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Twitter Chat Encourages Women to Find Their Roots for Women’s History Month
March 18, 2016 | 0 Comments

National Geographic Traveler of the Year shares her journey of turning pain into purpose

ComeBackHome FlyerWASHINGTON, DC For Women’s History Month, NativSol Kitchen Founder and African Ancestry President co-host a Twitter Chat on  March 23, 2016 at 7:00pm EST entitled “Women Finding Their Roots: From Pain to Purpose.” The 60-minute live interactive session will give online users an opportunity to gain insight and inspiration in tracing their African lineage by following the hashtag: #comebackhome.

African Ancestry, Inc., the DC-based company that pioneered genetic DNA- ancestry tracing for people of African descent inspires all to make a connection to their identity through genetic ancestry testing and research.

“This Women’s History Month is a time to reconnect to our origin.  Genetically, black women hold the key to so much of ancestral information.  It is time that she claimed her place as the mother to all living things.  We must birth and nurture the future.” said Gina Paige, President & Co-founder of African Ancestry, Inc. “Women are the glue that holds the family and community together.”

In 2014 National Geographic selected NativSol’s founder Tambra Raye Stevenson as one of the “Traveler of the Year” for finding her African roots through food. Since then she had yet to travel to her ancestral land until this year in late April to Nigeria.

“Between the Ebola epidemic, terrorists’ attacks by Boko Haram and presidential elections, I had kept delaying my travel,” says Tambra Raye Stevenson, founder of NativSol Kitchen. “I was reminded even by Nigerians of safety in the north [of Nigeria]. But I had to trust my instinct and decide that it was now or never to complete my journey of coming back home not for me but for my ancestors.”

While in Nigeria this May, Stevenson will launch a new initiative called WANDA: Women Advancing Nutrition, Dietetics and Agriculture to empower women and girls in sustainable agriculture and nutrition. WANDA serves as an extension of NativSol’s work in promoting the African heritage diet with women and girls as the leaders in the movement.

Gina Paige

Gina Paige

In the Michael Twitty’s “Cooking Gene,” upcoming book, Stevenson shares her story of discovering her roots and passion for African heritage foods.  “By tracing my roots back to Africa, I became grounded in my identity and inspired to transform the path of my profession by incorporating my heritage,” says Stevenson. “Ultimately I realized I was search of my purpose. With WANDA we change the narrative of our female ancestors held captive to till foreign land to now leading a women’s movement in agriculture bridging the Diaspora and Africa.” Stevenson has kick started a crowdfunding campaign to support WANDA initiative in Nigeria and people can support at iamwanda.org.

Featured in the Washington Post, NativSol Kitchen provides culturally-centered and faith-based nutrition education programming to both youth and adults. Based in Washington, DC, NATIVSOL is on a mission to reclaim the health and spirit of the African diaspora by creating a movement to restore heritage foods into people’s daily lives. Led by trained culinary nutrition experts, NATIVSOL has the passion and talent to equip the community to cook, shop and eat their way back to health.

Tambra Raye Stevenson

Tambra Raye Stevenson

Founded in 2003 on years of research, African Ancestry, Inc. is the ancestry tracing company that pioneered African lineage matching in the United States utilizing its proprietary DNA-database of more than 25,000 African DNA lineages to more accurately assess present-day country of origin for people of African descent. Since its inception, African Ancestry’s lineage reveals have impacted the lives of more than 100,000 people in the U.S. from communities at large to global leaders such as Oprah Winfrey, Tom Joyner and the Reverend Jesse Jackson. African Ancestry has been featured across the globe in outlets such as CNN’s Black in America series, 60 Minutes and Essence Magazine; and was the centerpiece to the ground-breaking PBS special “African American Lives 1 & 2” with Skip Gates. African Ancestry is African-American-owned and operated and headquartered in Washington, DC.

Headquartered in Washington, DC, WANDA: Women Advancing Nutrition, Dietetics and Agriculture is leading a pan-African women’s movement from farm to fork. Founded in 2016, WANDA is on a mission to develop the next generation of women and girls as leaders in agriculture, nutrition and dietetics through education, advocacy and innovation as a means to alleviate poverty, build healthy communities and improve self-sufficiency.

join the event here

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AAI Conversations on Africa Seeks to Set Direction for the Next U.S. President
March 16, 2016 | 1 Comments
President & CEO of The Africa-America Institute Amini Kajunju

President & CEO of The Africa-America Institute Amini Kajunju

NEW YORK CITY – March 15, 2016 – As the U.S. presidential election gears up for the November election, AAI will host its next Conversations on Africa (COA) forum on April 21 on Capitol Hill, where congressional leaders, U.S. Government officials, policy experts and Members of the African Diplomatic Corps will take stock of the White House’s legacy on engagement with Africa and propose U.S.-Africa policy priorities for the next Administration.

The Conversation, Looking Ahead: Setting American Policy in Africa for the Next U.S. President”, will take place at Capitol Hill’s B338 Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C.

The two-term Obama Administration will come to a close in less than a year. The full-day Conversations on Africa offers a platform for reflections and panel discussions on the White House and the Congress’ strategy and engagement with sub-Saharan Africa.

The Obama Administration laid out overarching pillars for U.S.-Africa policy to: strengthen democratic institutions; spur economic growth, trade, and investment; advance peace and security; and promote opportunity and development.

The White House signature initiatives and high-level events include Power Africa, the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), and the first U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit with sitting African Heads of State in 2014. President Obama also became the first U.S. president to visit the African Union in Addis Ababa in 2015.

During President Obama’s tenure, U.S. Congress passed a 10-year extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the U.S.-Africa trade law, and the Electrify Africa Act, which aims to expand access to affordable and reliable electricity in sub-Saharan Africa.

“AAI’s Conversations on Africa forum offers an opportune time for us to look back and reflect on Obama Administration’s legacy on U.S.-Africa policy,” said AAI President Amini Kajunju. “It also is a time to identify what more needs to be accomplished before the end of the congressional session, and hear perspectives in moving forward on future Africa engagement from foreign policy advisors to the top presidential candidates.”

Moderated by Witney Schneidman, Senior Nonresident Fellow at The Brookings Institute, the panel“Africa: What Should the Remaining Priorities for the 114th Congress Be?”, with congressional staffers of the House and Senate Subcommittee on Africa, will review the Administration’s key priorities and give an update on progress to date. Staffers will share where Congress stands on proposed U.S.-Africa policy legislative bills.

The panel “Reflections: The Obama Administration’s Approach to Promoting Education in Africa”, moderated by The Honorable Vivian Lowery Derryck, President & CEO of The Bridges Institute, will offer insight into the White House’s focus on education. Confirmed panelists include Julie Hanson Swanson, Deputy Chief, Education Division, Bureau of Africa, USAID and Her Excellency Mathilde Mukantabana, Rwanda

The Honorable Reuben E. Brigety II, George Washington University’s Dean of Elliott School of International Affairs, will deliver a Fireside Chat on “Identifying Best Practices for U.S. Engagement in Africa” during the Policy Luncheon.

(L) Amini Kajunju and Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma attend Africa-America Institute 60th Anniversary Awards Gala at New York Hilton on September 25, 2013 in New York City. (Sept. 24, 2013 - Source: Bennett Raglin/Getty Images North America)

(L) Amini Kajunju and Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma attend Africa-America Institute 60th Anniversary Awards Gala at New York Hilton on September 25, 2013 in New York City.
(Sept. 24, 2013 – Source: Bennett Raglin/Getty Images North America)

Prior to taking the helm of the Elliot School, Ambassador Brigety was the U.S. representative to the African Union and U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. He also previously served as a deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of African Affairs and in the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, among other positions.

Carol Pineau, award-winning producer, writer, director and journalist will moderate what is expected to be a spirited panel “Beyond the Obama Administration: What Can We Expect for Africa?” with U.S. presidential candidate representatives. Candidate representatives will offer the presidential candidate’s perspective on U.S.-Africa policy and their vision for U.S. strategy for sub-Saharan Africa.

COA panels are still in formation and will be updated accordingly, leading up to the event.

*AAI .For more information, visit the Conversations on Africa event page

To RSVP to cover the event, please contact Shanta Bryant Gyan at email, shanta@sbgcommunications.com or call (202) 412-4603.  

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‘Until God says come’: turning 92, Zimbabwe’s Mugabe refuses to relinquish power
February 18, 2016 | 0 Comments

By MacDonald Dzirutwe*

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe addresses the ZANU-PF party's top decision making body, the Politburo, in the capital Harare, February 10, 2016. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe addresses the ZANU-PF party’s top decision making body, the Politburo, in the capital Harare, February 10, 2016. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

HARARE (Reuters) – When U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon urged African leaders not to cling to power at a summit last month, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe responded by saying he would continue “until God says ‘come'”.

Mugabe turns 92 on Sunday and, judging by those comments, has no intention of stepping down – despite being Africa’s oldest leader and the only president Zimbabwe has known since independence in 1980.

His life presidency aspirations could frustrate the feuding big-hitters of his ruling ZANU-PF party who have been trying for years to position themselves for a post-Mugabe political era.

They will also fuel criticism from opponents of the government, who say the internal conflict is distracting it from its job of dealing with a stagnating economy and responding to the worst drought in a generation – charges denied by ministers.

“Amid this looming starvation, coupled with an economy on the ropes, no one is paying attention to this national crisis. There is no government response as ZANU-PF is too pre-occupied with the succession issue of President Mugabe,” main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said on Tuesday.

Critics blame Mugabe for many of the problems facing the country. They say his policies, including the seizures and redistribution of white-owned commercial farms, drove one of Africa’s most promising economies into nearly a decade of deep recession until 2008 that cut its output almost in half.

They also say Zimbabwe’s sluggish economy and low productivity – the jobless rate is around 85 percent – has left it ill-equipped to deal with the drought, which has left 3 million people in need of food aid, about a quarter of the population.

For his part, Mugabe defends his land seizures as necessary to correct colonial injustices and says the economy has fallen victim to sanctions by Western countries that are punishing him for seizing white-owned land.

WHEELBARROW

Mugabe remains in charge of day-to-day running of his government. He still presides over graduations at all state universities and military passing-out parades, and takes trips abroad.

The president maintains that his party will choose a successor. But he plans to contest the next election in 2018 aged 94, seeking his last five-year term under a new constitution that would see him through to 99.

His wife Grace, a powerful figure in ZANU-PF in her own right, told party supporters last week that he was the only one who could keep Zimbabwe “intact and peaceful”, adding she would push him in a wheelbarrow to work if he was unable to walk.

“From analyzing the political situation, his political speeches, his political actions, it is increasingly becoming clear that he is gunning to be there for as long as he lives,” said Eldred Masunungure, a political science lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, left, is assisted by his wife Grace to get off the stage after addressing supporters at the party headquarters in Harare, Wednesday Feb, 10, 2016. Mugabe addressed thousand of party supporters and chaired a bitterly divided Zanu pf Politiburo amid heightened tensions over issues to do with factionalism and succession in the party.(AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, left, is assisted by his wife Grace to get off the stage after addressing supporters at the party headquarters in Harare, Wednesday Feb, 10, 2016. Mugabe addressed thousand of party supporters and chaired a bitterly divided Zanu pf Politiburo amid heightened tensions over issues to do with factionalism and succession in the party.(AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Despite his old age, Mugabe remains the glue holding together his fractious ZANU-PF, which dominates the political scene. He enjoys support from the military, an institution that has been a major pillar of his long rule.

Many Zimbabweans follow his health with keen interest, especially after assertions by Wikileaks that he might have prostate cancer – which he denied. With Mugabe having ruled for 36 years, some people fear the government could be paralyzed and the country riven by instability should he die without resolving the succession issue.

Last year he read out the wrong speech in parliament, which the opposition seized upon to question whether he was still of sound mind, though the president’s spokesman blamed his aides.

His reluctance to cede power could frustrate ZANU-PF grandees with ambitions for his throne.

Several leading party figures have presidential aspirations, but Emmerson Mnangagwa has been regarded as heir apparent to Mugabe. He was made vice president in 2014 following the sacking of Joice Mujuru, another faction leader who had been also tipped for the top job after holding the office for a decade.

Mnangagwa has since cemented his position by getting allies appointed to important cabinet posts and securing the tasks of reforming the economy and legal system.

‘CROCODILE’

But the vice president – nicknamed ‘Crocodile’, which he says reflects his ability to strike at the opportune time – is opposed by a group labeled G-40 by local media, comprising young government ministers and ZANU-PF members rallying behind Grace Mugabe, including the party’s women’s wing.

Grace is widely regarded in the party as another potential successor, even though she says she has no such ambitions.

The group says Mugabe should be allowed to die in office and has exchanged insults with Mnangagwa’s acolytes, accusing them of plotting to overthrow the president – charges they deny.

Mnangagwa himself has not responded to such accusations, but his allies in ZANU-PF and the military privately express unease at the influence that the First Lady wields on the president. They say the G-40 group is trying to isolate Mugabe from his old comrades.

At last week’s party rally, Grace said some unnamed people were plotting to physically remove Mugabe and harm his family, accusations similar to ones she made in 2014 against Mujuru, who was then regarded as the most likely successor to Mugabe.

The campaign against Mujuru led to Mugabe denouncing her before party loyalists as leader of a “treacherous cabal” bent on removing him from power, and firing her.

Grace Mugabe has hinted Mnangagwa may not be the chosen one after all.

“They go around saying Mrs Mugabe wants to lead, I am already in charge. Those that we thought could succeed him (Mugabe), we no longer have any confidence in them,” she said at the rally last week.

Mnangagwa did not respond to several requests for comment for this article.

The University of Zimbabwe’s Masunungure said the stage may have been set for Mnangagwa’s removal from office, little more than a year after Mujuru’s ejection. He said that would mean the two dominant factions that had vied to succeed Mugabe since 2000 would be purged from the party.

“The lesson for Mnangagwa is that you can quarrel, you can struggle among yourselves, as long as you do not commit the cardinal sin of wanting to take over while the president is still alive,” he added.

“I think that’s the red line for President Mugabe. Now the president is being told this guy has crossed that red line.”

*Reuters/Yahoo

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First American of African Descent appointed Area Engineer for District 5 in MD
February 12, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L*

Dr Keke

Dr Keke

The African immigrant community recently registered another mile stone with the appointment of Dr Peter.M. Keke as Area Engineer and Assistant District Engineer for District 5 in Md. Originally from Cameroon, Dr Keke is the first American of African descent to hold these positions. From 1990 when he got to the USA, it has been a very eventful journey for Dr Keke whose experiences mirror those of most other successful African immigrants. “Never let people define your destiny and do not allow yourself be cut in myths,” says Dr Keke as he settles into his new job.

Dr Keke, you recently became the first American of African descent to hold the Office of Area Engineer and Assistant District Engineer for Construction in the State of Maryland, how did your recent appointment come about?

The Assistant District Engineer for Construction position in District- 5 was opened to those who had the qualification to interview during the month of May 2015. I was one of the interviewees out of 5 people. The interview panel was made up of 4 people and each of us was drilled with 9 questions. The selected candidate was screened and interviewed by the Governors appointment secretary for final approval. Accordingly, I emerged successful and was appointed on December 7, 2015 based on my ability to meet all the requirements, demonstration of an efficient and effective understanding of construction and managerial principles throughout the interview and screening process.

May we know what exactly your new duties entail and what jurisdiction you cover?

In a nutshell, my new duties are administrative and engineering construction management. I represent the District on all matters relating to Highway and Bridge construction within my area. Some of the responsibilities are; management of a $356 million construction program annually, attend legislative meetings to advice and report on construction projects, challenges, and needs. Attend town hall public meetings. Represent and advice the District Engineer, Administrator, MDOT Secretary on construction related matters. Inspect and coordinate construction activities of contractors, hire construction inspections, and coordinate with upper management on how to attain the District’s strategic and construction goals.   My jurisdiction covers four counties: Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary’s Counties.

Prior to this new appointment, what functions did Dr Keke have within the MD Government?

I was a construction inspector from 1998 to 2000 in District-5. Then from 2000 I was a Project Engineer in the District up to 2004. I continued as a Project Engineer in District-3 from 2004 to 2006. In 2006 I became the first black Area Engineer in District-3 up to 2013 (District-3 covers Montgomery and Prince Georges Counties). In 2013,

I moved to District- 4 (that is Baltimore and Harford Counties) in the same capacity as the Area Engineer. And in December 7, 2015 I was appointed the Assistant District Engineer for Constriction in Disrtict-5.

What experiences and academic background does Dr Keke bring to his new job?

I bring lots of construction experiences in this position. First I worked in Ministry of Public work and Transport Cameroon, Highway Department Limbe after graduating from National School of Technology (Survey School Buea) as Chief or Technical Officer from 1982 to 1998. Then I became the Chief of Subdivision Highways Department Kumba from 1998 to 1990. I moved to the United States in May 1990 were I worked (from 1990 to 1996) at a gas station as security guard, and later served as a housekeeper, a nursing assistant, and a medicine aid, while at the same time going to school. From 1994 to 1997 I also served as the first Mathematical Student President of Bowie State University. In addition I served as a student tutor in both Mathematics (calculus 1, 2, and 3) and Engineering (Engineering mechanics and differential equations) in Bowie State University and University of Maryland College Park respectively. I also worked as a student mathematical intern with the National Air space Museum in Washington D.C for 3 months in 1997. During the same period from 1996 to 1998 I worked with the Driggs Construction Company as Quantity Engineer and Project Engineer before joining the Maryland State Highway in 1998.

Academically; I hold a diploma in Surveying, BS in Mathematics, BS in Civil Engineering, MS in Project Management/Engineering, and a PhD in Project Management.

For the immigrant that you are, how challenging has it been for you to get to where you are?

As an immigrant it has been very challenging with varied experiences from rejection, to temptations, oppositions, and a different culture. In short, the journey demands great patience, hard work, endurance, and tenacity. Another interesting challenge is language/accent. Despite the fact that I studied in the US, each time I talk people still see me as a foreigner because of my accent. Sometimes, you face rejection because of the accent and skin color. However, my focus is to not allow such distractions became obstacles; therefore, I have always been hard working, willing to learn at all times, and to take advantage of situations. My goal has always been to be the best at all times.

To the young ones who see in you a role model and will love to emulate your example and career trajectory, what message do you have for them?

Never let people define your destiny and do not allow yourself be cut in myths. For example, I was told a black foreign person cannot graduate from University of Maryland College Park. This is a myth since I graduated from the school with honors. Another, advice is to be patient with your plan, work hard on it and it will all pay off at the end. An important point to note is that transforming from a Cameroon society to US society is challenging. You must accept and be willing to make the change needed for assimilation. You will have to start with small or odd jobs, but do not allow the jobs to define you; rather use these small or odd jobs as a means to an end. Finally, things can be made much easier if you have a mentor. Though I had none, I find that a mentor to rely on can help understand, and guide you towards success.

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

By Tony Elumelu and Aliko Dangote*

Dangote, Elumelu at World Economic Forum Davos

Dangote, Elumelu at World Economic Forum Davos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Trevor Noah Phenomenon: Young, Black South Africans Are Standing Up
January 25, 2016 | 0 Comments

2016-01-19-1453182863-6096505-TN-thumbBy Lyn Snodgrass*

Last year was a tumultuous one for South Africa and the country faces an uncertain 2016. This prevailing mood does not bode well for South African society. But there are undercurrents that suggest otherwise – budding signs of a deepening democracy. One of these is the Trevor Noah comedic phenomenon.

Noah is a comic export to the American global television market as successor to the famous satiric host, Jon Stewart, on the highly-rated Daily Show. The show draws its comedy and satirical content from trending political news, cutting-edge debates and interviews with top politicians and influencers. Noah’s acclaimed hosting debut had 3.471 million viewers. In rising through the comedy ranks he has drawn on material from his turbulent childhood and ethnic experiences.

Noah has cracked the nod with his peers, a cosmopolitan audience and influential media critics. This is no mean feat for a homegrown 31-year-old of mixed race.

The Noah phenomenon speaks to an influential comedic revolution that is happening in South Africa.

Humor as social commentary and critique

Late-night talk shows and comedy clubs are increasing in popularity in South Africa. They involve a montage of humorous skits, jokes and amusing anecdotes often underpinned by incisive, satirical commentary. This comedic revolution is dominated by a growing number of young, black comedians. Like their peers worldwide, they are pushing the boundaries on controversial issues.

They search for material drawing from the messy business of “real” life, wrestling with topics relating to racism, sexism, prejudice, abuse and religiosity. Public and even iconic figures are considered fair game and there are no sacred cows.

Comedians are not idealists. But in the single-minded pursuit of their agenda – laughter – they inadvertently provide the sociopolitical critique that has the potential to activate transformation in society.

Satirical humor may be provocative, shocking and even offensive but it is considered fundamental in a free society. Charlie Chaplin observed that:

… the function of comedy is to sharpen our sensitivity to the perversions of justice within the society in which we live.

Comedic culture is deeply rooted in human history. Travelling minstrels and the court jester – forerunners of the stand-up comic – held up a satirical mirror to the ills of their medieval societies.

Satire, a specific genre of humor that goes deeper than ordinary humor, often brutally exposes the absurdity of the human condition, society’s hypocrisies and abuses of the polity. By stimulating critical awareness the satirist-comic comes to play the unintended role of activist and change agent in society.

Humor as therapy and a force for reconciliation

In an increasingly complex, high risk and conflict intense world there is much cause for anxiety and uncertainty. For South Africa, a post-conflict society grappling with issues of race, inequality and a weakening economy, these factors are pronounced.

The country’s stand-up comedians and satirical artists offer the opportunity to laugh, providing a Freudian catharsis – a release of emotional stress and tension – with therapeutic benefits. This comic release is beneficial in activating coping mechanisms to deal with the anxiety and insecurity of deeply divided societies.

Research has shown that humor can be used as a form of resistance and protest in times of intense conflict. Researcher Don Nilsen describes how Jews in Nazi concentration camps used humor to take some control of their own lives.

Humorous strategies are also powerful in exposing social injustice, subverting stereotypes and challenging assumptions. And the constructive role of humor to facilitate dialogue, nonviolent resistance and reconciliation is increasingly being documented.

 

 

Humor as a social corrective

The degree to which free expression a society allows its artists is seen as a significant indicator of its democratic character and maturity. As hallmarks of a robust democracy, satire and humor have special import in post-colonial and post-conflict societies.

Governments and rulers throughout history have tried to control the space occupied by satirists and cartoonists who shine a satirical light on their shortcomings. They perceive this as a threat to their power and position as well as inviting unwanted public scrutiny.

Developing economies often struggle with freedom of expression, especially when regime abuses and dominant discourses are challenged. The current South African government is no exception. President Jacob Zuma has provided a wealth of material for comedians, artists and cartoonists such as Zapiro.

More recently, however, the governing African National Congress appears to be taking an adversarial stance against artistic expression.

A revolution of comic proportions

Young, black, stand-up comedians such as Tumi Morake, Loyisa Gola, David Kau, Kagiso Lediga, Tats Nkonzo and many others are performing increasingly to black, middle-class audiences. Kau jokes that he no longer has to rely on white patronage because black South Africans have money and attend his shows.

Research in the US shows that comedic talk show hosts are prominent sources of political information. This is especially true among 30-35-year-olds. In 2007, the Pew Research Centre listed Stewart as the fourth-most-trusted journalist in America.

Satirists can certainly help South Africa deal with building a vibrant democracy. Satirical comedy provides an alternative learning platform by offering competing narratives, subverting stereotypes and deconstructing dominant discourses.

As with the #FeesMustFall movement it is fitting that the “comic revolution” is driven by young South Africans who are debunking myths and challenging political correctness with a sense of humor.

*Huffpost .Associate Professor and Head of Department of Political and Conflict Studies, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University

The Conversation

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Dear Africa, presidential term limits is not democracy
January 25, 2016 | 0 Comments

By *

Photo: Ndimby Andriantsoavina

Photo: Ndimby Andriantsoavina

It is has become obvious that the discussion on democracy in Africa has become solely about presidential term limits. Going a step further, it seems power grabbing and bad leaders are an African problem. Shall Africa accept this false characterization? What is our responsibility?

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to speak on RFI’s Appel sur l’actualité on the referendum on presidential terms limits happening the next day in Rwanda. I didn’t get a chance to say what was on my mind, so I decided to write instead. Dear Africans, do not be duped, presidential term limits is not democracy.

What do I mean? Having a president who has a limit of two terms is not a guarantee that he or she will accomplish anything worthwhile in power. If the sole gauge of a successful term in office is respecting term limits, why is Europe not following its own advice?

Africa is not the bedrock of bad governance, dictators or corruption. On RFI, host Juan Gomez asked, “How can we put an end to this ‘African’ tendency of power grabbing…” And all the Africans on the call chimed in, “Yes, we must stop these African leaders…” I felt like I was reliving the partition of Africa. Does Africa have bad leaders? Yes, we have had some incompetent, corrupt leaders. So has Italy, Greece, Japan, Brazil, Canada, the US, Germany, France etc.

There is nothing that bothers me more than Africa accepting to be told who we are, what we should do, and what our limits are. The last time that happened, we were being colonized. Should African leaders be held accountable for their leadership? Absolutely. Should citizens rise up to demand the leadership they deserve? Most certainly, in fact, those examples are rarely spotlighted – like what happened in Burkina Faso or Senegal before that. Even Burundi, as complex as the situation has become, is about the people rejecting a self-proclaimed incompetent president.

I feel like we need a monthly lesson in African history given from [independent] African voices. Has the West brain washed us into thinking we didn’t have highly structured, efficient governance systems before they “discovered” us. In Rwanda, we certainly did. And using the Church, the German then Belgian colonizers convinced us (forcefully) that ours was a primitive system needing saving and the consequences of this are buried in graves across the country.

Beyond term limits

The issue isn’t how many terms but what you do with those terms. Like one Facebook commentator said, “What is the point of serving two terms, everyone claps for you for leaving and then you leave the country in billions of dollars of deficit that you and your cronies have carved up and stolen, with the support of the West?” Yes it is not always the case, but I think it is time that as Africans, individually and collectively, we ask ourselves, what is our responsibility in all of this? And what can we do going forward?

Protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza. Photo: AFP

Protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza. Photo: AFP

I don’t buy the argument that we can’t do anything about it. Thomas Sankara was a man like us. Even colonialism seemed impossible to overcome and some days, I wonder if we will ever get over the mountain of neo-colonialism, but the point is, we are not helpless.

In Rwanda, we have taken off the shackles of helplessness. I have said this before, we have many challenges but we reject being lectured to about things we know better than anyone else. Our President and his government have succeeded in rebuilding the nation under impossible circumstances. I was in a meeting a year ago, and a local leader said that everything was fine in his area and it wasn’t. Children were severely malnourished. After the statement, President Kagame showed pictures that had been taken without the knowledge of the local leader and I will never forget his words, “Shall we boast about progress when our children are hungry?” That is leadership. Africa needs leadership.

What is democracy?

I could give you a hundred examples but let me quote a young man who called into a radio program the day before the referendum, “My relationship with government starts and ends with service provision, if President Kagame’s government has done this, even beyond our expectations, why should we not be allowed to vote for him again. Shall the US dictate to us how to live? Shall France tell us what to do? That time has passed.”

Democracy is governance by the people for the people and for the last two centuries, everyone but Africans has decided what this means. Don’t get me wrong, we share some of that responsibility but now is the time, we are that generation that should define who we are not in response to stereotypes but drawing from history and looking to the future.

President Paul Kagame joins residents in Umuganda to build homes for the needy. Photo: Paul Kagame Flickr

President Paul Kagame joins residents in Umuganda to build homes for the needy. Photo: Paul Kagame Flickr

Rwandans are not being duped, they are exercising strategic wisdom. I actually wanted the new draft constitution to completely take off term limits, which have become a tool for manipulation and distraction, but Parliament decided to keep the two term limit with a seven year transition.

I want you to think for a minute, say term limits are not an issue like in Germany or Canada, what then are the checks and balances to power? Decentralization, inclusive economic policies, accountable governance mechanisms like performance contracts, robust civil service, independent judicial system, an empowered Parliament, an active civil society, media etc. Where are the discussions about this? Because these are the areas where Rwandans have spent most of their energy in the last twenty years, albeit imperfectly, and where much more effort has to be spent.

In this globalizing world, where Africa is the last frontier of exploitation, only leaders and countries focused on inclusive, strategic policies and interventions will survive. Africa, please don’t drown in poisoned poetic rhetoric about the democracy of others that we can’t seem to have; we need action, we need leaders.

Choose leaders who will better your life, speak against inequality (African resources are feeding the whole world while we go hungry) and who owe nothing to neo-colonialists. Hold those leaders accountable and if there aren’t any, then it is time for you to run for office. This is the Africa I want.

It is not utopia, it will take sacrifice – even death. Are we willing to pay the price?

*This Is Africa

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Africa Wants Veto Powers in UN Security Council
January 25, 2016 | 0 Comments

Sebastian Mhofu*

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe (R) poses for photos ahead of his meeting with Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (L) at Zimbabwe State House in Harare, Jan. 23, 2016.

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe (R) poses for photos ahead of his meeting with Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (L) at Zimbabwe State House in Harare, Jan. 23, 2016.

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo say Africa wants to see reforms enacted at the U.N. Security Council and they want the continent to be given at least one spot as a permanent member. The call came at the end of a visit to Zimbabwe by Nguema and ahead of an African Union General Assembly later this month.

Mugabe — who is handing over the rotating AU chairmanship — said his Equatorial Guinea counterpart ,Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, was in Zimbabwe because of the upcoming African summit in Ethiopia.

“On the event of the meeting of the African Union, he [Nguema] saw it meet to discuss what our position is regarding various matters. The issue of the reform of the U.N. Security Council and our position as Africa. Then the issue of peace and security in Africa and terrorism.”

Nguema said there was need for African leaders to translate political independence to economic independence. He said Africa’s leaders must work today to ensure that this becomes a reality. On the issue of the U.N. Security Council, speaking through an interpreter, Nguema said reforms should be taken seriously.

“Concerning the reforms of United Nations Security Council which Africa is gunning for; we are asking for two seats of the security council of the United Nations. But if we are not given two, let us be given one with full recognition of members with right to veto. I think that is the revolution which Africa looks for.”

Russia, Britain, China, France and the United States are the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. Now Africa — as a continent —  wants to be represented in that powerful U.N. group.

*VOA

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Global executives see emergence of Sub-Saharan Africa as consumer market
January 18, 2016 | 0 Comments

Logistics professionals eye growing middle class, but many still wary of entry

120Consumer spending by a fast-growing middle class is as important a growth driver for Africa as mineral and resource demand, according to a new survey of global logistics executives.

In the survey, which is part of the 2016 Agility Emerging Markets Logistics Index , industry executives rank South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana as the most promising markets in Sub-Saharan Africa. Poor infrastructure, lack of power generation and corruption continue to pose the most risk to African economies, according to the more than 1,100 executives responding to the survey.

Despite recent growth and surging foreign investment, Sub-Saharan Africa remains a challenging frontier for many. Only 21.2% of logistics industry executives surveyed said their companies have operations there. Another 12.7% said they are in the planning stages to enter African markets. More than 43% said they have no plans to set up in Africa.

“The results show a serious disconnect between the perception of the market and actual opportunities. These are some of the world’s fastest-growing economies. Africa’s requirement for logistics services and supply chain expertise is huge and growing every day. At the same time, many of the companies that need logistics to enter the market don’t know how to get started in Africa or aren’t willing to take the risk,” said Geoffrey White, CEO of Agility Africa. “The market is open for first movers who can navigate risk and nurture African talent. The opportunity is for those seeking to build long-term, sustainable businesses that bring world-class practices and adapt to local conditions.”

The Agility Emerging Markets Logistics Index, now in its 7th year, offers a snapshot of logistics industry sentiment and ranks the world’s 45 leading emerging markets based on their size, business conditions, infrastructure and other factors that make them attractive to logistics providers, freight forwarders, shipping lines, air cargo carriers and distributors.

China, the world’s second-largest economy, remains the leading emerging market by a large margin. Among the countries at the top of the Index rankings this year, UAE (No. 2), India (3) and Malaysia (4) leaped over the commodity-dependent economies of Saudi Arabia (5), Brazil (6) and Indonesia (7). Rounding out the top 10 are Mexico (8), Russia (9) and Turkey (10).

The leading markets in Sub-Saharan Africa are South Africa (No. 16) and Nigeria (17). South Africa has Africa’s most advanced logistics industry and transport infrastructure, but its economy has been hobbled by chronic power shortages, slumping commodity prices, a plunging currency and labor unrest.

Nigeria climbed 10 spots in the 2016 Index, tying Egypt (No. 22) for the biggest gain by any country in the seven years since the Index was first published. Nigeria’s enormous potential has become clearer since its recent decision to update the methods by which it collects economic data. Even so, its economy is heavily reliant on oil and has been hurt by low energy prices.

Other countries in the region fall toward the bottom of the rankings: Ethiopia (37), Tanzania (40), Kenya (43) and Uganda (45). Among countries in North Africa, Morocco ranked No. 20, trailed by Egypt (22), Algeria (30), Tunisia (36) and Libya (41).

Other Index findings:

  • UAE, home to the powerhouse economies of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, has the best business climate and the best “connectedness,” a measure of infrastructure and transport connections, of any emerging market. As a result, UAE ranks as the world’s No. 2 emerging market after China, even though China’s economy is 25 times larger; India’s is five times larger; and Brazil’s is six times larger.
  • UAE, Malaysia, China, Chile lead in “connectivity,” meaning they have the best infrastructure and transport links, along with the most efficient customs and border administration.
  • Nigeria’s size and growth suggest it should rank near Brazil (No. 6) or Mexico (8) in the overall Index. But Nigeria is no more business friendly than Venezuela and Uganda, and its weak infrastructure, transport links and customs regime puts it with Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Tanzania in “connectivity.”
  • Among countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa has the best “connectivity.” In North Africa, Morocco has the best business climate and connections.
  • Countries in Latin America are losing ground to other emerging markets as a result of recession and political turmoil in Brazil, the region’s biggest economy, and depressed prices for commodity exports. Of the 10 countries that slipped furthest in the Index, six are in Latin America: Peru, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela. Even so, Chile continues to be the top-ranked emerging market with GDP under $300 million.
  • Russia, hurt by Western sanctions and isolated economically since it began backing rebels in Ukraine and intervened militarily in Syria, fell from No. 7 to No. 9 in the Index. Tension with Russia and the loss of economic output in the breakaway Crimea region have hurt Ukraine, as well. Ukraine fell four spots to No. 34.

Other survey findings:

  • Industry executives view oil prices and China’s economy as the leading risks to the global economy in 2016. Both represent potential threats for some Sub-Saharan economies. Mozambique, Uganda, Tanzania and others want to exploit huge new energy finds but are hamstrung by low prices. China, the leading buyer for African minerals and other key commodities, will buy less as its economy slows.
  • Logistics executives see “economic shock” as the top risk in Asia Pacific, a sign of concern that a slowdown in China could ripple through economies and supply chains elsewhere in the region. A significant percentage (38%) said they are reassessing their China strategies. In the past, industry executives said natural disasters and corruption were the top risks in Asia.
  • The logistics industry is intrigued by the possibility that Iran could emerge from its long economic isolation as the result of an agreement to curtail its nuclear program. In the survey, Iran moved up 12 spots – from No. 27 to No. 15 – among countries with potential as major logistics markets.

“It was a volatile year for emerging markets, and you see that in the Index. Eight of the top 10 emerging markets shifted places,” said Essa Al-Saleh, President and CEO of Agility Global Integrated Logistics. “Despite the turbulence, the fundamentals driving growth remain consistent – a rising middle class with spending power, progress in poverty reduction, growing populations. That’s why we are still positive on the outlook for emerging markets and see them driving global growth.”

 

Transport Intelligence (Ti), a leading analysis and research firm for the logistics industry, compiled the Index.

John Manners-Bell, Chief Executive Ti, said: “The world’s economy is still riven by instability, and emerging markets such as China and Brazil have not been immune. However others, such as Mexico, are in a far stronger position and will benefit from the economic growth experienced in the U.S. and Europe. More than ever, investors in emerging markets need to be discerning and the results of our Index are critical to providing clarity in a confusing and complex world.”

Agility (Agility.com) brings efficiency to supply chains in some of the globe’s most challenging environments, offering unmatched personal service, a global footprint and customized capabilities in developed and developing economies alike. Agility is one of the world’s leading providers of integrated logistics. It is a publicly traded company with more than $4.8 billion in revenue and more than 20,000 employees in over 500 offices across 100 countries. Agility is investing heavily on the African continent, building a series of distribution parks with world-class warehousing facilities and guaranteed power, security and connectivity to help companies get their goods to market. Agility supports the oil and gas industry through project logistics of heavy and out-of-gauge equipment, bulk fuel transport and store, and remote camp services.

Agility also supports governments in airport services and ground handling, driving efficiency in the flow of passengers and cargo. Agility’s core commercial business, Global Integrated Logistics (GIL), provides supply chain solutions to meet traditional and complex customer needs. GIL offers air, ocean and road freight forwarding, warehousing, distribution, and specialized services in project logistics, fairs and events, and chemicals. Agility’s Infrastructure group of companies manages industrial real estate and offers logistics-related services, including e-government customs optimization and consulting, waste management and recycling, aviation and ground-handling services, support to governments and ministries of defense, remote infrastructure and life support.

Ti is one of the world’s leading providers of expert research and analysis dedicated to the global logistics industry. Utilising the expertise of professionals with many years’ experience in the mail, express and logistics industry, Transport Intelligence has developed a range of market leading web-based products, reports, profiles and services used by all the world’s leading logistics suppliers, consultancies and banks, as well as many users of logistics services.

*APO

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fastjet flights to Nairobi and Zanzibar take to the skies
January 12, 2016 | 0 Comments

Low-cost airline expands its pan-African network with daily direct international flights from Dar es Salaam and Kilimanjaro to Nairobi, and daily domestic flights from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar.

First flight: fastjet’s maiden flight from Dar es Salaam to Nairobi touches down at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on 11 January 2016.

First flight: fastjet’s maiden flight from Dar es Salaam to Nairobi touches down at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on 11 January 2016.

fastjet’s inaugural flights from Dar es Salaam to Nairobi, Kilimanjaro to Nairobi, and Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar all took off on Monday 11 January 2016, marking an important milestone in fastjet’s international and domestic route expansion.

The daily return flights to Zanzibar are expected to make it easier for more Tanzanian and international visitors to travel to Zanzibar, boosting tourism and business and contributing significantly to the Spice Islands’ economic growth.

The launch of fastjet flights to Nairobi from two of Tanzania’s busiest airports kick-starts a new era of choice for passengers who have suffered prohibitively high fares on flights between two of Africa’s fastest growing economies.

The impact of fastjet flights into Kenya has already been considerable, demonstrated by the fact that fares with competing airlines flying between the two countries suddenly dropped by as much as 40% on the day that fastjet announced that it would commence flights between Kenya and Tanzania.

“The fact is that competition is good for consumers. It brings choice and it brings air fares down,” says Jimmy Kibati, fastjet General Manager for East Africa (INT/Kenya) // says John Corse, fastjet General Manager for Tanzania (TZ only)

fastjet fares are significantly lower than those charged by airlines currently operating direct flights between Tanzania and Kenya, with the airline’s Nairobi/Kilimanjaro fares starting from US$50 one-way, and Nairobi/Dar es Salaam fares starting from US$80 one-way.

Fares exclude government taxes (US$49 departing Tanzania and US$40 departing Kenya), with fastjet recommending passengers book early to take advantage of its lowest priced fares.

fastjet expects to add more flights to its new Kenyan routes as consumer demand increases for its affordable, safe, quick and on-time service, and it has already indicated that it expects to launch flights between Zanzibar and Nairobi as well as Dar es Salaam and Mombasa later in 2016.

“As has been the case with other routes that fastjet has launched, we expect many of our passengers on our new Kenya flights to be first time flyers who would otherwise not have been able to afford to travel by air,” noted Kibati/ Corse.

Ribbon cutting: High Commissioner of the United Republic of Tanzania John Michael Haule (right) cuts a ribbon on touch down at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to officially launch fastjet Tanzania’s first route to Kenya.  fastjet General Manager for East Africa, Jimmy Kibati (centre) and Director of fastjet Tanzania, Ami Mpungwe (left) join the cabin crew and passengers to celebrate the occasion.

Ribbon cutting: High Commissioner of the United Republic of Tanzania John Michael Haule (right) cuts a ribbon on touch down at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to officially launch fastjet Tanzania’s first route to Kenya. fastjet General Manager for East Africa, Jimmy Kibati (centre) and Director of fastjet Tanzania, Ami Mpungwe (left) join the cabin crew and passengers to celebrate the occasion.

Supporting this expectation is research undertaken by fastjet, showing that more than one third of its passengers were first time flyers able to afford air travel for the first time.

“Affordable air travel is key to the growth of economies across Africa because of the positive impact that low-cost air travel can have on the lives of their citizens and the general economy,” says Kibati/Corse.

“We are very grateful to the transportation ministries and the civil aviation authorities in both Kenya and Tanzania for working together to make it possible for fastjet to realise our vision of growing the number of consumers who can access the convenience of affordable air travel,” concluded Kibati/Corse.

Available for purchase on these new routes will be fastjet’s luggage upgrade option, ‘Freighty’, that allows passengers to transport up to 80kg of checked-in bags for US$80. The Freighty luggage option in particular is expected to be popular with traders flying with fastjet to purchase wholesale produce to transport back to their home markets to sell.

Bookings can be made online at www.fastjet.com, through fastjet approved travel agents or by contacting fastjet’s call centres. Payment for tickets can be made with cash, online with a credit card, or with mobile payments.

TIMETABLES

 

Nairobi to Dar es Salaam Depart Arrive
Daily 14:40 16:05
Dar es Salaam to Nairobi Depart Arrive
Daily 9:50 11:10
Nairobi to Kilimanjaro Depart Arrive
Daily 11:40 12:40
Kilimanjaro to Nairobi Depart Arrive
Daily 13:10 14:10
Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar Depart Arrive
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday 08:30 09:00
Daily 19:10 19:40
Zanzibar to Dar es Salaam Depart Arrive
Daily 20:10 20:40
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday 09:30 10:00

 

fastjet Kenya, a separate company within the fastjet group, announced in October 2015 that it had been granted an air service licence (ASL) by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA). The granting of the ASL cleared the way for fastjet Kenya to begin the application process for an Air Operator Certificate (AOC) which, when received, will allow the airline to operate domestic flights within Kenya.

 

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

By Richard Joseph*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Zimbabwe’s curious plan to adopt China’s currency
December 26, 2015 | 0 Comments

Adam Taylor* [caption id="attachment_23291" align="alignleft" width="620"]Robert Mugabe shakes hands with Xi Jinping as the Chinese president arrives in Harare Robert Mugabe shakes hands with Xi Jinping as the Chinese president arrives in Harare[/caption] Want evidence that China is still making inroads in sub-Saharan Africa? Look no further than Zimbabwe, where the finance minister just announced a plan to begin using the Chinese yuan as an official currency within the southern African nation — part of a deal in which Beijing will also cancel about $40 million in debt. “There cannot be a better time to do this,” Zimbabwean Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa explained in a statement. The news is just the latest wild twist for the Zimbabwean currency. Six months ago, Zimbabwe’s central bank announced that it was finally phasing out the local currency, the Zimbabwean dollar, after years of hyperinflation had left the currency virtually worthless. Zimbabweans were told that they would be able to exchange bank account balances of up to 175,000,000,000,000,000 Zimbabwean dollars for just 5 U.S. dollars – a heartbreaking sum, given that it was many people’s life savings. In practice, the Zimbabwean dollar (and the $100 trillion notes that it eventually required) had already become little more than a kitsch souvenir. By 2008, foreign currencies such as the U.S. dollar and the South African rand had become de facto currencies thanks to a booming black market. The following year, the government announced that it would officially allow businesses to use these currencies, effectively abandoning the Zimbabwean dollar. The new agreement would add the yuan to the list of currencies used for public transactions, and the Zimbabwean government said it would encourage its use. In the first stages of the plan, Reuters reports, Chinese tourists would be allowed to use the yuan to pay for services, and Zimbabwe would begin paying back its loans to China in the currency. The new switch may have other side effects, too: In recent months, some Zimbabwean economists had argued that the country should increase its use of the Chinese currency in a bid to get around U.S. sanctions. The move carries important symbolic weight in China. In recent years, the Beijing has pushed to internationalize its currency, with a fair degree of success. Late last month, the International Monetary Fund’s Executive Boardvoted in favor of acknowledging the yuan as one of the world’s top currencies. However, the move’s practical effect on the average Zimbabwean is hard to predict. At present, the majority of transactions in the country take place with U.S. dollars, though the situation (and supply of hard cash) varies across different regions. If anything, the deal is further evidence of the lengths that strongman Robert Mugabe, long isolated by much of the Western world, is willing to go to secure the future of his relationship with China. The Chinese government, which touts its “non-interference policy” in trade and aid relationships, has given Zimbabwe more than $1 billion in low-interest loans in the past five years, and Mugabe has considerable personal ties to Hong Kong. Zimbabwe was the first stop on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s tour of Africa this month, andMugabe greeted him by saying, “China is Zimbabwe’s all-weather friend.” Notably, a Chinese group with murky ties to the government awardedMugabe the Confucius Peace Prize – considered the Chinese version of the Nobel Peace Prize – in October, despite the Zimbabwean leader’s long-standing reputation for human rights abuses. *Source Washington Post]]>

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