Africa has not been well served by the Trump administration, and prospects are not good that things will change soon says Johnnie Carson
When it comes to Africa, don’t expect much from the changes taking place at the US State Department. The White House is not interested in Africa.
The Trump Administration has not made Africa a priority and the White House has failed to set out a comprehensive strategy or introduce any new policy initiatives regarding the continent.
The appointment of CIA Director Michael Pompeo to replace former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will not lead to an uptick in interest or engagement.
If anything, this change will reinforce America’s focus on security and counter-terrorism. This emphasis could end up taking US policy further backwards. It could align the US with increasingly corrupt and autocratic governments. It could ensnare Washington in longstanding conflicts that cannot be won by military means alone. And it could undercut US influence and integrity more broadly on the continent.
The abrupt dismissal of Tillerson following his abridged five-nation trip to Africa is not good news. Although his ouster had nothing to do with the continent, he was probably the only cabinet official with any interest or prior experience in Africa. His departure underscores the senior level policy void. Even now, key Africa posts in the State Department remain unfilled, including that of Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.
Pompeo’s nomination to replace Tillerson is probably bad news for those who want to see the US energise its engagement and lay out a comprehensive set of policies and programmes regarding Africa’s economic, social, health and trade challenges. It is probably good news for all those who believe America’s priority in Africa should be to expand security alliances to combat threats in Somalia, the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin.
Mike Pompeo has been named as Rex Tillerson’s successor as US Secretary of State. Credit: Gage Skidmore.
A West Point graduate and hawkish conservative, Pompeo’s limited comments about Africa have focused on Libya and counter terrorism. As a member of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, he was strongly critical of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s handling of the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya and the tragic death of Ambassador Chris Stevens.
On security issues across the continent, Pompeo has said “there’s a big counter-terrorism threat there” and claimed the US can do more. Although he has supported food aid for countries in need, his first priority is likely to be bolstering security collaboration with states participating in the African Union’s military operations in Somalia as well as countries in the Sahel and Lake Chad region fighting Boko Haram and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
If Pompeo pursues this security first agenda, he will continue a short-sighted approach that devalues many of America’s programmes that prioritise economic development, good governance and rule of law. The emphasis on security will give the appearance of militarising the US’ role in Africa. It will diminish America’s influence and create a larger political, economic and development void for other countries to fill. Armed conflict and counter-terrorism are not at the top of the agenda for most of the 49 states in sub-Saharan Africa.
Pompeo’s strong support for Trump’s “America First” approach does not auger well for Africa either. The US president’s global agenda runs counter to many of the bipartisan policies and programmes that have anchored American policy in Africa for the past 25 years.
Although the administration professes to support many of the policies put in place by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, its actions often move in a different direction.
The administration’s proposed 30% cut to USAID’s budget, for example, will have a heavy and disproportionate impact on activities in Africa. Its draconian re-imposition of the Mexico City rule, which bars US funding to groups that provide information on family planning, stops money going to many organisations and programmes that provide anti-retroviral treatments under PEPFAR, President Bush’s widely praised HIV/AIDS prevention programme. Meanwhile, the US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Change Agreement will end its $3 billion contribution to the Green Climate (Change) Fund, a move that will particularly hurt Africa, the continent most vulnerable to climate change.
The administration’s spending decisions have already reduced the size of the Young African Leaders Initiative, spending on democracy and governance efforts, and programmes that support expanded trade and commercial activities. The Trump administration’s actions are already having a negative impact across the continent.
The appointment of an Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs might be able to stabilise the US’ Africa policies, slow down some of the more negative decisions being made, and begin to put into place a more comprehensive and forward-looking framework. However, Pompeo’s Senate confirmation will probably slow down the appointment of a new Africa Secretary as well as the appointment of new ambassadors for critical posts in the likes of South Africa, Tanzania and Somalia.
(L-R) Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, Guinea’s President Alpha Conde, US President Donald Trump, African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina, Vice President of Nigeria Yemi Osinbajo and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn pose following a family photo of G7 leaders with African leaders after an expanded session at the Summit of the Heads of State and of Government of the G7, the group of most industrialized economies, plus the European Union, on May 27, 2017 in Taormina, Sicily. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / JONATHAN ERNST (Photo credit should read JONATHAN ERNST/AFP/Getty Images)
It was widely rumoured that a respected former diplomat, Tibor Nagy, would be nominated shortly for the top Africa position in the State Department. But that nomination will probably not move forward in advance of Pompeo’s confirmation. Those hearings are not scheduled until early-April and the process could drag on for several months.
Africa has not been well served by the Trump administration, and prospects are not good that things will change soon. As Africa policy languishes and important bipartisan programmes wither, the administration will probably at some point dispatch Pompeo to the continent to talk up the American security agenda. Perhaps even presidential adviser and daughter Ivanka Trump will be sent as a token reflection of White House interest, but these visits would only be putting a glossy face on what is pretty gloomy policy.
*Culled From African Arguments.Johnnie Carson was Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs during the first Obama Administration and is a former US Ambassador to Kenya. He is currently a Senior Advisor at the United States Institute of Peace.
Africa is hoping to create a free trade area stretching across the continent
The European Union and its free trade agreement took decades to establish. Africa is now hoping it can achieve the same in a fraction of the time.
But with Nigeria pulling out, questions are being raised over just how achievable it really is.
The vision is a free trade deal encompassing 1.2 billion people stretching from Cape Town to Cairo.
Goods, services and perhaps labour, flowing freely in and out of more than 50 African countries.
It could create tens of thousands of jobs and significantly reduce unemployment among the continent’s youthful population.
It’ll boost trade between African countries and would be instrumental in moving the whole continent away from the narrative of simply being a place where the powerhouse economies of the West and East come to get their raw materials.
Many African governments, naturally, are keen. So, expect lots of fanfare when African leaders gather in the Rwandan capital, Kigali this week to sign the agreement.
The South African department of trade and industry says it’s “committed to a co-ordinated strategy to boost intra-Africa trade and to build an integrated market in Africa that will see a market of over a billion people with a GDP of approximately $2.6 trillion (£1.85tn) “.
And Kenya’s trade ministry says it’ll not only create a massive liberalised market, but will also “enhance competitiveness at the industry and enterprise level, enhance value addition of products and exploit economies of scale and optimum utilization of resource”.
But the deal has already hit its first hurdle, before it’s even been signed.
Nigeria announced at the weekend that President Muhammadu Buhari will not attend the ceremony in Kigali. In a statement, the Nigerian government said that “certain key stakeholders in Nigeria indicated that they had not been consulted, for which reasons they had some concerns on the provisions of the treaty”.
Those key stakeholders are both Nigeria’s business community and its trade unions. The trade unions are thought to be particularly concerned about a free trade area, given that it could develop into a much more integrated body, which would see the free movement of workers across borders, providing a possible threat to Nigerian jobs.
The fact that Africa’s largest economy won’t be at the launch has placed a dampener on proceedings and a question mark over the entire project’s viability.
Even if all parties do eventually agree to sign a free trade treaty, that is simply where the real work begins. After the ink dries and the officials have all gone home, how quickly can such an agreement to put into practice? When will it make a difference on the ground? Until a business can move its goods from any country in the Free Trade Area to any another almost as if borders don’t exist the proclamations on paper will count for very little.
Under a free trade area agreement, all the African signatory countries would have to agree to reduce the trade tariffs and import quotas between each other and boost intra-African trade.
Generally speaking, it’s the first stage of closer economic co-operation with a view to possible integration. The next stage would be a customs union, where each country would have the same tariffs with the outside world and low or no tariffs between each other.
Then comes a common market, where goods, services and labour move tariff and quota-free between the countries and the bloc has a common trade relationship with the rest of the globe. Further integration involves political union and a unifying single currency.
A big ask
All of this took the European Union more than 50 years to establish following the Second World War. Some integration already exists in Africa – the East African Community and the Southern Africa Customs Union are examples.
But for a continent-wide free trade area to really work there has to be significantly more cross-border trade within Africa. This is currently a challenge, as most African countries tend to trade more with the outside world than they do with their fellow African states. Indeed, intra-African trade accounts for about 16% of the total – in Asia that figure is 51% and in Europe it rises to 70%.
Another challenge is the sheer size of Africa – not just geographically, but also in terms of the number of countries that need to sign up and ratify the free trade area agreement. When the European integration process started in the early 1950s, just six countries were involved.
More than 60 years later, the European Union has 28 members. Africa has 54 countries. So, implementation and co-ordination are key. For a start, the parliaments of the all the countries need to ratify it. How long those political wheels take to turn is anybody’s guess.
The African Free Trade Area is a big task and, in a way, a big ask. But if it’s the first tentative steps toward greater economic ties and trade within Africa, the continent’s citizens will feel its benefits.
How quickly that happens depends on the enduring enthusiasm, focus and determination of the leaders who pen the deal.
MAN lauds Buhari’s stand on AfCFTA, says FG should not sign the agreement
ABUJA, Nigeria, March 21, 2018/ — The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) (www.ManufacturersNigeria.org) on Wednesday strongly supported the move by the Federal Government on its refusal to sign the agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The Manufacturers Association frowned at the contents of the agreement, noting that it will lead to gross unemployment in the country as most manufacturing companies in the country will be made to die a quicker death.
The Association President, Dr. Frank Jacobs said his association would not support Federal Government’s adoption and ratification of the agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) until issues of market access and enforcement of rules of origin are addressed.
According to MAN, the agitation from the private sector was a result of lack of consultation and inclusion of inputs of key stakeholders before Nigeria’s position was presented at the meetings of the African Union-Technical Working Group on CFTA in the build-up to AfCFTA negotiation by Nigeria.
The AfCTA is expected to create a trade bloc of 1.2 billion people with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of more than $2 trillion. The agreement commits countries to removing tariffs on 90% of goods and to liberalize services.
MAN President, Dr. Frank Jacobs
Addressing journalists yesterday, Association of Manufacturers President, Dr. Frank Jacobs explained that the issues of market access that allows only 10 percent of products to be protected as well as government’s enforcement mechanism in the area of enforcement of rules of origin need to be clearly defined before local producers can support the agreement.
Noting that MAN is not oblivious of the benefits inherent in installing a continental trade agreement like AfCFTA that could improve intra-African trade and enhance economic growth and sustainable development, Jacobs said that Nigeria’s national interest should however be the primary consideration in the decision to sign-on to such an arrangement.
In his recommendations, Jacobs urged the government to set in motion a process that will enable all stakeholders on the international trade value chain in Nigeria to quickly review the text of the draft AfCFTA agreement and come up with comments on areas that are not in the best interest of the Nigerian economy and sectors.
“Government should, as matter of urgency, convene a special meeting of the relevant stakeholders, including experts on trade policy to consider tariff lines rates along the line of efficiency, sectoral and sub-sectoral preferences that would be most beneficial to Nigerian businesses under the AfCFTA dispensation as well as reconsider the national position on EPA vis-a-vis the AfCFTA especially on tariff lines of products on the sensitive/exclusion list, with a view to ensuring that the EU-EPA is not reintroduced through the AfCFTA’s back door.
“Review presentations and prepare a detailed submission for the Government on ways and means of participating in the AfCFTA in a manner that our national interest and that of the budding manufacturing sector are effectively protected”, he added.
Holders Wydad Casablanca of Morocco have pulled debutants AS Port of Togo in the Confederation of African Football’s Champions League draws.
They are in Group C with 2016 winners Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa and Horoya of Guinea.
Record winners Al Ahly of Egypt are in Group A alongside Esperance of Tunisia.
This group also includes debutants Uganda’s Kampala City Council Authority (KCCA) and Botswana’s Township Rollers.
Congolese giants TP Mazembe are in Group B with former winners Algeria’s Entente Setif.
Mouloudia Alger of Algeria, Difaa El Jadidi of Morocco are also in this same group.
In Group D, Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia will face Angola’s Primeiro de Agosto, Zesco United of Zambia, as well as newcomers Mbabane Swallows of Swaziland.
The group phases will kick off on the weekend of 6-8 May.
Champions League groups:
Group A: Al Ahly (Egypt), Township Rollers (Botswana), KCCA (Uganda), Esperance de Tunis (Tunisia)
GROUP B: TP Mazembe (DR Congo), Mouloudia Alger (Algeria), Difaa El Jadidi (Morocco), Entente Setif (Algeria)
Group C: AS Port of Togo (Togo), Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa), Wydad Casablanca (Morocco), Horoya (Guinea)
Group D: Zesco United (Zambia), Primeiro de Agosto (Angola), Etoile du Sahel (Tunisia), Mbabane Swallows (Swaziland)
Caf also held draws for the Confederation Cup play-offs.
Zanaco (Zambia) v Raja Casablanca (Morocco), AS Vita Club (DR Congo) v CS la Mancha (Congo), Saint George (Ethiopia) v Cara Brazzaville (Congo), Al Hilal (Sudan) v Akwa Utd (Nigeria), Gor Mahia (Kenya) v SuperSport Utd (South Africa), UD Songo (Mozambique) v Al Hilal Obied (Sudan), Plateau Utd (Nigeria) v USM Alger (Algeria), Wits (South Africa) v Enyimba (Nigeria), Aduana Stars (Ghana) v Fosa Juniors (Madagascar), Young Africans (Tanzania) v Welayta Dicha (Ethiopia), Generation Foot (Senegal) v Renaissance Berkane (Morocco), Mounana (Gabon) v Al Masry (Egypt), ASEC Mimosas (Ivory Coast) v CR Belouizdad (Algeria), Williamsville (Ivory Coast) v Deportivo Niefang (Equatorial Guinea), Mountain of Fire and Miracles (Nigeria) v Djoliba (Mali), Rayon Sports (Rwanda) v Costa do Sol (Mozambique)
President Muhammadu Buhari’s 12th hour decision to snub the African Union Extra-ordinary summit on the endorsement of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), in Kigali, March 20 – 22 is a diplomatic blunder. The excuse that has been offered is not convincing, the management of the entire episode is untidy. Simple courtesies matter in diplomacy, unpredictability, surprise and ambush may be good tactics on the battlefield but they could be costly in the much finer arena of diplomacy. I want to assume that President Buhari was misadvised. Standards have fallen generally in our foreign policy management process, and they have done so much more rapidly in the last three years, for both seen and unseen reasons, but I did not imagine that we could descend this low as to begin to play pranks with some of the major planks of Nigeria’s foreign policy framework. President Buhari should have been in Kigali on March 21 to sign the AfCFTA document and participate in the deliberations.
The African Continental Free Trade Agreement is probably the most historic, epoch-making development since the establishment of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which later became the African Union (AU) in 2002. It is also probably the biggest trade agreement since the establishment of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and a concrete, provable culmination of the goals of African Renaissance and Afro-optimism. It should be noted that Nigeria was part of this process from the very beginning. In 1981, Nigeria was the host of an economic summit organized by the OAU, the very first of such summits. It took place in Lagos under the Shagari government. The outcome was the Lagos Plan of Action on African economic development. In the 90s, at least three African leaders were in the forefront of what became known as the African Renaissance – South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki, Nigeria’s Olusegun Obasanjo and Libya’s Muammar Ghadaffi – using the platform of the OAU/AU, and the co-operation and support of both the African and Western intelligentsia.
African Renaissance is about rebirth and the transformation of Africa. It is also about integration at various levels: security, peace, stability, development and co-operation as captured in the Kampala Document of 1991. There was indeed so much talk at the time about Africa, being the “last frontier” that needed to be developed. This vision of a transformed Africa resulted in the introduction of policy actions and structures including the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), the New Africa Initiative (NAI), the Abuja Treaty (1991) and the idea of an African Economic Community (AEC). Much of this may have been inspired by developments in this direction in the West – the European Union for example, and the Washington Consensus, but it was all within the context of developing Africa’s capacity to compete, integrate, co-operate and advance into the future. The AfCFTA is a product of that process and probably the most important harvest.
African Heads of Government agreed to it in 2012 and started negotiations in 2015. It is a trade liberalization policy to remove barriers that have hitherto hindered intra-African trade. Those barriers made Africa majorly a collection of closed communities, trading with Europe, Asia and the United States, and doing little trading among themselves. Under the AfCFTA, African leaders seek to increase intra-African trade from 14% to 52% by 2022. Its main features include the removal of tariffs on goods (up to 90%), reduction of delays at borders, liberalization of services, job creation and the expansion of opportunities available to the people. At first flush, there is no doubt that the AfCFTA could lead to the eventual realization of the AU Agenda 2063 – “the African we want”- a 12-flagship-projects programme, which includes a Single African Air Transport Market, free movement of people and a common currency.
Nigeria was actively involved in all these negotiations leading to the preparation of an enabling legal framework for continental free trade; such was the level of our commitment that the country in fact lobbied to have the AfCFTA secretariat situated in Abuja. So, at what point did Nigeria transform from being conveners to boycotters of this strategic initiative? It will be recalled that on March 14, the AfCFTA framework was reportedly presented for consideration at the Federal Executive Council and it was endorsed. The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment later addressed the State House Press Corps to announce Nigeria’s enthusiasm and commitment to the AfCFTA. By Friday, the country’s delegation to the AU Extra-ordinary Summit on the AfCFTA was already on its way to Kigali, and this included the President’s advance team. The State House even issued a statement announcing the President’s trip to Kigali. Then all of a sudden, on Sunday, March 18, the country was informed that the President’s trip to Kigali had been cancelled “to allow time for broader consultations” – with stakeholders who had objected to Nigeria signing the AfCFTA document.
There is something untidy here. The Federal Executive Council, or the Executive Council of the Federation as it is known to the Constitution, is the highest decision-making body of the Federal Government. At what point did it meet to reverse the decision it had taken on the AfCFTA on Wednesday, March 14? When did the stakeholders make their positions known to government and what was the manner of communication, to command an express, weekend cancellation of a planned Presidential trip that had already been announced and initiated? And at what point were the objections considered? Was there even any input from the relevant Ministries: Foreign Affairs, Budget and National Planning, and Industry, Trade and Investment?
The identity of the complainants was soon revealed; members of the Organised Private Sector (OPS), particularly the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) who claimed that Nigeria would be overwhelmed by business from outside under AfCFTA; Nigerian airline operators, the same owners of those flying coffins whose doors disengage on impact, whose tyres are so worn-out they sometimes can’t land on the tarmac, yes, they too claim Nigeria should not sign up to any open skies agreement, and then of course the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) whose leaders reportedly dismissed the AfCFTA as “a renewed extremely dangerous and radioactive neoliberal policy initiative.” It is common practice for certain stakeholders to object to ideas and policies. The controversy over WTO agreements and the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is a famous example. In Africa, also, there were objections to NEPAD and the African Peer Review Mechanism by some African leaders. But one point is that the AU is not only for governments, it is also a platform for African business stakeholders, NGOs, and the civil society in general. Nigeria’s OPS, MAN and NLC did not have to wait till the last minute. They have had more than 3 years to engage the Nigerian government. And could it in fact be that the Nigerian Government never bothered to consult these stakeholders?
Nonetheless, their objections do not provide enough reason for a Nigerian boycott of the AU extra-ordinary summit in Kigali. Instead, they provide a justification for Nigeria’s presence. Nigeria’s absence is an assault on the integrity of its fundamental foreign policy objectives. Africa is the centerpiece of Nigeria’s foreign policy process, beginning with our immediate neighbours in the West African sub-region. For this reason, Nigeria has always been in the forefront of major events, conversations and developments in the continent. Our absence at such a landmark event as the Kigali summit is an abdication of leadership and responsibility. Other African countries may for a season, no longer trust Nigeria: to commit to a process so robustly, only to chicken out at the last minute on account of blackmail by recovering socialists, protectionists and anti-trade lobbyists – that is not the way of Nigerian diplomacy or international best practice.
I assume that the boycott is based on the wrong presumption that the AfCFTA takes immediate effect and it is binding immediately it is launched and signed by Heads of Government. Where are the Africa experts at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs (NIIA)? Is anyone still consulting them or they just now go to the office to drink tea? What is signed at the Kigali Summit is the Legal Framework for the Trade agreement. The number of countries that would ratify the agreement to kick it into effect as at the time of this writing has not even been determined: 15, 22, 37 or a figure in-between or more. After signing up to it, each country will further ratify the agreement by way of domestication, and there is room for further negotiations, which could still go on for years, over matters that may be considered “sensitive.” Some of these “sensitive” issues have already been identified including the establishment of dispute resolution mechanisms, the prevention of dumping, intellectual property and copyright issues, rules-based considerations with regard to removal of tariffs, anti-trust considerations and the protection of countries with little or no production capabilities, to mitigate the effect of uneven benefits, and to ensure fairness, justice and protection of human rights.
South Africa, for example, has raised concerns about the proposed free movement of persons, but the South African President has not boycotted the Summit, instead he says he has “his pen on the ready.” He has signed the Kigali declaration. President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda is not attending the Summit but he has sent his Minister of Foreign Affairs to represent him and he issued a statement expressing commitment to the Trade agreement. Uganda has since signed. Tanzania says the Tanzania parliament will debate the agreement, but meanwhile, Tanzania has signed. So far, here is the final tally as at close of business on March 21: AfCFTA – 44 countries, Kigali Declaration – 43 countries; Protocol on Free Movement of People – 27 countries. Nigeria’s absence is definitely an embarrassing boycott. Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs may be in Kigali but he and his team have no mandate to engage in any negotiations, our President, the country’s chief diplomat, having said he needs more time for “broader consultations.” This so-called consultation is precisely what the Kigali summit is all about. Nigeria or any of the other 54 countries does not have any veto power over AU decisions. The rest of Africa can choose to go ahead on this matter without Nigeria and if that happens, we would still not be in a position to stop the globalization and liberalization process or sabotage “Africa’s Common Position”.
The irony that is lost on Abuja is that in fact Nigeria needs the AfCFTA more than any other African country. Nigeria has the largest market and population. The country and its people stand to benefit more especially at the level of services and SMEs. There are more Nigerians than any other group of Africans trading across the continent- in Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Angola, South Africa, Gabon, Cameroon, Sao Tome, Equitorial Guinea – our people are everywhere. Out of about the 300 shops or so in Sao Tome’s main market, about 200 of those shops are owned by Nigerians. The spare parts business in Angola is in the hands of Nigerians. Nigerian technocrats and businessmen dominate the services sector in The Gambia. There are over one million Nigerians doing business in Cote d’Ivoire. There are Nigerian banks and insurance companies across Africa, even as far as Kigali. The Dangote group has factories in 14 African countries.
In all of these places, the Nigerian trader or businessman is not particularly well-liked. He is subjected to high tariffs, his shops are raided, and as is the case in South Africa, Nigerians are attacked for making more money and for attracting local girls. A Continental Free Trade Agreement could put an end to this. It will also make it possible for airlines like Ethiopian airline or Rwandair or Kenyan Airways to operate domestic flights inside Nigeria, and perhaps make it possible for Africans to travel directly within the continent instead of a Nigerian having to travel first to Europe before accessing countries like Sao Tome and Equitorial Guinea which are less than 30 minutes away from the Nigerian coastline. Many Nigerians would rather choose efficiency over the opposite. The gain would be the creation of more jobs and opportunities. The competition that will result will compel Nigerian businesses to raise the level of their game. The AfCFTA will not kill Nigerian businesses as the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria ignorantly claims. A more inclusive Africa is the pathway to a transformed Africa. Nigeria gives aid to many African countries, for which it gets little in return; under an AfCFTA dispensation, Nigeria can give those aid-dependent countries, trade not aid.
Nigeria must be greatly missed at the Kigali AU Summit. From the pictures that I have seen, former President Olusegun Obasanjo is the most prominent Nigerian on ground at that historic event but even he is not in a position to do any damage control; he is there in his own right as a global statesman and as one of the founding fathers of the AfCFTA initiative. Beyond all the country and issues-related arguments above, let me add this: President Muhammadu Buhari has a personal reason to be in Kigali. At the AU summit in Addis Ababa in January, he was honoured by the AU Commission as a champion of the anti-corruption campaign in Africa. It is worth stating that the AU battle cry for 2018 is actually this: “Winning the Fight Against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation”. Africa is discussing an integrity framework for the continent’s transformation in Kigali, and the AU’s honoured and recognized integrity champion is back home in Abuja, having “broader consultations”! Enough said.
The directive by President Muhammadu Buhari to all security agencies to do everything possible to secure the release of the Dapchi schoolgirls, who were abducted 19 Feb. 2018, has yielded fruits, with the confirmed release of 101 of the 110 abducted students in the early hours of Wednesday.
According to the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the 101 are those who have been documented so far, adding that the release of the abducted students is ongoing.
The number of the Dapchi schoolgirls who were released on Wednesday has increased from 76 to 101, with the documentation of more of the freed girls by the insurgent group.
The Minister said the number could still increase, as the documentation of the freed girls is ongoing.
The Minister said the girls were released around 3 a.m. through back-channel efforts and with the help of some friends of the country, and that it was unconditional.
”For the release to work, the government had a clear understanding that violence and confrontation would not be the way out as it could endanger the lives of the girls, hence a non-violent approach was the preferred option.
”Within the period when the girls were being brought back, operational pause was observed in certain areas to ensure free passage and also that lives were not lost,” he said.
However, Sahara Reporters reported that five of the girls are dead as the insurgent group reportedly returned all kidnapped DapchiGirls girls back to Dapchi township in Yobe.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg meets Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in Abuja, Nigeria, on September. Mark Zuckerberg’s African tour
Anyone who has been on the internet since last Friday at one point or the other must have come across news pieces focusing on a firm called Cambridge Analytica or the Cambridge Analytica-Facebook scandal. It’s not always the case that most internet users’ click on news with a special focus on firms or people they aren’t familiar with or in faraway places. However, the trending Cambridge Analytica scandal should be a concern for everyone regardless of location.
Why is the Cambridge Analytica scandal a big deal for everyone including Africans?
Everyone must be gravely concerned about the ongoing Cambridge Analytica scandal because it affects each one of us directly and has influenced or possess the influence to alter our lives significantly. Firstly, the scandal occurred in the form of data mining by private firms on unsuspecting social media users (specifically Facebook but can also apply to other social media platforms). As most of us are social media users, this means it can affect or has already affected us.
Secondly, the scandal is a political machination meant at influencing the political outcome in elections, thus threatening the notion of democracy of free, fair, and credible elections. Something that affects us all.
Understanding the Cambridge Analytica in brief
Cambridge Analytica is a political data analysis firm operating in the US; it’s a subsidiary of Strategic Communications Laboratory, a London based company. Cambridge Analytica is accused of mining social media profiles and using the information to influence the elections.
The journey did not start with Cambridge Analytica, rather a psychology professor at the University of Cambridge called Dr. Aleksandra Kogan started it all, working separately from the Cambridge University of course. Kogan created an app, thisisyourdigitallife whose aim was to identify personalities of social media users and derive their behaviour. Kogan managed to get consent from 270 000 Facebook users for his app.
At some point during that time, Kogan found a loophole in Facebook and he was able to exploit it in the process increasing his app’s user base from 270 000 to 5 million (270 000 users voluntarily downloaded the app but Kogan managed to pilfer over 50 million profiles as the default terms of his agreement with Facebook enabled his app to gather data from the friends of the users who had voluntarily downloaded the app).
It is at this time that Kogan took his app and idea to Michal Kosinski and David Stillwell, two other psychologists who worked at Cambridge University’s Psychometrics Centre and had their own personality app called mypersonality developed in 2007. In 2013, Michael Kosinski and David Stillwell together with fashion forecasting Ph.D. student named Christopher Wylie started Cambridge Analytica after Christopher Wylie had approached Michal and David with a proposition to use mypersonality as a precursor to political behaviour.
Cambridge Analytica quickly took on Kogan’s thisisyourlife app together with its 5 million users. Kogan surrendered the app to Cambridge Analytica afterward, however news quickly reached Facebook that Kogan had exploited a loophole in Facebook’s operations and was able to mine data of 5 million users. Facebook instructed Kogan and Cambridge Analytica to stop mining the data; Cambridge Analytica refused as reported by Rolling Stone.
Cambridge Analytica’s influence in US elections
According to the Dallas News and the Guardian, Ted Cruz was the first US presidential candidate to have used the services of Cambridge Analytica in 2013. He, however, has issued a statement saying that the firm assured him at the time that its voter methods were legit.
Cambridge Analytica was however, more involved in the presidential campaign of Donald Trump as it was the main digital campaign trail. Cambridge Analytica used its Facebook data to combine voter records and other sources and develop targeted and personalised advertising. The firm also mapped out the areas where the candidate (Trump) should visit to garner most votes.
Cause for concern for Africa
The Cambridge Analytica scandal comes in the same year that 20 African countries are going to hold national elections. Though Cambridge Analytica’s influence is limited to the West according to evidence thus far, it’s possible that its activities may well have reached Africa. Even if this is not the case, there is the possibility that another firm that uses identical methods to Cambridge Analytica may well have some operations in Africa.
In order for Africa to protect itself from such firms that prey on unsuspecting social media users, it’s important to know how they go about their operations so that effective counter-strategies can be formulated. The first method as reported that Cambridge Analytica commonly used was to trace one’s Facebook history, almost all the activities one does on Facebook was used to create a pattern of behaviour; ‘likes’ determined someone’s preferences i.e. liberal or conservative. Age, sex, and precise location also including the type of cosmetic or food you enjoy were all used to narrow down one’s preferences. This very same information was also used to create targeted and personalised advertising that swayed voters to the preferred candidate.
It’s probably difficult for the general populace to know if such firms are part of a country’s election especially in the absence of strong investigative journalism. However, that does not mean such firms have power over social media users, you can protect yourself, your vote and also your country by keeping your social media data secure and safe by among other things being more alert on the data you share with external websites and apps.
If you have allowed several websites and apps permission to use your Facebook data in the past, you can follow the steps below to check the apps and sites with permission to your Facebook data so you remove those that feel and look suspicious.
Click the downward pointing arrow in the top right-hand corner.
In the sidebar on the left, select ‘Apps’
Tap the icon with the three horizontal lines
Scroll down and select ‘Settings’
Then ‘Account Settings’
Scroll down and select ‘Apps’
Tap ‘Logged in with Facebook’ to see all of the services accessing your account.
File: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday strongly punted the idea of creating a single homogeneous currency for African countries in a bid to attract infrastructure investment and enable ease of intra-African trade.
Speaking as a panelist on financing intra-Africa trade at the African Continental Free Trade Area business forum in Kigali, Rwanda, Ramaphosa said that it was time that Africa stops relying on foreign currency for its development and trade, adding that this was born of colonial mentality.
“These are the reasons we need partners who must work with us and assist us ensure we de-risk projects in order to attract finance for infrastructure projects. I am particularly interested in the notion of us having a tradeable currency that allows us to trade effectively across territorial borders,” Ramaphosa said.
“We must rid ourselves of this colonial mentality that demands we rely on other people’s currency. Perhaps the day, the hour and the moment could have arrived for us to create a single African currency. Our focus should not be on our individual countries but the continent as a whole to unlock great opportunities and capabilities.”
At least 53 African Heads of States have gathered in Kigali for the 10th Extraordinary Summit of the AU to consider the legal instruments of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) and also launch the agreement officially to establish the treaty.
AfCTA is aimed at deepening African economic integration, promoting agricultural development, food security, industrialisation and structural economic transformation through single-air continental transport market with free movement of persons, capital, goods and services.
Ramaphosa said that the AfCFTA signals a new beginning for Africa and an opportunity to unleash African people’s entrepreneurial nature, adding that the treaty would create a level playing field for African countries to participate in meaningful trade.
“Earlier today, I met with His Excellency President Kagame. We have agreed that we will put the relationship between our two countries on a much better footing. Amongst the issues we discussed, was that we must resolve the challenge of issuing of visa to people of Rwanda wanting to visit South Africa,” Ramaphosa said.
“Our Ministers of International Relations and Cooperation have been tasked to work on this immediately and we thus consider this matter of visas as solved.”
Sponsors announced for the inaugural Africa Investment Rising’s four-city U.S. Roadshow Tour to Spur Trade and Investment in Africa
WASHINGTON, D.C. – March 20, 2018 – The Initiative for Global Development (IGD) announced today its lineup of sponsors and partners for its four-city U.S. Roadshow Tour, taking place from April 18 – May 1, 2018, to spur bold action on increasing U.S. trade and investment in Africa.
African and U.S. CEOs and senior executives from sector-leading companies and investors are invited to participate in the U.S. roadshow’s multi-city series of site visits, panel discussions, and speed networking among investors and business leaders to spur greater U.S. investment in Africa.
Launching the U.S. roadshow in Washington, D.C on April 18 with an evening reception to kick off the U.S. Roadshow Tour on Capitol Hill.
A high-level morning session on April 19 will focus on U.S. financing of businesses operating in Africa. A Private Sector Engagement Forum, to be held on the afternoon of Thursday, April 19, will bring together development actors — USAID officials, African government officials and representatives from the private sector and civil society — for an action-oriented discussion on building successful public-private partnerships to promote sustainable development and economic prosperity on the continent.
The roadshow tour will then travel to New York City to highlight banking, financing, and investment opportunities; Des Moines, IA for agriculture and agro-industry; and Houston, TX for energy and power.
“It has never been a better time for trade and investment in Africa,” said Dr. Mima S. Nedelcoych, President and CEO of the Initiative for Global Development (IGD). “We’re excited about launching the U.S. roadshow tour to showcase the continent’s economic potential. Expanding trade and investment will enable both U.S. and African companies to scale and tap into new markets, leading to mutually beneficial job creation and greater economic prosperity. It’s a win-win.”
Sponsorship opportunities are still available and IGD will announce additional sponsors and media partners on an ongoing basis. For information contact, Lara Bangs, Manager of Corporate Events, at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.aircampaign.org
The Initiative for Global Development (IGD) is a Washington, DC-based network of African and global business leaders who are committed to advancing sustainable development and inclusive growth in Africa through business investment. IGD brings together CEOs and senior executives from leading African and global companies through our Frontier Leader Network to catalyze greater business investment and impact on the African continent.
The Pan African University Institute for Water and Energy Sciences including Climate Change (PAUWES) offers four distinct two-year Master programs
The PAUWES Class of 2017 celebrates at their graduation ceremony on 29 October 2017 at the University of Tlemcen
TLEMCEN, Algeria, March 20, 2018/ — The Pan African University Institute for Water and Energy Sciences including Climate Change (PAUWES) (http://PAUWES.univ-tlemcen.dz) in Algeria contributes to promoting higher education and applied research in the fields of water, energy and climate change – a key contribution to sustainable development in Africa. The admissions process for its Master programs in water and energy (both engineering and policy tracks) starting in September 2018 is now open. All AU citizens (including diaspora) are encouraged to apply, particularly women and candidates from Southern, Central, and Northern Africa.
Building a prosperous and stable Africa calls for a new generation of African leaders capable of and committed to facing the vast challenges of the continent. These challenges include water scarcity, renewable energy, and climate change. The Pan African University (PAU) (https://PAU-AU.net), a key initiative of the African Union Commission, is dedicated to this mission. The Pan African University Institute for Water and Energy Sciences (PAUWES) is hosted by the University of Tlemcen in Algeria. Since its establishment in 2014, over 200 students from 31 countries across Africa have enrolled, and 73 students have been successfully graduated from its programs. “PAUWES is a prototype of the Africa of tomorrow, for which we are laying the foundations,” said Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, during his official visit to PAUWES on 11 March 2018. PAUWES benefits from the support of the Algerian government and the German Development Cooperation.
Today, PAUWES offers four distinct two-year Master programs. Students striving to be future engineers have the choice between the Master of Science (MSc) in Water Engineering and the MSc in Energy Engineering. Students interested in policy-making and governance can choose between the MSc in Water Policy and Energy Policy. The language of instruction is English, and students have the opportunity to study French at the onset of the program. PAUWES students come from all over Africa, which creates a unique possibility to study in a multicultural environment of highly motivated and engaged peers.
Current PAUWES students greet Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, during his official visit to the Institute on 11 March 2018
PAUWES strives to balance theory and practice through international internships, case studies, and field trips. To provide the students with specific technical skills in their field of interest, PAUWES offers electives (e.g. solar, wind, geothermal and biomass energies, water and sanitation, integrated water resource management, policy analysis or leadership). Graduates benefit from career pathways in public administration, policy-making, research, private enterprise, consulting and civil society. Access to the Institute’s international expert network, research partnerships, career-promotion programs and forthcoming entrepreneurship centre further boosts graduates’ profiles.
Under the framework of the African Union’s Agenda 2063, PAUWES places a special emphasis on recruiting and empowering female students. The Institute facilitates women-focused networking events and workshops. To further develop its vision of diversity, PAUWES also encourages applicants with disabilities and candidates from under-represented regions (Southern Africa, Central Africa, Northern Africa) to apply. All PAUWES students receive full scholarships (covering tuition and living expenses) following a competitive admission process.
Interested students are invited to apply until 20 April 2018 under the following link: https://PAU-AU.net/apply
About Pan African University
In 2008, the African Union Commission (AUC) set up the Pan African University (PAU) (https://PAU-AU.net) to strengthen higher education and research in areas that pose particular challenges for Africa. PAU addresses five thematic areas: Basic Sciences, Technology and Innovation; Life and Earth Sciences (including Health and Agriculture), Governance, Humanities and Social Sciences; Water and Energy Sciences including Climate Change (PAUWES); and Space Sciences. The thematic areas are assigned to five flagship institutes hosted by existing universities of excellence across Africa’s five geographic regions. For more information: https://PAU-AU.net
As an integral part of the Pan African University, the Institute for Water and Energy Sciences (including Climate Change) (PAUWES) (http://PAUWES.univ-tlemcen.dz) in Tlemcen, Algeria, contributes to advancing higher education and applied research in the fields of water, energy and climate change – a key contribution to sustainable development in Africa. PAUWES, which is supported by the host country of Algeria and the German government, currently offers four Master programs in the fields of water and energy, covering both engineering and policy. For more information: http://PAUWES.univ-tlemcen.dz
The Government of Ghana has approved an agreement with the United States of America to set up a military base in Ghana and also allow unrestricted access to a host of facilities and wide-ranging tax exemptions to the United States Military.
A document intercepted by panafricanvisions.com on the agreement, said the US military will use Ghana as a base to deploy its soldiers. US Military personnel may also “possess and carry arms in Ghana, while on duty if authorized to do so, by their orders, such authorization being made in consultation with the appropriate authorities of Ghana. Military personnel may wear their uniforms while performing official duties.”
According to the document, “United States Contractors shall not be liable to pay tax or similar charge assess within Ghana in connection with this agreement”. The US military is also authorized to control entry to the facilities meant for the exclusive use of their forces.
“This Agreement sets forth a framework for enhanced partnership and security cooperation between the Parties with the aims of strengthening their defense relationship further and addressing shared security challenges in the region, including those relating to the protection of Government personnel and facilities.
“This Agreement clarifies access to and use of agreed facilities and areas by United States forces, thereby facilitating training, including to maintain unit readiness, combined exercises, and other
military engagement opportunities.
“United States forces may undertake the following types of activities in Ghana: training; transit: support and related activities; refueling of aircraft; landing and recovery of aircraft, accommodation of personnel; communications; staging and deploying of forces and materiel: exercises; humanitarian and disaster relief; and other activities as mutually agreed.
The agreement adds that Military personnel and civilian personnel may enter and exit Ghana with United States Government-furnished identification (for military personnel, an identification card and collective movement or individual travel orders, and for civilian personnel, a passport and official orders.
According to the agreement approved by Cabinet last week, “Ghana hereby provides unimpeded access to and use of agreed facilities and areas to United State forces, United States contractors, and others as mutually agreed. Such agreed facilities and area: or portions thereof, provided by Ghana shall be designated as either for exclusive use by Unite States forces or to be jointly used by United States forces and Ghana. Ghana shall also provide access to and use of a runway that meets the requirements of United States forces.
The agreement adds that the United States forces are hereby authorized to control entry to agreed “facilities and areas that having been provided for exclusive use by United States forces, and to coordinate entry with the authorities of Ghana at agreed facilities and areas provided for joint use by United States force and Ghana, for purposes of safety and security.
Ghana’s Defence Minister Dominic Nitiwul strongly defended the decision by cabinet to give the United States Military unimpeded access to and use of agreed facilities and areas in Ghana.
According to him, reports that cabinet has given approval for the United States military to set up a base in Ghana is untrue and that the agreement is meant to be a “partnership in fighting terrorism to make us prepared, partnership in training our peace keepers, partnership in building the capacity of our soldiers.”
Over the next two years, he said “they (Americans) are going to spend over $20 million “providing training to Ghanaian soldiers in grants.
“So all that they have asked for is that in going with this kind of training and partnering Ghana to secure our own environment, they will be using a lot of things that they will bring in and so they need some facilities at the airport to be able to keep these things and so we have agreed with them that these are the facilities that you can use. That is what we called the agreed facilities,” Mr. Nitiwul said in the wake of a leaked document detailing how the cabinet of the West African country has approved an agreement for the World’s super power to set up a military base in Ghana.
“…We should be grateful to the Americans for spending their hard earned resources to come and upgrade our soldiers,” the minister added, stressing that, “There is nothing like a military base…and [that] the Americans are not setting up a military base [here].”
The son of former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi reportedly wants to run for president of the country in elections later this year.
The candidacy of Saif al-Islam Gadhafi — who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity — was announced by the Libyan Popular Front party on Monday, according to London’s Telegraph newspaper.
Saif al-Islam, 45, is currently in hiding. The political party said they would address the country about his plans.
Whether one subscribes to the Africa Rising narrative (a term perhaps coined by this analysis of Africa’s prospects, published by The Economist in 2011)) or a more moderate outlook for the continent, the fact is that the ICT sector has the most to gain from Africa’s economic advancement, and the most to contribute to it too.
There isn’t a single industry – from mining to manufacturing, education to entrepreneurial endeavours of every flavour, from city construction to individual actualisation – that will not be advanced by reliable, affordable access to the Internet. I don’t think there’s another sector in the world that can make such a momentous promise.
The opportunity for ICT companies of all sizes – from neighbourhood ISPs to cross-national carriers – is significant, particularly for home-grown ICT operations that surely know our continent and its markets better than any imported from overseas. Increasingly, local ICT players are collaborating to offer competitively-priced and technologically-sound solutions that are outperforming those presented by international competitors.
Many of these would only be possible through wholesale product offerings by large network operators like Internet Solutions. This may appear to be a counter-intuitive business model but for those that invested in the infrastructure and licences on which new competitors grow their market share, there is a lot of opportunity to be had in reallocating network capacity.
Below are some of the trends we’re seeing in the wholesale ICT sector, specifically looking to Africa:
Local carriers are also entering partnerships with third-party service providers
The days of operators owning the entirety of their own networks – from first- to last-mile – are over. And that’s fine. As I’ve mentioned, where some licensees have adopted business models based on owning their infrastructure, other operators have opted to partner with existing network players to bring innovative services to the market faster.
What is interesting is that even at a very local level, where one could argue that infrastructure investment is fairly contained, ISPs are recognising the benefit of outsourcing network, data centre and other assets to experienced partners. By concentrating on what they do best, which is likely servicing their customers, even the smallest ISP has the means to build a thriving business.
Red tape and regulation still hampers cross-border operations
Africa is the continent with the most countries – 54 to be exact. It’s comprised of countless tribes, innumerable languages, political instability, infrastructure challenges and more than enough regulation to go around.
The fact is that African policy-making has not been able to keep up with the exponential growth of technology, devices and their applications. As such, regulation is reactive rather than supportive, and appears to handicap development rather than encourage it.
Perhaps the solution is that foreign companies – even African ones – get closer to policy-makers in their new markets to better mitigate the risks of changing policy. Perhaps more involvement, lobbying, and monetary and other investment from the get-go will lead to better mitigation of the risks associated with policy change.
Asian operators have their eyes on Africa too
China and India are two Asian markets that not only survived the global recession but thrived despite it.
Their respective population bases, and size of their economies, provide economies of scale that are driving the growth of their ICT sectors, while the number of science and engineering students in both countries looks to sustain this growth and innovation well into the future – and into foreign territories like Africa.
Perhaps it’s true that many African ISPs lack the financial and experiential muscle of Asian competitors, but how many of these can boast genuine pan-African development agendas, and partnerships with local companies to overcome infrastructure challenges?
As Ayanda Dlamini, Business Development Manager at LGR Telecommunications, said recently: “Africa has both the resources and the resourcefulness to develop a thriving ICT sector delivering solutions fit for purpose in Africa. The outlook is very healthy. All we need to do is take action and seize the opportunity.”
Beware of competing on cost
When it comes to Internet connectivity and access, cheapest is not necessarily best. Consumers want speed. In our experience, the arguments against unreliable connections are about as vociferous as those against high data costs.
The fact is that the speed vs. cost debate comes down to the market one is serving. A less sophisticated market has yet to learn that fast becomes cheap, whereas an experienced market of users with more high-end devices and applications comes to realise that if they can’t get data at the price they’d prefer to pay for it (i.e. free), then speed and bandwidth capacity is something they simply won’t compromise on.
My advice to ISPs entering new African territories – whether into a new country or a new neighbourhood – is to research your market thoroughly to understand who your consumers are and what they need. Then structure and price your offering accordingly.
Doing business in Africa is complicated, but it’s far from impossible. After all, Internet Solutions has been doing so for more than 20 years. We have invested in long distance and last-mile networks – the latter is especially challenging given that customers are geographically dispersed and often in underdeveloped locales.
Importantly, we have built and maintained relationships with trusted, in-country service providers. We understand exactly how consumers use data and can project future usage patterns as populations grow and disposable income increases.
What remains is the increasingly vital component of customer service, which we entrust to our wholesale clients
*Murray Steyn, Executive Head: Wholesale at Internet Solutions
Former Secretary of State Tillerson with President Buhari of Nigeria
KAMPALA, Uganda – Ask some Africans what they think of President Donald Trump and they just shake their heads. That sense of indifference appears to have deepened after Trump fired his secretary of state at the end of Rex Tillerson’s first Africa tour last week.
Tillerson’s visit was widely seen as a Trump peace offering after the uproar over his reported vulgar remarks about African nations and his administration’s neglect of the world’s second most populous continent. The former secretary of state had been seen as a restraining influence on Trump and had clashed with the president over several foreign policy matters.
Now many Africans are tamping down their expectations of Trump even more. The U.S. president has rarely spoken about any priorities for a continent where many of its 50-plus nations have long relied on U.S. support for everything from health care to security.
Tillerson’s trip to Africa, including to the headquarters of the continent-wide African Union, had been widely seen as an effort to repair damage to relations. Now, with his firing, some in Africa feel they are starting anew with the Trump administration.
Tillerson’s departure is a sharp indication of Trump’s less-than-positive attitude toward the continent, some say.
“That, in my opinion, is adding insult to injury,” said Ted Alemayhu, an Ethiopian-born American who is running for Congress to represent California’s 39th District.
While in Africa, Tillerson tried to project a more positive image of the continent, saying its rapid economic growth and fast-growing populations mean its future is increasingly linked to America’s.
He visited some of Africa’s most prominent economies in Nigeria, Kenya and Ethiopia and highlighted U.S. security issues with stops in Chad and Djibouti, the site of the only permanent U.S. military base on the continent.
Tillerson also sought to reassure African nations that aid would continue even as the Trump administration pursues deep cuts in foreign assistance, announcing at the end of his visit $533 million in humanitarian aid for countries such as South Sudan and Nigeria.
Nigeria’s foreign affairs minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, told The Associated Press that “we don’t see any change happening” in relations with the U.S. after Tillerson’s firing.
Unlike Trump, recent U.S. leaders engaged substantially with Africa.
Bill Clinton created a signature trade program known as the African Growth and Opportunity Act, and George W. Bush launched an HIV treatment program, PEPFAR, that has boosted the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of AIDS patients across Africa.
Barack Obama enjoyed goodwill throughout the continent, even though some in Africa felt he fell short of expectations as the son of Kenyan man.
Trump has not indicated any possible initiatives for Africa.
Trump “has no need, as he has discovered,” to engage with the continent, said Timothy Kalyegira, a prominent social critic in Uganda. “The feeling is that he is a free agent. If he wants to visit Africa, it’s fine. If he doesn’t want, it doesn’t matter.”
Trump has not named an assistant secretary of state to oversee the continent, nor an ambassador to key countries like South Africa. And Africa got a mere seven paragraphs on the very last pages of Trump’s National Security Strategy.
That lack of attention has left room for other countries such as China to step up their influence.
With its offers of concessional loans that help finance the ambitious infrastructure projects of some African governments, China’s footprint is widening. And African leaders like Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni have said they would rather do business with a partner who does not lecture them about good governance and respecting human rights, giving China the thumbs-up.
In Djibouti, China’s development of its first overseas military base just a few miles from the U.S. base has illustrated the broader competition between the U.S. and China playing out across the continent.
Even as some argue that the Trump administration’s focus on Africa is notable in counterterror efforts if not in other issues, some Africans say they have given up on the U.S. president.
“Africans have nothing to take Trump seriously,” said Befekadu Hailu, a prominent Ethiopian blogger. “He already proved himself ethno-centrist and exclusivist, no friend to Africa.”
“This is to allow more time for input from Nigerian stakeholders”.
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari arrives for the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia January 28, 2018 [Photo/Tiksa Negeri/Reuters]
Nigeria has officially put off signing the framework agreement for establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) following protests by major labour unions, which warned that the deal would harm the local economy.
The country’s foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement Sunday night that President Muhammadu Buhari has cancelled his trip to the Rwandan capital Kigali, where African heads of state were scheduled to ink the agreement this week.
“President Buhari has cancelled his trip to Kigali, Rwanda, to attend an Extra-Ordinary Summit of the African Union on Tuesday, March 21, to sign the framework agreement for establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area,” according to the statement by Tope Elias-Fatile, the foreign ministry spokesman.
“This is to allow more time for input from Nigerian stakeholders,” it added.
The Nigerian federal cabinet last week approved the signing of the deal, which it said would boost the country’s export, “spur growth and boost job creation as well as eliminate barriers against Nigeria’s products and provide a Dispute Settlement Mechanism for stopping the hostile and discriminatory treatment directed against Nigerian natural and corporate business persons in other African countries.”
ACFTA, a brainchild of the African Union to deepen regional integration, had been in the works since January 2012 – with Nigeria as one of its major promoters. However, local labour unions and big corporations have always been against it.
Last week, Nigeria’s trade and investment minister Okechukwu Enelamah acknowledged the continuous opposition to the deal, but he added that efforts were afoot to get the buy-in of all the stakeholders before the signing.
Thousands of customers of an online investment scheme in Ghana, Savana Brokerage, are counting their losses as the digital platform has been inaccessible for weeks.
It is estimated that funds amounting to over GHC2million was invested across the country by Ghanaians.
Regulatory institutions including the Bank of Ghana and the Securities and Exchange Commission; are yet to comment on the development but Panafricanvisions can confirm that Savana Brokerage has no license to receive and invest funds in the west African country.
Per the address on the website before it went down, Savana Brokerage is a Kenyan Company pointing to a location in Nairobi.
According to the website, the company started operations in Ghana from 2014.
They were operating three packages; Knight Package, Queen Package and Kings Package.
Knight Package was a weekly form of investment – every customer was to invest more than GH 50. You were promised 10% on your money on weekly basis so you get 40% return on your capital at the end of the month.
Queen package; you get 60% on your investment money after a month.
Kings Package promised 100% return on an investment. The investment was to last for three month.
To invest, the victims say, the money is to be paid through an MTN Merchant and the operators of the scheme get access to the funds.
Currently, telecommunications network MTN appears to have blocked all the merchant accounts. But there are huge monies stack in the accounts.
The merchants are not able to go for the funds due to some irregularities and tax issues. The accounts are also under investigation by the telecom company.
When contacted, an official of MTN said the company is not in the position to comment on the issue.
Since the website went down about two months ago, customers have begun galvanizing themselves for a class action.
They have formed regional and intercity Telegram and WhatsApp groups to push their concern.
One of the affected customers said, “the caliber of people who have invested in Savanna belong to the Elite. Some students also used their Student Loans and Fees to invest. I know someone who has invested GHC60,000. He is going mad. This is a very troubling development.”
The customers are hopeful that they might retrieve some of the funds due to the fact that MTN has blocked the merchant accounts which has about GHC2 million.
This development comes on the back of the infamous DKM troubles which robbed thousands of investors in Ghana of their money.
Some customers have lodged complaints with the Criminals Investigations Department of the Ghana Police Service. Telecommunications network MTN has also begun intensive investigations into the matter.
Vice President of the Republic of Ghana, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia
Vice President of the Republic of Ghana, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia has stated that cabinet has approved and forwarded a reconsidered version of the Right to Information (RTI) Bill to parliament for consideration and passage.
It has been 22 years since a Right to Information RTI Bill was drafted under the auspices of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA),a policy think tank.
Proponents of the bill again waited 6 years for the Executive arm of government in 2002 to draft the first RTI Bill. The draft Executive Bill was subsequently reviewed in 2003, 2005 and 2007 but was never laid in Parliament until February 5, 2010.
Pressure group, Right to Information Coalition has taken it upon themselves to mount pressure on the government to get the bill laid before parliament rises on Friday March 23 following fears that the government of Ghana was deliberately delaying the process.
Addressing a gathering at the official launch of the Norfund’s West Africa Office in Ghana, Vice President Dr. Bawumia said the revised bill has been forwarded to parliament. He told the Norway-Ghana Business and Investment Forum that the bill if approved will go a long way to augment the fight against corruption and also boost investor confidence.
“Cabinet has given approval to the Right to Information Bill to be laid in parliament for debate and approval because it is very very critical that we pass the Right to Information Bill and it is our hope that it will add additional feather in our fight against corruption,” he stated in his address.
Dr Bawumia noted, “One major milestone that we have reached in the fight against corruption as a government is transparency in the terms of good governance.”
Touching on Norfund’s decision to set up an office in and to invest in Ghana, Dr. Bawumia drew the attention of Norfund to the fact that government has initiated several projects that they can take advantage of and invest in.
“We believe the right foundations for business development has been laid and we invite as many of you to see Ghana as the best destination for your investments. Government will continue to pursue several other programmes aimed at further improving the business climate for both local and foreign investors,” he noted.
The Norfund office in Accra will be headed by Naana Winful Fynn. Prior to joining Norfund, she was a Director at Sagevest Holdings, an investment holding company based in Accra, Ghana.
Addressing the forum, Miss Winful Fynn, indicated that Norfund is excited to be in Ghana and the institution is looking forward to investing in the country particularly in the three major areas of interest namely clean energy, financial institutions and Food and agribusiness.
Miss Albinism Zimbabwe 2018 winner Sithembiso Mutukura poses for a picture with her crown after a beauty contest featuring people with albinism in Harare, Zimbabwe, on March 16, 2018. (Photo: Aaron Ufumeli, EPA)
Sithembiso Mutukura beat 12 other contestants to claim the crown at Zimbabwe’s first-ever Miss Albinism beauty contest — an achievement she hopes will inspire others living with the rare disorder.
“We must continue to advocate for our rights and I hope my win will empower the girl child,” the 22-year-old social work student said.
“I have gone through a lot, but I want people living with albinism to be brave and persevere in life.”
During the event in Harare on Friday night, the contestants had to respond to questions on stage and model a range of gowns and traditional African robes. Mutukura was awarded $85 in prize money after being named the winner.
Pageant organizer Brenda Mudzimu said a lack of funds had made it difficult to get the initiative off the ground. In the end, the contest only attracted one sponsor, but Mudzimu says she hopes to one day make the event international.
“This will be an annual event which will later be advanced to Miss Albinism Africa and Miss Albinism World because we want to reach all corners of the world,” she said.
In many African countries, people with albinism routinely face discrimination and persecution because of the way they look. The genetic disorder prevents skin cells from producing melanin , resulting in abnormal pigmentation of the skin, hair, and eyes. People with the condition also suffer from vision problems and are susceptible to skin cancer.
“The pageant aims to instill confidence in girls living with albinism in Zimbabwe as well as reduce the stigma,” Mudzimu said.
Tapuwa Muchemwa, a Zimbabwean government representative who was the guest of honor at the pageant, said the country’s leaders “strongly advocate that people with albinism deserve their right to life and security and to be protected as well as the right not to be subjected to torture and ill-treatment.”
The rate of albinism in Africa is much higher than in other parts of the world. Communities in some countries believe albinism can bring magical powers, wealth and good fortune — a superstition that has led to attackers kidnapping and murdering albinos to sell their body parts to witch doctors on the black market.
According to the United Nations, there have been over 600 attacks on people with albinism documented in 28 countries in sub-Saharan Africa over the past decade. Many more cases are thought to go unreported.
Regional Director for West and Central Africa and Senior Adviser to the Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Dr. Djibril Diallo,
The Regional Director for West and Central Africa and Senior Adviser to the Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Dr. Djibril Diallo, has been appointed as the President and Chief Executive Officer of African Renaissance and Diaspora Network, Inc. (ARDN). The appointment takes effect from March 25, 2018.
Dr. Diallo has held several management positions with the United Nations (UN) for more than three decades
ARDN is an internationally operating NGO headquartered in New York, with the status of a United States 501(c)(3) public charity.
ARDN’s mission, according to findings, is to accelerate the attainment of the African renaissance by advocating for and supporting UN programs, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Reacting to the appointment of Dr. Diallo, the UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé, promised to continue to work closely with him to enable him succeed in his new task.
“We look forward to continued close collaboration between UNAIDS and ARDN with Djibril in the lead,” Michel Sidibé said in a message to all UNAIDS staff.
According findings by The AUTHORITY, Dr Diallo in his capacity as the chief executive officer of ARDN, will lead the organization’s “Pathway to Solutions” initiative, which aims to popularize the UN SDGs and to also increase public understanding of the role and functions of the UN.
On his part, Constance B. Newman, a Senior Fellow of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council, disclosed that after over 9 months of extensive consultations, the “A Pathway to Solutions” strategic plan was presented to the UN Deputy-Secretary-General on 19 December 2017, at a coordination meeting held at the UN headquarters.
Newman further noted that: “Dr. Diallo’s expertise in international relations, diplomacy and human development will be critical at a time when the international community is pursuing, in tandem, the SDGs, the implementation of the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024), and the African Union Agenda 2063.
“We are confident that under his leadership, ARDN will be well-poised to contribute to the world we want – one defined by peace, justice, freedom, respect, social progress, equal rights and human dignity, tolerance, solidarity and sustainability – starting with Africa and the African diaspora.”
Speaking on his appointment, Dr. Diallo said that he was deeply humbled by the trust and confidence placed in him.
“I’m deeply humbled by the trust and confidence that has been placed in me. I’m excited to see what I can do in this new capacity to advance the United Nations’ hope and vision of a better world.
“When we talk about Africa and the diaspora, we’re ultimately talking about the entire world. ARDN is built on the fundamental principle that we are stronger together.
“Today, more than ever, it’s important that we remember and reflect on this. This planet earth is the only home we have, and we are one human family,” Dr Diallo further noted.
With over 35 years of experience at the UN, Dr. Diallo’s work for peace, sustainable development and protecting the most vulnerable has been recognized by numerous national and international organizations.
A steadfast supporter of youth, Dr. Diallo initiated the first-ever UN Youth Leadership Summit in 2006, bringing together youth leaders from 192 countries, with a vision toward gender parity in participation. He speaks twelve languages.
Football fans celebrated in the streets in November after Morocco qualified for its first World Cup since 1998
Morocco have promised a “compact” tournament if they are named the host nation for the 2026 World Cup.
The North African nation presented its bid book to Fifa on Friday and is the only rival to a joint bid from Canada, Mexico and the United States.
All the host cities are within a 550km radius (342 miles) of Casablanca and a maximum 75 minutes flight time apart.
A ‘Legacy Modular Stadium’ concept also means that some of the stadia can be downscaled after the tournament.
The 2026 World Cup will be expanded to feature 48 nations, at least 60% of which will be located within three hours of Morocco’s time zone, Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), making the bid more attractive to the European audience and sponsors.
This is Morocco’s fifth attempt to host the World Cup after making bids for the 1994, 1998, 2006 and 2010 finals. The host for the 2026 tournament will be decided in Russia on 13 June.
When Ms Gurib-Fakim failed to do so, this led to fears of a constitutional crisis on the Indian Ocean island nation.
Local L’Express newspaper reported in February that the country’s first female president, a renowned scientist, had used a credit card given to her by the Planet Earth Institute (PEI) in London to buy jewellery and clothes abroad.
According to the paper, she was given the card for serving as the NGO’s unpaid director and it was to be used to pay for the promotion of a doctorate programme named after the president.
Ms Gurib-Fakim’s office said she “had an identical credit card from the same bank [and] inadvertently used the card from the PEI for expenses not linked to her mission”.
It added that $27,000 (£19,335) had been refunded and Ms Gurib-Fakim would defend herself with “legal action”.
In a statement to the BBC, PEI London said that Ms Gurib-Fakim had refunded the money to its Mauritian sister organisation.
The organisation said it had given her a credit card to cover travel expenses while promoting African science, technology and innovation.
Black Panther (left). The cast of ‘Fela Kuti and the Kalakuta Queens’ (right).
Marvel’s BlackPanther is a rare blockbuster to have achieved both box office domination and genuine cultural significance. One of the reasons for this is the film’s unlikely but welcomed focus on feminism. Set in the fictional Afrofuturistic nation of Wakanda, BlackPanther boasts a dazzling array of fabulous female characters fully in possession of their power and unapologetic about wielding it.
In Lagos, Nigeria, where the film is a huge hit, many have been touting the badassery of the women of Wakanda. Okoye, the fierce army leader embodied by Danai Gurira is a particular favourite. So is scene-stealer Letitia Wright as Shuri, the princess who doesn’t let royalty stop her realising her full potential as the technological saviour of Wakanda.
This almost unanimous show of support for BlackPanther’s forward-thinking depiction of women, however, does not erase the fact that much of Nigeria still holds onto archaic patriarchal ideologies. Wakanda’s gender parity is notable for just how far away it is from the sad reality.
In much of Nigeria, Okoye would have been warned from childhood to soften her features so she can find a man to marry her. Shuri would have been discouraged from spending too much time at the laboratory for the same reasons. And as for Nakia, everyone would ask: what kind of girl chooses a high-flying career over the chance to become queen?
Women who go against scripted societal norms are frowned upon, treated as outcasts, and erased from history. In 1929, for example, thousands of women in eastern Nigeria rallied together and confronted their British colonial rulers. The movement was on a scale the colonial state had never previously witnessed and led to significant changes. However, the heroic women who led the Aba Women’s Revolt – people such as Nwanyeruwa and Ikonnia – are largely left out of mainstream history books.
Fela and the women
Also left out of the narrative until recently have been the many women that formed a crucial part of Fela Kuti’s legendary career. The Afrobeat pioneer and political activist may be Nigeria’s most famous son. He has been immortalised in the Tony Award-winning Fela! TheMusical and in the 2014 documentary Finding Fela. His legacy and music have been debated endlessly in conference rooms, music festivals and bars all over the world.
However, in all this, little interest has been devoted to Fela’s women – the merry band of singers, dancers, and supporters who thronged to his “Kalakuta Republic” sanctuary, who defied societal scorn and parental pressure, who loved him and inspired his sound.
There is no Fela without the women. They cannot just be heard on countless recordings joyously chanting “open and close”. They were an intrinsic and extricable part of the artistic legacy associated with Fela. Their striking fashion statements, creative use of beads, headgear, body art and Ankara prints remain indelible in today’s culture. Their graphic representations are rendered in music videos by pop stars from Wizkid to Niniola and in glossy magazine photo spreads.
But despite this rich legacy and gorgeous imagery, the stories and lives of Fela’s women have rarely been explored.
It is this imbalance that the splashy stage musical Fela and the Kalakuta Queens seeks to redress. Premiering in Lagos last December, the three-hour production follows Fela, the women that surrounded him, and the dynamics that influenced their relationship.
“I wondered why no one was talking about these women who were a significant part of Fela’s life and I wanted to know more about them,” director Bolanle Austen Peters remarked at one of the sold out showings.
The musical is commendable in shining a light on these female artists, pioneers and musicians. We learn some of the names of Fela’s “queens”, such as Funmilayo and Laide. However, in creating a crowd-pleasing fairy tale of female loyalty and companionship, the production, backed by Fela’s estate, fails to address the singer’s noted misogyny and violence towards women.
We gain little insight into why so many remained devoted to the cause, what made them tick, and what their own dreams and aspirations were. Most problematically, the play’s climactic scene – which depicts Fela’s highly controversial wedding to 27 women in a single ceremony – is played as an act of redemption set to the swirling instrumentation of Ololufe, a rare Fela love song.
Lady no be master
This form of female under-representation, even in a piece of art aiming to celebrate women, is not uncommon. This is the case around the world and certainly in Nigeria. Culture reflects society, which is in part shaped by politics and vested interests.
In Nigeria, for example, a gender equality bill which seeks to prohibit all forms of gender-based discrimination is waiting in the Senate. It has been stalled since 2016 due to opposition by religious and traditional groups. The Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development has a national strategy to end child marriage, but according to UNICEF, 12 out of Nigeria’s 36 states are yet to enact the child rights act adopted at the national level in 2003.
In Lagos, the city that was both home and hell for the singer, Fela’s music blares out of speakers at night clubs, at parties, and on the radio. One of the songs one hears frequently is the classic Lady in which Fela castigates African women for daring to fancy themselves equal to men. “She want sit down for table before anybody, she want a piece of meat before anybody”, he complains scathingly.
That song was released in 1972, but for all the progress Nigeria has made on gender equality over the past half a century, Lady could have been released last week. Wakanda’s gender relations in Black Panther seem so far off, they could be from a thousand years in the future. Less than 6% of Nigeria’s lawmakers are women, the lowest proportion in Africa. Women own just 20% of enterprises in the formal sector. A third of women have experienced physical abuse.
One hopes that the women of Wakanda can inspire Nigeria’s women and girls, along with their male allies, to see things differently and transform gender relations in the country. But for now, it is sadly apparent that a girl born in the North is more likely to be married off at childhood than lead an army like Okoye, devote her life to study like Shuri, or unabashedly pursue her own calling like Nakia.
Black Panther may provide an aspirational blueprint, but for now, Fela won’t be worried. Nigeria is still a long way off before “Lady na master”.
*Source African Arguments. Wilfred Okiche is a reader, writer, medic, culture critic and occasional ruffler of feathers. He works in a health centre in Lagos but manages to find the time to pursue other interests. His writing has appeared on various print and online platforms. He tweets from @drwill20.
Côte d’Ivoire marks the pilot launch of the digital bank
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, March 16, 2018/ — Standard Chartered Bank (www.SC.com) today announced the official launch of its digital bank in Côte d’Ivoire. This marks the Bank’s first digital bank in Africa and the first-of-its-kind to open in Côte d’Ivoire.
Mr. Bruno Nabagné KONE, Minister of Information technologies and communication of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, was the guest of honour at the official launch event. The event was attended by dignitaries, business leaders, clients and senior management, as well as sporting legend and Ivorian icon, Didier Drogba. As the Bank’s Digital Ambassador, Drogba shared his experience on the ease of opening an account using his mobile phone. He is the first person in Côte d’Ivoire to open a digital account at the Bank.
Commenting on the launch, Sunil Kaushal, Regional CEO, Africa and Middle East said: “We are pleased to launch our first digital bank in Africa with the support of the Government of Côte d’Ivoire. This is a key milestone on our digital journey as a Bank and underlines our commitment to investing and growing in the market. We have been steadily investing in expanding our footprint in Africa over the years, and this will continue to be a priority moving forward. Digitising Africa remains at the heart of our business strategy for the region, and we look to implement our Côte d’Ivoire model across other markets in the coming months.”
Commenting on the launch, Jaydeep Gupta, Regional Head of Retail Banking, Africa & Middle East, said: “Our new digital bank was developed with our clients in mind. We have taken into consideration the feedback received by our clients at each stage of the design process and have incorporated innovative technology to allow them to execute all banking activities from a mobile device. This includes 70 banking services through the app.”
“In addition, for the first time, the client onboarding journey has been digitised and in under 15 minutes a client can open a new account through the app. What has also been introduced is the ability for clients to track and trace a request submitted, which is a first for Standard Chartered. This is something we are very proud of.”
Isaac Foly, Chief Executive Officer, Côte d’Ivoire, said: “I’m pleased to have launched the Bank’s first digital retail bank in Côte d’Ivoire and proud to see the progress the country has made over the past decade. We have seen how digital transformation has contributed to economic development and will continue to do so, in line with the country’s National Development Plan. Our partnership with Didier Drogba has helped raise awareness, not only for our digital offering, but for enhancing financial literacy and improving accessibility to financial services across Côte d’Ivoire. Promoting the social and economic wellbeing of communities is a key component of our strategy to support sustainable development and our digital bank is certainly another step in the right direction.”
The bank’s digital services are available by downloading the Standard Chartered mobile application. New clients can execute all of their banking activities right from their mobile devices, starting by opening their bank account in less than 15 minutes. They can also provide all verification documents by uploading to the application and fully complete their onboarding process within minutes.
Africa. Niger. Toumour. 2017. Nigerien security forces pass near Toumor refugee camp where 47 thousand Nigerian refugees and internally displaced Nigerians took shelter in southeastern Niger. According to the UN last report (August 2017) 2,3 million people displaced in Lake Chad Basin and 129 thousand Nigeriens internally displaced in Niger after Boko Haram attacks in the region since 2015.
Last October, four American soldiers, four Nigerien soldiers, and a Nigerien translator were killed in combat on Niger’s border with Mali while looking for the jihadi militant Doundoun Cheffou. For the most part, the fallout concentrated on President Trump’s mangled call with the widow of Sergeant La David Johnson. But the incident also called attention to a dangerous development at multiple levels of US politics. From a small village in rural Niger all the way to the White House, the US military has increasing influence over American foreign policy in Africa.
American Special Forces have been operating in Niger since at least 2013, when President Obama authorized forty troops to aid the French intervention against jihadist groups in Mali. At the time of the Tongo Tongo attack, four years later, there were 800 US soldiers in Niger. The American engagement there remains the second largest on the continent, after Djibouti. Special Forces are stationed around the country and carry out missions against jihadist targets and drug traffickers with their Nigerien counterparts. The US Air Force is building a $110 million drone base that is technically the property of the Nigerien military, although it is paid for and built by the Pentagon, and access for Nigerien soldiers is currently restricted.
A senior Nigerien military commander told me that the American military has an expansionist agenda in the country and constantly pushes for more missions on the ground. According to a Nigerien soldier who participated in the operation on October 4, the American soldiers involved in Tongo Tongo had ignored the advice of their Nigerien colleagues, putting their unit in danger. In Niger, buoyant, proactive, and well-resourced security institutions like the Department of Defense, Africa Command, and Special Operations Forces have led policy at the expense of a demoralized and downgraded State Department.
Defense cooperation between the US and Africa took off after George W. Bush established Africa Command in 2007. Since then, the Command, known as AFRICOM, has established a constellation of American forward-operating bases and runs training programs and exercises with nearly every country on the continent. Under Obama, the use of Special Forces expanded to the point where they are like “a command within a command” in Africa, according to Matthew T. Page, a former diplomat and current associate fellow with the Africa program at the British-based foreign policy institute Chatham House. Special Forces can fund and train foreign elite units under a legal precedent set by Section 1208 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005. By 2017, the 1208 authority budget has swelled to $100 million.
Niger is just one of the many countries around the world in which the US has trained elite military units in the name of counterterrorism. But as Lauren P. Blanchard, an analyst at the Congressional Research Service, told me, “The problem with training elite units is that those forces may be first and foremost in charge of regime protection versus civilian security.” American and host government interests align when jihadist groups are the security priority, but if a government feels that its power is more threatened by democratic protesters, or members of an opposition party, it often employs its special forces in ways the Americans did not envision in their training programs.
For example, the US trained Mali’s elite parachute regiment, known as the red berets, for years in order to fight the growing terrorism problem in the country’s northern regions. Jihadist veterans from Algeria’s civil war had established themselves there throughout the early 2000s, and recruited in the desert areas. But in 2012, lower-ranking soldiers carried out a coup d’état after soldiers in the Kati military camp briefly detained the defense minister, who was visiting them to quell concern over conditions of their colleagues fighting in the north. The soldiers then seized munitions and took control of the presidential palace. The red berets were suddenly out of power, and they launched a counter-coup that failed. In the ensuing violence, almost two dozen red berets were killed. “It was a presidential protection unit and, at the end of the day, [the American training] didn’t professionalize that unit,” said Page. “When this coup attempt happened, half the regiment turned its guns on the other half, killed them and buried them in a mass grave.” In the chaos that followed, jihadist militants took control of the north of the country.
In Burkina Faso, the US worked closely with the Régiment de Sécurité Présidentielle, the feared presidential guard whose chief, Gilbert Diendéré, was also the country’s top intelligence officer. When popular protests forced his boss, former President Blaise Compaoré, to flee the country aboard a French military helicopter in 2014, the government that was then elected began investigating Diendéré and his unit for killing protesters. Diendéré and his soldiers responded by launching a coup, which was eventually put down peacefully by the rest of the military.
A US Army News Service article points to a dilemma faced by soldiers in northern Cameroon, who are stationed there to aid Cameroon’s fight against the militant group Boko Haram. The American soldiers are carrying out a diplomatic role that is not normally within their purview. “With no State Department personnel stationed in the area, soldiers are often placed into a warrior-diplomat role, representing the American government wherever they go.” But even AFRICOM seems worried by the mission creep that inevitably takes place when a solider becomes a “warrior-diplomat.” Posted by AFRICOM to its official website, the article notes that “any misconduct by a soldier could spark controversy and put the nascent relationship between both countries in jeopardy.”
In Cameroon, American Special Forces work closely with the Brigade d’intervention rapide, an elite, Israeli-trained unit that fights Boko Haram. Last year, Amnesty International found that on a small base in Salak, near the border of Nigeria that the American soldiers shared with the B.I.R., at least sixty people “were subjected to water torture, beaten with electric cables and boards, or tied and suspended with ropes, among other abuses.” Some of the B.I.R. soldiers have now been deployed to put down an uprising in Cameroon’s Anglophone region on the border with Nigeria. Reports of human rights abuses in the area are rife, and the Internet has been shut down there for the past year.
Yet, little seems to weaken AFRICOM’s vision of its work as inherently good. “Within US policy circles, or within US training and assistance community, or within the Special Operations community, there are these beliefs in cardinal truths, that US training and engagement makes these units more professional, that we ‘have to do something’ to help them fight terrorism,” said Page, the Chatham House researcher. “This failure to appreciate the consequences of these day-to-day things that we’re doing and what long-term implications they may have… characterizes US foreign policy in the Sahel.”
There is little hope that the US will stop putting heavy emphasis on military solutions in Africa, or, for that matter, elsewhere in the world. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who had no prior experience in diplomacy, is essentially charged with taking apart his own agency. State’s budget has been slashed, and Tillerson has overseen the exit of an entire echelon of senior diplomats from the department. In the meantime, Secretary of Defense James Mattis has secured ever more resources for the Defense Department.
Trump’s choice for Senior Africa Director on the National Security Council is Cyril Sartor, who was the Deputy Assistant Director of the CIA for Africa. There has not been a permanent Secretary of State for African Affairs since January 2017, but in December, the Defense Department named Alan Patterson its new Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs. Patterson is another CIA alum, who was previously in charge of clandestine operations in Africa. That former CIA officers occupy two of three leading positions for US engagement in Africa is dismaying. In earlier decades, the CIA was implicated in the assassination of Congo’s independence leader Patrice Lumumba, the coup d’état that overthrew Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, and the arrest by the apartheid South African government of Nelson Mandela. More recently, in 2011 the CIA armed rebels fighting Muammar Qaddafi in Libya. The agency’s history of disruptive actions is not a promising backdrop to the general contours of American strategy today on a continent of countries that the US president has labeled “shithole.”
The gap left by the US’s (and, to some extent, Europe’s) lack of economic and political engagement with Africa has led the continent to turn its attention elsewhere for trade and investment. “Essentially, the entire non-military agenda in Africa of Africa’s outside partners has been ceded to China,” said Columbia professor Howard French, author of China’s Second Continent, a study of Chinese involvement in Africa. The lack of engagement is to the detriment of both Africa and the US, he argued.
Abou Tarka, a brigadier general in Niger’s military whose brother-in-law was recently named chief of staff of the country’s armed forces, told me that Niger won’t end up like Yemen, where the US has killed at least 103 civilians, because the relationship between the country’s government and the American military is strong. “The situations are different,” Tarka said. “In Yemen, Americans are belligerent; they don’t cooperate with the government.” A top Nigerien military commander, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the press, told me that he doesn’t believe the drones will make mistakes because they are only authorized for use in defensive situations.
But this is the same authorization that the US employs elsewhere for manifestly offensive operations. Jennifer Gibson, a lawyer who researches American drone strikes for the nonprofit group Reprieve, explained: “We’ve seen this malleable definition before, most recently in Yemen and Pakistan, where a program that started as ‘defensive’ wound up striking people simply because their behavior ‘looked’ suspicious. Hundreds of innocent men, women and children were killed as a result.”
I asked a Nigerien civilian who works on the drone base what the forces there think about their mission. “The American soldiers themselves don’t know why they’re here,” she said, but the local population is anxious about whether the US will make the same mistakes in West Africa as they have elsewhere in the world. “The Americans are on a balance,” she said. “It’s up to them as to which way they will tip the scale.”
Trump was elected on a platform that pledged to break with past US interventionism, arguing “we cannot commit American troops to battle without a real and tangible objective.” But the latest iteration of the endless global “war on terror”—this time, as a war in Africa with little civilian oversight, dangerous consequences, and ballooning budgets—undermines that resolve. And while America is making war in Africa and military engagement morphs into a proxy for foreign policy run by the Pentagon, China is doing business.
…As Angola, Vanuatu are scheduled for graduation over the next three years
By Olayinka Ajayi
a picture of one of the many beach resorts in Sao Tome and Principe
Following the strictly observation of the Committee for Development Policy CDP, Bhutan, Kiribati, Sao Tome and Principe and the Solomon Islands have been spotted to soon graduate from the ranks of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable nations.
Speaking , Jose Ocampo, chairman of the CDP, said these countries has increased their national earning power and improved access to health care and education, which make them eligible to exit the group of least developed countries (LDCs).
He however stated that only five countries had graduated since the UN established the LDC category in 1971.
According to him: “LDCs are assessed using three criteria: health and education targets; economic vulnerability; and gross national income per capita. Countries must meet two of the three criteria at two consecutive triennial reviews of the CDP to be considered for graduation.The committee would send its recommendations to the UN economic and social council (ECOSOC) for endorsement, which would then refer its decision to the UN general assembly.”
Meanwhile, Diane Elson, a member of CDP and professor at the University of Essex in the UK, added that the announcement was good news for millions of women in rural areas. “The success of the countries that are graduating reflects things like the improvement of the health and the education of the population, which extends to rural women, and the increase in incomes in the country, which extends to rural women,” she said.
Elson further opined that the countries require continued international support because they remained vulnerable to external shocks, including the impact of climate change, currently evident in Pacific Island states such as Kiribati.
According to the UN Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, globally, there are 47 LDCs. Thirty-three are in Africa, while 13 can be found in the Asia-Pacific region, and one is in Latin America. In the 47 years of the LDC category’s existence, only five countries – Botswana, Cabo Verde, Equatorial Guinea, Maldives and Samoa – had graduated.
The CDP said two more countries, Vanuatu and Angola, were scheduled for graduation over the next three years.
Nepal and Timor-Leste also met the criteria but were not recommended for graduation at this time, due to economic and political challenges.
According to Ocampo, that decision would be deferred to the next CDP triennial review in 2021.
The Government of Ghana and the African Development Fund (ADF) have signed a $39.01million loan agreement to support Ghana’s Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) programme.
The loan agreement was signed on behalf of the Government of Ghana by the Minister responsible for Finance Ken Ofori-Atta whilst the Ghana Country Manager of the Africa Development Bank Dr. Otto H. J. Baldeh, signed on behalf of the African Development Fund.
The loan is a concessionary facility of UA27.86 million (equivalent to US$39.01 million) from the African Development Fund to finance the Savannah Zone Agricultural Productivity Improvement Project (SAPIP).
The Project will be implemented over a five-year period commencing in 2018 and completing in 2022.
“The development objective of the Project is to transform agricultural value chains for food and nutrition security, job creation within the Savannah Zone,” said the Finance Ministry in a statement announcing the deal.
Per the loan agreement, three specific objectives are expected to be achieved and they are; “Increase farmers’ food and nutrition security, increase incomes through increased agricultural productivity and diversification and enhance the creation and strengthening of agribusinesses to increase incomes of actors along selected value chains in a sustainable basis.”
The Project has four main components namely; Crop Productivity Improvement Component, Value Chain and Agribusinesses Development Component, Infrastructure Development Component, Project Coordination, Management and M and E Component.
The project when completed “will directly benefit about 50,000 economically active small holders living in the Savannah zone” and “also contribute to the input support programme of the Ministry of the Food and Agriculture reaching about 250,000,” added the release.
Ghana has been ranked as the 108th happiest country in the World, according to the 2018 World Happiness Report.
Ghana ranked lower than African countries such as Nigeria (91), Cameroon (99), Gabon (103), South Africa (105) and Ivory Coast (107).
Somalia which has long been plagued by suicide bombing and constant attacks by terrorist group Al-Shabab ranked 98 on the report, much higher than Ghana.
The report comes at a time the government claims that the living conditions of most Ghanaians have improved.
Burundi in East Africa, scarred by bouts of ethnic cleansing, civil wars and coup attempts, is the unhappiest place in the world. Strikingly, there are five other nations – Rwanda, Yemen, Tanzania, South Sudan and the Central African Republic – which report happiness levels below that of even Syria.
The 2018 World Happiness Report also charts the steady decline of the US as the world’s largest economy grapples with a crisis of obesity, substance abuse and depression.
The study reveals the US has slipped to 18th place, five places down on 2016. The top four places are taken by Nordic nations, with Finland followed by Norway, Denmark and Iceland.Finland overtook Norway to become the happiest nation on earth, according to a UN report.
“Finland has vaulted from fifth place to the top of the rankings this year,” said the report’s authors, although they noted that the other three Nordic countries (plus Switzerland) have almost interchangeable scores.
The report, an annual publication from the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, said all the Nordic countries scored highly on income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust and generosity. The rankings are based on Gallup polls of self-reported wellbeing, as well as perceptions of corruption, generosity and freedom.
In Britain, figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest people have become happier in recent years. But the UN ranking places the UK in a lowly 19th place, the same as last year but behind Germany, Canada and Australia, although ahead of France and Spain.
The UN report devotes a special chapter to why the US, once towards the top of happiness table, has slipped down the league despite having among the highest income per capita.
“America’s subjective wellbeing is being systematically undermined by three interrelated epidemic diseases, notably obesity, substance abuse (especially opioid addiction) and depression,” said Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University in New York, and one of the report’s authors.
Despite African countries getting the worst happiness scores, one West African nation has bucked the trend. Togo came bottom in 2015 but was the biggest improver in the 2018 report, rising 18 places. Latvians and Bulgarians are also reporting higher levels of happiness.
Venezuela recorded the biggest fall in happiness, outstripping even Syria, although in absolute terms it remains a mid-ranking country. The report notes that Latin American countries generally scored more highly than their GDP per capita suggests, especially in contrast to fast-growing East Asian countries.
Latin America is renowned for corruption, high violence and crime rates, unequal distribution of income and widespread poverty, yet has consistently scored relatively highly in the happiness report.
The authors attributed this to “the abundance of family warmth and other supportive social relationships frequently sidelined in favour of an emphasis on income measures in the development discourse”.
Ghana’s Second Lady is confident that the country is blazing the trail in Africa when it comes to leaders who are ensuring that public interest is the underlying principle in government decision making.
Samira Bawumia says Africa must change its narrative having been denied proper development for decades due to poor leadership, despite its rich and abundant natural resources.
She said Ghana is showing the way to major transformation in all spheres, with effective and dynamic leadership where public interest overrides personal interest. Samira wants other countries on the continent to emulate the West African country through patriotism.
“To the young generation of Africans, it is your time to shine. Africa needs a new crop of leaders who will ensure that public interest is the underlying principle in government decision making. Agenda 2063 and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals will not happen by themselves. We need dynamic and effective leadership to make it happen,” Mrs. Bawumia declared at a public lecture hosted by the University of Pennsylvania in the US under the auspices of the US-Ghana Chamber of Commerce.
Speaking on the theme: “Driving economic change in Africa in the 21st Century: Ghana at the forefront,” Mrs. Bawumia noted: “Ghana is working hard to change its story. Ghana is showing the way; but it requires a sustained effort and a generation of patriotic leaders to carry on the good work. Everyone has a part to play. Indeed, leadership matters. We can all aspire to lead; but sometimes circumstances create leaders.”
Touting the numerous achievements of the 14-month-old government of the new administration in Ghana under the leadership of President Akufo-Addo, she said the country boasts of a Free SHS programme aimed at building an inclusive society and developing human capacity, the Digital Property Address System which will transform the economy and improve the platform of doing business as well as the paperless system at the ports among others.
Mrs. Bawumia stressed that the new government is on course to fulfill its promises due to visionary leadership, despite inheriting an empty purse from the previous administration.
“For the new leaders, the way to transforming the Ghanaian society would be through better leadership. Theirs is a vision of greater access and better education for all children, greater access to health, water and sanitation, inclusive growth, sound management of the economy and a better environment for the private sector to thrive and to create jobs,” she noted.
Mrs. Bawumia added: “For them to chart a new course for Ghana means a paradigm shift away from raw material export economy. They know that despite all the wealth of natural resources – from gold, cocoa, oil and gas – Ghana faces the risk of being trapped in its Lower Middle Income Country (LMIC) status if we do not push our productive capacities as a nation, if we do not make growth inclusive, if we do not give all our children access to quality education to develop their natural talents and if we do not give women fair and equal opportunities in all spheres of our socio- economic and political society.
“The policies and programs of the government so far have shown what good leadership can do for its people. Without leadership, the economic transformation we yearn for cannot happen.”
However, Mrs. Bawumia averred it will not only take political leadership to move the country and for that matter the continent forward, but everyone has a role to play.
“Everybody here has a precept of leadership. You don’t necessarily have to hold a position of political influence to exercise leadership; seeking to promote the public good, social equity, empowering the weak and the disadvantaged, protecting the vulnerable, and ensuring social justice requires some form of leadership. As the saying goes, “let your light shine wherever you are”,” she emphasized.