PEI London said that Ms Gurib-Fakim had refunded the money to its Mauritian sister organisation.

The organisation said it had given her a credit card to cover travel expenses while promoting African science, technology and innovation.

*BBC

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Nigeria is sadly still closer to Fela’s anti-feminism than to Wakanda’s women
March 18, 2018 | 0 Comments

In Nigeria, Okoye would have been warned from childhood to soften her features so she can find a man to marry her.

BY WILFRED OKICHE*

Black Panther (left). The cast of ‘Fela Kuti and the Kalakuta Queens’ (right).

Black Panther (left). The cast of ‘Fela Kuti and the Kalakuta Queens’ (right).

Marvel’s Black Panther is a rare blockbuster to have achieved both box office domination and genuine cultural significance. One of the reasons for this is the film’s unlikely but welcomed focus on feminism. Set in the fictional Afrofuturistic nation of Wakanda, Black Panther boasts a dazzling array of fabulous female characters fully in possession of their power and unapologetic about wielding it.

In Lagos, Nigeria, where the film is a huge hit, many have been touting the badassery of the women of Wakanda. Okoye, the fierce army leader embodied by Danai Gurira is a particular favourite. So is scene-stealer Letitia Wright as Shuri, the princess who doesn’t let royalty stop her realising her full potential as the technological saviour of Wakanda.

This almost unanimous show of support for Black Panther’s forward-thinking depiction of women, however, does not erase the fact that much of Nigeria still holds onto archaic patriarchal ideologies. Wakanda’s gender parity is notable for just how far away it is from the sad reality.

In much of Nigeria, Okoye would have been warned from childhood to soften her features so she can find a man to marry her. Shuri would have been discouraged from spending too much time at the laboratory for the same reasons. And as for Nakia, everyone would ask: what kind of girl chooses a high-flying career over the chance to become queen?

Women who go against scripted societal norms are frowned upon, treated as outcasts, and erased from history. In 1929, for example, thousands of women in eastern Nigeria rallied together and confronted their British colonial rulers. The movement was on a scale the colonial state had never previously witnessed and led to significant changes. However, the heroic women who led the Aba Women’s Revolt – people such as Nwanyeruwa and Ikonnia – are largely left out of mainstream history books.

Fela and the women

Also left out of the narrative until recently have been the many women that formed a crucial part of Fela Kuti’s legendary career. The Afrobeat pioneer and political activist may be Nigeria’s most famous son. He has been immortalised in the Tony Award-winning FelaThe Musical and in the 2014 documentary Finding Fela. His legacy and music have been debated endlessly in conference rooms, music festivals and bars all over the world.

However, in all this, little interest has been devoted to Fela’s women – the merry band of singers, dancers, and supporters who thronged to his “Kalakuta Republic” sanctuary, who defied societal scorn and parental pressure, who loved him and inspired his sound.

There is no Fela without the women. They cannot just be heard on countless recordings joyously chanting “open and close”. They were an intrinsic and extricable part of the artistic legacy associated with Fela. Their striking fashion statements, creative use of beads, headgear, body art and Ankara prints remain indelible in today’s culture. Their graphic representations are rendered in music videos by pop stars from Wizkid to Niniola and in glossy magazine photo spreads.

But despite this rich legacy and gorgeous imagery, the stories and lives of Fela’s women have rarely been explored.

It is this imbalance that the splashy stage musical Fela and the Kalakuta Queens seeks to redress. Premiering in Lagos last December, the three-hour production follows Fela, the women that surrounded him, and the dynamics that influenced their relationship.

“I wondered why no one was talking about these women who were a significant part of Fela’s life and I wanted to know more about them,” director Bolanle Austen Peters remarked at one of the sold out showings.

The musical is commendable in shining a light on these female artists, pioneers and musicians. We learn some of the names of Fela’s “queens”, such as Funmilayo and Laide. However, in creating a crowd-pleasing fairy tale of female loyalty and companionship, the production, backed by Fela’s estate, fails to address the singer’s noted misogyny and violence towards women.

We gain little insight into why so many remained devoted to the cause, what made them tick, and what their own dreams and aspirations were. Most problematically, the play’s climactic scene – which depicts Fela’s highly controversial wedding to 27 women in a single ceremony – is played as an act of redemption set to the swirling instrumentation of Ololufe, a rare Fela love song.

Lady no be master

This form of female under-representation, even in a piece of art aiming to celebrate women, is not uncommon. This is the case around the world and certainly in Nigeria. Culture reflects society, which is in part shaped by politics and vested interests.

In Nigeria, for example, a gender equality bill which seeks to prohibit all forms of gender-based discrimination is waiting in the Senate. It has been stalled since 2016 due to opposition by religious and traditional groups. The Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development has a national strategy to end child marriage, but according to UNICEF, 12 out of Nigeria’s 36 states are yet to enact the child rights act adopted at the national level in 2003.

In Lagos, the city that was both home and hell for the singer, Fela’s music blares out of speakers at night clubs, at parties, and on the radio. One of the songs one hears frequently is the classic Lady in which Fela castigates African women for daring to fancy themselves equal to men. “She want sit down for table before anybody, she want a piece of meat before anybody”, he complains scathingly.

That song was released in 1972, but for all the progress Nigeria has made on gender equality over the past half a century, Lady could have been released last week. Wakanda’s gender relations in Black Panther seem so far off, they could be from a thousand years in the future. Less than 6% of Nigeria’s lawmakers are women, the lowest proportion in Africa. Women own just 20% of enterprises in the formal sector. A third of women have experienced physical abuse.

 

 

One hopes that the women of Wakanda can inspire Nigeria’s women and girls, along with their male allies, to see things differently and transform gender relations in the country. But for now, it is sadly apparent that a girl born in the North is more likely to be married off at childhood than lead an army like Okoye, devote her life to study like Shuri, or unabashedly pursue her own calling like Nakia.

Black Panther may provide an aspirational blueprint, but for now, Fela won’t be worried. Nigeria is still a long way off before “Lady na master”.

*Source African Arguments. Wilfred Okiche is a reader, writer, medic, culture critic and occasional ruffler of feathers. He works in a health centre in Lagos but manages to find the time to pursue other interests. His writing has appeared on various print and online platforms. He tweets from @drwill20.

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Standard Chartered Bank Launches its First-Ever Digital Bank in Africa
March 17, 2018 | 0 Comments
Côte d’Ivoire marks the pilot launch of the digital bank
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, March 16, 2018/ — Standard Chartered Bank (www.SC.com) today announced the official launch of its digital bank in Côte d’Ivoire. This marks the Bank’s first digital bank in Africa and the first-of-its-kind to open in Côte d’Ivoire.

Mr. Bruno Nabagné KONE, Minister of Information technologies and communication of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, was the guest of honour at the official launch event. The event was attended by dignitaries, business leaders, clients and senior management, as well as sporting legend and Ivorian icon, Didier Drogba. As the Bank’s Digital Ambassador, Drogba shared his experience on the ease of opening an account using his mobile phone. He is the first person in Côte d’Ivoire to open a digital account at the Bank.

Commenting on the launch, Sunil Kaushal, Regional CEO, Africa and Middle East said: “We are pleased to launch our first digital bank in Africa with the support of the Government of Côte d’Ivoire. This is a key milestone on our digital journey as a Bank and underlines our commitment to investing and growing in the market. We have been steadily investing in expanding our footprint in Africa over the years, and this will continue to be a priority moving forward. Digitising Africa remains at the heart of our business strategy for the region, and we look to implement our Côte d’Ivoire model across other markets in the coming months.”

Commenting on the launch, Jaydeep Gupta, Regional Head of Retail Banking, Africa & Middle East, said: “Our new digital bank was developed with our clients in mind. We have taken into consideration the feedback received by our clients at each stage of the design process and have incorporated innovative technology to allow them to execute all banking activities from a mobile device. This includes 70 banking services through the app.”

“In addition, for the first time, the client onboarding journey has been digitised and in under 15 minutes a client can open a new account through the app. What has also been introduced is the ability for clients to track and trace a request submitted, which is a first for Standard Chartered. This is something we are very proud of.”

Isaac Foly, Chief Executive Officer, Côte d’Ivoire, said: “I’m pleased to have launched the Bank’s first digital retail bank in Côte d’Ivoire and proud to see the progress the country has made over the past decade. We have seen how digital transformation has contributed to economic development and will continue to do so, in line with the country’s National Development Plan. Our partnership with Didier Drogba has helped raise awareness, not only for our digital offering, but for enhancing financial literacy and improving accessibility to financial services across Côte d’Ivoire. Promoting the social and economic wellbeing of communities is a key component of our strategy to support sustainable development and our digital bank is certainly another step in the right direction.”

The bank’s digital services are available by downloading the Standard Chartered mobile application. New clients can execute all of their banking activities right from their mobile devices, starting by opening their bank account in less than 15 minutes. They can also provide all verification documents by uploading to the application and fully complete their onboarding process within minutes.

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