Nigerian President’s Call for Birth Control Sparks Debate
June 30, 2012 | 0 Comments
DAKAR, Senegal — Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has sparked intense debate by saying Nigerian families should have only the children they can afford. In remarks to the newly created National Population Commission Wednesday, the president said it may be time for “birth control legislation.”
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country with about 162 million people. The United Nations says the population could reach 400 million by 2050. That’s a growth rate of 2.5 percent annually that economists say is unsustainably high for such a densely populated country plagued by poor infrastructure, poverty and unemployment.
The World Bank says a Nigerian woman has, on average, five or six children. It is not unusual for couples to have as many as 10.
President Goodluck Jonathan has called on Nigerians “to only have the number of children they can manage.” Managing population growth, the president said, is essential to economic planning and the government could adopt policies aimed at curbing rapid population growth and encouraging birth control use.
The president, himself a Christian, said the topic of population control is “sensitive” in Nigeria, where people, he said, are “extremely religious” and children are seen as “God’s gift to man.”
His comments have sparked religious debate.
Muslim leaders say Islam only allows family planning methods to space a woman’s pregnancies for health reasons, but not to control the number of children she has.
Sheikh Ibrahim Umar Ibrahim Kasuwar, a senior member of the Supreme Council of Sharia in Nigeria, says he was unhappy to hear of the president’s speech. He says nowhere in the Bible or the Quran does it say that people can be discouraged from having children. He says this is not the first time Nigerian authorities have talked about such measures but what they forget is that the people they serve are loyal first to God.
He says he has three wives and 16 children and plans to have and care for as many more as God gives him.
A local Christian leader in Kaduna state, Reverend Esra’a Kafaiza, said the Bible encourages procreation, but adds that parents have a responsibility as well.
“It is not right to give birth to more children that you can able to control – how are you going to educate them and guide them and lead them to the way of God,” asked Kafaiza. ”
Reverend Kafaiza said population growth is not the problem in Nigeria – it’s leaders are.
“The population of Nigeria cannot stop the progress of Nigeria,” said Kafaiza. “If our leaders can stand on their obligations and apply the wisdom of God and the fear of God, we can make it and succeed also in Nigeria.”
President Jonathan pointed to the example of China, which has a one-child policy and whose population growth has slowed sharply in recent years.
Politicians and community leaders said the government would be overstepping its bounds by attempting to regulate family size.
Sociologist at the University of Abuja Umar Kari says tradition and religious values make birth control a “hard sell” in Nigeria.
He says attempts to link a reduced birth rate with poverty reduction are met with disbelief.
“The ordinary people are not impressed,” said Kari. “In their own opinion, Nigeria’s major problem is not overpopulation or high rate of population increase. Rather it is the inability of the Nigerian state to properly harness the resources – mineral, natural and human resources – of the country for the benefit of the people.”
Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil producer. However, corruption and mismanagement mean that little of that wealth trickles down to the average person.
*Culled from VOA News
Five African ‘boom towns’ that should be on every investor’s radar
June 30, 2012 | 0 Comments
By Jaco Maritz
South Africa’s economic hub Johannesburg is often cited as a classic example of the ‘boom town’ effect. The discovery of gold in the 1880s led to a gold rush that transformed the dusty settlement into South Africa’s largest city in a matter of 10 years.
Across Africa there are towns experiencing rapid development, largely off the back of newfound resources such as minerals, crude oil and natural gas. To produce this list of African boom towns How we made it in Africa sought the insight of Brett Abrahamse, a director at Johannesburg-based real estate consultancy Terrace Africa.
Abrahamse says that the towns below offer attractive opportunities from a property development perspective – especially for hotel and retail developments. While the challenges and expenses of working in Africa’s more remote locations may eat away at profit margins, these towns should be on the radar of investors and developers looking for a first-mover advantage.
The remote town of Tete, situated in the centre-west part of Mozambique, is the heart of the country’s new coal mining industry. The area around the town has some of the world’s richest coal reserves.
Rajat Kohli, Standard Bank’s global head of mining and metals, called it the world’s last substantial untapped coal reserve. “About 100 million tons per annum of coal could be produced within the next five years, and that figure could even go further,” he said at a conference last year.
Mining companies operating in Tete Province’s Moatize basin include Rio Tinto as well as Brazil’s Vale.
The coal mines are linked via rail to the port of Beira. Brazilian mining giant Vale has also announced plans to build a railway line from its Moatize mine to the north-western port of Nacala to export coal.
Tete is booming due to mining activity in the area. However, according to Abrahamse, the town has very few formal supermarkets and hotels, creating significant opportunities for more developments. Carlson Rezidor has announced that it will soon launch its new Park Inn by Radisson hotel in Tete.
Solwezi is the core town in the ‘new’ Zambian copper-belt and is also the capital of the North-Western province. From humble beginnings as a trading station servicing the nearby mines and employees, the town has now mushroomed into an important node. Solwezi has seen significant growth in recent years, driven by copper and nickel mines, which are run by First Quantum and Barrick Gold.
Abrahamse says that Solwezi has also experienced an increase in mining-related services and business activities. In addition, trade on the Congolese border 12 kilometres away is further boosting development and business activity in the town. The current airport is being upgraded, and will soon be able to accommodate Boeing 737s, which should see an increase in flights to Solwezi.
According to Abrahamse, there is a strong demand for more retailers and hotels in Solwezi. “There is a dire shortage of formal hotel accommodation in the town and this is evident by the US$200-plus room rate for a two-star room. The current hotel operations at Royal Solwezi Inn and Kansanshi Hotel are running at more than 90% occupancy with extremely high room rates,” he says.
The only formal supermarket in Solwezi is a Shoprite, which cannot alone cater for the growing demand. Abrahamse reckons that Solwezi is in need of small to medium sized commercial property developments with a retail anchor, a hospitality partner, numerous line shops and banking facilities.
First Quantum has also recently begun a new US$1 billion investment in a project called Trident. This consists of three new mines and will have an annual capacity of 300,000 tons of copper per year. The closest town to Trident is Solwezi.
Towards the end of 2010 How we made it in Africa reported that Takoradi, a small coastal town on Ghana’s west coast, was emerging as one of the new hot spots for African property developers. At the time there was considerable enthusiasm about the twin city of Sekondi-Takoradi because it was set to be home to Ghana’s emerging oil industry. Takoradi is the nearest commercial port to the country’s offshore oil fields.
Since then commercial oil production has started in all earnest, but developers and retailers have still not fully capitalised on the opportunities.
A few days ago it was announced that the International Finance Corporation (IFC) has provided a loan of US$5.45 million to Alliance Estates Limited, to build the first Protea Hotel in Takoradi. The 132-room, three-star hotel will help meet demand for business infrastructure as more investors are venturing into the oil producing region of Takoradi. “Ghana’s economy has been expanding at a high level, with growth touching 13.6% in 2011. In Takoradi, international hotels are limited, despite increased business traffic from investors interested in developing the oil and gas industry. The Protea Hotel will be amongst the first to provide international-standard rooms, rates and conference facilities,” said the IFC in a statement.
Juba (South Sudan)
“Juba, the capital of South Sudan, is one of those penny stocks, those risky ones where it could become the next Nairobi, or it could just muddle along and stay as it is forever,” says Abrahamse.
Last year South Sudan became Africa’s newest country after the region voted in favour of secession from Sudan. The referendum was a core component of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended decades of conflict between the Southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the Khartoum government.
At independence there was much optimism that the South Sudanese economy would finally take off. The region has few industries outside the oil sector and almost non-existent infrastructure. Lately, however, there has been renewed fighting between Sudan and its now independent neighbour, South Sudan, sparking fears of an all-out war.
Although the recent fighting took place far from Juba, Abrahamse notes that the city’s fortunes are heavily dependent on peace between the two countries. He says that political risk is the major issue prospective investors in South Sudan should consider and that each business opportunity should be analysed on its merits. Juba’s potential for development is, however, certain. The city is South Sudan’s main commercial hub and one of the world’s fastest growing urban areas due to oil money.
Last year the South Sudanese government announced that the capital would move to Ramciel, some 250 kilometres away from Juba, closer to the border of north Sudan. It is unclear when this will happen.
Pemba is a port city in northern Mozambique. It is traditionally known as a tourist destination, but these days Pemba is an important centre for northern Mozambique’s offshore natural gas fields in the Rovuma basin.
US-based Anadarko Petroleum and Italian oil & gas company Eni, have both recently announced significant gas discoveries in their respective blocks. These discoveries are important because of the size of the reserves as well as Mozambique’s relative proximity to markets in Asia. “This is rather close to the largest potential market for liquefied natural gas (LNG), which is Asia. It is easier to export from offshore Mozambique to Asia than it is from many other places,” Adi Karev, global oil & gas leader at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, told How we made it in Africa in an interview earlier this year.
Abrahamse says that Pemba, as is the case with the other towns mentioned in this article, has a lack of accommodation and retail facilities. “An example of the problem with Pemba is there is one five-star lodge that is booked out by the oil companies. The interesting story there is that post the 2008/2009 financial crisis the resorts were struggling, but since they found gas there, these hotels and lodges have been booked out by people working on the gas fields.”
*Culled from http://www.howwemadeitinafrica.com
Barcelona FC backs bid to send one million e-books to Africa
June 21, 2012 | 0 Comments
By Tim Hume, for CNN*
London (CNN) — Stars from one of the world’s great soccer teams will be encouraging reading as part of a new project to put one million digital books in the hands of African children.
Spanish football team FC Barcelona — home to stars Lionel Messi, Xavi, Eric Abidal and Seydou Keita — joined forces Thursday with the non-profit organization Worldreader in a campaign to inspire a wave of literacy in sub-Saharan Africa through the use of e-readers.
Founded by David Risher, a former executive at Microsoft and Amazon, Worldreader works on the premise that e-readers, like Amazon’s Kindle, could help children in developing countries to “awaken their passion for reading, and improve their lives.”
“Worldreader is committed to putting a digital library in the hands of all children throughout the world’s developing countries, and we’re thrilled with the support of FC Barcelona to send one million e-books to students in Africa,” said Risher, Worldreader’s CEO.
The campaign is appealing for one million donors to each make a $5 contribution to help them reach their target of distributing one million e-books to 10,000 children in Africa. Because students bring home the devices and typically share their use with family members, friends and neighbors, it is expected the initiative will help put e-books in the hands of 50,000 people.
The e-readers will be distributed to children in Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda, where the non-profit is already operating, and soon in Rwanda, which is to become the next focus for the organization.
Football giant Barcelona will lend its weight to the campaign, with its stars sending messages via the e-readers to encourage students to read more and achieve their goals.
Worldreader believes technology can provide the best approach to encouraging literacy in parts of the developing world where books are otherwise scarce.
The program has motivated my students and instilled a joy for reading that never existed before
Jacqueline Abiso Dzifa, teacher, Kade, Ghana
Unlike traditional books — which had to be physically imported, one title at a time — a single e-Reader could provide a child with a vast array of current, relevant titles at a low distribution cost.
The increased access to reading material, it was believed, could broaden the way students think and develop their creativity by allowing them to go beyond the syllabus to follow their reading interests.
A year-long pilot of the program to 350 students in six schools in Ghana yielded promising results. Reading test scores for primary students participating in the program increased by 4.8% to 7.6% more than their peers who were not taking part, although benefits for older students were less clear.
The e-readers gave students access to a much greater variety of titles: 107, on average, as opposed to the between 3 to 11 books the average student had access to at home without the devices. They swiftly learned how to use the e-readers, despite 43% having never used a computer before.
“Worldreader has not only given us unparalleled access to books, the program has motivated my students and instilled a joy for reading that never existed before,” said Jacqueline Abiso Dzifa, a teacher at Presbyterian Primary in Kade, Ghana, whose students participated in the pilot.
The students relished their access to “a wide variety of classic and cutting-edge literature by renowned authors,” she said.
As e-readers provided a pathway into the digital world, many students also used them to read international news sites that would have been inaccessible previously.
Just one of the collateral benefits to the program was that students gained greater exposure to African writers, said Worldreader managing director and co-founder Colin McElwee.
The program was working with African publishing houses to digitize their titles and provide students with local, relevant content — which had positive impacts on local literary cultures.
“We want to digitize the curriculum, there’s a whole catalog of books you can digitize,” he said. “Once you digitize them, you can’t just sell them in Ghana or Kenya — you have a global market. So this is the first time African culture can be exported seamlessly, globally. That has an enormous impact on the potential of Africa over time.”
*Culled from CNN
Blog: How I navigated Kenya using Twitter
June 21, 2012 | 0 Comments
By Errol Barnett*
Nairobi, Kenya (CNN) — Surfers beware. There is an incredibly influential and vocal group on Twitter, using a common hashtag and blazing keyboards to ensure their African country is discussed fairly and with respect online. Kenyans on Twitter, better known as #KOT, are a 21st century phenomenon born out of the social media boom and growing economy in East Africa’s most populous city, Nairobi.
Why are they so vocal and what is it doing for the country at large? My mission for “Inside Africa” recently was to find out – and I did so with an experiment.
The concept was simple; if Kenyans are so connected I should be able to assemble a quick meet-up; I should be able to navigate Nairobi via Twitter. The entire process should teach me how tech-savvy this country really is and show me where its heading. It worked far better than expected.
Technically speaking, Kenyans are special, as they are members of an exclusive and enviable club. The country is among the top four users of the web in all of Africa, behind only Egypt, Morocco and Nigeria. What’s more impressive is the connection speed at which they surf. The Kenyan government recently installed broadband infrastructure, which behind Ghana, is the second fastest on the continent.
Also, the Kenyan Government, in coordination with the World Bank, has embarked on a multi-million dollar initiative to use information and communications technology — or ICT — to accelerate economic growth and promote transparency.
For these reasons and more, the response to my call for a random meeting was met with enthusiasm. One by one, half a dozen #KOTs approached me in the predetermined cafe (offering free wi-fi) shouting the password, “connected!” Each told me how the internet is making their lives easier from paying bills through a mobile money service called Mpesa or sending out links to their resumes via social media.
What’s more fascinating is the place they all suggested I visit, iHub. Essentially it’s a nexus of innovation with free-flowing ideas meant to serve as an incubator for future Kenyan-grown advancements. Via Twitter, users gave me advice on how to get there and who to meet.
I met the manager Tosh Juma standing amid what appeared to be a college study hall. He introduced me to software developers, web designers and tech enthusiasts all at different stages of their ICT projects. Of course there was the obligatory coffee bar, foosball table and comfy gaming seats on the floor — but there was also a real sense of responsibility for the future and well-being of the country.
One young entrepreneur is Susan Eve Oguya, eagerly telling me about her SMS or text service for Kenyan farmers, MFarm. It allows them to check up-to-the-minute market rates for their goods so devious middlemen can’t deceive them. She tells me its especially important for her since she comes from a family of people who make their living on farms.
Another developer, Nevi Mukherjee showed me a tablet-based application designed for Kenya’s school children called eLimu. It brings the country’s academic curriculum to life with pictures, video and interactive quizzes. It’s no wonder Google plucked many of iHub’s members, like Ory Okolloh of the crisis-mapping site Ushahidi, to join their African ranks.
My final stop on this online experiment was Google’s offices in Kenya. Joe Mucheru, Google’s Ambassador for everything related to Sub-Saharan Africa gave me a tour and sneak peak into new services. They include a mapping service keeping the government accountable on schools that it has agreed to build or expand — the map reveals any progress — or lack thereof. From Joe’s corner office overlooking Nairobi he tells me of his wish for his young children, “I think they are going to have a much easier life and hopefully… compete globally even more. They don’t have the same hang ups we had, that ‘we’re behind’. They think they deserve everything and should be doing everything — that’s the right attitude for young people now.”
Kenya online usage has grown exponentially. Back in the year 2000 only 200,000 were logged onto the web, at the end of 2011, that number was around 10.5 million. No one knows how many internet users – or #KOTs for that matter – there will be in 2021 but one thing is for sure; there will be many and they will be helping Kenya stand out proudly in an increasingly crowded online universe.
*Culled from CNN. Every week, Inside Africa takes its viewers on a journey across Africa, exploring the true diversity and depth of different cultures, countries and regions.
Introducing The African Kingdoms &Empires Theme Park or “Heritage City”
June 19, 2012 | 0 Comments
By Shanda Washington*
Despite its immense potential, Africa is grossly misunderstood by many across the world. Talk about Africa and based on the image that comes to many minds is one of misery, of disease, of illiteracy, of wars, famine, poverty and other negative labels used by the western media to brand the continent. Yet this is a continent described by US Under Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson as the last biggest emerging market in the world. It is home to some 54 countries or so I believe, it is a billion man strong markets; it has vast resources some of which are not found anywhere else in the world. Because of these resources, global powers are now making a mad rush for Africa. Beyond the vast scramble for resources that salivates predatory appetites, lies historic realities that the world is ignorant about or refuses to come to terms with. Africa is the continent where civilization started, it is the continent that is home to humanity, it is a continent that has some of the best cultures in the world, it a continent with some of the biggest empires that the world ever knew. It is partly in a bid to help immortalize the historical realities of Africa that the African Kingdoms Empires theme or “Heritage City was conceived.
Heritage city is designed to showcase Africa’s rich history, enhanced with modern technology to produce a total experience in learning, entertainment and relaxation for tourists and visitors. Heritage city represents the best initiative till date to present all of Africa’s diverse culture and history to tourists and visitors in one spot. By its existence, it is hoped that Heritage City will attract wide range of tourists from all over the world. For many African Americans who yearn to know more about their roots, the City offers a unique opportunity to get a healthy feel of Africa’s rich heritage presented in the best possible form with a dose of modernity.
The African Kingdoms and Empires Theme Park or “Heritage City”, is an idea conceived by a very good friend of mine Ekwo Omakwu, when Ekwo showed me the business plan way back in 2000, I knew I had found my life’s calling. Through lots of research, we realized that Africa did not have anything like what we were trying to do. I did not know a lot about Africa, just what I had heard. After all, they don’t teach us about Africa in school. Although so many African Americans are still not very knowledgeable about Africa a lot of it is not their fault. We are constantly being bombarded with negative images about Africa. I can remember telling my friends and family about Heritage City. And a lot of the responses were “who’s going to go to a theme park in Africa?’ “Isn’t everyone over there poor?”
When someone says that everyone in Africa is poor, I have to remind them that Porsche just opened up its first dealership on Victoria Island in Lagos. That is not to diminish the problems that the Continent does have. But, we know that Heritage city will bring thousands of jobs and boost tourism. In Monrovia, Liberia Kendeja a resort, built by African American multimillionaire and Black Entertainment television founder Robert Johnson, is a five star resort. Kendeja is the first new hotel to be built in Liberia in a decade. Retail giants like Wal-Mart are searching for inroads n the continent. I think those are positive signs for Africa and shows that Africa has potential and that people are starting to notice and understand that Africa is really the future. I think as an African Americans we have to be more proactive in our engagement with the continent. Just as the investment of Robert Johnson in Liberia is a salutary initiative so too is the school opened by Oprah Winfrey in South Africa, so too is the work done by Actor Isaiah Washington in Sierra Leone with his Goondobay Foundation. The Heritage City idea falls in line with these kind of initiatives which should forge greater bonds between mother Africa and its Diaspora.
We hope to put together groups of people to take to the park. It is so important for people to see for themselves, that what they show us about Africa is not the truth. But overall, I do feel that people have been very positive about the park. We have a Facebook page that has almost 50,000 likes.
We believe that Heritage City can help dispel the myths about Africa. Heritage city will promote a greater understanding of Africa and will highlight Africa’s contribution to human civilization. By focusing more on Africa’s pre-slavery and pre-colonial era, the achievements of African people that have been otherwise obscured will be showcased at the theme park.
Abuja- Nigeria’s capital was chosen as the location for Heritage City because it is fast becoming a magnet city for the West African sub-region and for the rest of Africa. It is a new city with new infrastructure and space for continuous expansion. There are also a number of amazing rock formations, waterfalls, hills and valleys in Abuja and surrounding areas. It must not be forgotten that Nigeria is the giant of Africa. It is the leader in the continent with developments be there social, economic or security wise which impact the rest of the continent positively or negatively. It was therefore appropriate that Nigeria be chosen to host this first of its kind project.
Heritage City Project is championed by Heritage City Parks Limited-a private development company based in Abuja, Nigeria. The project funding and planning was packaged
by the Washington; DC based US-Africa Technology Council, Inc. The project concept was developed since 2002 but administrative bottle-necks on the part of the Nigerian city government have since delayed the approval of a site for the project and its initial take-off in 2006.Nigeria is currently not known as a popular tourist destination. The promoters of Heritage City hope all that will change when Heritage City opens in 2013. The Heritage City Project stands to gain tremendously on an annual basis from a large influx of international tourists including African Americans, citizens of the Caribbean, and also indigenous Africans themselves who will be interested in learning more about their heritage in an atmosphere that is tranquil, relaxing and entertaining. The African Kingdoms and Empires Theme Park will promote Africa’s rich cultural heritage by focusing on the historical dimensions that shaped that heritage.
*Shanda Washington is the project assistant for Heritage city, and social media PR she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org ,cell phone 202-369-7170 .website www.heritagecitypark.com, Facebook page African heritage city.
Economic growth pulls Rwandans out of poverty
June 15, 2012 | 0 Comments
Business and service sector are drivers of booming growth that benefits many Rwandans.
By Steve Terrill *
KIGALI, Rwanda — Eighteen years ago this week (Friday April 6), Rwanda plunged into genocide, 100 days in which some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were massacred and the country was battered by civil war.
In the past 17 years Rwanda has pulled its economy up from the ruins to become one of Africa’s most dynamic and fastest growing, registering at least 8 percent GDP growth for the past 5 years.
It has not been easy work and the country still has a long way to go.
A majority of Rwandans still live on less than 50 cents per day, with 77 percent on less than $1.25 daily, according to United Nations statistics.
The small country — at 10,000 square miles it is about the size of Maryland — and has the highest population density in sub-Saharan Africa. About 86 percent of the population subsists on traditional agriculture, according to the UN. Despite fertile volcanic soils and abundant rainfall, food production often does not meet demand, requiring imports.
Rwanda does not have oil deposits or other major natural resources. President Paul Kagame’s government has bet on economic growth based on tourism and services to create new employment.
Kagame’s gamble appears to be getting results. At least 1 million Rwandans have been lifted out of poverty in just five years, according to the Rwandan Household Living Conditions Survey, released by the government earlier this year.
Economic growth between 2006 and 2011 reduced the number of Rwanda’s 11 million people living in poverty from 57 to 45 percent, according to the report.
International development expert, Paul Collier, author of “The Bottom Billion,” called the Rwandan statistics “deeply impressive” and said that Rwanda had pulled off a rare “hat trick” of rapid growth, sharp poverty reduction and reduced inequality.
“This should be happening everywhere in Africa,” Collier said, at the release of the report. “Instead, it’s happening nowhere else.”
Health has improved as shown by key indicators. Infant mortality dropped from 86 per 1000 live births in 2005 to 50 per 1000 live births in 2011. The use of contraceptives went from 25 percent in 2008 to 45 percent in just three years.
Rwanda’s infrastructure grew rapidly, with connections to electricity jumping from 91,000 in 2006 to 215,000 in 2011, according to government statistics. Access to education improved sharply with primary school completion rates for 2011 reaching 79 percent for boys and 82 percent for girls, much higher than the overall targets of 59 percent and 58 percent respectively, while participation in secondary level education doubled from 2006 to 2011.
“We are happy with the valuable progress we have seen in these numbers,” said Kagame when announcing the data. “But we are also aware there is more work to be done, not less.”
Kagame said he hopes that continued economic growth will come not from aid, but from investment and capacity building. In 1995, 100 percent of the government budget came from foreign aid. In 2011, it had fallen to 40 percent. The government aims to get that to zero.
Kagame’s aim to make Rwanda the high tech hub for Central Africa was boosted by Carnegie Melon University’s decision to open a computer science campus in Kigali. Carnegie Mellon will offer information technology and electrical computer engineering masters programs beginning in August.
“A lot of people go outside of Africa to get an education, with more than 200,000 young Africans going to Europe, Asia and America every year to study,” Michel Bezy, Assistant Director of CMU-Rwanda told GlobalPost. ”This creates a brain-drain because we estimate that about 50 percent of those students never return home.”
Bezy said both Kagame and Carnegie Mellon University want Rwanda’s brightest students to study in their own country so they can stay here after graduating and help build and support the nation’s IT infrastructure.
Rwanda has invested in an advanced fiber-optic network in Africa which has helped to attract the giant payment processing company Visa. The company launched a partnership with the Rwandan government in December last year to help transform the country from a cash-based economy to a more efficient, cashless one.
“Make no mistake: This is absolutely a commercial activity from our perspective,” said Elizabeth Buse, Visa’s Group President for Asia Pacific, Central Europe, Middle East and Africa. “This new partnership will not benefit Rwandans alone. It will drive more volume and revenue across the Visa network.”
Buse added that Rwanda provides an “extraordinary development and economic framework. There is an openness to develop public private partnerships — which is very unusual among government — and there is a strong focus on developing ICT infrastructure.”
Rwanda’s business and service sectors account for two-thirds of GDP, having replaced agriculture. Tourism is a key part of the service sector. Marriott is building one of its first three hotels in sub-Saharan Africa, with a 5-star, 250-room hotel in Kigali. Marriott said it decided to enter Rwanda because of its promise as a service, transportation and logistics center for the Central Africa.
Even as Rwanda’s economy grows and outpaces its neighbors in virtually every development indicator, large wealth gaps still exist.
The country is still largely made up of agricultural workers living in grinding poverty. The coming years will be a test to see if Rwanda can include its poorest, rural citizens in Kigali’s economic boom. But analysts believe that if growth continues, even Rwanda’s poorest farmers will benefit from the country’s success.
“Rwanda is truly an undervalued asset that is positioned for strong business growth,” said Clay Parker, managing director of Bridge2Rwanda, an NGO focused on sustainable economic development. “Their corporate style leadership has a mindset of minimum bureaucracy and maximum protection. The people desire to learn and work hard. They want to be innovators who do not simply compete with the rest of Africa, but instead the entire world.”
*Culled from http://www.globalpost.com
Herakles Farms Announces Update on Its Cameroon Palm Oil Subsidiary SGSOC
June 13, 2012 | 0 Comments
Company to Proceed with Phased Development Approach to Ensure Sustainable, Environmental and Socially Sensitive Growth
– Herakles Farms, a New York-based agriculture company operating in Ghana and Cameroon, today announced new details for its Cameroon palm oil subsidiary, SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon (SGSOC), and its decision to pursue a phased development approach to allow its many stakeholders to better understand the social and environmental benefits and impacts and to be responsive to the concerns of all stakeholders that may arise.
To date, SGSOC has cultivated less than 30 hectares in the Nguti, Mundemba and Toko Sub-Divisions of South West Cameroon. Specifically, this development entails three nurseries near the villages of Talangaye, Lipenja I, (Batanga) and Fabe, with 70,000 mature trees currently ready for transfer to the field. SGSOC recently conducted pre-clearing studies on the initial 2,000 hectares of land under evaluation for field-planting development. These studies included a detailed examination of the flora, fauna, and habitat of the land adjacent to the Talangaye nursery in order to ensure the maintenance and protection of all environmental and social high conservation value areas.
SGSOC committed to development in Cameroon in September 2009, when the Company and the Government of Cameroon signed an agreement to develop approximately 70,000 hectares of oil palm in an area classified by the Government as secondary forest in the South West Region. The area had suffered economically in large part because of its isolation from services and market opportunities. Since the land in the region had been logged and farmed repeatedly in the past, the Government of Cameroon responded to the communities’ needs by designating the land for commercial, agricultural and economic development.
SGSOC conducted an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for the area and submitted it to the Government of Cameroon in August 2011. The Government thereafter issued its approval through a Certificate of Environmental Conformity in September 2011. In an April 2012 ruling, the Mundemba High Court affirmed that SGSOC had complied with these environmental and land-related Government regulations and that the Company has been in order with such requirements for legal operation in Cameroon.
While SGSOC expects that approximately 60,000 hectares may ultimately be suitable for planting, before it proceeds with transferring its trees from the nursery to the field, it has committed to performing additional pre-planting studies designed to ensure that the Company has thoroughly mapped all high conservation value sites, important lands for village use, buffer zones and fulfilled other obligations to key stakeholders.
In parallel to this phased approach, SGSOC is also helping to support rural employment and development, upgrading infrastructure including roads and enhancing critical services such as healthcare and schooling. For instance, together with the local organization of medical doctors, WecCare Foundation, a program was recently completed in the villages of Talangaye and Ayong near Nguti, and Lipenja I, Batanga and Meangwe near Toko. Consultations, informational booklets, medication and a range of selected surgeries with appropriate follow-up were included in the program. In terms of education, the Company donated textbooks to 35 secondary schools in all nine subdivisions in the Ndian Division. SGSOC continues to develop its longer-term medical and educational programs for the local villages in the area.
“Herakles Farms is committed to listening to the concerns of all stakeholders and modifying our practices where necessary. We want to be a responsible leader in developing sustainable agriculture that prioritizes community development,” stated Bruce Wrobel, CEO of Herakles Farms. “We are focused on balancing our commitments to the Government regarding job creation and economic development with the specific and important interests of the local communities, as well as NGOs and other stakeholders. We are proceeding in systematic phases in order to be responsive to all concerned. Going forward, we want to foster greater openness, transparency and collaboration in our activities.”
About Herakles Farms Established in 2009, Herakles Farms is focused on identifying and implementing solutions to important food security issues in Africa. The management team has a track record of developing environmentally and socially sustainable projects that result in economic development in some of the least-developed African countries, and has received numerous awards for its work. Previously known as SG Sustainable Oils (SGSO), the Company has been an active member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) since 2008.
Contact Information: Ms. Delilah Rothenberg Herakles Farms 277 Park Avenue, 40th Floor New York, NY 10167 (212) 351-0176 Rothenberg@heraklescapital.com
SOURCE Herakles Farms
Time For An African Valley? — Sub-Saharan Accelerators Start To Emerge
June 13, 2012 | 0 Comments
By Mike Butcher*
The news that i/o Ventures had launched the Savannah Fund in Africa is clearly welcome news for an emerging continent. It’s $10m fund size will be a shot in the arm for the eco-system there. But I was surprised to see that it was being described in some quarters as the “first ever” Sub-Saharan African incubator and accelerator. Because it patently is not.
“I think MEST would actually be the first model in this space,” said African tech watcher Ben White of vc4africa.biz when I asked him about this. MEST has a fund size of $20m, although it’s invested via a non-profit.
So to start getting into this, it may be that we are well over-due for a run-down of accelerators in Africa. Here’s what we’ve found so far.
There’s clearly been a proliferation of coworking spaces and tech incubators around Sub-Saharan Africa over the last 3-5 years. Accelerators linked with funds are a more recent phenomenon:
1. MEST: Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) provides training and mentoring in Accra, Ghana. Started in 2008, MEST is a not-for-profit NGO that is funded by the Meltwater Group through its non-profit Meltwater Foundation. Invests in 3-5 startups per annual programme. Fund size: $20m spread over 10 years.
2. HumanIPO (Nairobi, Kenya). Launched 2011. 88mph is their seed fund. Takes a minimum 10-15 investments per year. Has room for 25 startups in its space. Fund size: Uknown.
3. Umbono (Cape Town, South Africa). Launched 2011. This is Google’s accelerator & fund. Puts in $25k to $50k seed capital. Fund size: Unknown.
5. Mara Launchpad (Kampala, Uganda). Launched 2012. Backed by Mara Foundation. Fund size: Unknown.
6. Lastly there is the co-working space iHub (Nairobi, Kenya) launched 2010 and is now the base for the Savannah Fund as mentioned above. Fund Size: $5m, but is aiming to be $10m eventually.
The Savannah Fund is coming out of i/o co-founder Paul Bragiel and i/o entrepreneur-in-residence Mbwana Alliy along with Erik Hersman a cofounder the Ushahidi crowd sourcing platform and a cofounder of Nairobi’s iHub. Five early stage $25,000 for 15% equity and three to six months to prove themselves. Follow-on funding for the successful ones will be in the region of $100,000 to $200,000.
Savannah Fund has backing from Tim Draper, Dave McClure of 500 Startups, Yelp co-founder Russ Simmons, and Dali Kilani and Roger Dickey of Zynga, as well as local Kenyan entrepreneurs, including Karanja Macharia of Mobile Planet.
Savannah will also run an incubator like i/o in San Francisco for ten companies a year, but it appears the companies will be sourced in Nairobi with the ones showing promise being shipped over from East Africa to the US to scale up.
The consensus on the ground amongst seasoned AfricaTech watchers is that while Nigeria has the fastest growing economy it’s also pretty dangerous at the moment. Kenya also has its issues but is widely regarded as a strong hub for tech companies in Africa, and Tansania has potential, but Ghana is quickly gaining a reputation because of its relatively stable business and political environment and the English language is widespread. It’s also becoming a big airline hub because airlines prefer not to drop their staff into potentially dangerous countries.
Expect more Africa coverage from TechCrunch in due course…
*Culled from http://techcrunch.com
Economic growth stirs hope in Africa
June 13, 2012 | 0 Comments
Over the next five years, the continent will expand faster than any other
By Emily Dugan *
While ministers in Europe try to hold together crumbling economies, a success story has been quietly emerging to the south. Africa is experiencing its longest income boom for 30 years, with gross domestic product growth rates averaging about 5 per cent annually over the past decade. Even this year, as markets elsewhere collapse, the continent’s income is projected to increase by around 4.5 per cent.
Africa will have the world’s fastest-growing economy during the next five years of any continent, according to the International Monetary Fund. Its forecasts also show that seven of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies will be African, with Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Congo, Ghana, Zambia and Nigeria expected to expand by more than 6 per cent a year until 2015.
The world is starting to take notice: trade between Africa and the rest of the globe increased by 200 per cent between 2000 and 2011. As well as the usual exports of oil, natural gas and minerals, the sale of African-manufactured goods is also increasing. Over the past ten years, African manufactured output has doubled.
Zambia is one of the continent’s most promising economies, growing at 7.6 per cent in 2010 and 6.6 per cent in 2011. Thanks to the technology boom, its supply of copper, which now accounts for almost half its exports, is highly sought after. Though it is still among the poorest in the world – it is ranked 164 out of the 187 countries on the UN Human Development Index – there are signs that its economic success is starting to translate into better lives for its citizens. By 2009, the country had full primary school enrolment, up from 80 per cent in 1990, and the latest figures show a decline in the infant mortality rate to 86 per 1,000 live births in 2009 from 88 in 2008.
Marcelo Giugale, the director of the World Bank’s poverty reduction programme for Africa, has been watching how the continent’s economic successes impact on its poorest people and is cautiously optimistic. “Sustained growth is necessary but not sufficient on its own to have an impact on poverty”, he said. “You can have growth for a long time and it will help only a few people. We have been lucky that growth has been accompanied by poverty reduction. Not as much as you’d hope, but still. We don’t have continental numbers, but we do have individual countries that show a reduction in poverty, especially extreme poverty.
“In Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda and Mozambique, infant mortality, health indicators and educational attainment have all improved.”
Mr Giugale believes the mineral-rich continent could see even greater leaps. “If Europe holds together, I think this growth in Africa will continue,” he said. “We are only at the tip of the iceberg in terms of the commodities that Africa has that we know about. I would estimate we still know only about 10 per cent of what’s there. There is so much still to discover.”
Technology has helped speed up growth. In Kenya, for example, mobile phone bank transfers have revolutionised rural access to cash. Just two years after the mobile banking system M-Pesa was introduced in 2007, 40 per cent of Kenya’s adult population had become customers.
There are also early signs of a growth in the continent’s middle class. An African Development Bank report has projected that by 2030 much of the continent will have a middle-class majority and that consumer spending will soar from $680bn in 2008 to $2.2trn.
Joel Kibazo, a consultant working with Oxford’s Centre for the Study of African Economies, says the signs of an emerging middle class are encouraging: “If you look at my country, Uganda: when I was growing up, there was one university, now there are about 30. All these people who are educated are coming out wanting a middle-class lifestyle. They don’t want to go back to villages and mud huts, they want to buy microwaves and laptops.”
But he fears the current European crisis could chip away at the successes. “In 2008, when the rest of the world fell off a cliff, Africa continued moving up”, he said, “but this time, I don’t think it’s going to escape the turmoil in Europe in the same way.”
Emerging economies, such as India and China, do not seem put off, however, and are snatching up opportunities in mineral-rich countries. In 2008, the Democratic Republic of Congo took $6bn of Chinese money for infrastructure – some 2,400 miles of road, 2,000 miles of railway, two universities, 32 hospitals and 145 health stations. In return, China got a slice of the country’s natural resources to feed its own industry – 10 million tons of copper and 400,000 tons of cobalt.
In contrast, Britain has not seized chances on the same scale. Razia Khan, a senior researcher for Standard Chartered Bank, said: “Africa is trading that much more with the emerging powers, so the UK’s share of trade with Africa is not as dominant.”
Over the next 40 years, Africa’s population is set to double, from one billion to two billion, a massive increase in the number of young people of working age. The median age on the continent is currently 20 – half that in Europe, where the economy is faltering.
Yet the continent’s recent swift expansion has largely passed by northern Africa. In Egypt, growth fell by 3.3 percentage points to below 2 per cent in 2011, and in Tunisia a fall of 4.2 percentage points produced contraction of around 1 per cent, according to analysts at the African Economic Outlook. In Libya, the civil war brought oil production to a standstill and GDP shrank by more than 40 per cent. The more mature economy of South Africa also bucked the trend for economic expansion, expanding its output by only 3.1 per cent in 2011.
Despite the economic gains, there are some who find the regimes unpalatable. Tom Cargill, the assistant director of the Africa programme at the foreign policy think tank Chatham House, said: “If you’re interested in states becoming more economically successful, then what is coming out of Africa is good news. But if you are interested in an Africa where human rights are respected and governments take on the attributes of Western democratic countries, including fair elections and freedom of speech, then it isn’t good.
“African states are finding their own ways to economic growth which don’t conform to those liberal human rights criteria. Part of that is because Europe is declining, so European prescriptions of how to behave, in terms of governance, is becoming less attractive to African states.”
Though some may be uncomfortable about how it got there, it seems Africa can no longer be dubbed “the hopeless continent”.
*Culled from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/
BBC announces major new focus on Africa*
June 13, 2012 | 0 Comments
The BBC has today announced its first-ever dedicated daily TV news programme in English for African audiences. The new programme, BBC Focus On Africa, brings together the expertise of the BBC World Service’s African Service and BBC World News on television. It is the first in a range of new programming for Africa to be launched by the BBC this summer, including a major expansion of its TV offer.
BBC Focus on Africa will be aired by the BBC’s broadcast partners in Africa and will be shown globally on BBC World News. It forms just one part of an expansion of the BBC’s offer on TV, radio and online.
The BBC today named Komla Dumor and Sophie Ikenye as the main presenters of the daily 30-minute news programme.
BBC Focus On Africa will be launched on prime-time TV across the continent from 18 June 2012 at 17.30 GMT. The programme will draw on the pool of BBC African talent on the continent and in London to report on Africa’s rising economies, entrepreneurs, innovators, culture, entertainment and sport.
Focus on Africa will be covering the major news from the continent and asking: is there a way out of the Sudan crisis? What impact will Europe’s economic problems have on Africa’s booming economies? How does Africa deal with its growth in natural resources?
The programme will also challenge African leaders and politicians on tough issues. Focus On Africa will report on the latest developments in business, technology and science and speak to those driving change. It will also look at how Africa is becoming an information technology hotspot. The programme will report, for example, on Kenyan scientists who are at the forefront in discovering cheaper, locally produced medicines to combat malaria.
Focus On Africa reporters across Africa will be giving us a snapshot of the innovation, lifestyle and culture of the country they live in. The programme will feature Africa Beats, looking at the people behind Africa’s varied music scenes. Every step of the way viewers will have their say through social media.
Focus on Africa presenter Komla Dumor says: “After decades of turmoil and uncertainty, a new Africa is emerging. The old stereotypes are being challenged and a new, compelling narrative is being written. I am incredibly excited to be part of a new BBC programme that will provide solid coverage and analysis of Africa’s challenges and prospects.”
Solomon Mugera, the BBC’s Africa Editor, says: “Africa is now one of the fastest developing news markets in the world – this new investment will expand our services for African audiences.
“While radio remains popular in Africa, TV is growing – and our partnerships with leading African broadcasters play a key part in these future plans. Mobile phone ownership is racing towards a billion, internet connectivity is rising and social media is empowering audiences. It’s essential that the kind of independent journalism the BBC does that isn’t slanted to one political or commercial viewpoint remains central to the new media landscape.
“With correspondents in 48 African countries, production centres in Nairobi, Abuja, Johannesburg and Dakar and a weekly audience of 77 million, the BBC already has deep roots in the continent. Our journalists are from the African countries they report on – in English, Swahili, Hausa, Somali, Kinyarwanda/Kirundi and French – living and breathing the big stories and issues facing Africa.”
The BBC also announced that six special episodes from Africa of current affairs interview programme Rendezvous, hosted by Zeinab Badawi, will be broadcast on BBC World News from mid-June with guests including President Kikwete of Tanzania.
The BBC newsgathering resources in Africa are part of a global network of 70 bureaux. The BBC made its first broadcast to Africa more than 80 years ago. The combined audience on radio and television makes the BBC the largest international broadcaster in Africa.
*Courtesy of http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/worldnews/
Cuba injects doctor diplomacy into Africa
June 11, 2012 | 0 Comments
By Nick Miroff*
Oil-pumping African nations pay hefty sums to staff their hospitals with thousands of Cuban doctors, with most of the money going to the Cuban government.
HAVANA, Cuba — Africa is a growth market for the world’s best-known Cuban brand after Havana Club rum and Cohiba cigars.
That would be Cuba Rx, also known as Havana’s doctor diplomacy.
A generation ago, Fidel Castro sent Cuban soldiers to intervene in African civil conflicts and fight the Cold War against US proxies. Now, Cuba’s doctors are fanning out across the continent as the island expands its role in administering medical services to some of the world’s most ailing countries.
For Cuba the effort is good philanthropy, good diplomacy and, in some cases, good business. The Cuban missionaries are part of a widening global medical outreach that has boosted Havana’s ties around the world and earned billions in hard currency for the cash-strapped Castro government.
The largest contingent of Cuban doctors working abroad remains in Venezuela, Cuba’s closest ally, where they have helped boost support for Hugo Chavez’s government by staffing clinics in rural areas and rough neighborhoods where health services are scarce.
In turn, the Venezuelan government sends Cuba billions in cash as well as critical supplies of oil. But Chavez is facing re-election in October as well as an uncertain recovery from an aggressive and still-undisclosed form of abdominal cancer.
If a leadership change in Venezuela were to cool relations with Cuba, thousands of Cuban doctors could be reassigned elsewhere — many to Africa, where fast-growing economies and rising commodity prices have left some governments flush with cash yet lacking in health care professionals.
Some 5,500 Cubans are already working in 35 of Africa’s 54 countries, Cuban Foreign Ministry official Marcos Rodriguez told reporters this week at a press conference in Havana.
Of those, 3,000 are health professionals, and 2,000 are doctors, he said.
“We have blood ties with Africa,” the deputy minister said.
Some 1.3 million African slaves were brought to Cuba during the island’s colonial period, Rodriguez said, and 2,289 Cubans died fighting in Angola between 1975 and 1990, where some 300,000 Cuban served.
“Cuba believes that it has a historic debt to Africa that must be repaid,” he said.
Then again, Cuba’s debt repayment is not an entirely one-way affair.
While Cuba sends physicians to Africa’s poorest countries and grants scholarships for their students to study medicine on the island, it does a brisk business with more prosperous countries on the continent — especially those that are rich with oil and poor in health professionals.
Petroleum-pumping Africa nations such as Algeria and Angola are paying hefty sums to staff their hospitals with Cuban doctors, with most of the money going to the Cuban government.
For instance, the Angolan government pays Cuba about $5,000 a month for each doctor the island sends, according to a source with knowledge of the arrangement. The Cuban doctor receives a $500 share.
It’s a tiny cut, but the amount is still about 10 times what Cuban doctors can earn back home. The Castro government also rewards physicians who complete medical “missions” with other perks — like the ability to buy a used car from the state.
The specific details of each arrangement between Cuba and the countries that receive its doctors and other professionals are not public. But the programs seem to work along three basic channels: providing medical help free to poor countries that can’t pay, charging countries that can pay, and training medical professionals at universities back in Cuba.
This sliding-scale policy has won Cuba friends around the world, as students from more than 100 countries have been trained at the island’s medical programs. According to a report this week in the Toronto Star, nearly 20,000 foreign students are currently receiving medical training in Cuba — including 116 Americans on scholarship.
But not all foreign students are studying in Cuba for free. When officials in Ghana announced recently they had reached a deal with the Castro government to train 250 doctors over a six-year period, the arrangement was criticized by Ghanan officials who argued the money would be better spent boosting education doctors back home.
Many African doctors who train abroad opt to work in foreign countries where salaries are higher, and the Cuba’s training urges them to serve their communities back home.
After the 1959 Cuban Revolution, Africa was one of the first places Cuba’s health missionaries went when a small medical brigade arrived in Algeria following the country’s anti-colonial fight against France. Cuban medical personnel also accompanied Cuban soldiers sent to aid leftist allies in Angola, Namibia and elsewhere.
And the ideological battle between the US and Cuba is still playing out on African soil. A program created by the Bush administration in 2006 creates special visas for Cuban medical personnel who wish to defect from their missions abroad.
About 800 doctors have done so to date, drawing fierce criticism from the Castro government, which says the US visa program deprives poor countries of desperately needed medical care.
Culled from GlobalPost
With Kenya election, East Africa enters make or break season
June 11, 2012 | 0 Comments
By CHARLES ONYANGO-OBBO *
As Kenya heads into the first election under its new Constitution, the East African Community too will begin its most dramatic transition.
The transition season will end in 2017 in Rwanda, when President Paul Kagame is scheduled to step down. How the leaders and East African citizens play their hands over this period, could make or break the East African project.
For starters, more East African leaders will be leaving office and handing over to new leaders in this period, than at any other in the region’s history. Kenya’s president steps down next year in March when the country votes, after serving his constitutionally provided two terms in office.
Burundi and Tanzania, both countries with term limits, will go to the polls in 2015 and Presidents Pierre Nkurunzinza and Jakaya Kikwete will leave office.
Only Uganda, where term limits were scrapped, goes to elections in 2016 with uncertainties about whether President Yoweri Museveni — who has been in power since 1986 and is already the longest-serving East African president ever — will bow out or soldier on.
Over the past year, Museveni has had to continually quell his riotous ruling National Resistance Movement, where youthful MPs, sensing that the elder leader’s prestige has been tarnished by years of corrupt government and alleged nepotism, figure that he is no longer the Colossus he was some years back.
At the official age of 68, Museveni is looking wan and is frequently off colour, which has prompted what promises to be a messy internal succession scramble. So far, it is presumed that the abstemious and wily NRM secretary-general, Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, is the man at the front of the succession queue.
Other claimants to Museveni’s throne have ganged up on him, and have thrown everything that is not nailed down at his head and character.
More than any other in the region, the succession in Uganda is set to be the most unpredictable.
In Rwanda, Kagame has given all indications that he is packing his bags and clearing out of State House. But Rwanda-watching and Kagame-bashing and Kagame-boosting are among the biggest industries in the world as far as Africa goes, so there are many voices who don’t think the former guerrilla leader will leave office.
In any event, there is one thing about Rwanda that is not doubt. The Rwanda Patriotic Front, easily Africa’s most disciplined ruling party and one of its richest, will continue to run the show for a long while. And Kagame, who will still be a relatively youthful 60-year-old in 2017, will continue to exert influence over how business is conducted in Rwanda.
The comings and goings in East African State Houses over the next five years are important, because over this same period, the EAC will be undergoing a radical remake. Last week, EAC Secretary General Dr Richard Sezibera said fragile South Sudan’s application to join the EAC is being studied.
South Sudan’s admission is likely to be quick. Uganda’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for East African Community Affairs Eriya Kategaya said earlier this year at the launch of the Society for International Development’s State of East Africa Report 2012 in Nairobi, that there was a strategic need to admit South Sudan into the EAC fold in order to “protect the new nation against aggression by [north] Sudan.”
War-scarred but slowly stabilising Somalia has also applied to join.
Somalia will take critical steps towards restoring functioning government for the first time in over 20 years between now and August, when it will have passed a new constitution, elected a new parliament, and its first democratically appointed president in generations.
The Amisom wand
The modest progress made in stabilising Somalia is thanks to the African Union’s peacekeeping force in Somalia, Amisom. Until this year, two EAC countries — Uganda and Burundi — were the only two countries providing troops for Amisom and it is they who broke the militant Al Shabaab’s back in Mogadishu, and lately took the key city of Afgoye, Somalia’s breadbasket, considerably improving food security, an important factor if the country is to return to normalcy.
Kenya entered the Somalia fray in October 2011, and after a cautious first few months, has been aggressive in recent weeks, taking the town of Afmadow, and setting its sights on the strategic Kismayu port town.
The Kenya Defence Forces, which were “re-hatted” as Amisom troops in February, said last week that they would have Kismayu in the bag by the key date of August.
With Kismayu, Mogadishu, and other important regions of Somalia controlled by Amisom and the Somalia government, the new government elected in August will have a reasonable degree of credibility. In all probability, Burundi, Kenya, Uganda and Djibouti Amisom forces — which will shortly be joined by Sierra Leone — will remain in Somalia for a few more years.
They are unlikely to leave their shining foreign policy prize out of the EAC, when they withdraw. Indeed, because of the mutual EAC defence pact, the regional armies will have a legal basis to remain in Somalia were the Amisom mandate to expire soon, if it were a member of the Community.
How the EAC will cope with, possibly, five new presidents having to deal with new members — South Sudan and Somalia — who are politically unstable and whose government structures will still be primitive, is anyone’s guess.
History is the best guide here. The EAC has survived transitions before — none of the EAC presidents in power today, with the exception of Museveni in Uganda, was in office when the EAC charter was first signed in 1999.
But some of East Africa’s coming challenges are unprecedented.
According to the State of East Africa Report 2012 (SoEAR2012), the region’s population has grown by 24 million since 2005 and was estimated to be 139 million in 2010.
“The most important population characteristic of East Africa are its children and youth”, said SoEAR2012, “who account for an overwhelming majority, 80 per cent, of the region’s population in 2010.”
Most of these are unemployed, with youth joblessness rates in countries like Uganda estimated to be over 80 per cent. Youth discontent and unrest is rising, and over the next five years, new — and possibly inexperienced — EAC leaders will be the ones to deal with the problem before it explodes into revolt.
Kenya’s Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is aiming to register 18 million voters in total — about four million more than the number in 2007. Not all these voters will be youths, but if we consider that Kenya’s population is currently increasing by one million every year, and that between 1999 and 2006 the working-age population increased from 9.7 million to 13.1 million (approximately 500,000 young people joining the work force every year) then it is likely that most of Kenya’s new voters will be between 18 and 24 years old.
With their vote in 2013, will come expectations of a good deal from the new leaders. This same pattern will be replicated in most of East Africa.
With the recent discoveries of oil and gas in the region, governments will have the money to pay for new job and social programmes and buy off restless voters.
Uganda’s oil is expected to start flowing in 2017, Kenya’s at perhaps around the same time. Tanzania is also likely to find a lot more deposits of gas, as is Rwanda, which is also exploring for oil.
However, most of the secessionist demons in Africa also live in East Africa. The region has seen the most number of successful secessions in Africa —Ethiopia/Eritrea, the Sudans; and there is a high possibility Somaliland will break away — evidence that perhaps East Africans are quite a schizophrenic people, integrationist and parochial at the same time. The Tanzanian Union is also coming under pressure. A fortnight ago in Zanzibar, Uamsho, a group that is demanding a referendum on Zanzibar’s secession from Tanzania, was behind three days of disturbances in which churches were burnt.
In the 2010 election, Zanzibar took some steps to put an end to perennial election violence by instituting a new power-sharing deal so that it’s no longer “winner takes all”: Ali Mohamed Shein from the governing CCM (Chama Cha Mapinduzi) party was voted in as president in elections in November 2010.
He narrowly beat Seif Sharif Hamad of the opposition Civic United Front. Under a power-sharing deal, Mr Sharif serves as one of Shein’s vice-presidents. The power-sharing deal was enshrined in a constitutional amendment adopted in 2010 to end perennial election violence.
While Uamsho’s secessionist demands are a new wrinkle Tanzania doesn’t need, the fact that the country’s new constitution is expected to be inaugurated in April 2014, means it has a chance to offer Zanzibar an additional calming sweetener.
The worry in Tanzania will probably be that Kikwete’s successor will have a bigger political fight on his hand than his predecessor.
The ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi’s fortunes have been dwindling in recent years, as the party is bogged down by corruption scandals and rising internal struggles. In the 2005 election, for example, CCM won 206 out of 232 seats, and Kikwete was elected with 80 per cent of the vote.
It bled in the 2010 election. CCM won 186 out of 239 seats, and this time Kikwete had to make do with 62 per cent of the vote — even then, there were allegations that the vote was stolen.
CCM should still scrape by, but the fact that it has become comfortable with running the show largely unchallenged since just after Independence, means it could become nasty if faced with the real possibility of losing power. That point, though, is not about to come tomorrow.
In November last year, a rights group reported that more than 300 people had been killed in the preceding five months, including opposition and former rebel FNL members.
The dangerous slide continued in Burundi, with Human Rights Watch reporting last month that there had been a significant increase in political violence: “Reciprocal killings by members of the ruling National Council for the Defence of Democracy-Forces for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) and the former rebel group the National Liberation Forces (FNL) increased, particularly in Bujumbura and in Bujumbura Rural Province. Impunity for these crimes remains one of the most serious obstacles to peace. The single largest incident of killings took place in September in Gatumba, near the Congolese border.”
Of the five members of the EAC, Burundi is probably the one over which most sleep should be lost. But if Nkurunziza’s successor is a gentler ruler, it too might still have a prayer.
Long-term, East Africa must worry about a common problem of institutional credibility. It seems that the majority of East African president are able to capture their countries’ imaginations, but the institutions th e state and other leaders don’t.
A Gallup poll published on April 25, for example, showed that in Kenya 62 per cent of respondents approved of President Kibaki, but only 38 per cent approved of the country’s wider leadership.
In Tanzania, 66 per cent approved of President Kikwete, but only 59 per cent approved of the country’s wider leadership. In Uganda, 60 per cent of respondents approved of President Museveni, but only 49 per cent of the country’s wider leadership.
There were no polling numbers for Rwanda, but President Kagame typically turns in high ratings in most opinion polling. Little polling is done in Burundi, but the same pattern might well be repeated there.
These numbers might flatter the leaders, but for as long East Africa is a region ruled by men, not institutions, it is will also more likely continue to report a democratic deficit.
*Courtesy of The East African