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Fuel ‘too dirty’ for Europe sold to Africa
September 16, 2016 | 0 Comments
Sulphur particles in diesel emissions have been linked to a range of health problems

Sulphur particles in diesel emissions have been linked to a range of health problems

Swiss firms have been criticised in a report for their links to the African trade in diesel with toxin levels that are illegal in Europe.

Campaign group Public Eye says retailers are exploiting weak regulatory standards.

Vitol, Trafigura, Addax & Oryx and Lynx Energy have been named because they are shareholders of the fuel retailers.

Trafigura and Vitol say the report is misconceived and retailers work within legal limits enforced in the countries.

Three of the distribution companies mentioned in the report have responded by saying that they meet the regulatory requirements of the market and have no vested interest in keeping sulphur levels higher than they need to be.

Although this is within the limits set by national governments, the sulphur contained in the fumes from the diesel fuel could increase respiratory illnesses like asthma and bronchitis in affected countries, health experts say.

Why are regulations so lax?

The picture is changing but there are still several African countries which allow diesel to have a sulphur content of more than 2,000 parts per million (ppm), with some allowing more than 5,000ppm, whereas the European standard is less than 10ppm.


Rob de Jong from the UN Environment Programme (Unep) told the BBC that there was a lack of awareness among some policy makers about the significance of the sulphur content.

map showing legal limits for sulphur levels across africa

For a long time countries relied on colonial-era standards, which have only been revised in recent years.

Another issue is that in the countries where there are refineries, these are unable, for technical reasons, to reduce the sulphur levels to the standard acceptable in Europe. This means that the regulatory standard is kept at the level that the refineries can operate at.

Some governments are also worried that cleaner diesel would be more expensive, therefore pushing up the price of transport.

But Mr De Jong argued that the difference was minimal and oil price fluctuations were much more significant in determining the diesel price.

What’s so bad about sulphur?

The sulphur particles emitted by a diesel engine are considered to be a major contributor to air pollution, which the World Health Organization (WHO) ranks as one of the top global health risks.

It is associated with heart disease, lung cancer and respiratory problems.

Traffic in Nigeria

The WHO says that pollution is particularly bad in low and middle income countries.

Reducing the sulphur content in diesel would go some way to reducing the risk that air pollution poses.

What’s being done about it?

Unep is at the forefront of trying to persuade governments to tighten up the sulphur content regulations and is gradually making progress.

In 2015, the East African Community introduced new regulations for Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania. Diesel cannot now have more than 50ppm in those countries.

It is clear that the situation has improved since 2005.

map showing legal limits for sulphur levels across africa in 2005

Unep’s Jane Akumu is currently working with the West African regional grouping Ecowas and its Southern African counterpart Sadc to try and change the regulations there.

She told the BBC that she was optimistic that governments would bring down the legal sulphur limits as the arguments in favour are compelling.


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Australian government to provide drought assistance to southern Africa region
September 8, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

201404_ne_d1_metekemele_farmers_031The Australian Government has announced that it will provide further support to southern Africa in response to the acute food shortages caused by severe El Niño conditions in the region, according to a statement released by   Ananya Srivastava of the Australian Embassy in Harare.

According to the spokesperson, the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, announced on 2 September 2016 that Australia will provide AUD10 million to the World Food Programme (WFP) to deliver food and nutritional support to 11.9 million drought-affected people in countries in southern Africa.

It is said that some of the most affected countries in the southern African region will directly benefit from the Australian Government’s provision of additional funding to the WFP, including Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

The current El Niño event has produced the driest growing season in southern Africa in over 35 years, compounding the effects of drought during the previous growing season. This has left 32 million people in the region without access to adequate food supplies including 2.7 million children who are severely malnourished.

Australia has been active in the global response to the impact of El Niño, which has also had a devastating impact in the Indo-Pacific. Australia’s response has focused on funding lifesaving food, nutritional and livelihoods assistance for countries most affected in the Pacific and South East Asia as well as the Horn of Africa.

Through its aid program, the Australian Government is also investing in improving preparedness and resilience to climate variability in helping communities prepare for future periods of drought.

This additional funding brings Australia’s total contribution to AUD46 million for countries affected by El Niño.

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Why no-one cares about Malawi’s biggest problem
September 7, 2016 | 0 Comments
According to some estimates, Malawi loses 30% of its budget through corruption. Credit: Ismail Mia.

According to some estimates, Malawi loses 30% of its budget through corruption. Credit: Ismail Mia.

This September marks three years since the high-level corruption scandal in which $31 million was stolen from government coffers began to be uncovered.

Since then, over 70 individuals – including high-level civil servants, private contractors and politicians – have been charged in connection with what has locally been dubbed the Cashgate scandal. Eleven people have so far been sentenced, while many cases – including that of former budget director Paul Mphwiyo whose attempted assassination first brought the revelations to light – are ongoing.

Over the past three years, Cashgate has become the main reference point for corruption in Malawi, but the problem of graft goes much wider and deeper. According to Malawi Economic Justice Network executive director, Madalitso Kubalasa, the country loses 30%of its public resources each year due to corruption.

The disappearance of such large sums of money would shake any country, but they are particularly significant for one of the world’s poorest nations. Furthermore, these scandals have added knock-on effects for the economy in terms of investor and donor confidence. After Cashgate emerged, for example, international donors – from which Malawi receives around 40% of its annual budget – suspended large sums of aid over fears it would be misdirected, leading to a budget crisis.

Corruption in Malawi is endemic. Its effects are devastating. And especially over the last three years, countless officials who are meant to be in office to serve the country have instead been exposed for enriching themselves at its expense.

However, while Malawians have been keenly watching these scandals unfold, there has been a curious lack of outrage. Malawian citizens are frustrated but, unlike some of their counterparts in the region, not to the extent that they are trying to force out their politicians, protesting for change, or demanding that graft is properly rooted out.

A history of corruption

The main reason for this lack of indignation is the fact that over the last two decades, corruption has become almost completely normalised in the country. Public money and resources are at the mercy of those in power, and it is expected that when a president is in power, his or her family and home region will benefit.  At least this has been the case under all four presidents since multi-party democracy was established in 1994.

For instance, Bakili Muluzi (1994-2004) has been in and out of court over the last decadeanswering charges of stealing $12 million while in power.

Bingu wa Mutharika (2004-2012) has come under strong suspicion for managing to amass a colossal $84 million in personal wealth during his time in office.

Joyce Banda (2012-2014), who has been absent from Malawi since she was voted out of office, has been accused of complicity or even an active role in Cashgate. In his sentencing, Oswald Lutepo, the most senior figure to be convicted so far, claimed he was used by Banda who he named as one of the beneficiaries of the scam. Meanwhile, Reyneck Matemba, Deputy Director of Malawi’s anti-graft body disclosed that they had been probing Banda “for some time now”.

And finally, the administration of current president Peter Mutharika – brother of former president Bingu, whose wealth his party has defended as legitimate – has also come under attack. Several of his cabinet ministers have reportedly been implicated in the Cashgate investigations and Mutharika has been accused of shielding them by refusing to name them. Furthermore, there have been growing allegations that Mutharika has been interfering in corruption cases and using his influence to shield his political allies.

As previously argued, one aspect of Malawi’s political structure that is crucial to corruption is the fact that power is so centralised. The state president is at the heart of everything, from the awarding of contracts to the appointment of board chairpersons and members, and this both encourages and allows patronage and impunity.

Keeping the status quo

Listening to Malawi’s former and current political leaders talk about corruption, one notices a general lack of remorse. They will talk about graft, willingly or otherwise, but when they do, they mostly seem to be trying to compete over who is the least corrupt amongst them.

Malawi’s leaders tend to insist that they are fighting corruption, but these pronunciations are rarely translated into meaningful action. Some small steps towards greater transparency may have been taken, but corruption remains the country’s biggestproblem in undermining efforts towards development.

The main culprit behind this endemic corruption is a materialistic and self-loathing culture among elites who are willing to get rich by any means necessary. For this group, joining politics has become the most convenient route to riches, and the phenomenon of seeing politicians getting rich overnight without being accountable for how they made this wealth has become commonplace.

Politicians in all Malawi’s current and former governments are culpable and/or implicated in these practices, meaning that no major party has a genuine interest in addressing the issue or decisively rooting it out. To do so would both harm itself and reduce its ability to self-enrich now or in the future. The status quo of impunity suits those in power and those who hope to win it back. And this theft of public resources is not only endemic, but over time has been normalised and even accepted.

This situation attracts yet more people into politics with the objective of profiting rather than serving their country, and today Malawi is divided between a minority of elite politicians living luxuriously and a majority struggling to make a living.

This is the ugly face of kleptocracies, which is what Malawi has become – a republic ruled by the rich, for the rich. The rest feel that they can only spectate, while the media is bullied into keeping quiet if it starts to make politicians feel too uncomfortable.

As the University of Malawi’s renowned Professor Blessings Chinsinga put it succinctly, “Efforts to root out corruption do not stick because the existing institutional milieu makes it almost impossible.”

*African Arguments.Jimmy Kainja is a Malawian academic and sociopolitical blogger.


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Obama’s Greatest Legacy Empowers Next Generation Of African Leaders
August 16, 2016 | 0 Comments

By *

MANDELAAs the Obama presidency is near its end and historians are set to reflect on the legacy of America’s first black president, I can’t help but look favourably on the impact he has had on the continent of Africa.

His legacy is not one founded on the principles of charity, but that of an ever-expanding citizenry that has empowered the next generation of African leadership by way of a White House fellowship program.

The Mandela Washington fellowship, named after the iconic South African leader upon his death in 2014, was started to help empower the next generation of African leadership by president Obama.

Upon its foundation, the president reflected on how the next generation of African leadership will “leave behind for the next generation — and the generation after that — an Africa that is strong and vibrant and prosperous, and is ascendant on the world stage.” Amen to that.

Every year, the program brings its participants to the United States and gives them the tools they need to succeed by way of exclusive leadership training and rich networking opportunities with accomplished leaders from many sectors. Open to those who have looked at the challenges of Africa from youthful and unique perspectives, it aims to change the perception of a continent the Economist magazine once dubbed “the dark continent.”

In 2015 — Marta Tsehay Sewasew, a now 28-year-old Ethiopian social activist and social entrepreneur was among the 500 participants.

She was an attractive candidate with a hefty resume to her credit. Involved in a slew of developmental programs on girls’ education, women and youth economic empowerment, youth leadership, empowerment of young people with disabilities, and adolescent youth reproductive health — she was a posterchild of exemplary citizenship.

For six weeks, she lived in Wagner College, in New York and gained valuable skills. For her, “The six-week leadership program enabled me to enhance my knowledge on civic leadership and civic engagements.” After the conclusion of the training, she was invited to attend a three-day presidential summit hosted by President Obama involving leaders from many sectors.

At the summit, she co-moderated a panel discussion on girls’ education in Africa.

marta tsehay sewasew
Mandela Washington Fellowship recipient Marta Tsehay Sewasew. (Photo: Marta Tsehay Sewasew)

Currently serving as the Ethiopian National Project Coordinator with theInternational Labour Organization (ILO), she volunteers as a board member for Eastern Africa Regional Advisory Board (RAB) for Young African Leader Initiative Program, which plays an advisory role in providing inputs for USAID, IREX (the International Research & Exchange Board) and the U.S. Department of State.

I asked her what the legacy of the fellowship program has been for her. “As a young professional, the fellowship enhanced my knowledge, experience and created a networking opportunity with young, like-minded Africans engaged in developmental activities,” she replied, adding that “the fellowship created an opportunity to learn from the best practices of other Africa countries and U.S. in the area of education, health, environmental protection and civic engagement that can implemented in Africa.”

The formidable leader has initiated an intervention entitled “Mobile for Students Reproductive Health (M4RH).” The intervention provides monthly informative, confidential and youth-friendly text messages on reproductive health for Addis Ababa university students.

The PhD aspirant student in international relations wants to expand her initiative nationally, while looking at ways to create income generation and economic empowerment for young people in her country.

Last year at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, president Obama spokeof an ever-changing continent, where many envisioned a continent where trade, not aid, is the new approach, partnership instead of patrons is the new way and where liberty to choose one’s destiny instead of being dependent should be the future direction of their society.

That is why the Mandela Washington fellowship program is the roadmap to that vision and it may be one of president Obama’s greatest legacies from an international perspective.

*Huffington Post

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Malawian ‘hyena man’ arrested for having sex with children
July 26, 2016 | 0 Comments
Eric Aniva told the BBC that he planned to stop taking part in sexual cleansing practices

Eric Aniva told the BBC that he planned to stop taking part in sexual cleansing practices

An HIV-positive Malawian man, who says he is paid to have sex with children as part of initiation rites, has been arrested on the president’s orders.

Eric Aniva, a sex worker known in Malawi as a “hyena”, was the subject of a BBC feature last week.

He told the BBC that he did not mention his HIV status to those who hire him.

President Peter Mutharika said the police should investigate and charge him over the cases of defilement he had seemingly confessed to.

The BBC’s Ed Butler, who covered the story about Malawi’s sexual “cleansing practices”, says in some remote southern regions of the country it is traditional for girls to be made to have sex with a man after their first menstruation.

Some of the girls are as young as 12 years old, he reported.

What is known as a “hyena” in Malawi culture is usually a man who has sex with widows or married women who cannot fall pregnant.

‘Horrific practices’

“While we must promote positive cultural values and positive socialisation of our children, the president says harmful cultural and traditional practices cannot be accepted in this country,” presidential spokesman Mgeme Kalilani said in a statement

Mr Aniva would “further be investigated for exposing the young girls to contracting HIV and further be charged accordingly”, he said.

The president had also ordered all men and parents involved to be investigated, Mr Kalilani said.

“All people involved in this malpractice should be held accountable for subjecting their children and women to this despicable evil,” the statement said.

“These horrific practices although done by a few also tarnish the image of the whole nation of Malawi internationally and bring shame to us all.”

Last year Malawi banned child marriage, raising the legal age of marriage from 15 to 18 – something activists hoped would put an end to early sexual initiations.

Mr Aniva told the BBC that he planned to stop taking part in sexual cleansing practices.


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Governance, Corruption & Democratic Development Questions will guide Clinton’s African Policy-Snr Policy Advisor Jake Sullivan
July 26, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

File Picture:U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) watches as South Africa's President Jacob Zuma speaks during a photo call after a brief meeting in Durban, August 8, 2009

File Picture:U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) watches as South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma speaks during a photo call after a brief meeting in Durban, August 8, 2009

Hillary Clinton views Africa not just as a place with challenges to address but also opportunities says Jake Sullivan, Senior Policy Advisor for Hillary for America. Speaking at the Foreign Policy Center briefing center at the Democratic Convention, Sullivan said to Hillary Clinton, Africa is not just made up of countries which need development aid and assistance but also partners who can work with the USA in addressing a range of global issues.

Issues of governance, corruption, and democratic development have been central to Secretary Clinton’s policy towards Africa and will continue to be, said Jake Sullivan in response to a question from Ben Bangoura of Allo on what Africa should expect a Clinton Administration.

The policy will be in the mold of the work the democratic flag bearer did as first lady and later Secretary of State, Sullivan said. From her multiple trips to the continent, Hillary Clinton has shown commitment to pillars like fostering economic growth, peace keeping, security, human rights, and democratic development said Sullivan.

“She is fond of reminding us on her team many of the top 10 fastest-growing economies in the world are African economies.  How we think about where the future growth is going to come from in the world is bound up in how we approach our policy towards Africa,”  Sullivan said.

In contrast to the recent Republican Convention in Ohio, the Democratic Convention seems to have more African faces present. Executive Women for Hillary ,a powerful coalition of executive, entrepreneur and professional women backing Mrs. Clinton has two African diaspora leaders Sarian Bouma and Angelle Kwemo of Believe in Africa  as State Co-Chairs for the DMV area.

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Africa’s real land grab
July 24, 2016 | 0 Comments

Never mind foreign interlopers. African urbanites are scooping up more land

My other car is a Porsche

My other car is a Porsche

AFTER half an hour poking around Martin Shem’s farm, Paul Kavishe is impressed, even a little jealous. “He has done well,” says Mr Kavishe. “He’s a real farmer!” This is strange praise, not because Mr Shem’s dairy, maize and mango-growing operation on the outskirts of Morogoro is not admirable, but because both men have had university careers. For middle-class Tanzanians, though, a successful farmer trumps a successful academic.

“Every Tanzanian is a farmer,” explains Ali Aboud, another professor who has moved into agriculture. He cultivates about 20 hectares of rice paddy; in the past three years a businessman from Dar es Salaam and another city-dweller have bought big farms near his fields. These men are part of a quiet, hard-to-track but momentous change in Africa, which has profound consequences for the continent’s most important industry.

Surveys show that most farms in sub-Saharan Africa are smaller than two hectares. But that is the wrong way of measuring agriculture, says Thomas Jayne of Michigan State University. Look at land rather than farms, he says, and it is clear that a fairly small number of farmers now own a large portion. The fastest growth is among the middle class. In Ghana, 38% of agrarian land is occupied by farms of between five and 100 hectares; in Zambia, 52% is. In both of those countries, and also in Kenya and Malawi, medium-sized farms collectively take up more land than larger ones, whether those are owned by rich Africans or the foreign investors who are often accused of “grabbing” land.

Mr Jayne and other researchers find that in Kenya, Malawi and Zambia (though not in Ghana) most medium-sized farms were not built by successful smallholders but bought by urbanites. In Tanzania, where about one-third of the population is urban, city-dwellers are thought to own 33% of the farmland, up from just 12% a decade ago. Typically, the new farmers are middle-aged public-sector workers. The popular obsession with foreign land grabs is wrong-headed, says Isaac Minde of Sokoine University of Agriculture in Morogoro. If there is a land grab in Africa, it is being done by African urbanites.

City-dwellers are going into farming partly because legal reforms have made buying land easier and ownership a little more secure. Another reason is that urban growth is making crops and meat more valuable. Still another is the weakness of African manufacturing, which means city-dwellers lack good places to invest their cash. Most important of all, public-sector jobs seldom pay enough to sustain an upper-middle-class lifestyle. Mr Kavishe, who grows maize and keeps several thousand laying hens, is surprised to be asked whether he earns more than he did as a university administrator. Of course the chickens are more lucrative.

Urban farmers often bring new ideas and technology to the places where they settle. Raphael Laizer, a government official who moved into farming, remembers paying smallholders to plant maize on his fields, insisting on precise distances between seeds. Soon the smallholders were planting their own fields the same way. Mr Aboud, the rice farmer, introduced his neighbours to mechanised seed drills (“for the first two years everyone just looked on”) and to a high-yielding hybrid seed known as SARO 5. Urban farmers’ tractors are hired by smallholders to process maize or plough the fields.

The new arrivals tend to be highly literate, legally savvy and assertive. That cuts their neighbours both ways. When it comes to procuring public goods, their bullishness is a boon. Some of Morogoro’s urban farmers are harrying local authorities to invest in irrigation schemes, which would boost overall productivity. Mr Kavishe even tried to persuade the Finnish government to chip in.

But the high-powered interlopers can be unpopular, especially in crowded rural districts. In addition to his farm near Morogoro, Mr Shem owns a large cattle ranch upon which smaller farmers have encroached, leading to court cases and what he calls “psychological warfare”. Much of Africa is moving away from communal land ownership towards the individual kind, but only gradually, leaving a lot of room for confusion and fights.

Tanzania’s urban farmers also have one foot in the old Africa and another foot in the new one. They are mostly the children of farmers and found it easy to return to the family line. Yet these men are not quite following their parents. They have bought little if any land in their ancestral villages, and do not expect to return there (“you go back when you are buried,” says Mr Aboud). Instead they farm close to the cities where they made their careers. Several predict that their children will have no interest in farming. They are a transitional generation. In a strange way, the rush to acquire farmland shows that Africa is becoming properly urban.


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July 18, 2016 | 0 Comments

The African Union wants to roll out the continental passport to millions of Africans.

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July 5, 2016 | 0 Comments

BY *

Ghanaian President John Mahama

Ghanaian President John Mahama

Ghana has begun offering visas upon arrival to all African nationals, a step towards creating a continent-wide zone of free movement.

The West African country rolled out the policy on Friday, allowing citizens of African Union (AU) member states to get visas for up to 30 days upon arriving in the country. Fifty-four African countries are members of the AU—the only country not in the bloc is Morocco, which resigned its membership in 1984 due to a row over the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

Ghana already allows visa-free travel for citizens of countries belonging to member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)—a regional economic bloc consisting of 15 countries including Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy. ECOWAS citizens will not be affected by the new policy.

It marks a step towards the vision outlined by the AU in its Agenda 2063 policy document, which includes the abolition of visa requirements for all African citizens in all the continent’s countries by 2018. The AU is also introducing an African passport at a summit in the Rwandan capital Kigali in July, which will initially be available only to heads of state, government ministers and permanent representatives of member countries at the AU. The AU eventually wants to roll the passport out among all African citizens.

Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama announced the policy in his state of the nation address in February, saying that the measure would “stimulate air trade, investment and tourism.” The decision was commended by AU Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who said that she was convinced “many other African countries will follow suit, in the interest of achieving an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa.”

But while welcoming the measure as potentially leading to increased air traffic into Ghana, airline operator Gloria Wilkinson warned that the country would have to ensure its security measures were tight to prevent possible abuse of the system. Wilkinson, the country manager of South African Airways, told Ghana’s Citi Business News that she was “confident that [the] government has considered the security aspect of such an initiative.” A leaked memo from Ghana’s Immigration Service suggested that Ghana and Togo were the next targets for militants following attacks in Mali, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast since November 2015.


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The opposite of Brexit: African Union launches an all-Africa passport
July 1, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Anne Frugé*

AFRICAN_LEADERS_MUST_BE_BORN_AGAIN_0.26188900_1434106807__thumbOn June 13, two weeks before the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, the African Union announced a new “single African passport.” The lead-up discussion was much like the original debate on the European Economic Community, the E.U.’s predecessor. African passport proponents say it will boost the continent’s socioeconomic development because it will reduce trade barriers and allow people, ideas, goods, services and capital to flow more freely across borders.

But now the A.U. faces the challenge of making sure the “e-Passport” lives up to its potential – and doesn’t fulfill detractors’ fears of heightened terrorism, smuggling and illegal immigration.

The African e-Passport is part of a long-term plan for the continent

The e-Passport is an electronic document that permits any A.U. passport holder to enter any of the 54 A.U. member states, without requiring a visa. It will be unveiled this month during the next A.U. Summit in Kigali, Rwanda. Initially, the e-Passport will only be available to A.U. heads of state, foreign ministers and permanent representatives based in the A.U.’s headquarters in Addis Ababa, . The plan is to roll it out to all A.U. citizens by 2018.

The electronic passport initiative grows out of the A.U.’s Agenda 2063, a plan to mobilize Africa’s vast resources to strengthen the region’s self-reliance, global economic power and solidarity.

Why is the single African passport important?

The e-Passport is a step toward eliminating borders on the continent, aiming to enable deeper integration, increased trade and further development. Just as important, the passport is a powerful symbol of unity across Africa – and simultaneously a step toward connecting African countries economically and politically.

An A.U. passport represents the latest effort to create a common market spanning the continent, much like that in the E.U. Such efforts date back to 1963 with the creation of the Organization of African Unity. Pan-Africanistscelebrating the demise of the colonial state and hailing a United States of Africadesigned the O.A.U. to unite Africans and dissolve the borders between them.

Essentially, the O.A.U. sought to raise living standards by supporting leaders of anti-colonial struggles in their roles as heads of new states. In its quest to make the transition to independence as smooth as possible, the organization at times defended national sovereignty to a fault. For example, the decision to respect arbitrary colonial borders had far-reaching consequences, including numerous identity-based conflicts.

Over time, other entities arose to coordinate economic activity across national lines: the East African Community (1967), the Economic Community of West African States (1975), the Lagos Plan of Action for the Economic Development of Africa (1980) and the Southern African Development Community (1992), just to name a few.

In 2002, the A.U. replaced the O.A.U.

Moving away from the O.A.U.’s state-centric approach, the A.U. attempts to balance “the principle of sovereignty with the need to accelerate political rights and socio-economic growth and cooperation,” according to Matebe Chisiza, visiting scholar at the South African Institute of International Affairs. For example, the A.U. suspended 12 member states after “unconstitutional changes in government,” including Libya, Central African Republic, Egypt and Burkina Faso.

None of Africa’s regional organizations have yet been able to create a common market. This vivid dream has endured despite the enormous political and logistical challenges it would entail. Deeper economic integration is seen by many, including the World Bank, as the road to prosperity and stability. In fact, the A.U. is guided by this premise.

What might be the downsides of the e-Passport?

Opponents of the passport are concerned about a range of security risks. Detractors argue that visa-free travel would make it easier for terrorists to move within and between countries. Human traffickers and drug smugglers could take advantage of the new system. Disease and other public health crises could spread more rapidly in a borderless Africa. As has happened in Europe, an e-Passport may intensify competition for jobs and public services, leading to more xenophobic political rhetoric and attacks. Migration is already a contentious issue, as shown by deadly anti-immigrant riots in South Africa and Zambia and heated debates over refugees in Kenya.

Many elites favor the unrestricted movement of persons, goods and services. But if the effort is mishandled, such free travel may simply reproduce social inequalities — helping the well-off become richer and leaving behind the poor. We can see that already in the fact that only certain individuals will have the passport at first, which creates a hierarchy of citizens, only some of whom can travel freely.

Moreover, Bronwen Manby’s report for the Open Society Foundations describes how passports can become tools for repressive regimes to silence their critics. In 2007 alone Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Sudan and Zimbabwe denied or confiscated passports for a variety of opponents, including “from individual trade unionists, human rights activists, opposition politicians, or minority religious groups.” Fortunately, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria and Zambia have taken steps to put into law the principle that every individual has a right to a passport — even if the principle is upheld irregularly in practice.

The African Union can learn from the E.U.’s example

The E.U. offers a model that the A.U. can use to study both the progress and pitfalls of regional integration: managing a common currency, balancing economies of vastly different sizes and structures, and building solidarity within and across culturally diverse nations.

Brexit is a reminder of the challenges inherent in a shared political and economic space. The debates over debt, immigration and national identity that led to Brexit would only be magnified in Africa under the weight of industrializing economies, significant barriers to access in education and health care and ongoing conflicts over resources and identity.

An African passport is an exciting development that can spur growth and improve living standards. To capitalize on this potential, the A.U. needs to plan two steps ahead. Crafting thoughtful regulations will be essential to ensuring the e-Passport’s economic promise is genuinely available to everyone and not subject to abuse.

For example, integration needs to benefit the strong and the weak, the rich and the poor, with both productivity and industrial capacity increasing in tandem. When some countries deindustrialize at the same time that others expand their markets, the stragglers strain the common pool and fall into crisis.

Further, governments need to fight against a race to the bottom in which commerce follows the path of least restrictions. This point is especially important considering that demos-centered Pan-Africanism underpins the A.U.’s mission.

And implementation plans must address practical obstacles that prevent many Africans from obtaining basic identity documentation, such as weak civil registration systems, slow and costly bureaucratic procedures, and corruption. According to the World Bank, 37 percent of people in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have legal identification, a prerequisite for obtaining a passport.

In short, the path forward is to ensure fairness in integration. When the system rewards the few on the backs of the many, solidarity wanes and the unification project suffers.

*Washington Post.Anne Frugé is a PhD candidate in the department of government and politics at the University of Maryland.

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Visa Free by 2018? Africa’s Open Visa Policy
June 30, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Michelle DeFreese*

Giriyondo Border Post South Africa Mozambique

Giriyondo Border Post South Africa Mozambique

African citizens currently face some of the most stringent visa restrictions in the world. According to the Africa Visa Openness Index Report launched by the African Development Bank (AfDB), citizens of African countries require visas to travel to 55% of countries within the continent. Within the next two years, however, the implementation of a proposed common visa policy under the African Union’s (AU) 2063 Agenda, a strategic document outlining the vision for African development, could profoundly impact the continent in terms of intra-regional trade, economic development, and regional integration.

While the AU’s visa-free travel proposal represents both challenges and opportunities for the security and economy of Africa, previous examples by regional communities and individual countries suggest that the benefits will outweigh the risks. As the plan moves from policy to implementation, the African common visa policy has the potential to impart substantial economic incentives through the removal of trade barriers, increased tourism and investment opportunities, and job creation.

The AU’s 2063 Agenda contains plans for a common visa policy with three primary components: visa-on-arrival for all African nationals, mandatory granting of a minimum 30-day visa for African citizens visiting any African country by 2018, and the ambitious goal of a single, continental passport by 2020. Challenges of implementing the plan include associated risks of widespread economic migration, the movement of illegal goods, cross-border terrorism, and the issue of stateless individuals. Nevertheless, significant progress has been made – regionally and nationally – with benefits that demonstrate the effectiveness of the policy in terms of stimulating economic growth.

The importance of regional integration was also discussed during the 2013 AfDB Annual Meeting, during which Professor Mthuli Ncube, AfDB Vice President and Chief Economist, stated, “Africa is one of the regions in the world with the highest visa requirements. Visa restrictions imply missed economic opportunities for intra-regional trade and for the local service economy such as tourism, cross-country medical services or education.”

Thus far, regional communities within Africa have made variable progress towards the goal of a pan-African, visa-free policy with largely positive results and spillover effects: the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) introducedfree movement between member states in 1979; a single visa is in place enabling nationals of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) free movement; a common visa policy unites Zambia and Zimbabwe; and the East African Community (EAC) now has a single tourist visa available for visitors to Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda coupled with an East African passport that allows citizens freedom of movement within the trading bloc. Following the adoption of the EAC common visa policy, both Uganda and Rwanda benefited from increased tourism revenues by 12% and 8% respectively. According to the AfDB’s Africa Tourism Monitoring Report, comparable visa liberalization schemes could increase tourism by 5-25%.

Individual countries, including the Seychelles, Ghana, and Rwanda, have also made significant efforts to ease visa restrictions on travelers. The Seychelles is one of the few visa-free countries that does not require a visa for citizens of any country upon arrival. After adopting the policy, international tourism arrivals to the country increased by an average of 7% per year between 2009 and 2014. Ghana has adopted the 2063 Agenda’s visa-free policy, which will be formally introduced in July 2016. Rwanda in particular has made significant strides to ease visa restrictions for African nationals, and provides an important example of the potential for the adoption of the visa-free policy in other countries. According to the AfDB, Rwanda’s 2013 visa-free policy for African nationals resulted in several positivebenefits in terms of economic development; these include an estimated 24% increase in tourism arrivals from African countries and a 50% increase in intra-African trade. Trade with the Democratic Republic of the Congo alone increased by 73% since the implementation of the policy.

Beyond the implications for the continent, African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs, Dr. Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko, has suggested that visa-free travel within Africa could potentially reduce emigration to other continents. At the same time, reduced visa restrictions will necessitate advances in electronic border management systems and improved interoperability of security architecture to address the increased risks of trafficking and cross-border crime.

Examples of the successful implementation of visa-free policies by regional communities and individual countries – and the benefits that have followed – are compelling arguments for the implementation of the AU’s common visa policy for the continent. For a continent that is home to some of the fastest growing economies in the world and a burgeoning middle class, the dissolution of barriers to trade, increased free movement, and bolstered tourism will foster an unprecedented growth of untapped markets critical for the realization of thecontinued rise of Africa.

*HuffPost.Michelle DeFreese is a consultant with the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy (IMTD) based in Tanzania. She completed her Master’s degree in International Relations at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID) and is an Africa Fellow at Young Professionals in Foreign Policy.

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African Youth to African Leaders: “You Must Do More to End Conflicts in Africa”
June 17, 2016 | 0 Comments
Dlamini Zuma

Dlamini Zuma

AFRICAN leaders are not doing enough to stop conflicts in Africa, said two-thirds of the nearly 86,000 youth surveyed in a recent mobile-based poll conducted in nine African countries.

Using a messaging tool called U-Report, the short survey was sent to 1.4 million mobile users in Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Mali, Central African Republic, Senegal, Liberia, Zimbabwe, Cameroon and Guinea, from 18 May to 1 June 2016.

The U-Report users surveyed, who are typically between 15 and 30 years of age, were asked to provide their opinion on conflicts and crises in Africa through short multiple choice questions on their mobile phones.

The findings of the survey will be shared with African leaders on the Day of the African Child, which is marked every year on June 16 by the African Union.

“It is so crucial, and even urgent for the leaders to heed the voices of the youth, if we must silence the guns by 2020, as set in our Agenda 2063. This is flagship project to which the youth must also recognize their role and take their responsibility,” said the African Union Commission Chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

Key findings:

  • Asked whether African leaders are doing enough to stop conflicts and crises in Africa, two out of three respondents (70 per cent) believe that African leaders are not doing enough.
  • When asked why Africa is more prone to conflict than other regions, 56 per cent of respondents believe that ‘politicians fighting for power’ is the main reason while 19 per cent said ‘inequality’, 17 per cent said ‘poverty’ and 4 per cent said ‘access to food and water’.
  • What can leaders do to stop conflicts? Nearly a quarter of respondents (24 per cent) said a ‘strong economy’ while 20 per cent believe African countries needs to be more independent in their ‘foreign policy’, 19 per cent said investing in ‘good education’, 14 per cent said ‘talk to each other’, 10 per cent said ‘talk to other country’ and 9 per cent said ‘security’.

Humanitarian crises in Africa continue to spill over borders in recent years, with children and families increasingly on the move. More than 1.2 million people face insecurity in the Central African Republic due to a complex humanitarian and protection crisis that has spread to neighbouring countries. Nearly 1.3 million children have been displaced by violence linked to the Boko Haram insurgency across Cameroon, Chad, the Niger and Nigeria. Two years into the conflict in South Sudan, nearly 2.4 million people have fled their homes, including 721,000 living as refugees. Burundi is facing a protection crisis that has driven some 265,000 people to flee across borders.

“The lives of millions of children and their families are disrupted, upended or destroyed by conflict every year in Africa,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa. “This survey speaks to every child’s right to be heard and gives African youth an opportunity to express their hopes for the future of their continent.”

U-Report is a social messaging tool available in 23 countries, including 15 African countries, allowing users to respond to polls, report issues and work as positive agents of change on behalf of people in their country. Once someone has joined U-Report, polls and alerts are sent via Direct Message and real-time responses are collected and mapped on a website, where results and ideas are shared back with the community.

*Real Magazine

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