How Trump can turn a blunder on Africa into a win for democracy
December 29, 2016 | 0 Comments
BY K. RIVA LEVINSON*
Africa watchers were scrambling the day after Christmas, when the spokesperson for president of the Republic of Congo, Thierry Moungalla announced on his Twitter feed that President-Elect Donald Trump would meet with Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso.
It would be Trump’s first encounter with any African head of state!
The purported topic of conversation was to be Libya, a country where ISIS has taken root and an uncontrolled flow of refugees threatens to destabilize neighboring states and undermine the security of Europe.
Plausible. … Sassou is the chair of the Africa Union’s Committee on Libya.
From that single tweet date-lined Brazzaville, the nation’s capital, the story exploded across the internet and was picked up by US and international media.
“Trump’s first meeting on Africa over Libya, with Congo’s Sassou Nguesso,” wrote Reuters. The Hill reported “Trump will meet with the President of Congo.” “Who is Sassou Nguesso?” the International Business Times wrote. The Francophone media likewise pushed the story out on their platforms.
By early evening on Dec. 26, PST, my iPhone started to ping continuously with notifications based on the Congo news.
“Does this mean that Trump will place the fight against terrorism in Africa ahead of long-standing support for democracy and human rights?” a representative from a prominent NGO asked me on WhatsApp.
“This is a president who changed the constitution so he could run for a third-term, extending his 32 years in office to perpetuity!” She was outraged.
Then a friend living in the West African nation of Liberia, originally from the Diaspora, started a chat with me on Facebook, “Sassou Nguesso represents the strong-men of the past. Is American policy going backwards? Please tell me no!”
Everyone seemed to be tracking the story. A journalist based in London reached out to me by email and asked, “Any idea how this (meeting) got scheduled? And why? Do you know when the Trump people will assign someone to Africa?”
I was just as perplexed as everyone else, but fortunately I didn’t have to speculate for long, because by mid-day on the 27th, Hope Hicks, spokeswoman for the Trump transition team, after being prompted that the story was spiraling, told Reuters, “No meeting had been set with Sassou Nguesso.”
It’s not surprising to me that a single tweet, date-lined Brazzaville, without even secondary verification, went viral on mainstream media. After all, Africa policy has been a black hole for candidate — Trump and the incoming Trump administration.
The continent was mentioned only anecdotally during the campaign, and according to reports, as of Dec. 2, none of the calls Trump and Vice President-elect Pence conducted with foreign leaders included an African head of state.
While it would be convenient to attribute this unforced error to another instance of fake news, it would only be half-true. As in a vacuum of emptiness, rumor and speculation rule. And that’s why the Congo story got legs.
The Trump transition team needs to take the Congo experience to heart, and recognize that an entire part of the world, one where approximately 1.2 billion people reside, a continent that is critical to U.S. food, energy and national security, with vast and untapped potential, needs a placeholder.
Rather than let the Africa policy void be filled by the speculators, or it wait out until the confirmation hearing of the Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson, the new administration should indicate early that it will support the bi-partisan/bi-cameral policy that has defined U.S.-Africa relations for decades — a policy grounded in democracy, rule of law, respect for human rights, private-sector led development and transparency.
And with that as a basis, a good place to start its African outreach would be shouting out to Ghana, which just completed its fourth consecutive peaceful transfer since the country returned to civilian rule in 1993.
Earlier this month, on Dec. 9, the Chairwoman of the Electoral Commission of Ghana, Charlotte Osei, declared Nana Akufo-Addo the president of the Republic Ghana with 54 percent of the vote.
Akufo-Addo, from the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), beat the sitting president, John Mahama of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), in a highly contested campaign, where many feared violence. It was the first time in Ghana’s history that an incumbent president was defeated.
And in gestures of grace and political maturity, President Mahama called Nana Akufo-Addo to concede the election, and Akufo-Addo, in his acceptance speech, promised to be the president of all the people of Ghana.
Johnnie Carson, the former U.S. assistant secretary of State for Africa Affairs leading the U.S. observer mission from the National Democratic Institute (NDI) called the process one of the best run elections that he had witnessed in the past 20 years. He cited Ghana as “the gold standard” for African democracy.
On Jan. 7, 2017, Nana Akufo-Addo will be inaugurated as the fifth president of Ghana’s Fourth Republic.
So how about it team Trump? Signals are important. Maybe a congratulatory letter to Akufo-Addo and the people of Ghana are in order early in the New Year.
*The Hill.K. Riva Levinson is President and CEO of KRL International LLC a DC-based consultancy that works in the world’s emerging markets, and author of “Choosing the Hero: My Improbable Journey and the Rise of Africa’s First Woman President” (Kiwai Media, June 2016).
Election of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission: The AU at a crossroads
December 26, 2016 | 0 Comments
Last Friday, 9 December 2016, the AU Conference Hall was the theatre of what was flagged to be a ‘first’ in the history of the African Union. On the evening of that day, a live broadcast of the first of its kind ‘debate’ among the five candidates vying for the position of Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union was programmed.
Indeed, there was a live broadcast. But what was covered can hardly meet the definition of a debate as we know it! But, let’s be fair. The organisers of the event, The AU African Leadership Academy, need to be applauded for their courage, given the circumstances, to launch such an initiative.
Rules were set and the format of the so-called debate were reportedly sent to the candidates, namely Abdoulaye Bathily, Moussa Mahamat, Amina Mohammed, Pelonomi Moitoi, and Agapito Mokuy, ahead of the scheduled event. Invitations to attend this ground-breaking initiative for the AU were launched. I happened to be in Addis Ababa at the time and having been very closely associated with the OAU and thereafter with the AU, I was privileged to receive an invitation.
Some time before the event kicked off, there prevailed an atmosphere of deflated enthusiasm. Corridor rumours had it that the ‘debate’ ran the risk of being cancelled for some of the candidates were not agreeable to the format, especially the Q & A segment! Questions had been expected to flow from the social media, duly filtered by the moderators, for responses from the candidates.
Though no contradictory debate was scheduled, as such, among the candidates themselves — a fact, therefore, that hardly met the criteria of debate — there was a legitimate expectancy among those present in the Hall to listen to the views of the candidates on issues of common interest to the Continent based on the questions put by the wider public. But it was not to be so. It was too good to be true! Such a possibility would surely have contributed to the movement of the African Union away from the perception of it being a States’ Union to one of a Peoples’ Union, which is what it is meant to be.
It later transpired that just before the event, at least two of the candidates insisted that there should be no Q & A segment. It appears that one candidate, Professor Bathily, insisted that it be placed on record that he was for such a segment and opposed having the rules of the game changed at the last moment. It emerged also that it was the Executive Council (Ministers) which was meeting in Addis Ababa for its pre-Summit Retreat that had taken the decision. This is a matter of concern, for it is not the role of the Council to invite and involve itself in matters related to the organisational aspect of such an event.
Be that as it may, a number of elements emerged from the presentation, for that is what it ultimately boiled down to being. The moderators — at least one of whom was changed twice from the one originally announced — were rather loud, not to say pompous, depriving the event of the solemnity it deserved. One of them even got his facts mixed up and referred to Bathily’s country of origin as Tchad! (Professor Bathily is from Senegal.)
The candidates, in turn, made their presentations, with an introduction about themselves, their vision for the Commission of the AU and their views on four thematic issues before concluding on what made them think that they should be at the helm of the Commission. The four questions related to: (a) the free movement of people; (b) the issues concerning youth and women in the context of building a Peoples’ Union; (c) the financing of the African Union and resource mobilisation for the African development agenda; and (d) ‘silencing of the guns’ by 2020 and the resolution and prevention of conflicts.
While the candidates elaborated on these issues, it was noteworthy that, apart from Abdoulaye Bathily, all the other candidates ( Foreign Ministers of their countries) were, more or less, reading from prepared scripts. They all had interesting things to say on the issues brought up, but clearly Bathily emerged as the more passionate and panAfricanist candidate with a clear vision of what he would bring to the position. His wide-ranging experience was clearly no match for the others who were more at home on specifics and therefore went on to advertise what and how their countries had or were contributing to advance the cause of the AU. Clearly, the point was missed that their candidacy, strictly speaking, should be individualistic and not country-based, a point that only Bathily managed to put across, with his coherent approach to, clear grasp of and vision to tackle the issues of concern to the Continent. One candidate was more interested in drumming home that she wanted the ‘job’ while another managed to convey the message that, left to him, there would be no place, or hardly any at the Commission, for anyone beyond 40 of age.
The AU is at a crossroads. The world’s political landscape and economic platform are undergoing serious changes. The AU needs to have a no-nonsense person to head its premier institution, the Commission, and who, in close consultation with the Heads of State and Government of member countries, will usher the Continent in this new era, the contours and depth of which, are yet to be fathomed. These are indeed challenging times and we, as true and concerned Africans, cannot afford to allow politics to call all the shots and end up losing another four years by installing someone not adequately equipped at the helm of the Commission. Our external partners are awaiting earnestly to have somebody of the right calibre with whom to engage on the various aspects of the changing development paradigm.
We should be careful and do everything possible to elect a Chairperson at the upcoming Summit in Addis Ababa next January. Rumours have it that some countries, having propelled some candidatures and in the face of the incapacity of the latter to take off, are now manoeuvring to obtain yet another deadlock at the January bout. If this were to be true, it would deliver a lasting and damaging blow to the AU. The African leadership should rise above playing politics with their premier institution and allow the Commission to function, with all the space that it requires and deserves, to deliver and adequately meet the aspirations of the peoples of our Continent.
Let it so be!
* Pambazuka Ambassador Vijay S. Makhan is former Assistant Secretary General of the OAU and Interim Commissioner of the AU.
Where are African scholars in African studies?
December 26, 2016 | 0 Comments
By Yusuf Serunkuma*
Many postcolonial regimes are still mired in protracted civil wars and violence, struggling economies, corruption, bad leadership, broken social and economic infrastructure and famine. It is rather dishonest for a country whose main university could be closed for months by presidential decree, whose professors strike year in year out over emoluments, to complain about an overwhelming European or American presence in their studies.
A white European friend tells a story of a panel on ‘African sexuality’ he attended in London sometime in 2005. Among other things, the panel discussed intimacy, sexual pleasure, anal sex, marital rape and genital beautification or mutilation—all from what was considered the vantage point of the African. Not only was the panel exclusively white, a large section of the audience was also white. With whiteness symbolically read as being European or North American, it translated not only into foreignness to the topics being discussed, but also privileged grandchildren of colonial masters gazing at Africans. Where were the African academics, at least, marked by their shiny dark or brown skins? Were they invited but failed to get transport? Did these European and North Americans really understand, and accurately and objectively bring out the intricate and many secret details of ‘African sexuality’? These questions sparked off a long-winded conversation, which, despite its liveliness, left one key question unanswered: Where were the African scholars?
With the exception of a few celebrity names—who actually make quite a list—African studies remain dominated, discursively and institutionally, by non-African scholars: African studies associations are not only headquartered in European and North American universities, but also hold their annual conferences in Europe and North America. During these conferences, it is very common to find specific country caucuses (Ugandan, Kenyan, Nigerian or Somali) with majority scholars of European and North American descent. Part of the explanation for this is that African scholars cannot afford to travel to Europe and North America for these sessions. Location may not necessarily be the issue, but the numerical superiority of whiteness in these plenaries (and in publications) has been concern for many non-white academics and their students as they grumble under their breath bemoaning the continued colonization, marginalization and scholarly misrepresentation.
It is also true that ‘leading journals’ in African studies are not only headquartered in Europe and North America, but many are mostly edited by European and American academics. Many times, the contributions to these journals reproduce similar patterns. On the other hand, there are only a few African studies associations or journals on Africa, based on the African continent, managed, contributed to and edited by African hands. The problem is then framed with whiteness being not just a timeless symbolism of continued colonial domination and marginalization of Africans, but also of biased, unrepresentative, inaccurate, and epistemologically flawed scholarship.
Our conversation unfolded against the above backdrop, with the bells of decolonization and the rise of the “African intellectual” ringing nearby. As a self-reflective white male, he was visibly guilty of their continued ‘crimes’ to African studies but did not see a clear exit. Should he back off and let African studies to Africans, or start co-authoring all his pieces with ‘African’ co-authors? Exactly, in the age of decolonization and the rise of the African university, why do white people, these grandchildren of colonial masters, continue to speak for, write about formerly colonized peoples to the point of dominating disciplines? This often translates into defining the terms of the discipline, which are often, the charge goes, Eurocentric. Why don’t they let the Africans write, represent and speak for and about themselves especially on ‘inner’ subjects such as sexuality? Why don’t white folks sit back and listen and learn? How accurate is this knowledge produced by foreigners about people they barely know? In other words, why don’t they heed Spivak?
There are three assumptions behind these charges: First, there exists a world stage of ‘competitive scholarship’ where continents, countries, nationalities, special groups such as women and ‘minorities’ seek not only accurate representation, but also equal participation. Accurate representation and active participation are taken as not only signifying but also granting access to power (respect, resources, pride etc.), which is the envy of the world. It then follows that inaccurate representation, and the absence of participation translates into, symbolically and practically, denial of power and substantive existence, as colonialism defined.
Secondly, presence and participation guarantees not just a leveled playing field, but also objective scholarship, that is, neutral, representative or even accurate. The ‘native’ has to be listened to, since nobody understands them like themselves. Without seeming to essentialize nativity or indigeneity, it is agreeable that there is a certain sensibility, an awareness that comes with belonging, and inhabiting the particular space under study.
The third assumption is that white scholars have actively sidelined African scholars just the way their grandparents who colonized the continent did. In other words, just like their grandparents, white scholars still patronize the native to speak about themselves. An equal presence of Africans in intellectual spaces, with perhaps equal power and learning, will not only point in the direction of complete liberation but also acknowledgement of the African as a free and thinking subject.
Although we should be sympathetic to this tone of conversation, it is my contention that it is improperly framed in ways that are not only ahistorical and essentialist, but also dishonest to current social-political conditions of the African peoples. The invisibility of the ‘African academic’ in African studies is undeniable. However, to demand grandchildren of former colonial masters to leave African studies to African academics—as a way of decolonizing African studies, or ensuring accurate and objective representation is misleading.
Secondly, even to demand equal participation, say through ‘affirmative inclusion’ does not sound like decolonizing the academy. It is actually one way of re-affirming an insubordinate position. The one with the power to invite and recruit does have power to define the terrain of the debate. Instead of asking how to decolonize the academy through more ‘African participation,’ my argument seeks to point to the challenges of representation, and the problem with seeking presence of ‘African scholars in African studies.’ This is not to argue that the concern over the absence is completely misplaced, rather my intention is to reframe the ways in which we approach and think about scholars, and their subjects in our so-called ‘African studies.’ My overall aim is to draw our attention to the history of the present, and how our intellectual history cannot be divorced from the political and economic histories of the present.
Let’s start from the beginning: The category, ‘African’ often remains problematic. Despite the attractiveness of claiming and theorizing the ‘African worldview,’ and ‘African identity,’ (Soyinka 1975, Mbembe 2002) African, as an analytical category (besides its political—as used in international relations—and geographical reference), is vague and difficult. I have never understood ‘African’ in African studies, African literature, African philosophy or African culture. It is not just that African cannot be homogenous, but also ‘African’ cannot be exclusive of other traditions—new and old. Indeed, one of the most eloquent critiques against Mazrui’s (2005) notion of Africa having triple heritage is that he reduced the African heritage to just three (perhaps painfully closing out Chinese and Indian influences whose presence remains most visible in our times). By being open to other traditions and changing in time and space, often in individually stylized forms (Mbembe 2002) sufficiently denies it conceptual and analytical crust. In the age of capitalist expansion, Ahmed Aijaz (1992) argues, the world has become more connected through production and consumption and the opposition of the 99% to the excesses of capital. What then constitutes ‘African’ both as an identity and an analytical category? What are these identities outside geography and the politics of international relations? What is the ‘first intelligibility’ of Africanness? Even in its smaller denominations—Ugandan, Nigerian or Kenyan—it does not make conceptual sense.
Secondly, indigeneity never translates into ‘authentic’ scholarship. Although it is true that inhabiting and belonging accords a certain awareness and sensitivity, it does not follow that to be is to know. Neither does it follow that the outsider is infinitely locked out of these locational and membership acquired knowledge systems and experiences. Claims that Ugandans, Kenyans or women are the best suited to write about their realities have only gained currency with the rise of “bad scholarship,” especially with the decline of philological engagement (Said, 2003). Said’s critique in Orientalism was meant to question bad scholarship, unmasking both the eyes with which (especially European) scholars read the Other, and the politico-economic projects that, sometimes inadvertently, informed their scholarship. Re-introducing his project in 2003, Said advocated a robust process of academic inquiry, which required ‘a profound humanistic spirit deployed with generosity and…hospitality’ where ‘the interpreter’s mind actively makes a place in it for a foreign Other’ (Said, 2003: xix). Said stressed the idea of making space for the foreign other as the most important process of good scholarship. This process, he argued, entailed ‘knowledge of other peoples and other times that is the result of understanding, compassion, careful study, and analysis for their own sakes’ (ibid). Here, scholarship becomes an entire body and soul immersion of the scholar. The scholar seeks to become like the community they study. They “deeply” live with, and learn the language and “cultures” of the people under study. Put differently, they become “naturalized” members. The scholar tries as they possibly could to understand the community on its internal logics. Following this schema, knowledge, with all its trappings of power, remains an active process of cultivation and learning, not just experience and belonging. Even language, which is believed to come more naturally to man, comes with conscious learning, not simply birth or location.
Third, the notion of ‘objectivity’ often pitched in this context to mean truthful, accurate, neutral, representative scholarship is one claim that is good for absolutely nothing. Without mixing this up with demands for rigor, all scholarship is biased depending on the questions and vantage point of the author (Foucault 1975, Usman 2006; Khaldun 1967). This is not to argue that the search for facts is a meaningless exercise. Instead, this suggests that facts do not interpret themselves. Indeed, there is neither a singular interpretation nor a singular internal logic. The exercise of interpretation is nothing but a subjective engagement—wound around questions, politics, and different forms of violence. It is the moment. Indeed, all sources, disciplines and the conclusions reached are often political in the sense that they are intended to respond to the present.
If the above grounds are agreeable, that is, abundance or demand for philological scholarship on African subjects by non-African scholars, and the absolute unimportance of any quests for objectivity, why then does the question of ‘African scholars in the African studies’ persist? Without seeking to dismiss the question entirely, we need to establish the intellectual project behind it. Is it objective scholarship? Total liberation? Equality? Despite being widely articulated as a concern for total liberation and breaking with the yoke of domination and marginalization, my contention is that neither of the above explains the persistence of this question, except the “catharsis of visibility:” A symbolism of access to power (resources, pride and respect) on the global academic stage, Africans long numerical presence to be seen as owning their scholarship. However, we can define “African” only in geographic and diplomatic terms (citizenship), which also do not allow us analytical and conceptual depth in the context of the present. If defined as men and women born, raised and educated on the African continent or with African ancestry and with visible identifiable features especially black or brown skin, this will be good but for absolutely nothing. Firstly, it is half analysis since it does not contextualize the general absence of Africans (scholars, power centers, footballers, technicians, inventors, medicine) in all “competitive” global spaces. Secondly, it is not interested in assessing the quality of production focusing entirely on who produces what. Third, it seeks to treat scholarship as an exclusive terrain operating outside politics and economics.
Besides any racist undertones it mobilizes on the part of the African, whiteness remains a symbolically powerful synecdoche for colonial marginalization and domination in all things African. My point is that we need to frame our reflex to this history differently, in ways that seek to appreciate and embrace it rather than angrily bash it to the point of asking present European and American scholars to apologize for it. The critique against the absence of African scholars is often pitched in the language of complete decolonization of the academy, as a search for African knowledge traditions, and full (sometimes, exclusive) participation of African peoples. This is a vanity endeavor. This approach actually dissociates scholarship from the politics of the present—the present inherited from different moments in history. To put it differently, claims for ‘total liberation’ of formerly colonized places remain only but essentialist. David Scott insightfully reminds us that the language of total liberation problematically suggests a story of romantic overcoming where ‘our pasts can be left behind and new futures leapt into (Scott, 2004: 135).’ Scott urges that formerly colonized peoples ought to see their history as a story of tragedy which demands ‘a more respectful attitude to the past, to the often-cruel permanence of its impress (ibid).’ Rather than angry resentment, this history ought to be respected acknowledging that the terrain in which scholarship (and many other fields) is engaged on the world stage was radically reordered by history (colonialism, structural adjustment etc.) both epistemologically and numerically.
At the same time, it is helpful to be mindful of the present challenges of the postcolonial state and how these do not only affect scholarship in formerly colonized places, but other aspects of life. Many postcolonial regimes are still mired in protracted civil wars and violence, struggling economies, corruption, bad leadership, broken social and economic infrastructure and famine. It is rather dishonest for a country whose main university could be closed for months by presidential decree, whose professors strike year in year out over emoluments, to complain of an overwhelming European or American presence in their studies. Such countries produce more raw materials for scholarship (for foreign scholars) than scholars. It does not matter whether these conditions are a legacy of colonialism (Mamdani 1996; Rodney 1972, dependency theorists) or the present political elite is responsible for them (Cooper 2007). As long as this remains the condition on the continent, in addition to an irredeemably reordered scholarly terrain, ‘African’ scholars, at the level of numbers, will remain invisible in African studies.
* Pambazuka.Yusuf Serunkuma Kajura is a PhD Fellow, Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR), Makerere University.
Solar Pump Helps Herders Overcome Zimbabwe Drought
December 26, 2016 | 0 Comments
By Sebastian Mhofu *
LUPANE, ZIMBABWE —
Communities in one of the most drought-prone parts of Zimbabwe are ditching farming in favor of cattle raising with support from the United Nations and a local NGO.
Mathafeni village about 600 kilometers southwest of Harare is in one of the driest districts in Zimbabwe, but a solar-powered borehole pumps water into a trough where some cattle are drinking.
The borehole supplies water for a dip tank just a few meters away, which helps reduce the risk of waterborne disease.
As Thembani Khumalo waited for his 12 cattle to finish drinking, he said before the borehole was drilled, his children would have to miss school to take the cattle long distances looking for water.
“We are now taking our herds to the dip tank weekly and diseases like lump skin, which used to affect our livestock can now be controlled. There is a very big difference,” he said.
He said fewer livestock are dying and their healthier cows are fetching better prices at market. He said buyers used to offer around $200, but now a beast can fetch up to $600.
At every borehole, there is also a fodder garden to ensure livestock in the region have enough food throughout the year.
The Mathafeni diptank and borehole were rehabilitated by a local NGO called LEAD Trust and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.
Southern Africa is still feeling the impact of El Nino-induced drought conditions. Subsistence farmers here have not been able to harvest enough to eat during the past two planting cycles. An estimated four million Zimbabweans are currently food insecure.
Low rainfall in the Lupane district makes people there especially vulnerable, said LEAD Trust district program manager Lucia Mwanyisa.
“We want these farmers to earn a better living from the livestock. If each animal or a third of that is sold at $500 an animal, that is a lot of money,” she said. “Not many families harvest. If they do, maybe it is only for consumption.”
Mwanyisa said the solar-powered borehole has had other benefits too.
“The water component has made life easy for the women,” she added. “So using hand pumping is now a thing of the past. So women are no longer spending much time at the watering points. They used to spend four, five hours just to water a herd of about 50 animals. Some were using deep wells to water their animals.”
Dorcas Sibanda owns six cattle. She said “I can now do other house chores while cattle are drinking from the trough. Plus I no longer disturb my children’s learning. They can take their time at school without hurrying home to help.”
The FAO is pursuing 72 other similar projects in the Lupane district with funding from the European Union to help communities weather drought and other shocks.
African Economic Conference closes with call for agriculture to be at the centre of Africa’s development
December 13, 2016 | 0 Comments
The 11th African Economic Conference (AEC) wound up in Abuja, Nigeria on Wednesday, after three days of intensive discussions on how African countries can achieve agro-allied industrialization.
Over 300 participants attended the annual event, co-organized by the African Development Bank (AfDB), UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), on the theme, “Feed Africa: Towards Agro-Allied Industrialization for Inclusive Growth.”
“This should not just be another conference. There has to be some key actions going forward, deploying agriculture to spearhead Africa’s economic transformation,” Ousmane Dore, the Resident Representative of the African Development Bank’s Nigeria Country Office, said as he closed the meeting.
Dore highlighted the Bank’s operations in Nigeria, a huge agriculture portfolio including the ENABLE Youth programme, which is assisting young graduates, or “agripreneurs”, to venture into a variety of agri-businesses. The theme of the conference was timely, he said.
Commenting on the outcomes, Adam Elhraika, Director of Macroeconomic Policy Division of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), urged participants to share the excitement and important messages that emerged from the conference with partners and governments in order to ensure their implementation.
For his part, Ayodele Odusola, Chief Economist and Head of the Strategy and Analysis Team for UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Africa, said the theme of the conference was in tune with the African Union’s 2063 agenda as well as the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. He echoed the sentiments of the Conference that agro-allied industrialization would lead to the attainment of Africa’s ultimate development objectives.
Several research papers were presented at the conference, alongside high-level panel discussions on agro-allied industrialization. The research papers ranged from agriculture, climate change and food security, which served the conference well as they initiated discussions on sustainable development.
Opening the conference earlier, Nigeria’s Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, commended the theme and the high-level participation in the conference, adding that the Government looks forward to the outcome of its deliberations “as it would be very useful as we design our new economic recovery plan where agro-industrialization will certainly play a key role.”
AfDB President, Akinwumi Adesina gave a keynote speech in which he underscored the fact that agriculture, which contributes over 28% of Africa’s GDP, holds the key for accelerated growth, diversification and job creation for African economies and its people.
“Agriculture provides the basic raw materials needed for industrial development. Food accounts for the highest share of consumer price index and providing cheap food is critical for taming inflation. When inflation is low, interest rates decline and it brings greater private sector investments. A more productive, efficient and competitive agriculture sector is critical for boosting rural economies, where the majority of the population live in Africa,” Adesina said. “The future of Africa depends on agriculture.”
Two research papers claimed the top positions in the final review by the conference organizers. The first position went to Mintewab Bezabih of the UK School of Economics and Political Science, Remidius Ruhinduka of the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Mare Sarr, University of Cape Town, South Africa, who presented their work on “Climate change perception and system of rice intensification (SRI) in Tanzania: A moment approximation approach. While the second position went to a paper titled “Greenhouse Gas Mitigation in the Agricultural Sector: Win-Win or Trade-Off among Small Farmers from West Africa” written and presented by Tiertou Edwige Some of Université Cheikh Anta Diop, Senegal; and Bruno Barbier of the Centre de Recherche d’Économie Appliquée (CREA) in Senegal.
The conference attracted a number of eminent speakers over the three days, including Eric Maskin, Economics Professor at Harvard and co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Prize; Xiaobo Zhang, Economics Professor and Senior Research Fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI); Chris Barrett, Professor in Applied Economics at Cornell University; and Paul Amaza, a Medical Professor at the University of Jos, Nigeria.
Other high-level participants included, among others, Cho Gyoung-Rae, Secretary General of the Korea-Africa Good and Agriculture Cooperation Initiative (KAFACI); Charles McClain, Deputy Minister of Agriculture for Planning and Development in the Liberia Ministry of Agriculture; Henry Eyebe Ayissi, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Cameroon; and Godwin Emefiele, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The 12th African Economic Conference will take place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in December 2017.
African Freedom Radio to Launch
December 9, 2016 | 0 Comments
OEAS is pleased to announce the launch of a new streaming radio and video service, Africa Freedom Radio, aimed at promoting national self-determination in Africa.
Africa Freedom Radio “AFR” is uniquely for Africa and for Africans. AFR broadcasts to Africa on the changing socio-political dynamics in the continent. The major focus is breaking the imposed colonial boundaries in Africa, and exposing the ills of tyrannical regimes which have held the people of Africa in a new sinister bondage of ethnic cleavages, nepotism and the destruction of the continent for the profit of a selected few. AFR is the voice for those people, chained by neo-colonialism and yearning to break free and choose the type of country they want to live in and prosper.
Africa Freedom Radio is a subsidiary of the Organization of Emerging African States (OEAS), an international governmental organization dedicated to providing strategic services to the emerging nations of Africa and their citizens. OEAS is a non-profit public charity whose member states are united by one shared principle – they all seek self-determination and believe self-determination to be inevitable.
According to OEAS Secretary General Dr. Ebenezer Akwanga, AFR’s launch is particularly timely: “The peoples of Biafra, Cabinda, and Ambazonia (Southern Cameroons) are currently locked in a deadly life and death struggle with dictatorial regimes; AFR will support them and provide relevant news and views not available elsewhere.”
African Freedom Radio can be accessed several ways including a free Android™ App for smart phones and tablet available at Google Play™ and through the AFR You Tube™ Channel.
All freedom loving people must subscribe to the AFR You Tube™ Channel and immediately download the Android App (Apple App is in development) in order to receive breaking news and exclusive content from Ambazonia, Mthwakazi and Biafra not available anywhere else.
Merck partners with UNESCO and African Union to empower Women in Research with the focus on “Infectious Diseases and Women Health”
November 30, 2016 | 0 Comments
UNESCO–MARS 2016 has brought together more than 200 researchers from more than 35 African countries to discuss the generation, sharing and dissemination of research data and to prepare for the road ahead in developing Africa as an international hub for research excellence and scientific innovation
- Nine researchers from across Africa receive ‘Best Young Researchers Award’ and ‘Best Women Researchers Award.’
- MARS 2016 contributes to Building Research Capacity in Africa to improve Women Health.
- MARS 2016 addresses Research in Francophone Africa for the first time.
- Merck On-line research community launched to enable young researchers to share experience with their peers in Africa and beyond.
Merck , a leading science and technology company in partnership with UNESCO, African Union, Ethiopia Ministry of Health, University of Cambridge and Institute Pasteur International today announced the 2016 UNESCO – Merck Research Award winners. The nine winners under two categories, ‘Best Young African Researchers Award’ and ‘Best African Women Researchers Award’, were announced during the 2nd UNESCO-MARS Summit 2016 being held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
“We are very happy to partner with UNESCO, African Union and Ethiopia Ministry of Health to achieve the important goals of improving women health and empowering women in research, as they are still under-represented in Africa,” Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of the Executive Board and Family Board of E. Merck KG emphasized at the inauguration of the UNESCO-MARS 2016 Summit.
Yifru Berhane, Minister for Health, Ethiopia, said: “We are very happy to partner with Merck, UNESCO and Africa Union to build research capacity in Africa with the focus on young researchers and women researchers and to define policies to enable high quality research in the continent”.
“This is the first time the UNESCO-MARS is launching the ‘Best African Woman Research Awards’ with the aim of promoting women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) that has seen five women researchers from across Africa being recognised for the quality of their research. The awards are in line with this year’s UNESCO-MARS 2016 theme that supports empowering women in research and building research capacity in Francophone and Anglophone Africa to ultimately improve women health in the continent,” emphasized Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare.
Beatrice Nyagol from Kenya Medical Research Institute was awarded the 1st Woman Researcher Award while Rogomenoma Ouedraogo from Laboratory of Biology and Molecular Genetics University, Burkina Faso received the 2nd Woman Researcher Award. The 3rd, 4th and 5th Woman Researcher Awards were granted to Sandrine Liabagui ep Assangaboua from Gabon; Maria Nabaggala from Infectious Diseases Institute, Uganda and Martha Zewdie of Armauer Hansen Research Institute, Ethiopia respectively.
The three categories of the ‘Best Young Researchers Award’ were given to two female and two male researchers with the 1st Award going to Patricia Rantshabeng from University of Botswana and the 2nd Award to Constantine Asahngwa from Cameroon. The 3rd Award were given to both; Tinashe Nyazika of University of Zimbabwe and Lamin Cham from the National Aids Control Program, Gambia.
“The awardees who are final PhD students and young investigators based at African research institutes and universities were selected based on the abstracts they submitted which were very impressive and related to Infectious Diseases with the aim to improve Women Health, which is the focus of UNESCO-MARS 2016,” emphasized Rasha Kelej.
Summit addressing both Francophone and Anglophone Africa
UNESCO–MARS 2016 has brought together more than 200 researchers from more than 35 African countries to discuss the generation, sharing and dissemination of research data and to prepare for the road ahead in developing Africa as an international hub for research excellence and scientific innovation.
Of the 200 researchers attending the Summit, 60% are women. This is contributing to one of the main objectives of UNESCO-MARS, which is empowering women in research.
The Summit for the first time, is also addressing both Francophone and Anglophone Africa and has attracted researchers from 11 French speaking countries of Senegal, Rwanda, Gabon, Benin, Congo, Cameroon, Gambia, Burkina Faso, Morocco, Niger, Burundi. Researchers from English speaking countries are drawn from Namibia, South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Liberia, Botswana and Ethiopia. In addition, researchers from Arab speaking and Portuguese speaking countries such as Egypt, Angola and Mozambique are in attendance.
Researchers benefit from diverse scientific sessions
The 2nd UNESCO MARS Summit is providing a unique opportunity for Africa’s young and talented scientists to share their research output and findings with the top echelon of scientists from Africa and abroad. It is also an opportunity for networking and career development. The Summit is presenting a platform where young scientists are able to discuss the enabling environment for better research among others.
“The researchers attending the two-day Summit are benefiting from diverse and rich scientific sessions that are focusing on the relation between infectious diseases and cancer in women; untreated infectious diseases and the high prevalence of infertility in Africa; and participating in discussions to identify scientific research priorities for evolving health needs to address infectious diseases such as Malaria, Schistosomiasis and Zika in relation to women health,” Rasha Kelej emphasized.
The Summit theme of “Infectious Diseases and Women Health” is informed by the fact that for many infectious diseases, women are at higher risk and have a more severe course of illness than men for many reasons including biological differences, social inequities, and restrictive cultural norms. Therefore, efforts to recognize and reduce health disparities among women have particular relevance for global health,” Uganda Minister of State of Health, Sarah Opendi emphasized.
Key African Ministers support building research capacity and policy development in the continent
Up to 15 African ministers of Health; Education; Science and Technology and Gender & Social Development participated in two ministerial high level panels at the UNESCO-MARS 2016. The ministers in discussions committed to support the building of research capacity at country and regional level, and the development and enforcement of policies to guide and promote scientific research for the benefit of Africa. They also pledged to enhance efforts to empower women in research.
The first ministerial high level panel on “Defining interventions to advance research capacity and empower women in research to improve women health in Africa,” involved: Sarah Opendi, Minister of State of Health, Uganda; Idi Illiassou Mainassara, Minister of Public Health, Niger; Julia Cassell, Minister of Gender, Children and Social Development, Liberia; Jesús Engonga Ndong, Minister of Education & Science, Equatorial Guinea and Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of Executive Board and Family Board of E.Merck KG.
The second ministerial panel on “Research and policy making gap in Africa – challenges and opportunities – Africa as a new international hub for research excellence and scientific innovation,” included: Prof. Yifru Berhane, Minister of Health, Ethiopia; Prof. Afework Kassu Gizaw, Minister of Science and Technology, Ethiopia; Dr. João Sebastião Teta, Secretary of State, Angola; Zuliatu Cooper, Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation, Sierra Leone and Rashid Aman, Chairman, Kenya National Commission for UNESCO.
Knowledge exchange platform to boost research capacity launched
During the UNESCO-MARS 2016, the Merck on-line research community blog (www.Merck-CAP.com) was launched to enable young researchers to exchange experience and knowledge with their peers and with established researchers in Africa and beyond.
The first UNESCO-Merck Africa Research Summit 2015 was successfully organized and held in Geneva, Switzerland in October 2015 with the focus on Emergent Infectious Diseases such as Ebola. The third UNESCO- MARS is scheduled to be held in 2017 in Africa.
About 2016 MARS award winners
“Best African Woman Researcher Award”
- 1st Place: Beatrice Nyagol, Kenya Medical Research Institute, Kenya
- 2nd Place: Rogomenoma Ouedraogo, Laboratory of Biology and Molecular Genetics University, Burkina Faso
- 3rd Place: Sandrine Liabagui ep Assangaboua, Ecole Doctorale Regionale d’Afrique Centrale, Franceville, Gabon
- 4th Place: Maria Nabaggala, Infectious Diseases Institute, Uganda
- 5th Place: Martha Zewdie, Armauer Hansen Research Institute, Ethiopia
“Best Young African Researcher Award”
- 1st Place: Patricia Rantshabeng, University of Botswana, Botswana
- 2nd Place: Constantine Asahngwa, Cameroon Centre for Evidence Based Health Care, Cameroon
- 3rd Place: Tinashe Nyazika, University of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe and Lamin Cham, National Aids Control Program, Gambia
African countries make reasonable progress to abolish the death penalty
November 30, 2016 | 0 Comments
By Wallace Mawire
On 10 October 2016, as the world commemorated the 14th World Day Against the Death Penalty , African countries including the SADC region report commendable progress in the abolition of the death penalty.
According to Dr Val Ingham-Thorpe, Director of Veritas in Zimbabwe, at one time most countries in the world killed their criminals for all sorts of crimes. Veritas provides information on the work of the Courts, Parliament of Zimbabwe and the Laws of Zimbabwe and makes public domain information widely available.
“In Britain you could be hanged for stealing a sheep and it didn’t matter whether you were a man, woman or child. If you took a farmer’s sheep you went to the gallows,” Thorpe said.
The death penalty can be defined as the state killing of criminals who have committed serious crimes.
Thorpe said that now we live in more enlightened times and worldwide, most countries have abolished the death penalty.
She said that 102 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes and 32 have done so in practice.
“Only 58 countries, less than a third retain it,” according to Thorpe.
As of the African scenario, Dr Thorpe says that the picture is similar. She says that of the member states of the African Union (AU), most have abolished the death penalty altogether or have a de facto moratorium.
Only a minority of 17 states are reported to have retained the penalty.
In SADC, it is reported that only three states continue to carry out the death penalty namely Botswana, Lesotho and the DRC. The other SADC member states are reported to have either abolished the death penalty completely or do not carry it out in practice.
In April 2015, while Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe was chairman of the AU, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights adopted a draft regional treaty, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Abolition of the death penalty in Africa to help AU member states move away from capital punishment and move towards systems emphasising restorative justice rather than retribution.
Like for instance, Zimbabwe has had an unofficial moratorium on the death penalty since 2005 meaning that no-one has been hanged since 2005.
However, the moratorium is unofficial and executions can be resumed at any time. it is reported that the courts have continued to sentence people to death and put on death row. It is reported that the cells where condemned prisoners are kept are packed with prisoners awaiting execution.
According to Veritas, it is estimated that there could be almost 200 prisoners on death row, although official figures are lower. Veritas adds that there are over a hundred murder cases still awaiting trial and some of these cases may result in more condemned people.
Veritas says that Zimbabwe’s constitution allows the law to provide for the death penalty in cases of aggravated murder, subject to certain conditions. The constitution does not impose the death penalty for murder or any other crime. It simply says that a law “may” provide for it, not “must”, but “may”. The constitutional provisions on the death penalty are reported by the law experts to be illogical and inconsistent about the death penalty in Zimbabwe.
Veritas says that it is an anomaly to have the death penalty in an African country which had no pre-colonial tradition of putting criminals to death. It says that traditional law is based essentially on maintaining community relations. It aims at restoring relations between the criminal and his family, on the one hand and the victim’s family and society, on the other. Traditional law sanctions compensation rather than punishment.
It has also been reported that the death penalty does not deter crime. Research from around the world is reported to have shown that the death penalty has no noticeable effect on crime rates.
If the death penalty is not an effective deterrent then it loses its only real purpose and becomes nothing more than a cruel and inhuman punishment, Researchers say.
It now remains to be seen how the African continent at large progresses with this contentious debate and discourse on the abolition of the death penalty.
The men who claim to be Africa’s ‘miracle workers’
November 30, 2016 | 0 Comments
The revelation that a South African pastor has been spraying insecticide on his church members in a healing ritual has shocked many but he is not the only self-styled pastor in Africa to resort to highly questionable practices.
Cities and towns across the continent are plastered with signs and posters advertising churches, usually with apocalyptic names, promising instant cures and salvation from every intractable situation or sickness.
The churches are usually led by charismatic pastors, who set up their own churches rather than joining an established institution, and often claim to have miraculous powers.
However, the miracles are however tied to worshippers “planting a seed” – or giving money to the preachers.
Here are some of Africa’s more controversial preachers:
‘Turning petrol into pineapple juice’
Pastor Lesego Daniel heads the Rabboni Ministries based in South Africa’s capital, Pretoria.
He famously instructed members of his congregation to drink petrol, claiming that he had turned it into pineapple juice.
A video shared online shows a worshipper pouring the petrol into a pan and then lighting it to prove that it is combustible.
He then sips from the bottle and declares that “he feels fine and does not have any side effects” when the pastor enquires about the taste.
A woman then rushes to the pulpit to have a sip of the drink and then declares it is “sweet” – an enticing assessment that gets a group of women rushing to the pulpit to have a taste.
However, the video shared on the church’s YouTube account did have a warning message:
“The level of anointing is not the same. If you cannot turn water into wine, do not try this at home.”
Penuel Mnguni is only 25 yet has been running the End Times Disciples Ministries church since 2014.
He is a protege of Lesego Daniel, the South African pastor who used pesticide in his healing rituals.
In the same year he opened his church, pictures of worshippers eating grass and flowers on his orders were shared on Facebook and on the church’s website.
Other images showed the self-proclaimed prophet feeding his members stones which he claimed to have turned into bread.
He earned his nickname “snake pastor” last year after pictures emerged of him feeding his followers snakes and rats, which he claimed had been turned into chocolate.
Locals later chased him out of Soshanguve, a township north of Pretoria where his church was located.
‘Healing erectile dysfunction’
In Ghana, Bishop Daniel Obinim of International Godsway Ministries has an expansive list of rituals which he uses in various cases.
In one incident, which was widely shared he was shown stepping on the abdomen of a woman, who was reportedly pregnant, to exorcise her from being possessed by evil spirits.
In another case in June, he is seen grabbing men’s crotches, saying this would heal their erectile dysfunction.
The men obediently stand in line, with their arms raised in their air, waiting for their turn to be touched by the preacher.
This seems to be the restrained version of his prayer said to cure men suffering from impotence.
In another video shared online last year he is seen praying over a man whose penis is exposed.
More recently, he was seen flogging a young woman and man during a service for allegedly having extra-marital sex.
One of the preacher’s aides is shown holding the woman as she attempts to run away.
The pastor is then seen lashing out at the woman repeatedly with a belt, while the church members remain seated.
Media reports say that a court in the capital Accra has issued a warrant of arrest for the pastor and two of his associates for allegedly “flogging the two teenagers in church”.
‘Blood in water’
An investigation by Kenya’s KTN TV station in November 2014 exposed the tricks Victor Kanyari, a famous televangelist, was allegedly using to fool worshippers at his Salvation Healing Ministry church.
He used potassium permanganate, a chemical compound that easily dissolves in water to give a reddish solution, to wash the feet of his members and then claim that blood was oozing from their feet as a sign of healing.
One of his former aides demonstrated how the preacher performed the trick.
Another video shows him putting his hand under a woman’s dress to touch her breast, saying this would cure her from breast cancer.
The woman is seen turning away from the camera but the preacher forces her to turn around to face the congregation as he exposes her breast for all to see. He then calls for a church worker to anoint the “diseased” breast with oil.
The investigation said Kanyari was the son of “Prophetess” Lucy Nduta, another controversial pastor who was convicted in 2009 for “defrauding vulnerable people” claiming she could cure them from Aids.
Shortly afterwards, he appeared on another TV programme, saying his “tribulations” were the work of his enemies.
Kanyari is still preaching.
*Culled from BBC
Castro’s Africa How Cuban intervention changed southern Africa
November 30, 2016 | 0 Comments
Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who died on Friday, played a crucial role in shaping southern Africa’s history, writes Richard Dowden, from the UK’s Royal Africa Society.
In Cuba it seems there will forever be two histories of Fidel Castro.
One is the revolutionary who succeeded and became the guiding star for all who saw the world through the lens of Marxist Leninism.
The other is the brutal dictator who suppressed democracy and kept his country poor.
There is one place where Castro undoubtedly made a difference: Angola.
In 1975 a military coup in Portugal overthrew the dictatorship of Antonio d’Oliveira Salazar.
The country was tired of fighting wars in its colonies in Africa, long after the UK and France had pulled out of their African empires.
Angola’s three liberation movements had been fighting the Portuguese but they were at odds with each other and soon civil war broke out.
The People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), backed by the Soviet Union, was largely coastal and urban.
Of the other two, Jonas Savimbi’s Unita was supported by apartheid South Africa and Western countries, and the FNLA, the National Front for the Liberation of Angola, was backed by Angola’s northern neighbour Congo.
The Vietnam war was just drawing to an end but here, on the West Coast of Africa, a new war began which threatened to become a proxy war for the communist and capitalist superpowers.
The Americans, whose long and bloody war in Vietnam had scarred the country’s conscience, were not ready for another intervention.
From a distance they backed the FNLA and then worked with the South Africans to support Unita.
The Russians and Fidel Castro in Cuba supported the MPLA. But while the big players sought a power-sharing agreement, Castro decided to act.
The Russians sent about 1,000 advisers, money and prayers but no combat troops. East Germany also sent military assistance.
But for Castro this was not just an adventure or purely ideological. Many Cubans are of African origin and come from the Angolan coast.
Castro saw an opportunity to exert his brand of international solidarity and make a difference on a global scale.
He sent 3,000 combat troops and 300 military advisers, as well as tanks and fighter aircraft.
The battleground was Cuito Cuanavale, a small town in the south on the river Lomba and the gateway to south-eastern Angola where South Africa was training, supplying and directing Unita forces.
The world had changed
The first attacks were in 1983 and a full-scale battle took place in 1986 – the biggest battle in Africa since El Alamein in Libya in 1942.
The largely white South African army took heavy casualties but held the town and stopped the Angolan offensive, preventing it from advancing south and capturing Savimbi’s headquarters at Jamba.
There was a stalemate but it was not a situation that South Africa could maintain for long, even though it also controlled neighbouring Namibia at the time.
Shortly afterwards Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union and began to make overtures to the US.
I was in Washington at that time and managed to get a briefing on Angola at the Pentagon. I was shown a satellite photograph that showed Cuban and East German airforce bases in southern Angola, some south of Cuito Cuanavale.
I asked if the South Africans had seen them yet.
“They will find out soon enough,” came the reply.
At that extraordinary moment I realised that the world had changed.
The Americans had decided that since the Soviet Union was no longer the big threat in the region, the real enemy of peace in southern Africa was the racism of South Africa.
The man whose decision to go to war in Angola had triggered this moment was Fidel Castro.
New Strategies for Fighting Corruption in Africa
November 29, 2016 | 0 Comments
Corruption violates the dignity of citizens and shatters the social compact between leaders and their populations. Across Africa, corruption is responsible for fueling wars, perpetuating violence, undermining democracies and empowering kleptocrats and dictators. Breaking the cycle of corruption is a long-term struggle that requires sustained political will, substantial political and economic reform, and a significant shift in attitudes. This will not happen quickly or easily. As the Panama Papers demonstrate, however, we are witnessing the emergence of a global grassroots movement focused on transparency and accountability that is constraining the ability of kleptocrats to siphon state assets, solicit large-scale bribes, and stash ill-gotten gains in offshore bank accounts.
I witnessed this firsthand during a trip in April to Burkina Faso. In that country, a movement of young artists, musicians and students fed up with the country’s corrupt autocracy broke the 27-year reign of President Blaise Compaore and forced him and his compatriots into exile. The Burkinabe then held their first democratic elections since 1978 and elected a technocratic government focused on financial transparency, accountability and rule of law. One of its first acts was to pass an anti-corruption law requiring political leaders to publicly declare all of their assets.
Despite progress in places like Burkina Faso and Nigeria, the overall scale of corruption remains staggering. Last month, Transparency International reported that Zimbabwe is losing at least $1 billion a year to corruption, largely through illicit payments to local government officials and the police. After just one year of independence, the Government of South Sudan acknowledged that $4 billion of public funds had been stolen by government officials. Meanwhile in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Global Witness reported earlier this month that the Congolese state mining company had signed over $880 million in royalties from its most lucrative mining project to a close friend of President Kabila’s. These funds could be used to purchase life-saving medicine, prepare for elections, or send kids to school; instead it is lining the pockets of the wealthy few.
Corruption is often endemic in economies dominated by natural resources, where complex extractive industries are often loosely regulated and lack transparency. The extractive industries, such as oil, gas, and mining, dominate many African economies. In 2010 African countries exported $333 billion worth of fuel and minerals, which was seven times greater than the total amount of donor funds that came to the continent. For some countries, the numbers are even more skewed. A staggering 97% of the value of exports from Nigeria – Africa’s largest economy – comes from oil. Many of these countries have struggled to ensure accountability for large-scale extractive projects and institute sufficient transparency measures, providing opportunities for businesses and corrupt officials to skim off the top or engage in wholesale diversion of public resources.
U.S. efforts to combat corrupt practices form a key part of our foreign policy. Under Secretary John Kerry’s leadership, the State Department has elevated fighting corruption as a foreign policy priority and core part of our human rights agenda. In January, Secretary Kerry called for corruption to be treated as a “first order national security priority.” He echoed this message at the Global Anti-corruption Summit hosted by the United Kingdom in May. Our hope is that implementing anti-corruption commitments at the country level and as part of multilateral organizations will continue to be a priority.
Last month, I participated in a panel discussion at SXSW Eco in Austin with Brad Brooks-Rubin from the Enough Project, Varun Vira from C4ADS, and Stephanie Ostfeld from Global Witness to talk about innovative strategies that civil society groups, concerned citizens, the private sector and governments are adopting to fight corruption, enhance transparency, and bring accountability for billions of stolen assets. In the panel, I highlighted three areas that the State Department champions in the fight against corruption.
First is building greater transparency globally, especially within governments, so that spending and procurement decisions, contracting, and public services are easily accessible and can be tracked by citizens. For example, the Open Government Partnership (OGP), launched by President Obama in 2011 with seven other heads of state, is partnering with civil society to help countries advance transparency and accountability through national action plans for reform. Seventy countries, including 10 in Africa – Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Tunisia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, and South Africa – currently participate in OGP. Similarly, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which the United States has supported since its creation, has set a global standard designed to increase transparency and accountability in the extractives sector. EITI now includes 51 countries, including 27 in Africa, committed to strengthening disclosures of their oil, gas, and mining sector revenues, improving governance of these sectors, and combating corruption so citizens will obtain greater benefits from their country’s natural resources.
Second is supporting civil society-led investigations and strengthening capacity to expose abuses, track financial information across borders, and shed light on illicit activity. At the Global Anti-corruption Summit in May, U.S. government commitments included the establishment of a new global consortium support the critical work of investigative journalists and civil society networks in driving public demand for political will and action by law enforcement.
Third is supporting effective law enforcement. There is a limit to what non-governmental networks can achieve, in and of themselves. Civil society investigations must be accompanied by governments that are willing to prosecute corruption. Nigeria presents an interesting example, where the State Department is providing assistance to the government’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and deepening our collaboration to investigate and prosecute corruption. We have many other opportunities to engage governments such as Mozambique and Burkina Faso in the months and years ahead. These are just a few of the many efforts being undertaken across the U.S. government to help African governments and citizens combat corruption.
At the same event, I was also grateful to hear about similar and complementary efforts my fellow panelists’ organizations are taking to fight corruption in Africa.
The Enough Project has released a series of reports describing the confluence of corruption, violence and impunity in the Congo and South Sudan. They have also published a revealing report on new financial tools to counter kleptocracy in war zones in Africa.
Global Witness has run corruption investigations for over 20 years. Its recent reportuncovering mining sector bribes by UK firm Sable to senior officials in Liberia and Guinea has caught the attention of both the Liberia and Guinean governments and hopefully set the stage for legitimate judicial investigations.
C4ADS is a newer NGO that uses data-driven analysis and evidence-based reporting to tackle conflict financing and illicit finance. It is playing a leading role in The Sentry consortium – which has released hard-hitting reports on illicit finance and corruption in Sudan, South Sudan, the Congo, Somalia, and the Central African Republic.
Corruption supports and reinforces authoritarian regimes. Corruption is a disincentive for economies to diversify and is a drag on productivity and growth. Corruption undermines good governance and is linked to conflict, terrorism and extremism. I am convinced that if citizens continue to demand greater transparency and accountability from their governments, and if the United States and other governments continue to play a leadership role in complementing these efforts, the fight to root out corruption will advance in surprising and unexpected ways.
Do Africans still want democracy? This new report gives a qualified yes
November 25, 2016 | 0 Comments
By Robert Mattes and Michael Bratton*
Media headlines suggest democracy is under stress everywhere — from leaders such as Vladimir Putin in Russia, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey and Yoweri Museveni in Uganda. Yet social scientists know news reports and social media may miss real, underlying trends.
Take the example of perceptions and actual trends in global poverty. The common wisdom suggests worsening living conditions on an overpopulated planet, but evidence-based indicators demonstrate that, between 1990 and 2010, the global rate of extreme poverty was cut in half.
What about democracy in Africa — where many presidents cling to power (as in Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe), manipulate elections (as in Burundi, Gabon and Zambia) and ignore institutions of public accountability (as in South Africa)? One might reasonably conclude that democracy in Africa is only a facade.
Yet this viewpoint would miss the fact that more than half of all Africans today live in functioning multiparty electoral democracies that are demonstrably freer than were the military or one-party regimes that previously dominated the continent.
At the same time, the post-1990 gains that African countries registered in terms of civil liberties and political rights peaked in 2006, at least according to expert judgments offered by Freedom House (see graph below). Worldwide trends like this have led some analysts to conclude that Africa is part of a global democratic recession.
Multiple things may be true. That is, democracy in Africa may seem to be declining when measured with a near-term yardstick. At the same time, democracy may be alive and well, because the continent is still far more democratic than it used to be when viewed from a longer-term perspective.
With these mixed possibilities in mind, we recently wrote a report published by Afrobarometer that emphasizes what ordinary citizens in 36 African countries think. Do they desire a democratic form of government, or what we call “demand for democracy”?
By tracking 16 African countries that had been surveyed over more than a decade, Afrobarometer has previously demonstrated a steady rise in popular demand for democracy. Yet large proportions of Africans remain skeptical that they are being “supplied” with democracy by their current political leaders.
So what does our report find? Here are a few key takeaways:
- On average across the continent, Africans prefer democracy to any other kind of government. Large majorities of Africans surveyed by Afrobarometer reject alternative authoritarian regimes such as presidential dictatorship, military rule and one-party government.
- There are, however, large differences across countries in demand for democracy. For example, three in four respondents in Mauritius are consistent, committed democrats, compared with fewer than one in 10 Mozambicans.
- Demand for democracy is highest among those who live in urban areas, have a university education, and work in middle-class occupations. There is also an important gender gap, with women significantly less likely to demand democracy than men.
- In the 16 African countries Afrobarometer has surveyed since 2002, a steady decade-long upward trend in demand for democracy has shifted downward since 2012.
- The quality of elections helps to explain demand for democracy. African countries with high-quality elections are more likely to register increases in popular demand for democracy than countries with low-quality elections.
- Popular demand for democracy exceeds citizen perceptions of the available supply of democracy in most African countries (see map below).
It’s the final point that leaves us cautiously optimistic about the future of democracy in Africa. In many countries, Africans want much more democracy than they say they are getting. This imbalance suggests that citizens in these countries are likely to keep pressing their rulers for more democracy.
This post is part of our Fall Friday Afrobarometer series, which highlights findings from the Pan-African, nonpartisan research network that conducts public-attitude surveys on democracy, governance, economic conditions and related issues in more than 35 countries in Africa.
*Washington Post.Robert Mattes is a professor in the department of political studies and director of the Democracy in Africa Research Unit in the Centre for Social Science Research, University of Cape Town.