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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Why are regulations so lax?

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

 

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

map showing legal limits for sulphur levels across africa

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

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

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

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


What’s so bad about sulphur?

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

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

Traffic in Nigeria

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

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


What’s being done about it?

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

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

It is clear that the situation has improved since 2005.

map showing legal limits for sulphur levels across africa in 2005

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

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

*BBC

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An oil boom made it the most expensive city in the world. Now it’s in crisis.
August 3, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Kevin Sieff*

A girl stands beside a laundry line in a poor neighborhood overlooking Cabinda, a heavily guarded territory that accounts for half of Angola’s oil output. (Nichole Sobecki/For The Washington Post)

A girl stands beside a laundry line in a poor neighborhood overlooking Cabinda, a heavily guarded territory that accounts for half of Angola’s oil output. (Nichole Sobecki/For The Washington Post)

As the price of oil rose earlier this decade, this capital city did as well. Glass skyscrapers soared above the rubble of a 27-year civil war. American pop stars such as Mariah Carey were flown in to play private concerts. Luanda would become, its government announced, “a new Dubai.”

But as oil prices have crashed, the impact on one of Africa’s richest and most unequal countries has been devastating. The same officials who boasted of Luanda’s sparkling ascent are asking for billions of dollars in loans. Thousands of people are dying of preventable illnesses, and the nation’s hospitals are out of medicine. A bag of rice can now cost five times what it did a year ago.

On a continent where natural resources have driven generations of boom and bust, Angola has a remarkable and frightening distinction. It is more dependent on commodity exports than just about any other nation in sub-Saharan Africa. It is now paying for that reliance in tragic ways.

This isn’t the only country suffering since the price of oil fell from more than $100 per barrel in 2014 to less than $30 last year, reaching roughly $40 recently. Venezuela is also struggling with shortages of food. Nigeria has been rocked by its biggest economic crisis in decades. But Angola’s descent has been largely hidden from the world, since visas are rarely granted to journalists.

About 45 percent of Angola’s gross domestic product comes from the oil and gas sector, compared with 25 percent in Venezuela and 35 percent in Nigeria, according to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

At Luanda’s Cajueiros Hospital, the oil crisis has morphed into a health emergency. The hospital, like most in Angola, has run out of needles, surgical gloves and almost all medication. The only way patients get treatment is if they or their relatives buy those items on the black market. Most Angolans can’t afford them. In recent weeks, there were no HIV tests or tuberculosis vaccines available anywhere, according to Angolan and international health workers.

After the government slashed its budget by 53 percent last year, the country did not purchase a single dose of malaria medication. In the first three months of 2016, Angola had roughly 1.3 million cases of the disease. At least 3,000 people have died, according to the World Health Organization.

“Now, when you go to any ministry and ask for something, the answer is the same: ‘We don’t have the money,’ ” said Francisco Songne, the top UNICEF representative in Angola.

The economic crisis alone doesn’t explain the country’s alarming public-health mess. Angola’s government has long been riddled with corruption and plagued by mismanagement. The country has the world’s highest child mortality rate, with 1 in 6 children dying before age 5, according to UNICEF officials.

Thanks to soaring oil prices and production, the country’s economy grew at an astonishing average of 17 percent per year from 2004 to 2008. By 2014, Angola had the third-highest GDP in sub-Saharan Africa, after Nigeria and South Africa. But wealth became increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, mostly people close to the political elite.

Even when the economic downturn occurred, that elite was spending lavishly. In December, one of the country’s largest ­mobile-phone companies, Unitel, paid American rapper Nicki Minaj a reported $2 million to perform in Luanda. Unitel’s chief executive at the time was Isabel dos Santos, daughter of the Angolan president, José Eduardo dos Santos, who has been in office since 1979. In June, Isabel dos Santos — Africa’s first female billionaire — was appointed head of the state oil company.

On a recent day, Christina Da Silva waited outside Cajueiros Hospital to deliver surgical gloves, needles and medicine for her husband, who had contracted malaria. She and her relatives had managed to pool enough money to pay for the $10 pills, an almost impossible price in a country where half of workers earn less than $2 a day. Before the crisis, the medication was free in public hospitals.

“You borrow from your family. You borrow from your friends. You get the money however you can,” Da Silva said. “If you don’t get it, he dies.”

The country’s few outspoken activists and independent journalists have long protested the stark inequalities in this oil-rich nation. How, they asked, could Luanda have a bustling Porsche dealership and apartments renting at $20,000 per month, and such a vast population of poor people?

Now, those same activists face a frightening question: What will it look like if things get worse?

“Even during the war, we didn’t have this many people dying,” said Rafael Marques de Morais, a critic of the government and the founder of Maka Angola, a watchdog organization, referring to the conflict that ended in 2002.

The crash in oil prices has led to a rapid fall in the flow of U.S. dollars into Angola and a sharp decline in the value of the local currency, the kwanza. That means soaring prices in a country where many basic goods are imported.

It’s not just goods that are imported. Because Angola lacks professionals, it has for years brought in foreign engineers, doctors and teachers to work here. Now it is scrambling to pay them. Last year, hundreds of Cuban doctors threatened to leave the country because they had not been paid in months. The salary dispute was largely resolved, Cuba’s ambassador to Angola told Luanda’s Opais newspaper.

For years, Angola has been one of the world’s most expensive countries for expatriates, as oil swelled the value of the currency. Their lifestyles became the stuff of lore — like the story of a Frenchman who paid $100 for a melon at a store and later unsuccessfully sued the seller for profiteering. But for locals earning kwanza, it has never been harder to afford food or medicine, with a devalued currency and slashed welfare programs. Their living conditions have deteriorated in sometimes deadly ways.

One jarring example is an outbreak of yellow fever, the world’s largest in decades. The epidemic has been blamed in part on the government’s refusal to pay for garbage collection in some parts of Luanda because of its shrunken budget. The trash, along with pools of rainwater, attracted swarms of mosquitoes, which carry the deadly disease. So far, there have been more than 3,000 suspected cases and about 350 deaths.

“This was entirely preventable,” said UNICEF’s Songne.

Angola’s 15-year economic boom has made it more difficult for the country to receive international aid; it is now classified by the World Bank as an “upper middle income” country.

“Humanitarian agencies cut their development budget under the assumption that Angola is a middle-income country that can deliver public services,” said Alex Vines, the Africa director at Chatham House, a British think tank. “But the country doesn’t care about the poor in that way.”

Before the economic crisis, Angola’s government had laid out plans for diversification, setting up a sovereign wealth fund, or a state-owned investment fund. That fund, with a $5 billion endowment and managed by the president’s son, José Filomeno dos Santos, had begun investing in hotels, infrastructure, health care and mining across Africa.

Dos Santos, in an interview, emphasized the fund’s role in helping to “shift focus from the extractive industry and to invest in other sectors that could make the domestic economy more sustainable.”

In June, the International Monetary Fund extended a $4.5 billion loan to the Angolan government to help it deal with revenue losses from the oil sector. That loan is contingent on “fiscal reform” — which could mean more transparency and accountability in notoriously corrupt state enterprises.

“We haven’t seen this sustained oil-price decrease for some time,” said Cobus de Hart, a senior economist at NKC African Economics, a South Africa-based research firm. “That’s what is making it so much more challenging this time — this is a country that failed to diversify its economy, and now it is suffering.”

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

By Ajong Mbapndah L

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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FIRST AFRICAN PASSPORTS GO TO PRESIDENTS OF RWANDA AND CHAD
July 18, 2016 | 0 Comments

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

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

By Anne Frugé*

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

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

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

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

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

Why is the single African passport important?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What might be the downsides of the e-Passport?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Michelle DeFreese*

Giriyondo Border Post South Africa Mozambique

Giriyondo Border Post South Africa Mozambique

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Who should pay for African peacekeeping?
June 26, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Obi Anyadike*

Ugandan AMISOM soldiers of Battle Group 8 leave Kampala for Mogadishu, 2011 - Obi Anyadike/IRIN

Ugandan AMISOM soldiers of Battle Group 8 leave Kampala for Mogadishu, 2011 – Obi Anyadike/IRIN

The problem for African peacekeeping is not so much where to find the boots to put on the ground, but how to pay for them – not to mention the helicopters, intelligence-gathering and technology crucial to conducting modern military operations and dealing with the new security threats on the horizon.

Since 2002, none of the five African Union peace operations have been financed through the AU’s Peace Fund, except for an allocation of $50 million for the African-led International Support Mission to Mali in 2013. The slogan of ‘African solutions for African problems’ falls a little flat when financing mainly comes from the European Union, individual European donors, and the United States.

But an AU summit at the end of July in the Rwandan capital Kigali hopes to change all that. African leaders are going to try to agree on a roadmap of alternative financing for AU-led peace support operations.

The meeting will explore innovative approaches – taxes on hotels, flights, text messaging, even a percentage of import duties – to self-generate 25 percent of peacekeeping costs by 2020: a significant step forward. The AU hopes that level of commitment would persuade the UN to cover the remaining 75 percent.

What happens now?

The AU wants to make funding sustainable and predictable. At the moment it’s neither. More than 90 percent of the AU’s peace and security budget is financed through the EU’s African Peace Facility. Since the APF was established in 2004, the EU has committed more than €1.1 billion.

Somali troops with Ugandan AMISOM forces
Obi Anyadike/IRIN
Somali troops with Ugandan AMISOM forces

But what is given can also be withheld. At the beginning of the year, the EU cut its allocation to the allowances of the 22,000-strong African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) by 20 percent. The reasoning: there were other “competing priorities in Africa and the world in general”, including the need to shift resources into training the Somali National Army.

AMISOM, which has battled the al-Shabab insurgency for nine years, currently absorbs more than 85 percent of APF spending. The UN also provides a non-lethal logistics “life support” package that includes fuel, food, and health services. Nevertheless, AMISOM remains an under-manned, under-equipped and bare-bones operation.

Troop-contributing countries reacted with anger to the EU’s suggestion that they should make up the shortfall on allowances. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta argued that African troops were paying in blood for what is an international peace and security remit. Both Kenya and Uganda have threatened to withdraw their soldiers.

Who pays the piper

The EU’s policy shift exemplifies the problem of the ad hoc nature of the funding. “The challenge is that the financing for these types of missions is not fit for purpose,” said a senior AU official who asked not to be named. “It’s a hodge-podge. We can’t go on like this, passing around the hat.”

The AU has on paper a comprehensive security architecture, but little of its own money to pay for it. The organisation lost its main benefactor with the fall of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and its other major contributors – Nigeria, South Africa, Algeria, and Egypt – are all going through tough times. Dependency on external financing not only determines which conflicts the AU can intervene in, but also dictates when the missions must end.

Ugandan soldier AMISOM
Obi Anyadike/IRIN
Ugandan soldier AMISOM

At the beginning of the year, the AU appointed Donald Kabureka, former president of the African Development Bank, as its high representative for the Peace Fund. His role is to find the resources that will enable African contributions to hit 25 percent of the fund’s budget, and to lobby international partners towards securing UN assessed contributions for the remainder.

It hasn’t been plain sailing. Some members, including Kenya and Egypt, have frettedover the impact a proposed $2 hotel tax or $10 levy on air tickets would have on their tourism industries. Zambia argued that the surrendering of national taxes was a violation of citizens’ rights.

“There are also concerns over the accountability of the Peace Fund, which will be the repository of the funding,” said the senior AU official. “Little has been done on transparency and fiduciary rules.”

Tricky two-step

According to Paul Williams of the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, Kabureka is embarking on a tricky two-step process.

First he needs buy-in from the member states at the Kigali summit. “Once the AU settles on what its Peace Fund will do and how it can be filled with appropriate funds, then the UN and AU must agree on how the UN should help support African peace operations,” Williams told IRIN.

The UN recognises that AMISOM represents something of a model for future peace operations. The UN envisages more regional interventions authorised by the Security Council, and regards the AU in particular as a key partner. The AU has shown itself willing to deploy in situations where there is “no peace to keep”, and which in the case of Somalia involved the bloody slog of house-to-house combat in Mogadishu. Hardly the traditional role for UN blue helmets.

Apart from the AU’s willingness to take on enforcement operations, it also has the advantage of speed. In response to the violence in Central African Republic and Mali, the UN authorised the rapid deployment of AU peace support missions, interventions that were later re-hatted as UN operations. Ten of the UN’s 17 current peace missions are in Africa.

Burden-sharing

The AU sees the way forward as a formalised partnership with the UN under the mandate of Chapter VIII of the UN charter, which authorises collaboration with regional organisations.

Ugandan AMISOM APCs Mogadishu
Obi Anyadike/IRIN
AMISOM staging area, Mogadishu

“Such a partnership should be based on the principles of burden-sharing, comparative advantage and division of labour, to better address the complexities of today’s conflicts,” an AU discussion note said.

Last year, a High-Level Independent Panel on United Nations Peace Operations, established by the UN secretary-general to review peace operations, recommended that the UN should support AU-led missions on a case-by-case basis. That qualification falls short of “African expectations of more open-ended commitments in terms of institutional cooperation and financing”, noted a report by the European Centre for Development Policy management.

In the past year, there has been a series of reviews, framework documents, and common position papers exploring the steps to greater convergence. But there are still institutional and political challenges that could make working together difficult for both organisations – the ECDP paper noted financial and budgetary control mechanisms and compliance with UN peacekeeping principles.

The AU has repeatedly reaffirmed its commitment to combatting sexual violence and protecting human rights in its deployments – key concerns of some UN member states. The (underfunded) pillars of its security architecture also uphold the importance of pursuing conflict prevention and early warning – the mediation and political avenues – before getting to boots on the ground.

It’s not clear where the Western, permanent UN Security Council members – the US, France, and the UK – sit in terms of using UN-assessed contributions to finance AU peace operations. “I would say it’s too soon to attribute definitive positions to any of the key players at this moment in time,” said Williams.

But in a presentation earlier this year on regional approaches to security, he argued: “If Africa cannot find sustainable, predictable, flexible funding, then it raises questions of credibility, local ownership and sustainability.”

Without it, he added: “African states and organisations will never fully be in control; never own the agenda”.

*IRIN NEWS

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A Trip to Nairobi Inspired This One-of-a-Kind Company
June 24, 2016 | 0 Comments
Simien National Park via Afro Traveller

Simien National Park via Afro Traveller

I majored in biology in college and thought I’d become a doctor. But I also wanted to travel. So as a way to do both, I spent years with international humanitarian organizations. The work was satisfying, but the social life was challenging: My colleagues would go back to their hotel at night — in part because they were almost all older than me, but also because they were fearful of the potentially unsafe, unfamiliar cities we were in. I didn’t want to be this far from home and not experience a place fully, so I often went out. And I discovered amazing things.

From a rooftop party at an advertising agency to road-tripping across the country for a DJ set, I was exposed to a side of Africa I’d never seen before. These were cosmopolitan movers and shakers, but distinctly African. In 2011, I met up with a photographer in Johannesburg; through her lens, I met entertainers, artists and other influencers. A year later, I connected with a sorority sister in Nairobi, Kenya, who was working on MTV’s African youth culture series Shuga. The show’s producer, fashion designer and filmmaker took me out to restaurants and nightclubs, and I had the time of my life.

That’s when the lightbulb went off. People weren’t exposed to this Africa, and I wanted to connect visitors to it — not just by talking about these amazing things, but by directing people to them.

I spent the next year or so developing Tastemakers Africa, a company to book epic experiences, with epic people, in every African city. In February 2014, I went to Lagos for Social Media Week to show off my early-stage mockup. My session was packed, which confirmed that I was really onto something. I was working for another NGO at the time but quit and joined MediKidz, a VC-backed healthcare startup, to learn more about building a company. The cofounder, Dr. Kim Chilman-Blair, was a sales genius. She was super-transparent with me about her funding process, and I saw a lot of her documents and pitch decks, and heard about the screwups. But the biggest thing I learned from Kim was to work harder than hard. Things need to get done in the NGO world, but there isn’t a sense of urgency; Kim always had a sense of urgency.

simien-mountians-e1461450685817By that summer, I had fleshed out a prototype. As a proof of concept, we promoted a “Tastemakers Tour of Ghana” on my Facebook page, and it sold out in weeks. I still wasn’t ready to make it my full-time job, but then MediKidz was bought and I was laid off — so I slammed the gas on the startup. My boyfriend and I closed out our 401(k)s, and I entered an accelerator that gave us $20,000 and then raised another $100,000 from angel investors. I also won first place in a Lagos competition called She Leads Africa, which got me $10,000 and a mentoring network.

We launched our website in December 2014 and ended 2015 with more than $200,000 in experience and concierge bookings. Our app, Tstmkrs, launched in beta in December of last year, and we did $100,000 in Q1 bookings for 2016. We’re still figuring out who and where our audience is and what they’re willing to pay, but we’re learning and growing fast. In five years, we expect to be in at least 40 countries on the continent. We will be the brand, and our connections, support and infrastructure will make us important to many others who come here as well. We’ve already built partnerships with Uber, South African Airways and Radisson Blu (that one’s for a pan-African travel contest in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa), and have gotten interest in an acquisition from a large hospitality company. But no matter what happens, I know we’ll have played a huge role in not just how people think about traveling in Africa, but what people think of Africa itself.

*Fox

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Angola opposition Condemns President for Daughter’s Appointment
June 4, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Peter Clottey*

Mr Dos Santos has ruled the oil-rich nation for 36 years

Mr Dos Santos has ruled the oil-rich nation for 36 years

Angola’s main opposition party, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) has sharply condemned President Jose Eduardo dos Santos’ appointment of his daughter Isabel dos Santos as the new head of the state oil company, Sonangol.

This, after President dos Santos fired all board members of Sonangol in April. Isabel dos Santos, who described herself as a self-made billionaire, is currently Africa’s richest woman with an estimated worth of $3.3 billion, according to U.S.-based Forbes magazine.

UNITA spokesman Alcides Sakala says the appointment of Isabel dos Santos – the oldest daughter of the president – is yet another demonstration of favoritism and graft perpetuated by the ruling Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA).

“It is not a surprise for us because the lady was recently appointed by his father as a person who would be restructuring the oil company. So, although we are disappointed, it has not come as a surprise. It was something expected [and] it confirms what we have been saying about the politics of nepotism in our country,” said Sakala.

Supporters of the governing MPLA disagreed. They contend Isabel dos Santos is best qualified and competent, who they said would bring her private business acumen to the state-owned oil company to restructure and transform Sonangol to create jobs for the youth.

Supporters also said charges of nepotism and favoritism are unfounded, saying that being the daughter of the president should not preclude her from being considered for any prominent position in the administration, particularly since she is qualified. They said she is a citizen whose talent should be tapped to help the nation when her skills are desperately needed. The supporters say the opposition leaders appear to be showing signs of jealousy and are just opposing the new appointment for the sake of it.

Sakala disagreed. He cited a constitutional provision that prevents parliamentarians from engaging in business activities because they make laws governing the sectors. Sakala says the same rule should apply in the case of the appointment of the daughter of the president to head the state oil company. He says there are other qualified Angolans who could run the affairs of Sonangol.

“The president I think is trying to have all his sons [children] and relatives having an important role on the management of the wealth of the country. Isabel is now in the oil sector, his son is dealing with the federal funds as you can see and all his friends now are part of this processes, which are making a small group of Angolans very rich. It is politics that UNITA has been denouncing for the past year,” said Sakala.

“We are not jealous… This is a conflict of interest…I think from the ethics point of view, the appointment is wrong and it is also against the law.”

Meanwhile, a section of the supporters of the opposition UNITA has called on the party’s leaders to seek legal redress at the Constitutional Court to challenge Isabel dos Santos’ appointment. But, Sakala says the leaders have yet to make a firm decision on the party’s next line of action.

“We as UNITA, we are going to analyze it in the light of the Angolan law and we are going to take a position on that. I think it is not correct that you as a president to have all of your family dealing with public money for the benefit of the family,” said Sakala.

“There are so many views within the party [UNITA] and the leadership is going to take them into account to make an assessment as far as these positions are concerned and …When you look at the country where poverty is a real national problem. In our country people are starving, facing a lot of difficulties and you take your family as managers of the wealth of the country… We would soon make the position of the party known.”

*Source VOA

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RANDGOLD’S BRISTOW SETS OFF ON ANOTHER EPIC BIKE RIDE FOR AFRICA’S POOR
June 1, 2016 | 0 Comments

6014_RRL_BoB_Newslett#97AFERandgold Resources chief executive Mark Bristow and a small group of friends and colleagues left here today on a fund-raising motorbike safari which will take them from east to west across mid-Africa through dense equatorial jungle.  It is believed to be the first time this challenging route has been attempted by motorbike.

Dubbed Safari Kwa Afrika Bora – Swahili for Riding for a Better Africa – the journey’s aim is to raise a further $3 million for some of the continent’s most needy people, notably the women and children deprived of a decent life by strife and poverty.  The money will go to Nos Vies en Partage (French for Sharing Prosperity) the independent charitable foundation established by Randgold in 2014.

This is the fourth trans-Africa motorbike safari Bristow has undertaken and to date the rides have raised
$2.5 million distributed to 55 entities in 15 countries.  The foundation is already planning donations to some of the DRC’s post-conflict reparation programmes, particularly those aimed at supporting abused women and rehabilitating child soldiers.

The 2016 ride will take 30 days, going from Kenya through Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo before ending in Muanda on the west coast at the end of June, passing the sources of both the Nile and Congo rivers en route.  In terms of terrain, says Bristow, this will be their toughest ride yet.  Because of the need to circumnavigate the worst parts, they will actually be covering well over 7 000 kilometres, more than double the 3 500 kilometre direct distance.  Their progress can be followed at www.boyzonbikes.com.

The safaris had their origin in a Cape-to-Cairo motorbike ride Bristow and his two then-teenaged sons undertook in 2009 under the light-hearted banner 3BoyzonBikes.

“As an old Africa hand I was aware of the difficulties endured by many of its people but as we travelled through small villages in remote regions I saw at first hand the extent of their plight and resolved to do something about it,” Bristow says.

BoB_routes_2009-2016_-_small“The following year I combined my annual exploration review with a fund-raising ride and, accompanied by a team of Randgold geologists, we traversed Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire, having named our project Nos Vies en Partage.  Thanks to the generous support of a wide range of donors, we were able to provide some relief to the people in those countries.  Then in 2012 we travelled from Budapest to Bamako via Morocco, western Sahara, Mauritania and Senegal and then on through Côte d’Ivoire to Abidjan.  In 2014, we completed the trip around Africa, riding from Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire via Benin, Togo, Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, the Congo, the DRC, Angola, Namibia back to Cape town.  That year we also converted the Nos Vies en Partage initiative into a charitable foundation, headed by Philippe Liétard, a former Randgold chairman.”

Bristow says that past sponsors as well as new donors have already pledged more than half of the
$3 million target Safari Kwa Afrika Bora has set itself.

Bristow, who will use satellite and other hi-tech equipment including a communications-wired helmet to continue running the company during the ride, also noted that as the Nos Vies en Partage riders paid their own way, all the money raised by the ride would go to the foundation beneficiaries.  Priority will be given to people and causes falling outside the mainstream of Randgold’s sustainability efforts.

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African Development Bank says continent far from debt crisis
May 31, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Matthew Hill*

Buildings and roads sit on the coast in this aerial view of Ikoyi in Lagos island, a residential area in Lagos, Nigeria, on Monday, Nov. 16, 2015. Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer which derives 90 percent of export earnings from the commodity, is struggling to cope with an almost 60 percent plunge in Brent crude prices since June 2014 to below $45 a barrel. Photographer: George Osodi/Bloomberg

Buildings and roads sit on the coast in this aerial view of Ikoyi in Lagos island, a residential area in Lagos, Nigeria, on Monday, Nov. 16, 2015. Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer which derives 90 percent of export earnings from the commodity, is struggling to cope with an almost 60 percent plunge in Brent crude prices since June 2014 to below $45 a barrel. Photographer: George Osodi/Bloomberg

Africa is a long way from facing a debt crisis even as commercial lending to the continent soars and Mozambique became the first regional country to miss a payment on a dollar loan this year, according to a senior official at the African Development Bank.

Debt levels across the continent’s 54 countries average 17 percent to 18 percent of GDP, which is low, Abebe Shimeles, acting director in the AfDB’s development research department, said Thursday in an interview at the lender’s annual meetings in Lusaka, Zambia’s capital.

“In terms of the continent we are not even close, forget about crisis, we are not even close to a debt burden, especially the external debt,” said Shimeles. “It’s not systemic now. It’s not that all African countries are exposed to a debt crisis. The bad news is sometimes heard faster than the good news.”

Costly Repayments

Countries on the continent raised $26 billion in Eurobonds from 2006 to 2014 and a further $12 billion last year, AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina said on May 24 when he officially opened the meetings, warning a debt crisis must be avoided. While foreign-currency debt has soared, currencies on the continent have weakened, making repayments more costly as economic growth slows.

“Some countries have also experienced a spike in their debt levels that may be worrying in particular cases, unless they take measures to contain it,” Shimeles said. “The AfDB and other multilaterals can learn from previous mistakes and really step in with a solution to manage the debt, restructure it and also undertake some necessary reforms before we reach a level of crisis.”

Dollar debt sold by sub-Saharan African nations have returned 6.3 percent this year, compared with the 7.1 percent average return for emerging markets. Average yields have climbed to 7.63 percent, compared with 5.8 percent a year ago, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Economic Expansion

Adesina

Adesina

The bank would consider assisting countries that ask for it, and could work with other lenders including the International Monetary Fund, he said. Nigeria is already in talks with the AfDB for a $1 billion facility.

Growth on the continent will probably exceed the 4.5 percent the AfDB forecast for 2017 in a report published this week, Shimeles said. Domestic demand in Ethiopia, Nigeria and Sudan will lead to “much higher” economic expansion, he said.

“I believe that Nigeria has now taken the right steps in terms of the macro-economy,” he said.

Africa’s biggest economy this month cut fuel subsidies and signaled a more flexible exchange rate policy for the naira, which has been pegged to the dollar for 15 months.

“We are optimistic,” said Shimeles. “Still, this doesn’t mean we deny the headwinds. They are strong but I think the economies are resilient.”

*Source Bloomberg

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New Book Highlights “The Most Influential Contemporary African Diaspora Leaders”
May 25, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Dr. Roland Holou*

bookMany books have been written about people of African descent, but so far no single volume has highlighted the lives, visions, achievements, policies, and strategies of exceptional contemporary African Diaspora leaders across the globe. To fill the gap, an International Selection Committee composed of some of the top African diaspora Leaders in the Caribbean, Europe, North America, South America, and West Africa was created to nominate and vet recipients of “The Most Influential Contemporary African Diaspora Leaders Honor.” For the first edition of this book, 30 leaders were featured in detail and out of the 50 chapters of this 336 page book, one was devoted to each. Others chapters were devoted to one hundred other nominees whose contribution warranted their inclusion in this book.

The stories of these Leaders showcase the diversity, complexity, and richness of the ongoing global African Diaspora engagement efforts. Their experiences of struggle, failure, growth and success will motivate current and future generations of people of African descent to take initiative, provide guidance to those interested in Africa’s development, and promote interest in the growing field of diaspora engagement. The featured leaders are known for their long-lasting achievements. Their bold actions contributed to important historical movements that significantly shaped and transformed the lives and history of people of African descent and removed major roadblocks preventing the prosperity of Africa and its Diaspora. They have brought about enormous and rare progress that would have been impossible without their leadership, including economic and political development of Africa and its Diaspora. To get your copy of the book, please visit www.AfricanDiasporaLeaders.com/order

Dr. Roland Holou

Dr. Roland Holou

Some of the initiatives featured in the book include the African Union African Diaspora Sixth Region Initiative, Healthcare Reform in Africa, Pan-Africanism, Global Anti-Racism Initiatives, International Decade for People of African Descent, Implementation of the UN Durban Declaration and Programme of Action; the Commission on Reparations, the Hebrew Israelites, the Initiatives of the Central American Black Organization; the World Diaspora Fund For Development; the Projects of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century; the Pan-Afrikan Reparations Coalition in Europe, the Pan-African Holiday Kwanzaa; the Educational Initiatives of Steve Biko Cultural Institute in Brazil, the Initiatives of DiasporaEngager concerning the Map of the Diaspora and their Stakeholders, the Diaspora Directory and the Global Diaspora Social Media Platform; the Initiatives of the African Diaspora in Australia and Asia Pacific; the AU Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus Organization in the USA; the “Taubira Law” Voted by the French Republic to Recognize that the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the Slave Trade in the Indian Ocean are a Crime Against Humanity; The Global Movement for Reparatory Justice; the Ratification of the Article 3q of the AU Constitutive Act which “invites and encourages the full participation of the African Diaspora as an important part of Africa; the Economic Development for Black Empowerment in America and Europe; the African Diaspora Contribution to Democracy and Development in Africa, the Caribbean, Central and South America; the Initiatives of the Brazilian Association of Black Researchers; the Oprah Effect; the Promotion of the Black Population in Brazil; the Palmares Cultural Foundation in Brazil; the Celebrations of Zumbi dos Palmares in Brazil; the Caribbean Community [CARICOM] Commission on Reparation and Social Justice; the Initiatives of famous Prophet Shepherd Bushiri (Major1, the World’s Sharpest Major Prophet), and many initiatives in the USA, etc.

Some of the struggles still faced by the African Diaspora and discussed in the book relate to: Afrophobia, civil rights, denial of justice and devaluation of Black lives, education with curricula full of “lies” regarding history and history of scientific discoveries, healthcare problems, high rates of unemployment and imprisonment, housing problems, institutional racism and slavery, lack of access to good education and justice, media which persistently diffuse open racist stereotypes, multiple forms of discrimination, police violence, political and economic marginalization and stigmatization, poverty, racial discrimination, vulnerability to violence, xenophobia and related intolerance and discrimination. The book also addressed some of the strategical mistakes and divisions among the Continental African Diaspora and the Historical African Diaspora.

 

If you are interested in learning the secrets, agendas, strategies and potential of these modern leaders, then this is the book for you. Since influence can at times have negative effects, this book also addresses the destructive actions of certain leaders that are pulling down both Africa and its people. To learn more about the recipients, please visit www.AfricanDiasporaLeaders.com/recipient. Join the International Diaspora Engagement Social Media Platform today by creating a free account .

About the Author

Dr. Roland Holou is a scientist, businessman, and an international consultant in Agriculture/Agribusiness, Biotechnology, Diaspora Engagement, and Africa Development. He is the Founder and CEO of DiasporaEngager, www.DiasporaEngager.com and the architect of the map of Diaspora and their stakeholders . To learn more about him and contact him www.RolandHolou.com.

 

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