$210 million response: AfDB steps up efforts to curb Ebola outbreak in West Africa
August 21, 2014 | 1 Comments
AfDB President Donald Kaberuka[/caption] The African Development Bank Group (AfDB) on Monday, August 18 in Abidjan, approved a US $60 million grant investment as part of a $210 million package for immediate implementation to help strengthen West Africa’s public health systems in response to the Ebola crisis. The Bank’s Board, traditionally in recess during the month of August, convened an emergency meeting demonstrating the urgency of the situation and the Bank’s commitment to curb this global public health emergency. With over 2,000 cases and 1,145 people confirmed dead, this is a wakeup call for the international community that this tragedy could have been prevented if investments were directed towards building stronger health systems. The disease outbreak originated in Guinea in March 2014 and rapidly spread to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria. “This is one of the most complicated health crises we have ever known. We are not simply dealing with a health problem but with the breakdown of entire health systems in some of the countries in the (West Africa) region,” AfDB President Donald Kaberuka told Executive Directors in Abidjan who participated in the Board meeting through video and telephone link-ups. This grant is part of a $210 million package which includes $150 million in both loans and grants, along with the $60 million grant, which has been awarded to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) sub-regional Ebola Outbreak Coordinating Center located in Conakry, Guinea, given their extensive experience with global epidemics. The $60 million sum includes four emergency assistance grants of $1 million to each of the four countries affected by Ebola to help them contain the disease. The projects will support ongoing efforts to reduce morbidity, mortality from Ebola and help break the chain of transmission of the disease by strengthening sub-regional public health systems. It will support West Africa’s Ebola disease outbreak response plan from August to December 2014. In the long term (2015-2017) the Bank’s assistance will support overall strengthening of public health systems in West African countries to facilitate early detection and response to potential threats arising from epidemic and pandemic prone diseases. The proposed project critically seeks to respond to the specific needs identified by the expert community in response to this category 3 world emergency epidemic. Board members commended the speed with which the Bank designed the project. They emphasized the need for close monitoring and follow-up mechanisms for effective implementation. The Bank’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Nelly Iteba, said current figures on the impact of the disease may not adequately capture the scale of the epidemic in the West African region considering the difficulty encountered by health officials in collecting data in such a huge crisis situation. She said the Bank had taken adequate measures to protect its staff and commended the Ivorian Government for the effective measures put in place to protect people from infection. Against all odds (high fatality rate and no tested vaccine), the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) can be managed with strict adherence to standard infection control practices, basic medical equipment, and necessary medications. For instance, availability of sterilization equipment, intravenous fluids, blood transfusions, antibiotics, ventilators, powerful vasoactive medications can improve patient care and save lives. Also, skilled health professionals equipped with personal protective equipment can make all the difference in containing the spread of EVD and the availability of modern diagnostic equipment can help health workers with early detection and case management. “Failure to contain the spread of Ebola is an example of the failure of health systems in Africa, not just the lethal nature of the disease”,said Dr. Agnes Soucat, Director for Human Development at the African Development Bank.“This is why we are investing in mobile technology deployment (m-health) and building human resources for health.” As such, the AfDB will focus its efforts on strengthening public health systems which include building human resource capacity; epidemic preparedness and response; m-health and strengthening governance and regional institutions. The AfDB’s project will be coordinated by the WHO sub-regional Ebola Outbreak Coordinating Center, based in Conakry, along with the West African Health Organization (WAHO). A joint memorandum will be signed between the Bank, WHO and WAHO regional organization representing the Governments of Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea Bissau, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria, Togo, Benin, Mali, Senegal and Gambia for intervention practices and management procedures. In May, the Bank provided more than US $3 million in response to a call by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to fight Ebola in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and neighbouring countries. The AfDB Board also approved Guinea’s 2012-2016 Country Strategy Paper (CSP) as well as an addendum on the country’s eligibility to benefit from the Bank’s Transition Support Facility Resources provided under the 13th replenishment of the African Development Fund (ADF), the Bank Group’s concessional support window. *AFDB ]]>
Joyce Banda spearheads the fight for gender equality
August 19, 2014 | 0 Comments
Joyce Banda[/caption] Passing through Johannesburg on her way back, she spoke to Methil Renuka, Editor of Forbes Woman Africa, about the decisions she had to take in Malawi’s much-disputed May elections, and also her intention to continue her work championing women’s rights once she returns home. Joyce Banda, Malawi’s former President, has had a busy month in the United States, taking the message of the Joyce Banda Foundation, a social initiative that she has been spearheading in Malawi for the last 16 years, to the world. She has met with several high-level dignitaries while in the US including Hillary Clinton and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. In Johannesburg on her return trip to Malawi, Banda’s schedule has been no less hectic. She has had a meeting with South Africa’s Graca Machel for a maternal and child health program, as also meetings with “interested parties and friends” who want to support her foundation and improve the services it provides to women and children. “My mission in life is to assist women and youth gain social and political empowerment through business. We need to do more. For me, empowering women and achieving gender equality is my goal, not only in Malawi but across Africa. That’s what brings me to South Africa,” says Banda, southern Africa’s first female president. Her country’s chaotic May 20 elections are still fresh on her mind. She says there was a point in the immediate aftermath of the polls when she had to take responsibility, call for a recount, and in the end, step aside for peace to prevail. “When we went into the elections, the first day, the first hour, a lot of things happened that made Malawians uncomfortable. In Blantyre, materials were not there, people started agitating and throwing stones. We knew straight away there was going to be trouble.” “The law in Malawi says, you vote in one day, but the people were voting four days later. So there were a lot of complaints and evidence things were not right. So what I did was to take responsibility and called for a recount or an audit to make sure people are comfortable. Because what brings conflict in most parts of the world after elections is when there is doubt, when there is mistrust.” Banda says she asked for legal advice and was told she could ask for a rerun. “At that point, I realised if I am calling for a rerun, it will look like I have vested interests, that maybe I want to influence that second part of the elections, so I said I was stepping aside. The next day, the electoral commission announced they wanted to confirm that indeed there had been massive rigging, and they too were endorsing a recount. In the end, the judge ruled in favour of the incumbent president.” “People have asked me, why did I concede? I felt it was important for me to allow peace to prevail. I have always said in life that Malawians come first, and this was an opportunity for me to demonstrate that. It should be in the best interest of Malawians. But Malawians should also not shed blood. There is life after statehouse and so much more I can do. I chose to concede, and I have no regrets. I respect the [newly-elected] president.” Banda also spoke about her economic track record during her short two-year presidency, when the country’s economy grew from 1.8 per cent in 2012 to 6.2 per cent in 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=mGWZ53qo_dI#t=0 “What gives me great pride is that I left Malawi at a better place than where I found it. When I came in, the economy was on the verge of collapse. That year, growth was only 1.8 per cent. We didn’t have fuel for a day, companies were scaling down. I had to work very quickly…we devalued the kwacha, drew up an economic recovery plan.” “By the time I was leaving statehouse, the economy grew by 6 per cent. We had a harvest of 3.9 million metric tonnes. Companies were operating at 85 per cent. We now had a forex cover of three-and-a-half months [from a week]. By the time I left, we had fuel for 15 days at any given time. We had a model village in every district. We had reduced maternal deaths in two years. “The one thing I wasn’t aware of when I came into office is I wasn’t aware there was so much corruption, and that corruption affects the gains you make.” For this, Banda says she had to revamp Malawi’s financial management system, which subsequently led to 68 arrests and frozen bank accounts. “I was warned by colleagues from across the continent that it’s not easy to fight corruption…because you are fighting very powerful people who are benefitting from that kind of money, and if you are not careful, you will get smeared on, be fought through and through, dragged to the ground.” “For me, the choice was simple, is it Malawians, or is it my career?…For me, it is Malawians first, even if it means putting my political career on the line…The good news is that the current president has also decided to go ahead with the fight against corruption.” *Source cnbcafrica]]>
Slowly But Steadily, Jonathan’s Transformative Drive Paying off
August 18, 2014 | 0 Comments
Within few years in the saddle, President Goodluck Jonathan has made appreciable progress in the pursuit of his transformation agenda for the development of Nigeria, reports Kunle Aderinokun In August 2012, President Goodluck Jonathan struck Nigerians with a comment to the effect that he is the most criticised president in the world. Not a few people welcomed that comment with some ease. Most increased their criticism of him instead. One, it was unusual to hear a president talk in that manner. It also showed that opposition’s criticism about failed infrastructure was hitting home and the president was getting the message. But speaking that fateful day in August, at the International conference centre in Abuja, on the occasion of the 52nd Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association, Jonathan also left a promise. He told Nigerians that before he leaves office, they will sing a new song and he will become the most-liked president. Specifically he said: “I think I am the most criticised president in the whole world but I want to tell this audience that before I leave, I will be the most-praised president.” The premise of his logic is that instead of praising him, impatient Nigerians rather criticised him for failed infrastructure and rising insecurity. He felt he was doing well. But some Nigerians think otherwise. That was why he wondered thus: “Sometimes, I ask, were there roads in this country and Jonathan brought flood to destroy the roads? Was there power and Jonathan brought hurricane to wipe it out? If Boko Haram is that of poverty in the North, were there farms and Jonathan brought tsunami and drought to destroy them?” From those questions, Jonathan himself made a teleological promise when he said: “What I can tell Nigerians is let those talking keep talking, time will tell”. Indeed, time, that space between two events, has always made the difference. Time has always shown presidents and leaders as either performers or time wasters. But is President Jonathan one of those who would be counted among the league of time wasters? Going deeper into the message contained in his teleological prophecy, one conclusion comes handy –that Jonathan, as president, is privy to detailed information about investments in developmental efforts of his administration, which only needs time to mature and yield fruits. No doubt, infrastructure development don’t develop at the speed of light, despite the fact that Nigerians, consumers of such developments, have grown increasingly impatient having seen the pace at which countries in Asia, Europe, America and even Africa, had responded to infrastructure deficits. [caption id="attachment_11155" align="alignright" width="300"] Between Rivers and Akwa Ibom[/caption] Is President Jonathan moving at the same pace with the world? Has the world left Nigerian somewhere behind? These are questions that Nigerians answer when they travel out of their country. They see efficient rail transport systems; they enjoy good road infrastructure; they are entertained to stable electricity which also powers business; they feel the impact of steady flow of petrol, cooking gas and kerosene off the filling stations; they see very effective hospitals; they experience the impact of efficient crime control and response systems; they see functional airports and schools. And then, they come back home to imagine if their country is cursed and condemned to mismanagement. Be that as it may, it is said that it takes a village to raise a child, but it takes one child, who has become a man, to change the world. To do that, vision is key. Looking back at Jonathan’s touch on Nigeria, there is clearly evidence of serious work being done. However, such evidence has been unsatisfying largely due to the fact that most Nigerians are not aware of the developments and the administration does not do a good job of informing the people. For instance, road infrastructure across the country has received massive boost from the government making it possible for a lot of the major federal roads to be either rehabilitated or reconstructed. From available evidence, where work is not yet completed, it is on-going or already captured in the 2014 appropriation. This is evidenced on the Enugu–Port Harcourt road; Katsina-Dara road; Kano-Maiduguri road; Gombe-Numan road and the Benin-Lagos road. Those who also ply the Abuja-Abaji-Lokoja road now sing a new song. Along with these, major works had been accomplished on some strategic link bridges including the Owato Bridge. Perhaps, the loudest of all was the ground-breaking Second Niger Bridge, which had been on the table for as long as one could remember as a campaign material. Signing off on that bridge demonstrated Jonathan’s vision for ease of travel and business on that axis. Closely associated with road infrastructure is the administration’s effort to bring back the trains. To this end, records show that after more than 20 years of lifelessness, train services are coming back to life in Nigeria. Impact of this may not be immediately felt until all the identified routes are re-activated and more coaches brought in. For now, records show that the Western line which stretches from Lagos to Kano, measuring about 1124 km has been completed and is functional. The Eastern line running from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri is nearing completion with two of the three sections billed for completion by the third quarter of 2014. Also, the Abuja-Kaduna line, being built on the standard gauge is nearing completion. Residents of parts of Abuja where the rail line traverse witness this progress. In addition, the Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri standard gauge will be completed by the end of 2014. The remarkable progress in this area has also witnessed the procurement of 25 new locomotives, which has brought about massive increase in the number of passengers transported reaching about five million in 2013. This is also impacting positively on movement of goods across states. The impact of this will hit reality level when rail tanks are introduced to move petroleum products by rail and save road infrastructure the damage caused by such vehicles during accidents. To this end, 40 oil wagons, to move petroleum products, are in the offing. For now, almost 200 communities have been connected by rail. This translates to an increase in commerce and other economic activities. The Jonathan administration’s interest in improving water transport has also caused radical investments in inland waterways leading to the dredging of inland waterways and the lower Niger from Baron to Warri. Implication of this is an increase in the utilisation of marine transport in the movement of goods and services. To this end, available records indicates an increase from 2.9 million tonnes in 2011 to over 5 million tonnes of goods moved by water as at 2013. Expectedly, the number of passengers accessing maritime travels also increased from 250,000 in 2011 to about 1.3 million by 2013. To improve on the health of Nigerians through creating greater access to potable water, the administration has ensured completion of seven new water supply projects including the Northern Ishan Water supply in Edo state, Mangu water treatment plant in Plateau State and the Greater Makurdi water supply scheme in Benue State. However, this is considered inadequate for the population as more communities need to be served to help eradicate water borne diseases. Beyond that however, it is on record that nine dams have been completed and delivered across the country with more irrigation projects executed to enhance agriculture and farming. This translates into the irrigation of about 175,000 hectares of land. Efforts in this regard have also caused an increase in agricultural production through the re-creation of a value chain in the sector leading to increase in access to jobs and agriculture production. In the aviation sector, the radical transformation brought about by the Jonathan administration, has given Nigeria an increased value in the aviation community around the world. Despite two major plane crashes, which tended to dent efforts at aviation safety in the country, the Jonathan administration had caused massive investments in airport remodelling, delivering in the process, airports, which Nigerians are proud of for their cosy states. For instance, out of the 22 airports in the country, 11 have been totally remodelled while work is on-going on others. The five international airports in Abuja, Lagos, Kano, Enugu and Port Harcourt, also witnessed massive remodelling and upgrading such that they now serve as good imaging points for Nigeria. To further enhance usability of the airport, six were designated as perishable cargo airports because of their proximity to the nation’s food production basins. These include those in Makurdi, Yola, Lagos, Ilorin and Jos. But the better part of what has been achieved in the aviation sector is the review of safety policies which ensured the making of new policies that reduced import duties, aircraft service and spare parts, as a deliberate means of assisting the airlines to be better managed to reduce nasty incidences and improve safety. On port reforms, the Jonathan administration moved in to enunciate new policies that reduced the number of agencies at the port thus improving access and functionality of the nation’s ports. It was observed that prior to this, about 21 agencies operated at the ports thus hindering smooth operation and effective clearance of goods. Today, the new policy regime seeks to ensure a 24-hour time limit for clearance of goods. This effort further received a boost when government moved to make sure that the Nigerian Customs acquired capacity to embark on destination inspection. This stands out as a huge achievement as it was happening for the first time in the country. Today, the loss of revenue through the engagement of foreign agencies to undertake inspection of goods, under a pre-shipment inspection regime, has been curtailed. This has also enhanced the capabilities of the Nigerian Customs making them more adept at their work. This was a reform that Nigeria pursued with vigour, and achieved. In evaluating the administration’s effort at revamping the agriculture sector, it is necessary to take note of where the journey began. Jonathan took off from a point where the agriculture sector was bedevilled by massive corruption in the administration of fertiliser. The fertiliser cartel was so strong and insurmountable. But Jonathan moved in with a certain level of stubbornness towards a desired endgame; and the game changed. The president believes that a business approach to agriculture will change the way one attended to it. That was why a seamless fertiliser administration regime was very important to him. Through his effort, some 10.5 million farmers were registered through the e-wallet system and 6.5 million of them have received subsidised inputs through the e-wallet system. Through this system too, massive corruption that was pervasive in the sector was eliminated saving the country some princely N25billion annually, which hitherto, was lost to the fertiliser cartel. Meanwhile, rice production received a major boost with more improved input. As a result, 1.1 million metric tonnes of dry-season rice was produced in 10 Northern states for the first time with attendant job creation. Also, the massive investment in cassava production attracted Cargil, world leading agric investor, to Nigeria. Cargil seeks to tap into opportunities available in the agric sector and begin transformation of cassava into starch and other food forms for export. For effort of government at investing in agriculture, it is estimated that Nigeria will increase food production by 20 million tonnes in 2015, thus enhancing its capacity to achieve food security. Already, the food import bill is down by almost N1 trillion dropping from N2.38 trillion in 2011 to N1.5 trillion in 2013. Jonathan’s touch on Nigeria is one of transformation. He only wants to transform status quo and deliver a better quality of life and improved country that everyone can be proud of. In addition to what has been described above, he has also radically affected other areas of the national life, though unsung. For instance, he has ensured that the manufacturing sector regains its balance having launched the national industrial revolution plan with focus on the value chain of sub sectors. It is noted that Nigeria has massive advantage in such areas as agro processing in rice, sugar and petrochemicals, automobiles, textiles and cement. These are current areas of focus. As it is now, Nigeria has joined the league of cement exporters with an expanded output capacity from two million metric tonnes in 2002 to 28.5 million metric tonnes in 2013. It is estimated that the capacity will hit 39 million metric tonnes by 2015. The efforts have also opened up foreign investment inflow with some $1.2billion investments in fertiliser processing by Dorama, a $250million factory opening in Ogun State by Procter and Gamble and the $100 million brewery investment by SABMiller in Anambra state among many others, who are taking up opportunities in agriculture sector. On the housing front, the Jonathan administration sought ways of ensuring that Nigerian owned homes through mortgage. To this end, he worked out a new policy of mortgage refinancing and for the first time, afforded Nigerian opportunity to grow the economy. His housing revolution is designed to provide mass housing for people at the lower end of the income scale with affordable housing and a mortgage system to give hope to young people. The system provides loans for 15 to 20 years so more people can own their homes. There are also rent-to-own and lease-to-own schemes. This is a revolution that would create more jobs and is expected to be in place in 2014. The government recently launched its first 10,000 mortgages for the commencement of the Presidential Initiative on the delivery of affordable housing units to Nigerians. This is part of efforts to fulfil its promise of providing affordable houses to Nigerians. In telecommunications, the administration has completed construction of 500 kilometres of fibre optic cable to rural areas and established a total of 156 IT rural centres with 110 community communications centres. It also launched a venture capital fund of $15 million, to start, for information communication businesses with the number of phone subscriptions hitting 121.8million. Also, due to radical reduction in cost, internet access has risen from 45million in 2011 to 57million in 2013, thus granting more people access to internet for knowledge and business related activities. One area where Jonathan’s transformation agenda is being felt much more is the health sector. For instance, it has contained the Type 3 polio virus with no recorded transmission for over one year and also eradicated guinea worm, which used to affect the lives of 800,000 Nigerians yearly. The administration also delivered on scaling up six cost effective interventions -nutrition, prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS, malaria control, routine immunisation- all of which has saved over 436,000 lives. It also scaled up its maternal mortality prevention rate leading to drastic drop in statistics of maternal and infant mortality rates. The administration’s effort have also been felt on the education front with the establishment of more federal universities and special schools in the North, to Almajiri children. However, despite the rise in strikes by academic workers, the administration’ effort is unrelenting in ensuring an improvement in the upgrade of schools and delivery of qualitative and affordable education to Nigerians. But, there are about 10 million kids out of school. This is serious worry for the administration which is not relenting over the challenge. Another area, where Jonathan’s transformation has been felt is in sports with the return of the Africa Cup of Nations to Nigeria after 19 years; the Golden Eaglets winning the U17 World Cup again, and in superlative style among several other laurels, which come in as positive marks of the transformation agenda. This is just as the film industry has been expanded to create some 250,000 jobs with Nollywood raking in millions of naira from its production of films, a capacity that is expandable. Despite these, one area that has remained an albatross of sort, to the administration is the power sector. The administration has made huge investments in the sector but the outcome has been less impressive given that most Nigerians still go for days without electric power. The Jonathan administration has completed a never-expected power privatisation programme, which is hoped, would enhance capacity of the private sector to deliver on promises to improve power needs of the country. Though this is still on course, the transmission of already generated energy is much of a headache. At the moment, the target of 24 hours power supply is still a mirage as supply varies from city to city. But with efforts at improving gas-to-power policy of government, it is hoped that the problems associated with power generation and transmission would be addressed and solved. For now, government has achieved a reduction in gas flaring, thus making same available to power stations at Geregu and Olorunshogo. No doubt, gestation period for investment in power is more than nine months. Nigerians are impatient but you can’t blame them as they have suffered a lot from the rot in the sector. They desire a change, a clear departure from the past. They want to move on fast and catch up with the rest of the world. However, they don’t have the total picture of the power architecture in Nigeria. Jonathan and his aides have that picture. Perhaps, that was why he was confident to say ‘time will tell’. For now, what most Nigerians have done, despite their scepticism, is to buy into his optimism. Like he said, time will always tell. *Source thisday. Illustrations from transformationwatch]]>
These new facts about Africa's population will simply blow you away
August 15, 2014 | 0 Comments
LEE MWITI* By 2100, almost 1 billion people will live in Nigeria. The future of humanity is increasingly rooted in the continent, a new report shows. POPULATION shifts do not come around very often, but a big one is coming, and Africa will be right in the middle of it, a major new report shows. Unicef’s Generation 2030/Africa Report reveals a massive movement in the world’s population towards Africa, including some startling facts that will have policymakers tearing up long-held economic projections. The UN agency is urging them to take advantage of what it says is a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity to craft child-focused investment strategies. With the current buzz about Africa Rising and concurrent warnings about many being left out, Africa can shape policies that will help it reap from its rapidly-shifting demographic transition, it says. “By investing in children now – in their health, education and protection – Africa could realise the economic benefits experienced previously in other regions and countries that have undergone similar demographic shifts.” Mail & Guardian Africa picked out some astonishing numbers and facts from the rich study about a continent whose population is now five times what it was in 1950: —By 2050, Africa will be home to two in five of the world’s children. The UN admits that its previous projection of one in every three children was underestimated. This change is due to high fertility rates, (Nigerien women—Africa’s most fertile—on average have 7.5 babies against a global average of 2.5) and an increasing number of women of reproductive age. Some 15 African countries will have an average rate of 5 or more children per woman in 2015. —On current trends, almost 2 billion babies will be born in Africa in the next 35 years. In 1950 only 11 million African babies were born. This means the continent will be home to 41% of all the world’s births. In 1950, African women of reproductive age (15-49) numbered 54 million; by next year they will be 280 million, and 407 million in 2030. —By 2050, Africa’s under-18 population will increase by two thirds, reaching almost 1 billion by the middle of the century. In 2067 the continent will overtake Asia—home to China—as that with the most children. —Fertility rates are highest among the poorest communities. A woman in the lowest wealth quintile in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is likely to have 7.4 children, 3.2 more than women in the wealthiest quintile. —Only a third of all African women use contraceptives, compared to nearly two-thirds of women of childbearing age who are in a union. Some 32 African countries have contraceptive prevalence rates of below 40%, the majority of those go on to dip under 20% —BY 2015, one fifth of Africa’s births will take place in Nigeria—translating to 5% of all global births. By 2050 the West African country will account for almost 10% of all births in the world. By 2100 nearly 1 billion people will live in Nigeria. —Africa’s inhabitants will double from the current 1.2 billion to 2.4 billion by 2050 (25% of the global total), and eventually reach 4.2 billion by 2100 (40% of the world total). Interestingly, the continent’s population growth rate will slow in the next 35 years. By comparison, in 1950, only 9 of every 100 people were African. —This has a direct impact on population density—by 2050 there will be 80 persons per square kilometre in Africa, up from 39 in 2015, and only eight in 1950. Burundi, currently the fourth most densely populated, will in 2050 be outright the most densely populated country in Africa, with 2,022 persons per square kilometre. —By the late 2030s, Africa will become a continent with more population living in urban than in rural areas, and by 2050, nearly 60% of the population will live in cities, up from 40% currently. The economic potential is huge: Lagos is currently Africa’s fourth largest economy, after South Africa, Egypt andAlgeria. —The population of African children aged less than five years will reach 271 million in 2050, from 179 million in 2015. Those under 18 will increase from 547 million next year (47%) to nearly 1 billion in the next 35 years. In 15 African countries, more than half the total population are aged under 18. —-Africa also has the highest child dependency ratio in the world—73 children under age 15 per 100 persons of working age by 2015, almost double the global average. As fertility rates fall and working age-population expands this will fall, leading to a major demographic dividend. —However, the continent still accounts for half of all child deaths, and this will rise to 70% by 2050. Currently one in every 11 African children dies before their fifth birthday—14 times greater than in high-income countries. —Life is still shorter in Africa than anywhere else on earth—the continent has an average life expectancy of 58 years, better than under 40 in the 1950s, but still a full 12 years less than the global average. —By 2050, two thirds of Africa’s population will live in either eastern or West Africa. This will be some 800 million inhabitants, from the current 400 million. Only North Africa will see its population level out over the same period. —Africa’s population is much younger than the rest of the world: Today half are aged under 20 years. By 2050 this median age will have risen to 25, but it will still be below the global average of 36 years. —Africa will however eventually begin to age after 2050, with almost 800 million elderly persons living here in 2100, from 64 million today. It will still be the most youthful continent in the world. *Source M&G]]>
Who is afraid of General Muhammadu Buhari?
August 14, 2014 | 0 Comments
By Theophilus Ilevbare*
The attempt to snuff life out of one of Nigeria’s most revered former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari, in a fiendish operation which would have passed for a routine Boko Haram attack if their hand had performed their enterprise, would have thrown Nigeria in turmoil of unimaginable proportions as President Jonathan submitted days ago. The failed “assassination attempt,” as Buhari tagged it, may not be unconnected with the grand plot to silence the opposition. This is coming on the heels of the impeachment of Murtala Nyako of Adamawa state and the tightening of impeachment noose around Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa state. Clearly, the shades of the varying scope of operation to hunt down those who pose a threat to the present government as enshrined in the alleged sniper’s list former President Olusegun Obasanjo divulged in his missive is being made manifest. Surely, the mere knowledge of an alleged sniper’s list should be instructive to the opposition party leaders. Impeaching opposition Governors one after the other, it now appears, is part of the grand scheme.
To underscore the gruesome motive of the perpetrators, eyewitness accounts said the bomb-laden car single-mindedly targeted the vehicle conveying the APC chieftain to Daura, his ancestral home from Kaduna. It hit target but the bulletproof construction of the SUV ensured the General escaped death by the whiskers. To the ‘terrorists’, they came agonisingly close.
How can we forget retired General Muhammadu Mamman Shuwa? In November 2012, the civil war veteran was killed in cold blood by unknown gunmen in his Maiduguri home yards away from soldiers idling away in enforcement of law and order. Boko Haram, the usual suspects were fingered. Had Buhari suffered a similar fate, the perpetrators would use the sect to divert attention from the perpetrators.
The PDP have sold a dummy to Nigerians for too long that the sponsors of terror were members of the opposition, All Progressive Congress (APC), but this attack have vindicated the much maligned progressives. Buhari has openly challenged those who accuse him of religious fundamentalism to come out and show proof. No one till this day has any clue.
For irredentists, who think the attack on Buhari’s life was stage-managed, let them continue to stew in their bitterness and wallow in their chutzpah. Same people who peddle such falsehood of a self-masterminded attack won’t roam within a metre radius of a spot of a bomb scare. Any reasonable Nigerian will acknowledge the risk in masterminding such an attack as the probability that it could spiral out of control is higher than its success.
The political elite in the ruling party must truly be frightened by Buhari’s growing popularity ahead of the 2015 elections even though the media coverage on the General is frequently negative with unfounded and unsubstantiated allegations. It has rather won him more support from discerning Nigerians who cannot be misinformed or misled by needless propaganda. For his loyalists across the country, they can boldly say of him, “All I need from Buhari is his word, I can take it to the bank.” Such is the cult-like following that Gen. Buhari wields that he need not rent a crowd, or share rice to garner support.
This is because of his glowing and incorruptible antecedents. Very few people in this country will occupy the number one position to live a modest and Spartan life afterwards like him. He occupied lofty positions like the Governor of the defunct North-Eastern State of Nigeria, Head of State, Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources and Chairman of NNPC, Chairman of Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund (PTF). He could easily be one of Nigeria’s wealthiest politicians with oil blocs to boot because he birthed and supervised the establishment of our existing refineries. Today, we import 70% of the fuel we use because those after him have literally crippled the refineries. He could have retired into stupendous opulence like the Danjumas, Obasanjos, and Abachas of this world. But Buhari bucked the trend and chose the honourable path.
His detractors and traducers are uncomfortable with him around the political scene. Maybe he scares them with his incorruptible, uncompromising, sober, painstaking personae he exudes; his intolerance of impropriety – a major fault of the privileged political elite – scares them. He is everything they are not.
There have been various attempts to erode the electoral value of a man who has validated his cast iron reputation for accountability and transparency coming out unscathed from probes regarding his tenure as Chairman of PTF. And as Buhari’s staunch loyalist in Mallam Nasir el-Rufai posited that his antagonists “have changed our politics into that of ethnicity and religion to divert attention from their incompetence, lack of capacity and looting of the treasury… PDP is scared of Buhari’s integrity and his track record of doing the right thing and ensuring that people are brought to justice when they break the law. They are afraid of that day when he will become President.”
With the failed attempt to take General Buhari’s life, the burgeoning army of opposition against the General of impeccable integrity would now sit back, maybe have a rethink, recall their foot soldiers masked in the toga of Jihadists cutting short the lives of “infidels” they see as living corpses.
In the 2011 presidential elections, the man they hate to see even in their dreams, got over 12 million votes with a party that was formed barely 10 months to the election without the support structure and votes a state Governor or even a Local Government chairman would have brought into the party. He had no war chest or federal might to manipulate voters and electoral officers, a trick the PDP has perfected over the years. But Buhari’s enormous star power earned him a couple of senators and a state governor after the elections. It won’t take a political scientist, a Nostradamus or some prophetic unction to work the numbers in votes the General will pull in 2015 with the 15 Governors in the APC fold!
Those who plotted the dastardly act are enemies of Nigeria, they neither seek its prosperity nor tranquility but thrive and profit from the chaos, bloodshed and colossal sleaze. They are afraid of the intimidating profile of the former Head of State and his acolytes in the opposition party.
Whoever wanted Buhari dead has made a super hero of him. Of all the reasons why Buhari was wanted dead, the 2015 general elections keep popping out of every possibility and conspiracy theory. Inadvertently, they only succeeded in raising his popularity meter. With the overwhelming outpouring of emotion and support, the retired General has reaffirmed his status as a political heavyweight and gladiator who remains a top contender for next year’s general elections.
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Zimbabwe's endless succession battles for Mugabe's seat
August 13, 2014 | 0 Comments
Frank Chikowore in Harare* [caption id="attachment_11027" align="alignleft" width="300"] Indigenisation is the elephant in the room. Photo©Alexander Joe/AFP[/caption] Politics and economics clash as the need for investment weighs heavily. There are fresh skirmishes within the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) over who will succeed nonagenarian president Robert Mugabe. The issue has resurfaced ahead of the party’s elective congress in December, when insiders predict that Mugabe will stand down as party president and nominate his successor, in consultation with close allies. That would enable him to resolve the rivalries that are distracting ZANU-PF without giving up the national presidency. Until now, Mugabe has played rival factions – one led by vice-president Joice Mujuru and the other by justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa – against each other. Then, at the burial of veteran politician Nathan Shamuyarira in June, Mugabe lashed out at Jonathan Moyo, Mnangagwa’s ally and information minister, calling him a “weevil”. Topping the list of critical issues is President Mugabe’s promise to create more than two million jobs in his re-election campaign last year. In fact, more than 300 companies have closed since last year’s disputed elections, according to Tapiwa Mashakada, an economist who is also the acting secretary general of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) opposition party. Civil servants’ loyalties are being tested too as the government struggles to pay the public sector wage bill of $115m per month. Salaries are often in arrears, and most state employees’ wages are below the poverty line, pegged at $511 per month for a family of five. Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa has sounded his own warning bells about the cash crisis, arguing that the government must seek new loans from the World Bank and the IMF. “We have a debt overhang of $9.9bn, but we do not have any money to service our debt. What we are doing is engaging those institutions that we owe money [to] so that they can finance our long-term projects,” he says. The foreign debt “is an inhibiting factor in securing fresh lines of credit,” he concedes. Like his predecessor, Chinamasa complains that diamond proceeds are not reaching the treasury. Foreign billions on the horizon Foreign cash is on the way, according to Zimbabwe Investment Authority board chairman Nigel Chanakira. He reckons Zimbabwe could bring in as much as $2bn by 2015. “The elephant in the room is indigenisation […] Once the authorities complete the proposed review, we should process more investment,” says Chanakira. Finance minister Chinamasa echoes that sentiment and warns: “We don’t need to do silly things that scare away investors.” Former finance minister Tendai Biti, who has fallen out with MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, wants a new government: “The country should be led by a national transitional and technical authority to revive the economy while politicians deal with preparations for the next elections.” Ibbo Mandaza, director of the SAPES Trust think tank, concurs: “This country urgently requires a leadership change for it to go forward.” But President Mugabe has an improbable supporter in the shape of Aldo Dell’Ariccia, the European Union (EU) ambassador to Harare: “If there was a leadership crisis, there would be chaos. We still have a leader who manages to keep at bay these forces that are very much contradictory,” he told journalists and civic activists in Harare in June, urging them to be more constructive in their approach to the government. ● * Source Africa Report]]>
Zuma welcomes US buy-in on continental peace and security
August 12, 2014 | 0 Comments
South African president Jacob Zuma has termed the Obama administration’s commitment of up to $550 million over three years to African peace and security “a buy-in”. Welcoming the superpower’s commitment made during the recent US Africa Leaders Summit, Zuma, who is also Commander-in-Chief of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) and one of the leading proponents of ACIRC (African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises), said it was a welcome move. “We secured a buy-in from the US for Africa’s peace and security initiatives, including support for the capacitation of the African Standby Force (ASF). They (the US) understand our position clearly that we want support but that this process must be African led and controlled. “As President (Barack) Obama said, the boots must be African. We believe we are finding one another on these matters,” South Africa’s first citizen is reported as having said in a statement issued by the Presidency. In addition to allocating at least $110 million a year over the next three years to assist African nations develop peacekeeping forces that can be rapidly deployed to head off militant threats and other crises on the continent, the US will also make available $65 million to bolster security institutions. This money will go to Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Tunisia. The US plans to partner with Senegal, Ghana, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda to develop rapid response forces. These forces would deploy as part of United Nations or African Union missions. Obama said after the conclusion of the first ever US Africa Leader Summit he did not want to see more Americans in uniform on the ground in Africa. “We don’t have a desire to expand and create a big foot print inside Africa. What we want to make sure we can do is partner with the AU, with individual countries to build up their capacity,” he said. While the US commitment to Africa is set to increase massively, South African defence and military relations with Chile are also set to enter a new era following last week’s state visit by Michelle Bachelet, president of the South American country. In a joint declaration Zuma and Bachelet said: “In view of both countries’ experience in peacekeeping and conflict resolution operations in their respective regions, an exchange of expertise could prove to be beneficial for current and future peacekeeping efforts under the umbrella of the United Nations. The Presidents acknowledge Chile’s significant role as provider of UN peacekeeping troops. Chile is the fourth largest contributor of troops in the Latin American region. “Additionally, there are opportunities for co-operation between navies, given both countries share similar interests in maritime affairs, with extensive coastlines and the attendant challenges such as piracy, drug and human trafficking. There is significant scope for co-operation in exchanges of training opportunities.” While this will be explored in follow-up meetings between senior South African military personnel and their Chilean counterparts, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula showed she has the best interests of South African soldiers at heart when she addressed last week’s Great Lakes Conference in New York. “South Africa has continuously recognised the employment of military force is not an end in itself but a means toward an end,” she said, adding it had to be crucial for peaceful means of resolving conflict to be given a chance “whenever such opportunities present themselves”. “We are encouraged by the display from some elements of the FDLR of intent to disarm and demobilise and follow the path of peace. We call upon all parties to assist in ensuring disarmament of the FDLR is given a chance to succeed and it is handled in a manner that serves to inspire other armed groups to follow suit. We further call upon all armed groups in eastern DRC to follow the example set by these elements of the FDLR. “For the successful execution of the Force Intervention Brigade’s (FIB) primary responsibility (to disarm and demobilise the armed groups to neutralise them) we also urge the Special Representative and Head of MONUSCO, Martin Kobler to ensure all means possible are taken to enable the FIB to avoid mission creep and remain with undivided attention when executing its primary responsibility. “In this regard we wish to urge the use of the FIB to, inter alia, secure the demobilisation centres, be avoided as this may weaken its operational capability especially in instances where offensive military action may be necessary to induce forced disarmament and demobilisation. Such tasking would be more acceptable at a later stage when most of the armed groups have been disarmed and demobilised,” Mapisa-Nqakula said. *Source defenceweb]]>
Kenya downplays security risks as it courts U.S. investment
August 9, 2014 | 0 Comments
[caption id="attachment_10911" align="alignleft" width="300"] Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta listens to opening remarks at the start of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Session One on ‘Investing in Africa’s Future’, at the U.S. State Department in Washington August 6, 2014. Also pictured is Guinea-Bissau’s President Jose Mario Vaz (R).
CREDIT: REUTERS/JONATHAN ERNST L[/caption] Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, in Washington this week to court Western investors, has sought to downplay a spate of violent attacks tied to militants in neighboring Somalia and their impact on Kenya’s economy. “Yes, we may have pockets where we have problems – which we know and are focused on how to address. But the rest of the country is actually trouble-free,” Kenyatta told Reuters in an interview on Thursday from a hotel overlooking the White House. Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s founder who was elected last March to lead East Africa’s biggest economy, has been touting the country as a resource-rich hub of innovation, talking up the benefits of East African integration and detailing vast plans to improve the country’s shaky infrastructure. But he has also been plagued by questions about security. Last September, Somali-linked Islamist militants attacked Nairobi’s Westgate mall and left at least 67 people dead. This summer has seen a spate of killings, mostly along Kenya’s coast, prompting several Western nations to warn their citizens against travel to parts of Kenya. In June, after two attacks left 65 people dead on the coast, Kenyatta dismissed claims of responsibility by the al Shabaab militant group, instead pointing the finger at rivals he described as “hate-mongers,” though he did not name anybody. “Look, we know that al Shabaab played a part,” Kenyatta said on Thursday. But he again suggested that “local networks” in Kenya were also involved in an effort “to help achieve a petty political agenda.” Al Shabaab has said its attacks are intended to punish Kenya for sending troops to Somalia to confront its Islamist fighters. Kenyatta has repeatedly said he had no intention of removing Kenyan troops from Somalia, saying that would only be done when Kenya’s neighbor to the north, which has been without a functioning government for more than two decades, is stable and can secure its borders. Kenyatta has mostly kept a low-key profile at this week’s U.S.-Africa Business Forum, a three-day summit meant to showcase U.S. interest in improving trade and investment on the continent. But he said he believed the gathering had helped make American businesses aware of opportunities in Africa. Although Kenyatta said he hoped to attract investors in the power, resource extraction and technology sectors, he said Kenya was meanwhile working to make the country more hospitable to business, in part by making it easier to move goods. Asked to name his top three infrastructure priorities, Kenyatta said he aimed to double the country’s road network, expand its rail sector and complete a second container terminal at the Indian Ocean port of Mombasa – the biggest in east Africa and the region’s trade gateway. Kenyatta added he would like to see completion of a second port in Lamu, north of Mombasa – part of a $25.5 billion regional infrastructure project aiming to link landlocked east African nations to the sea – as well as a new passenger airline terminal in Nairobi. “It may not be complete within five years,” Kenyatta said of the five projects, “but if Kenyans give me an opportunity for a second term they should be complete by the end of my second term.” *Source Reuters ]]>
Obama to Africa “America will be a good partner, an equal partner, and a partner for the long term”
August 6, 2014 | 0 Comments
President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum during the U.S. Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)[/caption] Taking the stage ongoing USA-Africa Leaders’ Summit, President Obama has reassured Africans that the US will be a good and equal partner committed to the long haul in Africa’s success. Addressing a full house which included about fifty African Leaders at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum in Washington, D.C, President Obama said there was partisan consensus in Washington that a secure, prosperous and self-reliant Africa was a national security interest for the USA.In the midst of the challenges the continent is still grappling with, the new Africa emerging cannot be ignored, and the Summit was a reflection of the perspective that has guided his view of Africa, Obama said. “We all know what makes Africa such an extraordinary opportunity. Some of the fastest-growing economies in the world. A growing middle class. Expanding sectors like manufacturing and retail. One of the fastest-growing telecommunications markets in the world. More governments are reforming, attracting a record level of foreign investment. It is the youngest and fastest-growing continent, with young people that are full of dreams and ambition,” the US President said. The sentiment from his trips and interactions with young Africans has been for equal trading partners, trade, and development and not necessarily aid and the US is determined to partner Africa towards its success said Obama .The US wants to be a good and equal partner for the long term President Obama said . “We don’t look to Africa simply for its natural resources; we recognize Africa for its greatest resource, which is its people and its talents and their potential. We don’t simply want to extract minerals from the ground for our growth; we want to build genuine partnerships that create jobs and opportunity for all our peoples and that unleash the next era of African growth,” he said in strengthening the US case for partnership. Obama indicated that his Administration has increased investments in Africa and more trade missions resulting in the growth to record levels for American exports to Africa which support jobs in Africa , and the US which has gained a quarter of a million good paying jobs . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGbYc-sizsg For all the progress, US trade with Africa is just a quarter of its trade with Brazil and of all goods that America exports, only one percent goes to Sub Saharan Africa Obama said while expressing the desire for Africans to buy more American products ,and Americans to buy more African goods. It is time for America to up its game Obama said as he announced some of the prominent business deals accruing from the Summit. “Blackstone will invest in African energy projects. Coca-Cola will partner with Africa to bring clean water to its communities. GE will help build African infrastructure. Marriott will build more hotels. All told, American companies — many with our trade assistance — are announcing new deals in clean energy, aviation, banking, and construction worth more than $14 billion, spurring development across Africa and selling more goods stamped with that proud label, “Made in America,” he announced. To keep up the momentum President Obama announced additional steps like working to renew and enhance the African Growth and Opportunity Act, and $7 billion in new financing to promote American exports to Africa as part of the “Doing Business in Africa” campaign. The new measures also include partnership with Africa to build the infrastructure that economies need to flourish, doing more to help Africans trade with each other, and empowering the next generation of African entrepreneurs and business leaders. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDuQsjGMK1g “The United States is making a major and long-term investment in Africa’s progress. And taken together, the new commitments I’ve described today — across our government and by our many partners — total some $33 billion. And that will support development across Africa and jobs here in the United States,” Obama declared. While investment was important, the key to unlocking the next era of African growth will be in Africa Obama said in highlighting issues that have featured on the Summits agenda like Agriculture, Capital, health infrastructure, good governance, and rule of law. President Obama’s remarks ended with a question and answer session with Takunda Chingonzo a 21 year old Zimbabwean entrepreneur working in wireless technology space.Chingonzo is a 2014 Mandela Washington Fellow]]>
Obama's U.S.-Africa Forum Will Catalyze $14 Billion In Business Deals
August 5, 2014 | 0 Comments
Michael Bloomberg and Penny Pritzker* [caption id="attachment_10826" align="alignleft" width="570"] President Obama Speaks at the Presidential Summit for the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders[/caption] “Africa is no longer a sleeping giant but is awake and open for business.” These words from a rising South African leader at last week’s Young African LeadersSummit could not be more accurate: Africa might well be the biggest market opportunity in the global economy today, and U.S. companies cannot afford to miss out. For decades, the U.S.-Africa economic relationship has too often taken a back seat to other pressing issues and priorities. Yet right now, our commercial partnership—between governments, among businesses, in markets on both sides of the Atlantic—is as important as ever. Strengthening and deepening that pillar of our alliance will prove a net gain for workers, entrepreneurs, and communities in the United States and across Africa. The continent’s economic potential is enormous. Africa is home to six of the world’s ten fastest-growing economies. Its GDP is expected to rise six percent annually over the next decade. Real income has increased more than 30% over the last 10 years, and many African governments are making investments in infrastructure, education, and health care that are improving millions of lives. Yet investment by U.S. companies in Africa remains too low.
Africa Will be unbeatable when it speaks with One Voice Says Zuma at Africa House Inauguration
August 4, 2014 | 1 Comments
Left to right Assistant Secretary Greenfield, AU Ambassador to US Amina Ali, and AU Chair Dr Dlamini Zuma[/caption] African Union Chair Dlamini Zuma painted a rosy perspective of Africa as the continent grapples with current challenges. Speaking at the inaugural reception of Africa House, the name of the African Union Mission in Washington,DC, Ambassador Zuma said, once Africa eventually comes round to speaking in one voice, the continent will live up to its incredible potential. Addressing a full house which included Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Ambassador Thomas Greenfield, representatives from African Diplomatic Corps, Famed Hollywood Actors like Lou Gossett Jnr, Africans and African Americans, Ambassador Zuma harped on the theme of unity and highlighted the need for Africans to work as one in building a better future. Such a future includes food sustainability, better infrastructure, gender equality and peace, the African Union Chair said. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=61u26vOaDcw&feature=player_detailpage#t=20 Drawing inspiration from a poem by Kenya’s Anna Mwalagho and electrifying music presentations by Uganda’s George Okudi, Zuma lauded the talent of young Africans , while lauding the African Union Mission in Washington DC, for providing a place that Africans and their Diaspora friends can call home. In an earlier word of welcome, the African Union Envoy to the USA, Amina Ali, said the African House will serve as home to all from the continent and its Diaspora. Rich in animation and emotions, the inauguration also had the strong participation of the African Diaspora considered as the 6th Region of the African Union. Prominent attendees at the inaugural reception included the African Union Vice Chair Erastus Mwencha, the USA Ambassador to the African Union Reuben Brigety, and Mel Foote of the Constituency for Africa Located on Wisconsin Avenue, the African Union Office is an imposing three storey edifice with offices, conference rooms, and a translation booth. Its inauguration was part of several events taking place as part of the maiden USA-Africa Leaders Summit . ]]>
The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit: What are Indicators of a Successful Summit?
August 2, 2014 | 0 Comments
Much has been written about the first U.S-Africa Leaders Summit scheduled for the first week of August 2014. Commentaries have varied in tone, with many critical of the summit’s organization and expectations (for examples of these critical stances see Foreign Policy’sGordon Lubold and the Corporate Council on Africa’s Stephen Hayes). Others have been complementary and consider the summit an important step in solidifying durable and positive U.S.-Africa relations (Amadou Sy responded to criticism that the summit is already “bungled” and Dane Erickson addressed the perception that U.S. is primarily using the summit to compete with China in Africa). The summit’s schedule of events includes several public meetings involving civil society, the public sector and the private sector. A wide range of issues such as the African Growth and Opportunity Act, Power Africa, investing in women and youth, peace and security, health, food security, and the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals will be part of the public schedule. These events are expected to strengthen various dimensions of U.S.-Africa relations. Nevertheless, the primary focus of the event is the meeting between the African leaders and President Obama. No doubt there will be many post-summit commentaries with a focus on the success and failures as perceived by various analysts. Unfortunately, such commentaries are unlikely to be based on what should be clearly pre-defined indicators of a successful summit. Here I propose what I consider to be some important—though not exhaustive— indicators of a successful summit: