Ethiopia to pay $150,000 to raped girl
March 11, 2016 | 0 Comments
In 2003, Aberew Jemma Negussie was convicted of the abduction and rape of a 13-year-old girl.
This was overturned on appeal as the prosecutor said only a virgin could be raped, and the victim could not prove she had been a virgin.
Rights groups said this was a violation of local and international law.
In 2007, Equality Now took the case to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights as “local avenues to justice were exhausted”.
Nine years later the commission, based in The Gambia, has ruled that Ethiopia had violated the girl’s rights to equality, dignity and a fair trial, among others.
It said the money would be “compensation for the non-material damage she suffered as a result [of] the violations”.
Equality Now described this as an “unprecedented ruling” that should send a message to “all levels of society”.
The girl was abducted and raped in 2001, and after the incident was reported to the police she was rescued and the perpetrator was arrested.
But, after being released on bail, Aberew abducted her again.
She was held for a month before escaping, but while captive was forced to write her name on a piece of paper that would later be used as evidence of marriage.
Abducting girls to be forcibly married is a traditional practice in parts of Ethiopia.
After being caught for a second time, Aberew, and four accomplices were convicted in 2003, and he received a 10-year sentence.
They were then released on appeal, but Equality Now argued that the law had not been correctly applied as “virginity is not a legal prerequisite for the offence of rape”.
Following the acquittal, rights groups used the case to get a change in the law in Ethiopia to ensure better protection for rape victims.
Equality Now says that the victim, now in her late 20s, is living in “relative safety and pursuing her education”.
First American of African Descent appointed Area Engineer for District 5 in MD
February 12, 2016 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L*
The African immigrant community recently registered another mile stone with the appointment of Dr Peter.M. Keke as Area Engineer and Assistant District Engineer for District 5 in Md. Originally from Cameroon, Dr Keke is the first American of African descent to hold these positions. From 1990 when he got to the USA, it has been a very eventful journey for Dr Keke whose experiences mirror those of most other successful African immigrants. “Never let people define your destiny and do not allow yourself be cut in myths,” says Dr Keke as he settles into his new job.
Dr Keke, you recently became the first American of African descent to hold the Office of Area Engineer and Assistant District Engineer for Construction in the State of Maryland, how did your recent appointment come about?
The Assistant District Engineer for Construction position in District- 5 was opened to those who had the qualification to interview during the month of May 2015. I was one of the interviewees out of 5 people. The interview panel was made up of 4 people and each of us was drilled with 9 questions. The selected candidate was screened and interviewed by the Governors appointment secretary for final approval. Accordingly, I emerged successful and was appointed on December 7, 2015 based on my ability to meet all the requirements, demonstration of an efficient and effective understanding of construction and managerial principles throughout the interview and screening process.
May we know what exactly your new duties entail and what jurisdiction you cover?
In a nutshell, my new duties are administrative and engineering construction management. I represent the District on all matters relating to Highway and Bridge construction within my area. Some of the responsibilities are; management of a $356 million construction program annually, attend legislative meetings to advice and report on construction projects, challenges, and needs. Attend town hall public meetings. Represent and advice the District Engineer, Administrator, MDOT Secretary on construction related matters. Inspect and coordinate construction activities of contractors, hire construction inspections, and coordinate with upper management on how to attain the District’s strategic and construction goals. My jurisdiction covers four counties: Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary’s Counties.
Prior to this new appointment, what functions did Dr Keke have within the MD Government?
I was a construction inspector from 1998 to 2000 in District-5. Then from 2000 I was a Project Engineer in the District up to 2004. I continued as a Project Engineer in District-3 from 2004 to 2006. In 2006 I became the first black Area Engineer in District-3 up to 2013 (District-3 covers Montgomery and Prince Georges Counties). In 2013,
I moved to District- 4 (that is Baltimore and Harford Counties) in the same capacity as the Area Engineer. And in December 7, 2015 I was appointed the Assistant District Engineer for Constriction in Disrtict-5.
What experiences and academic background does Dr Keke bring to his new job?
I bring lots of construction experiences in this position. First I worked in Ministry of Public work and Transport Cameroon, Highway Department Limbe after graduating from National School of Technology (Survey School Buea) as Chief or Technical Officer from 1982 to 1998. Then I became the Chief of Subdivision Highways Department Kumba from 1998 to 1990. I moved to the United States in May 1990 were I worked (from 1990 to 1996) at a gas station as security guard, and later served as a housekeeper, a nursing assistant, and a medicine aid, while at the same time going to school. From 1994 to 1997 I also served as the first Mathematical Student President of Bowie State University. In addition I served as a student tutor in both Mathematics (calculus 1, 2, and 3) and Engineering (Engineering mechanics and differential equations) in Bowie State University and University of Maryland College Park respectively. I also worked as a student mathematical intern with the National Air space Museum in Washington D.C for 3 months in 1997. During the same period from 1996 to 1998 I worked with the Driggs Construction Company as Quantity Engineer and Project Engineer before joining the Maryland State Highway in 1998.
Academically; I hold a diploma in Surveying, BS in Mathematics, BS in Civil Engineering, MS in Project Management/Engineering, and a PhD in Project Management.
For the immigrant that you are, how challenging has it been for you to get to where you are?
As an immigrant it has been very challenging with varied experiences from rejection, to temptations, oppositions, and a different culture. In short, the journey demands great patience, hard work, endurance, and tenacity. Another interesting challenge is language/accent. Despite the fact that I studied in the US, each time I talk people still see me as a foreigner because of my accent. Sometimes, you face rejection because of the accent and skin color. However, my focus is to not allow such distractions became obstacles; therefore, I have always been hard working, willing to learn at all times, and to take advantage of situations. My goal has always been to be the best at all times.
To the young ones who see in you a role model and will love to emulate your example and career trajectory, what message do you have for them?
Never let people define your destiny and do not allow yourself be cut in myths. For example, I was told a black foreign person cannot graduate from University of Maryland College Park. This is a myth since I graduated from the school with honors. Another, advice is to be patient with your plan, work hard on it and it will all pay off at the end. An important point to note is that transforming from a Cameroon society to US society is challenging. You must accept and be willing to make the change needed for assimilation. You will have to start with small or odd jobs, but do not allow the jobs to define you; rather use these small or odd jobs as a means to an end. Finally, things can be made much easier if you have a mentor. Though I had none, I find that a mentor to rely on can help understand, and guide you towards success.
A new road map for Power Africa
February 5, 2016 | 0 Comments
By Adva Saldinger *
An ambitious new road map released last week lays out how Power Africa, the United States government initiative to increase power generation capacity and access to electricity in Africa, will achieve its targets by 2030. The report outlines areas of new emphasis for the initiative, including a greater focus on energy access and on renewables.
And the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday unanimously passed the Electrify Africa Act, which codifies the work of the initiative and should ensure its longevity. The U.S. Senate passed the bill, which differs a bit from Power Africa goals — it sets targets at 50 million connections and 20,000 megawatts of generation, on Dec. 18 and it now awaits approval from President Barack Obama, which should be forthcoming.
In 2013 when it announced Power Africa, the U.S. committed $7 billion to tackle the challenge that more than 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity. That initial commitment has leveraged about $43 billion dollars in pledges from public and private sector partners, according to the Power Africa Roadmap.
The initial goals were for Power Africa to increase installed power capacity by 30,000 megawatts and create 60 million new connections by 2030. To date, the 13 Power Africa projects that have reached financial close are expected to generate more than 4,300 megawatts of power, according to the road map.
It’s important to note, and Power Africa does so in the road map, that some of those projects were underway before the initiative launched. While they didn’t come about under the auspices of the program, they met other criteria, including U.S. government involvement and meeting environmental and social safeguards.
Power Africa spent its first year focused on grid-scale generation deals, but leaders of the initiative are now looking ahead to ambitious connections targets — Power Africa-supported projects have the potential to lead to more than a million direct connections — and making changes based on lessons already learned.
Generation and access goals, for example, are “actually two totally different things,” Andrew Herscowitz, Power Africa coordinator, told Devex. As a result, the road map lays out specific plans for each goal, and progress will be measured in actual connections.
“We’ve learned a ton,” Herscowitz said. “We don’t just trust everything people say at conferences. We focus on analysis and data.”
The road map
That knowledge has been poured into the road map, which has three main pillars: achieving the goal around generation; increasing the number of people with access; and driving regulatory and policy changes to improve investment opportunities and speed project timelines.
Power Africa is tracking projects in the Power Africa Tracking Tool, an app built for the initiative, that would total about 45,000 megawatts if the projects all came online, though the road map estimates that only between 18,000-21,000 megawatts will reach financial close by 2030.
In order to meet its 30,000 megawatt goal, Power Africa is looking for new deals, which are likely to support natural gas and utility-scale solar expansion. It will also work to improve efficiency at existing power plants.
The majority of projects in the pipeline, and certainly those that aren’t yet being tracked, are at an early stage in their development, so it seems natural that one of Power Africa’s focuses will be on early stage transaction support. Many project developers say it’s also where donors and development finance institutions are needed most.
Reaching the goal of extending access to 60 million people will take a mix of relying on old technology — expanding existing grids, and new — developing innovative off-grid solutions.
One interesting prediction in the road map is that 8 million to 10 million of the new connections will come through the currently underdeveloped microgrid segment of the market, though this raises questions about how to build the appropriate structures and frameworks for those projects to succeed.
Work on the third pillar aimed at building capacity and driving regulatory reforms may be able to help some of those issues. A number of Power Africa programs or partner programs are working to help countries create solid, transparent regulatory and policy environments to help them attract investment and structure good projects.
That capacity building can also help citizens get a fair deal — a single negotiated deal between a company and a government not only takes a long time but is unlikely to provide the country good value for money, in part because African government officials often lack expertise, said Jamie Fergusson, the chief investment officer and global sector lead for renewables, infrastructure and natural resources at the International Finance Corp.
South Africa sets an example
Examples of what’s working are quickly emerging. While in many ways South Africa may not be representative of the rest of the subcontinent, it has risen as an example of a success story, particularly in scaling up grid-connected solar projects.
It’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Program developed a clear structure and transparent bid process that has led to more than 2,000 megawatts of solar between 2011 and 2014 and cheaper bids over time.
SolarReserve, global developer of utility-scale solar power projects, has won several bids and built grid-connected solar projects in South Africa. The latest, a 100 megawatt project with 12-hour storage, is set to start construction in the next two months.
The company continue to bid on projects in South Africa because the government built a program that commercially makes sense, has political support at the highest levels and a committed team that carries out the work, is transparent and keeps its word, said Kevin Smith, CEO of SolarReserve.
While South Africa has some advantages — it’s size, local expertise, a strong banking system lower currency risks —other countries can learn from their example, he said. Governments need to put together commercial documentation that makes sense, provide clarity around the offtaker and how it works, needs to abide by international arbitration and devise a transparent and open bidding process that sticks to a set schedule, Smith added.
Since Power Africa was launched, a bevy of other organizations focused on electrifying the continent have emerged and the initiative has amassed some 120 partners, including the African Development Bank, the World Bank, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the Norwegian government and many private developers, financiers and foundations. Managing that many groups is not always easy.
Coordination amongst the donor and development finance institution community takes long, patient conversations, and some head banging, Ferguson said.
“There’s politics and good intent and different organizations with their own mandates,” he said. “It is not all perfectly coordinated. Lots of sensible people, but still those conversations have to be had.”
Herscowitz said he is proud of the initiative’s efforts, especially in bringing the various actors together. The level of coordination among the donor organizations is “unprecedented,” he said, citing the example of household solar, where Power Africa, the AfDB and the U.K. Department for International Development got together to discuss their work on in the space and decided to have DfID take the lead. That cooperation helped shape what U.K.’s Energy Africa initiative does, Herscowitz said.
There are organizations stepping up to lead on other issues as well, like the World Bank and AfDB on grid rollout, organizations like the U.S. Trade Development Agency on project preparation, and the IFC on grid-level solar.
With so many players, determining how each player slots in and where donor and DFI capital should be used is important.
The IFC’s Scaling Solar initiative, for example, emerged to fill a gap in helping to structure and simplify the process of developing grid-connected solar projects. The program developed a template process and document set to help a government run through a process determining how much solar they want on their grid, where it should go, if appropriate sites can be developed and how it could run a competitive process to identify an independent power producer.
“Scaling Solar is designed with collaboration in that donor and DFI ecosystem in mind,” Ferguson said.
Governments will need help paying for advisory work and in financing the projects themselves, which is where donors can step in. For example, in Zambia, the first country to sign on to Scaling Solar, DfID and Power Africa are helping pay for advisory costs.
Donor financing helped many of the rapidly expanding home solar companies get off the ground — one of the most exciting development to Herscowitz personally. Super efficient fans, irons and televisions are allowing off-grid customers to “live an on-grid life,” he said, which can change the market and impact the climate change discussion.
“Donors and public money is limited and precious and, I would argue, should be targeted where you can’t attract private capital — transmission lines, distribution companies, public utilities, all of those things that you can’t attract private capital for,” Ferguson said.
But every market where Power Africa is tracking deals has some role for the public sector to play — it’s role is to “bridge market imperfections,” test new models and get first-of-a-kind deals done, Herscowitz said.
How well Power Africa picks the places or types of projects it invests in and how that translates to achieving its goals will certainly be measured against the road map, which may well serve as a blueprint as the U.S. and it’s big coalition of partners work to push things along.
CCA Summit in Addis Ababa is a strong statement on US Business Overtures to Africa- Steve Hayes
February 1, 2016 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
The African market is too big to be the exclusive reserve of one country, says Steve Hayes, President and CEO of the Corporate Council on Africa. In a phone interview ahead of the 10th biennial US-Africa Business Summit holding Addis-Ababa from the February 1-4, Mr. Hayes said the CCA was expecting over 800 participants for the summit.
Although most of the previous summits have taken place in the USA, it will be an impressive turn out for US companies in Addis, Mr. Hayes said. Companies and businesses from other parts of the world will also answer present for the 2016 summit, he added.
Holding the Summit in Addis Ababa is also a way of reaffirming the growing interest of the US to do business in Africa without fear of competition with anyone, Mr. Hayes said. The investment climate in Africa could be a lot better, he said, citing bureaucracy, and the need for stronger dialogue between the public and the private sector.
Though China may have an edge now when it comes to trade with Africa, Mr. Hayes believes that the US has the long term advantage. The US has a better approach to doing business with Africa instead of just focusing on resources.
While President Obama gets some credit for moving the needle forward on trade with Africa, Mr. Hayes believes that the next US Administration must make Africa an even bigger priority.
A podcast of the interview which started with an over view of the CCA by CEO Steve Hayes is published below.
Ethiopia drought: How can we let this happen again?
January 25, 2016 | 0 Comments
This time around Ethiopia is competing with war-torn Syria and Yemen for international funds.
The alarm has now been sounded – after an avoidable delay, according to some – with the United Nations and Save the Children swinging into action to raise funds for Ethiopia. This time the argument for funds isn’t just to save lives but to ensure that Ethiopia’s current developmental momentum – and its best chance of being able to handle such droughts – remains on track.
But how could this be happening again – little more than 30 years after a global humanitarian appeal that raised many millions of dollars and saw foreign NGOs rush in to establish famine relief efforts and a host of infrastructure projects designed to prevent such a disaster recurring?
Such incredulity, already voiced in some media, is understandable: although the response from the Ethiopian government has been seen as partially successful, imminent crisis, exacerbated by the reaction – or lack thereof – from the international community, remains a distinct possibility.
Herein lies Ethiopia’s greatest challenge: donor fatigue, especially after 2015 proved to be such a tumultuous, humanitarian-crisis-riddled year.
The harsh economic truth this time is that Ethiopia is competing for international funds against the likes of war-torn Syria and Yemen, and a migrant crisis. In addition, the cogs of the bureaucratic donor system are not renowned for turning quickly.
Initially, Ethiopia tried what many in the West complain that developing countries don’t do enough of: tackling the situation itself, employing a sophisticated food security network developed over the decades since awful images of the 1984 famine came to stigmatise Ethiopia.
The Productive Safety Net Programme is a welfare-for-work initiative enabling six million people to work on public infrastructure projects in return for food or cash.
Furthermore, there is a national food reserve and early warning systems throughout the woredas – the local administrative organisations.
Ethiopia’s efforts went as far as the early opening of a railway line – the country’s only one – between Djibouti and Addis Ababa, to transport food aid. It also committed an unprecedented $192m to help to prevent deaths from starvation. The country’s ability and its means of providing emergency relief have changed beyond recognition since 1984.
But these efforts hit a snag: between June and October in 2015 the estimated numbers of those affected by the drought doubled to around 8.2 million.
Predicting the severity of the drought’s severity was beyond Ethiopia’s ability with the ocean-warming El Nino causing unusually heavy rains in some parts of the world and drought elsewhere. Neighbouring Somalia has about three million people hit by crop failures and food shortages.
So, finally, Ethiopia’s government has asked for help. But some within NGOs say that the government delayed unnecessarily while going it alone to maintain the narrative of Ethiopia’s great economic renaissance, achieving about 10 percent annual growth over the past decade.
Great economic renaissance
That rate has elevated Ethiopia to one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, radically improving the government’s cashflow to mitigate such a crisis.
But plenty is already committed to such projects as building of the $5bn Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, Africa’s biggest, to generate enough hydro-electricity to guarantee the country’s economic security.
Such growth finds its apogee in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, where the skyline changes each month as new towering buildings appear. However, beyond the modernising cities a very different Ethiopia remains, with about 80 percent of Ethiopia’s population subsisting on rain-dependant agriculture.
In a health clinic outside Adigrat, Tigray’s second largest town, 17-year-old Milite sits with her two-year-old child. A special tape measure around her daughter’s arm reads yellow – “moderately” malnourished.
As 17-year-old Milite describes not having enough food at her grandmother’s home where she has lived since the soldier father of her child deserted them, her daughter starts crying.
Those trying to initiate donor-funded programmes to bolster the Ethiopian government’s efforts say that while people are not actually starving, they are close to it. Such concerns are heightened by the chance that El Nino will quash Ethiopia’s next rainy season.
The UN estimates that such a situation could result in up to 15 million
Ethiopians suffering by mid-2016 unless donations increase.
That is the short term. Aid agencies are warning that significant gains made in food security, education and health over recent years are now in jeopardy in some parts of Ethiopia.
“The consequences could ripple through generations,” said the UN’s International Children’s Emergency Fund.
Foreign financial assistance is already arriving and, combined with money committed by the Ethiopian government, totals about $360m to confront the drought’s aftermath. But the overall emergency response could cost $1.4bn, according to aid agencies, especially if fears about El Nino and Ethiopia’s next rainy season come true.
*Source Al Jazeera.James Jeffrey is a British freelance journalist based in Addis Ababa, where he writes about Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa.
Rotary gives US$35 million to end polio worldwide
January 16, 2016 | 0 Comments
African nations in line for $15 million to keep the continent polio-free
Rotary announces $35 million in grants to support the global effort to end polio, including $15 million to support polio eradication efforts in 5 African countries.
In 2015, Africa proved a hub of historic progress against the paralyzing disease. Nigeria – the last polio-endemic country in Africa – was removed from the World Health Organization’s list of endemic countries in September, following one year without a new case of the wild virus. The last wild polio case on the African continent was in August 2014.
“We are closer than ever to achieving a polio-free world,” said Michael K. McGovern, chair of Rotary’s International PolioPlus Committee. “To ensure that no child ever again suffers the devastating effects of this disease, we must all ensure that the necessary funds and political will are firmly in place in 2016.”
Today, just two countries – Afghanistan and Pakistan – are reporting a single strain of the wild virus.
To sustain this progress, and protect all children from polio, experts say $1.5 billion is urgently needed. Without full funding and political commitment, the disease could return to previously polio-free countries, putting children everywhere at risk.
Rotary’s funds will support efforts to keep 5 countries in Africa polio-free: Nigeria ($5,5), Cameroon ($1.6 million), Chad ($2 million); Ethiopia ($4.1 million), and S0malia ($1,8 million). Additional funds will be support polio eradication efforts in endemic and at-risk countries: Pakistan ($11.4 million), Afghanistan ($6 million), Iraq ($1,6 million) and India ($600 000). Finally, ($350 000) in funds will be dedicated to polio research.
Rotary launched its polio immunization program PolioPlus in 1985, and in 1988 became a spearheading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative with the WHO, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was later joined by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Since the initiative launched, the incidence of polio has plummeted by more than 99.9 percent, from about 350,000 cases a year to 70 confirmed to date in 2015.
Rotary has contributed more than $1.5 billion and countless volunteer hours to fight polio. Through 2018, every dollar Rotary commits to polio eradication will be matched two-to-one by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation up to $35 million a year.
Rotary brings together a global network of volunteer leaders dedicated to tackling the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges. Rotary connects 1.2 million members of more than 34,000 Rotary clubs in over 200 countries and geographical areas. Their work improves lives at both the local and international levels, from helping families in need in their own communities to working toward a polio-free world.
Karuturi Challenges Ethiopia Decision to Cancel Farm Project
January 12, 2016 | 0 Comments
By William Davison*
MD says termination contravenes India-Ethiopia accord
Ethiopian government rejects further negotiations on issue
Karuturi Global Ltd., one of the largest investors in Ethiopia’s farm industry, is challenging the termination of its project, claiming the government broke the terms of its agreement with the company.
The Agriculture Ministry’s cancellation last month of the company’s 2010 lease is invalid as it didn’t follow procedure, contravened an investment agreement between India and Ethiopia, and wrongly accused the company of inadequate progress, Managing Director Sai Ramakrishna Karuturi said in an interview Jan. 5 in the capital, Addis Ababa.
“I don’t recognize this cancellation,” he said. The termination amounts to expropriation, which the bilateral investment treaty says must be accompanied by market-value compensation, Karuturi said.
The government made the “painful decision” to cancel the contract because of a lack of progress, said Ethiopian Communications Minister Getachew Reda.
“If you cancel a project, what’s the point of negotiating?” he said in Addis Ababa on Jan. 8. “If he thinks he has a legal option, let him try it, but the government has been giving Karuturi extensions for a long time.”
Karuturi, based in Bengaluru, India, was one of the first foreign investors to lease land in Ethiopia after the government offered incentives and identified 3.3 million hectares (8.2 million acres) as suitable for commercial farming. None of the farms have reported any success in exporting crops and advocacy groups including New York-based Human Rights Watch say the program impoverished residents by displacing them.
The Agriculture Ministry’s land investment agency notified Karuturi on Dec. 28 that the lease was canceled because “development” occurred on only 1,200 hectares. The rest will return to a “land bank” for investment, it said.
The agreement stipulated that all 100,000 hectares of the area allotted should have been developed within two years, according to a copy of the accord given to Bloomberg by Karuturi.
The government didn’t provide a final map of the concession, effectively blocked $180-million of financing by enacting a cereal-export ban, and prevented diesel from reaching the Gambella region near the border of war-torn South Sudan in 2014 on national security grounds, Karuturi’s Ethiopia unit said in a Jan. 1 letter in response to the cancellation that it sent to Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.
Hassad Food, a subsidiary of the Doha-based Qatar Investment Authority, rejected an offer to make an equity investment in the project in April 2013, two months after it had formally expressed interest, according to letters provided by Karuturi. No one answered the phone when Bloomberg made calls to a spokesman for Hassad Food and the investment authority seeking comment.
The clearing of 65,000 hectares and building of 100 kilometers (62 miles) of dykes to manage floodwaters constituted development, Karuturi said. An investment of $100 million is evidence of implementation efforts and annual floods and government action prevented further progress, he said.
The ministry officially warned Karuturi about insufficient progress in April 2012 and in June, according to the letter.
Karuturi, which says it’s one of the world’s biggest producers of cut roses, planned to grow and process crops including corn, sugar cane and palm oil on the plantation. The company was unable to do so partly because the Trade Ministry’s 2012 refusal to allow cereal exports precluded the company from earning the foreign currency needed to pay back the promised $180 million of loans from Indian banks, Karuturi said.
Karuturi has obtained a court order protecting the lease and is prepared to seek international arbitration on the matter, he said.
Drought that’s mainly affected the east of the country means Ethiopia needs donors to help fund the $1.1 billion cost of food aid this year for 10.2 million people.
‘The Looting Machine’ explains why Africa isn’t rising
January 4, 2016 | 0 Comments
By JAMES GIBNEY*
In one of Africa’s most celebrated surprises of 2015, Nigerian voters unseated President Goodluck Jonathan. The election of Muhammadu Buhari defied expectations of electoral fraud and violence, and his anticorruption platform sparked hopes for reform and economic growth.
Yet progress on both fronts has been slow and uneven. To understand why, pick up Tom Burgis’s The Looting Machine, a bracing look at why a continent blessed with one-third of the world’s hydrocarbon and mineral wealth remains mired in poverty and dysfunction.
A former Africa correspondent for the Financial Times, Burgis goes beyond the tales of spectacular venality among Africa’s “Big Men” – the world’s four longest-serving rulers are in African countries bursting with oil or minerals – to explain how the continent’s “resource curse” is sapping its development.
Nigeria is a case in point. Africa’s biggest oil producer gets more than 90 percent of its foreign earnings and two-thirds of its tax revenue from oil exports. Yet there are many reasons why that hydrocarbon bounty is a mixed blessing.
For starters, it can drive up the value of a nation’s currency, making other exports less competitive and imports more attractive. As Burgis points out, textiles used to be Nigeria’s most important manufacturing industry. But cheaper Chinese imports smuggled in by Nigerian gangs (an illicit trade worth more than $2 billion a year) have devastated the industry – one example of why Africa produces just 1.5 percent of global manufacturing output, despite its abundance of cheap labor.
Billions of dollars in oil revenues are also a tempting pot of money for bent politicians. One 2012 report said corruption had swallowed up $37 billion worth of Nigeria’s oil money over the last decade. That surpasses the annual economic output of more than half of the nations in Africa as well as Nigeria’s annual federal budget.
Such corruption has other toxic effects. Dirty money from bribes and kickbacks has to be laundered, and because those doing the cleaning don’t care so much about profit or productive investment, their infusions of cash distort the value of assets.
Nigeria’s reliance on oil for tax revenues also creates a perverse political dynamic: As Burgis puts it, “the ability of rulers of Africa’s resource state to govern without recourse to popular consent.” Instead of having to do right by taxpayers to win their votes, politicians focus on controlling and dispensing mineral wealth to bolster their patronage networks.
“Politics becomes a game of mobilizing one’s ethnic brethren,” Burgis notes – a contest with dangerous destabilizing effects in Nigeria’s fractious polity. In fact, as one Nigerian governor explains, if he failed to share the wealth, ill-gotten or otherwise, “I’ve got a big political enemy.”
Nigeria is far from the exception. At least 20 African countries are what the International Monetary Fund calls “resource-rich”: that is, their natural resources account for more than one-quarter of exports. Risking limb if not life, Burgis gamely takes readers around some of them, from the coltan mines of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Guinea’s rich bauxite and iron ore deposits to the diamond fields of Zimbabwe.
Even as the names and histories of the different predatory leaders blur, one thing is clear: Their looting depends on an all-too-willing cast of outside partners, whether Western mining and oil companies that plunked down bribes and abetted massacres, shady Israeli middlemen or shell companies in the British Virgin Islands.
Particularly disquieting is Burgis’s description of the unsavory role played by the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation, which backed visibly corrupt, environmentally destructive, or just plain inequitable oil and mining ventures in Chad, Guinea and Ghana – all countries it was supposed to be helping.
If Burgis’s book were to be made into a movie, though, the star villain would have to be Samuel Pa, the bespectacled, bearded Zelig behind some of the continent’s most dubious recent resource deals. Over the course of several decades, Pa parlayed the connections he made as a Chinese intelligence operative and arms merchant into a sprawling, secretive consortium based in Hong Kong known as the 88 Queensway Group, not to mention a spot on the U.S. Treasury’s sanctions list.
Western criticism of China’s growing presence in Africa, Burgis writes, nonetheless carries a “distinct whiff of hypocrisy” that might make even King Leopold blush. Moreover, ordinary Africans stand to gain much from the $1 trillion or so that Chinese entities will reportedly plow into their continent by 2025.
That said, the tale of Pa and Queensway, which has its tentacles wrapped around oil holdings in Angola and Nigeria, diamond mines in Zimbabwe, and agriculture in Mozambique (to name just a few of its ventures), reeks of sulfur and brimstone. As several seasoned African mining executives told Burgis, the Queensway Group reminded them of Cecil John Rhodes, the forerunner of those who “use the conquest of natural resources to advance political power and vice versa.”
One of the best hopes for curbing this rapacity and corruption may be to impose greater transparency on Africa’s outside business partners. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, for instance, recently proposed a rule requiring U.S.-listed oil, gas and mining companies to publish details of their payments to governments.
Even China may see the writing on the wall. A few months after Burgis’s book came out this year, he reported that Pa had been detained in one of China’s deepening anti-corruption probes. Guess that scotches the prospect of any Pa Scholarships in the future.
*Source Bloomberg/Concord Monitor
Money Sent by African Diasporans to Home Countries Help Pay for Education and Life Necessities
January 1, 2016 | 0 Comments
By Amini Kajunju*
Africans in the Diaspora sent home $33 billion in 2014 to their relatives or friends to help pay for living expenses, education, health care and even to start a business.
The money sent to home countries from diasporans living abroad, also called remittances, are often the financial lifeline sustaining many African families, benefitting some 120 million people across Africa. Diasporans’ money to family members outpaces international assistance from donor countries, and is the largest international flow of financial resources to Africa.
The remittances are making a significant impact on household spending and improved livelihoods of whole communities. Due to remittances to families, living expenses and emergencies are paid for making life easier in very difficult economic circumstances.
Still, African diasporans pay more to send money to their home countries compared to Diaspora groups in other regions of the world. In some cases, African diasporans pay twice the global average, according to the World Bank. South Africa, Tanzania, and Ghana are the most expensive sending countries in Africa, with fees averaging 20.7 percent, 19.7 percent, and 19.0 percent. Nigerians living overseas sent home $21 billion in 2014, according to the World Bank.
Western Union and MoneyGram are the top money transfer companies in Africa. A diasporan sending money to Africa will frequently incur what economists call a “super tax”, where the sender pays exorbitantly high fees, sometimes up 50 percent more than the global average, reducing the actual amount of funds transferred.
A recent World Bank study revealed that remittances are also boosting the usage of new technologies such as mobile phones in African households. In fact, Africa is the fastest growing region for mobile markets.
The limited access to traditional banking and financial services, particularly in rural communities, is prompting Africans to tap into these services through mobile banking.
The rise of mobile money transfer systems is good news for Diasporans. In 2014, mobile money transactions in sub-Saharan Africa skyrocketed to $656 million, and is expected to more than double to $1.3 billion by 2019, cited a report by Frost & Sullivan.
Increased competition among money transfer operators will help to drive down the high remittances fees to African countries.
While lower money transfer costs are certainly welcome, many Diasporans have raised questions about whether there is a way to guarantee that money sent home is used for its intended purpose.
Yet, ensuring that money sent to Africa goes for its intended purpose can be a sensitive subject to broach with loved ones, given an already tight household budget. However, some Diasporans have expressed a need for a simple, immediate and direct money transfer system to pay for family members’ expenses.
AAI is collecting information on how and why Africans in the Diaspora send money home to family members in their home country. Take the ‘Why Do You Send Money Back Home to Africa?’ survey, and share with other diasporans.
*Source HuffPost.President and CEO, Africa-America Institute (AAI)
US announces $88 million in food aid to Ethiopia
December 19, 2015 | 0 Comments
ELIAS MESERET* [caption id="attachment_23119" align="alignleft" width="300"] In this photo of Monday Dec. 14, 2015 families begin their journey home from the Estayesh Food Distribution Site in Denkena Kebele, Meket Woreda, Ethiopia. The United States government has announced $88 million to help feed hungry people in drought affected areas of Ethiopia, bringing the total number of humanitarian aid provided to the country in 2015 to more than $435 million. The announcement came as the Ethiopian government is appealing for $1.4 billion from the international community and donors to help feed more than 10 million people. (AP Photo/David R. Kahrmann) . —[/caption]
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — The United States government has announced $88 million to help feed hungry people in drought-stricken areas of Ethiopia, bringing the total amount of humanitarian aid to the country in 2015 to more than $435 million.
The Ethiopian government is appealing for $1.4 billion from the international community to help feed more than 10 million people.
“Ethiopia currently has one of the largest food insecure populations in the world, which has increased dramatically since August 2015, as it is experiencing one of the worst droughts in decades,” USAID said in a statement.The aid will provide more than 116,000 metric tons of relief food aid to address the needs of 2.6 million people in 74 districts, said the statement.
“This is one of the more severe droughts on record,” Dianna Darsney de Salcedo, a USAID official in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, told the Associated Press on Friday. “We are very concerned because of the number of failed rainy seasons successively on top of each other. The situation has not yet reached the level of famine but the needs assessment so far shows severe conditions.”
In addition to those needing food aid, Ethiopia has 7.9 million chronically food insecure people who are covered by the government’s Safety Net program, which is supported by the USAID and the donor community.
The East African country is currently facing a humanitarian crisis caused by below normal rainfalls in many parts of the country. The El Nino weather phenomenon has aggravated the situation and has cause low agricultural productivity and the deaths of domestic animals.
Ethiopia is experiencing its worst drought in 50 years, Save the Children said on December 9.*AP/Yahoo]]>
Nigeria and Ethiopia Bet Big on Infrastructure, but Will It Work?
December 5, 2015 | 0 Comments
Alex Thurston* [caption id="attachment_22897" align="alignright" width="600"] Trams recently brought to Ethiopia from China for the Addis Ababa Light Rail, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 8, 2015 (AP photo).[/caption] Across Africa, there is renewed interest in strengthening infrastructure. In November, the African Development Bank held its “first-ever Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa Week” in Abidjan, the economic capital of Cote d’Ivoire. The conference emphasized infrastructure, especially transportation and communications, on the continent. Infrastructure development is important not just to economies, but also to politics. In Africa’s two most populous countries, Nigeria and Ethiopia, the politics of infrastructure look very different, but the stakes are equally high for ruling parties. In Nigeria, questions of infrastructure relate to core dilemmas in Nigerian politics and policy. Since returning to civilian rule in 1999, Nigeria has often experienced rapid economic growth, thanks in large part to oil exports. Despite a rising middle class in the country, however, overall growth rates of 6 percent and higher have not dramatically reduced poverty or created sufficient jobs for the country’s 178 million people. During the presidential election last March, then-President Goodluck Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party found itself pressed to demonstrate how its 16 years in power had benefited ordinary Nigerians. When the ruling party lost, it was in part due to widespread resentment of its economic management. The new administration of President Muhammadu Buhari entered office amid economic crisis due to the steep drop in global oil prices, which began long before the election. Buhari initially enjoyed goodwill because of his promises to fight corruption and eliminate widespread government mismanagement. But when he took more than five months to assemble a Cabinet, concerns focused on the overall pace of his administration, and especially on the absence of an economic team. Unemployment, according to official figures, is rising. During the campaign, Buhari’s party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), suggested that once in power, it would direct the government to print money in order to finance massive, job-creating infrastructure projects. That policy may or may not be implemented, but Buhari’s recently assembled APC Cabinet emphasizes infrastructure, in the person of Babatunde Fashola. A former governor of Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous state and Africa’s most populous city, Fashola now has the mega-portfolio of the Ministry of Power, Works, and Housing. During his tenure in Lagos, Fashola racked up many infrastructure achievements, but with significant cost to ordinary people, as slums were destroyed to make room for roads, new housing projects and light rail.
Fashola now faces a daunting task at the national level, and one that may require equally contentious trade-offs: With Nigeria’s economic slump, Fashola and his team need cash on hand to deliver on campaign pledges, and quickly. The administration has promised to create a $25 billion infrastructure fund, but the timeline for its implementation is vague. Meanwhile, continued low oil prices have hurt government revenues, and the administration faces sustained pressure to devalue Nigeria’s currency. That could help revitalize local industries if local goods become cheaper than imports, but could also hurt ordinary people’s purchasing power and generate political backlash. This picture increases the urgency around infrastructure development, which is meant in part to create jobs. Most likely, however, a massive investment in infrastructure is still a ways off, as the government deals with the immediate economic crisis. If Buhari’s administration cannot both stabilize the economy and create jobs, the political price could be quite high. Some Nigerians already recall the promises of Buhari’s campaign, including on infrastructure, with bitterness. Ethiopia, meanwhile, showcases a different but equally controversial model of infrastructure politics. Since 1991, the country has been ruled by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, first under Meles Zenawi, who died in 2012, and then by Hailemariam Desalegn, Meles’ successor. The regime has almost no tolerance for dissent, as exemplified by its exclusion of opposition parties and its repression of bloggers and journalists. Instead, it offers the population a deal that might be simplistically described as political acquiescence in exchange for rapid economic growth. Meles self-consciously pursued development as a state-led, ideological exercise, arguing that the state needed to intervene in the economy as something more than just a “night watchman” who would ensure security and protect contracts. State-led development in Ethiopia has used infrastructure not only to create jobs and drive growth, but also to shock and awe. The capital, Addis Ababa, recently unveiled the $475 million Light Rail Project, a subway system that aims to connect the suburbs to the city center. The project, a joint venture between Ethiopia and China, aspires to link the Addis Ababa system into a national rail network that will include more than 3,100 miles of track by 2025. Another massive infrastructure project is the nearly $5 billion Grand Renaissance Dam, currently under construction on the Blue Nile. The dam, solely funded by Ethiopia, is meant to generate 6,000 megawatts of electricity. Yet its construction has further strained relations between Ethiopia and Egypt, which have very different ideas about how the Nile’s waters should be used and shared. In July, U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Ethiopia attracted controversy. The Washington Post said that it sent the wrong message to visit a politically closed country like Ethiopia instead of Nigeria, which at the time was still basking in its electoral achievement. As the Post noted, “Administration officials justify the trip by citing the United States’ long-standing cooperation with Ethiopia on issues of regional security and the country’s accelerating economic growth.” Is Ethiopia’s combination of state-led development and political repression more effective, at least for international consumption, than Nigeria’s model of democratic contests and ad hoc policymaking? Both countries have achieved rapid economic growth. Yet some observers suggest that Ethiopia has reached the limits of what the state’s investment in infrastructure can do for the economy. The Ethiopian government’s violations of human rights and political freedoms, moreover, cannot be excused on the grounds that Ethiopia is experiencing swift development. Meanwhile, drought is projected to put some 15 million Ethiopians in need of food assistance next year, showing that major infrastructure projects like the light rail and the dam have not immunized the country against crises. At the same time, in Nigeria fears are already growing that Buhari’s economic policymaking is dangerously off course. For both countries, infrastructure remains key to growth and crisis management, but economic reality may call for different policies on the part of both governments. Ethiopia should focus more on development that brooks dissent and reaches the poorest and most vulnerable of its citizens, while Nigeria should undertake more of the massive, state-led infrastructure projects that have boosted Ethiopia. *Source WPR.Alex Thurston is a visiting assistant professor in the African Studies Program at Georgetown University. Follow him on Twitter @sahelblog.]]>
Infrastructure remains key to growth, but economic reality may call for different policies in both Nigeria and Ethiopia.
Bosch Packaging Technology at the forefront of developing the coffee industry in Ethiopia
December 2, 2015 | 0 Comments
German multinational the Bosch Group hosted the ground breaking 1st International Coffee Processing and Packaging Round Table in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia German multinational the Bosch Group hosted the ground breaking 1st International Coffee Processing and Packaging Round Table in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Friday. [caption id="attachment_22796" align="alignleft" width="300"] Bosch Packaging Technology at the forefront of developing the coffee industry in Ethiopia[/caption] It featured representatives from United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), several industrial and agricultural institutions, big business, SMEs, farmers, civil society as well as local and international aid agencies in a strategic bid to enhance food security. The discussion sought to increase localisation to enhance food security in the region while looking to improve the quality of life for citizens through stimulating economic growth in one of the country’s key sectors. It further sought to bring key stakeholders together in a first step to increase local value addition and industrialisation. Ethiopia is believed to be the birthplace of coffee with one in every five citizens presently involved in the industry. The forum was held during the 3rd Annual Addis Agrofood Exhibition that took place from 27 to 29 November 2015. It was hosted by a business division of the Bosch Group, Bosch Packaging Technology, which is a global market leader. Among the topics that were discussed, it included ways to increase coffee processing and packaging that is adequate for domestic, regional and export retail markets. Other items to be discussed included the latest technology for roasting as well as for coffee growers, and technical solutions for advanced packaging. Bosch Packaging Technology has around 130 000 energy efficient packaging machines installed and running in 13 000 factories worldwide. It has a presence in 170 countries with its portfolio including 250 different machine types in 40 business sectors. Its culture of doing business with a conscience led to the company’s involvement in the United Nations’ “Save Food” initiative since 2011. The programme aims to find solutions to global food losses and waste and ensure less food is lost en-route to customers and by customers themselves. As a market leader, Bosch Packaging Technology allows food to be transported better over long distances for end users in emerging markets. Dr. Markus Thill, the President of Bosch Africa, says in 2013 Bosch Packaging Technology received 77 000 global orders alone, explained: “As part of the Bosch Group we offer best-in-class technologies that are ‘invented for life’ in the truest sense. Our machines, solutions and services provide vital support to human health and nutrition – especially in emerging markets such as those in Africa.” He added: “And our machines are robust, long-lasting, easy-to-use and boast low energy consumption. This is why we believe that, together with key stakeholders, we can assist and support the development of the coffee sector in Ethiopia.” Ethiopia is a major player in the world coffee market. It is presently the sixth largest producer in the world, exporting over 150 000 tons a year. However, the country exports more than 90% of its raw commodity and thus it is unrefined, unprocessed and unpackaged. This means that the overwhelming majority of the profits are generated out of the country. Now Bosch Packaging Technology is taking the lead in developing public-private partnerships to create an enabling environment for entrepreneurs and farmers to actively participate in the industry through processing, roasting, manufacturing, packaging and even distributing raw coffee. Mr Vandan Rughani, Managing Director of Bosch East Africa continues: “We believe that technology is the best way that the coffee industry can move up the value chain in Ethiopia and compete globally. This is why UNIDO works with companies like Bosch to make this a reality. Bosch views this initiative as crucial to the progress of the African continent both in terms of economic development and sustainability as well as enhancing food security. It is a partnership as our business model is underpinned by creating long-term, sustainable solutions for emerging and developing markets.” He said that the round table is merely the first step to ensure Ethiopia maximises the country’s coffee resources for greater socio-economic development. “Agriculture accounts for almost half of the country’s GDP. In addition, Ethiopia is one of Africa’s fastest growing economies and now is the time for it to stimulate its micro and macro economies that benefits all its people. And technology helps in this regard.” Bosch is a leading global supplier of technology and services operating in over 150 countries and employing over 360 000 through its 440 subsidiaries and regional interests. What makes its business model unique is that 92% of the company is owned by a charitable foundation. This ensures that, rather than being profit-driven, its focus is on creating sustainable global solutions through conscientious investments. Dr. Thill : “technology is made available to local entrepreneurs and farmers to improve food security, eradicate wastage and build new industries. We have already started supplying packaging machinery to local business people and farmers and co-operatives. This allows them to process and package local coffee and thus leverage growth throughout the value chain.” Mr Vandan Rughani concluded: “We believe a holistic approach will boost SMEs, stimulate job creation as well as additional opportunities and supplementary industries further down the value chain.” The Bosch Group is a leading global supplier of technology and services. It employs around 360,000 people worldwide (as per April 1, 2015). The company generated sales of Euros49-billion in 2014. Its operations are divided into four business sectors: Mobility Solutions, Industrial Technology, Consumer Goods, and Energy and Building Technology. The Bosch Group comprises Robert Bosch GmbH and its roughly 440 subsidiary and regional companies in some 60 countries. Including its sales and service partners, Bosch is represented in roughly 150 countries. This worldwide development, manufacturing, and sales network is the foundation for further growth. In 2014, Bosch applied for some 4,600 patents worldwide. The Bosch Group’s strategic objective is to create solutions for a connected life. Bosch seeks to improve the quality of life worldwide with products and services that are innovative and spark enthusiasm. In short, Bosch creates technology that is “Invented for life.” The company was started in Stuttgart in 1886 by Robert Bosch (1861-1942) as “Workshop for Precision Mechanics and Electrical Engineering.” The special ownership structure of Robert Bosch GmbH guarantees the entrepreneurial freedom of the Bosch Group, making it possible for the company to plan over the long term and to undertake significant upfront investments in the safeguarding of its future. Ninety-two percent of the share capital of Robert Bosch GmbH is held by Robert Bosch Stiftung GmbH, a charitable foundation. The majority of voting rights are held by Robert Bosch Industrietreuhand KG, an industrial trust. The entrepreneurial ownership functions are carried out by the trust. The remaining shares are held by the Bosch family and by Robert Bosch GmbH. Bosch Packaging Technology is a global market leader and supplier of processing and packaging technology. Found in over 30 locations in 15 countries worldwide, its highly-skilled workforce develops and produces complete solutions for the agricultural, pharmaceutical, food and confectionery industries. These solutions are complemented by a comprehensive after-sales service portfolio. In the coffee sector, in particular, it’s expertise is recognised globally. Bosch Packaging Technology has around 130 000 energy efficient packaging machines installed and running in 13 000 factories worldwide. It has a presence in 170 countries with its portfolio including 250 different machine types in 40 business sectors. *APO]]>