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Heated words as EU tries to limit Africa migration
June 22, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Eszter Zalan and Andrew Rettman*

Mogherini said deportees from Libya freely “chose” to go home

Mogherini said deportees from Libya freely "chose" to go home (Photo: ECHO/M.Eick)

Mogherini said deportees from Libya freely “chose” to go home (Photo: ECHO/M.Eick)

EU efforts to reduce the amount of migrants coming from Africa are seeing “first results”, amid flaring political tension on immigration.

The numbers of people in transit in Niger had fallen drastically and voluntary deportations from Libya had more than doubled thanks to EU projects, Federica Mogherini, the head of the EU foreign service, said in Luxembourg on Monday (19 June).

There were 5,000 people in Niger in May en route, most likely, to the EU, compared to 70,000 in the same month last year, she said.

The EU, the International Migration Organisation (IOM), and the UN had also sent 4,500 people back home from Libya in the first few months of this year compared to 2,000 in all of last year.

Mogherini said the deportees freely “chose” to go home and that the EU gave them logistical and financial support.

She added that the Libyan coastguard, with the help of EU advisors and boats, had recently rescued 16,000 migrants at sea.

The EU programmes in Africa and the Middle East come amid divisions in Europe on how to handle the situation.
Heated exchange with Germany

Foreign ministers from Austria and Hungary held a heated exchange on the issue with “a large EU country” at the EU meeting on Tuesday, Hungary’s Peter Szjiiarto told press afterward.

Szjiiarto, who was alluding to Germany, said it wanted to focus on refugee reception while they wanted to focus on security.

He said irregular migration from Africa and the Middle East must “stop” and that people who wanted to live in the EU should be screened at centres in the region instead of in Greece or Italy.

“Just imagine how many people’s lives could have been saved” if that had already been the case, he said, making a link between the refugees and terrorist attacks in the EU.

Austria’s Sebastian Kurz said: “The Mediterranean-Italy route must be closed to stop illegal migration”.

The Swiss-based IOM says 77,004 people came to the EU via the Mediterranean this year up to 14 June, compared to over 214,000 in the same period last year.

Another 1,828 people died en route, compared to 2,909 in the period last year.

The majority of current migrants, 65,450, were Africans going via Libya to Italy, while 7,967 were mostly Syrians and Iraqis going via Turkey to Greece.

‘Advice and assist’ mission

Germany has taken in the most migrants in the EU and supports mandatory quotas for burden-sharing with Greece and Italy.

But Hungary, together with the Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia, has boycotted the EU migrant quotas, amid legal action in the EU court in Luxembourg and by the European Commission.

The EU on Monday attributed the new numbers in Niger and Libya to a mixed bag of projects in Africa and the Middle East.

These include so called migration compacts with five African states – Nigeria, Niger, Senegal, Ethiopia, and Mali – which tie EU aid and trade to stemming flows of people.

They also include EU-funded security missions in Mali and Iraq designed to stabilise the countries and curb smuggling as well as humanitarian aid for refugees in Syria.

Mogherini said on Monday that the EU foreign service would consider the deployment of an “advice and assist” mission to work on reform of Iraqi security services “rapidly, within the coming months”.

*Source  EU Obaserver

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Africa: U.S. Congressional Leaders Look for Answers to Africa’s Food Insecurity
June 19, 2017 | 0 Comments

Hunger activist Roger Thurow

Hunger activist Roger Thurow

In 2003, Roger Thurow was a journalist assigned to cover the looming famine in Ethiopia. Upon arriving in the country, he was given a warning by a World Food Program worker who told him that “looking into the eyes of someone dying of hunger becomes a disease of the soul.”

Thurow soon found that to be all too true. While visiting the emergency feeding tents he met a little boy named Hagirso who was five years old and weighed under 14 kilograms when his dad carried him in from their village.

“He was severely malnourished and basically disappearing,” Thurow recalled. “That haunted me. Hagirso, the whole setting, everything that was going on in the emergency feeding tents and just the magnitude of the famine. It was the first famine of the 21st century. What’s wrong with us that we brought famine into this new millennium of ours?”

Ten years later, Thurow returned to see what had happened to Hagirso. He found the boy was physically stunted, only coming up slightly above an adult’s waist and was cognitively stunted, learning at a first grade level.

“You just have to wonder, what might they have accomplished? What might they have achieved for all of us in the world, were they not stunted?” he said. “The lost chance of greatness for one child becomes a lost chance for all of us.”

On Thursday, Thurow was one of three experts testifying before the U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee meeting on the ongoing food crisis in Yemen and the African nations of Nigeria, South Sudan and Somalia. Labeled the worst food crisis since World War II, an estimated 28 million people now need humanitarian assistance.

In all four countries, drought or climate challenges are being exacerbated by war.

“The bottom line and the biggest takeaway is that conflict is driving these famines,” said Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, the chairman of the subcommittee. “The farmers of Africa are extraordinary. They can grow anything, plus they have this wonderful arable land that goes unplanted because of conflict. And the humanitarian help cannot get to them because of the soldiers and the militias. There has to be an all-out effort to end this war.”

Aid funding cuts

In May, the U.S. House of Representatives successfully added $1 billion to the omnibus appropriations bill specifically to address the famine through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

 Many, however, voiced concerns over a budget blueprint proposed by President Donald Trump that would cut USAID funding by 31 percent and consolidate it within the Department of State.
“The president’s budget that was introduced into the Congress worries me because they propose to cut a lot of hunger programs, not only overseas, but even in our own country,” said Tony P. Hall, executive director emeritus at the Alliance to End Hunger. “And so it worries me because it will hurt. I think Congress will be against a lot of those cuts, but we’re very concerned.”

Smith said the dire warnings about proposed cuts to USAID and foreign assistance are overblown. “I don’t think the budget cuts are going anywhere,” he said. “I’ve been in Congress 37 years. The next budget that I see arriving on Capitol Hill that becomes anything but a talking point will be the first.” He added of Congress: “We’re the ones who write the budget.”

Julien Schopp, director for humanitarian practice at InterAction, who testified at the hearing, said the future uncertainty of U.S. funding for humanitarian relief offers the ideal time for other countries to step up.

“The humanitarian need, if you look at the global picture, is growing, growing, growing in terms of dollar amounts and number of people that need to be assisted,” he said. “So we need to talk more to the Gulf countries, talk more to China, to talk more to non-traditional donors. Because at some point it’s not going to be possible for the U.S. and Europe to continue carrying that load.”

More help needed 

Smith agreed, saying he’d like to see U.S. partners do more to address the food crisis. “We ask that more of our international partners and friends kick in far more money than they have. We’re glad they’re helpful, but they could be more helpful,” he said.

During his recent trip to Uganda and South Sudan, Smith had the opportunity to meet with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. During the meeting, he handed the Ugandan leader a copy of Roger Thurow’s book, The First 1,000 Days. The book argues that children must be protected from malnutrition, disease and other ailments for the first 1,000 days of their lives to ensure a bright future for themselves, their communities and the world.

“My message to all of Africa, all the world including the U.S., is: get the first 1,000 days right, protect mother and baby, supplement it with food and nutrition and supplementation and vitamins; you’ll have a healthier planet because all of us will be that much stronger,” Smith said.


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Q&A: WFP and FAO chiefs on South Sudan’s creeping donor fatigue
May 31, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Sam Mednick*

A crowd awaits food distribution at Pibor town, South Sudan. Photo: IRIN/Hannah McNeish ?

A crowd awaits food distribution at Pibor town, South Sudan. Photo: IRIN/Hannah McNeish ?

“It’s a disgrace upon the people of the Earth, and it’s heartbreaking,” said David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme, commenting on South Sudan’s famine. “It’s just not right in the 21st century to be facing all this brokenness, with all the technology and wealth that’s available in the world today.”

Less than two months into his new position, the former governor of South Carolina is taking his first trip to South Sudan, together with José Graziano da Silva, director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. In an exclusive interview with Devex, they speak about what their respective organizations are doing to combat the famine, and the potential dire consequences of donor fatigue.

“In the past, when you moved to a level three emergency, it was enough to get the attention of donors,” said da Silva. “Now we have to declare famine and even now it’s not working.”

Both directors say that if the funding gap in South Sudan isn’t bridged, the situation could become increasingly devastating. The conversations have been edited for length and clarity.

What is FAO doing to combat famine in South Sudan?

We’re working with the WFP and the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, as they’re providing direct assistance and food aid to the population in conflict areas. We’re complementing their work in other areas that aren’t under acute conflict, as it’s not enough to give food to people to avoid hunger, you need to get them back to work so they can produce their own food. The farmers have to start planting so they can harvest — if we don’t do that they’ll become dependent on food aid forever. In addition to saving lives, FAO wants to save livelihoods, and the precondition for that is peace. We can’t give pastoralists back their goats and sheep if they’ll be killed. South Sudan is a great country and it can become great again as it has all of the conditions including good water and good land — the only issue is the conflict.

How are you able to provide livelihoods to people while the conflict is ongoing?

We’re doing our best. We’re giving kits to fisherman, which allows them to fish, as it’s a way to try and restore the possibility of a normal life. But if we don’t stop the fighting now, it’ll become more and more costly. The planting season is starting and we’re missing the opportunity in the best part of the country, in the south, for farmers to plant. Last year, despite the conflict, we harvested one million tons of food. This will be an additional amount that we’ll need to buy next year, if they’re not able to plant this year. It’s a goal that is getting bigger and bigger due to the conflict, and donors are starting to become fatigued. There’s continued action without results.

Do governments cause harm to their people by not agreeing to an IPC recommendation for famine to be declared?

The problem isn’t the declaration, or not, of famine. Famine is a cumulative situation and what we’re seeing is that the situation is deteriorating. Food security and nutrition is an accumulative process. What we’re seeing now is that children who were born five years ago, who were not fed enough, are now stunted. We’re condemning an entire generation of people in this country. Famine is when you cross the limit and we should not wait for that. We need to stop the process before that.

Why does the declaration of famine no longer get as much attention from donors as it did in the past?

The dimension of the crisis we have today is much bigger. It’s like a crisis after a war. In the 50s and 60s, we had 100,000 million people on the brink of famine. Now, we’re coming up to the same number with several countries on the brink of famine. Forty-eight countries and 108 million people are in IPC phases three, four and five. The donors are the same, but their priorities have increased a lot. They’re paying more attention to internal problems such as migration, so this is in some ways deviates attention.

Speaking with David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme:

Can you give us a snapshot of what the WFP is doing in South Sudan?

On the ground we’re encouraging the leadership to grant greater access. If we end the conflict, we have enough funds to achieve the objectives and feed the people. Our teams have been prepositioning food in very difficult areas that you can’t get to once the rains hits, and we’re about 90 percent positioned at this time. That still begs the question for lack of funding that we need for the remainder of the year. We have enough funds for several more months, but around October we run out and that could be catastrophic. Famine has already been declared in two counties and we’re on the brink of famine in many other locations in this country. Five million people are looking for food on a daily basis and the number of children on the brink of starvation is extraordinary — 1 million children in South Sudan alone are going hungry.

What can you share with us about the upcoming review of February’s IPC report?

The conditions are worsening, the funds are getting more difficult, the activity of conflict has increased in certain areas and our teams are trying not to get caught in the line of fire. There are a lot of bad things happening in this country, from women being raped to humanitarian organizations being held hostage, and we’re calling upon all parties involved to protect the humanitarian organizations.

What is the most difficult challenge the WFP is facing?

 There are three other countries on the brink of famine at the same time as South Sudan. This year alone we have 28 more million people worried about where they’re going to get their next meal. Ten of the 13 areas we’re in, that are costing us the most money, are man-made conflicts. We’re receiving about 25 percent of the funds we need for the four famine countries right now, and if we don’t receive the necessary funds we’re going to have to make some very serious decisions. We are literally facing the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II, with 600,000 children alone dying in the next many months.How does South Sudan compare to other countries in similar situations?

They’re all unique. South Sudan is more complicated in some ways. Yemen is extremely complicated. We’ll do everything we can, but the funds are running out and donors are getting weary and they’re going to have to make some hard decisions — if they find that countries won’t cooperate or won’t work, then they’ll put their money elsewhere. This isn’t what we want. We want to be neutral and we want to be the best that we can be in providing food for every single person in every single one of these famine countries.

Do you need to use the famine word to get donors on board?

If you say a million people are “food insecure,” that doesn’t move the average person. If you say, “they’re on the brink of starvation and they’ll die if they don’t get food,” now that moves somebody, because you’re speaking normal language. Let the facts speak for themselves and let’s try to get the word out in the most colloquial common sense way so people understand.

The number one problem we’re facing around the world, aside from the man-made conflict, is that in these wealthy, donor-oriented countries, the media’s obsessed with Brexit, Le Pen and Trump, and they’re not providing balance on what’s taking place around the world. It’s making it more difficult for us to get the message out. We know historically people, especially in Canada, the United States and Europe, are very giving, caring people if they know about the crisis. So this is one of the reasons why I’m hitting the four countries on the brink of famine, as well as Syria, Lebanon and Jordan so that we can bring attention. We need the money sooner than later. The thing that makes me so mad is that it’s a man-made conflict and it’s a plight upon humanity.


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Germany’s ‘Marshall Plan with Africa’
May 30, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Andrew Green*

Photo by: Irina Patrascu / CC BY

Photo by: Irina Patrascu / CC BY

BERLIN, Germany — A proposal from Germany’s development ministry stands to rewrite the country’s — and possibly the G-20’s — aid relationship with Africa. The so-called Marshall Plan with Africa would prioritize encouraging private investment on the continent, possibly while reducing or shifting official development assistance.

The plan is part of a broader German focus on Africa in 2017, in an effort to play a stronger role leading donor policy within Europe and the G-20.

Analysts and advocates working in Africa say the plan puts into writing some of the trends already underway in aid, including a shift toward the private sector. They warn, however, that moving away from ODA entirely could leave gaps in need. Others, meanwhile, are looking to the German government to use the plan to engage a wider range of actors, including other donors and multilateral banks, to introduce a range of initiatives that could truly have a long-term impact.

For now, though, the debate is largely hypothetical. The plan is still only a proposal, and Germany’s position on Africa is set to evolve rapidly in the coming weeks. The finance ministry is currently constructing a separate “Compact with Africa,” and the country is set to host the G-20 summit in July, where relations with Africa will feature heavily on the agenda. German elections in September could also impact the development agenda, particularly if Chancellor Angela Merkel loses her bid for a fourth term.

Amid the uncertainty, experts are cautious not to either under or overstate the Marshall’s Plan potential impact. German aid and implementing partners are equally unsure how to react. The ministry declined to answer specific questions about whether development partners should read the document as a broader shift in priorities, or consider realigning their programs to match the interventions highlighted in the document.

But one indicator of the proposal’s impact could come in June, as Berlin hosts a G-20 African Partnership Conference, ahead of the broader G-20 meeting in July. The agenda for that meeting, which is focused on improving the investment climate in African countries, dovetails with the emphasis in the plan and could indicate how much influence it will ultimately have on German aid.

What does this Marshall Plan entail?

The Marshall Plan with Africa, released earlier this year, is effectively a blueprint for tackling a range of challenges on the continent — chief among them the problems that could result from Africa’s likely population explosion by 2050.

The proposal aims to be an “integrated overall approach” to address issues ranging from food security, good governance to social concerns, Gerd Müller, the federal minister for economic cooperation and development, explained during a business summit in Nairobi in February.

The plan positions Germany to help African governments with more than 100 different reform ideas that fall under three broad pillars: Economic activity, trade and employment; peace and security; and democracy and the rule of law. Each pillar includes recommendations for African country governments, the German government and the larger international community. Some are quite specific, for example a call on African countries to support a continental human rights court. Others offer more vague guidance, as in the call for international partners to “promote local value chains.”

Throughout, the plan emphasizes improving the investment climate. Among the proposed initiatives are plans to help create incentive packages for businesses. It also floats the idea of using ODA funds to secure private investments.

“It’s not the governments that will create all the long-term employment opportunities that are needed, it’s the private sector,” the plan reads. “So it’s not subsidies that Africa needs so much as more private investment.”

The plan also looks to directly seed the ground for investors. It would support programs that promote peace, security and anti-corruption efforts, in order to better protect investment. It would also look to boost job and vocational training initiatives to prepare young people for the workforce. Traditional development initiatives, including improving health, education systems and infrastructure, would also likely continue.

“We need more ODA funds to meet the current challenges,” the plan says, without specifying an ideal amount. In 2015, the German government spent about 16 billion euros ($17.8 billion) on ODA — the third highest amount in the world behind the United States and the United Kingdom.

Still, “it’s definitely a pro-private investment shift and a bit away from ODA,” said Manfred Öhm, the head of the Africa department at Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. The German political foundation, which draws some financial support from the government, runs a range of development programs in Africa.

Implications for the G-20 relationship with Africa

If expanded, some advocates say the plan could have a significant impact, in part because Germany looks to be positioning itself as a policy-leading donor on the continent. The draft was released in a year when Germany is hosting the G-20, and has made re-evaluating its relationship with Africa a priority. Already, German officials appear to be reframing the plan, which is the vision of one ministry, as part of the larger discussion of the G-20’s relationship with Africa.

Speaking to the African Union last October, German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to “make the issues that concern you in Africa one of the priorities of the G-20 agenda, and also launch a large-scale initiative with Africa to this end.” The first step, the G-20 African Partnership Conference, will be designed to encourage private investment, sustainable infrastructure and employment in Africa.

The plan could form a significant part of the broader global discussion about the international community’s relationship with Africa, according to Jamie Drummond, the co-founder and executive director of ONE, a grassroots organization fighting extreme poverty and preventable diseases, particularly in Africa.

“This G-20 could and must herald a more coordinated push with Africa than we’ve seen since 2005 and Gleneagles,” Drummond said, referring to the U.K.-hosted G-8 summit that agreed to double aid to Africa, and eliminate the debts of some of the world’s poorest countries.

Drummond is looking for something equally bold to emerge — or at least begin — in Hamburg, where Germany is hosting its G-20. He would like to see momentum towards improving the quality and quantity of funding for education, increasing funds for women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship and an emphasis on good governance, alongside any focus on improving the climate for private investment.

“The private sector approach is incredibly important,” he said. “But if it was the only thing that was being proposed, that would not be enough.”

With Africa’s population set to more than double by 2050, from 1.2 billion to 2.5 billion, according to the Population Reference Bureau, “African development is now clearly central to European and G-20 security into the twenty-first century,” he said. “That’s what this G-20 acknowledges and now we must urgently act on that.”

Domestic support for the plan

The Marshall Plan proposal will need to pull in new elements and some more collaborators — including from within the German government — if it is to be relevant, some analysts warn.

Given what it hopes to achieve, the proposal doesn’t yet include enough partners, said Stefan Brüne, an associate fellow at the German Council on Foreign Relations. The federal ministry for economic cooperation and development may not be the best body to strengthen democracy, for example, he said.

“They are not in a position to really address these problems,” he said, compared to their counterparts in the ministry of foreign affairs, for instance, who can exert more political pressure.

Domestic politics could also impact the roll out. Though Müller comes from the ruling party coalition, it is still not clear how popular his plan is within his own government. Experts are looking for input from the ministry of defense, and greater cooperation with the ministry of finance, as it puts together its own compact with Africa. They are also watching to see if Merkel will more publicly embrace the plan or introduce her own strategy that might borrow elements from it.

If it is to truly jumpstart a broader conversation, it would also need to draw in officials from other G-20 nations, the World Bank and other international institutions — something its architects are clearly already aware of and which its advocates are prepared to push for.

Öhm said one of the ministry’s priorities should be providing more clarity, including about the future of ODA, programs the government plans to support and which governments the ministry is specifically hoping to assist. Some African countries are interested in reforms to improve the investment climate, and some are interested in transparency and democratic promotion, but the two groups are not necessarily the same.

At best, he and some other analysts see the plan as a potential starting point for conversations about the balance between ODA and private investment, for instance.

Truly rethinking Germany’s — or the G-20’s — relationship with Africa in the terms that the plan lays out would require a significant generational commitment, experts said. The question is whether the Marshall Plan actually represents that.


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David Oyelowo Demands The Horrors Of Human Trafficking In Africa ‘Must Change’
May 28, 2017 | 0 Comments

He tells HuffPost he’s on a mission to eradicate human trafficking on the continent and around the world.

By Brennan Williams*

David Oyelowo is serious about inspiring positive change in the world.

GEANCO In addition to his scholarship for girls in Nigeria, Oyelowo says he wants to extend his humanitarian efforts to combat the global epidemic of human trafficking.

In addition to his scholarship for girls in Nigeria, Oyelowo says he wants to extend his humanitarian efforts to combat the global epidemic of human trafficking.

The actor will be honored on June 4 by the Diamond Empowerment Fund, a nonprofit co-founded by Russell Simmons, with the Diamonds Do Good International Vanguard Award. The award, which will be given to Oyelowo during the organization’s annual awards gala in Las Vegas, recognizes his achievements in the arts and in the educational empowerment of vulnerable girls in Nigeria.

Oyelowo told HuffPost that he prefers projects that showcase Africa’s overlooked history, such as “United Kingdom,” which highlighted Botswana’s role as a leading diamond-producing nation. In that film, Oyelowo plays Botswana’s first president, Sir Seretse Khama.

“My passion is really behind any African story that highlights the transcendent beauty and just the amazing quality of Africa and its people,” Oyelowo told HuffPost. “So whether it’s in ‘United Kingdom’ or whether it’s in ‘Queen of Katwe’ or other projects that I’m at the inception stages with, that’s what I’m fundamentally interested in and it just so happens that Botswana’s success story is tied into diamonds.”

The actor, who was born in England to Nigerian parents, adds that in addition to highlighting Africa’s abundant culture on the silver screen, he also wants to change the negative perception of Nigeria ― specifically as it pertains to the marginalization of women.

“One of the stories that isn’t a success story of course is surrounding the Chibok girls and what’s going on with Boko Haram, and what’s going on with the marginalization of women generally, not just in Nigeria, but on the African continent and around the world,” he said. “So for me, it’s about highlighting the great story, but also trying to change the narrative around the negative, because those are things that can and must change.”

David Oyelowo and his wife Jessica Oyelowo and children arrive for the premiere of Disney’s “Queen Of Katwe.”

Aside from his David Oyelowo Leadership Scholarship for Girls in Nigeria, the actor says he wants to extend his humanitarian efforts to combat the global epidemic of human trafficking.

“Going beyond the borders of Nigeria, human trafficking, modern-day slavery, sex trafficking, these are really disgusting things that are going on in society,” he said. “A lot of them are dealing with girls being pulled out of Africa. It’s happening within the continent itself. Even here in Los Angeles ― the San Fernando Valley, where I live ― it’s one of the worst hubs for human trafficking in the country.”

“So it’s on our doorstep, and it’s international. And if you’re a father of children, really it’s a thing that young people are being subjected to by those who prey upon them,” the actor continued. “It’s unthinkable to think about what’s going on out there. So anything and everything I can do, and my colleagues can do, to eradicate this is what I’m interested in.”

Sometimes with Hollywood specifically, we tend to rush after the buzzy, glamorous, attention-seeking initiatives and it’s not sustainable.”David Oyelowo

As many as 17,500 people are trafficked into the country every year, according to estimates from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, with an estimated 21 million people trafficked around the globe.

And, according to the United Nations, sexual exploitation is the most common form of human trafficking in the world, and women and girls make up the largest proportion of victims.

Oyelowo is committed to reducing these startling statistics, regardless of public recognition.

Oyelowo encourages more of his peers in entertainment to commit themselves to humanitarian movements in order to see real change.

“I think that’s one of the problems with our society in general. And sometimes with Hollywood specifically, we tend to rush after the buzzy, glamorous, attention-seeking initiatives and it’s not sustainable,” he argued. “Anything that is for instant gratification for yourself will not last. This is a problem in terms of what’s going on in Nigeria, and specifically the marginalization of women.”

“If you’re looking in Hollywood, it’s not as egregious and injustice as sex trafficking and human trafficking but, when you look at sexism within the film industry, we have these moments when everyone pays it attention and then people forget,” he said.

Rather than participating in an occasional initiative for instant gratification, Oyelowo encourages more of his peers in entertainment to commit themselves to humanitarian movements in order to see real change.

“I’m a big believer in not focusing in on the big moment, but on the movement,” he said. “The movement is something that has to be perpetual. Once I attach myself to something I try to focus on it and not let go until the job is done, regardless if the cameras are on or not.”

“I think if more of us do that, the more will actually get done,” he added.

*Source Huffpost

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This is Why Africa Matters to the United States
May 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

Grant Harris (right), former special assistant to the president and senior director for African affairs at the White House, joins Karen Attiah, global opinions editor at the Washington Post, for a Facebook Live discussion on the importance of US engagement in Africa.

Grant Harris (right), former special assistant to the president and senior director for African affairs at the White House, joins Karen Attiah, global opinions editor at the Washington Post, for a Facebook Live discussion on the importance of US engagement in Africa.

The cuts to foreign aid proposed in US President Donald Trump’s new budget, if passed, would drastically diminish US influence in Africa, threaten US security interests, and make way for countries like China to fill the void, according to a former White House official.

We can’t be ceding this space to China and to other players to have them deepen their economic ties and their political ties and have the US really lose out,” said Grant Harris, who served as special assistant to the president and senior director for African affairs at the White House from 2011 to 2015.

Trump’s new federal budget would put an end to important US engagement on the continent, engagement which, according to Harris, is vital for US national security.

This is the premise of his recently published Atlantic Council report: Why Africa Matters to US National Security. “Far too many people think that Africa is of secondary importance to US interests, where, in reality, it’s really important to US national security,” Harris said in a Facebook Live discussion with Karen Attiah, the global opinions editor with the Washington Post, at the Atlantic Council on May 25.

Why Africa Matters to US National Security

Why does stability in Africa matter for security in the United States? Karen Attiah from the Washington Post discusses why Africa is important to US national security interests with Grant Harris, former special assistant to the president and senior director for African affairs at the White House. To learn more, read Harris’ new report:

Posted by Atlantic Council on Thursday, May 25, 2017

In order to stem the spread of transnational threats, from terrorism to pandemics, Africa must become stable, said Harris. However, achieving stability requires that the United States remain actively engaged, providing not only humanitarian assistance, but also promoting economic growth. “The budget cutbacks would hurt all of that,” he said.

Attiah noted that in the “new US political climate – it’s not just Africa—there’s a real sense that the US may be retreating from its role as a global leader.” This turn inward has opened the door for other nations, such as China, to strengthen their foothold in Africa.

 China is already actively engaged in providing funds to many African nations in desperate need of improved infrastructure. Attiah described how China’s influence in Africa is “visible,” down to details such as Chinese signs in airports throughout the continent. However, Harris said, while Chinese funding of infrastructure projects in many African countries is good for those countries, the projects have “no strings attached,” meaning there are no stipulations regarding labor regulations, human rights, or environmental concerns.

“The US holds itself to different standards, and it should,” said Harris. He insisted that principled engagement bolsters not only US influence, but strengthens relationships with African partners, who are becoming increasingly significant voices on the world stage. African votes make up more than a quarter of the votes in the United Nations, therefore, “we need African partners to advance [US] priorities,” said Harris.

Africa is vital not only to US national security interests, but to the United States’ European allies as well, Harris claimed, citing the migration crisis as a major concern.

Harris said that while his report stresses Africa’s importance to US national security, “even if you’re skeptical of what I’m saying, you’ve got to believe that European allies are important to national security.” Consequently, he said, while Europe seeks to promote stability in Africa in order to stem migration, the United States should engage as well, if not for its own interests, to promote the interest of its allies. “If the US retrenches and we pull back on our assistance… then we’re going to be part of the problem,” according to Harris.

Previous US administrations have promoted deep bipartisan engagement in Africa. Harris called for the Trump administration to follow suit, emphasizing the importance of a much-overlooked, but increasingly important part of the world.

*Allafrica.Rachel Ansley is an editorial assistant at the Atlantic Council.

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Africa is Not Poor, We Are Stealing Its Wealth
May 27, 2017 | 0 Comments


By Nick Dearden*

Africa is poor, but we can try to help its people.

It’s a simple statement, repeated through a thousand images, newspaper stories and charity appeals each year, so that it takes on the weight of truth. When we read it, we reinforce assumptions and stories about Africa that we’ve heard throughout our lives. We reconfirm our image of Africa.

Try something different. Africa is rich, but we steal its wealth.

That’s the essence of a report (pdf) from several campaign groups released today. Based on a set of new figures, it finds that sub-Saharan Africa is a net creditor to the rest of the world to the tune of more than $41bn. Sure, there’s money going in: around $161bn a year in the form of loans, remittances (those working outside Africa and sending money back home), and aid.

But there’s also $203bn leaving the continent. Some of this is direct, such as $68bn in mainly dodged taxes. Essentially multinational corporations “steal” much of this – legally – by pretending they are really generating their wealth in tax havens. These so-called “illicit financial flows” amount to around 6.1 per cent of the continent’s entire gross domestic product (GDP) – or three times what Africa receives in aid.

Then there’s the $30bn that these corporations “repatriate” – profits they make in Africa but send back to their home country, or elsewhere, to enjoy their wealth. The City of London is awash with profits extracted from the land and labour of Africa.

There are also more indirect means by which we pull wealth out of Africa. Today’s report estimates that $29bn a year is being stolen from Africa in illegal logging, fishing and trade in wildlife. $36bn is owed to Africa as a result of the damage that climate change will cause to their societies and economies as they are unable to use fossil fuels to develop in the way that Europe did. Our climate crisis was not caused by Africa, but Africans will feel the effect more than most others. Needless to say, the funds are not currently forthcoming.

In fact, even this assessment is enormously generous, because it assumes that all of the wealth flowing into Africa is benefitting the people of that continent. But loans to governments and the private sector (at more than $50bn) can turn into unpayable and odious debt.

 Ghana is losing 30 per cent of its government revenue to debt repayments, paying loans which were often made speculatively, based on high commodity prices, and carrying whopping rates of interest. One particularly odious aluminium smelter in Mozambique, built with loans and aid money, is currently costing the country £21 for every £1 that the Mozambique government received. British aid, which is used to set up private schools and health centres, can undermine the creation of decent public services, which is why such private schools are being closed down in Uganda and Kenya. Of course, some Africans have benefitted from this economy. There are now around 165,000 very rich Africans, with combined holdings of $860bn. But, given the way the economy works, where do these people mainly keep their wealth? In tax havens. A 2014 estimate suggests that rich Africans were holding a massive $500bn in tax havens. Africa’s people are effectively robbed of wealth by an economy that enables a tiny minority of Africans to get rich by allowing wealth to flow out of Africa.

So what is the answer? Western governments would like to be seen as generous beneficiaries, doing what they can to “help those unable to help themselves”. But the first task is to stop perpetuating the harm they are doing. Governments need to stop forcing African governments to open up their economy to privatisation, and their markets to unfair competition.

If African countries are to benefit from foreign investment, they must be allowed to – even helped to – legally regulate that investment and the corporations that often bring it. And they might want to think about not putting their faith in the extractives sector. With few exceptions, countries with abundant mineral wealth experience poorer democracy, weaker economic growth, and worse development. To prevent tax dodging, governments must stop prevaricating on action to address tax havens. No country should tolerate companies with subsidiaries based in tax havens operating in their country.

Aid is tiny, and the very least it can do, if spent well, is to return some of Africa’s looted wealth. We should see it both as a form of reparations and redistribution, just as the tax system allows us to redistribute wealth from the richest to the poorest within individual societies. The same should be expected from the global “society”.

To even begin to embark on such an ambitious programme, we must change the way we talk and think about Africa. It’s not about making people feel guilty, but correctly diagnosing a problem in order to provide a solution. We are not, currently, “helping” Africa. Africa is rich. Let’s stop making it poorer.

*Allafrica/Al Jazeera.Nick Dearden is the director of UK campaigning organisation Global Justice Now. He was previously the director of Jubilee Debt Campaign.

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Closing Remarks By Akinwumi A. Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group, At the Official Closing Ceremony of the 52nd Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank, May 25, 2017
May 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

The Chief Minister of Gujarat,

Honorable Ministers, Governors of the Bank, Distinguished Guests, Partners, Ladies and Gentlemen.

African Development Bank (ADB) president Akinwumi Adesina addresses a press conference in Ahmedabad, May 20, 2017.(AFP)

African Development Bank (ADB) president Akinwumi Adesina addresses a press conference in Ahmedabad, May 20, 2017.(AFP)

Mr. Chairman, Minister Arun Jaitley, congratulations on successfully shepherding this 52nd Annual Meetings. The way you efficiently chaired all our statutory meetings has been impressive. We are grateful to you and your staff in the Ministry of Finance of India for a job well done!

From the Communiqué it is clear that you have all worked so hard. It is amazing how fast time has gone by. Four days ago we arrived here in Ahmedabad for our 52nd Annual Meetings. It has been a marathon of meetings and deliberations: we have run well, discussed well, and interacted well. From the opening ceremony, the tone was set: we should think big, act bold, and deliver faster development for Africa. Prime Minister Modi showed us in his speech that there’s nothing that can be called impossible.

From this same ground that honors the memory of Mahatma Gandhi, we must take with us his words “be the change you want to see”. For the change we want to see in Africa lies with us. Upon us lies the responsibility to rise to the occasion of giving Africa a new history: by lighting up Africa, feeding Africa, industrializing Africa, integrating Africa, and improving the quality of life of the people of Africa.

The Annual Meetings’ focus on transforming agriculture to create wealth has sparked political leaders, young people, researchers, private sector, bankers, and of course you, the Ministers of Finance, and Governors of the Bank, as well as the Central Bank Governors who came, to take agriculture as a business.

This Annual Meeting has also been a huge success in several other ways. We were not bothered by the heat, we simply generated cool ideas. We have not just focused on economics and finance, we brought in other voices.

I was excited at the cultural night yesterday to meet Nollywood and Bollywood actors and actresses who told me they will now focus on movies that will help change the perception of agriculture, for young people. That is one of the successes I am taking home.

And the coolest person around was Prime Minister Modi. His presence, participation and support for these Annual Meetings in Ahmedabad made it such a great success. We had two African Heads of State, from the Republics of Benin, and Senegal, a Former Head of State of Ghana, and the Vice-President of Côte d’Ivoire. Their presence sent a very strong signal that African leaders back the African Development Bank. And that is because the African Development Bank is Africa’s trusted Bank of choice.

You, the Governors of the Bank made all the difference. The Meetings are your Meetings: for you to see the African Development Bank at work, working for the greater good and benefits of the people of Africa. You saw the impacts of our High 5s in Africa. Not just in terms of money we lent to countries or the private sector, but in terms of real people-level impacts.

We measured those impacts, not as numbers, but as lives transformed. You saw some of those stories yesterday as we celebrated countries and governors from Morocco, Mauritania, Ghana, Somalia and Tanzania at the “Africa Development Impact Awards” – our own Oscars for development.

But the best awards go to you all for coming to our Annual Meetings. Your contributions, engagements, ideas, and suggestions will help us to become even better in what we do.

The Government of India deserves a big High 5: the organizations of the events were excellent. We are grateful for the great work of the Chief Minister of Gujarat and members of the Government of the State of Gujarat. The people who did the setting up; the electrical folks who worked late nights; the protocols and security who ensured our safety at all times, even late at nights; the media who told our stories; the wonderful cooks who fed us so well.

To Prime Minister Modi, a very big thank you for hosting us and honoring us with your presence and for your very warm words: let us make history together for Africa.

To all my staff at the African Development Bank, who worked tirelessly, thank you so much. To Nnenna Nwabufo, Célestin Monga and Vincent Nmehielle, you made it all happen and thank you so much. To the translators, who worked tirelessly, sitting unseen in their cubicles, you made it so seamless for us to conduct our business, and understand each other – thank you.

Above all, I am thankful to you, our Governors and Executive Directors who continue to give us support in our work and for our mission. In my town hall discussion with you, our Governors, yesterday, you voted an overwhelming 97% that there is need for urgent actions to finance the High 5s. No doubt, boosting the Bank’s general capital along with all other measures to optimize our balance sheet, will help us with more equity to leverage more to get the job done. We work so hard to earn your trust and you can trust us that we will continue to deliver more, better, and faster for Africa, with additional capital resources.

As a Bank let me assure you we will continue to be fit for purpose. The achievements we have had so far, in just under two years, on the High 5s and our reforms, show that we are moving in the right direction and solidifying the income, efficiency, effectiveness and development impacts of the Bank. Yet the road is still long to achieve our goals, but we are determined, with your support, to stay for the long haul. We hope you are leaving more inspired about the Bank; and ask that you, as Governors, be our strong advocates and champions for accelerating financing for the High 5s.

Let us continue to be optimistic for Africa and let us continue to be optimistic about the capacity of this Bank to deliver. At the Bank, we believe Africa can and will achieve the High 5s. But we must always be forward looking and raise the bar on our ambitions for financing Africa to address its challenges and unlock its opportunities.

What we need is “bold optimism”: optimism backed by greater financial resources. That is the kind of optimism that made Warren Buffet give $30 billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2006, to do more for the world. Melinda Gates, writing ten years later to Warren Buffet, said: “optimism isn’t a belief that things will automatically get better, it is a conviction that we can make things better….Your success didn’t create your optimism. Your optimism led to your success”.

So, let “bold optimism” from this Annual Meeting in India bubble and inspire us to accelerate financing, urgently, for the High 5s for Africa.

And let that “bold optimism” be fully concretized and solidified by the time we meet in Korea next year for the 2018 Annual Meetings.

I congratulate Korea for being the host country for next year’s Annual Meetings. I look forward to seeing you all next year in the beautiful city of Busan for our 53rd Annual Meetings.

Until then, safe travels back home – and, as you go, here is a High 5 for you all!

Thank you very much.

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South Sudan: Warring Sides Sign Peace Deal in Uganda As Dialogue Begins
May 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

Photo: VOA South Sudan map

Photo: VOA
South Sudan map

South Sudan’s warring parties on Friday signed an undertaking to work on a roadmap for the implementation of the 2015 Arusha Agreement and end the war.

The deal was struck in a meeting chaired by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in Entebbe. The meeting was attended by the acting SPLM secretary-general Jena Nunu Kumba, SPLM-IO foreign secretary Ezekiel Lol Gatkhouth, the head of former detainees Pagan Amum Okietch, Juba’s ambassador to Kampala Samuel Luate Leminsuk and Betty Bigombe.

The deal came as the South Sudan National Dialogue finally started on May 22 with the swearing-in of the steering committee.

However, there are concerns about whether the team will achieve its objective because some areas in the country are inaccessible due to the ongoing civil war. Armed groups opposed to President Salva Kiir’s government, former detainees, and a few opposition parties have cast doubts on the success of the Dialogue, saying it is not all-inclusive and terming it a “monologue.”

But Abel Alier, the co-chair of the 94-member National Dialogue Steering Committee, is confident that the team will reach out to the armed opposition and other stakeholders in and outside the country, despite President Salva Kiir having declared that rebel leader Riek Machar should return to the country for the talks.

 Mr Alier said the team will adopt a bottom-up approach that will involve starting from the grassroots, then the constituency level where intra and inter-communal grievances will be addressed.

The exercise will end at the National Conference in Juba to discuss and adopt the findings. His co-chair is Angelo Beda Bangboru, a veteran South Sudanese politician.

 But the main rebel group led by Dr Machar has cast doubt on the National Dialogue — which was proposed by President Kiir in December 2016 — terming it an attempt to scuttle the implementation of the August 2015 Peace Agreement and an attempt to hoodwink donors into releasing budgetary support, which has been frozen for three years.

According to Mabior Garang de Mabior, chairman of the rebel movement’s National Committee for Information and Public Relations, the rebels are opposed to the “one-sided” dialogue, which they believe is being imposed by President Kiir and his allies as part of a campaign to derail the peace process.

“If President Kiir is honest and the intention is to achieve national healing, reconciliation and forgiveness, then the lack of inclusiveness and prejudice in the selection of the so-called steering committee will make the entire process redundant,” he said.

Mr Mabior added that lack of a political agreement at the national level — which puts an end to the war and creates the necessary peaceful environment for dialogue — will affect the bottom-up approach.

He said his movement believes that the issues to be addressed by the National Dialogue, such as unequal distribution and mismanagement of national resources, are already provided for in the 2015 peace agreement.

President Kiir unveiled the National Dialogue in December last year.

*The East African/Allafrica

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Kiir opens S.Sudan dialogue with unilateral ceasefire
May 24, 2017 | 0 Comments
South Sudan President Salva Kiir, pictured on May 18, 2107, has vowed the army will lay down arms, but warned that his troops would defend themselves if attacked (AFP Photo/ALBERT GONZALEZ FARRAN)

South Sudan President Salva Kiir, pictured on May 18, 2107, has vowed the army will lay down arms, but warned that his troops would defend themselves if attacked (AFP Photo/ALBERT GONZALEZ FARRAN)

Juba (AFP) – South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir declared a unilateral ceasefire Monday as he launched a national dialogue, a controversial bid to end a civil war that excludes his rival Riek Machar.

It is not the first time Kiir has vowed the army will lay down arms in the three-year conflict, and he warned that his troops would defend themselves if attacked.

“I am also once again declaring a unilateral ceasefire effective from today, so that we can create an environment for an inclusive dialogue and so that we can transport humanitarian aid to famine struck areas,” Kiir said at the opening of the national dialogue.

However he told army commanders “you have the right to defend yourself”.

A 94-member steering committee was sworn in “to conduct consultations as widely as possible to give the people of South Sudan (a chance) to air out their views and aspirations to restore peace in their country.”

The process — first announced in December — has been hampered by financial constraints as well as disagreements over the set-up of the steering committee.

Kiir himself will be overseeing the dialogue, a fact which has drawn criticism from opposition groups and activists, and has refused to have his foe Machar take part.

South Sudan has been at war since December 2013 when Kiir fell out with Machar, accusing him of plotting a coup.

“Everybody is welcome to participate in the national dialogue except Riek Machar. Riek Machar will come and cause another war in Juba,” said Kiir.

“But if he has a delegation … let them appoint these people to come to Juba. We guarantee their safety and so that they don’t fear their lives.”

Three years after the power struggle led to war in the world’s youngest country, a peace deal signed in 2015 is in tatters, and all efforts to end fighting have failed.

The conflict has evolved beyond the two main protagonists, breaking down along ethnic lines and drawing in different actors and local grievances.

“A national dialogue could be critical in ensuring a representative discussion of the major issues that affect South Sudanese and on the way forward for the future,” said Amanda Lucey, a peace building researcher at the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies.

“However, there are serious concerns over the legitimacy of the process.”

The UN last month slammed a “callous and blatant disregard” for a ceasefire promised by Kiir in March.

Several government offensives in recent weeks have led to intensified fighting around the country, sending tens of thousands fleeing with reports of atrocities at the hands of Kiir’s army.


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Ethiopia’s Tedros wins WHO race, first African to get top job
May 23, 2017 | 0 Comments

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, a former health minister and foreign minister, received more than half the votes in the third round.

Ethiopia’s Tedros wins on third ballot

* Offers more geographical representation of WHO jobs

By Stephanie Nebehay and Tom Miles*

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

GENEVA, May 23 (Reuters) – Ethiopia’s Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus won the race to be the next head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Tuesday, becoming the first African to lead the United Nations agency.

The former health minister and foreign minister received more than half the votes in the first round and eventually won a decisive third-round election to beat Britain’s David Nabarro to the job.

“It’s a victory day for Ethiopia and for Africa,” Ethiopia’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva Negash Kebret Botora told Reuters before Tedros, as he is widely known, was to take the floor at the WHO’s annual ministerial assembly.

Six candidates had stood to take the helm at the WHO, which is tasked with combating outbreaks and chronic diseases.

The job has never before been earned through a competitive election and health officials from all over the globe thronged the assembly hall in the U.N.’s Geneva headquarters where voting took place behind closed doors.

Tedros will begin his five-year term after Margaret Chan, a former Hong Kong health director, steps down after 10 years on June 30. Chan leaves a mixed legacy, after WHO’s slow response to West Africa’s Ebola epidemic in 2013-2016, which killed 11,300 people.

In a last pitch before voting began, Tedros had appealed to ministers by promising to represent their interests and to ensure more countries got top jobs at the Geneva-based WHO.

“I will listen to you. I was one of you. I was in your shoes and I can understand you better,” Tedros told the ministers. “I know what it takes to strengthen the frontlines of healthcare and innovate around the constraints.”

Tedros was widely seen as having the support of about 50 African votes, but questions about his role in restricting human rights and Ethiopia’s cover-up of a cholera outbreak surfaced late in the race, threatening to tarnish his appeal.

Nabarro, a WHO insider who has worked for 40 years in international public health, had pitched himself as a “global candidate”.

Chan, in a speech on Monday, urged ministers to tackle inequalities as a “guiding ethical principle”.

“Scientific evidence is the bedrock of policy. Protect it. No one knows whether evidence will retain its persuasive power in what many now describe as a post-truth world,” she said.



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May 14, 2017 | 0 Comments

-With Wheel to Africa, a young American and his friends highlight the importance of people-to-people engagement in US-Africa relations.

Support for a noble cause:Ambassador Arouna with Jason and his young friends collecting bikes to send to Africa

Support for a noble cause:Ambassador Arouna with Jason and his young friends collecting bikes to send to Africa

Today Saturday, May 13, 2017, I pulled up into Bethesda Library Parking lot on Arlington road.  Bethesda is an affluent Maryland town in the suburb of Washington DC the nation capital.  I am here to meet Jason a college rising sophomore in African studies who spent summers in Africa, mainly Tanzania and Ghana. Jason and his friends under the guidance of his parents are collecting bikes to ship to Africa as part of the Wheel To Africa Initiative.

As soon as entered the parking lot I was greeted by a jubilant and grinning group of kids happy to see the two bikes attached on the back of my car. I could not help but to reminisce, back to the day… I mean, way back when I received my first bike as a child and how happy it felt then. Thinking about it, I am sure it is probably a fair statement to say that, these kids look as happy as the people who will soon be receiving these bikes in the continent of Africa.

Upon getting out of my vehicle, I met and greeted Jason Kohn the young men who initiated today’s event, his parents, and a few of his friends, all passionate about Africa. I introduced myself and we talked about their initiative and their passion for Africa while some of the kids unloaded the two bikes I donated and stacked them against dozens of others bikes neatly arranged on the asphalt. I spent few more minutes’ chit-chatting before saying goodbye, and got into my car.  While I was putting the key in the ignition to start the car, I murmured to myself, “Jason loves Africa… so does America” before driving off…

In today’s America where most in the international development community are wondering about the Trump administration stance on Africa, Jason and his friends with their good deeds remind us, this simple fact; before there was a government, there are people and there lies the answer.

A strong and stable relationship between the United States and Africa is undoubtedly at the center of the Trump overall foreign relations. Washington’s support to the security of the continent, especially as part of the global war on terrorism is probably an essential part of “making America great again” US foreign policy, however many non-governmental or “people-to-people” interactions such as trade and cultural exchanges as well as initiatives such as Jason’s are paramount. This dependence is expected to remain unchanged in the foreseeable future.

As history teaches us, whether it be slavery, the rise of African Nationalism, or the Cold War, America and the African continent have a complicated history full of contradictions, but ultimately the strength of the relationship lies in people-to-people engagement on both continents.

About Wheel To Africa:

During a vacation in Africa with his mother, 10-year-old Winston Duncan was struck by the distances that people had to walk to find food, water, and medical care. It was then that he decided that he needed to find a way to help

His answer: Collect bikes, because “everyone has an old bike”!

In Africa, a bike is a lifeline to survival for many people. It is often their only means to access food and water, markets, education, and jobs. Winston’s passion has motivated family, friends, neighbors and acquaintances to organize annual drives across three states

*Omar Arouna is the immediate past Ambassador of the Republic of Benin to the United States of America. He answers regularly present to initiatives that touch on US-Africa Relations and is President & CEO GlobalSpecialty, LLC.

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