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Ghanaian crowned first ‘Miss Africa Continent’
May 2, 2016 | 0 Comments
Miss Ghana, Rebecca Asamoah, is crowned the first ever Miss Africa Continent in Johannesburg, South Africa on April 30, 2016 (AFP Photo/John Wessels)

Miss Ghana, Rebecca Asamoah, is crowned the first ever Miss Africa Continent in Johannesburg, South Africa on April 30, 2016 (AFP Photo/John Wessels)

Johannesburg (AFP) – Barefoot, wearing traditional costumes including animal hide skirts and elaborately beaded headdresses, the contestants strutted the stage before Ghanaian Rebecca Asamoah was crowned the first ‘Miss Africa Continent’.

The 24-year-old dental hygienist beat 11 finalists drawn from an original list of 40 contestants from across the continent in the inaugural pageant at Johannesburg’s Gold Reef City casino on Saturday night.

Runner-up was Michelo Malambo of Zambia, while South Africa’s Jemimah Kandimiri was placed third.

The swimsuit contest was also a departure from the beauty contest norm, with contestants wearing black t-shirts and tight shorts while dancing barefoot to music such as “Africa” by Mali’s legendary afro-pop musician Salif Keita.

The pageant is the brain child of South African film producer Neo Mashishi, who says it aims to empower young African women.

“This is the first ever Miss Africa Continent,” said Mashishi, adding that it had been five years in the making.

“This is about Africa, we are selling Africa to the world, and we are proud to be Africa”.

“The way everything was done was African, we didn’t emulate anything from Miss Universe, or Miss World,” he said.

Asamoah, who wore braids, entered the stage in a traditional Ghanaian Ashanti gold-coloured beaded crown and then returned in a evening dress made from the country’s trademark kente cloth.

She walked away with a grant to study business management at Monash university in Johannesburg.

Runner up in the 2015 Miss Ghana competition, Asamoah said she wanted to see young people help uplift the continent.

“There are a lot of things to be fixed in Africa — water, education, environmental issues,” she told AFP.

“My main concern is the empowerment of youths… so we can work hand in hand and put our continent in the best place it should be.”

In the weeks running up to the event, the 12 finalists embarked on a series of pre-pageant activities, including showing off their culinary skills in cooking traditional meals from their native countries.

Ultimately, the organisers hope to involve the continental body, the African Union, “so our winner can play a role in uplifting Africa”and spearhead campaigns to fight Africa’s woes such as malaria, poverty and xenophobia.

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Carlos Lopes: To industrialise, Africa needs strong but smart states
May 2, 2016 | 0 Comments

“Africans have not negotiated well in a number of areas…Who’s fault is it? It’s Africa’s problem and they need to address it.”

by *

Credit: UNECA.

Credit: UNECA.

African Arguments caught up with the UN Economic Commission for Africa’s Executive Director to talk about economic transformation, what’s holding the continent back, and whether leaders will really take action in the wake of the #PanamaPapers.

In a lot of your work, you emphasise the need for Africa to undergo ‘structural transformation’. What does this mean, and why is industrialisation so important to it?

There is a whole literature about structural transformation, but in practical terms right now in Africa it means moving to higher productivity sectors. We see this happening in three particular areas. Firstly, there’s agricultural productivity, which is at its lowest in Africa yet offers incredible potential for minimising poverty and contributing to industrialisation through agro-processing. Secondly, there’s manufacturing, which requires policies that mimic part of the experience of successful industrialisation processes of the past but are much more adapted to African characteristics. And thirdly, there’s the service sector, which needs to become more integrated into the formal economy.

Industrialisation plays a critical role because it’s more than just the production of processed goods or value addition from natural resources. It’s also an enabler for a rising society and, being a latecomer, Africa can learn from the experiences of others and adjust. For Africa, issues such as the environment, for instance, can be tackled up front.

There are varying verdicts as to how African industrialisation is faring. Some emphasise that manufacturing as a share of Africa’s GDP has almost halved from its 20% level in 1970. But others highlight that manufacturing is increasing at 3.5% a year, faster than the global average. What’s your take?

If you measure it by manufacturing value added, which is the common preferred indicator, then yes it is true that in percentage GDP terms, African manufacturing is stagnating if not falling. But African economies have doubled in the last 15 years, so even if you maintain the same percentage it means a lot more industry has come on board. Moreover, this also doesn’t take into account a number of activities that we can consider industrial but aren’t counted in statistics because of delays in updating national accounts.

Our take is that industrialisation is increasing significantly in some countries, though not across the entire continent, and that we need to accelerate and aggressively.

What’s holding African industrialisation back? Is it insufficient infrastructure? Lack of imagination amongst policymakers? Trade treaties that constrain what governments are able to do?

It’s all of those but the important question is which of those comes first. I think the capacity for comprehensiveness that comes with an industrial policy is what is the most important, because if you tackle the issue from just a specific sector or enabler or dimension, you are never going to get your act together.

The countries that really move and industrialise always have the same recipe: a very strong state hand, but a state that is very smart, a state that is capable of introducing smart protectionism because crude protectionism is no longer available, a state that is capable of identifying the critical enablers like infrastructure, and a state that knows how to fund its policies whether through domestic resource mobilisation or astute borrowing.

In a recent ECA report, the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Bilateral Investment Treaties and Economic Partnership Agreements are painted as significant barriers to African industrialisation. Do these agreements just need tweaking or are they inherently detrimental for Africa?

I think African countries have embarked on signing stuff they shouldn’t sign, but too bad for them. The WTO is a consensus-based mechanism that would allow for stalling, so if Africans don’t get their act together to stall the things that are bad for them, then that’s an African problem not a WTO problem.

I think Africans have not negotiated well in a number of areas. They are not taking advantage of space they already have. And Africans are also distracted by negotiating bilateral trade agreements before they finalise their own. Who’s fault is it? It’s Africa’s problem and they need to address it.

Given enormous global power imbalances, do you think it’s enough for African policymakers to just be slightly smarter and more imaginative under the current system, or do you think there needs to be more fundamental change too?

The moral and political dimension I leave for the media, NGOs, and civil society, though we should certainly give them ammunition so their claims are evidence-based. Where we can really make a difference is in deconstructing some untruths that have long been masquerading as truths. That’s why we’ve been plunging into legislative issues, contract negotiations, and investment and trade treaties to try and have a more informed discussion. We think a lot of space exists in these that Africans are not using. After all, countries that are good negotiators do get a better deal.

In terms of untruths, take this race to the bottom towards zero tax for investors for an example. Does it attract more investors in relation to potential competitors? No. Typically countries that are well organised and structured and that offer investors a package of incentives that are not tax-based are more attractive than ones offering tax incentives.

When it comes to illicit financial flows, through which $50 billion leaves Africa each year according to an ECA report, do you think leaders will seize this moment after the #PanamaPapers to implement real reforms?

There are various dimensions to the debate, but because of Mossack Fonseca we are currently focusing on one dimension: namely tax jurisdictions and how multinationals are taking advantage of different loopholes to move from one jurisdiction to another in order not to pay tax.

Another dimension, however, is the competition amongst financial centres. The City of London, for example, doesn’t want to lose its prominence as one of the leading financial centres of the world. This means that they have to stay ahead of competitors and protect a certain number of very complex legislative dimensions that will appear from a regulatory point of view to be very strong and powerful, but at the same time be lenient where they know competitors could have an edge.

There is certainly now a strong public push for regulators to put a bit of order to things. And I don’t think the rhetoric is hypocritical, but how far they will go and how much political leaders will embrace actual change is another matter.

*Source African Arguments.James Wan is the editor of African Arguments. He tweets at @jamesjwan.

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Africa needs the space to learn (and make mistakes) on its own terms
May 2, 2016 | 0 Comments

As Africa finds its voice after centuries of being silenced, well-intentioned outsiders must be careful to help and not hijack this moment.

by *

South Africans march for action against climate change in Durban. Credit: Ainhoa Goma/Oxfam.

South Africans march for action against climate change in Durban. Credit: Ainhoa Goma/Oxfam.

Just back from the Tana Forum on Peace and Security, held in the sleepy town of Bahir Dar on the shores of Ethiopia’s Lake Tana, my head churns with questions about how African debates like this should be organised.

Should they be held under a Baobab tree or in international hotels? Should they be formal or informal? Should they emulate Western or Asian styles or ignore them altogether? And ultimately, after centuries in which African voices have rarely been heard – from slavery, through colonialism, and up to the present day – who should now talk for Africa about Africa?

In a way these questions have never been more salient. After all, even looking back at the continent’s recent history, there is no shortage of examples of Africa suffering from the sharp end of foreign countries’ self-interest or misguided decisions while its own voice has been silenced.

This is true even after most countries gained independence, as the ideological rivalries of the Cold War turned Africa into a battleground for proxy wars coordinated in distant capitals, giving no room for Africa’s own interests; when structural adjustment in 1980s and 1990s was imposed heavy-handedly from the offices of the IMF and World Bank, their prescriptions ignoring the realities and resistances on the ground; and still today, as the continent is defined in the international media as Hopeless, Rising or anything in between while Africa’s own perspectives remain marginalised.

This is where the Tana Forum comes in, a rare event that is genuinely Africa-led and organised. Established to provide a space for debate about peace and security, it was set up five years ago by the late Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in conjunction other African leaders such as former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Thabo Mbeki.

It has been held annually since and the topic of this year’s edition was ‘Africa in the global security agenda’. Among the many speakers were the former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, former president of Timor-Leste Ramon Horta who had just completed a report on peace operations around the world, and Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. Also there was Wolfgang Ischinger, Chair of the Munich Security Conference, the world’s leading think tank on peace and security issues. Ischinger took to the floor to re-emphasise the strong partnership between his institution and the Tana Forum which is modelled on the Munich Security Council.

To be frank, not everyone was happy about this year’s Forum. For instance, political analyst Alex de Waal, writing here on African Arguments, expressed his view that the event has become “dull, repetitive and formal”, adding that in contrast to the first edition which was “devoted to intense, informal and candid discussion”, the 2016 event was mostly “taken up by entirely predictable speeches”.

Frank criticisms such as these are all well and good, and all new endeavours will inevitably fall short and fail to please everyone. But as we think ahead to the next conference, and in the context of Africa’s history of being marginalised in its own affairs, the important thing going forwards is that regardless of any limitations, the Tana Forum and projects like it are given the breathing space to learn on their own terms.

After centuries of being lectured, reprimanded and pressured to do things differently, it is crucial that African initiatives are able to correct their own weaknesses and learn by doing. It may take time, but patience is needed if genuinely African perspectives and models are to be built up – ones that is of Africa, by Africa and for Africa.

Across the continent, there are hopeful signs of a new and louder voice emerging as more African research institutes, think tanks and media houses provide increasingly candid reports from African viewpoints. But this newly assertive Africa, admittedly still coming of age, needs to be listened to and nurtured, even when it makes missteps and blunders.

As the continent’s economies develop, its political influence increases, and its population grows, Africa and African initiatives need to be given the breathing space to take charge of their own destinies on their own terms. This should be the new normal, the new name of the game. After over 50 years of independence, the continent is mature enough to discuss its challenges in a robust and rigorous way, and while their views are welcome, well-intentioned outsiders must be careful to help and not hijack this moment of exploration, renewal and growth.

We all, in humility, will gain by listening to what others bring to the table. As Leopold Senghor, the late poet-President of Senegal, said, we must have a “seat at the give and take table as equals”.

*Source African Arguments.Adama Gaye is a Senegalese Author, former editor of London-based West Africa Magazine. and a Tana Regional Fellow. The views expressed here are his own.

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Ghana Party Picks Former First Lady as Presidential Candidate
May 2, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Peter Clottey*

FILE - Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings (L), then first lady of the Republic of Ghana and her husband, then president of Ghana Jerry John Rawlings, are seen during a visit to Denver, Colorado, in an April 24, 1999, photo.

FILE – Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings (L), then first lady of the Republic of Ghana and her husband, then president of Ghana Jerry John Rawlings, are seen during a visit to Denver, Colorado, in an April 24, 1999, photo.

Ghana’s opposition National Democratic Party has chosen former first lady Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings as its presidential candidate at the party’s national delegates congress Saturday in the capital, Accra.

National Democratic Party supporters say the former first lady’s popularity could pose a significant challenge to incumbent President John Dramani Mahama in the November 7 general election.

NDP General Secretary Mohammed Frimpong says Agyeman-Rawlings is the best candidate to deliver the change Ghanaians demand.

“The entire country is clamoring for her return onto the political landscape to give to Ghanaians what she has done and knows best in terms of mobilization, women empowerment, and so on and so forth.  That is why the NDP followers throughout the country had unanimously decided to endorse her as our presidential candidate for the 2016 election,” said Frimpong.

Former president Jerry John Rawlings, who is the founding father of the ruling National Democratic Congress expressed support for his wife before she was overwhelmingly endorsed by the NDP as the party’s presidential candidate.  It remains to be seen if the former president will also support his wife against incumbent President John Dramani Mahama from the NDC.

Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, presidential candidate for the main opposition New Patriotic Party congratulated the former first lady.

Local media quoted Nana Addo as saying, “Her wealth of experience in Ghanaian politics should put her in good stead to help steer and shape the nature of our political discourse from one of attrition, personality attacks and negative preoccupations to an issues-based campaign, hinged on the competition of policies and ideas …   That is how the public interest of our nation can be best served.  The NPP and I welcome her into the race for the Presidency and wish her well.”

Anti-Mahama alliance possibe

Addo’s warm remarks prompted suggestions the two opposition leaders and their parties will form an alliance to challenge Mahama and his governing NDC in the presidential, parliamentary and local elections.

But NDP general secretary Frimpong says the party’s focus is not on forming an alliance with any other opposition party before the polls.

“Alliance ahead of the election is not in our agenda, that I can tell you for sure,” said Frimpong.  “But the point is that we are all bent on seeking for change [and] there is a very strong determination for change … and that is why probably the NPP flagbearer and our just endorsed flagbearer will share this common opinion for the need of change.”

The NDP was unable to register Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings as the party’s presidential candidate with the Electoral Commission of Ghana in the last election, despite endorsing the former first lady at the delegates congress in 2012.

“We had very strong disrupters in the 2012 election, and just as we were preparing to file her flagbearership with the electoral commission, there was a very elaborate conspiracy to scuttle this attempt, and that is what happened …  And therefore, nobody could base her performance or would be performance on the 2012 election because after all she did not participate,” said Frimpong.

But critics say the NDP should resolve an internal power struggle, rather than blame outsiders for the party’s challenges.

FILE - Ghana's President John Dramani Mahama, seen here delivering a speech in Paris, France, Nov. 10, 2015, might face a challenge from an opposition alliance in upcoming presidential, parliamentary and local elections.

FILE – Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama, seen here delivering a speech in Paris, France, Nov. 10, 2015, might face a challenge from an opposition alliance in upcoming presidential, parliamentary and local elections.

Frimpong says the former first lady will play a key role in preventing Mahama from winning the presidential vote in the first round of the poll.  He predicted Agyeman Rawlings would be the “kingmaker” on who becomes Ghana’s next president.

“It’s becoming quite prominent that Ghanaians feel a female must be given a chance.  And the record of probity and accountability in governance was [regarded] very high in their tenure and has slumped now to a very abysmal level …  With all these considerations coupled with her drive towards mobilization to eliminate poverty, and disease and illiteracy, all these go to create fond memories in the population … Therefore, comparing with three other contenders … We can say that it would be very difficult just to think that there can just be one run-off.”

*Source VOA

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ENGANAMOUIT SHORTLISTED FOR BBC WOMEN’S PLAYER AWARD
May 2, 2016 | 0 Comments

Enganamouit270416-400Cameroon’s forward, Gaelle Enganamouit of FC Rosengard has been nominated among five other players for the BBC Women’s Player of the Year Award. The other nominees are: Amandine Henry (France, Midfielder, 26), Kim Little (Scotland, Midfielder, 25) Carli Lloyd (United States, Midfielder, 33), Becky Sauerbrunn (United States, Defender, 30)

The 23 year Cameroonian is the only African enlisted and her performance in 2015 speaks for itself. She finished the Swedish championship as top scorer with 18 goals to her credit earning the golden boot with Eskilstuna United DFF.

Exiting the 2015 World Cup at the knock-out stage, Gaelle Enganamouit had left her foot prints with a hat-trick, in Cameroon’s 6-0 defeat against Ecuador, the first for an African at the highest football level.

She was crowned African Player in 2015 and won the 2016 Swedish Super League with Rosengard prior to her nomination.

Her international debut started in 2012 with Spartak Subotica in the Serbian league where she is said to have scored the fastest goal in three seconds.

The shooting queen with 43 caps and ten goals for the national team who was part of the Olympic squad in 2012 played for Tonnere Kalara club before moving to Lorema in 2004.

*Camer be

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How Election Monitors Are Failing
April 29, 2016 | 0 Comments

Uganda’s recent election showed, once again, that international election observers aren’t calling it like they see it.

BY NIC CHEESEMAN, GABRIELLE LYNCH, JUSTIN WILLIS*

In the photo, Ugandan police officers stand guard outside the house of the country’s main opposition leader, Kizza Besigye, in a suburb of Kampala on February 22. Photo credit: ISAAC KASAMANI/AFP/Getty Images

In the photo, Ugandan police officers stand guard outside the house of the country’s main opposition leader, Kizza Besigye, in a suburb of Kampala on February 22.
Photo credit: ISAAC KASAMANI/AFP/Getty Images

Uganda, heated controversy still surrounds President Museveni’s re-election with just over 60 percent of the vote two months ago. At a press conference on February 20, the European Union election observation mission presented its preliminary report on how the election had been conducted. The controversy surrounding the race, and the claim by the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) that the polls had been rigged, ensured a charged atmosphere. But despite finding that the number of votes it counted did not correspond to the official results in 20 percent of observed polling stations, the mission refused to answer a question about whether the elections were “free and fair.” Instead, they pulled their punches, directing the audience to read the report “and draw their own conclusions.” 

International election observation missions — when small teams of foreign nationals are sent to watch over elections under the auspices of groups such as the European Union, African Union and the Carter Center — are intended to deter foul play and ensure free and fair polls.

In practice, these monitors are not generally known for toughness or frank criticism.

In practice, these monitors are not generally known for toughness or frank criticism. But even by their notoriously cautious standards, the verdict in Uganda was strikingly tentative and evasive. The EU monitors had heard human rights groups’ complaints about intimidation by security forces and pro-government “volunteers,” witnessed voting materials turn up late to many polling stations located in opposition strongholds, and seen the main opposition candidate, Kizza Bessigye, arrested multiple times. The chair of Uganda’s Electoral Commission, Badru Kiggundu, evenbroke the most basic rule of official neutrality when he declared that Besigye was not “presidential material.”

The refusal of the European observers to make a strong and clear statement about these abuses frustrated Uganda’s opposition and civil society, but it was not surprising. Across Africa, international observers have frequently refused to give elections the evaluations they deserve for fear of offending incumbent governments and triggering political instability — and, also, it would seem, because they apply lower standards on the continent. Research by Brian Klaas of the London School of Economics has found that elections in Africa are significantly less likely to be branded “unfree and unfair” than elections held elsewhere in the world when they suffer the same manipulations. As a result, incumbents typically get away with a wide range of abuses, including such major offenses as the exclusion of rival candidates.

Although the problem is worse in Africa than elsewhere, this is a global phenomenon. Problematic elections have been given the “green light” in places such as Afghanistan, Azerbaijan and Iraq, as international leaders place security and stability — and their own relationships with established governments — ahead of democracy. This has led to many situations in which the content and the conclusion of election observation reports are out of sync. While the small print often lists pages of significant failings, the summary invariably concludes that the elections were “good enough.” The implications for democracy are dire: it’s not just B+ polls that are being allowed to “pass” international scrutiny — even “incompletes” are being allowed through.

The challenges facing election monitors are both political and technical. One of the reasons demonstrating electoral manipulation is particularly difficult in places like Uganda is that the size of most monitoring missions is pitifully small. The EU mission in Uganda, for example, was only 130 strong. Since observers must go around in pairs, in practice, about 45 “teams” were responsible for covering something like 28,000 polling stations. It is simply not practical to detect subtle electoral fraud on this basis. Moreover, therandom sampling technique that the EU uses to select polling stations for its teams to cover — on the basis that such sampling is more likely to ensure a representative sample of the national picture — means that observers have polling stations selected for them in advance and cannot target areas that are known to be problematic.

The technical limitations are exacerbated by political realities. In many of the world’s semi-democratic states, the combination of repression by government forces and the failure of electoral commissions to quickly release a full set of results make it all but impossible for observers or the opposition to provide incontrovertible evidence of fraud. In Uganda, the law sets a 10-day deadline for the submission of evidence of rigging. But during this period, opposition offices were raided by police or mysteriously “burgled,” and the main opposition leader was placed under house arrest. This alone should be sufficient for international observers to declare the process flawed — but the appeals process is rarely given much weight in election observers’ reports, which focus heavily on the period leading up to polling day.

This is not just an African phenomenon. In the 2013 election in Azerbaijan, a set of “results” was accidentally released the day before the election on an iPhone app. Officially, this was explained away as a simple technical mistake, and a different set of figures were announced after voting had taken place. But many suspected that President Ilham Aliyev had intended to release a set of pre-fabricated results, and had only been prevented from doing so because they had been accidentally circulated too early. Subsequent evidence of “widespread irregularities, including ballot-box stuffing and what appeared to be fraudulent counting” was reported by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Yet international observers that focused only on the act of voting, like those from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s short-term delegation, missed the bigger story, concluding that they had witnessed a “free, fair and transparent electoral process.” Few observers who were able to take a longer-term view concurred with that judgment.

Clearly, the idea that international election observers are a neutral, independent force is a myth.

Clearly, the idea that international election observers are a neutral, independent force is a myth. In reality, they are every bit as subject to political pressures as the parties they observe. In the early 1990s, observersturned a blind eye to deeply flawed elections in Kenya because they were worried that speaking out would trigger civil war and regional instability. In so doing, however, they became complicit in the attempts of a brutal authoritarian regime to hold onto power and undermined their own reputations. In the run-up to the 1992 election, President Daniel arap Moi’s regime instigated ethnic clashes designed to displace, and hence disenfranchise, opposition voters. In total, over 1,500 people died and 300,000 more were forced to flee their homes. The government also engaged in a wide range of other dubious measures, from censoring the press to stuffing ballot boxes. The international community’s failure to speak out against these developments motivated the respected Kenyanist Stephen Brown to write a scathing article with the eloquent subtitle, “How Foreign Donors to Keep Kenya’s Daniel arap Moi in Power.”

Similar tensions are at play in Uganda today. President Museveni’s decision to send Ugandan troops to form the bulk of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) has made his government central to Western anti-terror efforts in the Horn of Africa. As a result, the EU and U.S. can ill afford to lose Museveni as an ally — even if harsh words are often exchanged in public. Like their counterparts in Kenya and Iraq, Western representatives in Uganda are also concerned about what would happen if they called for the results to be recounted or the election to be re-run. Would the country implode under the pressure? Could a Besigye presidency be relied upon to deliver stability and to be as enthusiastic about sending Ugandans to fight in a foreign country?

The uncertainty around these questions has left western election observers in a familiar dilemma. They cannot endorse the results of elections that have been so evidently uneven, but they cannot condemn the process entirely, for that would both imply that Uganda’s government has no legitimacy (an awkward implication for a regional ally) and suggest that elections can never bring political change. 

As a result, the EU report on Uganda’s recent elections is a classic of a genre that has emerged over the recent decades of electoral observation in Africa. The report captures a whole catalog of dubious electoral practices, including local-level intimidation of opposition, obstructions placed in the way of opposition presidential campaigns by the police, and the wide gap between a ruling party that draws freely on state resources for its campaign and an opposition that relies on donations from supporters. At the same time, in a strenuous effort to put a good face on the proceedings, the report commends the public for their “remarkable determination on election day [while] waiting for long hours to cast their ballots,” implicitly offering “voter enthusiasm for the democratic process” as a form of endorsement of the elections (if not explicitly for their result).

This is all eminently understandable. Serving as an election observer is a great responsibility and concerns of political stability are legitimate in countries with a history of conflict. It is also true that, for all the faults of the elections, Museveni may well have won the most votes.

Even so, observers who pull their punches may end up causing considerable damage.

Even so, observers who pull their punches may end up causing considerable damage. Excessive tact in assessing election results can set back the cause of democracy and undermine the confidence of opposition parties and their supporters that Western governments will play fair. Governments in places such as theDemocratic Republic of Congo and Zambia — both of which are due to have elections this year — will be watching events in Uganda closely. In both countries, the contests are expected to be particularly tight, and leaders there will be looking for every advantage they can get. The failure of election observers to take a stand in Uganda will encourage other dictators to rig their own elections, safe in the knowledge that they are unlikely to be held to account. In the long run, this is likely to erode public support for the political process and to breed political grievances that all too often spill over into conflict.

Maybe it’s time to take a more hard-headed approach to elections in authoritarian states. If the circumstances are simply too uneven to provide genuine competition, and if observers know that they will not be in a position to call out fraud if they see it, then might it be better for international monitors to stay at home? At least this way the international community will avoid legitimating — and hence becoming complicit in — deeply flawed polls that make a mockery of democracy.

*Source FP

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Drogba begins legal proceedings over charity allegations
April 29, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Tom Beck*

1438022_heroaThe former Chelsea player has denied reports that just one percent of money donated to The Didier Drogba Foundation has been spent on good causes.

Didier Drogba has announced he has begun legal proceedings against the Daily Mail after the newspaper published figures stating just 14,115 pounds ($19,964) of donations to his foundation appear in the accounts.

The English media outlet reported that just one percent all of the £1.7 million of UK contributions to The Didier Drogba Foundation in the past five years has been spent on good causes.

However, Drogba has forcefully denied the incriminating accusations, labeling the report as “factually incorrect and libelous” in a statement released on social media.

 A statement read: “Despite sending legal letters and 67 pages worth of documents advising theDaily Mail that their information was factually incorrect and libelous, they have decided to ignore the facts so I am issuing legal proceedings against them today.
“The Daily Mail by such irresponsible journalism are jeopardizing the lives of many thousands of African children. The effect on these kids in need of healthcare and education is unimaginable.

“They have already caused an untold amount of damage by contacting all of my sponsors, my colleagues, and many of my friends who generously helped the Foundation with donations, and put doubts in their mind about whether to continue to support us in the future.

“I come from a poor family and I had to work hard to get where I am today but this would mean nothing to me if I wasn’t able to give back to my country, my continent and my community.

“I want to help children from the Ivory Coast become leaders of the next generation, actors, politicians, scientists, doctors, teachers and sportspeople, but you can only get there with education and healthcare. By printing these lies, The Daily Mail is trying to stop Africa’s development.

“Despite their claims, there is no fraud, no corruption, no mismanagement, no lies, no impropriety.”

*The Hill

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Riding High: From Naomi Achu comes “Long Live the Queen.”
April 28, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Destiny Kwenchia*

NaomiAchuAlbumCover“There is definitely something in this album for everybody,”says Naomi Achu as she calls on fans to join her on April 30 for the launching of her latest musical production. Dubbed “Long Live the Queen,” the album brings out the creative genius of the hard working star who has succeeded to carve a niche for herself. In the midst if a hectic schedule preparing the album launch, Naomi Achu found time to respond to questions from PAV.

Can you introduce the new album for us?

It’s called “Long Live the Queen”. And it’s a combination of world music, afro-pop, hip-hop and a little bit of reggae; many songs for dancing as well as many songs for reflection.

What makes this album different from the previous ones that have been produced?

 There is definitely something in this album for everybody; Even if it’s just one song. It stretches though different age groups, colors and cultures. It has some very relatable tunes and concepts.

12115825_10154160889471591_7184672948709815363_nYou have been in the music scene for a while now, what makes Naomi Achu tick and how to do you juggle additional responsibilities that have come along like been a wife and a mother?

Music to me is a form of expression. So I’ve been able to incorporate music into every aspect of my life. I write songs as I go. As I see or experience different things.

What appraisal do you make of the African music scene generally; any suggestions that could help make it better?
The Africa music scene is doing amazing things. It’s getting more and recognition outside of the continent with crossover artists bringing African flare into the pop music scene. I think if we keep promoting our culture, it will trend and make an international statement.

To the younger people who look up to you as a model, and who want to embrace the music industry, any words of wisdom for them?

Always be open to learn new things. Stay true to who you are and remain humble.

The album will launch on April 30, can you share some information on the event, venue, cost, and other side treats your fans may get?

The event will take place at the Friendship Center in Laurel, MD. General admission is $20. And VIP admission is $50.

13083190_1056219694423822_338598395867581897_nWhat’s next for Naomi Achu after the album launch?

I’ll be on a promotional tour, taking the album across Africa and USA alike. Maybe Europe; we shall see. And after that I hope to start working on the next project.

 Thanks for talking to Pan African Visions

Thanks for having me, once again

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$80 billion, not $50 billion: loss of African funds even worse than thought – Mbeki
April 27, 2016 | 0 Comments

By LEE MWITI*

Panel revises figures upwards, and the money is not leaving continent in plastic bags: Kinshasa, we have a problem

Obiang Mangue: Was linked to the export of hundreds of millions of dollars to the US where he bought property and fancy cars. (Photo/TNOM/Flickr).

Obiang Mangue: Was linked to the export of hundreds of millions of dollars to the US where he bought property and fancy cars. (Photo/TNOM/Flickr).

IN 2005, US lawyer George Nagler was contacted by Rosalina Romo, the executive assistant of Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, son of Africa’s longest serving president and who is on course to extend his 37-year rule over oil-rich Equatorial Guinea.

Romo and Nagler together set up Sweet Pink Inc, which named Romo as its CEO, secretary and chief financial officer. Mangue was listed only as “assistant treasurer”, but under questioning in a US Senate investigation, the lawyer said it was his understanding the younger Nguema was the sole owner and source of funding.

A few days later, Mangue’s then girlfriend, well-known US rapper Eve Jeffers was appointed the firm’s president.  The company was among those known to have been used by Mangue to between 2005 and 2007 move more than $110 million into the US and buy property.

Under pressure from authorities, his US banker eventually closed the accounts, according to the resulting Senate report that was captured in a 2011 World Bank report on stolen assets, The Puppet Masters, and which also in part spotlights how public officials including presidents and state governors from Nigeria and Zambia to Kenya used corporate and financial structures to obscure money trails.

The big people eat it all

Equatorial Guinea has a population of about 760,000  people and on paper a GDP per capita of $20,500—the highest in Africa. Yet three quarters remain mired in poverty, despite its natural-resource riches, with oil exports constituting 80% of its GDP.

The stashing away of such funds in tax havens and global financial centres and which would otherwise build schools, hospitals and infrastructure, costs Africa heavily.

But it was only last year that the continent put a figure to the haemorrhage, when a joint panel headed by former South Africa president Thabo Mbeki in a much-anticipated report (pdf) showed that between 2000 and 2008, Africa lost at least $50 billion annually to illicit outflows.

On the back of the resulting uproar, the continent’s policy community set to work to show just how much of a difference such amounts would make to the region’s development.

The money was enough to simultaneously cut poverty and inequality on the continent by half, organisations from the African Union to the UN’s Economic Commission for Africa, which both backed the report, said.

It is also regularly highlighted that the total outflows from the continent every year were more than the amount of official foreign aid into the continent, which in 2012 was set at $46.1 billion.

But at the release of the findings from its two-year investigation, the Mbeki panel had a caveat: the amount fell “well short of reality”—an acknowledgment of the continent’s well known data problem, but also of just how difficult it is to track flows that by their nature are intended to be hidden from view.

The leak of the so-called Panama Papers has reinvigorated the debate and delighted many leading African names, giving a coveted glimpse into the secretive world of offshore structures. The leaked data from the legal firm Mossack Fonseca featured many African names, even as the distinction is strenuously made that they are not inherently illegal and some have their legitimate uses.

Could be worse

Now the panel says the problem could be worse than previously thought. The continent is losing at least $80 billion, Mbeki said Monday at a press briefing in Johannesburg, as the panel continues to burrow into newer numbers.

Mbeki said that after looking closer at the figures, the number had increased to an estimate of between $80 billion and $90 billion dollars—or nearly the amount the World Bank in 2009 said the continent would need to spend annually for 10 years to narrow the gap with the rest of the world.

“This could either be because more thorough work has been done or in fact there is in actual increase in the activity,” Mbeki said.

While the focus tends to be on the criminal activities such as tax evasion, corruption and trafficking, legally allowed tactics actually account for the bulk of outflows.

Mbeki said the commercial sector is responsible for handling two thirds of capital illicit outflows from the African continent.

Measures to clamp down on funds lost illicitly are being rolled out, but as the former president pointed out, the majority of such flows pass through the systems of banks, as he urged central banks to help track the money.

“This money is not leaving the continent in plastic bags, it goes through financial systems.”

One study showed that African countries lost up to $407 billion between 2001 and 2010 from trade misplacing alone—the misrepresenting of data about imports or exports.

The UN’s trade and development body UNCTAD says profit shifting costs poorer countries—the majority of which are in Africa— up to $100 billion a year.

In one famous case, an American construction conglomerate had almost 30% of its employees in Asia and Africa, made 30% of its sales in Asia and Africa—but recorded only one percent of its profit in Asia and Africa. Eighty percent of its profit went to a tax haven.

In July, a proposal by the continent for multinationals to be more transparent on tax avoidance was heavily watered down by wealth nations.

Mbeki also called for efforts to strengthen the ability of tax authorities on the African continent to keep up with the ever-adapting nature of such outflows, as there were institutional weaknesses.

Without understanding the nature of methods and structures used, it is very much shooting in the dark.

“We need to find a way of tracking these outflows so that we are able to measure whether the measures are working, leading to a reduction of the outflows,” Mbeki said.

Mbeki said the panel is consulting with countries and financial institutions such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Central Bank.

He said the OECD has agreed to work with the panel in tracking and reducing the illicit outflows, and to develop measures of whether progress has been made.

With wealthy nations under pressure following the Panama leak, the outcome of a landmark anti-corruption summit in London next month will be closely watched by the continent, where leaders are turning up the campaign to have those funds found to be illicit to be repatriated to finance development.

*Source MGA Africa

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Slave states: a story of survival in the Gulf
April 23, 2016 | 0 Comments

By *

African migrants are increasingly moving to rich Gulf States in search of opportunity. More often than not they find exploitation. This is Harriet’s story.

Sunset over Dubai, UAE. Credit: Paolo Margari.

Sunset over Dubai, UAE. Credit: Paolo Margari.

For the millions of people who flock to rich Gulf States to take up jobs as cleaners or builders, the opportunity to work is typically seen as a rare chance for employment and the empowerment that comes with it. Usually from poor countries where prospects are weak, huge numbers of workers have journeyed to glittering Gulf States in recent years in the hope of making a living.

In fact, the numbers are so high that migrants now make up the majority of many Gulf States’ populations. An estimated 7.8 million of the UAE’s 9.2million population are non-nationals, for example, while 70% of Kuwait’s population and 85% of Qatar’s is made up of foreigners. These countries rely on migrant labour to function, though the relationship between employers and employees is far from equal.

Migrants come for work, but many ultimately find themselves trapped, exploited and abused. The government policy known as kafala requires workers to have a local sponsor to work or stay in many of these countries, and this requirement gives employers enormous power over their employees who are unable to change jobs or leave without their consent.

Under this system then, millions of workers have no means of escape and few rights. They find themselves brutally exploited, their movement controlled, and their wellbeing disregarded. Reports of psychological, physical and sexual abuse, of torture, and of suicides are widespread. And there is often no way out.

The fruits of imported workers can be seen all across the Gulf States, not least in the form of the huge skyscrapers built on migrant labour, but the experiences of these individuals are usually hidden below the shiny surfaces of the cities, and go unreported and unheard. Migrants typically come from South and East Asia, but they are increasingly coming from Africa now too. Below is the story of Harriet, just one such migrant from Uganda.

Harriet’s story

Harriet, a young woman in her mid-20s, was an aircraft cleaner with a large private security company. She had worked with one of my school friends in Kampala before coming to Dubai, UAE.

That’s how we first got in touch, and we met at Al Khail Mall in the Al Qouz Industrial Area 4. This was a short distance from her accommodation, a room she shared with three other women, one also from Uganda and two from the Philippines. Harriet started by showing me a few pictures of functions, mostly weddings, that she had taken while in Uganda and then handed me her CV. I noticed that she had a higher diploma in social sciences from one of Uganda’s largest institutions of learning.

Driven by unemployment for about a year back home, Harriet had decided to seek opportunities in Dubai. A recruitment company had taken her on and charged her $600 for her air ticket, visa and recruitment fees. She had now been in Dubai for about six months and was cleaning aeroplanes at Dubai International Airport. She showed me a rash on her arms and part of her face, explaining that she got them from exposure to a cleaning detergent called Bacoban. She had complained to her supervisors, who took her to a hospital where she received treatment. But she had only recently found out that to cover the cost of the visit, her salary had been slashed from 800 dirhams ($215) a month to just 200 dirhams ($54).

Harriet had intended to return to hospital as the rash had persisted and the constant itching made her sick. But she was forced to cancel these plans. Not only could she not afford another pay cut, but many companies here issue penalties for taking time off, even for illness.

Harriet said she was repeatedly required to work more than the stipulated hours in a day without a single break to even drink water. She told me of a colleague from Kenya who had fainted inside the plane because the air conditioning was not working and she had not eaten or drunk anything since early in the morning. There were some women, Harriet said, who took food or water from inside the plane, but this was a serious risk if caught.

Her work supervisor meanwhile, a man from India who hardly spoke any English, regularly harassed her verbally, physically and sexually. When she was cleaning, he would lean down to touch her buttocks. When she asked what he was doing, he would tell her, “Sorry, banana standing. This banana big problem.”

All of Harriet’s colleagues complained amongst themselves but no one dared report him to their superiors. In the past, one of their co-workers had been dismissed after she reported a similar incident of sexual harassment. “They would twist everything and turn it around accusing you of being a prostitute,” said Harriet.

The only thing Harriet was grateful for was her one day off each week, a privilege considering that few other employees – such as security guards – were afforded the same luxury. Having said that, Harriet would spend her days off staying in bed crying, though she was glad to have this chance to weep in private so she could avoid breaking down in public. Crying was the only way she could reduce the burden of her problems, she said.

Trapped

Outside work, Harriet’s situation was just as miserable. In her accommodation, all sorts of activities were forbidden. Cooking, for example, was prohibited with workers required to buy food from restaurants despite their meagre salaries. Residents were also banned from washing their clothes; instead, the management insisted they use the coin-operated washing machine which cost four dirhams ($1.20) just to launder work uniforms. For Harriet and others, violating these rules was the only way for them to survive and they would prepare meals using secretly-stashed cooking utensils and did their laundry covertly in bathtubs and sinks. The fear of being caught and punished brought additional stress.

Harriet also felt unsafe about leaving her room and going around the surrounding area. Although her quarters were reserved for women, groups of men gathered around the complex, begging and baiting women to come out. The situation was worst at night. When I dropped her off one evening at around 7:30pm, the premises were very busy and although the space was meant to be for women only, most of the people in the compound were men. Cars, ranging from the latest models of Land Cruisers to older makes of Toyota Corollas, constantly streamed in and out.

Harriet told me that most women complemented their paltry earnings with prostitution and that these cars were not here to pick up or drop off friends and girlfriends but women working as prostitutes. Some women were dropped off down the road at Al Khail Mall and walked the short distance back home to disguise their activities.

I reasoned that most of the men who simply crowded around the compound were only there to look at the female residents, unable to afford paying for their services, but Harriet said it was a matter of price discrimination. She challenged me to walk around the dark corridors of the neighbouring buildings that acted as short-time lodges.

She also told me that were reports of men raping women who happened to pass by at night. This was the one thing worried the female residents the most and stopped them from leaving the premises, especially once night had fallen. They would rather go hungry and sleep without eating anything than walk the short distance to a restaurant or Al Khail mall. They were trapped.

Escape

In the ensuing weeks after our first meeting, Harriet checked out jobs in the classifieds and sent emails as per my advice. She received a few responses but was always asked if her sponsor was willing to give a No Objection Consent (NOC) letter to facilitate a change in jobs and sponsors in the UAE.

She had no idea about such a document and when she queried her employer’s human resources office, she was told that they did not give out such letters and was instructed that she’d be banned from working in the UAE if she tried to change jobs.

Under the kafala system, Harriet was at the mercy of her sponsor, but mercy was not something her employer was willing to extend. She was essentially bound to servitude until her contract was over. Harriet had no choice but to keep her head down, do what she could to ease her pain, and persevere through to the end of her two-year contract.

Fortunately for Harriet, she made it through and was finally able to find a new job after her ordeal. She now works a saleswoman in a cosmetics shop in Dubai. This job brings with it its own difficulties and challenges, but they are small compared to those she faced in her previous employment. “I still consider the two years I worked as a cleaner the worst experience of my life,” she says.

But while Harriet survived and escaped, others have taken her place as a cleaner and many millions more face the same conditions as she did, and worse, across the Gulf States. These countries serve as a portal for hopeful but vulnerable migrants from across Asia and, increasingly, Africa. They come here looking for opportunity, but are more often than not met with exploitation facilitated by hugely unequal and unjust employment laws.

This article is based on an excerpt from Yasin Kakande’s forthcoming book Slave States: The Practice of Kafala in the Gulf Arab Region.

*Source African Arguments.Yasin Kakande is a Ugandan journalist who has reported from the Middle East for over a decade. His first book, The Ambitious Struggle: An African Journalist’s Journey of Hope and Identity in a Land of Migrants, was published in October 2013.

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URBAN AFRICA’S BIG CHANCE
April 23, 2016 | 0 Comments

BY AND *

Nigerians participate in a marathon in Lagos, Nigeria, February 6. Lagos is one of three existing megacities—with populations of more than 10 million—in Africa, and more are expected to spring up in the coming decades. STEFAN HEUNIS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Nigerians participate in a marathon in Lagos, Nigeria, February 6. Lagos is one of three existing megacities—with populations of more than 10 million—in Africa, and more are expected to spring up in the coming decades.
STEFAN HEUNIS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

In popular imagination of Africa, the continent is more famous for its savannahs than its skyscrapers. Sub-Saharan Africa’s total urbanized population is just 37 percent, compared to nearly 75 percent of European Union citizens who live in cities.

Africa’s rural population has always been larger than its urban population. But that is changing, and in 2030, the number of urban and rural Africans will be roughly the same: nearly 1.6 billion people altogether. By 2050, nearly two-thirds of all Africans will live in cities. By the same year, nearly a quarter of the world’s workforce will be African—and these workers will be overwhelmingly young.

Africa is the second-fastest urbanizing continent, following closely behind Asia. It is home to three “megacities,” each with more than 10 million residents: Kinshasa, Lagos, and Cairo. By comparison, New York City is the largest city in the United States, topping out at 8.5 million residents. In the coming decades, Johannesburg, Luanda, Nairobi, Addis Ababa, Casablanca, and Khartoum will approach megacity status, and hundreds of other smaller African cities will emerge and grow.

Urbanization does not automatically translate into prosperity. But it does seem to be a prerequisitefor sustainable growth. As Africa’s growing, youthful workforce moves to cities, they will become a growth engine for the continent’s economy.

By concentrating consumers and their spending, Africa’s cities can serve as new markets for goods and services. In just fifteen years, consumer spending in African cities is projected to reach $2.2 trillion, a three-fold increase from current levels. These markets will attract attention and investment from both international brands—including clothing, restaurant, and hotel chains catering to African consumers—and local industries that reflect a city’s unique culture. Cities, by design, concentrate people, and these populations form the backbone of valuable urban industries such as manufacturing. The increased business will prime the pump for more government revenue, job growth, and infrastructure investment. These benefits of “agglomeration”—having thousands of people in close spatial proximity to each other—also apply to governments, who face lower service provision costs among dense populations.

Successful cities support strong and stable agriculture by making up the key market for Africa’s many smallholder farms. Concentrating consumers in urban areas benefits such farms, which contribute to urban food security and remain an integral part of the continent’s overall economy.

For entrepreneurs, opportunities are ripe for the picking. Africa’s urban challenges—construction, housing, financing, and communications infrastructure, among others—benefit from the educated citizens and private investment concentrated in cities. In fact, the most innovative and successful businesses have emerged from obstacles to growth; market inefficiencies led to the development of products ranging from cell phones to mobile money to Uber.

Kenya’s support for tech incubator iHub is an example of how African governments can support fast-growing and valuable new industries that harness the creativity of the urban workforce. Nigeria has announced a similar focus on information and communications technology with itsSmartCity Innovation Hub in Lagos.

In spite of its enormous size, Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos, is a prime example of how to govern a megacity. Lagos residents—21 million and counting—benefit from strong local leadership, which has reformed the city’s tax system and used the increased revenues to provide services including waste collection and improved transport systems. The city was integral to preventing the spread ofEbola in Nigeria in October 2014 after an infected Liberian man traveled to Nigeria and later died in a Lagos hospital.

While rapid urbanization has many benefits, it is also a double-edged sword.

Africa’s developing economies have limited time to grapple with serious demographic challenges—including an urbanizing, “youthening” population—while bringing broad economic growth to their populations. And rapid urbanization brings with it very real threats to prosperity and stability. The first is that urbanization is outpacing the ability of fragile governments and developing economies to support their citizens. Financing and building vast infrastructure to accommodate burgeoning urban populations is a critical challenge. As Africa Center Senior Fellow Aubrey Hruby observed in 2015, Africa needs some $50 billion in infrastructure investment annually.

In recent years, China has been one of the most eager investors on the continent, alleviating this infrastructure challenge through concessional and commodity-backed loans. But China’s current economic slowdown and weakened global commodity prices will slow its pace of African investments and curb access to the large pot of Chinese infrastructure financing.

Governments are also struggling to keep up service provision in rapidly expanding cities. Many African governments are already stretched to deliver basic housing, health, education, and public safety to their populations. Vast African slums in cities like Nairobi or Johannesburg, with poor access to clean water, sanitation facilities, electricity, and durable shelter, compound concerns that urban poverty and unemployment can lead to criminality, gang violence, or even radicalization. Education systems will have to keep up with growing populations and industries. Governments, in turn, will have to promote private investment and support new job creation.

A new Atlantic Council study by J. Peter Pham and Aubrey Hruby, Embracing Impact: How Africa Can Overcome the Emerging Market Downturn, outlines how the current emerging market slowdown will constrain African budgets and threaten the steady economic growth many African countries have achieved over the past decade.

Urbanization is a silver lining to these worrying predictions. If managed properly, cities will become Africa’s growth engine and fuel continent-wide investment and development.

  • Source Newsweek.Kelsey Lilley is Associate Director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center and Stephanie Sparrow is an Africa Center intern.
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Africa and the Global Security Architecture
April 23, 2016 | 0 Comments

Africa must ensure that its positions on international security concerns – and not just African issues – are carefully coordinated and well presented as it seeks to have a permanent position in the international security architecture.

By Kofi Annan*

At the outset of these remarks, allow me to thank our Chairman for inviting me to the Tana Forum. This is the first time I am attending this prestigious event, which brings together many distinguished participants who share a deep, mutual interest in the security and well-being of Africa.

Our topic this afternoon is Africa and the Global Security Architecture.

Kofi Annan

Kofi Annan

During the Cold War years that would have not been a subject for much discussion. In those days, we looked for big-power champions who could provide diplomatic and security cover.

The contemporary world is far more complex.

And, as the awful atrocities that have been perpetrated in West, East and North Africa have shown, the continent is not immune to the security threats that many countries around the world now face.

But I want to start with some good news. Africa is actually doing better than many people may realize in terms of the security of its citizenry.

Today, and despite a few egregious exceptions, armed conflict is actually a smaller risk to most Africans than traffic accidents.

This improvement of the security situation helped set the stage for rapid economic growth of 5-6% per year for the last fifteen years.

As a result of this sustained period of growth, extreme poverty has fallen by 40% since 1990.

And Africa’s growth can no longer be explained just by global demand for its commodities.

Two thirds of Africa’s growth over the last decade has come from increased domestic demand for goods and services in thriving sectors such as telecoms, financial services, manufacturing and construction.

As a result, today, inflows of private investment dwarf international aid.

They have been encouraged by the efforts of governments across Africa to improve their macro-economic environments.

Although there is still some way to go, we have seen encouraging steps towards gender parity, and the continent is moving towards universal primary education.

The spread of HIV/AIDS is in decline, and the number of deaths from tuberculosis and malaria is falling.

Democracy is extending its roots as Burkina Faso, Guinea and Nigeria have recently demonstrated.

Other countries like Cote d’Ivoire, have emerged from the abyss of conflict and are making strides towards a better and more democratic future.

In other words, our continent is generally heading in the right direction.

This encouraging analysis will come, I know, as very cold comfort for those millions of people who are still living every day in the shadow of violent conflict and abject poverty.

Progress remains uneven, and the dangers today are both internal and external.

Rebel groups have flourished in the impoverished parts of weak states that feel hard-done by their governments, where the population is often abused by the security forces, or where they do not trust the courts to deliver justice.

External forces are taking advantage of these shortcomings. We cannot ignore that from Mauritania in the west to Somalia in the east, the flag of Jihad is being raised.

More than a dozen sub-Saharan countries are concerned, and tens of thousands have already died as a result.

Boko Haram actually killed more people last year than the Islamic State. Attacks in many places are a daily or weekly occurrence.

And local extremist groups are now linking up to each other across borders, and even to global franchises like Al Qaeda or Islamic State.

Precisely because of these affiliations, these conflicts are generally seen through a unique prism: the global war on Islamist terrorism.

This neglects what they have in common with other insurgencies on the continent, which have nothing to do with Islam.

It is no secret that unemployed young men are especially vulnerable to the temptations of violence and easily instrumentalised for that purpose.

This is not a specifically Muslim problem: a World Bank survey in 2011 showed that about 40% of those who join rebel movements say they are motivated by a lack of jobs.

In Africa, as elsewhere, the answer does not lie in a purely military response that fails to deal with the root causes of disaffection and violence.

As I constantly repeat, you cannot have peace and security without inclusive development, the rule of law and the respect for human rights. These are the three pillars of all successful societies.

It is largely because these three pillars are quite fragile in parts of Africa that we are still seeing instability and violence.

The truth is that the economic growth in Africa over the last fifteen years, though impressive, has been neither sufficient nor inclusive.

In fact, Africa has become the world’s second most unequal continent, according to the African Development Bank.

Too much of that growth has enriched a narrow elite and not enough was spent on infrastructure, health or education, which would have fostered development.

It is no coincidence that Boko Haram originated in one of the world’s poorest and most deprived areas of the continent.

Not only does wealth not trickle down, but it is barely taxed, depriving the state of resources to provide public services.

It is not just that Africa is unequal: it is also unfair. An African Union report has estimated that up to one quarter of the continent’s GDP is syphoned off every year through corruption.

The trafficking of drugs creates an especially difficult challenge. Drug money is insidious and invasive. It corrodes political institutions.

We must focus on the money trail.  We have been locking up the minor offenders while the big fish swim free.

The fight against violent rebel movements is necessary, and will require enhanced inter-African as well as international cooperation.

But this is not enough because the challenge of security in Africa is often a political challenge revolving around the acquisition and use of power.

As a result, elections are a source of tension and repression rather than an opportunity for the free expression of political will.

Leaders who hang on to power indefinitely by gaming elections and suppressing criticism and opposition are sowing the seeds of violence and instability.

African leaders, like leaders everywhere, must remember that they are at the service of their citizens, and not the other way around.

They have a mandate given to them, in trust, by their people, who can also take it away from them if they are found wanting and to have outstayed their welcome.

So looking forward, I see five critical challenges for Africa as it fashions its role in the global security order.

First, at the global level, Africa must have a strong and consistent voice at the pinnacle of the international security architecture – in the Security Council.

Ideally, this means African permanent seats. But until that can be accomplished, Africa must ensure that its positions on international security concerns – and not just African issues – are carefully coordinated and well presented.

Second, at the regional level, we should recognize and applaud the work of the AU and the sub-regional organisations, which have acquired considerable and commendable experience in mounting peace operations.

This effort must continue. But African states will have to give the AU the means to do so and, in future, rely less on outside funding.

Third, looking to the national level, the most urgent challenge is to create enough jobs for the continent’s youth.

According to the World Bank, eleven million young people are expected to enter Africa’s labour market every year for the next decade.

If these young people cannot find jobs, and do not believe in the future, they may be tempted by rebel movements of all kinds, as well as crime and migration.

Wherever I am in Africa, I am always struck not just by the number of young people, but also by their energy, their creativity and their talent.

We should invest in them, harness their talent and ensure that the next generation of leaders will do better than we have done.

Another major challenge lies in building confidence in the integrity of the electoral process.

Elections should be the vehicle for popular choice in which the winner does not take all and the losers do not lose all.

Those who win must recognize that they do not have a licence to rule without restraint or remain in office in perpetuity.

Let us not confuse legality with legitimacy. Elections that meet legal form but fail the test of integrity are only pyrrhic victories that usually store up trouble for the future.

Finally, I want to mention the quality of national security forces. Madiba once said that “freedom would be meaningless without security in the home and in the streets”.

That security in the home and in the streets depends in good measure on our security forces.

We must invest in them but also make them fully accountable as part of our democratic societies. They must be trained to protect the individual and his or her family and property, to earn their trust and work with the people.

We have come a long way from the Cold War days.

Africa is now part and parcel of the global security architecture.

We can and must step up to that role by investing in our people and by protecting rights and not just regimes.

If we do that, I am convinced that our future will be more peaceful and secure than our recent past and Africa will exert a powerful and constructive influence within the global security architecture.

*Real News. Kofi Annan, President of the Kofi Annan Foundation, former Secretary General of the United Nations and Nobel Prize Laureate, presented this Keynote Address at the Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa which Held from April 16 – 17, 2016, in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia.

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The State of Peace and Security in Africa
April 23, 2016 | 0 Comments
Olusegun Obasanjo

Olusegun Obasanjo

‘Traditional’ causes of conflict, insecurity and violence still persist and have gained greater currency today and when they are unattended and unaddressed, they will invariably lead to group dissatisfaction, breed grievances and incubate injustice.

|  By Olusegun Obasanjo*

  1. When some six years ago, the late Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, invited and convinced me to take on the task of establishing and managing the Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa, little did I realise how African security issues would transform in substantive and radically different ways within half a decade. I shared Meles’ vision and we started to work. In the first year, our topic was diversity and its management as a source of insecurity. In the second year, we moved to organised crime and how to curtail it. In the third year, we dealt with illicit financial flows and its implications on security. Last year, which was the fourth year of the Tana Forum, our topic was Secularism and Politicized Faith in Africa. This year, I am particularly delighted that another timely and appropriate theme has been chosen: on “Africa in the Global Security Agenda.”
  1. Before giving you a panoramic overview of the African security landscape since we met at this same venue one year ago, let me note-with satisfaction-one key addition we have made to the structure of this event: the institutionalisation of the Meles Zenawi Annual Lecture Series. In this series, we examine in as much detail as possible and within the time available, the leadership qualities, styles, deficiencies and legacies of a particular leader. So far, we have x-rayed Meles Zenawi as a leader; we have followed this with Nelson Mandela; then Kwame Nkurumah; and this year, it is Patrice Lumumba. As a young army officer, on UN peacekeeping duties in 1960 in the then Congo Leopoldville, I had the honour of meeting Patrice Lumumba. He was certainly a leader.
  1. The informality that has now become the distinguishing hallmark of the multi-stakeholder Tana Forum is testament to our conviction that mobilising diverse views and perspectives on pertinent security problems, even when the go against conventional wisdom, is crucial in our quest for lasting solutions to the seemingly intractable peace and security challenges we face as a continent. The continent’s challenges are not the issues of a few individuals in Africa but affect all Africans and therefore require all voices to be heard and accommodated. After all, the security challenges experienced by Africans are not contained within the continent only. The same can be said for security challenges from outside which Africans have also to contend with almost on daily basis. Indeed, a testimony to the fact that our lives as Africans are closely intertwined with those of other parts of the world is evident in how violence in one part of the world has grave consequences for stability and security on the continent, and vice versa.
  1. The transnational nature of conflicts today calls for innovative thinking and collaborative action in their resolution. Any sound and long lasting solutions to the myriad of security challenges the continent faces require in-depth analysis of each conflict system inclusive of and led by local actors. Those who breathe and live the disrupting effects of violent conflicts are in a better position to express where the proverbial shoes pinch.
  1. The complexity of existing conflicts, and newly emerging threats, in Africa means there cannot be a one-size fits all approach to managing and resolving them. We need to vary our approaches to suit the local contexts, and to heed the voices of those caught in the web of prolonged violent conflicts. Since we have two days, with eminently qualified persons leading us through the topic for this year, I will not dwell any further on the theme of this year’s Forum.
  1. Now, let us go to the panorama of peace and security challenges on the continent since the last time we all converged at this same venue. It is clear for me that old-or ‘traditional’ causes of conflict, insecurity and violence still persist and have gained greater currency today. They can be one or more of the following: inadequate attention to the issue of diversity, leading to marginalization, exclusions, lack of popular participation; inequity, inequality, uneven development and oppression; inadequate attention to education and unemployment particularly of youth; gender inequality; and of course religious bigotry. The presence of any of these, or more than one, in sufficient magnitude for any length of time, when unattended and unaddressed, invariably lead to group dissatisfaction, breed grievances and incubate injustice. Together, they allow groups to seek redress through a variety of unwholesome means, including armed insurgencies and terrorism.
  1. Developments in Burundi, the Central African Republic (CAR), Côte d’Ivoire, Darfur, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Libya, South Sudan, Somalia and Tunisia reflect the recurrent volatility that confronts the continent on a daily basis. Such protracted conflicts not only have a debilitating impact on the continent’s pathways to development, but also place huge strain on the peace-making, peacekeeping and peace-building efforts of African States and inter-governmental institutions. Even if, as some have claimed that the number of conflicts in Africa has decreased in nominal terms since 2014, we are daily reminded about the fragility and susceptibility of the continent to a variety of ominous and vicious conflicts.
  1. In reflecting on the state of peace and security in Africa in 2015, and its far-reaching repercussions for Africa, and the world, let me quickly underscore the troubling resurgence of Africa’s long-forgotten conflicts. Notably, one of the worst plagued in this regard is the Great Lakes region. We see this recurrence, time and again, in DRC where the situation has remained volatile; marked by the atrocious activities of various armed groups. That conflict, especially in the Eastern DRC, epitomizes the hybrid nature of conflicts in Africa where armed groups are locked in battles that have turned the region into a gangster’s paradise, with serious regional dimensions and ramifications. The international community, led by African governments and institutions, must bear this in mind in fashioning such a viable and sustainable solution to one of the continent’s most intractable conflict.
  1. The potentials of DRC are enormous and so are the internal contestations and contradictions. If care is not taken, the forthcoming election in the DRC is likely going to further fuel the existing conflict. How the election is conducted, for good or bad, will also determine the trajectory of peace in the country, but also across the wider Great Lakes region. It will undoubtedly also become the litmus for AU’s pro-active management of potential conflict and the seriousness and ingenuity of the international community.
  1. If one country deserves our eternal vigilance and decisive action to pull from the brinks of an unnecessary and full-scale war, Burundi would no doubt qualify. No one should disbelief how quickly an already tense situation in that country, one of the poorest in the world according to the UN Human Development Index, has deteriorated-especially following the decision by the incumbent President Pierre Nkuruziza to seek re-election despite the evident constitutional backlashes. To date, the government has not only remained headstrong but also seemed determined to defy wise counsel from the international community; including those from the African Union.
  1. Despite the endorsement by the UN Security Council via statement of December 19, 2015 of the decision of the AU to deploy 5,000-strong troops to maintain law and order, and to protect civilians, the government in Bujumbura vehemently opposes its deployment, and even went as far as threatening to treat it as an army of occupation. It is not surprising to me, however, shameful, that during the just-concluded AU Assembly in January 2016, the Union quietly stepped back from its earlier proposal by adopting a position virtually encouraging what is going on in Burundi. The on-going situation in Burundi only makes Africa a laughing stock. Collectively, African leaders must summon the political will to bring a quick and durable solution to the country.
  1. Collectively, African leaders must summon the political will to bring a quick and durable solution to the country. Whatever it takes, a solution must be put in place to move the country towards peace, security and progress; and to stem the tide of flow of refugees that is threatening neighbouring countries. I must express what may be a distasteful personal opinion here: I found it contrary to the Constitutive Act of the AU that Burundi should threaten the AU; and by such threat, abdicate its responsibility. Before it is too late, the AU must therefore live up to its responsibility in such a situation to save the lives of Africans.
  1. However, we must not feel shy of demanding and insistently so, for restitution from the US and Europe for unlocking the virus through the action of NATO in Libya. President Obama’s conscience may be clear by admitting recently that he and his NATO allies created a mess in Libya, but that does not pay for the hardship suffered by our people. They should not look away while we grapple with the consequences of their action. Such strength of AU and regional economic communities to make demands for harm done and to stand firm on our responsibilities must obviate a situation where, like in Mali and Central African Republic, African forces were not able to intervene before troops from outside came in. How do we talk of African solutions for African problems when in the face of problems we are impotent to act promptly and decisively? That was not the situation in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Togo and Darfur. Africa can, if there is political will and leadership.
  1. Another major flashpoint is Darfur. That conflict alone, long only slightly on our radar, continues to generate unprecedented humanitarian crisis leading to the outflow of tens of thousands of civilians from their homes. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the humanitarian situation in Darfur continues to deteriorate with the displacement of more than 2.5 million civilians on the last count.
  1. In the south of the continent, Mozambique is now grappling with a residue of conflict between two diehard archenemies: the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) and the Resistance Movement of Mozambique (RENAMO). With its roots in an earlier civil war which started in 1977, just two years following a devastating spell of independence war, the present conflict flared up in 2013 due to factors not far from festering power contestations, perennial concerns about governance conditions, and of course, the recent discovery of natural resources such as coal and gas.
  1. Whereas many parts of Africa may not necessarily be experiencing overt forms of direct violence, they are nonetheless faced with unprecedented situations of fragility and vulnerability to conflicts. Zimbabwe offers a good example in this regard; but it should not by any means be considered a poster case. More than two years to the next general elections in 2018, tension is already brewing around leadership contestations and factional politics within the ruling and opposition parties, and between them. The dust has not fully settled on the Ugandan post-election situation, and we must not miss the ominous prospects in Zambia.
  1. Of the ten countries that the International Crisis Group identified as conflicts to watch in 2016, four are in Africa: Libya, Lake Chad Basin with the epicentre in Nigeria, South Sudan and Burundi. Other areas that are low-levelled but are nonetheless smouldering are Mali and Somalia, even as pockets of insurgencies linger in Algeria, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda and Central African Republic. The conflict between Western Sahara and Morocco continues to linger many decades since it first broke out, while ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood are far from being spent forces in Egypt. In recent times, Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso, like Tunisia, have been hit by a new wave of terrorism which goes for the soft underbelly of seemingly conflict-free countries; killing innocent men and women in international hotels and popular resorts.
  1. No country in Africa can claim immunity against this new wave, and none of them can claim to be adequately prepared for it. We are all potential victims that we are left with no choice but to share intelligence, plan together and work together. Because terrorists have become creative with the use of modern infrastructures of border communication, transportation and financial transaction, African governments must make these facilities useful and indispensable servants in the fight against new generation terrorists whose objective is to destroy, instil fear, and kill while rendering government impotent to provide adequate security for their citizens.
  1. In all these cases, it is important to flag how decades of missed developmental opportunities have partly played a part in the exclusion and alienation of youth who now form the bulk of those that have found alternative spaces for rebellion and other forms of insurgent and terrorist activities.
  1. Let me now come to the dangerous and dehumanizing issue of migration from Africa to Europe, which has made the Mediterranean the maritime graveyard for many of our able-bodied brothers and sisters. There are two basic causes; first, physical insecurity due to violence; and second, economic insecurity due to unemployment and poverty. The answer, or antidote, to both is here in Africa, in our different countries, if only we can muster the necessary political will and commitment to act. The only way, in my view, to stem the tide is to embark on policies, programmes and strategies that create jobs and eliminate conditions that impoverishes, dehumanizes and snatches the dignity and self-pride of our people from them. For every African that dies crossing the Mediterranean either trying to escape violence or economic insecurity, our collective conscience as African leaders must be troubled.
  1. Today, Africans are grappling with the challenges associated with climate change; which, by the way, is no longer esoteric and ‘distant’, but have also become such a difficult burden we have to bear. Climate change not only undermines economic growth and development, but also poses significant threat to the continent’s food security even as it is fuelling other environmental vulnerabilities and conflicts. While climate change is affecting every part of the globe, I would hasten to add that the African continent would likely be more vulnerable to its adverse impacts being already the warmest continent.
  1. The threat from climate change is compounded by our limited access to requisite adaptation knowledge, technologies and institutions. The African Group of Negotiators tried their best to make Africa’s voice heard during the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris; making the strong point that Africa only produces 7% of the world’s CO-2 emissions but faces the most threats from global pollution. The adoption of a Common African Position at that meeting, in my view, was an exemplary step to position Africa on the global climate agenda; and, by extension, on the international security agenda.
  1. Let’s not ignore the myriad other non-conventional threats to security in Africa, but zero in on the one directly linked to the deterioration, or outright collapse, of public health systems in many countries across the continent. Not too long ago, in fact from early 2014 to the end of 2015, Africa grappled with the unprecedented outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease, with countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea being the most severely affected. Although the frightening phase seems to be over, but it is too early to celebrate that we have put it, or other diseases, behind us. There is no doubt that the impact of this epidemic was monumental on the continent’s fledgling governance and socio-economic landscape. We must learn the right lessons for the future and make adequate preparation. No country is immune.
  1. The prerequisite to tackle all of the pressing security issues spilling over from 2015 to 2016, and to strengthening Africa’s standing in the international security agenda is leadership. Here, I should emphasize leadership on all levels -local, municipal, national, regional, continental and global. Where and when leadership is asserted, commitment should follow. Commitment means putting our money where our problems are, not expecting others to take the lead on our behalf. Africa needs to start taking responsibility, in concrete terms, by funding its own peace initiatives and developmental priorities.
  1. To start with, AU member-States must pay their contributions to the general budget, and also those for critical political missions and peace operations. An organization that is still mostly funded by external donors, including for the most basic routine of travels, will only have limited elbowroom, or policy autonomy, when the interests of its key benefactors are at stake.
  1. I would like to return to my earlier point, by way of conclusion, that the security threats that Africa faces affect the rest of the world; just as those faced by the rest of the world have profound implication for Africa. This means, in my view, that we have no choice than to work together. We therefore need to explore the far-reaching benefits and opportunities of our mutual interdependence to create the kind of partnerships that are crucial to overcoming common security challenges.
  1. While we are grateful to our technical and financial partners, my take is that Africa has sufficiently come of age to choose its partners wisely if it must secure the common goal of peace and security for itself, and the rest of the world. As a continent, we need to take a serious look our security priorities and infrastructure, and ask a number of overdue questions: what can Africans do themselves to deal with these issues; where does Africa need to partner with international actors; and what should be the continent’s role in formulating security policies globally? Let us try to answer these questions, and more during this year’s Forum.
  • Source Real Magazine.Olusegun Obasanjo, former president of Nigeria and chairman of the Tana High Level Forum on Security in Africa delivered this paper entitled: “The State of Peace and Security in Africa 2016″ at the Tana Forum which took place in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, on Saturday, April 16, 2016
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The Spirit of Tana
April 23, 2016 | 0 Comments

The spirit of Tana forum encourages open debate on security issues in Africa uninhibited by secrecy that characterises formal engagements on such matters

By Prof. Andreas Eshete*

Andreas-Eshete-450x450At this, the fifth Tana forum, it may well be premature for a full-fledged retrospective. Still, a glance at the past may help to remind us what inspires and animates our annual gathering at Tana.

Tana Forum began as an initiative of the Institute of Peace and Security Studies of Addis Ababa University, Inspired by the exemplary work of the Munich Security Conference. The late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, the first champion of Tana Forum, was convinced that the Forum would serve to promote two companion aims, aims that he artfully and passionately pursued throughout the course of his public life. First, to enrich reasoned public discussion on the challenges of peace and security facing Africans in ways that extend the reach and depth of the terms of public debate; and; second, to foster a shared understanding of the nature and source of these challenges in order to forge a collective African vision, voice and capability on how best to avoid and overcome African’s troubles in this area. The idea was not, of course, to supplement the valuable work of formal institutions. To the contrary, Meles Zenawi worked tirelessly to strengthen African regional and continental institutions such as IGAD, NEPAD and the African Union as well as to elevate their international standing. The aim instead was to complement the efforts of Africa’s formal institutions by exploring the distinctive possibilities and virtues of alternative public fora for reflection and conversation.

Tana Forum offers a public space for reasoned deliberation unfettered by either the mandate and formalities of official fora or the exigencies in such bodies for reaching decisions and taking actions. The determination to convene an unceremonious assembly was evident from the beginning. I recall our distinguished chair, Chief Obasanjo’s, in a characteristic expression of his wise stewardship, casting aside part of his robe during an early forum to highlight the call for an unbuttoned exchange of ideas. The Forum chose to solicit the hospitality of the city and people of Bahir Dar in order to secure a peaceful and beautiful haven, where the participants can wholeheartedly join public discussions undistracted by official engagements. There are various reasons in favor of an informal African forum on peace and security. For one thing, national discussions on immediate matters of security tend to be inhibited by secrecy and other considerations of state. Second, national and other formal fora are not readily responsive to the fact that many challenges to African security increasingly defy national borders, and that this reach extends beyond the continent. Consider, for instances, the deft deployment of social media for propaganda and recruitment by militant groups. Further, personal and public virtues like toleration, crucial for the fate of peace and security, cannot be engendered or bolstered by formal institutions alone. Finally, the strains and divisions that surfaced in the European Union in the wake of the recent flow of refugees to Europe is a salutary reminder of the risks incurred and frailties exposed by banking on formal arrangements.

Another feature that breathes life into the proceedings of the Forum is the unusually wide range of interlocutors. There are in our midst political leaders, senior officers of intergovernmental institutions and prominent members of civic and business communities. Also present are scholars, seasoned practitioners, youth, and Africa’s committed partners. The robust representation of leaders and citizens from a wide spectrum of African society matters because the cause of peace and security is everyone’s concern and its imperilment is felt more by the many poor and vulnerable. On the latter, think of the truly tragic use of abducted young girls as sexual slaves and suicide bombers by Boko Harem. Tana affords a rare opportunity for us to hear African leaders of state and government speaking in a personal capacity and voice. The presence of former heads of state and government, now released from the responsibilities of public office, enables us to benefit from their practical wisdom and experience. The interaction between incumbent political leaders and individuals with whom they do not normally enjoy direct contact may reveal aspects of the character, values and convictions of Africa’s leaders that go beyond or against the grain of their public self –image? Moreover, the diversity of participants and perspectives contributes to the democratic ethos of the deliberation at Tana. Amartya Sen remarks: “democracy has to be judged…by the extent to which different voices from diverse sections of the people are actually heard.” In this respect Tana Forum modestly carries on a venerable tradition of democratic participation practiced at different times and places much as the early American town-hall meeting, the Paris Commune, and the African village assembly, here symbolized by the tree depicted before you.

The subjects so far selected for attention at the Forum address issues central to the achievement of peace and security in Africa. The significance of diversity and state fragility — the theme of the maiden session — has been vindicated by developments in the aftermath of the Arab Spring and by the spread of militant movements marching under the banner of faith — the latter was the focus of last year’s forum. Another session looked into the illicit flow of funds from Africa. The Panama Papers and the numerous African cases already revealed in the files vividly show that the rich and powerful secretly divert scarce African resources at the expense of the populace’s abiding interest in growth and equality, this year’s them unities us to take a measure of how we are treated in the global security agenda and to explore promising possibilities to enhance Africa’s agency in shaping it in the future.

Beyond the examination of these subjects, the Forum now hosts the annual Meles Zenawi memorial lecture devoted to critical appraisals of political leadership in Africa.

The series opened with a look at Meles Zenawi’s bold experiment with federative arrangements designed to find public room for Ethiopia’s many cultural communities and identities. The inaugural session also addressed Meles Zenawi’s learned advocacy and decisive public action to lay the foundation of an African democratic developmental state. Subsequent lectures attended to the illustrious lives of Nelson Mandela, Kwame Nkrumah and, now, Patrice Lumumba.

Alongside the forum, there are now regular occasions for interaction among participants at the forum and the students and academic staff of Bahir Dar University on issues that bear on the concerns of the Forum.

Yesterday, Her Excellency, Ms. Louise Mushikiwabo, Minister of Foreign Affairs and cooperation of the Republic of Rwanda, spoke on the rationale for an African developmental state, drawing upon the encouraging experience of Rwanda.

In sum, in a short span of time, the Forum has emerged as a vibrant vehicle for public discussion and reflection on how Africa can be free from recurrent and recalcitrant strife, strike which plainly stands in the way of popular yearning for enduring progress in self-government and emancipation from poverty across Africa. This is an auspicious beginning for joining the quest to revisit and to revive a sense a sense of Pan-African solidarity that we, together would the continued support with his Excellency Prime Minister Hailemariam Deslagen and our partners, can now carry forward with confidence.

. Culled from Real Magazine.Prof . Andreas Eshete, special advisor to the prime minister of Ethiopia and deputy chairperson of the Tana Forum Board presented this speech at the Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa which held on April 16 – 17, 2016 in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

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African leaders’ relatives named in Panama Papers
April 4, 2016 | 0 Comments
The eldest son of former president of Ghana John Kufuor is said in leaked documents to have controlled a $75,000 bank account in Panama for his father and his mother that he ran through an offshore company (AFP Photo/Mujahid Safodien)

The eldest son of former president of Ghana John Kufuor is said in leaked documents to have controlled a $75,000 bank account in Panama for his father and his mother that he ran through an offshore company (AFP Photo/Mujahid Safodien)

Paris (AFP) – A nephew of South African President Jacob Zuma and the son of Ghana’s former president John Agyekum Kufuor were among African figures named in the Panama Papers trove of leaked tax documents.

Zuma’s nephew, Clive Khulubuse Zuma, is a cigar-chomping mining magnate who is thought to own up to 19 collectible cars.

The documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca show that Khulubuse Zuma was authorised to represent Caprikat Limited, one of two offshore companies that controversially acquired oil fields in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In 2010, as questions were raised about the acquisition, British Virgin Islands authorities ordered Mossack Fonseca to provide additional background information on Zuma. Later that year, Mossack Fonseca ended its relationship with the companies.

Zuma and representatives of the companies have rejected allegations of wrongdoing and claimed the oil deals are “quite attractive” to the DRC government.

Also implicated is John Addo Kufuor, the eldest son of Ghana’s former president John Agyekum Kufuor, who led the country from 2001 to 2009.

A trained accountant, the younger Kufuor is said in the documents to have controlled a $75,000 bank account in Panama for his father and his mother that he ran through an offshore company. He did not respond to the ICIJ’s requests for comment.

The son of Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso also appears in the Mossack Fonseca files, in the 1990s.

Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso is said to have approached Mossack Fonseca about setting up a company based in the British Virgin Islands, called Phoenix Best Finance, according to the French daily Le Monde, which is one of the media partners for the release of the documents.

Sassou Nguesso told Le Monde he did not know the law firm and had no knowledge of Phoenix Best Finance.

The documents were first obtained by German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung a year ago, led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and involving more than 100 publications from nearly 80 countries.

*Source AFP/Yahoo

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Danny Glover to Chair. Pan African Institute
March 31, 2016 | 1 Comments
Danny Glover Actor, Director, Producer, Political Activist

Danny Glover
Actor, Director, Producer, Political Activist

The Institute of the Black World 21st Century has tapped Danny Glover, Actor, Humanitarian, Activist and Chairman of the Trans-Africa Forum to be the Honorary Chairman of the Pan African Institute at State of the Black World Conference IV. The Pan African Institute will focus on the struggle for democracy and development in Africa, the Caribbean, Central and South America within the context of the U.N. Decade for People of African descent and the global movement for Reparatory Justice.

A major Town Hall Meeting will be devoted to exploring developments in U.S. and global Reparations Movements. Former Heads of State, activists, organizers, scholars, artists and opinion leaders from around the Pan African World are expected to participate in what promises to be a historic and impactful gathering!

*Source SOBWC

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RANDGOLD UNIQUELY POSITIONED TO SUSTAIN VALUE DELIVERY, SAYS CEO
March 31, 2016 | 0 Comments

London, 31 March 2016  –  Randgold Resources’ operations are strongly placed to generate robust cash flows even at gold prices below current levels and to continue delivering value to all stakeholders, says chief executive Mark Bristow in the company’s 2015 annual report published today.

Dr. Mark Bristow, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Randgold Resources

Dr. Mark Bristow, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Randgold Resources

What the gold mining industry needs, says Bristow, is to make new discoveries, as even a significant rise in the gold price and an injection of fresh capital will at best enable it to clear its debt, but will provide little scope for adding any value or reversing the production decline.  Through its consistent investment in exploration and development Randgold, in contrast, was projecting sustained growth from a solid foundation.

“Our mines have been modelled to generate cash flows at gold prices well below the $1 000/oz level.  Our positive production and cost profiles extend to a 10-year horizon, we have had no impairments or write-downs, and have substantial cash resources.  Our exploration teams are not only replacing the ounces we deplete but are making significant progress in the hunt for our next big discovery.  In fact, we are in a unique position to continue delivering value to all our stakeholders,” he says.

Randgold set a new annual production record of more than 1.2 million ounces in 2015, up 6% on the previous year, while reducing group total cash cost per ounce by 3% to $679.  Strong cash flows from the operations boosted cash on hand by 158% to $213.4 million but profit for the year was $212.8 million against the previous year’s $271.1 million, reflecting the decline in the gold price.  The board nevertheless recommended a 10% increase in the annual dividend.

Also in the annual report, chairman Christopher Coleman reports that even in the current challenging market, Randgold is not reducing its investment in corporate and social programmes, in line with its philosophy that sustainability is central to all its activities.

“Randgold’s social initiatives extend far beyond the life of its mines.  At all its operations, it is developing ambitious legacy projects designed to provide a permanent source of employment and economic opportunity to these communities.  Based on agriculture, the primary building block of any developing economy, these range from training and funding would-be commercial farmers to a wide spectrum of agribusiness initiatives, many of which are already supplying local markets.  The company is equally mindful of the health and safety of its employees, and it strives constantly to improve an already exemplary record in this regard,” he says.

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PROGRESSIVE DIVIDEND MAINTAINED AS RANDGOLD BUILDS CASH FOR FUTURE GROWTH
March 31, 2016 | 0 Comments
Banner_-_Loulo_UG_-_March_2016London, 31 March 2016  –  In its annual report for 2015, published today, Randgold Resources reaffirmed its intention to continue to pay a progressive ordinary dividend that will increase or at least be maintained annually.  The board has proposed a 10% increase in the 2015 dividend to $0.66 per share for approval at its annual general meeting on 3 May 2016.

Commenting on this statement, financial director Graham Shuttleworth said that at a time when the gold mining industry was focused on survival, Randgold was able to maintain its dividend policy on the back of last year’s strong performance.  He confirmed that the company still intended to build its net cash position to approximately $500 million to provide financing flexibility for future new mine developments and other growth opportunities.

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Morocco 1st to qualify for African Cup, Nigeria misses out
March 30, 2016 | 0 Comments
The Super Eagles have taken a nose dive since Stephen Keshi was fired as head coach

The Super Eagles have taken a nose dive since Stephen Keshi was fired as head coach

Morocco became the first team to qualify for next year’s African Cup of Nations with a 2-0 win over Cape Verde on Tuesday as new coach Herve Renard delivered immediate success.

Egypt is on the brink of making it to Gabon and its first Cup of Nations since 2010 following a 1-0 home win over Nigeria in front of 40,000 people in Alexandria. That eliminated Nigeria, the 2013 African champion.

Current title holder Ivory Coast remains on course to defend its title at the 2017 finals despite being held 1-1 in Sudan.

Renard, who won African Cups as coach of Zambia in 2012 and Ivory Coast last year, took over Morocco last month. He oversaw away and home wins over Cape Verde in the last four days to ensure the North Africans won Group F with two rounds of games to spare.

Youssef El Arabi scored twice for Morocco on Tuesday to leave Cape Verde, Africa’s top-ranked team, seeking to qualify as one of the two best second-place teams from the 13 groups. The group winners qualify automatically.

Highly-rated teenage midfielder Ramadan Sobhi scored the crucial goal for the record seven-time champion Egypt against Nigeria in the 65th minute at Alexandria’sBorg El-Arab Stadium, where a longstanding ban on fans attending games in large numbers in Egypt was temporarily lifted.

Egypt, whose national soccer team’s fortunes have dipped dramatically with the onset of political turmoil in the country, needs just a draw with Tanzania in its final qualifier in June. Egypt can even qualify if it loses that game by two goals or less.

The 18-year-old Sobhi made another vital contribution with his winner from a low shot that was deflected home through a crowd of players. He set up the equalizer in Egypt’s 1-1 draw in Nigeria at the weekend.

Egypt’s national team won its record-extending seventh title in 2010 but the one-time dominant force in African soccer was absent for the last three continental championships while football at home was marred by violent clashes that reflected the political strife in Egypt.

Nigeria has now failed to make two straight African Cups. Nigeria’s fate wasn’t helped by the withdrawal of Chad from the qualifying competition on Sunday, reducing Group G to three teams and meaning there is no chance of a place for Nigeria as one of the two best second-place teams. They have to come from groups with four teams.

Also on Tuesday, Cameroon took a big step toward qualifying by drawing 0-0 inSouth Africa and, in another big matchup, Togo and Tunisia also drew 0-0 in a game that marked the return to internationals for Togo striker Emmanuel Adebayor. Adebayor couldn’t convert an early chance and the Tunisians celebrated their away draw at the final whistle.

That Togo-Tunisia result left Liberia top of Group A in a major surprise and in line for its first appearance at the African Cup since 2002. Liberia beat Djibouti 5-0, with Spain-based striker William Jebor netting a hat trick. Djibouti, one of the world’s six lowest-ranked teams, was eliminated after conceding 15 goals in four games.

Sudan held current African champion Ivory Coast to a 1-1 draw with Max Gradel and Muhand El Tahir scoring. Ivory Coast is still top and in position for the automatic qualification place from their group with two rounds of games to go in June and September.

While the likes of Ivory Coast, Egypt, Ghana, Cameroon, Mali, Algeria and Senegal all lead their groups, minnows Liberia, Zimbabwe and Guinea Bissau have provided the surprise stories and are also on course to qualify.

*AP/USA Today

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Tony Elumelu Foundation Picks 1,000 for $ 100 million Entrepreneurship Programme
March 25, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L*

A second set of 1,000 Africans has been selected to join the $ 100 million Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme –TEEP.

TEF Founder Tony Elumelu flanked by Foundation CEO Parmindar Vir and Selection Committee member Angelle Kwemo

TEF Founder Tony Elumelu flanked by Foundation CEO Parmindar Vir and Selection Committee member Angelle Kwemo

According to a statement from the Tony Elumelu Foundation, the successful candidates represent diverse industries including agriculture, ICT, and fashion. Over 45,000 applications were registered from 54 countries with the highest numbers coming from Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Uganda and Cameroon.

The release from the Foundation indicates that for the next nine months, the selected entrepreneurs will receive intensive online training, networking and mentoring that provides a tool kit for success and sustainability. Later in the year, the entrepreneurs will join in the three day Elumelu Entrepreneurship Forum which is the largest annual gathering of African entrepreneurial talent.

“The 2016 Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurs will become a generation of newly empowered African business owners, who are the clearest evidence yet, that indigenous business growth will drive Africa’s economic and social transformation,” Founder Tony Elumelu ,commented.

“In TEEP’s first year we spent over $8 million of our $100 million commitment – with $5 million going directly to entrepreneurs as seed capital — and the results have far exceeded our expectations,” said Elumelu .

To TEEP selection committee member Angelle Kwemo, it was a daunting task making the choice from the avalanche of brilliant and viable ideas. “We believe in Africa and the potential of its people,” said Kwemo, a Cameroonian, and Founder & chair of Believe in Africa, a US based organization promoting African economic transformation.

“The TEEP is proving to be one of the most effective tools in support of job creation and it should be adopted and duplicated,” Kwemo said, as she challenged other African businessmen and leaders to join forces or emulate the example of the Tony Elumelu Foundation.

Describing TEEP as “a life changing, challenging but rewarding journey,” Angelle Kwemo was pleased with the surge in French speaking entrepreneurs led in numbers by Cameroon. Wishing the new participants luck, Kwemo said Africa is looking forward to the full blown manifestation of the incredible potentials of the entrepreneurs.

Launched in 2015, TEEP is the largest African philanthropic initiative devoted to entrepreneurship and represents a 10-year, $100 million commitment, to identify and empower 10,000 African entrepreneurs, create a million jobs and add $10 billion in revenues to Africa’s economy.

The Tony Elumelu Foundation is an Africa-based, African-funded philanthropic organization. Founded in 2010, TEF is committed to driving African economic growth, by empowering African entrepreneurship. The Foundation aims to create lasting solutions that contribute positively to Africa’s social and economic transformation. Through impact investments, selective grant making, and policy development, it seeks to influence the operating environment so that entrepreneurship in Africa can flourish

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gina Paige

Gina Paige

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

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

Tambra Raye Stevenson

Tambra Raye Stevenson

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

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

join the event here

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

President & CEO of The Africa-America Institute Amini Kajunju

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ghana is about to make travel in Africa easier for Africans
March 8, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Yomi Kazeem*

On Sunday (March 6), Ghana celebrated its 59th year of independence and John Dramani Mahama, the country’s president, came bearing gifts. During his speech, Mahama announced that the country will begin tooffer visas on arrival to citizens of all 54 African Union (AU) member states starting in July.

qz-ghanaGhana’s new visa policy is big news in Africa where, according to the African Development Bank, only 25% of the countries offer visas on arrival to nationals of other African nations. Put another way, it iseasier for North Americans to travel within the continent than it is for Africans. Only the Seychelles is known to have an open access visa policy applicable to citizens of all AU member states. (Ghana currently offers visa free entry for citizens of 15 countries within the Economic Community of West African States.)

As part of his independence day speech, Mahama also advocated more unity across the continent by urging his countrymen to learn French, the official language of more than half of the countries in Africa. English is the official language of Ghana, but it is bordered by francophone countries like Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, and Togo.

Opening its doors to other African nations could be crucial for Ghana. The travel and tourism industry accounts for 5.9% of its GDP. Mahama did not say whether the new policy would include business visas, but at a time when foreign direct investment on the continent is falling, the country could benefit from opening its doors.

*Source Quartz

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Nigerian killed in Messi-Ronaldo row
March 8, 2016 | 0 Comments

-Lionel Messi v Cristiano Ronaldo row leads to stabbing death

Is Cristiano Ronaldo (left) better than Lionel Messi? The debate has divided many football fans for years

Is Cristiano Ronaldo (left) better than Lionel Messi? The debate has divided many football fans for years

A man was killed after arguing with a friend over whether Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo was the best footballer in the world.

Nigerian national Michael Chukwuma, 21, stabbed 34-year-old compatriot Obina Durumchukwu in a Mumbai suburb, Indian police said.

The incident took place following a party on Saturday night.

“They were discussing football players. One is a fan of Messi and the other was for Ronaldo,” a police inspector said.

“During the conversation a quarrel has taken place. The deceased threw a glass into the face of the accused person. The glass broke and caused small injuries.

“After that the accused took the broken glass and assaulted the deceased person who died due to heavy bleeding.”

Argentina international Messi, 28, is a five-time winner of the Ballon d’Or – the annual award given to the world’s best player by the governing body Fifa.

Portugal captain Ronaldo, 31, has won the accolade three times.

*BBC

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Why Are These Gitmo Detainees in Ghana?
February 26, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Philip Obaji Jnr*

Some 57 countries have accepted Guantanamo detainees, but most Ghanaians wish their country wasn’t one of them.

WARRI, Nigeria — Maybe you’ve heard about the two Guantanamo Bay detainees from Yemen who were shipped out to the West African nation of Ghana. Or, well, maybe you haven’t.

48548064.cachedDespite the debate raging once more about U.S. President Barack Obama’s efforts to closethe infamous facility and the refusal of Congress to let him do so, not much attention is paid to the hundreds who’ve been shipped out over the years, and even less attention is given to what happens in the countries that agree to receive them.

In Ghana, in fact, the arrival of two Guantanamo detainees who originally hail from Yemen has brought on a political crisis that makes Obama’s problems pale by comparison.

Since news broke at the beginning of the year that these two would be coming to one of the region’s most peaceful and least controversial nations, Ghana has been wracked by fears it will be drawn into the terrorist vortex, and the fragile government has been struggling to cope with growing outrage.

Khalid al-Dhuby and Mahmoud Omar Bin Atef—now the most infamous men in Ghana—had been held at the U.S. prison in Cuba since 2002 without being charged. Both are fighters from Yemen who went to Afghanistan to join the ranks of the Taliban. International coalition forces detained them a year after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in retaliation for the Sept. 11 attacks. Both men are suspected of participating in hostilities against U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, but their attorneys have denied the accusations.

Atef was deemed a high-risk threat to the U.S. and its allies in a 2006 Department of Defense detainee assessment, which also noted that he had an extensive record of threatening and attacking his guards.

The Yemeni nationals were the first of some 16 prisoners penciled for release in January, but because of the ongoing war in Yemen, coupled with the fact of a strong al Qaeda presence there, the men were not eligible for release to their home country.

Over the years, 57 countries have agreed to take Guantanamo detainees, usually their own nationals. Thus the Obama administration has whittled the prison population at the U.S. Navy base from 242 when he took office down to 91 today.

Ghana’s parliamentarians, church groups, civil society organizations, civil servants, and students have all criticized the decision to get Ghana involved. If President John Mahama had to run for re-election right now, instead of this November, he wouldn’t have a prayer. Indeed, this government decision may be the most unpopular in Ghana’s history.

“What equipment, instrument, and logistics does Ghana have to monitor the activities of the detainees to prevent trouble?” asked Ken Ohene Agyapong, a member of parliament from Ghana’s central region. “President Mahama has disappointed me. We are better off under corruption than being involved in this world crisis.”

The overarching fear around the country is that the former prisoners will attract or inspire Islamist violence, which already is a major problem in other parts of West Africa.

Mahama is a huge admirer of Obama and has strongly defended the government’s decision to allow the Yemenis to live in the West African state for two years, saying Guantanamo Bay was a “blot on the human rights record of the world.” The embattled Ghanaian leader suggested that a citizen of his country was more likely to die in a road accident than at the hands of the Yemenis, a remark that only served to heighten public anger.

“Ghanaians in the main are not happy and my government did not handle the process well, however well intentioned,” Fritz Baffour, a member of parliament from the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), wrote on his Facebook page. “We heard about the Guantanamo Bay too from an outside source, Fox News, who revealed it before our government told us about it.”

Mahama has many people in Ghana saying he received a large amount of money from the U.S., but a Ghanaian official told The Daily Beast that the country received no money for taking the ex-detainees. It would benefit, however, from information supplied by the U.S. about people looking to enter Ghana who might pose a security threat.

With elections looming in November, Mahama’s decision has cost him a number of allies. Most notably, he has lost the support of the majority of Ghana’s large and influential Christian community and has been frustrated to the point of making Bible references to justify a decision he can’t reverse but which his people want to be taken back.

“So where is our Christian passion or where is our faith-based compassion for people?” he asked during a press conference in Accra last week. “The Bible teaches us to be compassionate even to prisoners—that is, even persons who have been convicted. These people were not convicted.”

“The argument for compassion does not hold,” said Rev. Joseph Osei-Bonsu, president of the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference (GCBC), in reaction to Mahama’s comments. “These people are not refugees. They are people who have been accused of being terrorists.”

Ghana’s very powerful Catholic bishops have been the most vocal of all Ghana’s Christian groups. In a strong statement in January, the GCBC called on “parliament, religious leaders, chiefs, opinion leaders and civil society organizations interested in the security of Ghana to speak against this unilateral decision.”

One priest close to the GCBC told The Daily Beast privately that the body is considering reaching out to Ghana’s more than 3 million Catholics to organize some kind of protest, a decision that, if taken, could further diminish Mahama’s chances of reelection on Nov. 7.

“It may not take the form of a street protest,” the priest said. “But the clergy and the laity will make their voices heard.”

Ghanaian Foreign Minister Hannah Tetteh appeared before Parliament in a closed-door session on Friday to brief the House about the agreements in relation to the acceptance of the two Yemenis. Details were not released because the case is in the courts.

But opposition legislator Mathew Opoku-Prempeh on Saturday accused Tetteh of withholding information about the government’s decision to shelter the two detainees.

Opoku-Prempeh told a local television station that Tetteh was unable to disclose details of the agreement, adding that she did not respond to most of the issues raised about the detainees.

The minority in Parliament last week held a press conference on the same issue accusing Mahama of breaching the constitution of the country and announced their intention to impeach him.

As for the two former detainees themselves, they are no longer detained and say they are looking forward to rebuilding their lives in Ghana. By way of showing their warmth toward their new home, they recalled a quarter-final match at the 2010 World Cup between the West African nation and the U.S. that ended in a victory for the Ghanaians.

“When Ghana beat America, we were very happy,” said Atef, speaking to Uniiq FM, a local radio station. “We made some celebrations. We also told the guards that ‘We’ve won!’”

“We have suffered, but we are not looking for revenge,” Atef said. “We want to live in Ghana quietly and peacefully. And we want to put our lives together.”

*The Daily Beast

 

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Meet the young CEO launching Teach For Ghana
February 20, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Jeff Tyson*

Students in Ghana. Teach For Ghana, part of the Teach For All global network, was officially launched in Accra in January 2016. Photo by: Jennifer Aldridge / U.S. Army Corps of Engineers / CC BY

Students in Ghana. Teach For Ghana, part of the Teach For All global network, was officially launched in Accra in January 2016. Photo by: Jennifer Aldridge / U.S. Army Corps of Engineers / CC BY

As a biomedical engineering graduate student at Cornell University, Daniel Dotse had a vision — he wanted to build an African pharmaceutical company run by African scientists that could rival giant multinationals like Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer.

But the young Ghanaian soon realized there was one big obstacle in the way of achieving his goal: The quality of education in Africa wasn’t high enough to adequately prepare the staff he envisioned.

More than half of children not enrolled in school live in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the United Nations. And on average, there is one reading textbook for about two students and one math textbook for about three students in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a 2015survey carried out by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics and its partners.

So Dotse made a plan. After starting his career working at a pharmaceutical company in New York, he quit his job and moved home to Ghana with the aim of improving his country’s education system. Today, the 29-year-old is poised to bring the model of one of America’s largest — and most controversial — teacher training and education programs to his home country.

Teach For Ghana — part of the Teach For All global network, which includes the multimillion dollar organization Teach For America — officially launched last month in Accra. It is the first Teach For All partner organization on the African continent. As CEO and co-founder, Dotse is working to place the program’s first cohort of teachers in rural communities across Ghana’s Volta Region in September.

Teach For All partner organizations, such as Teach For America, Teach For India and now Teach For Ghana, are bound together by the philosophy that recruiting top talent from diverse backgrounds into the teaching profession for at least two years fosters high quality leadership in education and contributes to ending educational inequity. Proponents of the model stress that it provides an avenue for motivated and high potential candidates to start careers in teaching.

In Ghana, as in many developing countries, education champions like Dotse are particularly worried about quality of teaching. Ghana ranked lowest in student performance on math and science out of 76 countries according to a 2015 ranking from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Teach for Ghana, Dotse hopes, can help bring about systemic change.

As a child growing up in northern Ghana, Dotse was immersed in his country’s underperforming public school system. In elementary school he crammed into a classroom with about 80 other students. They sat together on the floor without any chairs. Dotse remembers his teacher drawing a line of chalk down the middle of a room to separate the first graders from the second graders. The same teacher taught both grades, alternating between sides of the room.

“That’s what I knew education to be,” Dotse told Devex.

It also wasn’t uncommon for Dotse’s teachers not to show up for school. In fact, for 41 deprived districts in Ghana, overall teacher attendance is about 79 percent, according to a 2013 performance report from the Ministry of Education. Long commutes, traffic and “poor commitment and dedication to work” were among the reasons cited for teacher absences.

After his family moved south, Dotse’s parents placed him and his older brother in another public school that struggled to prepare students for success. His older brother, whom Dotse called “one of the smartest individuals that I ever met in my life,” took an entrance exam for a prestigious high school in Accra, and failed it.

That’s when Dotse realized his country’s public school system wasn’t going to help him get very far. He was about 12 years old at the time.

“I literally forced my parents and told my mom, ‘you have to take me out of here’ … and that led me to the private school system,” he explained.

Dotse struggled to catch up to his peers in private school, but “that was the beginning of my educational trajectory,” he said.

From there, Dotse was accepted into the very high school from which his older brother had been rejected, and eventually he went on to earn a scholarship to study in the United States. He studied as an undergraduate at Arcadia University in Pennsylvania, then went on to Cornell, where he began dreaming about pharmaceutical entrepreneurship.

In 2012, when Dotse decided to dedicate himself to educational improvement in Ghana, he and two friends — one a Teach For America alumnus — contacted Teach For All about bringing their model to the West African country.

In January 2014, Dotse quit his job and moved back home to build his organization. But building a nongovernmental organization from scratch and introducing a new model of recruiting and hiring teachers doesn’t come without its challenges.

“Whenever you bring an idea which is quite disruptive, you always get backlash,” Dotse said.

Critics of the Teach For All model suggest teachers recruited into these programs don’t get sufficient training before entering the classroom and since they can be cheaper to hire, take the jobs of potentially more qualified teachers who come from traditional education backgrounds. And beyond fresh faces from nontraditional backgrounds entering the job market, there can be animosity within schools between existing teachers and new recruits, who often require the support of teaching veterans in the classroom.

In Ghana specifically, there is a range of new teacher training programs aimed to bolster the skill sets of existing teachers, which raises the question: Is the solution to hire new teachers or better train existing ones?

For instance, in January, the Varkey Foundation launched a new distance learning teacher training program called Train for Tomorrow, which uses satellite-equipped schools and solar powered computer technology to train teachers across Ghana from a TV studio in Accra. Through the program, the Varkey Foundation aims to train 5,000 teachers over the course of two years.

And the Global Partnership for Education is supporting an Untrained Teachers’ Diploma in Basic Education, which trains underqualified teachers who are already teaching in classrooms in deprived districts of the country.

But by introducing a competitive program that brings top talent from a variety of sectors into the teaching profession, Dotse hopes to add to the quality of teaching in his country, rather than simply allow the government to recruit the mass numbers of teachers needed to fill schools and lower unemployment.

Daniel Dotse, CEO of Teach For Ghana. Photo by: Teach For All

Daniel Dotse, CEO of Teach For Ghana. Photo by: Teach For All

Beyond facing critics of the model, fundraising has been a major hurdle. Dotse said philanthropy is not part of the culture in Ghana and there is a lot of skepticism of NGOs, making it particularly difficult to raise money. His team has yet to raise its budget for 2016.

Despite these challenges, Dotse hopes Teach For Ghana will operate in every region in Ghana by 2020, with about 500 teaching fellows. The team is targeting around 30 fellows for September 2016 in Ghana’s Volta region and hopes to grow at a rate of 60 percent, bringing on 45 more fellows next year and adding two regions year by year.

“If Teach For Ghana is very successful … we would generate different calibers of individuals who will go out there and build the next Pfizers and the Johnson & Johnsons and the Apples right in Africa,” Dotse said. “I strongly have that hope. But for us to achieve that we need to change our educational system.”

And beyond Ghana — across the African continent — Dotse hopes other Teach for All partner organizations will emerge. He hinted that we may soon see a Teach For Nigeria, a Teach For Kenya or a Teach For Uganda, and that there are already entrepreneurs in those countries working to develop those programs.

*DEVEX

 

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

By Tony Elumelu and Aliko Dangote*

Dangote, Elumelu at World Economic Forum Davos

Dangote, Elumelu at World Economic Forum Davos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By *

Photo: Ndimby Andriantsoavina

Photo: Ndimby Andriantsoavina

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beyond term limits

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

Protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza. Photo: AFP

Protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza. Photo: AFP

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

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

What is democracy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*This Is Africa

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Age cheating holding back African teams – CIES report
January 15, 2016 | 0 Comments

Despite fielding the youngest players in A national teams in 2015, Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon continue to remain underachievers due to endemic age cheating, a CIES report has stated.

The Switzerland-based Football Observatory says African teams have remained underachievers due to cheating at youth level

The Switzerland-based Football Observatory says African teams have remained underachievers due to cheating at youth level

In its January 2016 report, the Swiss-based Football Observatory cast doubt on the declared ages of African footballers which it claims is responsible for the untapped potential of African teams in senior football.

Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon are listed as having fielded the youngest players among 50 sampled A national teams in 2015 – 24.7, 25.1 and 25.3 years respectively.

“However, this result must be analysed carefully insofar as footballers born in Africa tend to be older than they claim to be,” stated the report.

With the immense talent on the continent, only three teams – Ghana, Senegal and Cameroon – have ever reached the quarter finals of the World Cup.

However, both Nigeria and Ghana have regularly won world titles at youth levels, with Nigeria winning a record fifth Under-17 world title last October.

“Lying about one’s age is a common practice that implies a competitive advantage in youth categories,” said the report.

“However, in the long term, this strategy is counterproductive as it does not provide optimum conditions for the full development of talent.

“This is one of the reasons for which the real potential of African squads remains untapped.”

Fielding young players has its advantages as the report highlighted the impact of youth in the England national team that qualified seamlessly for the 2016 European Championship.

However, the Netherlands were let down by youth as they failed to qualify for the same tournament despite fielding players with an average age of 25.6 years, the same with England.

“In the first case, the bias towards youth has not been a success as the Dutch failed to qualify for Euro 2016. For the English, on the other hand, the results have been more positive.

“The youthfulness of the players available to Roy Hodgson is the sign of a renaissance which suggests a promising future,” the report said.

The remaining teams in the top 10 are Korea Republic, Algeria, Switzerland, Germany and Belgium.

See our gallery of the 20 youngest senior teams of 2015

*Source Goal/Yahoo

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Africa: Hope As African Leaders Reduce Terms
January 12, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Ciugu Mwagiru*

As some African leaders are going all out to increase their terms in office, it is gratifying that several are calling for reduced ones.

Macky Sall of Senegal

Macky Sall of Senegal

Manoeuvres to prolong presidential terms have included holding referendums aimed at changing constitutions to legalise incumbents’ bids to hold onto power, as happened Congo and Rwanda.

Ironically, Rwanda’s constitutional change that allows President Paul Kagame to stand again next year also shortens the presidential term from seven to five years from 2024.

It also allows Kagame two more terms, extending his rule to 2034.

Gratefully, leaders like Liberia’s President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson have come out strongly calling for laws to cut presidential terms. She wants the term reduced from six to four years, with the presidential terms limited to two.

The call by President Sirleaf did not surprise Liberians.

In 2014, delegates of the country’s national constitution conference voted in favour of the reduction of the presidential term limit from six to four years, while also reducing the terms for senators from nine to six years and those of MPs from six to four.

Ironically, the new presidential terms are the same ones the country had before 1986, when a Constitution Review Committee headed by Dr Amos Sawyer increased it from two four-year terms to two six-year ones.

In the meantime, Senegal President Macky Sall last week honoured a promise he made on his election in 2012 by unilaterally announcing the reduction of his term from seven years to five.

The statement said the reduction would take effect immediately, meaning the next presidential election will be in 2017.

The seven-year term that Senegal inherited at independence from France in 1960 has been controversial.

There were hopes of its reduction in 2000, when incoming president Abdoulaye Wade promised to make it five years.

He, however, did not do so throughout his 12-year-rule, which ended in 2012 after he failed to win a third term.

The announcement by President Sall came just months before an April referendum that was expected to resolve the issue.

A statement from the presidency said the announcement was expected to end the confusion among politicians over holding of the referendum.

Benin's Yayi Boni

Benin’s Yayi Boni

The developments in Liberia and Senegal came months after Benin’s President Thomas Boni Yayi announced in November that he would step down after two terms.

He said his decision came out of respect for his country’s constitution, which barred him from seeking re-election during the country’s polls next month.

The 63-year-old Beninois leader was elected in 2006 and voted in again five years later.

He has been hailed by his French counterpart François Hollande as a paragon of democracy in Africa, and his announcement came at a time when there were mounting concerns about leaders like Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni and the Republic of Congo’s Denis Sassou-Nguesso, all of who have been in power for decades and have shown no signs of stepping down.

Towards the end of last year, President Sassou-Nguesso, who has been in power since 1979 provoked opposition protests when he pushed through a new constitution allowing him seek a controversial third term this year.

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